The Setup

My friend and colleague Doug Belshaw asked me to join a community doing something interesting. Usesthis.com has loads of creative people talking about the tech they use to be creative. Here’s my setup (Jan 18, 2017):

1. Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi, I’m Laura.

Laura Hilliger, I evangelize for open practices and squishy human stuff in the workplace. I have a Masters in Media and Education and am fascinated by what all this technology is doing to our identities, our societies, our inner-most us-ness. I believe that working openly and sharing what you know makes for a more equitable and productive society, so I help people learn what “open” means in a professional environment. I spent 5 years at Mozilla, co-founded the We Are Open Co-op and have been working with Greenpeace for about a year and a half. I’m also an Ambassador for Opensource.com and generally get around in the FOSS community. Just Google me or reach out, you’ll find out a lot. I like to make things and I like to write. So I design, develop, document, teach and otherwise use my technology to work for organizations and projects that are working for a better world. I also write fiction sometimes.

2. What hardware are you using?

I’m writing this on a 2012 MacBook Air and just ordered a 13in MacBook Pro without Touch bar TODAY. It was a hard decision. I’ve been thinking about moving towards open hardware AND open software a lot lately. But in the end, I chose a new MacBook Pro because there’s some software I didn’t want to go without (and the open alternatives didn’t blow my mind). My new pro is specced up to 16gb RAM and 512gb SSD. I also had to order a bunch of adapters :/

I have a couple monitors, one’s a Dell, the other an LG. I don’t care much about color accuracy because everything I do is web based and prototypes, so these monitors are fine. I have bluetooth mice and keyboards too. I also have a Seagate Free Agent Go, which I don’t back up to nearly enough, and about eight dead externals that have stuff going back to the early days of computing. If you rummage around in my attic, you’ll find a Zip Drive, a bunch of 3,5s and this one floppy disk my elementary school provided for me in 1988. I have no hardware to read this disk, but I’m sure there’s something genius on it.

My Nexus 5x is always running the latest Android.

3. And what software?

The irreplaceable software which lead me to sticking with Apple is Scrivener. Although they tried to get a Linux version out, the devs gave up and I use Scrivener to write everything. Gone are the days when I write directly into anything web based, I’ve lost too much work that way. I have a few files – one with all my blog posts in it, one for talks I give, one for each book I’ve written or started writing…I use Libre Office for short documents, less than 5 pages, and a single spreadsheet that tracks my accounting. I’m starting to use web apps for accounting though, so hopefully I’ll kill the spreadsheet in 2017. I also bought a copy of YNAB last year, which was a good investment. It’s amazing how little insight the typical person has into where their money goes. The software has graphs and charts and if you actually use it regularly, you can see how much money you spend on the tiniest things.

I organize my workflow using Evernote, and I draft my newsletter there too. I’ve tried a bunch of different Mail programs and always come back to Apple Mail and Calendar (pulling in Google Calendars, of which I have several). That’s just habit. I want to use Gmail because I have several accounts, but the way Google makes me login and out is annoying. I’m always looking to optimize this part of my workflow – planning my weeks in Evernote, filling up Calendar and living in Apple Mail isn’t a source of pleasure, really.

I use Skype, unfortunately, Slack with great pleasure, LimeChat for my old school IRC friends and open source projects. I have Tweetdeck and Spotify open on a regular basis. I code with Coda 2, which is fantastic, use Terminal to push to Github, and an old copy of Fireworks for all my quick web image needs. From time to time I design things in Adobe Illustrator and I open Photoshop like once a quarter, usually to run a batch of some kind. I used to write curriculum for Adobe and was given CS5 once upon a time. I still use that, it’s enough.
I use LastPass, but am enthralled with Passbolt – I hope they’re successful, it’s going to be a great piece of software. I use Firefox most regularly because the Awesome Bar and my Brain are very close friends. I recently found a 4 year old etherpad, I don’t trust that I’d find all the things if I switched browsers.

4. What would be your dream setup?

Well if we’re going to talk about dreams, I’d wish for a new computing platform entirely. No more keyboards and mice. No more monitors and power cables. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but my dream setup transcends modern computing and let’s me use my body more. I’d like to snap my fingers, open a display at eye level and swoop and swipe and stuff. Tony Stark style.

If we’re staying in reality, I’d like to have a Lenovo X1 Carbon running MacOS :/