Hardware and Software

Note from May 2016: I have begun to update this list - many sections are still lacking detail, but the basic foundations are in place.

Last Updated: January 1, 2017

Here's some info on my current hardware / software setup - I'm always refining my tools and configuration, so this page will change over time. But this is a snapshot of roughly right now.

Hardware

I have generally stayed within the Apple ecosystem for hardware, though not without some pain points.

27-inch iMac with Retina 5K

Excellent piece of hardware - only downside is that it is not a candidate for target display mode, so it cannot currently be used as an external display for a MacBook Pro.

I use an Apple Magic Keyboard and Steelseries Rival optical mouse with this iMac. The Magic Keyboard is a joy to type on - I really enjoy the reduced key travel distance. The Steelseries mouse is highly recommended as it is not particularly expensive and is comfortable for daily use. I was a fan of the Razer DeathAdder previously, however the scroll wheel stopped functioning on all three of my DeathAdders after 6 months or so of use.

Also connected is a Lacie 2big Thunderbolt 2 backup drive, with two 3TB drives connected as a RAID drive for local Time Machine backups. This pairs nicely with the below-mentioned NAS for file backups.

15" Retina MacBook Pro, Mid 2015

Extremely useful laptop, I do 90% of my work-related tasks on this machine. I do not have the version with a discrete graphics card, so graphics-intensive apps like games are not as performant as on other systems.

iPhone 7 Plus, 128GB

I greatly enjoy the larger screen size - not entirely sure why, but smaller phones are more exhausting to use for me.

I am on the Apple Upgrade Program, so for a monthly fee I get to use the latest version of the iPhone. Prior to switching out my 6S+ for the 7+, I had been considering switching to the newest Nexus phone, both as an experiment in another phone OS and as an opportunity to switch to the Google Fi carrier. Alas the Pixel phone was released and was considerably less impressive than hoped.

I do feel the upgrade from 6S to 7 was meaningful, mainly in improved speed - everything feels quantitatively snappier - and battery life. The biggest downside by far is the lack of a headphone jack as I much prefer wired headphones to wireless and can no longer simultaneously listen and charge. However, the improved battery life compensates for this, as I have rarely needed to do both simultaneously any longer.

iPad Air 2, 64GB

This is mostly used as a POS sales system for my wife's business. The new iPad Pro looks nice, but I can't really justify the cost for what little I do on the iPad. The iPad Air 2 definitely feels like it is showing its age at this point - compared to other devices it is sluggish.

Apple TV, 4th generation, 32GB

After having tried a Chromecast, Roku, and Fire TV, the 4th generation Apple TV hit the sweet spot for ease of use, overall speed, and available apps for our TV setup. 99% of what we watch happens in the Plex app, but the whole system is a joy to use. Integration with everything else in the Apple ecosystem is a nice plus.

Nvidia Shield TV

This is my main TV box on the living room TV as it supports 4K.

Xbox One

I have a lot of affection for this device, however I don't use it very often at all. It essentially operates as a superpowered media center in the living room, with the added benefit of being able to run apps and games. 90% of the time it runs Plex, Twitch, or HDMI passthrough to a Chromecast.

Desktop PC

Previously I used a QNAP NAS for backup storage, but outgrew that. Now I have a dedicated custom PC for gaming and storage, containing 8 hard drives, utilizing Windows Storage Spaces. More details later...

Amazon Echo

The Echo is an amazing companion to life in the home and specifically kitchen. Besides asking the echo to turn on and off lights, its primary function is to play music in the kitchen and manage various reminders and timers. It excels at these tasks, improving the ambiance vastly and simplifying everything with hands-free operation.

Philips Hue

Most all of the lights in my apartment are Hue lights, and now that the most basic ones can be found for around $10 / light, this is not a substantial monetary investment. The ease at which I can ask Siri or Alexa to turn on / off lights when leaving or going to bed is worth the effort to replace the existing lights.

TODO: I should add more details about specific lights and their placements.

Netgear Nighthawk X8 Router

This is one of Netgear's top of the line consumer routers, and I'm happy with the investment. Previously I used an Apple Time Capsule router, which functioned adequately, but even in a one-bedroom apartment certain areas experienced degraded wifi performance. With the X8, everything is extremely fast everywhere, and the ability to customize the network and its behavior in deep ways has proven useful.

As usual, the software and web interface used to customize the router is extremely clunky, ugly, and generally non-intuitive, however it makes up for this fact with the performance and customization capabilities.

13" MacBook Pro with Touchbar

My wife uses a 13" MacBook Pro with Touchbar in her photography business. More details later.

Deprecated Hardware

I should add some notes on these, but the following have been deprecated: Apple Watch, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast (for some uses), Surface Pro 3, Roku, Apple TV 3rd generation, Apple Time Capsule Router, MacBook Air

QNAP-451+ NAS

12" MacBook

Software

Notes go here

Desktop

Master list of desktop software - review blurbs incoming:

1Password 6

Excellent password and secure note / file manager.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Easy access to Adobe software, mostly used by my wife for Lightroom, Photoshop, and Illustrator. Nice to have access to other software if necessary such as Premier

Amphetamine

Keeps the display from going to screensaver. Replaces Caffeine, as though Caffeine worked for me, its icon wasn't retina.

