My Life Stack

 

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

 

 

Computing

  • 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.

Photography

Software

  • 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
Hasselblads

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.

Leica M6
Leica M6

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.

Fujifilm X-Pro2
Fuji X-Pro2

Great all-around digital camera with rangefinder sensibilities. I have a few awesome lenses to go with it.

 

Graflex Crown Graphic
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

 

Other Cameras
35mm Film Shelf

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 :(.

Photo Hardware

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.

Darkroom

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

Music

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.

Other

  • 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

Every Day Carry

Whew!

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