Why I got a Kindle and set a goal to read 24 books in 2017
My desktop computer usage is primarily comprised of photo editing with Adobe Lightroom, basic web development, occasional gaming and light video editing with Adobe Premiere Pro. After two years with a 27" 5K iMac, I started to want something faster.
While the 5K display on the iMac is unbeatable, the inability to run top of the line hardware was starting to get to me. I really wanted a much, much faster GPU and was interested in going with Windows 10 this time instead of a hackintosh build as I have done in the past. And with a PC I would have access to the latest PC games.
I ended up building a Windows 10 PC for the task and wrote about it in detail in my longest article yet: Building a Lightroom PC.
Published my longest blog post ever: 32,000 words on Building a Lightroom PC: Why I switched to Windows and built a water-cooled 5.2GHz 6-core editing machine https://t.co/FGRUr85JKO pic.twitter.com/qnWCT8Bnra— Paul Stamatiou 📷 (@Stammy) January 22, 2018
For 2019 I plan to downsize a bit and build a mini-ITX based desktop PC.
While I do the heavy lifting on the PC, I take care of my casual couch and travel computing with my iPad Pro. I used to have a 13" Touchbar MacBook Pro that I used for the majority of my casual computing but I ended up getting rid of it after finding a way to weave the iPad Pro into my daily life. I wrote an article about how I use it.
12.9" iPad Pro
2nd Gen, 256GB
tilt & pressure sensitive
Apple Smart Keyboard
While I've had iPads and other tablets in the past, I never found a way to incorporate them into my daily routine. I think the difference here was that I opted for the huge 12.9" version and it feels like such a great way to browse websites and media. And second, the Smart Keyboard is fantastic. It's full size and I can type quickly on it.
My iPad Pro is not the latest generation with Face ID and USB-C. I had considered upgrading but my current model still does everything I need. I would consider upgrading if/when Apple expands iOS to allow for better external storage support (and the ability to import photos directly into any app and not require it goes to the Camera Roll first). That would allow me import hundreds of gigs of RAW photos and videos while traveling, and then move them to an external SSD.
I do the vast majority of my computing on my iPad Pro, and heavy lifting and photo/video editing on my desktop PC.. but there are times when I need to do some of that on the go. When I need to do more advanced web development while traveling (usually when at home for the holidays), I use my Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon.
Unboxing my new Thinkpad X1 Carbon 😍. Going to use it for some basic Lightroom/Premiere Pro on the go. 2.5lbs! pic.twitter.com/boC1dgnnzm— Paul Stamatiou 📷 (@Stammy) November 14, 2018
Why a Windows laptop though? I have become very acquainted with Windows 10 after setting up my Lightroom setup on my desktop PC and was also impressed with WSL, allowing me to run all the Linux things I need to easily develop this website. I had a 13" MacBook Pro before this that I sold when I began doing everything on my iPad Pro, but recent travel and the need to do a lot of photo editing while wrapping up my Africa photosets predicated the need for a laptop.
And beyond that, the X1 Carbon has some pretty impressive specs: 2.5 pounds, an LTE modem, a user-upgradable 1TB NVMe SSD, a fantastic keyboard with good key travel (much better than the MacBook Pro keyboard), a fingerprint reader, an upgraded bright 500 nit IPS display with 100% AdobeRGB coverage and Dolby Vision HDR support. And the best part: a mix of USB-C and USB-A ports, along with USB-C charging.
I'm not a watch person. Haven't been for a decade. Always felt it was annoying to have on my wrist and annoying to have on while typing.. but I became more and more intrigued with all the health tracking functionality that the Series 4 Apple Watch brought to the table, including the new ECG feature. So I got one and surprisingly I fell in love with it and have been wearing it daily (and nightly) since I got it.
Alright I got my first Apple Watch. Series 4 40mm. Wanted the lightest one. Not really a watch person but now I’m thinking I just had a bad experience with my last heavy link band chrono years ago. This thing is light! Most curious about the health tracking ❤️ pic.twitter.com/W4yVLfLmZa— Paul Stamatiou 📷 (@Stammy) September 26, 2018
The heart rate and activity/workout tracking is first rate (I also love a sleep tracking app called Pillow). Controlling music on the go from my wrist is great. Having notifications on my wrist is of course a nice to have—don't always need to pull out my phone for what likely ends up being a notification requiring no action. Then I found myself using Apple Pay more and more as it was so convenient. I opted for the smaller 40mm non-LTE model and a few straps: black sport loop, black sport band, olive sport loop, space black milanese loop.
Of course this does mean one thing: my primary phone is now my iPhone X and not my Android. I love Android, but the Apple Watch software and hardware is so compelling. I haven't found any Google WearOS devices that can come close, mainly in terms of aesthetics.
