Since 2005 I’ve been using Apple computers as my main machines. They tend to be well built and keep on running without rebooting for a while and I ssh to a unix box from them when I need extra oomph. At the moment I have a 2009 15″ macbook pro and a 2010 27″ iMac; both computers are pretty much the default, except for extra RAM and they are still running Snow Leopard. I have never liked Apple mice, so I bought a Logitech mouse for the iMac. I use a generic Android phone, because I’m too cheap to spend money on an iPhone. I don’t have an iPad either, because I don’t have a proper use for it and I dislike lugging around gear for the sake of it.
I’m not ‘addicted’ to any software. However, I do use some programs frequently: R for data analysis/scripting (often with RStudio as a frontend), asreml for quantitative genetics, Python for scripting/scraping, XeLaTeX for writing lecture notes and writing solo papers (because my second surname is Zúñiga), MS Word for writing anything that requires collaborating with other people, Keynote for presentations (but sometimes have to use PowerPoint). I check my university email with Thunderbird or Entourage, my browsing is mostly done using Chrome, but when paranoid I use Tor + Firefox + Vidalia. I use a bunch of other programs but not often enough to deserve a mention. If you think about it, Keynote is the only format that defeats my platform agnosticism (I could still write Word documents using OpenOffice or similar). I almost forgot! I do rely on Dropbox to keep computers synced.
I keep on changing text editors: I don’t understand how people can cope with emacs and am uncomfortably writing this post using vim (which is awful as well), I own a copy of Textmate but I feel annoyed by the author’s abandonment, so I’m at a point where I tend to use software-specific editors: R – RStudio, XeLaTeX – TeXShop, etc.
If I weren’t allowed to use a mac at work I’d probably move to Linux; the major hassle would be converting Keynote presentations to something else. I could live with Windows, but I would start with a totally clean install, because I find the pre-installed software very unhelpful. These days I think that I’ve been unconsciously preparing myself for the impermanence of software, so if I need to learn a new stats package or new editor that is ‘just fine’: software agnostic Buddhism.
Non-computer-wise I’m permanently dissatisfied with my bag/backpack: I haven’t found a nice overnight trip bag that it’s designed for walking around carrying a laptop. (Did I mention that I like to walk?) Most of them are dorky or plain useless and my current theory is that the solution goes for getting a smaller (say 11-13″) laptop. Because the university depreciates laptops over 4 years I still have to wait a year to test the theory.
I tend to doodle when thinking or preparing a talk. I prefer to write in unlined photocopy paper with a pen or pencil. A fountain pen is nice, but a $0.20 pen will do too. It has the advantage of being i-) cheap and ii-) available everywhere.
I like to take pictures and muck around with shutter speeds and apertures, which doesn’t mean that I’m any good at it. I use a Nikon Coolpix P7100 camera, but I’m sure that a Canon G12 would do the job as well. It is the smallest camera that gives me the degree of control I like. I process the pictures in Lightroom, which is just OK, but, again, it sort of fits my platform agnosticism.
I’m slowly moving to ebooks, for which I use a Sony PRS-T1 Reader (which I got for free) that I manage using Calibre. I keep wireless disabled and non-configured: it is only for reading books and I often use the dictionary feature while reading (I’m always surprised by the large number of English words).
What would be your dream setup?
This would be a ‘sabbatical package’ where I would spend 6 months living in another (earthquake-proof) country, near the ocean, with my family, good food, a light notebook with a week’s worth of battery life, decent internet connection and the chance to catch up with my research subject.
P.S. 2012-04-19. I came across this post in 37 signals discussing a switch from OS X to Ubuntu. I think that there is a class of user cases (e.g. web developers, scientific programming) where moving from one to the other should be relatively painless.