A great piece by Khoi Vinh reviewing Moves, an app that tracks your movement and location throughout the day and the logs it for you:

No one wants to type more on a multi-touch phone or tablet if they don’t have to, so when they see an app demonstrate that typing can be eliminated entirely, it’s an eye-opening moment, for sure. But is it magic? Almost. To simplify is huge, but what matters just as much is the end result, what the user gets out of the simplification. If the simplified process produces satisfactory results, great. But it’s magic when the software generates a disproportionately meaningful output from that minimized input.

I haven’t tried out Moves yet, but I had a very similar “wow, it’s like magic” moment when the latest update to Day One came out last fall. That Day One updated added the ability to automatically pull in location and weather information and add it to your journal entry, and that little bit of extra info makes each entry seem, as Khoi would put it, disproportionately more meaningful.

Magic and Mobile Apps

Patrick Welker’s Sweet Mac Setup

1. Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I’m Patrick Welker from Berlin, Germany. I live and work together with my brilliant girlfriend Maria in a 689 ft² (for the metric reader: 64 m²) apartment.

In our living room slash office we’re both working as freelancers. She’s a 3D artist and I do graphic and web design whenever there’s an occasional job for me.

I’m also a part-time student. My fields of study are English and German. Prior to that I was an audio engineer. Since I’d have to relocate and leave my girlfriend behind to stay in business I decided to listen to my heart which resulted in me staying in the city and starting to study “something which involves reading and writing”.

I let my inner geek out at RocketINK where I write about how I tweak my Mac. Beside that being my number one topic, I have plans to write some more personal and in-depth pieces.

2. What is your current setup?

Patrick Welker Desk Overview

Patrick Welker Displays

Almost all my gear is placed on a large 15-year-old desk. I don’t know the exact model but when looking at the construction I guess it is a safe bet to say that its origin is a Swedish furniture store (hint: four-letter word, all caps).

My main machine is a 2x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Xeon Mac Pro with 10GB of RAM, and it is connected to two 24-inch Dell displays (model: 2405FPW) which give me enough space to toy around with. The first hard drive bay with the operation system is a 160GB SSD from Intel, the other three bays carry bigger regular hard disks.

I’m a die-hard fan of the wired Apple aluminum keyboard. This particular one is the English version, more specific: the international one with a larger return key and some other minor differences. Oddly enough it isn’t listed in the Apple Store anymore. Furthermore I also own a Magic Trackpad which is placed to the right of the keyboard along with a Magic Mouse. I switch frequently between the mouse and the trackpad. If I feel that my wrist is overstrained I throw my mouse into the drawer for the rest of the day and use the trackpad. Apart from this being my regular setup, sometimes I put the trackpad on the left side of the keyboard just to scroll through documents and use my left hand a bit more.

Patrick Welker Portables

My secondary Mac is an 11-inch MacBook Air (1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM) which I tend to neglect when I’m at home and not working on the Mac Pro. My 32GB third-generation iPad is now the undisputed champion of the living room and gives the MacBook a hard time finding the attention it deserves. When my iPad is resting it sits on the Compass stand from Twelve South. The daring position of the Compass is on the left edge of my desk… and so far my iPad took the plunge “only” once. Terrible, I know.

The following are my additional gadgets for the iPad: (my girlfriend’s) Maglus Stylus, an old $5 pogo stylus, a black leather Smart Cover, a Havana smart cloth from Toddy Gear and a Tabü tablet poüch to give the iPad some extra protection.

When I’m on the road I use a messenger bag to carry my MacBook and iPad. I choose to go with the Ristretto from Tom Bihn (link to successor) despite the high shipping costs and customs tax that are due when importing something from the United States. The bag is equipped with the fantastic Absolute Shoulder Strap and a lot of their nifty pouches and leashes. Ninety percent of the times when I leave the house I travel with my bike, and due to Tom Bihn’s Guardian Dual Function Light I feel a lot safer when riding in the dark.

In case I’m not on one of the above mentioned devices my right hand becomes unusable for common tasks. You might think this is because I’m such a reasonable person and finally give my hand some rest, let it calm down after the heavy duty mouse and keyboard work it endured. Far from it! It’s unusable because it automatically grabs my 32GB iPhone and merges with it. I have the theory that this is a widespread disease. By the way, my phone is wrapped in a BookBook case. Despite the fact that I love the look and feel of a naked iPhone (after all it’s a beautiful device), for me the sheer practicality of the case justifies adding a bit of bulk.

Patrick Welker Audio Gear

Now we come to the relicts of my activity as a producer. First there are my beloved Dynaudio BM5A studio monitors (“monitors” is the term used by audio engineers to refer to their speakers, and, by the way, the link points to the successor). Secondly, my current Mic setup consists of an AKG C 4000 B Studio (a condenser microphone) and the Shure SM58 (a dynamic microphone).

Next, my midi-controller is a Novation ReMOTE 37SL and the audio interface of my choice is a RME Fireface 400. Finally, the last part of my audio gear are three headphones: a Philips SHP8900 for listening, an AKG K240 Studio as my personal reference monitor and a Sennheiser MM 550 Travel (link to successor).

Lastly, there is just enough room for one more gadget on the desk: my old Wacom Intuos 3 (6×8).

Below the desk

On the lower surface of my desktop is a EXSYS EX-1177 USB 2.0 HUB with 7 ports. It is connected to my equinux TubeStick and all things USB. I label all cables going into the hub by writing the name of the gadget with a felt marker on a piece of crepe tape.

Beside my Mac a drawer unit is also placed under my desk. In the first drawer are pens and chargers to my various gadgets. Additionally, to have my Tom Bihn pouches close at hand the second drawer is solely reserved to them. On top of the drawer is a power manager from Brennenstuhl with one main switch and 6 separate switches to selectively toggle my equipment on and off. My cable modem, WLAN router and an
ICY DOCK ICYCube sit on top of the power manager.

