Andrew Pepperrell’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

My name is Andrew Pepperrell, and I created Alfred, a productivity and launcher app for OS X. I live and work near Cambridge in the UK.

Previously, I was a Enterprise Java software engineer and believe it or not, Alfred was the first Objective C / Cocoa project I worked on — primarily to learn something new. Luckily, my foundation in enterprise development helped me nail the architecture and performance of Alfred from the word go. Developing for Mac very quickly became a passion of mine and I have been lucky enough to jump to full-time Mac development around 6 months ago.

In my spare time I love models and radio-controlled stuff, spending time fiddling with a few Tamiya cars which are either working really really well or in complete pieces being rebuilt. I also have a radio-controlled helicopter and plane but generally prefer cars as they crash much less catastrophically.

I am on Twitter as @preppeller and look after the Alfred users at @alfredapp.

What is your current setup?

Andrew Pepperrell's Sweet Mac Setup

Andrew Pepperrell's Sweet Mac Setup

Andrew Pepperrell's Sweet Mac Setup

I currently run a 24″ iMac 2.93 Ghz Core 2 Duo running Snow Leopard as my main development machine with 8GB RAM, which seems essential since Xcode 4 and Safari 5 seem to consume most of this during the course of the day. I have a 20″ Apple Cinema Display attached to the iMac, a wireless Mac keyboard and Magic Mouse plus some Creative GigaWorks T3 speakers which sound much larger than they look! I find the stock iMac too tall for comfort, so have it on an Ergotron MX arm which allows me to lower the iMac screen to a very comfortable height.

I also have a MacBook Air 2.13 Ghz Core 2 Duo 256GB SSD with 4GB RAM running Lion. I should have really waited for the i5 but I am still surprised how incredibly snappy the Air is. Battery life and portability are pretty incredible too.

For Alfred’s build server, I have a Mac Mini (Server) with 2 internal 500GB drives in mirrored RAID running Lion. This is protected by some Mr. Potato Heads which I have found significantly more effective than a firewall.

It goes without saying that I also have an iPad 2 and iPhone 4S.

Why this rig?

For a while, I developed primarily on a Black MacBook and while I loved it, the difference when moving to a proper desktop machine with a 24″ screen was amazing. Xcode 4 uses a huge amount of screen real estate, especially with the built-in Interface Builder. I use the external 20″ Cinema Display for everything other than Xcode. I am also really used to the Cinema Display’s colour balance so it helps me know what to expect when deploying anything which isn’t black or white.

The MacBook Air allows me to work on the go and, as everything I do is version controlled, my development environment is comfortably mirrored between the two machines. I have found it to be so light that on one occasion, I left the house thinking that I had it in my bag but realized later I had left it at home — d’oh!

The build server could be seen as unnecessary as I could deploy from my iMac, however I feel I have a responsibility to Alfred’s users to build and deploy something that I can happily know is free from any potential nasties. As such, the Mac Mini server has absolutely nothing installed on it other than what is necessary to build and deploy Alfred, and is only used for this purpose.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

On Mac:

  • Xcode is the main piece of software I use, and use it every single day… Naturally I use this to develop Alfred and a few other secret projects I am currently working on.

  • Fireworks CS5 for screen mockups and general design work. I love the vector as bitmap non-destructive workflow which feels very natural to me. I don’t like how sluggish it feels compared to more native Mac apps.

  • Pixelmator for photo editing, however I am really looking forward to the vector tools in Pixelmator 2 and part of me hopes this will allow it to replace Fireworks CS5.

  • ColorSnapper for quick and easy colour capture and copy colours with a hotkey – perfect for my workflow.

  • Coda for web development. Oddly, before I downloaded ColorSnapper I would open Coda just to access the OS X colour picker panel — weird workflow.

  • TextMate for quick and dirty text and code editing… sometimes vi too depending on where my fingers lead me.

  • Twitter for Mac… no need to explain this one, I spend way too much time watching the Alfred stream.

  • Safari for the majority of my surfing. However, I am trying to go “Flash free” so sometimes I have to revert to Chrome if I am watching YouTube.

  • Evernote because it’s like my secondary brain.

On iOS:

  • Reeder as it’s the nicest way I have found to read my RSS feeds.

  • Calcbot for a calculator as the iPad doesn’t have one. Also use this on my iPhone for consistency.

  • Evernote because I generally need to carry my secondary brain around with me.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

For starters, using a Mac gives me the reliability I couldn’t dream of during my past of using Windows machines… Being a Mac developer means I naturally have to use Mac, so this is definitely a good thing. Having my main iMac display dedicated to Xcode alone allows me focus much more easily.

Having a tidy desk and a distant view outside my window along with BassDrive internet radio playing really helps me remain creative during the day.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I would quite like a bit more space in my office… I work from home and therefore am confined to the smallest back bedroom for my permanent office. A larger room for my office would allow me to have all of my radio controlled hobby stuff permanently set up for working on. I could also fit my Yamaha CP300 stage piano in too, which would remind me to practice more.

From a technical point of view, I would love a faster main machine, however, I am reluctant to upgrade at the moment as the current iMacs and Mac Pros all feel a bit mid-to-end cycle… Ideally I would love a 27″ iMac 8 core without a chin (looking more like the current Cinema Displays) and a 15″ MacBook Air… Did you hear me Apple?? I would like those… asap! chop chop.

More Sweet Setups

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

Andrew Pepperrell’s Sweet Mac Setup