Sweet Mac Setup: Christina Warren

Christina Warren is the assistant lead blogger for both The Unofficial Apple Weblog, and Download Squad. Though she went to film school, and is known on Twitter as @film_girl, her passion really is writing, and it shows.

Christina’s Setup:

1. What does your desk look like?

Christina Warren's Sweet Mac Setup

Christina Warren's Sweet Mac Setup

2. What is your current Mac setup?

I have a Black MacBook (August 2007, so it’s the mid-2007 revision), 2.16 Core 2 Duo, with 4 GB of RAM (only 3.3 is really usable, but whatever) and a 160 GB internal hard drive. I have that paired with a 22″ widescreen ViewSonic monitor (and incidentally, I would NOT recommend the monitor or ViewSonic, as after only six months I’m getting major backlight fluctuation and stuck pixels and will have to send it off for repair, I think I’ll replace it with an HP 22 or 23″ widescreen monitor and then use the ViewSonic as a TV).

I use an Apple Wireless keyboard (the super-hot aluminum version) and a Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook mouse when I’m connected to my desk (75% of the time) and the regular MacBook mouse/trackpad when I’m mobile.

I have a 750 GB Seagate external (USB 2.0) drive connected when I’m at my desk, and probably close to a terabyte in other FireWire and USB 2.0 drives that I have laying around my insanely messy office.

When recording Podcasts (like TUAW’s Talkcast or The Flickcast), I use a USB Logitech AK5370, which is cheap, but effective. I had a 4 speaker creative surround sound setup, but in my new office, they don’t quite work so I’m looking at some attractive replacements.

I have a Wacom Bamboo Fun (the medium size) for Photoshop and Illustrator work, and I love it. I also have a 32 GB iPod touch 2G and a 60 GB black iPod 5G. My fiance recently replaced the battery in my old-school 40 GB iPod 3G, so that’s around somewhere too.

I display my MacBook on the Logitech Alto Express laptop stand. For anyone who is looking for an inexpensive laptop stand (you won’t get the wired ports or add-ons like with the Alto Connect), look at the getting the Alto Express. I got mine for like $12 shipped from Amazon.com (and this was NEW) and it has been fantastic. In fact, my fiance bought three more so that he could have one at work and two in his office at home.

Oh, and I have a BlackBerry Curve. But I hate it it (used to love it), so let’s not talk about it.

3. Why are you using this setup?

The MacBook has been a great primary computer, handling everything I’ve thrown at it and then some. Sure, doing high-end Motion work is out, but that’s not what I do. Having the second monitor has really opened up how I’m able to interact and work with my applications. I almost always have my e-mail (Apple Mail) open on the MacBook and then I do my work on the secondary monitor.

The MacBook keyboard is the best laptop keyboard I’ve ever used, so the Apple Wireless keyboard is a great way to bring that experience without having to be confined to the MacBook itself. Plus, since I’m using a Logitech Alto Express stand to display my MacBook at an angle, the keyboard is really a necessity.

4. What software do you use on a daily basis, and for what do you use it?

Web browsers go without saying, but I generally use Safari 4 Beta when I can. There are often situations where I have to use Firefox 3.10 (I was using FF 3.5 beta but it was still too incompatible with some of the plugins I explicitly use Firefox FOR, so that was scrapped), but I still prefer Safari.

NetNewsWire is my hands-down, favorite RSS reader. I prefer Newsgator to Google Reader and use Newsgator Mobile on my BlackBerry (the one good app on the thing), so NetNewsWire is the perfect facilitator of all my feed reading needs. I write about fashion, web technologies, film and everything Apple, so my newsreader is my productivity savior and also my productivity killer.

Since I primarily work as a freelance writer, Mail.app, Word and TextMate are some of my most heavily used applications. Some of my freelance work requires that I send articles via *.doc, and Word 2008 is the best way to do that. I have and love Pages ’09, but when it comes down to it, Word is often the easiest to use, especially when commenting and editing files. I use Google Apps to run the mail servers for my domains but use Mail.app as my mail application because I just don’t like to use a web-based client if I can help it.