Health Appliances

Health Appliances

The last part of my setup is what I call my health appliances. Strictly speaking they don’t belong to the setup, but I regard them as important components of my work, that’s why I decided to include them here.

When you live and work all day long within a tight space and share it with another person, my belief is that the room you choose needs to have a feel good atmosphere. Moreover, if it is a home office you have the permission to go nuts. To conclude, for me this means transforming my workspace into a whimsical little world with a touch of kawaii.

On the wall in front of me is an empty yellow picture frame to which I added a red curtain with a floral pattern on the upper side and a wooden shelf on the bottom. On this shelf is the DVD, the excellent soundtrack and a cinema ticket from one of my favorite movies. Since there is still some space left to fill with cuteness, I put a few anime figures (i.a. from Azumanga Daioh) and a plant. The lower surface of the shelf is covered with artificial turf and little flowers (the latter are hard to spot on the photo).

Below this frame is my illuminated “cave”. A Philips Living Colors lamp was one of the best investments I made so far for my workspace. It might sound stupid to say this about a lamp, but it really increased my quality of life — it literally brightens my day. No wonder they call it a mood light.

The surface of the cave (again) consists of artificial turf and there’s a Living Colors Mini on the side of it. On the turf my MacBook rests and charges along with a Stache Labbit from Frank Kozik, another plush rabbit my girlfriend made for me, a branch, a raccoon figure, Ollie and lastly a plush carrot and a marzipan carrot for the rabbits because they always look hungry.

To the left of my desk is a window bench where a little bowl with an forrest inside of it and some animals is placed. I grew up on the countryside and miss mother nature from time to time, so my girlfriend did some handicraft work and made me this present.

Other health related gadgets:

  • My relatively okay office chair is from Tchibo, a German coffee company which apparently also sells a of lot other things.
  • A Thera-Band Hand Exerciser with an egg shape to fight my arthritis.
  • A Powerbar 2 which I use every time I feel drained.
  • An Aqua Select Water Filter because I drink about 1.1 gal (4,2 liters) a day.
  • Some plush animals who occasionally visit the office. Yeah, I’m about to turn 32. So what? I’m a child at heart.

The last piece of equipment on my list is our printer-scanner-fax Swiss army knife — a Samsung CLX-3185FW — which is located in the storeroom. It barely gets used since I work pretty much paperless.

3. Why this rig?

Here’s the short story of how I came across my gear.

The Big Mac

I bought the Mac Pro for two reasons. The first reason is that my Power Mac G5 was one of the loudest computers I ever owned. It was terribly nerve-racking for me and all of the smaller audio samples I recorded had the Mac’s omnipresent background noise as a feature. I even bought a soundproof cabinet to tackle that problem. The second reason was that the Mac Pro can take up to four hard drives. I needed a lot of space for storing my audio material and USB or FireWire 800 wasn’t an option for me at that time. The CPU power and the amount of RAM were also pretty helpful when running multiple instances of a demanding plugin in Pro Tools, Ableton Live, and Logic Pro.

However, now my daily work is writing, reading, coding and designing. I don’t necessarily need a Mac Pro for this kind of work, but since the machine is already here and is still an excellent computer, I see no real need to replace it anytime soon (except if Apple decides to stop supporting it when they release the next version of OS X).

Peripheral Computer Devices

I use an English keyboard because it’s part of my “all-in” language learning strategy. Despite German being my native language I write down everything in English. Besides that, I also wanted to try if the keyboard layout is a better fit for writing code, and so far I’m more than happy that I took the plunge. Although it took quite a while to reroute some hard-wired movements to their specific new counterparts on the keyboard. Another thing I have to admit was, that at first I was a tad bummed out since I accidentally bought the international version on eBay. But, I soon realized it was a fitting choice because thereby I gain consistency over all my Macs: for the MacBook I just had to order some keyboard stickers and henceforth all the keys are in the same place again. This wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

The second monitor was an heirloom from my father who moved on to an iMac. I was quite happy with one 24-inch screen, but having two displays opened up a whole new world for me. The result is that I’m now really lazy when it comes to managing windows on the Mac.

The ICYCube has room for 4 hard drives just like the Mac Pro. I searched for a simple multi-bay enclosure and tried quite a few. Since I didn’t need a fancy RAID setup and all I wanted was to slide in the hard disks I already own. This piece of equipment met my criteria perfectly, if I exchange an HD on my Mac Pro I buy a new drive tray for the ICYCube and gain another backup drive. Indeed the enclosure works as my backup solution. At the same time it’s the place where I have stored all my unedited home video recordings which I might not come to edit in a lifetime since I pay way to much attention to details (also I’m not very fast when it comes to editing videos). The downside of the enclosure: it’s pretty loud if you don’t remove the fan. Then again I only fire it up once a week to copy over the backups from my Macs.

Let’s talk USB for a second. I’ve had trouble with Apple Computers and their USB ports for my whole Apple life (since 2005). I’ve always had a lot of audio equipment connected to my Mac via USB. The Mac’s power supply unit could never satisfy the energy-hungry battalion it was faced with. Even on my 2009 Mac Pro the USB ports began to fail until out of six ports only 3 working ones remained. The best investment I’ve made is an industry USB hub — it’s the one and only hub that I tried which delivered enough power (and I tried quite a few). The hub I use is from a swiss company, EXSYS. They offer excellent products in this segment of modern technology. My hub has 4.5 A which is more than enough. Every port gets up to 500 mA. All my devices work properly for the first time.