I have been a huge fan of Logitech mice for decades. Their recent workhorse, the Logitech MX Master 2s, is no exception. The mouse fits me very well and there's a bunch of button customization you can do with their software. Charging is pretty easy with a micro-USB cable in the front. It can operate over either Bluetooth or the included USB dongle. I prefer using it with the USB dongle; seems to have fewer issues.
As for my keyboard of choice, it's the Apple Magic Keyboard. It's considerably more compact than previous models and takes some getting used to with the reduced key travel. However, it charges and instantly pairs with a lightning cable so there's no more pesky battery swaps.
I also have the admittedly funky-looking Logitech MX Vertical mouse that I switch to temporarily at times to reduce occasional wrist RSI pain. I'm getting old...
Logitech MX Master 2s
Logitech MX Vertical
USB-C, vertical wireless mouse
Apple Magic Keyboard
After using cheap desks for a decade I thought it was time to invest in a high-quality desk for the next decade. In particular I wanted a sit/stand desk that I could easily adjust; I'm a bit picky when it comes to setting the height of my desk.
I also wanted one that did not look like it belonged in the office. One that was pretty small by office standards at only 48-inches wide. One with a nice wood top that could fit in with the rest of my furniture and wasn't too long, unlike most popular desks that seem to be 60 inches wide or more. After spending a weekend reading about every sit/stand desk, I ended up with this Humanscale Float from Room & Board with a walnut top. It looks great and is very sturdy.
elegant and functional
Herman Miller Embody
the perfect task chair
The Herman Miller Embody is my desk chair of choice. I've had it for over six years now and it's still as good as the first day, except for some fabric fading (blue jeans + orange chair + years = blue chair).
At over $1,000 it's expensive but more adjustable than any other desk chair I've encountered. As a reference point, I actually really hate the Aeron chair, I find it doesn't provide much upper back support.
Visit my camera gear page to learn about my Sony α7R III, lenses and accessories.
First and foremost — my internet connection. I'm very lucky to have an ISP called WebPass that provides upload and download speeds that usually exceed 250Mbps. This definitely comes in handy when backing up hundreds of gigabytes of photos and videos after a trip.
While my house is relatively small, I had issues with my Apple AirPort Extreme providing WiFi to the furthest corners. I ended up trying the 2nd generation Eero kit to see if it could help and it definitely has. Eero works by setting up a mesh network in your house via multiple Eero devices in your house. I got the smaller two device kit: one larger Eero base station and one smaller Eero Beacon that I placed halfway between the base station and the edge of the house.
Eero & Eero Beacon
Eero and Eero Beacon
1-foot Ethernet cables
5 pack, snagless
The Eero setup process is nothing short of stunning. They have a great mobile app for setting up and managing your network as well as giving you per-device level control easily. I can see that there are 20 devices on my network, see which ones are currently using the most bandwidth, block devices, setup access family profiles, create a guest network and more. It also periodically does an automatic speed test to give you peace of mind as to your Internet connection's health. Eero also offers a paid monthly service that claims to protect your network from viruses, botnets and phishing sites.
The only downside of the Eero is that it assumes the vast majority of your devices will connect over WiFi. I have a good chunk that need or that I would prefer to have connected via Ethernet. As such I had to purchase a cheap Ethernet switch to give me more ports. Unfortunately, the Eero nor the switch provide user-configurable QoS settings (Eero seems to do automatic QoS by using DSCP to catalog traffic to one of the four 802.11e Wi-Fi Multimedia access classes for handling traffic — background, best effort, video and voice). You'd have to upgrade to a much pricier switch if you want that functionality.
Lounge chair — The Eames lounge chair and ottoman needs no introduction. I've lusted after this chair since taking industrial design classes in college. I opted for the classic walnut and Vicenza black leather model.
Bookcase — This bookcase is one of the focal points of my living room and a place to showcase various books, personal artifacts.. and of course a place to put all of my camera gear when not in use. As such I wanted something large and well-made. I went with this walnut Room and Board model to match the other furniture I have. It also serves as a nice home for the Raspberry Pi digital photo frame I made to highlight photos from my travels.
Media console — A long and low piece ideal for going under my TV ideal for hiding all my networking gear and NAS. A big reason I got this particular one, aside from adoring the aesthetics, is that it has open slats that help keep all the gear well-ventilated.
Planters — Some greenery around the house goes a long way in making the room feel more personable and less sterile, along with helping purify the air a bit.
Line Media Console 70
large walnut media console
Eames Lounge & Ottoman
wire base, counter height
Walnut and natural steel
Case Study planter
Small for my Snake plant
Case Study planter
Large for my rubber tree
I use the Amazon Echo along with some Insteon devices to control lighting in my house. It's a wonderfully convenient solution and I've found Echo to be handy for other basic things like setting alarms, telling me about the news that day, weather and searching for basic info. Insteon has a bunch of other devices to control other aspects of your home but I'm just starting with these.
