Welcome to the annual Mako “Things I Like” report for 2018
My workflow and gear is always in flux, and this has been the annual attempt to produce some sort of guide to where I’m at in my evolving setup. This should eventually move to a “living document” — one that I update more frequently — but who has time for that?
The reality is that I wasn’t even planning on writing this up in 2018 until I was pinged by several folks asking “when the annual list was going to be out” — so here we are. This is for you — you guilted me into it, but thanks for prompting me to do this. So this year may be more to the point, rather than a long guide .. but traditions, ya know?
The Audit (from last year)
I find it a worthwhile exercise to audit frequently — Shawn has a great flow that I folllow to keep things fresh and clean:
- Apps — examine the apps on your phone, ipad and laptop — have you used it in the last 2 months? If not, you probably don’t need it
- Media — do you need all those documents/movies/music on your phone or laptop with you? If not, storing things away in iCloud keeps my devices light.
- Higher Learning — do you have time set aside for writing in your journal every day? do you have a few hours aside a week for learning? do you read enough? I make time to journal in DayOne every day — even if it’s just a sentence.
- On the day to day — what is the best way to manage your day, get thru your to-do list, how to deal with the landslide of email, how to optimize reading for content that is most interesting?
I find if I keep auditing myself, I’m able to get thru mundane tasks, and have plenty of time to learn, expand and grow.
This is the number one thing people ask me: how are you so quick to answer emails? Easy: My inbox is empty.
Continuing the general rule that I would not let email overwhelm me for the last several years nor is it my task list, I have been relatively successful at having my Inbox below 5 items before the end of each day. It’s amazing how liberating this workflow is.
The flow is simple and has been consistent for years. For every new mail:
- If I can delete it, I delete it immediately.
- If it’s something that I just need for information or later, quickly goes into the 2018 folder.
- If it’s something that I can answer immediately, I do, and then it goes into the 2018 folder or deleted.
- If it’s something that I need to think about, or take action on, I shoot it over to Things as a to-do item, with tags, a project and a due date. Then it goes into the 2018 folder or deleted.
The process is simple. With extensions on OS X and iOS, the flow is very quick — my inbox is never a dumping ground for tasks.
This year has been a challenge for the “2 device rule” — never carry more than 2 devices in the bag. Given that the phone is a must, I largely carry around the iPad Pro 11” (and the 10.5 prior) — but lately it’s been wearing thin on me. I also need a “work laptop” — which pretty much goes back and forth to the office with me, and just sits docked on the desk every day.
As the year wraps up — I find myself longing to go back to the MB12 and phone setup — or perhaps get an iPhone XS Max to replace the iPad — Apple really needs to get on the ball here and release a 7” iPad Mini Pro.
Like prior years — it’s becoming a never-ending cycle.
Regardless, I ended 2017 with an incredibly simplistic and light setup:
- MacBook 12” (512gb/16gb, 1.3ghz, Space Gray) — Rarely leaves the desk.
- iPhone XS (256gb, Space Gray) — Goes with me everywhere
- iPad Pro 11 (512gb, LTE, Space Gray) — Goes with me for travel, to the office, on the couch, reading in bed, etc.
- Apple Watch 4 Cellular — The 4th generation of the watch is finally what the promise was a few years back. I’m very interested to see where this evolves into, though I never really use it for music or podcasts. I should experiment more with leaving the phone at home.
- MB Pro 13” — work laptop. I hate this machine — its a brick and totally not needed except that work needs certain restrictions/policies to be installed to be on the network — so, it’s lugged back and forth to the office, where it remains a desktop during the day.
At home, there is an ancient Mac Mini “server” that is used to archive media, run Plex, and occasional act as a Docker server when I’m doing development work. I’m somewhat tempted to upgrade this to the latest revision of the Mini, and get a Luna display adapter.
Other gear that I often use or travel with on regular basis:
- Peel Case– super thin and super tough case
- AirPods — regardless of the haters, these are amazing to travel with
- USB C Power Bank RAVPower 10000mAh Portable Charger — went with a charge bank that has USB-C, and have upgraded to USB-C cables everywhere I could.
- Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro 11 — currently using it, but really thinking of switching back to the StudioNeat Canopy and a Magic Keyboard for the rare times I actually need a keyboard.
- Beats Powerbeats 3 — great wireless headphones which have the same Apple W1 chip as the AirPods for insane battery life (12 hours). I typically use these at the desk instead of the AirPods just due to battery life.
- Magic Mouse, Magic Keyboard — At the desk only
- Spigen Wireless Charger and Aukey QuickCharge 3 Charger — I really never thought much about wireless charging before, but it’s just so damn convenient to drop the phone on it.
