Reader’s Setup: Jeff Nouwen

Jeff Nouwen is a Canadian database and web developer by day, and a Cocoa developer by night. He can be found scattered about the web on Twitter, his two (infrequently) updated blogs, and at Kepi Software.

Jeff’s Setup:

1. What does your desk look like?

Jeff Nouwen's desk

Jeff Nouwen's desk

2. What is your current Mac setup?

My primary machine is an 8-core 3.0GHz Mac Pro (the January 2008 model); 6GB RAM; 2.25TB of drive space split between Leopard, Windows XP, Windows 7 RC, and two backup partitions; 512MB GeForce 8800GT; two Dell 2407WFP-HC 24″ monitors; the sleek Apple aluminum keyboard; a Logitech two button scroll mouse; and a nearly 10-year-old set of Altec Lansing ACS54 4.1 speakers.

That’s the powerhorse of my “operations” where about 99.9% of my home computing is done.

Additionally, to the right is a 15″ 800MHz G4 Lampshade iMac being used as a Tiger test machine, though once Snow Leopard ships it’ll likely be retired from service.

To the left is a 12″ 500MHz G3 iBook being used as an interval training timer using Red Sweater’s FlexTime while I’m cranking away on my bike.

Sitting on top of the iBook is my work laptop, a first generation 15″ MacBook Pro that tends to only be used as a demo machine at the office as my main machine there is a PowerMac G5.

3. Why are you using this setup?

In the broader sense, I use a Mac because it’s been my platform of choice ever since my parents bought our first Mac back in 1992. As to the specific setup, the power of an 8-core Mac Pro makes compile times (relatively) short, iMove and Aperture great to use, and gaming under Windows a treat.

Admittedly it’s a beast of a machine, and it cost a pretty penny, but I justify the expense due to my long lag time between computer purchases. The Mac Pro was ordered in January 2008; my previous primary machine was a PowerMac G4 Dual 450Mhz that was purchased seven and a half years prior, and remained stock except for additional RAM. I expect to have the Mac Pro as my main machine for roughly the same amount of time. I could have just purchased a tricked-out iMac twice over the same period and spent about the same, but I’ve always liked the flexibility of a tower Mac for extending the longevity of the machine.

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

  • LaunchBar: I’m a very keyboard-centric computer user, so LaunchBar fits in perfectly. I use it for far more than just launching apps. Everything from performing searches on various websites (Google, YouTube, IMDB, etc.), controlling iTunes and selecting songs/albums to listen to, the built-in calculator, clipboard history, and ability to pipe files and commands together leads LaunchBar to see a lot of action.
  • Adium: I have, and regularly use, accounts on ICQ, AIM, MSN, and Google Talk so it’s pretty much a no-brainer.
  • NetNewsWire: For keeping up on other developers’ blogs, tech news, and web comics.
  • SuperDuper!: A daily Smart Update cloned backup of my boot drive is the core of my onsite backup strategy, and is paired up with Time Machine.
  • teleport: For controlling my Tiger test iMac as there’s no keyboard or mouse plugged into it.
  • Safari: My browser of choice.
  • Apple Mail: Two IMAP accounts and a POP account deftly handled by Mail which does everything I want it do.
  • Tweetie: For keeping up on the ranting and ravings of other Mac developers, and attempting to become “one of us” (if Kevin Hoctor of No Thirst Software lets me).
  • Apple Developer Tools: For practically all my development needs.
  • TextMate: I had initially used TextMate as my sole code editor back on my PowerMac G4 when the then-current versions of Xcode were painfully slow to use on that old machine. With the editor changes introduced in Xcode 3.0 — coupled with running on the Mac Pro — I switched back to using Xcode as my primary Objective-C editor, but still use TextMate for everything else.
  • iTunes: Music has become almost background noise to me. If I’m at a computer, whether at home or at work, I have music going. During times when I really get into the coding “groove”, I flip to the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, a habit carried over from a large group project during my university days while working towards my Comp Sci degree. And yes, I grabbed that IMDB link with LaunchBar.

