Last Updated: March 1st, 2023
I always find it interesting to read about which hardware and tools are used by people whom I perceive to be productive and who do good work. Certainly there’s something to learn. And because producing beats consuming, here is my version of it. It might be useful for someone else. Feel free to contact me in that case, I think the human connection is a big part of what makes this fun.
💻 Hardware for Work
- Apple MacBook Pro M1 14-inch (2021), base model configuration in Silver. Bought at Amazon because for some reason they are often selling them for cheaper and deliver faster than Apple. I think it’s the best laptop I’ve ever had and can’t think of anything to complain about. It’s slightly overpowered for my type of usage, so the next laptop will probably be a MacBook Air instead of a Pro. It sits in a wooden little dock which I’ve made myself.
- Dell U3818DW 38-inch monitor, after working with 27-, 34-, and 49-inch monitors, I have found the sweet spot. This 38-inch external monitor offers 3,840 x 1,600 pixels and that’s perfect for three tall application windows with a width of 1,280 pixel next to each other. Or six with 1,280 by 800 pixels. It’s powering my MacBook via USB-C and makes its USB hub functionality work through the same cable. Best monitor so far, not looking to change anything. Just added an ergotron HX HD monitor arm to it for perfect ergonomic adjustment.
- Apple Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, super happy when this came out. Unlocking and locking the computer with my fingerprint is just so convenient. And typing on it is smooth and effortless. I have gone through many external keyboards, but this one still beats them all.
- Logitech MX Master 3, it’s alright. More ergonomic than the standard Apple Magic Mouse, but I think there’s still potential. Played around with external tough pads but I’m still more comfortable with a traditional mouse. I would love to see Apple finally significantly improve their desktop mouse.
This setup doesn’t leave anything to be desired for me. A big screen is very helpful for my type of project management work. Seeing all the relevant information at one glance has been improving my workflow by a lot. The MacBook is silent and powers everything effortlessly. Keyboard and mouse work great.
🕹️ Hardware for Play
Under my desk, there’s a Windows PC which I put together at the beginning of the first COVID-19 lockdown, early 2020. I use it for recreational gaming exclusively. It’s still powerful enough for what I like to play, which is mostly Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, IV, and V, the Half-Life series including the incredible Black Mesa and the Virtual Reality one, Alyx, on my Oculus Rift S, as well as the two Portal games and occasional some old classics like Minecraft or Anno 1602.
The MacBook and the Windows PC share the monitor (Mac via USB-C, PC via DisplayPort), the mouse via a Bluetooth dongle each, and after the the cheap speakers died on me in February of 2023 I finally went for good USB-connected active speakers of the Kanto YU2 type. They look nice, have no hum due to the USB connection instead of a 3.5mm audio cable, and by putting a bunch of different USB adapters in a row I was able to connect them to both sources (Mac and PC) with a USB click switch. I could get rid of my Behringer mixer that way and significantly reduced the amount of cables. Not to mention the sound quality is a lot better now!
🪑 The Desk and Chair
I’m quite happy with this setup. The wood adds warmth and the chair is unbeatable in terms of cost to benefit ratio.
- Flexispot EC1/EN1 electronically adjustable desk frame
A lot cheaper than most competitor models, but sturdy and decent looking nonetheless. Position save slots and collision detection can be added for a tiny sum on top. Got it for a bunch of my employees as well.
- IKEA Gerton table top (currently n/a, possible alternative: ANFALLARE)
Made from solid beech, looking great at an affordable price. Screwed to the Flexispot frame that’s a sub three-hundred Euros working place which is ergonomic, functional, and fits into every room.
- IKEA Markus office chair
This is a case of spending three times the amount of money might get you just a five percent increase in comfort over the Markus. In November 2022, I tested that hypothesis and ordered a pricey Herman Miller Embody, because everyone’s always raving about it. Two weeks later, I sent it back. Hypothesis confirmed, at least for me.
