Stuff I Use
The stuff I use every day to keep myself organized, efficient, and entertained.
Updated July 2017

Phone

I was an iPhone user for a long time, but recently jumped ship for the Galaxy S8+. The S8 is a great looking and great feeling phone; it takes fantastic photos and has one of the best displays I’ve ever seen. It took a week or so to get used to Android but I’m generally happy with the switch.

photo of galaxy s8 plus

Tablet & Kindle

I have a first-generation iPad Air. I don’t really use it much at home, but when I’m traveling it’s indispensable. Before a long flight, I load it up with games, magazines, newspapers, and all the TV shows, and movies that I’m behind on.

These days, most of my reading happens on my Kindle Paperwhite. I’ve had it for a couple of years now, but I’m no rush to upgrade; the only thing that could convince me would be a waterproof version.

photo of ipad and kindle

Headphones & Earbuds

When I’m walking or riding public transit, I use an old pair of Bose earbuds. On longer trips I use the Shure SE215-Ks which sound amazing and are super comfy.

At work I use Bose QC15s to keep out the noise of an open workspace. At home, I use Audio Technica’s ATH-M50s, though I recently purchased a pair Senheisser 6XX from Massdrop and am looking forward to the upgrade.

When I discovered that the M50s could be modified to make their 3.5mm cable detachable, I spent a long night of cursing and burning myself with a soldering-iron until I’d done the same to mine.

Computers

Windows Desktop

My desktop computer is a custom-built tower in the most minimalist case I could find. On the inside I’ve got an 8-core AMD processor, 16 GB of RAM, a GTX 1070, and a closed-circuit liquid cooling system.

I run Windows 10 in tandem with a headless instance of my favorite Linux distribution ArchLinux; this allows me to run all my unix-only builds and compilation in the command line while editing and viewing files with native Windows apps.

photo of desk ballard 2
photo of jarvis desk
photo of macbook
photo of tower

Macbook

For my laptop, I have a 12-inch Macbook. I bought it to replace an aging Retina MacBook Pro and couldn’t be happier. It’s super lightweight, the screen looks fantastic, and its powerful enough to handle everything from various software projects, to quick Lightroom edits.

Media & Storage

In addition to my laptop and desktop, I have a tiny Intel NUC and a Western Digital NAS which I use to store all my media as well as RAIDed backups of my RAW photos. Eventually I’d like to get rid of the Intel NUC altogether and have the NAS run the show, but for now most NAS devices just don’t have the processing power I’d need.

Mouse

I own two Logitech MX Master – one for work and one for home. It feels and looks great and the battery lasts forever.

Keyboard

I bought my first mechanical keyboard in college, but I’ve only just recently started to dive a bit deeper into the world of custom keycaps and boards.

At work I use a Filco Majestouch Convertible 2 in tenkeyless with Cherry MX Black switches and Grade SA keycaps. I love the Filco – it’s super sturdy, and it’s one of the only wireless mechanical keyboards on the market.

photo of keyboards
photo of filco majestouch 2 tkl convertible

At home I’m currently using a full-size CODE Keyboard with Cherry MX Green switches, and a 60% Anne Pro with Gateron Blue switches. The CODE was a great introduction to mechanical keyboards, but over time I’ve realized that the Cherry MX Greens are a bit too heavy for my preference.

Alexa

I’ve owned the Amazon Echo since it was ‘pre-released’ to select customers in 2014. It’s become an indispensable part of my daily routine ever since. I use it to control my home theater, listen podcasts and the news, and to control my lights.

I’ve got both a Echo Dot and a full-sized Echo which I keep in my bathroom and bedroom respectively.

photo of google wifi
photo of alexa 2
photo of alexa dot

Google Wifi

When my roommates and I moved to our most recent apartment, we found that our old router wasn’t reaching the opposite side of the apartment.

I decided to give Google’s ‘Mesh Network’ router Google WiFi a try. So far I’ve been pretty impressed. The mobile configuration app is great, and I get full signal everywhere in our ~1,700 square-foot apartment using only two points.

Home Theater

When my roommates and I moved in together, we combined resources to put together a projector-based home theater. We’ve got an 1080p Optoma projector that we project onto a screen we made ourselves.

Our home theater is configured in 5.1 surround sound; the speakers and subwoofer are both from Cambridge Audio.

I didn’t know much about audio until I did a co-op at an audio company in China. While I was there, I was able to pick up a ton of high-quality audio equipment that I would never have otherwise been able to afford. I left China with an entire suitcase full of speakers.

I cut the “cable cord” a long time ago and have been streaming Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video happily ever since. I use both the latest generation Apple TV and an Amazon Fire Stick. I also have a Steam Link which I use to stream the occasion rounds of Rocket League or Grand Theft Auto to my TV.

photo of speaker
photo of projector
photo of sub 1
photo of steam controller
photo of switch

I also play games on my Nintendo Switch. I hadn’t owned a console in years, but when the switch was announced, I was excited to jump back into it. I’ve always love Nintendo’s games, and was super interested in the portability of the Switch. So far, I’ve played Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart and I have not been disappointed.

Camera

I bought my first real camera - a Sony NEX3 - in 2013. I’d always wanted to learn more about photography and I was headed back to China for a few months for work and had always regretted not owning a camera the first time I lived there.

photo of sony a7
photo of sony rx100 gopro

Since then, I’ve learned a ton, and been through a number of cameras. Most recently, I’ve made the jump to full-frame with the Sony A7. I bought it with the surprisingly good 28-70mm kit lens, and picked up Sony’s low-cost 50mm prime. I’m pretty happy with this combination, and I don’t see myself spending any more money on glass until the Sony FE lens selection increases and prices come down.

I also own a first-generation Sony RX100. I bought it used for a really good deal because I wanted something that I could bring with me any time I needed to pack light or was worried about damaging the A7. It takes some really amazing shots for its size; I’m constantly impressed by the quality of the images and videos it produces. Sometimes I can’t even tell the difference between its post-processed images and the A7’s.

I don’t do a lot of stuff that I really need an action cam for but when I’m diving or snorkeling or want to take a time-lapse the GoPro Hero is a great companion. Its image and video quality aren’t great, but the pictures I take in the ocean are really more about the fun, so I don’t mind.

Software

Development

I do most of my website’s development in an even mix of VIM and Atom Editor with the latter being used to write most of my actual content in Markdown as well. I’m a longtime user of the Z-Shell and its indispensable plugin manager antigen. My Linux distribution of choice is Arch Linux because of both how fast it is to install and how quickly it boots up.

Photography & Design

I subscribe to Adobe’s Photography Create Cloud plan. It includes both Lightroom and Photoshop, though I really only ever find myself using Lightroom, and I kind of wish it was possible to only subscribe to one and not both for half the price.

I’m not much of a designer, but when I want to quickly mock up a new page or UI for something, I usually do it in Sketch. It’s super easy to learn and quite cheap relative to Adobe’s full suite.