This is my “Life Stack”. I used to call it “Stuff I Use” but “Life Stack” sounds cooler. Either way, it’s a list of things that I use to manage my life or that I simply enjoy using.
Last updated February 2018
- Apple 27” Retina iMac (2015) – A monster with a big, beautiful screen.
- Apple MacBook Pro (2016) – Great screen, awful keyboard, useless Touch Bar.
- Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2015) – New to me. Running Linux. So far so good, except for the trackpad.
- Apple iPad Pro 10.5″ – I am not an iPad-only person. Not sure I ever will be but this is a great device anyway.
- Apple iPad Pro 12.9″ – My first iPad Pro, which I replaced with the smaller 10.5-inch model. Haven’t gotten around to selling this one yet. For now I use it to watch shows while on the treadmill. Kind of a waste :).
- iPhone X – It’s an iPhone. A really nice one. I put it in the Computing category but it goes in nearly every category.
- Fujitsu ScanSnap – Super-fast and easy document scanning
- Filson original Briefcase – I’ve owned a number of bags and this one is the one I’ve settled on. Well-designed and very well-made.
Software (Work, writing, and “productivity” tools)
Here’s the software that I currently use on a regular basis.
- Emacs/Spacemacs – Once I discovered Org mode and Spacemacs I went all-in with Emacs. Spacemacs lets me use my beloved Vim keybindings, with the ridiculous power that comes with Emacs. I use Emacs for writing, publishing, programming, email, task management, planning, and anything else I can squeeze into it.
- Org mode – While Org mode is technically just part of Emacs, I feel it needs its own entry here. I live in Org mode. I can’t even begin to convey how capable, configurable, and generally useful it is for just about everything I need a computer for.
- DEVONthink – Email Archives, Manuals, PDFs, Scanned documents. Years of archives remain searchable and synced across devices.
- Vim – I’ve used VIM for as long as I can remember. For a number of years it was my only editor, but today I use it mostly for quick local edits or for editing files on servers.
- LaTeX – I have no real need for LaTeX but it does such a great job laying out documents that I use it anyway. Mostly, this is done via Org mode but I also use LaTeX directly when I feel like being tweaky.
- iTerm2 – I spend a lot of time in a terminal, and I use iTerm2 for that.
- BBEdit – As much as I try to remain in Emacs for editing, whenever I need something fancy done with a lot of text, I turn to BBEdit. It’s the editor I’ve used longest. In fact, it may be the piece of software I’ve used longest, period. It remains truly great.
- Firefox – My recent foray into Linux has made me ditch Safari as my primary web browser. Firefox is fast enough and I like their stance on privacy and security. They seem to have the right idea, anyway.
- Slack – People enjoy hating on Slack but it really is a wonderful replacement for the tangle of emails and reply-all threads that came before.
- Gitlab – We use a self-hosted instance of Gitlab at Fusionary and it’s transforming how we work. Issues, code, CI, and documentation all in one place is pretty great.
- Git – For a long time I pushed Mercurial over Git, as it was simpler to use and understand. I lost, so Git is where it’s at. Git has gotten much easier to deal with in the past couple of years.
- Ledger – command-line double-entry accounting
- Dropbox – Steve Jobs famously called Dropbox “a feature, not a product”. True or not, Dropbox is a pretty damn good feature. I still don’t trust iCloud. I trust Dropbox.
- 1Password – I have no qualms about calling this the best password manager there is. I don’t love subscriptions, and I may need a solution for Linux at some point, but for now this is where passwords go. I’ve been keeping copies of non-browser passwords in pass, which is great for command line users, and it’s cross-platform.
- Chronosync – Helps me keep good drive and file backups.
- TextExpander – Keystroke automator. It’s one subscription I’d like to not pay for but I use TextExpander so many times every day that I feel hamstrung without it.
- LaunchBar – App launcher and thing finder. Some prefer Alfred, and I do switch back and forth, but for now I’m using LaunchBar.
- Keyboard Maestro – Macro wizardry. I wildly useful tool for automating things.
I am trying to reduce the number of apps I rely on. To that end, here are the things I’ve stopped using regularly. I must admit that I miss many of them.
