Jilles 'uses this'

Jul 26, 2011

Inspired by the articles over at Usesthis.com I thought I would do my own write up in similar vain.


Over the last 8 years all of my hardware has moved into Apple land. When I was still programming professionally I did so exclusively on Debian/Linux systems and that is just what I am most comfortable with. The Mac offers that experience with the notable exception of ‘apt-get’ package management.


For work I mostly use a weird combination of “standard business software” such as Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Skype together with rather geeky stuff. As an example, a lot of times I will automate data gathering with bash scripting or look up how our users are using our sites by writing a Pig script and run it against our Hadoop cluster(s). This turns into the fun combination of me always having a iTerm2 console open, even though I do not program for a living anymore.

Personally I use Gmail for mail, and my public GPG key can be found at keybase.io. As mentioned, I use Skype a lot for international video calls.

My browser of choice these days is Chrome, as it is fast and syncs nicely across all my machines which is great. For a list of places on the web where you can find me, look here. Daily (non-business) sites I frequent are Google Reader and HackerNews. Once in a while Google+, Facebook. Interestingly for me Twitter has become iPhone only: I check it daily but find the UEX on the iPhone just better than their main site.

After seeing internal statistics from some of our large websites and all the hacks that make the news every week I moved to use 1Password with large random generated passwords uniquely for each site. I also enabled two-factor authentication for my Google account the day it came out.

For image processing I am currently using iPhoto but experimenting here and there with Aperture after purchasing a DSLR. Not entirely sure yet on this. I do prune my pictures quite well for each event I have in iPhoto to keep the size of my total library down (see backups further down).

I spend quite a bit of time iTerm2, using things like screen, git, vim, etc. I am quite bought into the Unix mantra there. For someone who likes to keep his programming chops a little bit up to date Github really offers me a nice place to put my small projects and at the same time a way to contribute in small measures to the various open source projects out there.

For media consumption I use Plex on the Mac mini, which is absolutely great. Comes with a whole bunch of plugins to stream content like The Daily Show and I have build up a nice library of ripped DVDs. The Mac mini is hooked up to a large (European standard) television, but it will also stream the content to the iPad or iPhone in a pinch if needed.

For my weblog (that you are reading now) I had great fun geeking out with Jekyll, creating a fully automated build system using Rake and hooking it all up with a self created low-key template. These are no great feats of engineering, but good fun for a geek in any case. As an example, using wget and some scripting the build system will fail when this blog has any internal links that 404. You will find my code on my Github page. (Also see the colophon.) To ensure I can always reproduce the entire setup to blog, there is a Vagrant file including a hackerish shell provisioning script.


I have a tick for trying to preserve most of the things that I made or had a hand in creating. This means that I have a digital photo collection that goes back to when my ancient Nokia phone had a 320x200 pixel camera. In addition any software, documentation, research papers, fun websites, assembler code for microprocessors, etc, I have written goes into my “Lifetime Archive”. Not sure why, nostalgia is partly an answer but it definitely also has it’s uses.

I now have also started this process for my offline life. Having moved internationally twice now, paper (and especially “accessible” paper) is just hard. So I have started to scan most important documents and store those into my “Dead tree archive” which is a collection of PDFs that combine the graphical scan with OCRd text.

As for SaaS providers like Gmail, Github, Google Docs, etc. all get pulled down locally by a cronjob every day or week and disappear in my Lifetime archive. This primarily got instigated after Delicious threatened to close down. (I consequently moved to Pinboard).

The total of all of the above, including pictures, is roughly 100GB.

Having only scarcely recovered my CD-ROM backups from 2001 (needed to combine 6 different disks to recombine the whole archive) I now store all this on my iMac and backup religiously:

The NAS is a Synology DS1512+ filled with 4TB disks, giving plenty of space for all the pictures (both straight out of camera as well as edited), all raw material for home movies (think of the kids!) and the edited movies, etc. The Synology comes highly recommened (ease of use) and has been operating since January 2013 continuously without any issues.

Perhaps it is a bit overdone, but I am now reasonably certain I can get to the binary/text files in the future. A bigger concern now becomes document compatibility. For example, I have a load of Electronics engineering reports I wrote in WordPerfect 5.1 that are starting to look quite garbled.


I often suggest Apple should start making a subscription hardware service: I wire a pre-determined amount dollars to their bank account. In return they send me within one week of their product launch, whatever they are launching in a set of predetermined categories (think: laptop, desktop, iPhone and iPad). Would that not be awesome?

I am pretty happy with my setup this far. If you have any questions or would love to contribute, fire away in the comments below!