Anki

Used to review Japanese learning material.

Arq

Used to automate backups to Amazon Glacier. Not sure if going to keep using as trial has expired.

Atom

My preferred code editor. Used daily.

Backblaze

Used for online offsite backup.

Base

Sqlite database client.

Battle.net

Used for Heroes of the Storm and Starcraft II

Charles

HTTP debugging proxy - useful for work.

CleanMyMac 3

Easy cleanup of old / temporary files.

CrashPlan

Plan to use this to coordinate local file backups.

DaisyDisk

Visualizes files and their sizes on the HDD. Useful for finding where to delete for extra space.

Dash

Easy access to programming documentation.

Deliveries

Tracks packages and deliveries.

Discord

Docker

Dropbox

Duet

Etcher

Firefox

Gemini

GitHub Desktop

GitScout

Gitter

Google Chrome

Heroes of the Storm

Hyper

ImageOptim

IntelliJ IDEA

iTerm

Kaleidoscope

LaCie Desktop Manager

League of Legends

M4VGear

MakeMKV

Microsoft Office

Minecraft

MoneyWell

NoteBurner M4V Converter Plus

Numi

OmniFocus

osu!

Paprika Recipe Manager

Parcel

Permute

Pixelmator

Plex Media Player

Plex Media Server

Postgres

Postico

Private Internet Access

PSequel

Radiant Player

Screenbot

Screenhero

Screens

Screeny

Sequel Pro

SizeUp

Sketch

Skype

Slack

SmashIcons

Steam

SteelSeries Engine 3

Subler

Sublime Text

TeamViewer

Things

Transmission

Transmit

Tweetbot

VirtualBox

VLC

Atom for text editing - I've been using it for about a year and have loved the customizability, polished design, and speed of updates. I have not encountered any significant performance issues compared to other editors. Previously I used Sublime Text (3 beta and 2) as well as TextMate.

Dash is amazing for code documentation.

Evernote is great for long-term storage of searchable stuff (important papers, receipts, etc.)

For password management, I use 1Password, which remembers all of my passwords in an encrypted format and syncs with all my devices via Dropbox. It's nice. I also keep secure notes in there too, like software license keys and bank account information.

I subscribe to Creative Cloud, but on a day to day basis really prefer Pixelmator.

For photo storage and organization, I'm currently letting Dropbox store all my photos via camera upload. It's simple, and I like it, though if I ever do any serious photography, I'll need something better, with more organization and storage space.

I use Google Hangouts for personal instant messages, in addition to the Messages app for iMessages. Slack is for work, and it's awesome.

For IRC, IRCCloud is great, with persistent connections and web and mobile clients. Textual is nice if you're looking for a native app.

Plex is an awesome media center. You should use it. It's really nice.

For development, I have the Xcode command line tools package installed, along withHomebrew for software.

For video, VLC wins, hands-down, though sometimes I'm lazy and let an MP4 open in QuickTime.

TeamViewer 9 is indispensable when it comes to doing remote support for friends and family, something that happens about half a dozen times per month.

I really love Jitouch, as it adds extra gestures and such for the trackpad - highly useful.

For fun, there's Steam (with a large library of Humble Bundle games), StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, League of Legends, and LIMBO. More than enough for my limited game-playing (almost none).

Whenever I need to rip movies, Handbrake comes to the rescue. There's also NoteBurner M4V Converter for removing the DRM from movies purchased via iTunes (which I've done twice).

I really like the GitHub app as a GUI for git, which I use whenever I need a visual representation of what's changed or need to pick and choose specific files or lines for a commit. DiffMerge is a good file comparison tool, too, which is somewhat related to git, so that's why it's in the paragraph.

Burn is for burning CDs. It's nice.

Browser Extensions

Here's my currently-enabled Chrome extensions:

  • 1Password - password manager
  • Authy - two factor authentication
  • Bookmark Manager - a visual bookmark manager from Google
  • Dropbox for Gmail - integration with Gmail and Dropbox
  • EditThisCookie - cookie editor / debugging tool
  • Feedly - for RSS feed reading
  • Form Filler - fills forms with dummy data
  • Hangouts - chat from Google
  • JSON Formatter - pretty JSON in the browser
  • Pay by Privacy.com - disposable credit card numbers linked to my primary account
  • Privacy Badger - blocks trackers
  • React Developer Tools - extends the Chrome dev tools to support React
  • Redux DevTools - adds support for debugging Redux applications
  • uBlock Origin - for blocking ads and trackers

Services

Private Internet Access is an awesome VPN provider - I use their service regularly. I used to use iVPN.net prior to PIA.

For my webhost, I love Digital Ocean - they're awesome. I've used lots of providers over the years - I strongly dislike HostMonster and Media Temple and am okay with DreamHost, Rackspace Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Linode, and prgmr. But Digital Ocean I love...