Travel Kit / EDC
For my daily EDC, I’ve still stuck with the Bolt Crossbody Laptop Bag in 2018. Waterfield makes incredible bags, I ended up with the Black Ballistic and Black Leather trim. It’s beautiful, light and carries quite a bit in a very comfortable format. I also create micro “travel bags” that are designed so I can just pick up one and go, depending what devices (Mac gear vs iPad gear) that I’m bringing with me. Even though there are multiple items in there, they’re actually very small and light and fit in a tiny EDC.
iPad Cable Bag
- Tom Bihn Small Halcyon
- RAVPower Wall Charger Adapter 45W Type-C — since the iPad Pro now is USB-C, carrying this incredibly thin power adapter.
- USB-C Charge Cable — Charge the pad
- USB-C Lightening Cable — Charge the phone
- USB-C Micro-USB Cable — Charge headphones or anything else
- Apple Lightning HDMI Adapter — I may dump this for a just brining a USB-C small/light hub that does HDMI, USB, Power, etc. such as the Satechi Slim Aluminum Type-C Multi-Port Hub Adapter
- SanDisk Ultra 128GB Dual Drive USB Type-C — just in case
I’m experimenting with 2 different “dongle cables” right now to give me the utmost in flexibility of charging.
The first is a “USB-C Dongler”:
- Short USB-C to USB-C cable — Charge the pad
- USB-C to Lightening — Charge the phone
- USB-C to Micro-USB — Charge anything else
The other is a “USB-Classic Dongler”:
- Short USB-A to Micro-USB cable
- Micro-USB to USB-C — plug into a USB-C thing if needed
- USB-A / USB-C Adapter — plug into a USB-C or USB-A device for a charge
- Micro-USB to Lightening — plug into Micro-USB or Lightening
- PortaPow Data Blocker — Never plug a USB device into something to charge unless you own it. Don’t get hacked by a USB charger. It does look like there’s a USB-C version available now, which I need to get.
Mac Cable Bag
I have a similar bag for ‘Mac travel’ which consists of:
- Tom Bihn 3d Organizer Cube
- MacBook Pro 13” USB-C Charger
- PortaPow Data Blocker — See above — never plug a USB device into something to charge unless you own it. Don’t get hacked by a USB charger. I have the USB-C version on order.
- SanDisk Ultra 128GB Dual Drive USB Type-C– just in case
- Satechi Slim Aluminum Type-C Multi-Port Hub Adapter
- Tom Bihn Aeronaut
- Packing Cubes– always using 2 or 3 of these — just amazing for organization.
- Overnight “Bag”
- Aukey USB-C Dual Charger — In desperate need of a better multi-port charge solution here for USB-C devices.
- Apple Watch Charge Cable (USB-C)
- FireTV 4K Stick — Been enjoying just plugging this thing into the hotel TV, connecting it to the travel router, and off I go with my content.
Best of 2018
Couple of major upgrades this year.
- Ubiquiti — absolutely the BEST network gear on the planet. My entire home setup is based on this now, and I couldn’t be happier. Never going back to the over-the-shelf consumer gear after upgrading.
- Pihole — I hate ads. By building out a very simple ad-blackhole — I dont need to install anything on the devices in the house (ranging from Alexa’s to XBox’s to the TV) to drop ads on the floor. This is an incredibly simple way to also increase your home throughput when 25% of your traffic is dropped on the floor.
- Sonos Beam — Since the Home app on iOS never has worked for me, I decided to upgrade the TV’s to a Sonos Beam soundbar with built-in Alexa. These devices are amazing — fills the rooms with amazing sound across all my eco-systems, and provides incredible TV support.
- Aarke Carbinator — Omar turned me on to this one — and it’s every bit as good as he mentions. If you like sparkling water, get one.
- GL iNet 750S Travel Router — Totally digging the gl.iNet micro travel router — built in VPN, adblocker, and fast WiFi. I basically plug it into a wired hotel network, or bridge to WiFi; then all my devices are routed through private vpn when I travel. Works great with the FireTV 4K stick as well.
Brew / Automation
I spent a ton of time earlier in the year making my laptop environment incredibly portable — between some simple shell scripts, app installations via brew, and storing the configuration up in a private gitlab repo — I can rebuild a machine pretty quickly now.
Definitely a subject for a future post — but I keep these configurations up to date to ensure I can blast/recreate my entire environment fairly quickly.
For more to read on it — go search google for “dotfiles” as well as look for a few awesome examples such as JessFraz’s.
Not much change here this year — 2TB iCloud Backup for the family, and the home network is backed up on BackBlaze.
I’ve been doing more and more in 2018 with custom notifications. Inspired by blog posts on Streamlined Pushes and Shell/Watch Notifications, I’ve been wiring more and more intoPushover (available on Mac and iOS).
