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Article: My 2012 Setup

by on August 3, 2012

While reading my usual RSS feeds, I came across Thomas Brand’s post focusing on his current setup, and I know a lot of folks like seeing what other people use. I decided to work on my own version of a post to share some information about the type of systems I use. As such, I also borrowed the format used on The Setup.

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Eric Schwarz. I used to by a spy. Until… Oh wait, wrong story. Actually, my background is in video production and graphic design. After a few random projects and side jobs, I now work at a small college where I get to mix my areas of expertise and work with some great students. When I have down time, I work on this site and record episodes of Patent Pending.

What hardware are you using?

My work computer is a Mid-2011 iMac. When it came time to buy new computers, I asked if I could get a similarly-priced Mac instead of the usual HP machines we gravitate towards. We have a few Macs around where I work, but it’s primarily a PC operation. Fortunately, I got the okay, and ended up with a somewhat low-end, but still quite powerful iMac. It’s got the 21.5″ display, a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5, 4GB RAM. I opted for the Magic Trackpad and wired keyboard (in this case, one cable is something I can live with to save having to change 2 extra batteries for a stationary machine).

My personal computers, which are used more for the production of my side projects are fairly modest. My primary computer is a Early 2008 MacBook Pro (the last before the unibody design took over) with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, and the stock 200GB hard drive. Despite it feeling a little less sturdy than Apple’s current options, it has served me quite well over the past four years and has made the leap to Mountain Lion. Although it’s not nearly as fast as the iMac I have at work, it’s good enough and is already in the running for the longest I’ve gone without getting a new Mac. I have a Magic Trackpad and 2 external hard drives attached. One drive has all my random things (essentially “cold storage” for old projects, old SchwarzTech graphic files, etc.) and the other is a Time Machine backup for both that drive and my computer.

My other machine is an Early 2005 Power Mac G5 that I got about a year ago for a price too good to pass up. It’s the liquid-cooled dual-2.7GHz model. When I got it, I put an extra 250GB drive in it (which serves as a Time Machine backup drive), some extra RAM, bringing the total to 4GB, and everything else is stock. Despite being over 7 years old, it’s a pretty powerful machine and mostly serves the purpose of podcast editing and random web work. It inherited peripherals from my MacBook Pro—a Samsung 21.5″ display, Magic Mouse, and the Apple wired keyboard. I also have an Apple Extended Keyboard II and Griffin iMate that often get used for long writing sessions.

Sometimes I have to take what I have on my screen and put it on dead trees. For that, I used my trusty Brother HL-2040 laser printer up until about two months ago when it was shelved for the similar, yet also fax- (who uses that?) and copy-capable Brother IntelliFax-2820 that I saved from being thrown away. It’s pretty much the same product, except that it has a fax machine and scanner fused on the top. Both use the same drum and ink.

In reality, the computer that gets the most use is my third-generation iPad. It’s the 32GB model with the AT&T radio. I use it for everything from reading news and articles, web browsing, Twitter, emails, listening to podcasts, and playing games (often beamed to a second-generation Apple TV via AirPlay). I also use it for writing and some web editing. It replaced an original iPad and really made the iPad a must-have device in my arsenal.

My phone is getting a bit old by Apple geek standards—it’s a 32GB iPhone 4 purchased immediate after launch. While AT&T would love me to sign another two-year contract, I’m holding out until the next iPhone and when I really need a new one. The iPad has taken over a lot of the functions that I used to use my iPhone for—Twitter, collecting articles in Instapaper, and games, but I still use my iPhone for these when I’m in public and need to waste some time. It also has podcasts and a modest amount of music, along with iTunes Match to provide music for my car.

I also have a 2012 Apple AirPort Express, acting as an AirPlay audio receiver, print server, and router. It’s a great little product—a Swiss Army Knife of networking.

And what software?

  • I use Safari on all of my computers and devices. Although the G5 doesn’t get the iCloud goodness, I like the other consistency and just prefer Safari’s interface to alternatives. I have other browsers on my MacBook Pro for testing purposes.
  • Reeder has become my RSS reader of choice, especially since it synchronizes across my devices (although using Google Reader…boo), and lets me send content to other places easily, like Instapaper, Twitter, or email.
  • iA Writer is my choice for writing. It’s distraction-free, syncs with iCloud, and there are versions for all my devices.
  • Pixelmator is what I use for most graphics work. I have an older version running on the G5 and the latest on all my Mac App Store-capable Macs. It does about 85% of things Photoshop can do, but was much cheaper and a lot less bloated.
  • All web design is done with a mix of Coda, Fetch, and TextWrangler, depending on if I’m on an Intel Mac or the G5, and how intense of a tool I want to use. I use Diet Coda on my iPad if I’m out of the office or too lazy to get up off the couch. The WordPress app is on both of my iOS devices in case I find an annoying typo or want to post something remotely.
  • Like many other folks, I use Dropbox for sharing files amongst devices, but I haven’t put all my content there like some people. It’s a handy place to stash work files, meeting notes, and graphics that I need instant access to anywhere.
  • I use Tweetbot on my iPhone and iPad, and really don’t tweet much from my Macs. Due to Twitter’s threats, I’m really leery about spending money on Tweetbot for the Mac, especially since I’m not sure how much I’d really use it.
  • All of my reading generally gets sent to Instapaper, since I’m often finding things on various devices, services, and more. I can sit down and read things when I want, rather than rushing to get through articles to move onto the next thing.
  • Since getting into podcasts, I started using Instacast, but recently got into Apple’s Podcasts app. The first version was a dud, but the recent updates made it pretty good, especially for being a free, universal app.
  • Speaking of podcasts, I use GarageBand for podcast editing. It’s a bit basic, but came with my Macs and gives enough control to make me happy.

There’s plenty of other pieces of software that I use, but those are the ones that I can’t go without, especially in the context of this site and Patent Pending.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup mostly revolves around updating hardware, but keeping the current format. If someone handed me a blank check to go spend at an Apple Store, I’d probably replace the G5 with a Mac Pro and matching Cinema Display (although I’d want to wait for the next Mac Pro), or a top-of-the-line iMac. Since the iPad has really taken over my portable computing needs, I don’t think I’d need another laptop (that money could go for another display, more storage, or more RAM). As for my iPad, I’d go for the 64GB version of what I have so I can hoard more data. On the iPhone front, I’d want whatever the next iPhone is, and probably the 32GB variety. To round things out, let’s throw a AirPort Extreme with external hard drive to serve as a content/backup server.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with what I have now, and although a few components of my setup are aging, I have the nice mix of power, convenience, and productivity. Devices like the iPad and iPhone have really disrupted things for me, where I used to have an iPod for my media and some sort of laptop to get things done.

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