My Setup

People like to know these things. In particular, students sometimes want to know these things when they are getting started on their own projects and it seems like the tools matter. Sometimes they do; usually they don’t. It is true, though, that better tools make the work easier for all whereas poorer tools sometimes require the craftsman to wield them at all effectively.

I make no great claims to craft, but I do like the tools I use, and they mostly serve my needs. At home and everywhere else but my campus office, I use a MacBook Air for pretty much everything. Lately, with the introduction of a Dell 22-inch HD monitor (S2240L), I find working at my text far more comfortable. It really gives me a lot more screen and bigger, too, which I appreciate a lot more than I care to admit. Luckily for me, we had an Apple bluetooth keyboard sitting in a desk drawer. It works well. The bluetooth mouse we had did not, and so I have an old MacAlly USB mouse plugged into my MBA, which is tucked vertically behind my monitor. (I’ll probably make a little piece of wood with a slot in it to do the job properly some time soon.) I would love to find a bluetooth mouse that works, and also didn’t cost a fortune, but I would be just as happy with an all USB setup: connect the mouse to the keyboard and the keyboard to the MBA when I connect the monitor and all is good.

If I am listening to music while I work, I am doing it mostly wirelessly, using an Airport Express paired with a small Lepai amplifier that powers a pair of Bose 201 speakers I have tucked high up on shelves. It’s not the ideal solution — and I also have a USB-powered Audiobox for those times when I want more fidelity, and less lag, for my audio, but for playing stuff from Pandora that keeps me focused on working, it works well enough.

What’s on the machine itself? These days, it’s mostly Pages for one-off formatted documents that are for my own use, Scrivener for anything long form, and BBEdit for everything else. There’s been a slight change in this regime as I collaborate with my colleague Jonathon Goodwin on an essay: we have elected to use a plain text markup system and a DVCS for our drafting. I suggested Markdown, but Jonathon wanted to try LaTeX, which was fine with me because it’s something I have always wanted to try. For version control, we are using Git. Again, JG is way out in front of me, and I am learning a lot along the way.

And so there’s a massive TeX installation somewhere in the bowels of my machine, but I don’t use it much now. I used it with a Tex GUI editor for a few days so I could see how things worked, but now I am more confident in just trusting the system, and I type away in BBEdit.

For computational work, I continue to teach myself Python. And for quick graphical work, I fall back on my old friend OmniGraffle Pro.

Oh, and Evernote is my mental closet. Everything goes in there. Really.

**UPDATE**: I have found a great bluetooth mouse that is only $15. (Yeah, I am surprised, too.) It’s the [Connectland Bluetooth Optical Mouse](

*Nota bene*: The link in the text is commission-free and the link in the image gives me a piece of the action.