Regarding the Wacom tablet I have to admit that I neglect it carelessly. My girlfriend borrowed it over the last few years and it just has returned into my possession since she bought herself a Cintiq for Christmas. I have nothing else to add to my defense.

The Little Apples

I ride my bike a lot during the week. Be it my route to the University, or, more rarely, visiting a client. If you have carried a laptop before you know that you feel every ounce of it after a few blocks. The 12-inch PowerBook was my favorite portable computer, but the tiny 11-inch MacBook Air is like a dream come true and it instantly pushed the PowerBook off the throne. It’s so small, slim and light that I can take it with me everywhere I go, and in addition I don’t feel like I’m carrying any additional weight. It is amazing that this is not a toy but a full-fledged system for web development and graphic design work. Also, I still prefer it over the iPad when I’m on the go and want to write something. Using an iPad at the University isn’t an option for me because I need to switch between a (digital) book, references and notes all the time. Having two windows open in split view is a great help and the full-sized keyboard is ideal for lectures where I take a lot of notes. Being able to watch and listen while writing down everything in a blind flight over the keyboard is not possible with an iPad (at least not without an external keyboard).

I still take my iPad with me to University on days where I know I don’t need to write down a lot of information. On those days the MacBook is allowed to stay at home. However, where the iPad shines in my opinion is when working with clients. I prefer to take my iPad with me to them rather than the MacBook because it’s nice to pass it on to people. They instantly know how to use it and get a better feel for how the product they’ve ordered will look and work like.

Since the retina iPhone was released in June 2010 I knew that Apple would come up with an iPad featuring a similar display. So I decided to wait because I don’t wanted to use a phone or tablet on a daily basis which lacks such a stellar display. In March 2012 the wait was over. I couldn’t afford it at that point in time, but finally managed to buy one… shortly before the released the fourth-generation iPad — didn’t see that one coming. For me the iPad is the best device for reading and learning in existence. If I find an elaborate tutorial on the internet I usually save it and read it on my iPad.

Back to the iPad’s little brother. I bought the iPhone 5 because the iPhone is the device I use most religiously out of all my gadgets. Since Apple changed the form factor — which they presumably keep for a while — I felt it was the perfect time to update from my old iPhone 4. I use my phone constantly for all kind of tasks, but here’s a small list of where it has proven to be most helpful to me:

  • snapping a picture
  • reading feeds and Instapaper articles
  • as a reference book
  • as a companion when working out
  • relaxing
  • communication

The accessory that is always with my phone is the BookBook case. It is the ideal choice for me since I always forgot my wallet at home. The purchase has paid for itself: I haven’t had an embarrassing moment at the local grocery store’s counter since I own the BookBook. Everything important is where I iPhone is. My iPhone is at my side 24/7.

My Audio Gear

This is a short one. My current setup is the result of a compromise. At the same time I started my studies at the university I moved in together with my girlfriend into a smaller apartment. My complete rack wouldn’t have fitted into the new tiny place. I sold almost all my gear to pay the rent for the upcoming months. Since I always had a passion for graphic and Web design and worked as a freelancer in that field while studying as audio engineering my new economic center shifted. (I still miss part of my gear.)

I kept the microphones because they barely take up any space. In addition I only own one audio-interface now. It’s from RME. They are famous for their excellent analog-to-digital conversion. You get one of the best conversions you can buy for money — naturally it’s a keeper too. Another thing I couldn’t bring myself to part with were my speakers. In spite of using headphones almost all the time because my girlfriend doesn’t listen to such a wide variety of music as I do while working, it’s still good to know that I could cause a medium-sized earthquake with the speakers if I feel like it.

Lastly, I decided to order a smaller keyboard to at least leave the possibility open to produce a little bit in my spare time. Sadly I only managed to make one track per year since 2008. To look on the bright side of things I really amped up my front-end web design skills in that time.

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

There are so many great Mac apps out there in the wild and currently 465 of them are in my applications folder. Here’s a selection of the ones I use most on my Mac:


  • nvALT is my storage for text and code snippets, links to references, general references, lists and TaskPaper documents. It’s constantly open.
  • FoldingText is my go-to writing application. I just love the clean look, that it auto-formats Markdown and the possibility to fold sections.
  • When I’m writing longer articles or take-home exams I switch between FoldingText and MultiMarkdown Composer.
  • Since I write in Markdown all the time, no matter what, I often have Marked running to preview my documents.
  • I’m also a fan of outlines. OmniOutliner Pro and Tree are often starting points for more elaborate projects.
  • When writing research papers for the University I use Pomodoro because if I don’t I have trouble focusing on the job at hand.


On the Mac I use the Google Reader web application to read my feeds. I haven’t yet looked for an alternative for when the service shuts down. I might end up finally using the Fever installation I set up a while ago or even go back to NetNewsWire.

When I read on the Mac it’s usually in a browser. Google Chrome is my browser of choice. I’m a heavy Pinboard user and Chrome extensions are my favorite way of adding and searching my bookmarks.


When I code a website I use Coda 2 since it has smart features I still miss in other editors. I find it most helpful that Coda remembers my open tabs on a per project basis. Even more important, it remembers the split tabs where I grouped documents that are interacting with each other. It’s a great feature that I specially enjoy every time when revive an old project.

To preview websites on my mobile devices I use Adobe’s Edge Inspect and LiveReload.

To store tutorials, references, books about web development and sites that inspire me I use Together. What I like about it is that it doesn’t use a single database file. I can drop files into specific folders and they automatically get tagged when I open Together.

If there is something to code and it is no website, then my favorite editor is Sublime Text 2 — if it would remember the split sets like Coda I’d instantly switch to it since it’s so highly customizable.

I also use Tower for managing my git repositories. Terminal and iTerm apps companions for my way through the shell.


I’m paying Adobe to let me use their feature rich programs aka Photoshop and Illustrator.

