What’s the stuff I rely on to get stuff done?
I recently stumbled upon Aaron Parecki’s “life stack”; a list of all the tools, services and other things he says he uses to manage his life. It’s a cool list.
I like the idea of a list of my life’s essentials. So I’m going to
steal borrow the idea and make my own list of everything I use; maybe every day, maybe every few days, but at least once a week, and that I can’t live without.
Here’s my life stack, as of February 2024.
Mac Mini (2023)
This is – without a doubt – the best Mac I’ve ever owned. It’s got an M2 chip, 512GB of storage and 16GB of unified memory. I bought it to replace a 15-inch MacBook Pro1. It’s screamingly fast for basically anything I can throw at it.
Dell U2520D monitor
This was a pandemic panic purchase. It’s a 25-inch, QHD monitor. I’d prefer a larger, higher-resolution monitor; but it was cheap, and it saved me from kitchen-table neck-strain in when we were all locked-down.
My monitor doesn’t have a built in webcam, and this was the only 1080p webcam I could get that wasn’t from an obviously suspicious brand during the Great Webcam Shortage of 2020. It’s a pretty decent webcam. It looks nice. It uses USB-C connector. But yes, it was a bit overpriced.
Logitech MX Vertical Ergonomic mouse
Too few hours touching grass has left me with RSIs in both wrists. This was my first try at using a more ergonomic mouse that would lift my wrist away from my desktop a bit more to help avoid the pain; and, it mostly works!
Keychron K8 wireless mechanical keyboard
I’ve been trying out lots of different kinds of keyboard to find one that’s a bit more comfortable to use too; and this keyboard, with its Gateron Blue “clicks” switches makes for a much more comfortable typing experience and gives a satisfying soundtrack to accompany the tip-tapping of my fingers.
My Mac Mini isn’t exactly portable, so I’ve been using the biggest iPad I could get as my primary mobile device. This one is the M1 model from 2021 with a 12.9-inch display, and built-in 5G. In retrospect, it’s too big, too heavy, and I really should have gotten the 11-inch Wi-Fi only model instead.
iPhone 15 Pro Max
This is my most recent computing purchase, and it’s really no different from the iPhone 12 Pro or any other iPhone I had before it. The camera is better and the screen is bigger than the last one, sure. The truly appreciable benefit to this model, from my day-to-day use, is the truly brilliant battery life.
Apple Watch (7th generation)
I’ve had been using an Apple Watch since the very first model. I’ve become used to having it strapped to my wrist. It rarely does anything that truly astounds me, but it has become a really useful gadget for tracking my fitness.
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
My ‘daily driver’ for listening to podcasts and music on the go. They’re comfortable, convenient, and the noise-cancelling is great.
I’ve got HomePods – mini and maxi – scattered around my house. They’re great for multi-room audio, and setting the occassional a timer or alarm.
My favourite writing app. It’s a minimalist app designed specifically for writing things in Markdown. If I’m writing anything for my own enjoyment (like things on this website), I use iA Writer to get it done.
The rapid decline of Twitter means I jumped ship into the Fediverse, joining Mastodon. Ivory is an app by the same people that made my favourite Twitter client; Tweetbot. It costs less than £1.50 a month, and for me it’s made Mastodon worth using!
The web is sometimes an excessively noisy place to read good stuff. Reeder lets me read all that good stuff in a more pleasant interface, thanks to the power of RSS.
Overcast is simply the best podcast app I have found to date. It fits my consumption habits, it’s reliable, and it’s designed with a level of care that is leaps ahead of all the other podcast apps I’ve tried.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
These two single-purpose utilities force videos you find on the web to play using the native iOS, iPadOS and MacOS video player. This makes for a sometimes-broken but usually hugely enjoyable watching experience, enabling you to keep those familiar controls you’re used to on every webpage.
My preferred ad-blocker, which can prevent bloated and invasive advertising on the web and in apps. I’m somehow grandfathered into a premium tier that means I don’t have to pay a subscription like with most other ad-blockers, so it’s worth keeping on my devices.
A much, much better contacts app for iOS, iPadOS and MacOS; though I mostly use it on my iPhone. It’s faster to get things done, and it’s much more beautiful than the default apps on any Apple platform.
An unexpected addition to my App Library in recent months, but I’m regularly asking Microsoft’s ChatGPT-powered Co-Pilot to come up with creative things for me.
Naming cocktails after farm yard animals. Creating drawings of what Pikachu would look like if it was from Ireland. Imagining ice-cream flavours based on artists.
