Article: My 2014 Setup

by on April 2, 2014

While thinking about new things to write about, I thought it was time to revisit my current setup and workflow, which was last reviewed in August 2012 Once again, I also borrowed the format used on The Setup.

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Eric Schwarz. I work at a small college where I provide technology support for students, coordinate the technology used in campus events, manage virtual labs, and have recently become the person responsible for almost all college-owned Macs and iPads. 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 still a Mid-2011 21″ iMac—it made the transition to the current job with me. I did manage to add some RAM to it, bringing it up to a 2.5GHz i5/6GB RAM/500GB HD configuration. I use a the Magic Trackpad and a Apple Wireless Keyboard. I use it for 99% of work tasks, with Windows 7 available when needed via VirtualBox or Boot Camp. I had a cheap 19″ HP monitor connected to it for awhile, but am trying a single display setup for the time being. We’ll see how long that lasts. I also have an old HP Compaq 6710b laptop that is often used for Active Directory tasks or those few occasions when events on campus need a loaner computer.

2014 Setup

My personal computer situation, on the other hand, has changed quite a bit. My only computer is now a Mid-2012 13″ MacBook Pro with a 2.9GHz Intel i7 processor, 8GB RAM, and a Samsung 840 Evo SSD. A Blue Snowball is my podcast microphone of choice (for now). I have a Magic Trackpad and 2 external hard drives (one is the original 750GB drive in an external enclosure) 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. Some of my older drives have become backup drives of these backups, staying off-site. I sold the G5 I used to use.

My iPad usage has dropped off a bit since getting the 13″ MacBook Pro—there’s something about having a full-blown Mac with plenty of power and “long-enough” battery life that makes reaching for my third-generation iPad feel more limiting. It’s the 32GB model with the AT&T radio. I think the other change in my habits was a direct result of iOS 7 making the device feel much more sluggish and how some apps just felt out of place with the new UI. iOS 7.1 fixed a lot of that, but I feel spoiled with my modest, yet fast Mac.

My printer is still the Brother IntelliFax-2820 that I saved from being thrown away—it hasn’t needed ink yet and is small enough that I can throw it in the back corner of my living room and not really notice it

The other nail in the iPad use coffin, so to speak, has been my iPhone update—I traded my iPhone 4 (and some money) for an iPhone 5 at launch and it still feels like an amazing device. I have a feeling that whenever the next iPhone comes out, I may upgrade, but keep my 5 as a backup/testing device. I liked the scratch-resistence and expensive feel of the iPhone 4/4s’s glass back (provided you didn’t drop it), but the 5/5S overall seems like the best iPhone Apple has made.

My home Interent comes in via AT&T U-verse, but I choose not to use their bland and outdated 802.11g router—instead I use my 2012 Apple AirPort Express which also acts as print server. I added another one that sits at my desk and extends my network, provides an ethernet port for tinkering with older machines, and shares a set of Harman/Kardon SoundSticks II speakers via AirPlay. Say what you will about the raw performance of other routers out there, but Apple’s have been the only ones that don’t send me into a murderous rampage.

And what software?

  • I use Safari on all of my computers and devices. iCloud tabs and Reading List have become essential parts to my workflow.
  • With the demise of Google Reader, I switched to running my own Fever server and use ReadKit to access it. The setup sometimes still feels a little homemade, but I’m pretty happy with it. I’ve gotten away from reading RSS feeds on my mobile devices.
  • iA Writer is still 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. It does about 85% of things Photoshop can do, but was much cheaper and a lot less bloated.
  • All web design is done with Coda and Diet Coda. 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 devices. Last time I wrote about this, I was hesitant to buy Tweetbot for Mac, but I finally gave in and did.
  • All of my reading generally gets sent to Safari Reading List, especially since most apps I use support it.
  • I also went back to using Instacast and even added the Mac version, mostly because sync from iOS-to-Mac on Apple’s Podcast solution didn’t really work the way I would’ve liked.
  • Speaking of podcasts, I use GarageBand 6.0.5 for podcast editing. I’d love to switch to GarageBand 10, but they took away so much control.
  • Since Spring is here, I’ve started making more iced coffee—Marco’s recipe is delicious.

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. I’d love to replace my work iMac with a 27″ top-of-the-line model, and might go with a 13″ Retina MacBook Pro. I probably could get by with a MacBook Air, but the added horsepower and amazing screen may get me to spend the extra money. When I was originally buying my machine, the Air was considered, but I wanted a machine I could sink some more money into down the road and perform a few upgrades, especially since Apple is going to a more sealed format for computers. If not, a loaded 11″ MacBook Air with a Thunderbolt Display would be a great option, too.

On the iOS side of things, I think I’d go for an iPad mini with Retina Display—I like the smaller size and with almost the same internals as the iPad Air, it seems like a great solution that is a bit more travel-friendly. I already mentioned wanting the next iPhone, especially if it grows just a bit in screen size. Finally, I’d like to get a new AirPort Extreme and external hard drive to back things up—I’m not sure why I haven’t just done this yet.

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