Brian Stucki and Macminicolo’s Sweet Mac Setups
Who are you, what do you do, etc…?
I am Brian Stucki. I live in Las Vegas with my wife and 2.6 kids. (We’re due in April with our first girl.) I’m a fan of history, travel and golf. Though, I’m so bad that my golf game probably deserves to be history. Most of my stuff is located at BrianStucki.com and I’m @BrianStucki.
I enjoy starting new projects, building them out, and then selling them for funds to invest in something else. My first time was my golf club cleaning business when I was 11. I had 6 customers that would golf then leave their clubs with me to clean up and have ready for them. More recently it’s been blogs about software, TV show fansites, and even a successful iPad app. The projects have all been great reasons to learn new technology and improve business acumen.
I own Macminicolo, which is my main work focus. We’re turning 7 years old soon. When we first introduced the company, there was quite a bit of doubt (Hi, slashdot friends) but now thousands of minis later, the little machines roll on more powerful than ever.
What is your current setup?
I work from my home office nearly all of the time. I have other locations to be “more business official” but the truth is that seeing my wife and kids often is really important to me. In my home, my office is at the end of a long hall where I can close the door and have quiet. (There is usually James Taylor playing to keep me focused.) However, I’ll regularly step away from the desk to play some catch or color the super-hero of the day. I think this balance is critical.
When I’m in my office, I’m working on a black-brown Galant Desk from Ikea. By design, there is a lot of desk space, and it’s nearly always clean. I really, really struggle to think when surrounded by clutter.
For office hardware, I use a Mid-2011 27″ iMac with 16GB of RAM and a 2TB SATA Drive+256GB SSD combo. Sitting beside the iMac is a 27″ Cinema Display, an iPad 2 16GB+3G, (AT&T because coverage is quite good in Las Vegas). I use an iPhone 4S (AT&T). I use an Apple Wireless Keyboard, An Apple Magic Mouse, and have a Magic Trackpad stuffed in my drawer that I used for twenty minutes and haven’t touched since. I use an Airport Extreme to spray wireless throughout the house. I back up to a media Mac mini that’s hard wired to the router, making up one-third of my tri-approach to backups.
For the Macminicolo data center, it’s minis, minis and more minis. Within the next month, there will be one thousand operating Mac minis in the data center. We have some minis that have been here since day one serving for seven continuous years. (1.25 G4 with 256MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive). And of course, the new i5/i7 machines have been very popular. (1.5TB disk space, 16GB of RAM.)
While in the data center, I use a Mid-2011 MacBook Air. It’s the base version with 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5 processor and 2GB of RAM.
Two non-Apple hardware items that I use all the time for work and couldn’t function without are a ScanSnap S1500M and a base Kindle. I document all of my travel in the Field Notes County Fair Box Set of all 50 States and keep a good supply of my favorite pen.
Why this rig?
I love the HDD/SSD combo. Nearly all of my everyday stuff is on the SSD (Mail, Apps, iPhoto, etc.) and then I symlink to the HDD for the large data items (iTunes music, iMovie footage, software disk images.) But the best use of the HDD is a nightly place to clone the SSD boot drive without having to have a hard drive plugged into the back of the iMac. It keeps things clean, and keeps me with a bootable backup.
I purchased the 27″ iMac and 27″ Cinema Display because I think any cost in desktop space is proportional to increase in productivity. The iMac screen is showing whatever I’m working on right now. On the Cinema Display, I keep my staple apps open and viewable (i.e. Mail, Twitter for Mac, iChat Buddy list, etc.). Easy to view, quick to reply with customers, etc.
If I am sitting at my desk, the iPad is usually streaming that day’s Red Sox game. When I have a full desktop at my fingertips, I prefer to use it. But if I’m in a meeting the iPad is my main tool. It lets me control Mac minis in the data center, and keep up with all news and messages. I intended to tether my iPad to my iPhone when on the road but that hasn’t happened. It turns out that I still have not disabled the 3G on the iPad itself. It is too convenient to have it always on.
If I am on the move or traveling, my iPhone is nearly always the only technology I have on me. I use to bring around a laptop, and then the iPad, but I later realized that the iPhone can hold me over for an extended period of time. I had an iPhone moment the other day. As I pulled into a parking spot at the store, I was: (1) streaming music to my car via bluetooth; (2) controlling a Mac mini in the data center with Screen Sharing; (3) seeing Twitter notifications drop down; and, (4) beaming my location to my wife (via find my friends) as we were meeting at the nearby restaurant. From a phone. Seriously.
I purchased this laptop for use in the data center. I wondered if the 11-inch screen might be too small but that has proven inaccurate. With Mission Control, full-screen apps, screen sharing, and an incredible battery life, it has been a perfect tool.
I do not think it is possible to list all the activities that the Mac minis are being used for in the data center. We have popular iOS developers hosting here (Bjango.com), numerous Apple employees (who shall remain without name unless they so choose), quite a few Filemaker resellers and small businesses/tinkerers in 47 different countries around the world.
When I say the Mac mini is a great server, I practice what I preach. Our main site, our support site, and our stats/monitoring all run on Mac minis here. I also have some other services running on minis that you may have used in the past Fireballed.org (a mirror for DaringFireball.net), DayliteHosting.com, and our lesser known iPadcolo.net.