Since a lot of the writing I do is online, I can technically do most of my posting via a CMS, but I’m REALLY not a fan of web-based editing systems. They are clunky, prone to bugs, and oftentimes the TinyMCE or fsckeditor implementations don’t work well with Mac browsers. For my personal blog, I use MarsEdit, which is just a fantastic tool. For my work with TUAW and DownloadSquad, I use TextMate. What makes TextMate special is its extensibility, especially when it comes to bundles. My fellow TUAW Blogger, Brett Terpstra, is a super-genius (seriously) and he created a Bundle package for TextMate that allows us to craft posts in amazing ways. It supports Multi-Markdown, in-line tagging based on TUAW’s tags, etc. And the best part is, he created a script that will auto-fill the web-based text window with the properly formatted HTML from TextMate. It’s a brilliant workaround to a system with very limited XML-RPC support.

I use Real Mac Software’s LittleSnapper for most of my screenshot needs — although sometimes that’s supplemented by Snapz Pro X or Skitch. I love LittleSnapper because it makes it easy to make edits, organize screenshots for galleries (something that I do a lot of) and most importantly, grabbing full-page webpage snaps.

When I’m not writing, I like to play around with web design and development. For that, I use Panic’s Coda and Macrabbit’s CSSEdit. For non-development based file transfer or for interacting with Amazon S3, I use Panic’s Transmit.

For design work, I use Adobe Photoshop CS4 and Illustrator CS4. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with CS3 (especially after having to buy it TWICE in four months — long story), but I think CS4 has made lots of improvements, and I actually like the one-window workflow option.

For photo editing, I switch off between Apple’s Aperture and Adobe’s Lightroom. While trying to make some corrections to the photos I took of my office, I was reminded why Aperture still doesn’t do it for me and why Lightroom is almost the tool I want to use. I still find nuances between the two, which means maintaining two separate identical libraries and using them for different things. That’s a pain. Fortunately I don’t deal with RAW images very often and mostly just color-correct snapshots I take with my Nikon S51 pocket digital.

When I’m reviewing Windows or Linux stuff for DownloadSquad, I use VMWare’s Fusion 2.0. I also have, and enjoy, Parallels for Mac 4.0, but Fusion is my go-to choice. I did have a problem a few months back with getting Fusion to recognize a Windows 7 disk image to install locally while I was at a training seminar held by Microsoft, and Parallels recognized it (the same image worked fine on an external drive), so I keep both around.

5. Do you own any other Mac gear?

My fiance has a White MacBook (almost the same specs as mine, except his is late-2007, so he has a slightly faster processor, the better integrated Intel graphics and the ability to actually use 4 GB of RAM). He also has a white 40 GB iPod 5G.

An Airport Extreme router (model before the new dual-channel). We have it paired with an old-ass D-Link 802.11g router, thus achieving dual-channel goodness.

We have an Apple TV (which we modded with boxee, of course), that we LOVE. I recently got the new in-ear Apple earphones with microphone, and have enjoyed them. I just hope they don’t break down like the lesser-quality first version of the in-ear headphones did.

Over the years I’ve had truckload of iPods (10 GB 2G, 30 GB 3G, 40 GB 3G, 2 20 GB 4Gs, the black 60 GB 5G, a blue Nano 2G that was stolen when Grant got his car repaired, and now the iPod touch 2G).

6. Do you have any future upgrades planned?

Right now I’m really debating about getting a new Mac Mini to replace the Apple TV in the living room (it would go in the bedroom) to act as a full home-media center PC. We have FreeNAS running on an old box in Grant’s office and because it is BSD based, it interacts great with the Mac. We have Boxee and XBMC connected to serve content off of it, but I’d like to have the ability to play back higher-bitrate MKV files too.

My laptop will be two years old in August, and while I don’t “NEED” a new machine, I’m thinking about getting either a 24″ iMac to become my main machine in my office (still connected to a second monitor) or getting a Unibody MacBook Pro. I’d be just as happy with the Unibody MacBook, but I need FireWire for my occasional DV and HDV editing.

Additionally, despite my longstanding hatred of AT&T, I’ve pretty much realized I’ll be going to an iPhone when the new models are released.

More Sweet Setups

Christina’s setup is just one in a series of Sweet Mac Setups.

Sweet Mac Setup: Christina Warren