- Tinderbox – I miss Tinderbox the most. Visual mapping, managing notes, timelines, etc. It’s just that I’ve been trying to keep my notes as plain-text as possible, so even though Tinderbox’s file format is just XML, it’s a bit too single-purpose for how I work these days.
- TheBrain – “No limits Mindmapping” is right. I have years of “thoughts** collected in TheBrain. That’s the problem, though; there’s no other good way to get at them other than via TheBrain and a relatively expensive subscription.
- Bear – I only used Bear for a short time. We never really got along well enough for me to use it instead of Apple Notes.
- Ulysses – So many people seem to love Ulysses that I went all-in with it for a while. I didn’t like it, so I stopped.
- YNAB (You Need a Budget** – The only budgeting software I’ve loved, but I have gone all-in with Ledger so I’ve suspended my use of YNAB. For normal people YNAB can be a life-changer. It was for me.
- Lightroom – Photo library and Raw file editor.
Capture One – Photo library and Raw file editor. I’ve switched from Lightroom and so far I don’t regret it.
- Photo Mechanic – Ingesting, tagging, renaming photos from cards. Nothing is faster or easier. I’d like to not need it, but trying to caption and tag dozens of photos at a time is an exercise in frustration in any other app.
- SilverFast – Scanning software for the Epson. I can’t tell you how much I hate it, but it gets me the best results.
- Apple Photos – Where I view my photos. I export JPGs from Capture One and import them into Photos. Not ideal, and not cross-platform but it’ll do for now.
Cameras and Hardware
I love cameras. Most of mine are old film cameras. Here’s what I’m using currently.
Hasselblad 500C/M and 503CXi
Medium format film cameras. Some cameras are iconic for a reason. The Hasselblad V series are iconic, beautiful, and superbly engineered. They also produce wonderful images, which is why they are my favorite all-around cameras.
Even though I’ve tried to shelve 35mm film for a while, I can’t help but keep the M6 nearby. Sometimes I pick it up just to feel it in my hands. Leicas really are special cameras. They don’t really help me make better images, but they still make me feel like I could.
Great all-around digital camera with rangefinder sensibilities. I have a few awesome lenses to go with it.
- 23mm f/2 R WR – Small, light, fast enough. It’s my “standard” lens.
- 16mm f/1.4 R WR – I sure love this lens. Who knew I was a wide-angle guy?
- XF 56mm f/1.2 R – A terrific portrait lens.
Graflex Crown Graphic
Large Format Film Camera. This camera is a total pain in the ass to use, but I love it so. There’s nothing like a 4×5 negative.
Polaroid SX–70 and OneStep2
Like I said, I love cameras. Here’s a list of the ones I currently own but don’t use as often.
- Burke & James Press Camera – 4×5 film camera
- Canon 1Ds – Digital SLR camera. Getting old, but what a beast it was in its day.
- Canon AE–1 Program – 35mm Film SLR (My first real camera)
- Canon Canonet – 35mm rangefinder camera
- Canon EOS–1v – Damn good 35mm film SLR
- Canon Pro-zoom 814 Electronic – Super8 movie film camera
- Fujifilm X100 – Go-everywhere digital
- Fujifilm X100T – Go-everywhere digital, updated
- Graflex Speed Graphic – Large Format (4×5) Film Camera
- Leica IIIf – Barnack!
- Leica M3 – Rangefinder camera
- Leica M4 – Rangefinder camera
- Minolta Autocord – Medium format TLR
- Nikon F100 – 35mm auto-focus film camera
- Nikon F3HP – 35mm manual-focus film camera. Wonderful!
- Olympus OM–1n – 35mm film camera
- Olympus OM–2n – 35mm film camera
- Olympus Stylus Epic – Compact 35mm film camera
- Ricoh GR1 – Terrific point and shoot 35mm film camera. Mine is broken :(.
Some miscellaneous photo-related support items
- Canon PRO–100 – Photo printer that I never use
- Epson V750 – Flatbed film scanner. Works great for medium and large format. Less great for 35mm.
- Pakon Scanner – For 35mm film scanning. Makes shooting color 35mm film worthwhile. Requires an old Windows computer running Windows XP, which sucks.
