Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Joel Johnson

Joel Johnson


Posted in mac, windows, writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm a writer. I write mostly about science and technology and how those things affect our humanity.

What hardware do you use?

My main work machine is a first-generation unibody MacBook Pro. A 15-incher, which I only got instead of the 13-incher because at the time it was the only one with FireWire. If only I had waited! I connect that to a cheap Dell 21-inch 1080p panel with a Monoprice Mini-DisplayPort-to-HDMI connector, along with a wired Apple keyboard and a Logitech wireless mouse. It's all really rather pedestrian these days. In fact, the nicest thing on my desk really is a pair of Yamaha studio reference monitors which I use to hear the sharpest clarity of crappy MP3s.

I've also got a homemade gaming rig that has Windows 7 on it that pretty much only comes on once a week for a quick game of Left 4 Dead 2 or Team Fortress 2. There's a Mac Mini under my television in lieu of a cable box. Everything in the house is on an Apple Wireless-N network. I have owned tons of Macs and iPhones over the years, but you don't really feel like you've sold your soul to Apple until you buy one of their routers. All my media lives on a Infrant NV NAS with a couple of terabytes of RAID 5 storage.

Because of my job as a tech reporter I have a rotating collection of cameras around the house, but my personal DSLR is an old Canon Rebel XT which hardly ever is used with any lens besides my "Nifty 50" cheap fixed focus. I don't carry it around with me, though, so most of my photography is done with my iPhone 3GS. I have so many camera applications on my phone that when I posted a screenshot of my iPhone home page on Gizmodo, even those dorks were making fun of me.

And what software?

So for words I use Writeroom. I'm all about plaintext, although I really don't need anything besides a simple wordcount and find-and-replace. I'm incredibly distractable, though, so turning on music, shutting down Adium, and letting Writeroom take over my screen is a huge help. My only complaint is that in windowed mode it doesn't have tabs, so my workspace is usually fouled up by a dozen open text files at once.

If I need a spreadsheet I use Google Docs. But I'm a pen-and-paper list person by preference, so I only use spreadsheets to collaborate with others.

I keep Photoshop and Illustrator open at all points. I know there are probably better solutions these days for the light graphics and design work I do, but I've been using both programs in tandem for a decade and I can't imagine using anything else, even if they keep getting slower and crustier.

Really that's about it, software-wise. At least on a daily basis. I was using Chrome as my default browser for a few months until I decided to spend money on 1Password, an application I'm still not sure I like or need.

What would be your dream setup?

I am this close to buying an iMac 27-inch with a quadcore proc and ditching my laptop for the iPad. The only kink in all these plans is editing video, which I find myself doing just every now and again - hence the need for a faster desktop Mac. So selling the MacBook Pro would leave me unable to do heavy video editing on the road, but that's only happened a couple of times in the last year, so I think I'd probably be fine without it. As soon as I see another refurbished 27-inch in the Apple Store I'll probably pull the trigger.

I'm really excited to see if I like using the iPad as my dedicated mobile machine. I've said for years that if Apple would have just let me use a Bluetooth keyboard the iPhone could serve as my mobile workstation. (Even if I would have ended up hunched over it a bit with my flagging eyesight.)

I'm also very nearly ready to buy a Rebel T2i to replace my DSLR and my camcorder. To be able to combine both of those into one device is really exciting for me. I recently bought a Pelican 1510 hard case for my camera gear and I'm finding I end up filling it mostly with accessories like tripods and microphones and lights. That doesn't upset me at all.