To optimize images for the web I use JPEGmini and the hand-made ImageOptim I wrote about in my blog.


When it comes to listing I’m still undecided whether to stick with Rdio or Spotify. Both have drawbacks and great features.

For composing I use Ableton Live and Logic Pro with an armada of plug-ins and virtual instruments.


  • Path Finder and Finder help me manage my files
  • Sparrow is my default mail client.
  • TaskPaper, GeekTool, and OmniFocus build my GTD setup. OmniFocus is the main brain which keeps me from forgetting tasks. I prefer the Mac version over both of the iOS apps in terms of swiftness when it comes to organizing tasks.
  • 1Password is another application which is constantly open. I like to try a lot of new web services.
  • Dropbox keeps the main part of my system — be it files or preferences — in sync across all my Mac’s.
  • I use iStat Menus to keep an eye on my SSD’s disk space and my memory.
  • With myPhoneDesktop and DropCopy Pro I send files to iOS. Since my girlfriend is still running Snow Leopard, DropCopy is our go-to app for sharing files or links with each other.
  • CloudApp is my favorite app for sharing Internet finds with my friends.
  • Fantastical is the best way for me to get an overview of important upcoming events. It’s also the best way to add them to my calendar.
  • Aperture is my database for all personal photos.
  • Growl, Alarms, and Due to remind to exercise, making a pause and to sit straight.
  • And… I use Keyboard Maestro for everything!

iOS — Work:

On my iPhone and iPad I have about 350 apps each. A lot of them are tucked away in a folders. I keep barely-used applications around for easy access in case I really need them. A good example for rarely-used apps would be all the ones that are specific to my home town. On the iPad, however, I don’t have a lot of these specialists. But I have more folders with apps that I haven’t checked out yet. In any case, here’s what I use on a regular basis.

I write in Drafts despite preferring the Markdown toolbar of Scratch. The iPad version of Drafts has one, and I’m still hoping that the iPhone gets one too some day.

If I need to make corrections to a post I open Byword and edit the post. And while we’re at the blog, sometimes I have to open Prompt to analyze a problem or restart my Jekyll blog.

The header images for my blog are drawn in Paper. I love its ease of use, the app is also the starting point for all of my mockups and general ideas for websites.

When I need to share files with someone I use Dropbox, ClouDrop for Cloudapp, or ClouDrop for Dropbox by TouchMyPhone. If I want my screen shots on my Mac I use PhotoSync since it’s faster than waiting for iCloud to sync the files in question.

For research I have couple of apps that most folks will be familiar with: Pinbook and Delitouch iPhone for browsing Pinboard, Tweetbot, Bang On, and Google Chrome.

In addition, I always have my iPhone at hand while reading — if there’s a need to clarify something I open up one of my Dictionaries. I have a couple for different purposes: linguistics ones, literature specific ones, and one for every coding language.

My RSS client of choice is Reeder on the iPhone and Mr. Reader on the iPad. If I find something I like to act on or would like to link it goes into Pocket, and if it’s a longer read I send it to Instapaper — both of these apps are jam-packed to the point that I doubt I can ever catch up with everything in there. If I’m about to continue working on another device I open the article in question with Google Chrome to ensure that I can resume where I left off.

Apart from reading feeds I also like to read books on the iPad. I collect them in my Dropbox and import them into iBooks via GoodReader or DropCopy. If it’s a shorter PDF I read it directly in GoodReader.

When I study for a test I use Flashcards Deluxe. I have a macro which formats a Markdown document of my study notes into the format that the app reads. The macro also puts the file into my Dropbox. All I have to do is to import the file and start learning.

Beforehand I admitted that I barely use my scanner. I digitalize University or office documents most of the times with Scanner Pro and send them directly to my Dropbox.

While we’re still in the category of work related apps that I use most frequently, there are some classics that are hits on the iPhone for a reason. These ones are on my Homes creen: LaunchCenterPro, OmniFocus, Sparrow, 1Password, Fantastical, and the TomTom navigation app.

I mentioned in the beginning that health plays a big role for me when it comes to work. Here’s one of my shorter morning rituals and the apps I use with it: my day starts with two glasses of water, then I put my bluetooth headphones on, fire up Spotify and select some relaxing music for my Yoga exercises. Repeat Timer Pro is the best app I found so far for basic interval training.

To conclude this section about apps I use for working, I also want to end with Spotify since music can increase creativity and help to focus better. I often use my iPhone or iPad to play music instead of my Mac. Unlike the Mac version of Spotify the mobile app doesn’t chuck away on my upload stream. I send the audio signal to Airfoil Speakers on my Mac and I’m good. Furthermore, to focus while studying I have a binaural playlist on Spotify and this little collection of apps: Attractor, MindWave 2, and some AmbiScience apps.

iOS — Everyday Life:

My smartphone has alleviated my everyday life, that’s for sure. Here are some key aspects where I find it utterly useful:

Notesy is one of the most important apps on my phone. Everything that’s inside of nvALT is also in Notesy, for instance when I plan to cook something new I save the recipe in my notes folder and have the Markdown preview right in front of me. I have an array of Due timers for cooking and baking.

If I’m not working it is highly likely that I have my headphones on and listen to a podcast via Downcast or even better, an audiobook (I’m a sucker for audiobooks).

The iPhone is also my main camera, so Camera+ and the default camera app are on my Home screen to make sure I can easily access them any time. I sold my regular cameras because the iPhone suits my needs just fine. I’m the point-and-click guy when it comes to capturing moments, and it’s enough for me.

Another thing I like to do on iOS is to remote control my Mac with Keyboard Maestro Control or iTeleport. Most of the time it’s nothing important but it’s a nice feature I like to use when I’m on the couch.