Eventually, I replaced the original Amazon Echo device with a smaller Sonos One, which features complete Amazon Echo functionality.
speaker + voice assistant
smart voice assistant
Connects to router
for plug-in lamps
Insteon wall switch
dimmer for ceiling lights
Belkin's Wi-Fi smart plug
Nanoleaf Aurora kit
Connected LED tiles
YI Home Camera
1080p, MicroSD, cheap!
Blink security camera
Cheap, battery powered
And while not exactly home automation related, I added the very affordable Blink home security camera to this list. Blink, an Amazon-owned company, makes small, simple battery powered home security cameras. While they can also be plugged in, the beauty is that they can be placed anywhere and still wake up when motion is detected.
I've also grown quite fond of lights from Pablo Designs. I replaced my kitchen pendant lights with ones from Pablo Designs and then purchased this tall Vella floor light to go in the corner. It has two independently swiveling aluminum louvers so you can control how the light casts itself as well has adjustable LED levels. I have this hooked up to the Belkin WeMo switch.
The Sonos setup
After I got my own place and could invest in a real entertainment setup, I went after the simple choice for audio: Sonos. I don't care enough about audio to require a complex 5.1 or 7.1 setup with tiny little satellite speakers and cables throughout the room. I went with the wireless Sonos Playbar which can utilize two wireless Play:1 speakers as rear surround speakers and a wireless subwoofer I hide behind the couch.
I mounted the Play:1's on Flexson stands behind my couch and also got the Sonos Boost wireless transceiver so I didn't have to wire one of the speakers to ethernet (required when in the surround sound configuration to reduce latency). I also have a Play:1 in the bathroom.
As for the TV, I spent a long time researching whether to go 4K or not. I decided against 4K for now—the content is just not there right now (this was back in mid-2015 when I purchased it). I went with a 65-inch Sony with Android TV. While I enjoy the Android TV OS itself, the new Apple TV with Siri and trackpad remote was a bit too cool to pass up.
TV sound bar
elegant wireless sub
LED, 3D, Android TV
Siri remote, 32GB
I use my kitchen a decent amount and cook dinner most evenings, at least during the weeks. My mornings usually start by making myself a cup or three of coffee. I finally ditched the spice grinder I had been using to grind my coffee beans and went with a burr grinder with various settings for how I'm making the coffee. Sometimes I brew with a percolator, pour over or french press, but usually I make a single cup with a Kalita Wave 185 dripper. Beyond that I love my Heath mugs and plates.
Fellow Stagg EKG
1200W, gooseneck electric kettle
Breville espresso machine
1600W, PID temp control
Breville coffee grinder
burr with 60 settings
Bodum Coffee Maker
Pour over, 34oz, steel filter
plates, mugs, bowls in indigo and slate
hard to beat quality
Kalita Wave 185
pour over coffee maker
1800W convection smart oven
Breville tea maker
with robotic tea basket
I have become particularly interested in sous vide cooking, a technique generally involving any cooking occuring in a temperature-controlled water bath over a long period of time with the foods placed (ideally) in a vacuum-sealed bag. The main benefit of this style of cooking is cooking the meat the same way the whole way through and getting a tender, flavor-packed result without losing any juices. There are a million articles online explaining sous vide but here's a good one. In addition to the gear below I also have a container and lid from Lipavi, but thing that is not BPA plastic and can withstand higher temperatures should be fine.
After whatever meat (you can sous vide just about anything but I tend to do pork chops and steak quite often) I've tossed into the sous vide container has finished cooking, I just need to finish the meat by searing it. Sometimes I use my cast iron pan for this and sometimes I opt to use my torch with the Searzall attachment.
I've gone through a myriad of personal audio setups over the years. I used to have studio monitors (recently Audioengine A5s and Rokit RP5G2s) for my desktop alongside larger circumaural headphones (Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro and Sennheiser HD 650). But I began to prefer having a simpler setup and cleaner desk. While I definitely play music over the Sonos system, I opted to simplify my desk setup when I built my gaming and photo editing PC: I have a small portable Bose bluetooth speaker as the primary audio device.
At work I always use my Bose QuietComfort 20 noise-cancelling earbuds. The Bose are amazing at quieting surrounding office noise and airplane noise when traveling that I use these most of the time.
For outdoor activities (mainly running) I live by the wireless sweat and weather resistant Bose SoundSport Wireless Free. This is my 3rd Bose sport-related headset. I keep coming back to Bose for a reason—I just absolutely love the fit with the little "shark fins" that keep them in place along with a more oval ear piece.
The Wireless Free does have a few downsides: the case is quite large, sometimes one earbud will disconnect from the other (but it always comes back a second later) and it's a tad bulky. But the fit is flawless and I never have to worry about it falling out when running. And it's quite refreshing not having to worry about a cord when running.
