Using This 2020 Edition

Once every couple of months I check new interviews on The Setup. I do it to compare workflow/tools and to occasionally discover a new piece of software to try out. I thought it’d be interesting to do something similar once every year. Some tools will probably be forgotten, but some will probably stay in use for decades to come (looking at you, Emacs). So here’s my “setup” for 2020.

Summary : What I think about certain services or products changed since the last time I made this list. My patience ran out when it came to other ones. And sometimes I was just an accidental fashion victim (because our industry is fashion driven, as Larry Ellison once said).

Themes: Moving off of cloud services. Less subscriptions.


Day to day I use a Mac mini (late 2018). I expanded RAM to 32GB myself and saved a few hundred GBP compared to what Apple charges on their website. It’s a neat piece of hardware - almost silent unless I’m compiling something. The mini is connected to an LG 27UK850 display which has USB C ports and bad speakers (which I don’t use, I have a Creative Muvo 2 speaker under the screen). The Razer keyboard I use with my desktop still works so for the mini I added a Razer BlackWidow Lite (white).

I also use a MacBook Pro (mid 2014) which still works great but I use it much less than I used to because of the mini. I’m not a fan of what Apple has done to the MacBook Pro line, so I hope my machine will last for another year or two. Or however long it takes them to fix the keyboard.

I still have my old desktop but I barely use it anymore. Mainly because how slow one of the spinning hard drives feel. Windows is on an SSD drive but most of my software is on a hard drive and it takes forever to load.

My iPad mini has been decommissioned because it became unbearably slow. So right now I’m using an 9.7” iPad Pro that I bought in 2016 (with a Pencil and keyboard cover). Unless I really need a laptop, I take the iPad with me when traveling.

As for other hardware: my Sony headphones finally fell apart, so I replaced them with a pair of Roland RH-300. Also, I finally caved in and got myself a Kindle (one of the cheaper ones, with backlight): it’s nice to have a device that you’re not afraid to throw around. It’s like a real paper book in that respect.


Writing code happens mostly in Emacs, Xcode and sometimes IntelliJ, GoLand or Sublime Text. I no longer use Cursive due to IDE becoming sluggish after a few hours of use (I haven’t used Cursive in last ~2 years, so it may be fixed). But I’ve started using Git Tower regularly. I’m thinking of switching to Sublime Merge because of Tower’s subscription pricing model. And ack has been replaced by ag. zsh is the default on almost all machines I own (I don’t bother changing whatever the default is on AWS instances and Raspberry Pi).

I’ve pretty much stopped using Dropbox and Evernote. Both of those services prioritize features I don’t care about and want to charge way more than I’m willing to pay. Dropbox has been replaced by a combination of Resilio Sync and iCloud. Evernote’s duties are now fulfilled by Devon Think. You Need A Budget became a subscription web app with not so great performance. But to be honest, the desktop app was sluggish, too. I tried to find a replacement, but there was nothing quite like it.

I still like to use ia Writer for writing and Omni Focus for task management. When I need to make a diagram I use Scapple. Very simple (and limited) but so far I didn’t need anything more fancy.

For backups I’m using a combination of Time Machine and Arq Backup. Windows Box still uses MAX Backup.

I’m into photography but I’m not a fan of subscription pricing and Adobe in general, so I’ve replaced Light Room with Luminar 3 earlier this year. Unfortunately I’ve after becoming more and more frustrated with Luminar’s performance (opening any photo takes multiple seconds until it is displayed without weird artefacts), so I bit the bullet and switched to Capture One.

I’ve definitely found an alternative for Photoshop, though. Affinity Photo is great and does pretty much all I need. It’s possible to follow a lot of Photoshop tutorials with Affinity Photo just fine (usually with some googling to find out how to do equivalent operation in Affinity).

I still use Blender for modeling and Substance Painter + Substance Designer for texturing. Photoshop has been replaced by Affinity Photo.

One thing that made its re-appearance in my life last year the Amiga. Partly through Amiga Forever where it’s possible to sort of see how Amiga OS4 looks like. I say “sort of” because the performance is bad and things often stop working (I don’t know if it’s the fault of the emulation or the OS itself).

Windows & OS X