The last big point where the iPhone shines for me is it helps me to keep track of…

  • my lists with Listary;
  • cartoons and series I’m following with iTV Shows;
  • movies I want to see in the cinema with TodoMovies (side note: I hope to see a Letterboxd app some day);
  • apps that I want to buy with AppShopper;
  • the weather with WeatherPro (which has proven to be the most reliable app for Europe, but not the most beautiful), and RainAlarm (since there is no Dark Sky for Europe).

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

At some point in my twenties I suddenly realized that I had back pain many a time, that I gained some weight, and that my mood swings were in fact a full-grown chronic depression. It was obvious that I couldn’t perform my best under these circumstances.

To fight all of the above I started to do Yoga along with some other exercises, to eat more healthy and to create a work environment which makes me happy. In the last 5 years I managed to drop the extra 22 pounds (10 kg) I gained beforehand and developed an interest in cooking which revealed that one’s own kitchen can serve better food than 90-percent of the restaurants in the close vicinity. These measures lead to fewer periods of depression which I’m very thankful for.

If you work on a desk with a monitor in front of your face from dusk till dawn, then time truly flies. I get easily distracted; I even managed to ignore my own health. By taking breaks and exercising I find myself to be more cheerful, recharged, and overall a bit healthier. It’s a wonder by all the optimizations I made to tweak my operating system that it took so long for me to recognize that my body’s “OS” also was in need of more organization and maintenance.

My point with the 3 paragraphs above is that a healthy body is the only way for me to not drop into a hole of darkness. My other tactic to reduce the likeliness of such a thing happening is to surround myself with stuff that makes me happy. That’s why I called the constituents of my playful environment “health appliances”.

To keep this system running, a good part of my setup consists of different ways to remind me to eat, exercise, and take a break. I change those reminders regularly so that I don’t get too accustomed to one set, otherwise I would sit on my Mac non-stop and forget everything around me. I don’t know the feeling of being bored when I’m in front of one of my gadgets. Combined with decent internet access they work like a creativity accelerator for me. I always find stuff to do and have a variety of lists where I gather different creative projects.

The Mac and iOS devices do a splendid job at reminding me of my goals and showing me what I could and should do next. The only glitch in the system is me, since it’s me who sometimes ignores the good advice and gets lost in a side-project.

6. How would your ideal setup look and function?

A 13-inch MacBook would be sufficient for me to get things done — I’ve worked with one for years. But since I’m allowed to dream a little bit, here we go:

I would love to trade in the two 24-inch displays for one larger retina display. I hope Apple has something in the pipe to can make the Retina Cinema Display work over Thunderbolt — from what I’ve read Thunderbolt could be the bottleneck there.

Particularly with regard to the high energy consumption of the Mac Pro in combination with the two monitors, I can imagine a more lightweight solution. My number one requirement would be a retina display — be it an iMac or a MacBook with a large retina Cinema Display. The next technical condition would be a multi-bay enclosures that is silent, affordable, and fast (think Thunderbolt) to make up for the 4 drive bays which I would leave behind. I just don’t see the latter three conditions happening at the moment.

Speaking of gadgets, here are some more realistic purchases I plan to acquire. I think an Adonit Jot Pro might do a better job when writing things in the Papers app, and another nice addition to my setup would be the Twelve South PlugBug World.

Besides the above mentioned, switching to a lightweight setup feels far away. Some of my gear speaks another language: my MacBook’s display for instance. The right side on my smallest Mac is malfunctioning — it flickers like crazy. Sooner or later the computer needs to get replaced. The next defect device is my bluetooth Sennheiser. I dropped it on a marble floor because the carabiner with which I attached it to my Ristretto bag snapped open while I was fumbling in the bag. I was toying with the idea of switching the brand. The problem is, I only know of one pair of bluetooth headphones that has no problems switching between multiple bluetooth devices, but it isn’t on par with the Sennheiser quality-wise. So my wish would be a good set of headphones where switching from the Mac to my iPhone or iPad is effortlessly possible. Luckily Airfoil exists and so I will swallow the bitter pill and send in my Sennheiser as soon as I have enough cash to pay for the costly repairing.

Since I talked keyboards before, if I were to buy a new MacBook, this time I would order one with a genuine US English keyboard. And in addition, after reading about Brett Terpstra’s switch to the bluetooth aluminum keyboard here on the Sweet Mac Setups, I can picture myself trying to make the switch to a bluetooth keyboard for my desktop Mac too. I was afraid that I would miss all the lovely extra options for additional shortcuts which a numeric keypad provides, but there are other ways to work around that. A bluetooth keyboard would also work great with the iPad.

The last item on the wish list gadget-wise is a NAS. I’ve being comparing the pros and cons of a NAS vs. a Mac mini lately, and at the moment a NAS server from Synology has the best chances to be one of my next investments. Okay, since this part of Sweet Mac Setups is encouraging dreaming it would be a NAS at home and a Mac mini from Macminicolo.net (which I just can’t afford anytime soon) to have my own powerful server.

That’s about it for the gadgets. In terms of a better workflow I wish that I’d already have a more automated way to post on my blog. On the Mac it’s already happening, but my goal from the beginning was to make it work with the iPad too. I’d like to send my drawings from the Paper app to my (shared) server. Federico Viticci’s has a crazy cool Pythonista workflow, and I hope to get there too. On the server the images should get optimized, filed into my upload directory and the corresponding Markdown image links should be appended to a scratch file.

Another workflow issue I have is when I write something for University. Sometimes Markdown doesn’t cut the chase. Here, with all the footnotes, citations, annotations and references Pandoc sounds like the better solution. I definitely have to look into it (… and Scrivener).

There’s also an application wish I have had for a long time: Listary for Dropbox. I’d like to keep everything that closely resembles a note inside my nvALT folder and I still haven’t found a better list app than Listary.

