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Article: My 2015 Setup

by on March 17, 2015

Recently, I threw my setup into disarray by replacing one Mac with two, and that led me to think about how my setup has changed as a whole since April 2014 As I did last time, I used 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, handle all the support and purchasing for college-owned Macs and iPads, manage our VMware Horizon View desktops, and whatever other odds and ends I involve myself with. When I have down time, I work on this site and sometimes record podcasts with my friends, Matt and Lindsey.

What hardware are you using?

My work computer is still the same, so I’ll just copy-and-paste what I wrote nearly a year ago:

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.

The 6710b has been used less, and I’ve moved my Windows 7 environment over to VMware Horizon View, as it serves a great place to manage servers and do Active Directory things from anywhere (while also saving drive space on my iMac).

2015 Setup

In the last month, my personal setup has changed much more. My main computer is now a Mid-2011 21.5″ iMac that I got for a very good price. It’s the 2.7GHz i5 model with 8GB RAM and came with a 1TB hard drive. After getting it, I replaced the drive with a Crucial mx100 256GB SSD and that really improved performance. Despite being almost four years old, the processing power is more than enough for me and now the drive performance also impresses. I know the mx100 isn’t the fastest drive out there, but it was cheap and I wanted to give Crucial’s options a try, especially since I’ve primarily leaned towards Samsung models (for those wondering, surgery wasn’t too bad either). My “wish list” for this machine includes a good drive enclosure for the stock hard drive and a Thunderbolt-to-USB 3.0 adapter so my USB 3.0 drives are fast. Finally, some JBL Pebbles flank each side of the iMac, and sound much better than their size suggests.

The iMac inherited the Apple Wireless Keyboard, Magic Trackpad, Blue Snowball, and hard drives from my MacBook Pro. The drives are now perched on the back of the machine with Twelve South Backpacks, saving some desk space. As before, one drive is for all sorts of random things that I don’t need on my computers at all time, and the other is a Time Machine backup. I still keep a few other drives floating around as clones or off-site backups.

Previously, I was using a Mid-2012 13″ MacBook Pro. It was a great computer, but I had the opportunity to trade for a similarly configured Mid-2012 11″ MacBook Air. I took the hit in terms of processor performance and the optical drive, but by itself, the Air is plenty powerful, and I can fall back on the iMac for more power and plastic coasters. Thanks to iCloud Drive and other Internet-based services, both computers are mostly synchronized all the time.

I also added an iPhone 6 (white/silver, 64GB) to my lineup and it’s my favorite iPhone by far. Although each model is better than the last, this iPhone is the type of device that I can use for everything and not really be interested in another mobile device. Maybe it’s the larger screen, or maybe it’s all the other little features, but I’ll be very happy with this one for awhile.

I just sold my third-generation iPad, as I have found its usage drop off even more. I’m not really interested in replacing it, as my needs are more Mac-based, and an iPad Air 2 would have just done what I already do with my iPad, but be thinner and faster.

My network was upgraded a bit with a prior-generation AirPort Extreme I bought refurbished and it runs my printer (a Brother HL-2040) and shares a USB flash drive on my network, brought in by AT&T U-verse. The prior AirPort Express is now an extender for this network. For those wondering about the Brother printer I was using before, it was given away.

And what software?

Most of these are unchanged from last year, but I’ve italicized the items that have changed:

  • I use Safari on all of my computers and devices. iCloud tabs and Reading List have become essential parts to my workflow.
  • For RSS, I still run my own Fever sever and use Reeder to access it on all of my devices, including my phone.
  • iA Writer is still my choice for writing. It’s distraction-free, syncs with iCloud, and there are versions for all my devices.
  • TextWrangler has been added as another option and has proven to be a great tool for most work, as well.
  • 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 I do most of my quick-fixes with the web-based editor on WordPress.
  • I dropped Dropbox in favor of a File Transporter, but I eventually settled on paying Apple for more iCloud Drive space—it works pretty well and I’m trying out iCloud Photo Library.
  • 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.
  • My podcast app of choice now is Overcast, mostly because my phone is always with me and I like the Smart Speed and Voice Boost features.
  • I now use GarageBand 10 for podcast editing. While some features are missing still, it is a nice update and feels more like if Logic had a scaled down version.
  • iStat Menus also found its way onto all of my Macs, mostly so I can monitor some geeky things at a glance (I found I don’t push my CPU or memory usage nearly at all).

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup still revolves around updating hardware, but the whole two-computers-at-home experiment has challenged me (in a good way). I think my work iMac could be replaced with an 11″ MacBook Air and a large display, but I’d also take a newer iMac or even just an SSD upgrade. For my home setup, I’m happy, but if I was given a large gift card for the Apple Store that I had to spend, I think I’d wait and mix the new MacBook and a 27″ iMac with Retina Display. At the very least, a new MacBook Air would be a pleasant upgrade for both. If you recall, when I was originally buying my MacBook Pro, the Air was considered, but I wanted a machine I could sink some more money into down the road and perform a few upgrades. I guess reality disagreed and lightweight portability won out.

On the iOS side of things, I might get the larger iPhone when the next next iPhone comes out (not the 6s, but the 7). I’m not anti-iPad, but I don’t see myself able to move to one for everything. I am intrigued by the Apple Watch, but am trying to keep myself disciplined until the second revision. We’ll see how strong my will ends up being.

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