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Alex Arena’s sweet Mac setup

Every week we post a new interview with someone about what software they use on their Mac, iPhone, or iPad. We do these interviews because not only are they fun, but a glimpse into what tools someone uses and how they use those tools can spark our imagination and give us an idea or insight into how we can do things better.

New setup interviews are posted every Monday; follow us on RSS or Twitter to stay up to date.


Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Alex Arena. I’m an undergraduate Computer Science student at ASU, and an instructor for the Tuts+ network. As a Tuts+ instructor, I spend my days researching, writing, and recording screencasts for other Mac enthusiasts. That skill set lends itself nicely to podcasting, so I do a bit of that as well.

What is your current setup?

Alex Arena's setup

My current setup is centered around a 15-inch Retina Macbook Pro with a 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 256GB SSD and 16GB of RAM. I run the screen at an effective resolution of 1920×1200 so I’m able to have two or even three windows open, side-by-side, at a time.

My standing desk is DIY hack made out of an old armoire. While I’ve tried other, more traditional standing desks, this is the one to which I keep coming back. In it, I keep an HP OfficeJet All-in-one, a collection of my favorite coffee table books (The Elements of Style, More Information Than You Require, and Shake, to name a few), and an original Braun ET 66 calculator.

On top of the desk sits the aforementioned Macbook Pro, a Magic Trackpad, and a Bose SoundLink Bluetooth speaker. The speaker was given to me as a gift, and while it sounds nice enough, you could do better for its $300 price tag.

For recording, I use a Blue Yeti Pro microphone mounted on a Rode PSA1. In my experience, a swivel mount that you can easily move out of the way when you’re not recording is really worth its weight in gold.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

For daily use, my Macbook Pro runs OS X Mavericks, although I keep the beta builds of Yosemite for testing on an external hard drive.

Safari is really the only browser that feels like its made to run on the Mac, but since it refuses to load web pages half the time, I’m stuck using Chrome as my default browser. I use Tweetbot for Twitter, Reeder for RSS, Simplenote for notes, Dropbox for files, blah blah blah. No surprises there.

Somewhat more interestingly, I use Postbox for email, Sonora for music (although I still buy it from and sync it to my iPhone with iTunes), Soulver as a calculator, and Wallet to store private information like passwords.

I write the scripts for my screencasts in iA Writer, record the audio in Garageband, and the video with Screenflow. To create the preview images for the screencasts, I use Pixelmator.

I use Xcode to write Objective-C and/or Swift and TextWrangler for everything else.

My backups are totally Sweet Setup approved ― I use a combination of BackBlaze, Time Machine, and SuperDuper. The latter run every night on yet another external hard drive. Thanks to USB 3.0, both are able to complete before I wake up.

Finally, I use Spectacle for window management, Sip for color picking, OpenEmu for games, MAMP and Pow for local testing, and Reminders to keep track of it all.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

In terms of both hardware and software, I pretty much have my ideal setup. I guess what I’d really like is a dedicated studio to get the perfect audio in my recordings. At night, I dream of NPR-level sound quality.

Some other things that I wouldn’t mind include a Kindle Paperwhite, a Synology NAS, and a Thunderbolt cable that could handle charging, too.


There are more Sweet Setup interviews right here.