Lastly, some enhancements for my work environment: I want some nice graffiti for the concrete bricks on my desk.

Almost all of the above is not really important. Like I stated in the beginning. A 13-inch MacBook is enough to get the work done. But there are things that would be great long-term investments. By far my biggest wish is a fancy desk which is adjustable in height so that I can switch from working in a chair to working on a standing desk. The best thing I come across so far is the Anthro Elevate Adjusta (check out this YoutTube video for a short demo of the basic functions).

Along the lines of a more ergonomic workspace my second biggest wish is the Falto Wip 37. I tested it on a trade show years ago and have fallen in love with it since.

That’s it. Sorry for being a chatterbox and breaking the character count record here on Sweet Mac Setups.

More Sweet Setups

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

Patrick Welker’s Sweet Mac Setup

The Kone Brewing System

The Kone Brewing System

In the far-right cupboard of our kitchen you’ll find more than a few coffee contraptions. The most recent addition being the Kone Brewing System.

The Kone Brewing System is a custom fabricated coffee pot, built specifically for the Kone coffee filter.

The Kone filter is a reusable stainless steel filter originally designed for the Chemex pour over pot. The newest and best incarnation of the Kone filter (I think this is the third version Able has made), as well as its accompanying custom fabricated brewing system, were Kickstarted thirty times over last June.

I backed at the $125 level, which got me the whole brewing system with filter as a reward. And it all arrived about two weeks ago. I’ve since brewed 4 pots of coffee with my Kone Brewing System and they’ve all been quite delicious.

The Brewing System

The first thing I noticed after opening the box is how big the Kone Brewing System is. I was expecting the Brewing System would hold around 500ml of coffee, but it actually can hold twice that amount.

The Brewing System is made up of four components: the pot, the filter, the filter casing, and the lid.

Kone Brewing System Components

When brewing, the filter rests inside the casing which rests on top of the pot. When done, you remove the top casing (using the rubber heat shield grip), and place the lid on top of the pot.

It’s an extremely handsome rig, and I’m very impressed with the design. It looks great on the breakfast or dinner table, and it looks great sitting on the shelf in our kitchen.

There is no doubt that the guys at Able put a lot of thought and attention into the entire Kone Brewing System. Everything — from the packaging to the included card of instructions to the filter and ceramic pot themselves — exudes attention to detail, care, and thoughtfulness.

Alas, the Kone Brewing System can only be used with the Kone filter. The ceramic top-piece which holds the filter is, as I mentioned, custom fabricated specifically for the Kone filter. There is no internal “V” shape which could accommodate a paper filter if you wanted — you must use the Kone metal filter.

The Kone Filter

They say the advantages of using a metal filter rather than paper are: (1) reusable; (2) you never have to pay for paper filters again; and (3) metal filters allow more oils from the coffee bean to pass through when brewing, thus making a fuller cup of coffee

You can’t argue with 1 and 2. And if you are making a big pot of pour over every single day, in the long run a metal filter will pay for itself.

As for the taste. Well, I personally haven’t been able to tell any significant difference between a cup of coffee brewed with a paper filter and one brewed with a metal filter. In fact, if I had to chose, I’d pick paper filters.

The AeroPress is certainly my favorite brewing contraption, and I use paper filters with it. I even have a metal disk filter that fits my AeroPress and I haven’t noticed any difference when using it rather than the paper filters.

One of the disadvantages to using a metal filter is that some of the “coffee dust” gets through the filter and into the bottom of your cup of coffee. Such as the grit you get when brewing with a normal french press.

Daily Brew?

When it comes to the day-to-day practicality of using the Kone Brewing System, it is not going to be my new daily driver.

For one: compared to the AeroPress or v60, cleanup of the Kone is more involved and tedious because I have to rinse and scrub the filter to get the coffee grinds out of it. Secondly, the Kone Brewing System is intended for making several servings of coffee — it’s a lot of coffee gear to use and clean for the 10-ounce cup I usually brew each morning.

I see the Kone Brewing System as being akin to my Siphon vacuum pot. The Siphon is quite impractical for day-to-day use, but it’s great for when company is over because it’s so fun to use. The Kone is in a similar category (making table-side pourover is always fun), and it can make almost 3 times as much coffee as my siphon.

If however, I was regularly brewing a larger pot of coffee instead of just my single cup, then a big pour over pot like this is just what I would use each day.

If you already own the Kone filter, the Brewing System is $120 by itself. Otherwise it’s $160 with the filter.

Being one of the Kickstarter backers I was privy to much of the behind-the-scenes of what goes in to the molding, firing, and packaging of the Kone Brewing System. And without significant economies of scale, $160 is probably as affordable as Able could get it. Which is unfortunate because as much as I like the Kone Brewing System, $160 is a hard price to swallow.

My verdict?

As cool and attractive as it is, it’s incredibly hard to justify the extra cost of the Kone Brewing System over a Chemex. The Chemex is just as capable of a coffee maker, but it’s one-third the price, holds 10-percent more liquid, works great with the Kone filter, and also works with paper filters.

The Kone Brewing System

Brand new weather Web app from the folks who made Dark Sky, and it’s jaw-dropping impressive. There’s a lot of weather forecast information here and it’s extremely well laid out and presented. (Via pretty much everyone.)

It’s equally (if not more) impressive on the iPhone.


Simon J Thomas points out some parallels between the time leading up to the iPad and now (amidst the rumors of an Apple iWatch):

All signs point to this being a market Apple could swoop in and corner. If they wanted to. They wouldn’t be the first to market, far from it. They wouldn’t necessarily bring anything new to the market either. But what they can do is produce something that people actually want.

See also the aforelinked article by Cameron Moll.