- Profoto D1 Monolights – I’m fortunate enough to own a couple of the best monolights avaialble. I should totally use them more often.
- ONA Prince Street – Camera bag. Leather. Gorgeous.
I spend time in the darkroom pretty regularly. It’s like a form of meditation.
Leitz Focomat v35 – 35mm auto-focus enlarger. Solid and reliable. Cost as much as a Volkswagon when it was first produced in 1979. It is an amazing device.
Beseler 45MXT – This is for printing medium and large format negatives. Mine is a little janky but works great overall.
Leitz Focomat IIc – Manufactured from 1956–1983, the Focomat IIc is a giant, over-engineered marvel of an enlarger. I bought mine as a fixer-upper from Craigslist and I still don’t have it working completely. When I do, I may be able to get rid of the v35 and possibly the Beseler.
Lifestyle and Miscellaneous Hardware
Rega P1 Turntable – I love listening to records. I love owning my music and being able to see as well as hear it. I consider the P1 to be a terrific value. Audio people call it a “budget” turntable but I prefer to think of it as a cheap, “high-end” turntable. I’ve used it nearly every day for almost a decade.
Thorens TD 160 Turntable – Classic turntable that I’ve somewhat restored. Sounds great but is a bit finicky.
Rega Brio 3 Integrated Amplifier – Purchased in 2010 to go with P1. It has a good phono stage and still sounds great. I don’t feel a need to replace it.
Sony TC–378 – Who doesn’t have a decent reel-to-reel deck these days? :).
And the rest…
- Focal Chorus V Speakers – Pretty good floor-standing speakers in my living room.
- Yamaha CD-S300BL CD Player – I still listen to CDs, so I bought a new CD player a few years ago.
- Sonos wireless music system – Music everywhere in my house. I have a Play:5, several Play:3s, and an old and
- Onkyo A-5VL – Drives the Thorens turnable in my home office.
- Grado SR–80e – Best price/performance I’ve found in headphones. I prefer open-back headphones and these are great.
- Apple AirPods – The most Apple-like device Apple has released in a while. They work great. I use them primarily for when I’m walking or when making phone calls.
- Amazon Kindle Oasis (2nd gen) – Books on the go. I prefer real books but the Kindle sure is handy. I like the larger size of this model.
- Amazon Echo – surprisingly useful. I have several. The new Echo Spot is nice as a bedside “clock radio”. I have an Echo Show in my kitchen but don’t like it. There are Echo Dots in several rooms for asking questions and controlling lights.
Pen and Paper
- Leuchtturm 1917 Notebooks – Better than a Moleskine and perfect for use as a Bullet Journal.
- Hobonichi Techo Planner – Best little day planners ever. I’ve carried one for five or six years. I sometimes use them only sporadically, but I always come back.
- Montblanc Meisterstück rollerball pen – My all-time favorite. I’ve had mine for 20 years. It’s broken in 2 places but I still use it.
- Pelikan Souveran M400 – Beautiful, classic fountain pen. I had the nib tweaked by Richard Binder and it writes like butter.
- Palomino Blackwing 602 Pencils – I’ve come around on pencils recently. I find myself reaching for a pencil as often as a pen. More so, maybe. The Blackwings are a bit too long for my taste but write wonderfully. I like the large, replaceable erasers.
- Caran D’ache Pencil Sharpening Machine – Overkill, but I love it.
- Olympia SM3 Typewriter – My favorite typewriter
- Olympia SM9 Typewriter – My second favorite typewriter
Every Day Carry
- Tag Heuer Aquaracer Automatic watch – No batteries, beautiful, and good to 300 meters in the water – because that’s handy right?
- Apple Watch (Series 2) – Neat, but I never wear it
- Goruck GR1 backpack – If I ever go outside I’m ready
- Benchmade Mini Griptilian AXIS Lock Knife – Always in my pocket. I never realized how handy a pocket knife could be until I started carrying one everywhere.
- Bellroy Note Sleeve Wallet – Feels great, works great.
- Bellroy Field Notes Notebook Cover – A great way to carry my ever-present Field Notes notebook.
- Blunt Classic Umbrella – Who knew a good umbrella would make such a difference? This is a very nice one.