My Computing Setup
Published by James Gallagher on .
This article takes approximately 6 minutes to read.
I have been reevaluating the technologies that I use on a daily basis. I’m no longer as interested in using bloated technologies nor closed-source technologies. When I can, I am using open-source. I’ve tried to build a few of my own utilities to speed up how I use my computer. I have enjoyed pruning down the softwares that I use. Low-tech solutions are just as good as high-tech ones.
I read an interesting manifesto earlier today about low-tech solutions. It made me think that I’ve already been low-tech for some time. I am just now taking it to the next level. I use older technologies. I prefer to use what I have than to buy something else. It is for that reason that I’ve not installed Ubuntu on my Mac. The built-in hard drive cannot be partitioned for use with Ubuntu due to its size and I do not want to buy a hard drive.
Low Tech and High Tech
Part of the reason why I like low-tech solutions is that I’m frugal. This month I have purchased three flash drives for the purposes of backups. Those have been some of my largest computing expenditures in the last year (if you exclude the iPhone 11 which I now somewhat regret purchasing). Most of what I’ve needed to do with computers I have been able to do with what I have. I don’t like to spend money unnecessarily.
Looking for a low-tech solution is cheaper than a high-tech one. It’s also more interesting. I like to see what I can do with less. It is this perspective that first got me into coding. I tried to code on my iPad because I didn’t have a Macbook on which to code when I was younger. I wanted a Macbook because I didn’t want to install all my software programs onto my parents’ computer. It would probably have confused them.
Money aside, there’s almost always a solution to the problems I am facing right in front of me. I moved from 1Password to KeepassXC. The solution was there; a cheaper and open-source password manager. I had to go looking for it. In truth, KeepassXC is less intuitive. It takes me a bit longer to use than my previous password manager setup. However, it is exactly what I need. It has very few bells-and-whistles. No cloud sync. Just password storage.
I use a Macbook for my day-to-day work. I got it in late 2014 and I have been using it ever since. This Macbook has been through a lot. I have run virtual machines on my computer. I have installed Docker (only to remove it later because I don’t need Docker). I have built many websites. I’m surprised this computer is still with me. I remember that when I used to work on my old blog my CPU fans would spin almost consantly. My computer may not have been powerful but the technologies I was coding with certainly were. My computer kept up, even if it crashed every now and again.
I have been thinking about naming my computer. The reason for this is that it’s such a big part of my life. It has been nearby for most of the last few years. I am considering the name Will although I have not committed to a particular name as of yet.
I use Sublime Text for programming. Prior to Sublime Text, I used Atom. For reasons I detailed in a previous blog post, I decided to move away from Atom. It’s too bloated. It runs on Electron. I was sacrificing performance in the one place where performance matters most: my coding environment. I am usually hesitant to pay for software. My purchase of Sublime Text may be somewhat antithetical to my belief in open source. I saw a good piece of software and I knew that it would help me do what I wanted to do. It has turned out to be a good purchase.
For my terminal, I use iTerm2. I used the Mac terminal for years and last year I moved over to Hyper. I am still not fully confident in my terminal configuration but I feel like iTerm2 is what I’m looking for. I have it set up with zsh and I used Oh My Zsh to configure a color scheme. This is the first terminal where I’ve used a custom-built color scheme. My Mac terminal used to run with green text and an opaque background per my choice. I used Oh My Zsh because I am new to zsh. I will probably play around more with this shell soon and custom build some of my own solutions.
My Raspberry Pi is my secondary computer. It sits next to me on my desk. I purchased this computer a few weeks ago as a backup. I was concerned about what would happen if my Macbook stopped working. I wouldn’t have a reliable computer on which to work and play. I was also attracted to its versatility. I have a Sense HAT that I use with my Raspberry Pi. Since it runs Debian, it can do a lot that my Mac cannot. I like to use it for small side projects. I haven’t configured it to be a file server or anything. I just like having it there for when I need it.
I used to own two Raspberry Pis. Unfortunately, both of them stopped working. I believe the reason for this was that I did not store them appropriately. I now know the importance of keeping your computers clean and out of dusty drawers. I do want to make a better effort of organizing my tech. I hope this Raspberry Pi lasts me a long time. Like my Mac, I’m considering naming my Pi. The name on the table right now is Anna. I’ve not committed yet.
I use a more pieces of software, but not much. The main piece of software that I interact with on a daily basis is my browser. I prefer to use work services through the browser instead of on my desktop. I don’t have the Slack client installed anymore. It was too bloated. I only have Zoom installed for work purposes because I like to be at my work meetings on time.
I like using simple technology. My Mac is just what I need. I do not need anything more powerful. If anything, I could operate on less. This website has made me think about how little I need to do what I do with computers. My computer could run all of the programs I write just fine if it had fewer cores or less processing power. I’m happy to have the extra power: it has allowed me to experiment a lot in the past.
My general philosophy with my setup is that I should use what I have first and only buy something if I really need to. More software and hardware means more time needs to be spent on maintenance. It also means that it’s more difficult to safeguard my privacy. I’ve purchased three USB drives and my Raspberry Pi because I could see a use for them. I haven’t purchased much else lately. I think I have everything I need to code and use the web.