My Tools of the Trade

Or, I’m a Programmer and this is how I roll.

Frequently people ask me kind of tools I use to work, so I’ve decided to write this post so I can refer people to it as my answer to the question “What kind of apps do you use?”, and the classic “How is your set up at home?” I believe this will be a better answer than trying to remember everything right at the spot.

To begin with, you should know I’ve been working from home since the very beginning of 2010. The story of how I ended up working from home is out of the scope of this post, but some day I might even tell you guys that story. Any way, I work from home, and have had quite a few set-ups and as for now I feel really comfortable with the one I currently have.

Initially I used to work on a Macbook computer which one day simply just refused to run. As you can see, I do have a reason to not like those [insert your favourite adjective here].

When that piece of crap stopped working, I went on and installed ubuntu on a Dell laptop I had mere bought for the sole purpose of testing on IE (Internet Explorer). Ever since then I’ve been using Ubuntu. By the way, the Macbook crashed around mid 2009, so since 2010, when I started freelancing, I’ve working using Ubuntu.

Back when ubuntu didn’t have unity, and we were all happy with Gnome shell, I used to work with 12 virtual desktops. It seemed efficient back then, but now it just feels a bit of an overload of workspaces. Then unity and its fixed 4 workspaces came along. I had to adjust myself to this new seemingly insufficient and inefficient restriction  placed onto me by unity.

Things worked out pretty well, I learned to have less windows open at the same time and reuse workspaces. Then I had the idea of connecting a second monitor to my laptop, and that is when I saw cats flying around my home-office. Having 2 monitors has been the best setup I’ve tried, but I dream of having 3.

So, after the long intro, here is my current setup.

I currently work “from the floor”. I don’t have a desk and a chair, mostly because I’m too lazy to look for a desk. I have a small table ($45.00 at a Korean marker) that I use for my computer, and the monitor has a high-enough stand. I use a comfy floor chair I bought for $70.00 bucks at a Korean market. The chair is very comfortable and has an adjustable back support with 5 different position going from completely flat to about 100 degrees. I alternate between positions to make it easier on my back.

I also have an extra monitor that I bough for $50.99 at a famous thrift store. The monitor is an IBM ThinkVision L191P, a bit outdated, but gets the job done.

Recently I acquired a Logiteck keyboard an mouse set (Cordless Desktop E100) for $14.00. Not your dream set, but definitely gets the job done.

As for my software tools, I use a combination of vim and textedit to develop, GIMP for the occasional design job and Firefox with a few developer tools.

I use VirtualBox OSE to run a virtual Windos XP install to test in IE 7 & 8. I have IE tester to test in IE7 and a real IE8 install.

Today I started to use twitter.com again, after the many limitations of Gwibber finally got me tired. On firefox I have 4 tabs pinned as apptabs. The first is hotmail, second google +, 3rd Google Reader, and 4th is Facebok. From these the only one I really use throughout the day is Hotmail, and in less frequency Google Reader.

Here is a screenshot of how my desktop looks right at the moment of writing these lines:

The single application that is running all the time is Firefox, and if I could I would have everything running in it. For example, I know many people like to have an email client, I instead love the usefulness of having hotmail open perpetually on firefox.

The programs that I use on Ubuntu besides the previously mentioned GIMP and Firefox are Chromium (Not Chrome), Opera, Shotwell, and Skype.

I don’t much like the idea of filling up my computer with the last hits of the moment, a big collection of movies or the pictures of my niece’s birthday. I regard my computer as a working tool, not a box of memories or an entertainment system. My box of memories is a 1TB external HD, and my music player is youtube. I tried grooveshark but never really loved it. I might try it again later.

Old projects all go to  the external HD. I do have, however the photos of the current year on the computer. When the year ends, I transfer them to the external HD. This makes it easier for me to find and edit pictures to upload to my deviantart page.

There might be things I’m missing, and when I remember them I will come back and update this post.