Comparing the iPad to the iWatch

Over the weekend, Brett Terpstra update to nvALT to use the newer Simperium sync API, rather than Simplenote’s legacy syncing API. Which means nvALT syncing with Simplenote is now faster and more reliable.

In January, when I looked at Simplenote alternatives, I mentioned a bug that existed when using nvALT and Simplenote syncing. In my testing so far with the newest version of nvALT, the previous bug appears to be squashed. New notes created in Simplenote, do not lose any data on their initial sync with nvALT. Brett Terpstra is my hero.

nvALT Update Rocks the New Simperium Sync

Wufoo? Who? It’s a web application that lets you build amazing online forms for your websites.

We host everything. We build the backend. You get an easy, fun and fast way to collect and analyze data, and it even integrates with many payment systems.

With Wufoo you get…

  • Over 200 pre-made templates & themes from our form gallery
  • Ability to customize branding with your own logo and themes to match
  • Integration with over 50 web apps including WordPress, MailChimp, Basecamp, Stripe, etc.
  • Support for beautiful typography with custom fonts and Typekit integration

Just because you’re working with forms and data doesn’t mean you have to do it without personality or style. Gathering information from your users is exciting, why shouldn’t your tools be exciting too?

Experience the difference. Sign up for Free and get started with Wufoo today.

* * *

My thanks to Wufoo for sponsoring the RSS feed this week. I’ve used Wufoo for several projects over the past few years and they’re excellent. Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

Sponsor: Wufoo

David Friedman’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

My name is David Friedman. I’m a New York based photographer and filmmaker, and I have a blog called Ironic Sans for my projects that don’t fit under those other umbrellas.

I currently produce a web series for PBS Digital Studios called INVENTORS. It’s part of a larger personal project creating portraits of inventors from all walks of life, from garage tinkerers to famous legends. A book of extensive interviews and photos is in the works.

I’m married to a wonderful woman who’s an Art Director for Marvel.com, which gives me a good excuse to read comics, and we have a two-year-old son.

What is your current setup?

David Friedman's Sweet Mac Setup

David Friedman's Sweet Mac Setup

My primary computer is an early 2008 Mac Pro. It’s hooked up to a Dell 24″ monitor that’s a bit older than the Mac. The screen is still color-accurate when calibrated (with a Datacolor Spyder), and I’m fine with the size, but I’m dying to replace it with something more densely pixeled. A Retina desktop monitor can’t come soon enough.

I sit next to a large window, which is nice for sanity but bad for color accuracy. The windows have opaque shutters I can close when doing color critical work.

The Mac’s hard drive bays are all in use: Bay 1 is my SSD boot drive — it’s fast but small, so I have my Documents, Downloads, and Pictures folders symlinked to a drive in Bay 2. My iTunes media is on a drive in Bay 3. And Bay 4 has a drive for scratch purposes and other temporary storage.

I have a Western Digital MyBook that keeps backups of the drives in Bays 1 & 2 via Time Machine. At some point I accumulated a second MyBook that I keep around as a Magic Install Disk which has come in surprisingly handy.

I replaced the SuperDrive with a Blu-Ray burner even though optical media is on the decline, because I still like having a write-once copy of my photo archive as a last resort backup. I take comfort knowing it’s impossible to accidentally overwrite a file with a corrupt or altered version. So after every 25 GB of shooting, I burn a disc.

I have a Drobo (2nd generation) which holds the primary copy of my photo archive. Every photo I’ve ever shot digitally for personal or freelance work is connected live and easily accessible.

I use a 6×8 Wacom Intuos3 stylus, switching between mouse and pen more or less equally depending on the task. I own an Apple wireless keyboard, but tend to use the wired keyboard because I like having a number pad.

Both my household and business are mostly paperless. For document scanning I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap S300M. I have a physical inbox currently backlogged with stuff to be scanned.

My monitor has neither camera nor microphone, so I use an old Logitech webcam for rare video chatting and occasional dictation. I’m much more likely to use my iPhone for video chat, usually down on the floor with my son chatting with my parents.

My secondary Mac is a Late 2011 15″ MacBook Pro. I don’t use it most days. It’s mainly for when I’m shooting tethered on location or traveling and need something more than an iPad.

I have a Brother HL-2170W laser printer for document printing, and an Epson R2400 for photo printing.

I usually sit in a Humanscale Freedom task chair (the no-headrest model) I got cheap from a company going out of business. It’s okay.

Why this rig?

It’s the first Mac I ever bought. Here is my switch story:

I’ve always been fairly Apple/PC ambidextrous. Our first family computer was an Apple II (well, a clone). Sometime in the early 90s we got a PC and I learned to use DOS and Windows. Eventually I took that PC with me to college and my parents replaced it with a Mac. When I moved to New York in 1997, just starting out on my own with a small income, I bought another PC. I didn’t think Macs were as affordable, and I already had a lot of Windows software I would need to buy again for the Mac, so a PC worked well for me.

At the same time, I started working in the photo studio at Christie’s auction house. They had just transitioned to a fully digital workflow, a very rare thing in 1997. They were using Macs, so that’s what I used by day, and then went home to my Windows machine. Eventually I left Christie’s to become the staff photographer at Polo Ralph Lauren which insisted I used Windows for corporate reasons. But I continued to be adept at both platforms.

In 2007, I decided to quit my cushy life as a staff photographer and go freelance. I updated my computer to the latest, fastest, and greatest Dell computer I could afford, and it came with the latest and greatest version of Windows: Vista. It was garbage. I hated everything about it.

2007 is also when I moved in with my soon-to-be wife, a graphic designer who had a Mac. Watching her use OS X while I struggled with Vista made it harder to tolerate my own computer. Software for the Mac was more abundant than ever, and the games I used to play on the PC were less important to me.

