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My setup, September 2019

I thought it would be interesting to detail some of my day-to-day setup, Uses This style. This week I'm completely independent, so I'm only using my own hardware and software, which feels like a good time to take stock. This is my stack - I'd love to read yours!


My main machine is a 2016 13" MacBook Pro. Yes, I've had problems with the keyboard, and I have both an external keyboard and trackpad - but the dust has shaken itself out over time, so at this point I rarely use them. I aim to replace my laptops every four years or so, so next year it'll be time to think about a new one (if I decide that this one, or the iPad, isn't serving my needs anymore). For the moment, it works. I prefer the smaller size: a 15" laptop is just that much heavier and bulkier to lug around.

My phone is an iPhone XS Max. I'm on the upgrade program, which I realize makes next to no financial sense, but I kind of enjoy getting to use a new device every year. I like to kid myself that I need to understand the new capabilities for work, but honestly, it's just kind of fun. I'm on T-Mobile One Plus, which gives me really decent tethering and passable mobile bandwidth worldwide for no extra cost. Lots of people complain about T-Mobile on lower tiers, but it's been great for me on this one.

My iPhone has become my go-to camera, but I'm thinking about getting another DSLR. I've got a now-ancient 2007 Nikon D40 and accompanying telephoto lens, which still works, but even twelve years ago it was kind of entry-level. I love taking photographs, and I'd love to experiment with some more professional kit.

This year, I also bought myself an 11" iPad Pro with a new Pencil and Smart Keyboard. I was using my personal laptop for work, and I wanted to own a machine that was just for personal creative stuff. I've enjoyed drawing and writing on it even more than I thought I would, but with some regret I've also realized that it's the best email machine I own. C'est la vie.

And finally, I love my AirPods. These are my second pair (the latest generation with more battery life made a real difference), but I'm aware of the environmental impact and probably won't buy any more.

Although I may seem pretty bought in, I'm seriously considering moving away from the Mac ecosystem - I don't enjoy being locked in, and I don't think either the build or software quality are what they used to be. I was a Windows user pre-2011, and I think I could do well with a Linux machine these days. On the other hand, I do like how all the Apple devices work together, and clipboard sharing in particular genuinely feels like magic. And I don't even slightly trust Android, despite it being open source. So we'll see.


My main browser is Firefox, always and forever. The only plugin I really use is Pocket: rather than a to-read list, it's a way for me to bookmark articles I found particularly interesting. (That's what drives my month in review posts.)

The first two things I install on any new computer are Alfred and 1Password. I also use Authy for 2-factor authentication after a nasty experience with Google Authenticator. (If I can avoid it, I never use SMS-based 2fa, which is wildly insecure.)

I've got monthly subscriptions to both the Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud ecosystems. I'd love to use open source equivalents, but iteroperability - particularly with Word's track changes and Acrobat's signing for legal documents - has been a hard requirement for me. It's nice to have video and audio editing ready to go if I need them, but I've basically stopped using Photoshop entirely.

I've tried a bunch of code editors and IDEs that other people love, like Sublime Text and Visual Studio Code, and I prefer Webstorm (in fact, I use PhpStorm, which is WebStorm + a PHP interpreter). It thinks how I think, and in particular, I find its autocompletion, branch comparison, and deep code navigation to be incredibly intuitive. I use iTerm 2 as my terminal, and obviously I'm all over git and hub. No surprise that I'm a heavy Homebrew user.

I've got a local development environment set up with Apache and virtual hosts, which I mostly use for PHP projects. I've also got Node installed, and have been building some personal projects with that and React (with Next, after using it at Unlock).

I write fiction with iA Writer, which I love for its distraction-free environment (and have used Scrivener to pull work together in the past - I hate its editor but its organizational tools are lovely). I draw with Procreate, which I couldn't recommend more highly.


I just switched over to a Peak Design Everyday Backpack at Jonathan LaCour's recommendation, and it's stunning. Super-useful, and for an essentially disorganized person like me, its filing system has already been a godsend. I use the top compartment for whichever books I'm reading at the moment, and then chargers etc are stored further down. I even permanently keep a small GorillaPod handy.

Finally, although it's kind of off-topic here, I was very pleasantly surprised by Atoms. I walk a lot, and wear through shoes very quickly; the Allbirds I bought last year are a mess, and I managed to wear a hole straight through my beloved Merrells. I wear size 14, so buying off the shelf often isn't possible. But for mail order shoes, these seem like a really great solution. I love them so far.