Pushover is pretty cool — for an incredibly cheap one-time price ($4.99) you can create custom notifications that can be triggered from almost everywhere.
- Using NTFY, I can have long-running shell commands let me know when they are completed. For example — I have a remote shell script that executes YouTube-dl, moves the downloaded video to iCloud Drive, then notifies me. It’s a simple and elegant way to use Siri Shortcuts to download/transcode a video for later viewing.
- I can have alerts and monitoring trigger notifications from the house.
- All my IFTTT notifications are now also wired via Pushover — so I get a notification instantly when a new iOS release is out, or if SpaceX is launching a rocket.
- etc .. the list is really endless.
The idea of a “personal notification system” for things that I really care about (rather than apps just bothering me) is very compelling. I plan on experimenting more with this in 2019.
Apps I currently use
This list contains the apps that I use on a fairly regular basis. Of course, there’s a few other things laying around on my devices, but I audit it pretty regularly.
- Things 3 (Mac and iOS) — moved from OmniFocus to Todoist. See above for more on how I handle lists.
- HBO Go (Web and iOS)
- Netflix (Web and iOS)
- Amazon Prime Video (Web and iOS)
- HD HomeRun (Mac and iOS)
- iTunes (Mac and iOS)
- Music (iOS) — built into iOS now
- Sonos (Mac and iOS)
- Sound Hound (iOS)
- Reeder 3 (Mac and iOS) — my RSS reading is dwindling; will be surprised if this isn’t on the 2018 kill list.
- Pocket (Mac and iOS)
- Plex (Mac and iOS)
- News360 (Web and iOS)
- Medium (Web and iOS)
- Notes (Mac and iOS) — On iOS 11 and High Sierra, the built-in Notes app is now a formidable app to my old Evernote usage. Due to the simplicity of syncing over iCloud, I finally took the plunge this year and haven’t been happier.
- Ulysses (Mac and iOS) — Long form writing (including this document), blog posts, and presentation outlines have found a home in Ulysses. I have 2 main folders: Quotes — I’ve also been experimenting with keeping a “Quotes” folder in Ulysses with shared quotables I discover as I traverse the Internet. Adding to this via the share sheet in iOS makes it super easy to archive them here. Perhaps I’ll use these in a presentation down the line. The second is Deep Thoughts — more “article” snippets that I have been keeping for retrospective and deep thinking
- DayOne (Mac and iOS) — I use DayOne for jotting down simple thoughts daily. Clearing my mind at the start of every day of the “junk” has been really helpful for me to maintain better clarity.
Other Applications and Tools
- Pixelmator Pro (Mac)
- Pixelmator (iOS)
- Keynote (Mac and iOS)
- Numbers (Mac and iOS)
- Halide (iOS) — allows for shooting RAW photos on the phone
- Photofox (iOS)
- Darkroom (iOS)
- Prompt (Mac and iOS) — I use this all the time to SSH into a Mac box — home, or at the office
- Transmit (Mac and iOS)
- Blink — SSH and Mosh client for iOS
- iSH — Really interesting Linux emulator that has extreme promise — can run native apps directly on the phone/pad w/o a jailbreak
Privacy and Security
- 1Blocker (Mac and iOS) — I’ve tried several, but 1Blocker seems to have the best mix of configuration, control and whitelisting. Now with selective blocking, I have upgraded to 1Blocker on both Mac and iOS.
- MicroSnitch (Mac) — Alerts you to when an app or process uses the mic or camera.
- Little Snitch (Mac) — Allows you full control over what apps can do on the network
- KnockKnock (Mac) — Malware scanner for the Mac
- 1Password (Mac and iOS) — The best password manager out there.
- Screens (Mac and iOS)
- Bartender 3 (Mac)
- Caffeine (Mac)
- iStats Menu (Mac)
- Hello Weather (iOS)
- Weather Underground (iOS)
- Gladys (iOS) –
- Scanbot (iOS)
Communications / Social Networking
- Slack (Mac and iOS)
- Wire (Mac and iOS)
- Tweetbot (Mac and iOS)
- Instagram (iOS)
- Flume (Mac) — Nice app to use Instagram on the Mac
Storage / Documents
- iCloud Drive (Mac and iOS)
- Strava (Web and iOS)
- Training Peaks (Web and iOS)
- Garmin Connect (Web and iOS)
- Rouvy (Web and iOS)
- Zwift (Mac and iOS)
- Working Copy (iOS)
- Pythonista (iOS)
- xCode (Mac)
- TextMate (Mac)
- IFTTT (Web and iOS)
- Textastic (iOS)
- VS Code (Mac)