The Tools I Use

Inspired by Mike Gunderloy’s recent blog post, I decided to put together a list of the tools I use, both hardware and software.

I use a Mac at home and a Windows laptop at work; I plan to cover the Windows tools in a later post.

Hardware

  • MacBook Pro
    My primary computer is a late-2007 17" Macbook Pro with 2gb of RAM and a 160gb hard drive. I love this laptop, but I made two mistakes when buying it. First, I should have gone with the higher resolution display. If you’re going to have a 17" laptop, you should have as many pixels as you can. Second, I way undersized the hard drive. It was larger than the one in the laptop it replaced, but since I have the three most adorable kids ever, I take a lot more pictures and video than I did previously. This has quickly filled up the hard drive, to the point that I’ll need to replace it with a much larger one next year. To sum up: when buying a laptop, get the largest hard drive and the most pixels you can afford, unless you need ultra-portability.
  • 24-inch Dell Monitor
    Looks nice, and very affordable. Mine was refurbished. The picture quality isn’t bad, but it’s one of their very low-cost displays and is of lower quality than the rest of the line (I didn’t know this at the time). If I was a graphic designer or professional photographer I would probably care more. Since this primarily displays a code editor, a terminal window, and a web browser, I don’t really mind much.
  • Apple Extended Keyboard II
    These are the legendary Apple keyboard you’ve heard about, and the hype about them is true. I bought a couple of them gently used from EBay and then scrubbed them with a brush and some dish soap to clean them up. Paired with a Griffin ADB to USB converter, they work very well. I’m a sucker for the old-style keyboard action.
  • Mighty Mouse
    A lot of people hate this mouse, but I don’t understand why. It’s solidly built, confortable, and has that cool little ball on top. That said, I’m a keyboard junkie and avoid the mouse when I can.
  • Time Capsule
    This serves as both wireless router for the house as well as the backup system for both laptops. I don’t have an off-site backup at the moment, I need to look into that.
  • Cambridge Soundworks Speakers
    I really wanted the Klipsch computer speakers, but they’re more than I want to spend. These sound good, and cost me only a little over $100 refurbished.

Software

  • Emacs
    I learned programming with an IDE, but I learned to edit text with Emacs. I’ve been using it for 10 years or so now, and it would be difficult to switch. Every few years I have some brief dalliance with another editor (the last one was Textmate, when I bought my first Mac), but I always return to my first love. What emacs lacks in style, it more than makes up for in substance. In one window I can edit code, run shell commands (or a shell, for that matter), edit files on remote servers, and much more. It’s endlessly scriptable and insanely powerful. The fact that it’s cross platform helps as well. My emacs configuration, which works the same (with a couple of minor exceptions) on all the platforms I use it, is located on Github
  • Safari
    I really want to like Firefox, but it’s just too slow. Safari is quick, stable, and includes all the features I want.
  • The Hit List
    Even though it seems to be the popular thing to do these days, I’m not on a continual quest to find The Ultimate Todo List App. I got The Hit List as part of a MacHeist software bundle, and it works well. I mean, seriously, what do you really need in a todo list application? I can make items, I can check them off. The rest is gravy.
  • Adium
    It’s not perfect, but I can talk to people on pretty much any IM network out there.
  • Tweetie
    I used Twitterific for a couple of years, both on the iPod Touch and OS X. Frankly, it was left to rot, with no updates for a very long time. When Tweetie for the iPhone came out, I bought it immediately and after using it for 10 minutes, concluded that I wanted it for the desktop as well. I got my wish, and I’ve been happy ever since.
  • NetNewsWire
    I do not read as many feeds as I used to. I mean, I subscribe to a lot, I just don’t read them that often. My thoughts on why are here. When I do read feeds though, this is the app I do it in. I like that I can navigate everything with the keyboard and send things to Evernote and Instapaper easily.
  • 1Password
    I can’t remember all the passwords I create, or often even the account names (sometimes it’s a username, sometimes it’s an email address…). 1Password remembers them all for me and enters them for me automatically as well.
  • Evernote
    I use Evernote to track all the little bits of data I accumulate: code snippets, blog posts, how tos, meeting notes, PDFs, presentations, etc. I like the fact that it syncs with other computers, and it’s search works very well. I hate the way it captures web pages though, it destroys all the formatting. Yojimbo gets this right. It’s PDF viewing isn’t all that great either
  • Skype
    Skype works great if everyone is on a fast network pipe. It falls down spectacularly if anyone is on a slightly flaky network connection, like say a cell network connection. I use Skype mostly for after hours deployments (group voice call), and video chats with the Grandparents.
  • iWork
    I use Keynote for creating the occasional presentation and Pages for creating things that require more formatting than a text document. Numbers is the coolest application I almost never use.
  • Terminal
    I always have a terminal window open. Always. Usually more than one.
  • Pixelmator
    Photoshop is awesome, but it is both expensive and far more complicated than I want. I am not an image editing guru, I really just need basic capabilities. Pixelmator provides that – it’s Photoshop for mere mortals.

Online

  • Gmail
    It’s got an amazing spam filter and supports IMAP and POP out of the box (Yahoo still charges for this, for reasons I can’t comprehend). I use the online client almost exclusively.
  • Google Docs
    I love being able to create spreadsheets and easily share them with my better half. It does basically everything I need a spreadsheet app to do, and it does it well.
  • Pivotal Tracker
    Oh, how I love Pivotal Tracker. It’s a simple but powerful project management application that lets you keep track of features, bugs, and chores. I keep all my side projects in here, under a seperate account from the one I use at work. Any application I’ve built is in here as a seperate project (this blog, for example). Any time I discover a bug, or think of a feature I want to add, I can throw it in here under the appropriate project and it will be waiting for me when I have time to work on it. It’s nearly perfect.
  • Instapaper
    I read. A lot. Instapaper lets me capture things that I want to read later, and conveniently strips out all of the formatting for me. The iPhone application is great as well, I can carry reading material with me anywhere.

Hosting

  • VPSLink
    I’ve been hosted with these guys for a couple of years. Fast VPS servers and great uptime.

So that’s what I use to do what I do. If you’ve done a similar list, add a comment below with a link. Or if you have a recommendation for something to replace one of my tools, I’m always looking for cool new tools.

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