5. Do you own any other Mac gear?

You could say that. I have a burgeoning Apple collection, about a third of which is at my place, while the rest is being stored in my office and my parents’ basement until I get more room to actually start putting it all on display. Some of my more treasured items are a Mac Portable with all original documentation and Apple-branded carrying case, and a QuickTake 150. To top it all off, every piece in the collection is fully functional.

As for Mac gear I actually use regularly, I have a 1GB 2nd generation iPod shuffle (green) for listening to podcasts on the go, and a 32GB 2nd generation iPod touch.

6. Do you have any future upgrades planned?

As I’m starting to shoot more high definition video, I’m likely going to fill the fourth and final drive bay in the Mac Pro, and possibly acquire a Drobo. I want to pick up a second graphics card to drive a third 24″ monitor so I could play Burnout Paradise on three screens instead of two, but that seems like a less likely purchase.

More Sweet Setups

Jeff’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Reader’s Setup: Jeff Nouwen

My Dock

Yesterday Patrick Rhone was kind enough to post a picture of my physical desk and a screenshot of my Mac’s desktop onto his weblog, Minimal Mac.

More than a few folks have asked how I got my dock pinned to the bottom of my screen, and actually, it’s a pretty simple trick. You can move the dock around all you want with a single line of code in the Terminal and a reboot of the dock.

To pin your dock to the bottom, just type this into the Terminal:

defaults write pinning -string end

Or if you’d rather pin the dock to the top or back to the center, simply replace the last word of that line (end) with either start or middle respectively.

After typing this, you’ll need to reboot your Dock. Do this by restarting your computer, force quitting the Dock from Activity Montior, or typing this into the terminal:

killall Dock

If fiddling in the Terminal freaks you out, there is the more-than-capable app, Cocktail, that let’s you adjust all sorts of settings for your Mac, not just where to pin the Dock.

Additionally, there are two other little tricks I use with my dock: a custom-built apps folder, and a temporary storage folder affectionately named “The Wardrobe”.

Though I mostly launch apps via Quicksilver, there are times when my hand is already on the mouse, or I simply feel like clicking to launch an app rather than typing. This is why the seven apps I use every single day (Safari, Mail, Things, Yojimbo, iCal, iTunes, and Fever) are permanent residents of the Dock.

But I still want the handful of other apps which I use near-daily to stay close by. Thus my custom-built apps folder which is simply a collection of aliases:

Picture 2.png

The Wardrobe — which is using one of the Helveticon icons — is for any and all files which I don’t want on my desktop, nor do I want to store long term on my computer.

As a side note, after eighteen months with Leopard’s default download folder, I’m now back to downloads being saved right on the desktop. The intention of the downloads folder was that all your downloads would be in one spot, and that they wouldn’t clutter your desktop. But I found using the download folder meant the files were always an additional click away, and then after being used never got dealt with.

Having files download directly to my desktop keeps them instantly accessible and easier to clean up afterwards. It’s much easier to drag a file to the trash, eject it, filed it away, or drop it into the The Wardrobe from the Desktop than from the downloads folder.

What I like about my Dock being set up this way is the nice compromise it draws between less apps, thus relying on an application launcher, and more apps and using the mouse to launch. The Dock is not too slim, but yet it’s not bloated either.

My Dock

Reader’s Setup: Jay Torres

Jay Torres is a sales engineer for an HVAC company based in Corona, CA. When he’s not doing equipment selections or doing take offs, he maintains a blog, posts pictures to Flickr and tries to be interesting on Twitter. He currently lives in Santa Ana, CA.

Jay’s Setup:

1. What Does Your Desk Look Like?

Jay Torres Mac Setup

Jay Torres Mac Setup

Jay Torres Mac Setup

2. What is your current Mac setup?

My current set up consists of a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro, 2GB RAM, 160 GB HDD attached to a 24″ Dell monitor. I use Apple’s wireless keyboard and mouse. I thought I’d miss the number pad but I like the fact that its so small and minimalist. I only got the mouse because it matches the keyboard. Don’t judge me.

