The Setup — Tech I Use

Edited August 18, 2018

I love The Setup. If you haven’t read it before, it’s a simple blog that posts real nerdy interviews twice a week about the gadgets people use to get things done. In fact, I love it and the format so much that I decided to list my “tools of the trade” in the form of a self-interview right here.

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m a Project Manager working on Facebook’s Community Operations team in Menlo Park, California. In my spare time, I enjoy reading on my Kindle, going for long walks, and traveling. I’ve written on a bunch of tech blogs before my stint with Facebook, but I don’t quite find time for that anymore.

What hardware do you use?

My Amazon Echo usually wakes me up in the morning. I start my day with a generous serving of caffeine — preparing this typically features a Baratza Encore burr grinder and this JavaPresse Pour Over Dripper unless I’m in the mood for a French Press in which case I go with my trusty Bodum Chambord.

At work, I use the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga 2. I recently moved back to using a PC at work after using various MacBook Pro/Air models over the last 6 years, but my tipping point was a recent upgrade to the 2017 MacBook Pro 13” model. The new butterfly keyboard was interesting to type on at first, but a few weeks later I started missing keyboards with better travel. About three months in, the laptop stopped working because of overheating just before an important presentation and I decided I needed some time away from whatever is up with Apple’s hardware design in the past couple years.

At home, I use an Asus ZenBook UX330UA powered by an 8th gen Core i5 CPU. I use it for long-drawn video calls with the parents and use for casual web browsing and practically anything that isn’t work-related. It was a pretty good deal at about $700 and I fully understand why Wirecutter loves this machine more than laptops almost twice the cost. It’s usually alongside an inexpensive HP monitor I picked up on Amazon.

When getting around, I carry an iPhone 8 and the Essential PH-1 mostly because I can’t bring myself to be entirely happy with either iOS or Android. I like to use the iPhone during the day at work since it doesn’t contain a lot of apps that tend to distract me and in the evenings, I put the iPhone away and almost exclusively use the Android phone when needed to maintain some sense of work-life balance. This combination has been working out okay although it can get tedious carrying two phones sometimes especially when traveling.

For reading, I own a Kindle Paperwhite and I love it! Of late, I’ve been devouring quite a few paperbacks but I always carry the Kindle on my travels in case I get done reading my current book.

I consciously avoid using my laptops for video streaming and stick to my TCL Roku TV for that — just my way of compartmentalizing work vs. leisure time. I don’t always succeed in doing this, but I try and enforce it as part of my workflow as much as I can.

I track my movements and sleep with a Fitbit Alta HR and it’s also great to compete with my ~50 friends on Fitbit and stay motivated.

I’m mostly plugged into a Bose QC35 when working and/or flying. It’s definitely a bit of an investment and despite buying with the full intention of returning within 30 days, I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. I also use AirPods when I’m out and don’t exactly want full noise-cancellation — they’re surprisingly great for running and haven’t fallen off my ears yet. When I’m home looking for some background music, I turn to all my Echos and Spotify Connect to do the job.

And what software?

On my phones, I have no surprises — Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and whatever the cool kids are currently on these days. I use Outlook for iOS a lot during my workday and it’s far better than the stock Mail app (especially if you’re having to use Office 365). For work, I use Quip and OneNote a lot. I’ve lately been trying to organize my life with Todoist and pretty impressed with what it can do.

As far as software goes, my list is quite modest with Google Chrome and Outlook open most of the time. I get on a lot of video calls on BlueJeans and Workplace

I travel often for work and use TripIt Pro pretty extensively. The points tracking feature is quite nifty in keeping me sane while still being able to travel hack.

What would be your dream setup?

I’m not very ambitious, but having some of the following aspects around would make me happier than I currently am.

  • Kindle-like battery life on everything.
  • A way to make great espressos at home without splurging on a fancy machine. I occasionally use a Moka Pot but it’s not quite there yet.
  • Being able to live in a world where any USB-C port can deliver power, support thunderbolt, transmit audio, and basically perform anything thrown at it. It doesn’t feel like we’re anywhere close to it.
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