So in early 2008 I took the plunge. I’d had a good first year as a freelancer, so I could afford to trade up. I got rid of the Vista machine and went all-in with the Mac described above. I kept the Dell monitor. Apple’s switch to Intel gave me confidence that if I really needed a Windows application I couldn’t replace on the Mac I could still run it in a Virtual Machine, and that made the switch easy. I haven’t looked back.

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

Specific to my work:

  • Lightroom for the majority of my photo image editing and maintaining my archive.
  • Photoshop for retouching, but less and less as Lightroom gains more powerful non-destructive capabilities that use all the photo’s raw data.
  • Since I do a lot of video these days, I recently updated to the entire Adobe CS6 Master Collection and use Adobe Premiere Pro. I had been using Final Cut Pro but found Premiere to be more stable and faster, despite some nice features I miss from FCP. I purchased the full version instead of getting a Creative Cloud subscription.
  • Parallels so I can use QuickBooks for Windows, to make things easier for my accountant.

More generally useful apps I use. For OS X:

  • Apple Mail
  • Chrome
  • Busycal
  • Dropbox
  • 1Password
  • TextExpander
  • LaunchBar
  • Tweetbot
  • Spotify
  • Keyboard Maestro — I’m finding more and more use for this handy tool.
  • Isolator for when I want to work in single-app mode but don’t want to run that app full screen.
  • Things went from frustrating to amazing once they worked out their syncing issues. It still lacks features I’d like to see, but it’s my To-Do App of choice.
  • Leap is a great visual alternative to Finder. I use it primarily with my various folders of PDFs. It helps me mentally to just think of Leap as my digital filing cabinet.
  • nvALT for notes. I sync to individual text files on Dropbox.
  • ChronoSync for copying crucial files across drives, specifically because it does verification.
  • CrashPlan for cloud backup.
  • iBank for managing my home finances. I don’t love it, but it gets the job done, and they are clearly trying to make good software in a space that badly need it. I’ve tried other apps trying to solve this problem for the Mac, but settled on iBank.
  • Hazel for automated filing of documents.
  • Pixel City is a screen saver which flies through a procedurally generated city. I’m not usually a screen saver guy, but this one is nice, seldom seen, and not overly distracting when it comes on. Sadly, the Mac port doesn’t appear to be easily available anymore, but I think the source code is free somewhere. If you can find it, make sure you get the 1.1 version for compatibility with recent OS X versions.

And for iOS in no particular order:

  • 1Password
  • Instapaper
  • Reeder
  • Things
  • Google Maps
  • Tweetbot
  • Scanner Pro
  • Spotify
  • Remoteless lets you control the Desktop version of Spotify from your iPhone
  • Fantastical— I’ve tried a lot of iPhone calendar alternatives, and this is the only one I’ve stuck with.
  • Photogene is a full-featured photo editor that’s not trying too hard to be cool.
  • Easy Release is a simple model release app so I never have to worry about having them on hand.
  • FiLMiC Pro — when I need to use my iPhone as an extra video camera, this app lets me match the frame rate of my primary camera (usually 24 frames per second instead of the iPhone stock camera’s 30 frames) and select the bit rate. I confess I haven’t done a real test to see just how well it does what it claims, as I imagine it must use some sort of trickery to accomplish its magic.
  • Instacast (I’m longing for a desktop version to sync with!)
  • Team Coco — I cut the cable cord a few years ago, so it’s great to see full episodes of Conan on here. Although actually I tend to just listen to it when I go to bed.
  • TiVo lets you do everything you’d expect it to do from your phone. Surprisingly useful.
  • Dark Sky is maybe my most-useful weather app.
  • WriteRoom for notes, syncing to Dropbox.
  • Kindle — I use the Mac ecosystem because it’s the best for me, but I know that might not always be the case. Who knows what I’ll use in twenty years? Since Amazon seems to want Kindle on all devices, I see it as the most future-proof eBook ecosystem.
  • Google Authenticator for 2-step verification.
  • Launch Center Pro — more useful than I realized it would be when I bought it.
  • Alien Blue (a nice app for lurking on reddit)
  • Navigon MobileNavigator — for me, this is the best GPS software for driving, but I haven’t tried them all. I quite like it, though. (North America edition)
  • Day One I have never been much of a journal writer, but having a kid changed that. I like jotting down my son’s milestones and adventures.
  • Marvel Unlimited — I’m biased because my wife worked on this, but Marvel Unlimited is an awesome service. I’ve been getting back into comics this year after an extended absence, and this is such a great way to catch up on all the story lines I missed over the years. Yeah, there are bugs (not her fault) and the occasional missing issue in the middle of a story here and there, but I’m sure those things will be ironed out. There is just so much great content here. Access to 13,000+ comics from 70 years of Marvel history for so little money is such a bargain.

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

I’m not sure my current physical setup does much for me creatively, to be honest. It’s mainly the software, and in that sense I benefit from the work other people did. Other people figured out what’s needed in a good video editor before I ever started shooting video. Other people figured out how to capture raw photo data and how to get the most from it. Other people solved a lot of technical problems for me before I even knew I had them. Because of those engineers, obstacles get out of my way and let me just concentrate on getting things done.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

The biggest thing I would change in my setup is its location. I enjoy having a home office, but it’s not isolated enough from the rest of my living space. This makes it tough to separate work from life. I could really use an extra room as my office.

Next, I’d get rid of wires. Unfortunately wireless tech isn’t quite a match for my needs right now, but I hope that changes soon.

Also, I’d have a camera bag that was bigger on the inside than the outside, stores all the gear I need for travel and location work, fits in an overhead bin, and barely weighs anything.

More Sweet Setups

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

David Friedman’s Sweet Mac Setup