3. Why are you using this setup?

I got my laptop from my previous job where I convinced the IT department that I could dual boot a Mac into Windows and that it would play nice with our network. Yeah, I had to explain what dual booting was to the IT department of a half a billion dollar company. Since I called on clients all over Los Angeles and Orange County, my computer couldn’t be tied down to a desk. I needed something powerful and portable and the MacBook Pro easily fits the bill. I could be at a client’s office and I could easily whip out my computer and crank out a selection or bring up product data. When I get home, I just plug it into my monitor, reboot into good old OS X and catch up on everything that’s happened during the day. I can’t see myself having a set up other than this.

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

  • Safari – I thought about this and amazingly, I spend a lot of time in my web browser, both for work and play. I used to be a longtime Camino user but Safari is just so fast, it was hard to go back. I use GMail and its multiple inbox feature to handle both personal and work email and for prioritizing what has to be done. I pretty much rely on Google for everything. Google syncs my contacts and calendars with my iPhone via “the cloud”. Considering that my work doesn’t use an Exchange server, it’s the next best thing. Now if they would just enable push email…

  • NetNewsWire – After Safari, the next piece of software I use most is NetNewsWire. I follow ~100 feeds ranging from gadget blogs, finance blogs, design blogs and anything else I find interesting.

  • iChat – For my AIM and Google chat accounts. I tried to like Adium but video chat brings me back.

  • iTunes – Handles all my music, TV and movie organization. One of three apps that gets launched at log in.

  • Tweetie – It does everything I need and nothing more. If they give me the option of getting rid of the dock icon, it’ll be perfect. Also launches at log in.

  • MarsEdit – Simple app for posting to my blog.

  • iPhoto – I don’t consider photography as a hobby but I do take a lot of pictures of what I do on the weekends (which may be a bad thing if this thing gets published). I use iPhoto to organize and upload to my Flickr page.

  • Stickies – For bits of information that I always need to copy and paste into fields.

  • Dropbox – I store all my work files in my Dropbox for easy access when I boot into Windows. It’s so seamless, I forget it’s syncing with their servers. I wish I had found this earlier.

  • Windows 7 and IE8 – When I quote equipment, our quoting software is web based and only works in Internet Explorer. So I had to install Windows 7 on a 20GB partition on my MacBook Pro. I have Parallels installed but using Windows in it is barely usable. I only set aside 20GB because I don’t really have anything I need to install on the Windows side other than MS Office and a couple other random apps. Although I feel guilty saying this, once I boot into Windows 7, it’s crazy fast.

5. Do you own any other Mac gear?

I have a 16GB 1st generation iPhone unlocked on TMobile. I also have an original 5GB iPod (still works!), a 20GB 4G iPod and a green 2G iPod shuffle for working out. I have a 160GB Apple TV. Right next to it, I also have a 500GB Time Capsule that I use for backups and for streaming media that isn’t already stored on the Apple TV.

6. Do you have any future upgrades planned?

In the near future, I don’t have anything planned but when it’s time, I’d like to get a unibody 15″ MacBook Pro and the 24″ LED Cinema Display. I absolutely love how the monitor has connections for power, USB and audio. Why no one else has thought of this before boggles my mind. I’d love to get an iPhone 3GS, but I’m actually getting a good deal with TMobile and don’t plan on switching anytime soon.

More Sweet Setups

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

Reader’s Setup: Jay Torres

Patrick Rhone:

There are few things I love more, or am more inspired by, than a clean, uncluttered, distraction free computing experience. I wanted a place where I could feature, review and catalog these items. Minimal Mac is that place.

Patrick’s new weblog has quickly become a new favorite for me. I love how everything on the site is geared towards minimalism (save for the frequency of posts, I hope).

Minimal Mac

Reader Setup: Gordon Barr

Gordon Barr lives in Glasgow, Scotland. He is a part-time programmer, part-time webmaster, part-time IT support helper, and part-time architectural heritage campaigner. He has been described in the newspapers as a ‘boffin’ during attempts to promote Chemistry as a fun and interesting subject through the medium of a life-size fibreglass cow, and as an ‘expert’ when trying to convince people not to knock down interesting old buildings unnecessarily. In his spare time, he runs the online Scottish Cinemas project to catalogue, record and research old cinema and theatre buildings.

