Mon 6/29 My Setup

System Profiler

The following interview was inspired by The Setup, a collection of nerdy interviews, asking people from all walks of life about the hardware and software they use.

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Thomas Brand. I work at MIT. When I am not leading a technical support team, I write Egg Freckles and run marathons for charity.

What hardware are you using?

Early last year I built a Hackintosh named Siracusa. I wanted the smallest desktop Mac possible with expandable storage and graphics. I can’t say my creation lives up to the expectations of its namesake, but maybe it comes close.

Siracusa includes the following components.

Siracusa is the fastest Mac I have ever owned. The whole setup cost me less than a $1,000, but setting up a Hackintosh is not for the faint of heart. I still keep last year’s quad core Mac mini around in case something goes wrong.

My other Mac is an Early 2014 11-inch MacBook Air. I use it for working with VIM, and email while commutting on the train. I keep it in a Twelve South BookBook case. People think I am carrying a Bible. I am not a religious man.

And what software?

With the exception of VIM these are the apps I use most on my Mac.

  • Acorn for image editing.
  • BBEdit for editing HTML, CSS, and heavy lifting.
  • Cinch for keeping my windows equally split.
  • Dropbox for getting my files from one computer to another.
  • EasyFind for when Spotlight fails me.
  • Fetch for FTP.
  • Firefox is my browser across Windoes, Mac, and Linux.
  • ImageOptim keeps my PNGs small.
  • Keynote is my preferred way to give a presentation.
  • Lightroom 3 for photo editing.
  • Mail for email. (I have a fantastic habit of deleting everything.)
  • Marked 2 makes sure my Markdown checks out.
  • OmniGraffle for looking smarter than I really am.
  • Twitterrific for Twitter, and trolling Ben Brooks.
  • VLC has replaced iTunes for playing music on my Mac.

How about mobile devices?

I do not carry an iPhone. All of my mobile phones since the original iPhone have been unlocked, and cost less than $200. Today I am carrying a Amazon Fire Phone. Tomorrow my phone might be something different. I enjoy the freedom of switching SIMs, swapping phones, and not having to worry about a $650 computer in my pocket. T-Mobile gives me unlimited data and 100 minutes of voice for $30 a month. I do not talk on the phone very often.

I keep a Newton MessagePad 2100 on my desk for keeping notes, jotting down ideas, and distraction free writing. I sync what I write back to my Mac over email using a wifi PC Card. My Newton can run for weeks on four replacable AA batteries.

On my wrist I wear one of three watches depending on my mood.

The Omega, was a wedding gift I bought for myself second hand. It is the nicest of the three, and the most expensive. I cringe everytime I hit it off a door jam. As an automatic it is powered by the movement of my wrist, but I can’t say it keeps better time than a quartz watch. The Apple Watch seems like a nice to have, but I still can’t see a compelling reason to own one.

I also have the original iPad mini from 2012. The one with the A5 processor developers love to complain about. I have given up using it for anything but Twitter, email, RSS, and podcasts listening. The iPad mini is my second iPad, and it may be my last.

What would be your dream setup?

I used to say I would never work at a company that wouldn’t let me use a Mac. But I don’t think that is true anymore. Mac, WIndows, Linux, they all suit me just fine. Different choices with their own advantages and disadvantages. I could not work at a company that wouldn’t give choice. The freedom to change is my dream setup. Change keeps me interested in technology.