The following self conducted interview was inspired by The Setup, a
collection of nerdy interviews, asking people from all walks of life about the harware and software they use. This is my setup.
Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Thomas Brand. I started my professional training as a graphic artist, found I had a greater knack for the technical side of design, and dropped out of art school to work for Apple. After spending some time behind the bar as a Lead Mac Genius I left Apple retail to join the Radiology IT team at Children’s Hospital Boston. I am currently a PACS Analyst assisting with the setup and configuration of computer workstations used to view medical images.
In my spare time you can find me…
- Writing Egg Freckles on my Newton about my experiences with technology.
- Taking digital photographs of the animals at the zoo with my Sony a850.
- Designing the occasional webpage for my Dad’s company Sebago Furniture. - - Running long distances in preparation for the Boston Marathon.
What hardware are you using?
At home I have an entry level late 2009 21.5” iMac upgraded with 8GBs of RAM. I have found I work better with a single medium sized display, and at 3.06GHz my iMac is more than powerful enough for me. I choose the entry model iMac for its Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics which unlike its ATI counterpart provides H.264 and OpenCL hardware acceleration in Snow Leopard.
At work I have gone through a number of computers including both a 13” and 15” MacBook Pro, and a late 2008 MacBook Air. At one point I even inherited a 2.66GHz quad core Mac Pro with 12GBs of RAM. I am currently using a mid 2010 Mac mini Server with a 40GB OWC SSD as my boot drive. Since my requirements are not very high I am eager to trade my computer in for the latest entry level tech just as long as it comes from Apple.
At both locations I use an Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic Trackpad. Both computers are synced with Dropbox and backed up to LaCie Rugged Triple Interface 1TB external hard drives using Time Machine.
I used to bring my iPad back and forth with me to work, but now I use it mostly for reading in the bedroom, and taking on vacation. I almost never sync my iPad with iTunes, and its battery life goes for days. With the iPad all of the content I care about is right in front of me. Now if only it would update that content before I pick it up, and share that content between apps without dancing with copy and paste.
The Newton you see in the photo is a MessagePad 2100. I use it to take handwritten notes at my desk, or begin writing blog posts when the mundanity of a keyboard leaves me uninspired. I have a more pocketable MessagePad 130 I bring with me to meetings or whenever I want to appear ecentric in public.
My friends would say I am in the phone of the month club. Currently I am using an HTC Arrive running Windows Phone 7. Because of a generous arrangement with my employer I get to try out any phone on Sprint’s network. If the iPhone was on Sprint maybe things would be different, but I appreciate the opportunity to experience a large number of different phones running all of the major mobile operating systems.
My Airport Extreme is not used for anything fancy, but it is the best wireless router with the farthest range I have ever owned. Did I mention that MobileMe’s Back to My Mac feature works flawlessly when your Mac is paired up with an Apple Airport Extreme?
I have both the first and second generation Apple TVs hooked up to the same Sony Bravia 52-inch television. I got a television large enough that I can read the subtitles from a comfortable distance, even with my poor vision. I use the 1st generation Apple TV to hold my media collection while the second generation Apple TV is dedicated to Netflix streaming.
And what software?
- Firefox because the Awesome Bar is awesome, extensions are too, and I am rooting for the underdog.
- Mail.app for email only, and never RSS, notes, todo lists, or HTML templates.
- iTunes the unescapable hub of our digital age. I think I was content with the feature set of iTunes 3.
- Coda the all in “one-der” text editor that has replaced the Terminal and a dedicated FTP client on my dock. Previously I used to write this in Writeroom, and code that in BBEdit and now I pretty much do it all in Coda.
- Adobe Creative Suite CS5 Standard I fell in love with the Mac because of Photoshop, Freehand, and PageMaker, and this is the closest thing to a modern equivalent of all three. I don’t really understand what the rest of the suite is all about. CS5 has been the best release in years.
- Lightroom 3 If you are going to process RAW you might as well use the tool from the company that invented the format, DNG. (That pretty much sums up my opinion on the whole Aperture vs. Lightroom debate.)
- BBEdit For everything that Coda doesn’t do there is BBEdit. Even though I use it less and less these days I purchase every upgrade of the Mac’s best text editor for the times I do. “It doesn’t suck.”
- Einstein for taking screenshots of an emulated Apple Newton MessagePad 2100.
- Pixelmator for those times when I am waiting for Photoshop to launch or longing for a new way to edit my images designed for Mac OS X.
- VectorDesigner is an Adobe Illustrator alternative that looks promising.
- OmniDiskSweeper for when I need to know what is taking up space on my disk.
- Writeroom is distraction free writing, and the app that I turn to when I am distracted.
- Dropbox is the most revolutionary technology advancement since the iPhone. It performs the impossible dream of keeping all of my Macs in sync with zero interference.
- Google Voice because accessibility to my voicemail and text messages shouldn’t be limited to a single device. Sending text messages, and listening to voicemail on my iPad for example.
- Instapaper brings the content of the internet to my eyes on my own terms. Once you start using Instapaper the whole web looks like a distraction.
What would be your dream setup?
With the introduction of the 12” PowerBook G4 in 2003 I became a one laptop kind of guy. This philosophy was based on the ease of managing a single set of files on a single computer and avoiding the responsibility of syncing my laptop with my desktop. I continued in this tradition with an iBook G4, Intel Mac mini (I brought back and forth to work), and finally a late model 12” PowerBook G4. The advent of Dropbox and the realization I work better with a larger ergonomic display set me back on the path of multiple desktop machines, and the unexpected usefulness of the iPad had me do away with my laptop entirely.
I can’t see my current setup changing that much from what I have now. Sure, faster SSDs in everything, and maybe a Drobo, but I don’t really need that much storage. The new 11” MacBook Air looks nice, but if I bought one I would not have learned my lesson about the bad ergonomics of tiny laptops, and forgotten that I rarely find the effort to carry my 1.5lb iPad around nowadays. Overall I am pretty happy with my current setup.