- Apple iPhone 13 mini. Standard storage, since everything’s in the cloud anyways. It’s nice it’s so small and light. On the other hand, I do make more typing errors since switching to the tiny version and the shorter battery life is sometimes annoying. My next phone will be one size bigger.
- Apple AirPods 3. Working exactly as well as I like, super satisfied with them.
- beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO headphones for conferences, recommended to me by my music producer colleague. Great at that price point, comfortable, and let in sound from the outside which was important to me.
- audio-technica’s ATH-M50 headphones for my electronic drum kit, which is a Roland TD-17KVX. Comfortable, great sound, good price.
- Aukey 1080p webcam for video conferencing. Very cheap, does a adequate job.
- BenQ ScreenBar desktop light. One of the newer additions, easier on the eyes. You have to clean the monitor quite often, though, because you’ll see all the dust on it.
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen USB-C interface with a new Shure MV7 microphone on a Rode PSA-1 desk arm to get my voice into the computer with acceptable quality. And sometimes also the sound of my awesome .strandberg* guitar.
- Synology DS218+ NAS with two 2TB disks of the IronWolf Pro series by Seagate to have a scheduled daily backup of all my most important photos and files at home in case the cloud storage should for some reason lock me out or fail one day.
- kindle Paperwhite for reading everywhere (and dropping it in the bathtub without destroying it).
- A few Philips Hue bulbs, some Apple HomePod minis, some IKEA Symfonisk speakers and two Sonos Ones to have some good lighting and adequate sound in the house.
💾 Software on Desktop
Most of my work happens within a web browser. I constantly change between all the major ones (Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge) to find the best one for me personally. I have been happy with Microsoft Edge for a while but recently switched back to Google Chrome because Edge had a few too many stability issues. Chrome still is fast, reliable, easy to use, and has probably the best developer tools.
I spend a huge amount of my time reading and writing email. For a long time, my favorite tool to do this has been GMail. I tried many apps and different (web) interfaces, but this one just always had the best package for me. Since it became a non-free part of Google Workspace I’m happy to give them money for it so it’s not ad-supported anymore. The main advantages for me are the incredibly fast and Google-like search and the best-in-class spam filters.
There are downsides, for example giving all of my email to the giant and possibly evil corporation which is Google, and being limited to include different email accounts via POP3 instead of the superior IMAP protocol, but I have decided those are outweighed by the might of search and spam treatment.
The ultimate end goal would be a self-hosted mailserver which is somehow lightning fast, has a perfect spam filter, search indexing, and maintains itself. You gotta dream!
💬 Other Communication
- Slack for discussing work with my team – a lot faster than email.
- Google Meet for video conferencing, because it just works.
- Apple’s iMessage and Meta’s WhatsApp (reluctantly).
ℹ️ Information Management
One of the most important things in running a business (and personal family life, too) is staying organized. My brain currently works great with numbers and visual impressions, but in other regards it needs help. That’s why I use several different apps to stay on top of things.
- Fantastical is my preferred calendar. It combines our shared family iCloud Calendar with our company’s Google Calendar, works on iOS and macOS, and just looks good.
- Things is my daily to-do list. Clean and minimalist, I use it for keeping track of personal tasks like “order a new backpack for running”, but also work-related tasks that concern just me.
- Notion has become a favorite over the last few years. I was a loyal Evernote customer for a long time, but Notion finally took the lead here. It can do a lot more than note-taking and is solidly engineered. Again, all platforms are supported. Every piece of written long form information goes here, personal and work-related.
- Reminders has long been a pre-installed Apple app neglected by its developers. But since it’s gotten a good overhaul a couple years ago, my wife and I use it for keeping shared shopping lists. I also prefer it for time sensitive task reminders.
- Google Drive for file management. We have it as a base for the company, but I also use it privately. Google-style, it’s neat and fast, and available on all platforms. We’re looking into switching to a EU-based self-hosted alternative though, as the might of Google is getting scarier. Possibly NextCloud based.
- Asana is our current company task manager. We have been switching apps around a bit, but at the moment, Asana is doing a good job making us keep an overview.