It doesn’t always work, but it is fun to try things out when I have flashes of silly inspiration.
On MacOS, I have been using Panic’s developer software for a long time. It’s not cheap – and there are many free alternatives – but it is the most thoughtful and fits my way of working. Nova is the company’s latest stab at building a code editor; and I use it to build pretty much everything I make for the web.
Source and Working Copy
I don’t often attempt to do real development work on iOS, but because my website relies on GitHub, I need some simple ways of managing files on from my iPhone or iPad. Source and Working Copy, from independent developer Anders Borum, make managing those files on the go a snap.
This very website is hosted thanks to a combination of a GitHub repository and GitHub Actions; which takes the static files in the repository and turns them into the worldwide wonderful web stuff you see before you.
Namecheap is the provider of my domain names. Not much else to say about that really; it’s a commodity service for which I pay a tolerable price.
Cloudflare web analytics
I prefer my website analytics to be as non-invasive as possible. I don’t want no analytics. Some would be good though: knowing what people are reading and whether my website is loading with reasonable performance is helpful. Cloudflare’s web analytics platform is the one I choose to use. It doesn’t rely on cookies or massive violations of my website visitors’ privacy, and it gives the me the insights I need for free.
LG C1 OLED TV
I’ve wanted an OLED TV for ages, and a couple of years ago they hit a price-point where I felt the cost was affordable. This LG model was the one the reviews all pointed to within my budget, so when it went on sale, that was the decision made!
It’s got excellent viewing angles, inky blacks, eye-popping dynamic range and it supports up to 120Hz refresh rate for gaming too. I am paranoid about screen burn-in, and it isn’t as bright as I’d like it to be during daylight conditions, but I’m very happy with it nonetheless.
Apple TV 4K
The future of TV might not be apps, but at least it’s an easy to use, largely advert-free experience. One version or another of the Apple TV has been my streaming box of choice since 2013, and having tried other platforms, the grass is greener on this side.
Sonos Beam (1st generation)
The picture quality might be dazzling on the LG C1, but the sound quality – like with most modern TVs – leaves a lot of be desired. The Sonos Beam was a relatively inexpensive way of making upgrading my TV’s audio in a big way.
PlayStation 5 (Digital Edition)
Ages, I needed to buy a TV unit and it turned out at the time that buying one and having one made to my exact specifications was about the same cost. So I got one handmade. It’s beautiful. I love it.
What I didn’t foresee at the time was that Sony would release an eyesore of a PlayStation that was also the physically-largest games console of all time. I didn’t want that thing out in the open, I wanted it slotted neatly inside my beautiful furniture: but the slot was too short. I’ve been waiting for a PS5 ‘slim’ ever since.
Well, now there is one; so out went my old PS4 and in comes the new console. I got the “model group - slim” digital edition, which fits in the TV unit perfectly, and the console itself is epic!
PlayStation PULSE 3D wireless headphones
I’ve been playing a lot of online gaming with family over the past year or so. These headphones were a significant upgrade over the wired earphones I was using before to listen to and speak to them. There is no discernible lag, and the audio quality is crystal clear.
Delonghi Dedica EC680M coffee machine
Hell hath no fury like me without caffeine in the morning. I bought this coffee machine because it was relatively cheap, and relatively small, so it didn’t take up loads of space on my kitchen counter.
Soda Stream ‘Art’
I like fizzy drinks. This Soda Stream is allegedly a more eco-friendly way of making fizzy drinks. I have no idea if that’s true, but it sure is convenient. This one looks nice in the kitchen too.
At the office
MacBook Air (2022)
I’m lucky that my current employer understands the value of giving its staff a choice over their operating system, and of providing them with hardware that can keep up with the demands of the modern workplace. A MacBook Air with the same specs as my Mac at home means I can spend my workdays focused on the big problems, and not on relearning software. (Although it would be nice if we didn’t use Microsoft 365 – it’s abysmal).
Uni-ball Eye fine UB-157 rollerball pens
You can’t beat a good pen if you’re scribbling lots of notes throughout the day. These pens are the ones I always buy. Usually with blue ink.
In my pockets
I misplace my keys and wallet more times in a week that I care to count. My keys and wallet both have AirTags attached to them for when that mild panic sets in that I’ve lost them.
That awful model with the butterfly keyboard, no escape key and TouchBar. The TouchBar eventually gave up the ghost, necessitating a trade-in and upgrade. ↩︎