Gordon’s Setup:

1. What does your desk look like?

Gordon Barr's Setup

Gordon Barr's Setup

Gordon Barr's Setup

2. What is your current Mac setup?

At work have a Mac Pro (2x Dual Core 2.66Ghz) as my primary workstation, and a Mac Mini 1.66Ghz Core Duo. I’ve three 20in Cinema Displays between them; one on the Mac Mini, and two on the Mac Pro, with a single mouse and keyboard shared between them.
At home, a first generation unibody 13in MacBook. Oh, and an iPhone or two, obviously.

3. Why are you using this setup?

Much of my ‘proper’ work (i.e. that I actually get paid for) involves tying together old legacy Visual Basic and Fortran code and trying to make it play nicely together, so Windows is a necessity. As a result, the Mac Pro is running Windows XP in Bootcamp rather than MacOS X. Pleasingly, the Mac Pro was purchased after I specced up the equivalent Dell workstation at the time, which was nearly UKP £2000 more expensive (!). Who says Macs are pricier?

The Mac Mini is so I don’t have to spend all day in Windows land, and it runs everything else. The cinema displays were gradually purchased over time – I started out with just one of them and added more as budgets allowed.

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

I use Synergy to share a single mouse and keyboard between the two machines; I couldn’t live without it. I write and edit manuals and other technical documentation for in-house software, and I could do a lot more on the Mac rather than in Windows if there was still a Mac version of Framemaker (are you listening, Adobe?!). There’s always some Terminal windows open, and often some stuff running over X-windows from our Sun servers too.

I use Spaces to keep things separated – the default one has Mail and iCal which are always open, another with a bunch of terminal windows for local servers, etc., another for Safari and Tweetie, and one for Things.

I’ve recently started using Things (thanks to the review on this very site) to manage my work to do lists, and its ability to sync with the iPhone equivalent is crucial to keeping me (relatively) organised. The venerable but incomparable GraphicConverter is still in my Dock, and used almost daily, even after all these years.

For my side-line in architectural heritage, I take a lot of photos, and managing them is a bit of a nightmare. I’ve recently converted to Aperture for this, and am gradually getting a handle on it. The excellent FlickrExporter for Aperture is also used frequently for my Flickr uploads.

On the Mac, TextWrangler is my editor of choice; on the PC-side, SciTe is rather good.

5. Do you own any other Mac gear?

A Time Capsule at home for backups; a large box under the bed full of old cables, power supplies and about 7 different Apple laptop display dongles of various vintages, and a pristine Mac SE that still goes bong when you turn it on – I must find an old keyboard and mouse so I can play with it properly!

6. Do you have any future upgrades planned?

My iPhone is a 3GS; I appear to have Compulsive Upgrade Disorder when it comes to these things. So when they release a new one, I suspect I will be there. Luckily, I have a bunch of friends who are not such early adopters I can sell last year’s model on to.

More Setups:

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

Reader Setup: Gordon Barr

Alex Payne:

The problem with abdicating your content consumption to other people, though, is other people. Perhaps it’s overestimating my ability to find interesting things to read, but I don’t trust my friends and the Internet at large to educate and entertain me. In the venn diagram of my interests and my friends’, there may be 80% overlap, but most of the content that I’m going to find deeply engaging is probably in the leftover 20% at the margins.

Also, Alex points out how Fever really only works if you subscribe to a lot of tech-related weblogs, as these are the ones that more commonly post links leading away from their site. Since I don’t read very many non-tech weblogs, Fever works great for me.

Between Twitter, Fever’s Hot List, and the small handful of my daily “must-reads”, I feel quite confident that I’m not missing the 20% of the most engaging content on the web. Also, I make sure to do my part and post a link when I do come across that 20%.

Like Merlin Mann said, “If linkbloggers wrote more, shovelbloggers thought more, and a-listers cited more, the web would get 15% more interesting overnight.”

“Fever and the Future of Feed Readers”

Reader Setup: Tim Van Damme

Tim Van Damme is a Belgian webdesigner. By day he runs his little freelance company Made by Elephant, but by night he turns into his wild, alter ego called Maxvoltar. He is also a self-claimed celebrity tweeter with millions of followers.