I don’t often do web development myself, but from time to time, may it be out of necessity, curiosity, or plain boredom, I write a few lines, repair some tiny bugs or add a little feature here and there. The world of development tools seems to change often, which is why I rely on the tool recommendations of my more experienced colleagues.
- VSCode is my favorite code editor. I was a long time Sublime Text user before that, but since the cool kids use VS, I tried it and switched right then. It can do it all and works flawlessly for me.
- Transmit to get files from one place to another. Long time user, never any problems. As a bonus, the company behind it, Panic, is really cool.
- TablePlus for visually managing database content. As most of our websites use databases, it’s helpful to be able to get a quick look and sometimes edit those directly. Recently switched away from Sequel Pro, because that one’s not actively maintained anymore. TablePlus is superior, so that switch was fine.
- Warp to do terminal work like committing code changes to GitLab repos.
- Affinity Photo is my choice to edit pictures. It seems to have 95% of all Adobe Photoshop features, but at a reasonable one-time fee instead of the expensive Adobe Creative Cloud subscription necessary to access Photoshop.
- ImageOptim is a tiny and simple tool to improve file sizes of visual files. Everything visual I upload to the web usually goes through it to save space at no noticeable cost of quality. I think this app’s feature set should be a part of all photo editing software like Affinity Photo and Photoshop, but somehow it isn’t yet.
- Honorable mentions: Hyperkey, which maps CMD + OPTION + SHIFT to the useless CAPS LOCK key for it to be easily usable for global shortcuts. ColorSlurp for identifying colors on the screen when I do anything design-related. RescueTime to automatically log my desktop Mac activities, just out of curiosity and for quantified self reasons.
The usual suspects and some specialties.
- 1Password and Bitwarden for personal and professional password management, respectively.
- Raycast as a more powerful Spotlight replacement. Launching apps and finding files feels so much faster with it. I probably only use 2% of its capabilities, but that’s already enough. Built-in unit conversation, currency and metrics is hugely helpful to me. As is the window management (e.g. put a new window to the right third of the screen by hitting two keys) and, of course, the Emoji picker 😉.
- Bartender to clean up the messy menu bar of the Mac.
- Spotify is a lot better than Apple Music in my opinion, and if it would start to pay the artists what they deserve, especially the smaller ones, I’d feel better and might stop to order vinyl and shirts I never listen to or wear in order to rectify that.
- Neural DSP allows me to plug my guitar into the Focusrite USB interface and model amps and effects for it on the Mac incredibly well. Playing around with it is lots of fun.
📲 Software on Mobile
I entered the iPhone market in 2009 with the 3GS model and subsequently went with an upgrade every one or two years. They’re great phones and there has never been a reason for me to switch to a different brand. Currently, I’m using an iPhone 13 mini in the silver/white shade, 128 gigs minimal version, because I have everything in the cloud so I’m not devastated when my phone breaks or gets lost.
I’ll be only mentioning the apps which I haven’t before. It’s a rapid fire round.
- Carrot Weather – best weather app in my opinion. Fun to use, great widget.
- Google Maps – the standard everyone knows and loves.
- Google Photos – superior to Apple Photos at the moment.
- Strava – for tracking my running and seeing inspiring runs from my friends.
- Sleep Cycle – to gamify my sleep. In my mind I win if it measures more than 90 percent sleep effectiveness after a night.
- Overcast – listening to podcasts. During commuting and running I listen to a lot of podcasts. I gladly pay for the subscription here, the app is great.
- Feedly – my choice for getting non-clickbaity news relevant to me is the RSS technology. I chose what to read. Feedly helps make that happen.
- Kindle – reading in the app isn’t nearly as great as on the hardware kindle, but the phone is always with me. Practicality wins.
- SwiftScan – I work 100% paperless. Every (important) document I receive in paper form will get scanned immediately using this app and automatically uploaded to my Google Drive. I love that.
That’s all the basics. Do you have suggestions? What’s your setup like? I’d love to hear from you! Send an email to email@example.com or reach me on Twitter @teesche.