Gear

I am often curious as to what software and hardware other people use in content creation as it is a great way to discover new useful tools. So this page highlights the computer things I find myself frequently using. I am platform agnostic and happily jump between all five significant platforms* and this list reflects that.

* Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS and Android.

Software

Browsers

I use Firefox as my daily driver and Brave as a secondary browser.
For developing I mostly use Chrome as I much prefer its suite of Developer tools and its seamless support of multiple profiles to save different configurations. I also have Chrome Canary, Firefox ESR and Firefox Developer Edition for testing browser and API features.

Development tools

Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code is a hybrid text-editor and IDE that is my goto tool for writing code. It has an endless collection of extensions to support a wide variety of languages and syntax. As well as plenty of lightweight inbuilt tools for conveniences such as Git integration and IntelliSense.

My VS Code theme: Bluloco Dark Italic
Font: Fire Code with font ligatures setting enabled
Icons: vscode-icons

Visual Studio Code with Bluloco Dark Italic and Fire Code
Visual Studio Code with Bluloco Dark Italic and Fire Code

Boostnote

Boostnote is a markdown syntax note taking app designed for programmers that is a lightweight Evernote. I used to use Github’s Gits for this kind of notetaking but when the gits accumulate they are too unwieldy to manage. Boostnote is still in development, so I keep its database (Storages) saved on a cloud share that supports file versioning.

GitHub Desktop

When I am interacting with GitHub repositories, I mostly use this great tool by GitHub. It makes managing multiple repositories and their lifecycles a breeze with a clean and intuitive interface. The only downside is there is no Linux version.

Mono-font typefaces

I try to keep to the same monospaced fonts across multiple operating systems, so it is not as jarring while switching between platforms.

Besides being free, Fire Code‘s main claim to fame is its sizeable Unicode character support and programming ligatures. In software that supports it, ligatures merge multiple characters into more appealing single glyphs.

For example instead of displaying ==> a custom ⟹ glyph will show for these three characters.

I also use IBM Plex Mono and Roboto Mono.

ligatures
Some Fire Code ligature examples

Terminal and terminal emulators (clients)

iTerm2 on macOS

Considered by many as the best terminal emulator on any platform, it is unfortunately exclusive to macOS. It has an almost detrimental number of configuration options, but fortunately, the defaults are fine for most people.

Tilix on Gnome Linux

Has its focus on vertical and horizon multiple tab arrangements so it handles this function better than all the others. Designed to the Gnome Human Interface Guidelines, that I find clunky and a bit bland but it is still the best emulator on Linux.

WSL Console

Microsoft’s Windows Command Prompt had been left untouched for decades until they introduced Windows Subsystem for Linux and realised it wasn’t up to scratch to handle even basic terminal emulation. While these days it is fit for purpose, the customisations are minimal, but it gets the job done and doesn’t screw up the output of Linux text.

ConEmu

Probably the best terminal emulator on Windows except I don’t use this as my daily driver as I find it is convoluted. It still suffers from UI annoyances that I can’t fix, and it doesn’t work great with Linux output. And typical of Windows software it suffers from context menu bloat and the shell management is a pain (administrator vs regular tabs).

Networking

I generally use the standard suite of terminal tools for networking except for batch file transfers and BitTorrent.

FileZilla

FileZilla is a free and my favourite batch-file transfer client. It supports both FTP and SFTP (SSH) and uses a clean two-pane user interface.

qBittorrent

‘A free and reliable P2P BitTorrent client ‘ describes it best. It’s simple with a limited interface but unlike most other clients it isn’t bundled with potentially unwanted programs or other nasties, so it is safe to use.

Terminal shell

Fish shell

I am a big fan of the Fish shell for its autocompletion, extensive scripting, centralised settings and have it configured as the default shell on every system I use. I combine it with powerline-go to jazz up the Terminal prompt and neofetch as the welcome screen.

fish
Fish shell autocomplete example with powerline-go and neofetch under Ubuntu WSL

Image manipulation

Adobe Lightroom

As a hobbyist urban and landscape photographer, I am long invested with the Lightroom ‘Classic’ workflow of editing and managing my RAW photos. I am a subscriber to the Adobe Creative Cloud plan though that may change if they do retire the Classic edition and force migrate everyone to the cloud-only Lightroom CC.

