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




  • 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.

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.


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

Every Day Carry


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  • Jack