What software do you use and for what do you use it?
I suppose it’s easiest to break this up by product line.
Lion: All my machines are using the latest Lion operating system. I still hear of hesitation to upgrade, but I think it’s been quite stable.
Day One: I have kept a journal for 12 years. I am nearing 5000 personal entries spread across paper, books, and applications. It is an absolute treasure to look back on so many important moments of my life. Recently I have moved to Day One and I have found it incredibly well done. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to start a journal.
Money: Of all the money apps on Mac and iOS I think this one is best designed across the board. It is clean, and works well. It falls short when it comes to syncing a high number of entries, but they are introducing iCloud for Mac/iOS soon and that will be great.
1Password: Such a time saver when one tries every new online service and network and has to keep the credentials straight. A little part of me cringes every time a Mac user hand types a password into a site. I also love that it will auto-populate as you log into sites for the first time.
Twitter for Mac: I think Twitter does well with their official Mac client. My only wish is that you could have a separate window for each Twitter account.
Smultron: My favorite text editor. It was free for a long time, but even at its new price , I think it is worth it.
SuperDuper!: I mentioned earlier that I backup my SSD to my internal HDD. Once a week, I clone the 2TB hard drive to an external drive with this app, then take that down to the data center for safe storage. All these years and SuperDuper has never failed me on a bootable backup.
Caffeine for Mac I’m not a coffee drinker (surprisingly Shawn still calls me a friend) so this app is nearly all of the caffeine in my life. It’s a Menu bar item that prevents your Mac from going to sleep or screen saver. If I’m doing other work at my desk and just keeping an eye on the Mac, this prevents the constant mouse jiggle.
Reeder: Sometimes RSS feeds can be a time drain, but I get a lot of new ideas from reading the intelligent posts of others. Reeder makes it easy. The ability to send to Instapaper and other services is second to none.
Tweetbot: The great thing about this app is the design of every little detail. Swipe left to see replies. Tap and hold the icon for options. So intelligent.
Golfshot: Do not waste your time buying and testing other golf apps. Even at the higher price, this one is the best. GPS is accurate. Scoring is thorough. I consider this an essential work app. Everyone needs a place they can clear their mind to think, and the golf course is my place. (I had a roommate in college who thought best in the shower. iPhones are not much use in there.) If I’m struggling with an issue or brainstorming a new business idea,I am usually hitting golf balls somewhere.
Find my Friends: So often, people assume the worst when you and your spouse use this app to keep track of each other. That is too bad. I have complete trust in my wife, and she in me. Whether she is driving home from vacation, or I am waiting for them to meet me at Grandma’s, this app helps us “communicate” without having to distract while driving.
I do wish that you could set a recurring “friend” in the app. In other words, all the MMC staff would share location during business hours on weekdays, but not other times. That’d be very convenient.
Trackthepack: There are a lot of Mac minis flowing in and out of Las Vegas. This iOS and web app has proven perfect to watch them. I like that you can forward shipment emails to the site and it will automatically add it to your account. (And people wonder how we receive a Mac mini and then have it installed within an hour or two. This app is our secret.)
iTeleport: I try all the VNC/Screen Sharing apps in the app store. There are many good ones, and some are better designed, but this one has proven most reliable for me.
Lithium: We use lithium to monitor all bandwidth and traffic on the Macminicolo network. The Lithium Core runs on a Mac mini in the data center and there are Mac/iOS apps to keep an eye on things from afar.
Boxcar: If there is an issue in the data center, we know about it right away thanks to this app. Sends all sorts of notifications. In a more common (and more fun) occurrence, each time a new customer signs up we get a “Cha-ching” notification. It is like my personal Pavlov experiment.
Backpack: We coordinate all Macminicolo happenings with Backpack. I will try every new todo application to run the company, but always seem to come back to this great product. It is a shame that no great iOS clients are available for it.
GoSquared: They have a great dashboard (and a nice free plan) to keep an eye on where your traffic is coming from and going.
Pastebot: Even after all these years, I still prefer the sales emails to come straight to me. I enjoy that interaction. I like to be there when they start getting ideas for their new mini servers. However, there are definitely some questions that I have received over and over. Pastebot is invaluable to give good thorough answers quickly.
How would your ideal setup look and function?
There is no doubt some overlap in my Apple products. I have reasons for picking each (which I’ve tried to list) but it’s clear I could do without one or two of them. The truth is, I don’t want to. I’m not wealthy, but technology is the one place I’m comfortable to splurge a little with money. My shoes are usually a couple years old, I’ve worn the same brand/style of clothes for 20 years, I’m fine with grilled cheese and a pickle for dinner. Like a lot of you, it doesn’t take many possessions to keep me going. But, I do like cutting edge technology, and I like learning what it can do.
So ideal? I suppose it’s whatever is coming next. And I’ll use it while wearing my old clothes and eating my sandwich dinner.
More Sweet Setups
Brian’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.
Macminicolo has previously been a sponsor of the RSS Feed here, but this Sweet Mac Setup post is in no way related to that sponsorship.