I always found reading about others computer setup interesting, in a slightly strange way. Since I enjoy reading such things, it makes sense for me to write such a thing. Hopefully other neverfear members will write similar descriptions too.


Currently I'm staring at a Macbook Pro (15" screen, C2D 2.33GHz, 2GB RAM), running OS X 10.5 (Leopard)

The Macbook (Pro) are good machines, and their touchpads so much nicer to use than every other laptop I've used. The keyboard took a bit of getting used too, but I actually like the layout now (After I got used to Ctrl and Function being swapped compared to my previous laptop)

Connected to this is a Microsoft optical mouse, and a very simple (no function keys! no "enhanced" F-keys!) Logitech keyboard, to a little USB hub I also use to prop the laptop off the desk.

The machine has a 120GB harddrive, 30GB of which I have partitioned to Windows XP, largely for playing games (Currently Crysis, Half Life 2: Episode 2, replaying GTA:San Andreas, and "Live for Speed", a good driving simulator, with a very usable free version), and running PC only software like PFTrack or Fusion occasionally.

I use Parallels Desktop to install stuff in the Bootcamp Partition, grab some files or such. I also use it to play around with new OS's (Currently I have a FreeBSD 7.0 VM to play around with ZFS)

I have two external drives. A Firewire-connected 1TB LaCie drive for downloads, and a 250GB drive connected via USB for backups - I have a bootable OS X 1.4.10 Tiger partition, which also doubles as the TimeMachine backup folder, a partition to backup Bootcamp using WinClone, and a final partition for backing up Aperture and my music). Important stuff (music, my photos and video projects) are stored on both external drives, and I have copies on DVD every so often. On top of that, my favorites are uploaded to Flickr (Something I have to do more often)


One small tip - Make an Applications folder in your home directory. Put downloaded applications in here, and leave /Applications/ for default Apple applications and stuff that has to be installed to run (Final Cut, Parallels - stuff that needs codecs or background daemons installed)

I use Camino as a browser. With the FireTabs input manager (to make Command+[1-9] switch tabs, rather than launching bookmarks..) the only add-on I use. I have Firefox with Stylish, Firebug and LiveHTTPHeaders, which I use when I need to. I use userContent.css to modify various website layouts (Reddit, Digg, Google Reader, GMail and a few others). Some I wrote myself, others are modified from http://userstyles.org

I regularly use TextMate - it is a great text editor (I'm writing this post in it), with a lot of "bundles" (A categorized set of scripts, language defintions and snippets), a lot of which I have modified and tweaked. I also use vim, mostly on remote machines for editing configs and scripts, or locally because I happen to be using iTerm and want to edit a file quickly. On Windows, I use Programmers Notepad 2, and if I ever used Linux as a desktop, I'd probably used GVim.

I use iTerm - which started because Terminal.app didn't support tabs, and was annoying to configure. I've not switched to using OS X Leopard's Terminal.app (which has tabs), because 1) command+[1-9] switches windows instead of tabs, which is silly in my eyes. 2) I have iTerm nicely configured, and Terminal doesn't do anything iTerm doesn't (so it's not worth configuring in my eyes)

Since the laptop keyboard has a £ in place of the # (Being a UK keyboard), I mapped Ctrl+3 to send the hash symbol (Alt+3 types this in regular OS X applications, but the alt is used as the meta key by iTerm, so irssi window-switching works. Ctrl+3 is sensible alternative, and it was unused)

To send the hash code, I put the following in my iTerm "Global" profile:

ctrl+3, send "#"

And the backspace to delete backwards, instead of forwards:

delete, send hex code "7F"
del, send hex code "0x08"

I use backwards delete nearly all the time, so haven't configured Delete to delete forwards yet.

Interface Darkness

Most applications I use are configured to have dark backgrounds, with light text. I have a black desktop background, with this site's fav-icon (The Japanese symbol) centered.

iTerm is configured to use grey text on a black background (with 10% opacity) Camino's homepage is a data: URI, with a base64 encoded HTML file:

<body background-color:"black"></body>

Many websites I use regularly have black themes applied using userContent.css (see http://userstyles.org for such themes. I recommend Reddit@Night and DarkDigg if you use Reddit or digg)

If I could work out how to theme Mail.app and iCal, all my regularly used applications would be coloured as they should - light text on dark backgrounds.