Tim’s Setup:

What does your desk look like?

Tim Van Damme Setup

Tim Van Damme Setup

Tim Van Damme Setup

2. What is your current Mac setup?

I’m using a Unibody MacBook Pro 15.4″ (the one without SD, you know, that old piece of last-year’s hardware?). Besides that, I have a 23″ Apple Cinema Display, a 1Tb external Lacie drive (backup solution #1) and a 1Tb Time Capsule (wireless internet everywhere and backup solution #2).

3. Why are you using this setup?

Years ago I switched to using laptops, and wouldn’t want it any other way. About half the time I work from home (the setup in the pictures), and the other half I’m either at the office, or at a client. Anywhere I arrive, I just open my MacBook and start working where I left off. A laptop might not be the most powerful workstation around, but portability wins over power every time. I must admit having an external monitor is a big plus.

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

Apps that are always running include Safari, Photoshop, Espresso, MailPlane, NetNewsWire, Tweetie, Skype, iChat, iTunes and LittleSnapper.

For a full list I’d like to point you to an interview Grace Smith did with me, exploring all the apps in my dock.

5. Do you own any other Mac gear?

A white MacBook which used to be mine, but is now being used by my girlfriend, an Apple TV, and an Airport Express that multiplies(?) the Wi-Fi at home.

Almost forgot: an iPhone 3GS.

6. Do you have any future upgrades planned?

I tend to buy a new iPhone each year, and a new MacBook Pro every 2 years. Maybe I’ll buy a second Cinema Display to use at home, and that 10″ NetBook Apple’s going to launch later this year.

More Sweet Setups

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

Reader Setup: Tim Van Damme

Building ‘For an iPhone, By an iPhone’

In May my old iPhone and I launched a new website. It’s a gallery of wallpapers and backgrounds for your iPhone, all taken with an iPhone camera. They’re for an iPhone, by an iPhone.

For the past two years, I haven’t used the iPhone’s camera very much. Mostly because my wife and I never think about taking pictures; we’re not photo-fanatics. But after hearing CameraBag from Joshua Blankenship and seeing his iPhonaroid set on Flickr, my interest in taking fun and artsy snapshots with my iPhone peaked.

Originally, I figured I would create a Flickr set like Josh did and upload the shots to there. But then, after coming across Greg Shmigel’s Just What I See website, the Flickr set seemed inadequate…

The name and concept of For an iPhone, By an iPhone materialized one evening while walking home from the general store with my wife eating popsicles. After a few days of designing and coding, along with a few more popsicles, the site was launched.

A Picture versus A Thousand Words

Building a simple, photo-based site was a nice change of pace. There are quite a few differences between an entirely image-based website and a text-based one, and it was nice to have new challenges to tackle.

At first the Home page design of For an iPhone, By an iPhone showed a cascading list of the five most recent pictures. I was thinking about the convenience of being able to see a handful of wallpapers all at once. Undoubtedly not everyone will like and use every single wallpaper and giving the ability for someone to quickly scan is a feature.

But having five full-sized images on every page (except for permalink pages) felt less like a feature and more like a competition between wallpapers. Which is why I decided to only display one image per page. And by placing the navigation just above the pictures while the title and the tags sit below, it is still easy to browse through each wallpaper, even though it is just one at a time.

However, in good conscience I couldn’t completely abandon the ability for someone to scan several images at once. Which is why the archives display multiple images per page. Not to mention, (a) browsing an image gallery by title is just about as productive as picking out new music by song title; and (b) if the archives displayed only one image per page, that would be the exact same as the way non-archives are displayed.

And getting the archives to display and work just right wasn’t as easy as it should have been. Displaying full-sized images within the archives, like the original Home page design, was overwhelming; the archives needed to be displayed as thumbnails. And even though there are a lot of photo-gallery plugins for WordPress I was unable to find a simple one that would do what I wanted. So I hacked my own system for displaying the archives.

When browsing the archives you are looking at the excerpt content wrapped in an <a> tag which links to the permalink of the wallpaper.

