My new mac/my setup

oatsandsugar —  February 28, 2011 — 1 Comment

Traditionally, I have been a PC nerd, a fanatic, in fact.  I’ve been loving Windows 7, and I thought that I would never jump ship.  I was a power user, a customiser, a Windows fan-boy.

Old Apricot Computer

My first computer wasn't an apple or a dell or an IBM, it was a mid-'90's Apricot Computer.

But then late last year my mum bought a Macbook Air.  And then she got a laptop from work.  And then there was a brand new 13″ Macbook Air just lying around.  It had such a pretty hi-res screen, it was so light.  I took it.  At first, I was sure that I was going to install Windows 7 as soon as I could.  But then I promised myself to give OS X the benefit of the doubt, two weeks worth of it.  Two months later, I’m loving it: a proud member of the Macbook Air Club for Men.

I’ve tricked it up a little with some hardware and software tweaks to make it the perfect university machine.  I havent used EndNote on it yet, but if it works well, I’m loving OS X.

The hardware

Apart from my Lappy, this is my setup at home:

  • On my desk I sit my laptop on a laptop riser to get it to eye level (ergonomics, etc.).  Any will work, I like the Logitech one, it is cheap and very adjustable.  They retail for $49.95, I got mine for well under $20.  Bargain.
  • I attached my laptop to a second monitor (of course) via a mini display port to DVI adapter (any will work, I picked up a cheap one that also does HDMI for around $20).  My second monitor is a large, old-school 4:3 aspect ratio dell that I have hooked up in portrait mode for reading and writing in Word.  Its aspect ratio is perfect, since it allows me to view a whole A4 page at a glance.
  • My display also works as a powered USB hub: I connected to it my wireless mouse’s dongle, my iPhone dock and my portable hard-drive (1tb, mine is WD, but any brand will do).  Since I have  an Air, and my SSD (whilst ridiculously fast), is quite small, I host my iTunes library (all my music and my videos) on my hard-drive, alongside my time-capsule backup of my files.  If you have eSata, Firewire 800 or USB 3 on your laptop, buy a drive that is compatible, it’ll make your file transfers much faster.  If you have a USB 2 hard-drive, it can be connected to and Airport Extreme router, and many others too, to make the drive network compatible.
  • I have a Mac Wireless Keyboard, which I love, and got for a relatively good price at JB-Hifi ($85 when I bought my laptop).  It is minimalist, ergonomic, if you use it correctly, and perfect for the system (you aren’t juggling a weird PC keyboard on a mac funky-business).
  • I use a Logitech M950 mouse, which zips around my shiny desk without complaint.  It is chunky, but in a beautifully ergonomic way.  It has extra buttons that you can assign to anything (I assigned mine to Expose functions). I think you can find it for less than $130 bucks.
  • I have an Airport Express in my room, bouncing the wireless signal from one the main house and giving me ample reception. Connected to it I have my speakers, to which I can push music from my laptop, and my printer, which is shared across the network.

The software

The software I found fixed the stuff I didn’t like about OS X, and helped to make my computer feel a bit more comfortable.

The Big Stuff:

  • Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator: to make pretty things.
  • Word, Excel and Powerpoint: to make stuff for university.  Some people love iWork, I’m sure I’d love it too, but it doesn’t work with EndNote, so I can’t use it.
  • Bonus points: you can replace Powerpoint with Prezi (we get a free licence as students) for some interesting presentations.  You can replace Word with Bean or the whole office sweet for OpenOffice for free.


  • Productivity
    • Dropbox for backup.  A must.
    • Notational Velocity, alongside SimpleNote for iPhone, for note-taking
    • Google Chrome for browsing (it is fast, reliable, customisable: my favorite).
    • Things (absolutely the best note-taking app I have ever used: I will be writing up a blog post about it soon).
  • Social:
    • Twitter’s app for tweeting.  Small, sweet, and fun.
    • FaceTime for video chatting.
  • Other:
    • Caffeine, a tiny app that lets you stop your Mac from sleeping: very useful for when you are reading long cases or watching movies in-browser.
    • Divvy, a window management app that allows you to maximise windows.
    • F.lux, a weird app that changes the colour temperature of your screen (how blue or red it is) based on the time to be a bit easier on your eyes (and circadian rhythms).
    • Growl, but everyone knows Growl (a notifications program).
    • Arduino, to play with my Arduino (tres fun if you want to learn to Make electronic stuff).
    • Handbreak to rip DVD’s to iPhone/iTunes friendly file-types.
    • VLC media player to watch every random file type in the world.

So, that’s what I use with my Mac.  Any suggestions guys? send me an email or write-up a comment below.  Many thanks to Lifehacker, BoingBoing and Gizmodo for many of the recommendations..




LLM candidate at Cornell Tech. Consultant for King & Wood Mallesons and Project Evangelist for Legalese.

One response to My new mac/my setup


    I told you you’d covert and love it 🙂

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