Egg Freckles
Notes from my Newton



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 dropped out of art school and spent some time behind the Genius Bar. Today I am a system administrator at MIT. When I am not writing about technology, I am running marathons for charity.

What hardware do you use?

I built a Hackintosh named Siracusa. I wanted a small desktop Mac with expandable storage and upgradable graphics. I can’t say my creation lives up to the expectations of its namesake, but at 4.2 GHz it is the fastest Mac I haver ever owned.

I traded in my Apple Extended Keyboard for a Das Keyboard Ultimate S. Its blank keys have made me a better typist, and its integrated USB 2.0 hub is just too damn convenient.

I have a iPhone SE in my pocket. I appreciate its small size, and grippable formfactor. T-Mobile gives me unlimited data and 100 minutes of voice for $30 a month. I enjoy the freedom of switching SIMs, and swapping phones, without restrictions.

On my desk I keep a Newton MessagePad. I use it for keeping notes, jotting down ideas, and distraction free writing. I email my notes back to my computer over WiFi.

On my wrist I wear a Omega Seamaster 300M Chronometer. I feel like James Bond, and it never runs out of batteries. Apple Watch Series 2 helps me train for my next marathon.

And what software?

I stopped using the Mac after Mavericks. Apple's vision of the future of computing is different than my own. I switched to Fedora and Gnome 3. Fedora's Gnome 3 GUI is beautiful and as close to Mac OS as you are going to get without paying the Apple Tax. When I don't need the power of Gnome I use to dwm.

I write everything in VIM; email, code, and blogging. With the power of MOSH I can take my writing envionment with me anywhere. VIM's persistent undo is my poor man's version control system.

I read my mail in Alpine, my RSS in Fever°, and the web in Surf or SeaMonkey. I send everything else to Instapaper.

GIMP and Inkscape are favorite free image editors, but I have a soft spot for Adobe Lightroom 3 and the DNG file format. It turns out Lightroom runs pretty well on Windows XP in a VirtualBox virtual machine.

On my iPhone I spend my time running the following apps.

It will be a long time before iOS replaces my PC.

What would be your dream setup?

I started a career in graphic design because I wanted to work with Macs. Today I value the freedom to choose what kind of hardware and software I use. Choice keeps me interested in technology.