To get WordPress to display only one post per page unless it was an archive page I’m using Matt Read’s plugin, Custom Query String. The CQS plugin allowes me to set exactly how many posts (images) display in any type of archive pages. I set all archives to display fifteen posts per page, which shows five nice rows with three images each.

On categories are only discoverable from the sitemap, because it’s easy enough to link to past articles through a linked list post, or simply link to past articles organically within other articles. However, on For an iPhone, By an iPhone, tags are much more vital. When the only content of a post is the image and the title, you can’t interlink to your own posts in a photoblog unless you use tags.

The Problem With Permalinks and Pagination

Standard WordPress behavior is to display the latest post on the home page. But to view the previous posts, you don’t browse by permalink, you browse by page.

Which means that getting the latest picture to display on the Home page, but to have the “previous” link point to the pervious post’s actual permalink page rather than /page/2/ was a little bit tricky.

Because of the way For an iPhone, By an iPhone is set up (with only a single image per page) there is a problem with the default pagination from the Home page. Because you’re only viewing one image regardless if it’s a permalink or nor, you could easily get /page/2/ confused as the permalink for the image you see on page 2. But once a new image gets posted, what used to be on /page/2/ is now on /page/3/, etc., etc…

I wanted all browsing to be from one permalink to the next, so that at any given time you were precisely where you thought you were.

After some searching around, I discovered a simple line of code, that when placed above the loop, does the trick just perfectly:

<? php $wp_query->is_single = true; ?>

This line causes the Home page to act like the most recent post’s permalink page (yet without re-directing to the URL of the latest post). Thus, what would normally be the “Previous” link is now the title of and a link to the previous post.

Which means once you begin navigating from the home page you go from permalink to permalink, rather than page to page.

From Phone to Published

By the time a new wallpaper shows up on the website, a lot has happened with that image already.

It starts when I come across something or someone that warrants a picture. So I take one. Usually several, actually. The best of the shots is then processed through CameraBag or CameraKit [iTunes Link], and the next time I sync the iPhone, all the photos get dropped into iPhoto. They are then re-sized, cropped and watermarked via Photoshop, and saved as 320×480 pixel JPEGs.

The 320×480 images are then run through an Automator process that copies the original, renames it, and resizes it for the thumbnail used in the Archives.

I then upload all the full-size images and their repsective thumbnails with transmit, and then publish each one via MarsEdit.

It sounds like a lot for something so basic, but it’s not as tedious as it sounds.

When first developing the site, I thought about coding an automated process or using a plugin so that if I emailed my image directly to WordPress from my iPhone, then it would get automatically cropped, a thumbnail created, and the image published. But aside from finding a plugin that worked the way I wanted, a set-it-and-forget-it process felt too sterile — I prefer taking the time to hand-craft each image that gets posted.

An Aside Regarding Pageviews

Over the last seven weeks, For an iPhone has averaged a 53% bounce rate with about 4 pageviews per visit., on the other hand, has a 73% bounce rate and an average of 2 pageviews per visit.

The average new visitor to For an iPhone will browse twelve to fifteen pages on their first visit. The average new visitor to, if they don’t bounce right away, will browse perhaps only four or five.

The biggest contributing factor is that For an iPhone encourages pageviews due to its one-image-per-page layout. Since it’s natural and not forced, it isn’t a big deal to click through many pages each visit.

In contrast, offers a dozen posts right on the home page. And each article is usually a stand-alone piece, and that each link list item is intended to send the reader away from the site. (Since each website has its own definitions of success, and its own audience, it wouldn’t be fair to compare them against one another to define the achievement or failure of one or the other. But that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to see the differences.)

For me, what defines the success of For an iPhone, By an iPhone isn’t that it would be full of jaw dropping iPhone photos and wallpapers. The site isn’t made up of individual images, but rather an overall collection of wallpapers all centered around and contributing to a simple and fun concept.

And it is the concept of For an iPhone, By an iPhone that makes it a success. That each image was taken with an iPhone camera, edited with iPhone software, and published for use on an iPhone screen.

Building ‘For an iPhone, By an iPhone’