I never liked applications that use a lot of black-on-white: That way your effectively looking at a large lightbulb all day!

Screens are not like books - books create characters by occluding reflected light, so the book is lit with ambient light - ambient light is what your eye is adjusted too. With monitors, to create an image, it's creating it's own light - the more white on screen, the more light it's putting out.

IRC and instant messaging

My IRC and instant-messaging setup is rather complicated.

Basically, I use irssi (in my opinion, the best IRC client ever), and for IM, the bitlbee server and irssi.

I have.. 3 irssi instances I regularly use. One for regular IRC. One for the neverfear IRC. One for bitlbee.

The main IRC and IM ones run on a friends computer (maxkelley - http://craplandia.org ) There are two machines in this setup.. One called herbie (main server, and gateway to the other machine), and sillyrabbit (Less powerful, but more stable and rarely rebooted - it's average uptime is around 130days, compared to about 30-40 for herbie)

On sillyrabbit, I run a screen instance with two irssi windows.

On herbie, I run screen with two normal shell windows, and the other two SSH to sillyrabbit and attach the IRC and IM clients.

Then in iTerm, I have a bookmark to run: "ssh craplandia.org -t screen -xU", which connects to herbie and attaches the screen session (-t forces it to allocate a TTY, otherwise it won't attach the screen session)

Sounds complicated, but the way it's setup, herbie can reboot and the irssi instances remain running. I can relaunch the two irssi instances after a reboot by running "screen" on sillyrabbit, then screen on herbie. I can barely notice reboots to be honest (on running "screen", everything auto-launches, auto-connects and auto-identifies). I'm considering writing a script to launch the screen session on bootup, but it happens to rarely (once every 3 to 6 months) it's not a problem to start it up manually..

For reading RSS feeds, I use Google Reader - I have just over 300 RSS feeds, which make about 200 items a day. About 120 of them I can happily "Mark All as Unread" (I have them assigned to a "zzunimportant" label, as well as their usual category) I have about 20 feeds in "aaread", which I read, then depending on how many time (or patience) I have, I either read the rest, or mark-as-read the feeds in "zzunimportant" and skim over the remainder (Usually about 50 items)

Google Reader is the only RSS reader I can easily read all these feeds in. I have tried several others, but none come close to GReaders "List" or "Expanded" views. Plus the categories, and keyboard shortcuts.

I do use Vienna to check the neverfear.org RSS feeds are behaving, and one or two other non-news feeds. It's closer to an email client in my view.

I did experiment with Newspipe, but the applescript I used to move the RSS-emails to categories kept screwing up the message index (Because Mail.app is buggy..). I may reconsider it if I switch to Thunderbird, or start needing to read RSS items offline (as it includes images in the feed-emails as MINE attachments) The screen-scraping script support is nice, and wrote scripts to include the Ctrl+alt+delete and Explosm comics in the emails, which was great while I had a 256/64kbs connection for a few months.

The Future

For the next 7 months, while I'm in Australia, this setup isn't going to change hardware-wise. Software wise, I may switch email clients to Thunderbird unless the next Mail.app update fixes some stuff (I doubt it). And I may switch from Camino to Safari if I can get the command+1-9 shortcut to switch tabs - it's search function is much nicer than Camino's find box (Inline search with hilighting!), and aside from that there isn't all that much difference UI-wise.

My IM/IRC setup isn't going to change in the foreseeable future, as there's very little innovation the IRC-client front. If I end up using a Windows XP machine as a desktop, I'll possible drop Bitlbee for the regular MSN client (The sound-clips have their uses, and there are a few custom-emoticons I miss while using Bitlbee. :D and :P only go so far..)

In the more distant future, I plan to build a machine to function as a home-server - a lot of harddrives, a MythTV-backend to record/store TV shows and films, and play them back via a fanless machine connected to a TV. A bunch of various servers (streaming music, SSH, SVN/darcs), a bittorrent client. Backup the other machines (particularly the laptop)

The end. Panic

Hope someone found that interesting, and I also hope other neverfear members will write similar articles, mostly for the sake of my curiosity..

Note: It's late. I may go back and add links to the stuff I've talked about tomorrow. And as with all fatigued writing, expect errors.