Thought it would be helpful to describe the various tools and things I use on a day to day basis. Inspired by Stephen Musoke Senkomago who was inspired by Wes Bos’ Uses. These are the tools I use for my personal, teaching, and side projects.
Why is this helpful?
The older I get the more I wonder if I’m getting out of touch with technology and just using what I know, versus detecting new things to try and use. There’s so much out there to try, I find it helpful to filter the possibilities by looking at what people I know use. I think that’s a bit more credible since there seems to be quite a bit of self-promotion and ad-backed promotion.
I find I don’t have much time to ask people I know about the level of detail I’d like to know about their setup, so I thought perhaps others are also strapped for time and don’t have time to ask me. So I figured it out be helpful if I describe what my “daily driver” is as one more data point of what I actually use, vs what I could use. I capture lots of different neat and potential things in my link stack but this will be things I actually use most days. This isn’t fitting the format of uses.tech but I’ll try to keep it up to date as I start and stop using things.
Most of these links are directly to the product page or to a non-affiliate Amazon page. I typically buy through Walmart, Monoprice, or Walmart but the link is probably whatever is easiest unless I specifically note it below.
These are physical things I interact with almost every day. Not quite a list of cool tools but the closest I have, I guess.
- MacBook Air (Mid 20017 model) - received it as a birthday present, only has 8GB of memory, but still runs well for the kind of light dev work I do
- Bungee Cord Chair - I didn’t get this from the Container store, but from some random Midtown, Scandinavian-Design furniture store back in the 00s and it’s still going strong
- Random IKEA 4-foot high table repurposed as desk.
- Amazon Basics Premium Single Monitor Stand - Lift Engine Arm Mount, Aluminum - Black screwed into my desk and holding up a random 1080p 27” monitor
- Phone Video Stand,Overhead Camera Mount Compatible - holding iphone when I want to use my iphone as a webcam for playing magic on spelltable
- Pilot Juice Up Gel Pen - 0.3 mm - Blue Black - use these for writing notes into physical notebooks, usually moleskine or leuchtturm, but I’ve recently started experimenting with Rhodia Webnotebook - 3.5” x 5.5” - Dot Grid, as the moleskine quality has dropped and the leuchtturm spines tend to flatten out.
- Synology DiskStation DS1019+ - great local NAS for backing up everything via TimeMachine, plus storing media, vms, etc. I think this model is no longer available and has been replaced with the DS1520+. This also where I schedule my python jobs, run Plex and stuff like that. Using 4 HGST Ultrastar HUS724040ALA640 4TB drives, but just added a fifth WD Black WD6003FZBX-00K5WB0 6TB as the Ultrastars are getting harder to find with reputable warranties. Hoping this WD Black will go well and have a 5year manufacturer’s warranty through Amazon. THe HGSTs had warranties through the random Amazon resellers and replacing failed drives was a big hassle arguing with resellers who may not exist. I’ve bought four of these since 2013, had two fail. One reseller honored their warranty, one have me the run around.
- IKEA KALLAX 5x5 (or maybe this is an Expedit that was replaced by Kallax) - I still have a lot of physical books so this bookshelf is super handy for keeping reference books and fun things to fidget with.
- Ubiquiti AMPLIFI this has a great radio antenna and range, but their admin interface is very frustrating as I’ve been waiting two years for local intranet access through a browser but must use an app with a cloud login. I don’t want any cloud access to my home wi-fi router. Am looking for alternatives. Have to manually power cycle the base unit or mesh point every week or two.
- MacOS Catalina - will probably eventually upgrade to BigSur but not yet.
- VisualStudioCode (rarely updated)
- Anaconda Individual Edition (rarely updated)
- Python 3.9 (usually upgraded through Anaconda) - mainly using pandas, numpy, matplotlib, altair; mainly edited with VSCode; use environments through conda
- Jupyter - usually run through conda, sometimes run through VSCode
- zsh - finally switched from bash all these years during the Catalina update, installed and updated through MacOS
- BBEdit - used for simple scratchpad text editing stuff and will frequently have dozens of unsaved snippets that I’m not willing to commit to saving, but like that they persist through reboots. This is also the most common way I launder the clipboard when needing to cut and paste text without formatting.
- XCode - I think all I use this for are the XCode Command Line Tools
- Homebrew - package management even though the install scares me, I used to use MacPorts but switched to Homebrew a few years ago when something wasn’t working with port
- Ruby - whatever the default version installed with MacOS, but all I use is Jekyll to build this site and Bundler to run Jekyll
- Textual - bought through codeux site, not appstore; usually lurking on freenode to ask for programming help
- RStudio - while I typically do stuff in python using, I’m been meaning to learn R
- ViM installed through MacOS, I wasn’t actually sure if was “vi” or ViM until I checked just now, I only know a few commands for adding, deleting, saving, and closing but will use this for quick edits when I don’t want to start VSCode or BBEdit
- Brave Browser - mostly use this, I don’t care about the crypto stuff, but it’s a nice minimal ad experience. I use chrome for google stuff and Safari every once in a while. Used to be a big FireFox fan until a few years ago but switched to Brave when Firefox started to be laggy and use massive memory
- GNU Privacy Guard - just in case I need to encrypt something or if I want to check the signed signatures on downloads, I do have a public key in case anyone wants to send me something encrypted. But I really only use this once every few years to test out stuff with a friend of mine who also likes cryptography. But I feel like I could use it if I needed to use it.
- Tableau Public - free version of the expensive dataviz tool that’s nice for exploratory data analysis
- LittleSnitch - helps to debug and figure out what’s sending data where, kind of annoyed that I had to pay full price for version 5 after I already paid for version 3
- cPanel - dashboard provided by my host, CyberUltra and is just great for admin, package management, etc. My host is awesome by the way, I picked them out almost 20 years ago and they’ve been solid, low cost, and super responsive every few years when I have a problem. Can’t recommend them enough if you need shared, “cpanel”-style hosting
- jq - great tool for querying JSON, it’s up there with regex for things that I don’t fully understand and spend way to much time trying to figure out syntax. One of these days, I’ll learn regex, jq, and R.
- VMWare Fusion free version used for running windows VMs, used to use virtualbox
Stuff I used to use but stopped: Docker, OpenOffice
I guess this is technically software, but I wanted to separate out services I pay for vs just software that I buy once and install.
- Dropbox - Have lots of gigs because I signed up dozens of people in grad school
- Office365/OneDrive - Microsoft finally hooked me after all these years. I went from nursing a license of Office that I bought in 1995 and had on virtualized floppies to finally paying $99/year so my family can use Office on their phones, tablets, and windows machines. Getting 1TB cloud storage per family member is nice, I don’t use it much but it makes me feel like Dropbox and iCloud are too expensive.
- Spotify - listening to free tier music helps me concentrate on whatever I’m doing
- GitHub - don’t pay, but do spend a very small monthly amount sponsoring an open source project
- AWS S3 Glacier - backs up a few gigs of important docs that I’d be really sad if house burned down and NAS and laptops died, uses the Synology glacier plugin app
- draw.io - great, free, browser-based tool for making diagrams, has replaced any other diagramming tools and in the past I’ve used Visio, OmniGraffle, and Office
- SankeyMATIC - great free, browser-based tool for making sankey diagrams
- Google Docs - lots of lists and notes in the cloud, don’t sync these to the local filesystem so only browser access
Future Blog Ideas
- How to degoogle off of gmail
Stuff I Read While Working on This Post (That You Might Want to Read Too)
- Wikipedia’s List of MacBook versions
- What is Scandinavian Design
- What Are The Differences Between Vi and Vim?
- Add a picture of my desk