Adobe Photoshop

As it comes with my Adobe Creative Cloud plan, I do use it more often than expected as it makes it very easy for screen capture manipulations, image crops and web-friendly compressed image exports. It otherwise is complete overkill for what I do.

SnagIt for Windows

SnagIt was my goto tool for simple image manipulation and screen capturing. The Snipping Tool in Windows 10 does a well enough job these days though, and I often find myself using Photoshop instead of the SnagIt Editor for quick edits.

Inkscape

I am not an artist or a designer, but Inkscape is an extensive but usable tool for creating SVG icons for the web.

OptiPNG

‘OptiPNG is a PNG optimizer that recompresses image files to a smaller size, without losing any information’. A multiplatform terminal application that does the same functionality as Photoshop’s Quick Export as PNG-8 feature.

Virtualisation

I find it useful to have a couple of installations of old Windows operating systems laying around for testing with legacy browsers and platforms. Keeping these to a virtualised setup allows for operating system snapshots and very simple rollbacks if something breaks. It also keeps my modern machines free of potentially vulnerable or incompatible software and dependencies.

In the Linux world, I have a few alternative exciting distributions on hand to play around and experiment with, but that doesn’t require me to distro-hop using bare-metal.

VMware

Workstation Pro on Linux/Windows and Fusion on macOS offer the best combination of adjustments with a usable, clean interface. Even without official support, it provides fantastic backwards compatibility with legacy x86-based operating systems and modern hipster alternatives.

It does have downsides including that it is expensive (though it does go on sale) and it requires a separate purchase on macOS. The expensive paid upgrades generally don’t offer the much in the way of new features, only official certification for updated client and host operating systems. And on Windows, it is incompatible with Microsoft’s Hyper-V competitor software included for free in Windows Pro and higher editions.

vmware
VMWare Workstation Pro running the ultimate hipster OS Haiku

DOSBox with D-Fend Reloaded

While VMware is excellent for graphical operating systems, it isn’t the best for utilising the variety of multimedia hardware available in the MS-DOS era of home computing. DOSBox is a terminal app for simulating x86 MS-DOS hardware for games and multimedia while D-Fend Reloaded is a great Windows-only GUI frontend.

Cloud

Dropbox

For the live backup of code, I use Dropbox and keep my workspaces within the specific Dropbox host directory. It is free for up to 2GB of space, multiplatform and offers a 30-day history of all file changes and edits. I do find it plays poorly with .git stores and so I would recommend excluding those. But as there is no dropbox .ignore file you have to manually configure Dropbox to disregard these in every directory it hosts.

Google Backup and Sync

Offering a smaller in size and much cheaper tier than a paid Dropbox plan. Backup and Sync act as a secondary substitute for everything that I want readily available on the cloud for mobile access, documents, photos, books etc.

CrashPlan

CrashPlan is my offsite backup in case of a severe disaster, and all my computer equipment became unusable. Unlike Dropbox or Backup and Sync, this is not for ready file access but more like cold storage. CrashPlan offers unlimited space for a flat monthly fee (per device) and uses AWS to provide local mirrors worldwide to maximise the upload speeds.

Writing

Grammarly

I am not the best speller, and the structure of my grammar can sometimes read like programming. Grammarly Premium generally sorts out most my writing inaccuracies in a clean and non-distracting web and mobile app interface.

It is unfortunately costly, more expensive than an Office 365 Personal subscription that includes six applications, not just Word. But the annual plan does go on sale if you go searching at the right times of the year.

Hardware

Primary desktop

Windows 10 Pro PC

Laptop

MacBook Pro 2017 13.3″

Surprisingly it runs well even while running virtualised guests. I mostly use it for developing, remote administration via terminal, web browsing etc. I doubt I’d enjoy it as a primary machine due to the lack of IO and poor performance with Photoshop and Lightroom.

Secondary desktop

Fedora Workstation

I love the form factor of this machine, it’s tiny, inconspicuous, runs Linux great, silent and very responsive. The only issue I found is out of the box have to make sure the power saving in Linux is not too aggressive, or the machine takes a massive performance hit!