Bose QuietComfort 20
Bose SoundSport Wireless Free
Bose SoundLink Mini II
Portable wireless speaker
These deserve their own section. After hearing nonstop praise about the AirPods, I decided to give them a whirl myself. I expected the audio quality to be okay but for the build quality and overall experience to be stellar. And that's exactly what I got. I would classify audio quality as acceptable, not impressive. There's only so much you can get with earbuds that do not have isolating tips or have as intricate internals as in-ear monitors. But that's where the downsides end.
Pairing them with an iOS device is quicker than any other Bluetooth device (it still works as a regular no-frills bluetooth headset for Android/Windows devices of course). If you take one out while listening to music, it pauses for you. There's also some basic tap gestures for pausing music or triggering Siri (and iOS 11 should bring more customization here). When you put them back in the case, they charge from an internal battery in the case — an impressive trick to getting closer to 24 hours of battery life out of the AirPods, compared to the less-than-ideal 5 hour battery life of the AirPods sans charging case.
While I was very happy with my Bose SoundSport wireless headset (and it's still my favorite for running), the convenient case, instant pairing and overall magic of the experience has the AirPods as my daily headset while on the go.
Drove to the SJ Apple Store to buy AirPods on Friday (sold out everywhere). They're so nifty I don't think I can go back to Android 😱 pic.twitter.com/8lw5UcQ3zR— Paul Stamatiou 📷 (@Stammy) June 11, 2017
I don't like carrying too much on me aside from keys, a super thin wallet and a pack of mints. My current wallet, a slim one from Carré Royal that I found at some store in Kyoto in 2013, only has room for 2 cards and a tiny sleeve for cash.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack
Crazy strong mints
Compact yet handles up to 55mph winds
Warby Park Percey sunglasses
Clear frame, polarized lenses
I'm trying to read more—a lot more— this year. I have an Amazon Kindle Oasis and am very happy with it. It has quickly become my favorite device (well, excluding camera and phone) and I've read over 30 books on it so far. Be sure to read my post on the topic:
Many of my design explorations (and various todo lists) start on paper so I'm always carrying a few pens and notepad in my backpack everyday. I'm a fan of Marvy Le Pen thin point felt tip pens. As for my notebook of choice, it varies. I've gone through a few Moleskines, Baron Fig notebooks, Fabriano notebooks and Dot Grid notepads. If I had to pick one favorite it would probably be the special edition Moleskines with embossed covers. And when I need a bit more space to sketch out some concepts, I switch to a larger Stonehenge sketchpad.
9x12", 15 sheets
I seem to collect mobile devices these days from needing both iOS and Android devices to test designs, prototypes and app builds at work. However, my main devices are the Google Pixel 2, iPhone X and iPhone 7.
Google Fi is my wireless carrier of choice, having switched after more than decade on AT&T. In a nutshell,
Project (recently renamed to just Fi) Fi is great because your phone automatically switches to other phone networks (several supported) to get the best signal and speed, you have simple $10 per GB billing and it even works internationally at the same price! Here's my referral code if you want to give it a try and get $20 of credit. It's simple to use and you can also order a second (data-only) SIM to use with another device, like I have in my laptop. I have sucessfully used Fi on recent trips: New Zealand, Cayman Islands, Rwanda, Tanzania, the Netherlands and the UK.
You can never have enough battery life when traveling or just when out after a long work day so I always have one of my Anker battery packs in my bag. The elago M2 stand is necessary for holding my devices when doing lots of UI design and prototyping where I need to preview iterations as I'm working.
Anker's 20,000mAh portable charger
Anker's 10,000mAh portable charger
And while I'm on the subject of mobile devices, I also own a few U2F keys for security for use with many of my online accounts. Many sites these days let you authenticate multiple U2F keys, so you can have a backup. I have a handful from the tiny YubiKey 4 Nano and the rugged USB-C YubiKey 5C FIPS to the larger YubiKey NEO (both USB Type A and NFC compatible). I also have a bluetooth key: the Feitian MultiPass FIDO key, which Google now sells rebranded as a Titan security key.
Adobe Lightroom is my post-processing tool of choice for my photo workflow. VSCO Keys lets me easily copy and paste develop settings between photos, and enable other keyboard shortcuts that make Lightroom faster for me. I don't get too crazy with add-on filter presets or plugins, I often just tinker manually (mentioned in detail in my Lightroom PC post). While I used to process my bracketed HDR images with Aurora HDR, I now prefer more realistic and natural HDR edits and think the basic HDR merging functionality and some slight tweaks inside Lightroom does the job just fine.
After I'm done editing my photos and have exported the ones I wanted to use, I move the RAWs to my NAS, which is also backed up to the cloud. Read more about this setup in detail in Storage for Photographers (Part 2).Productivity
I use Bear app for iOS and macOS to keep track of various lists, links, to-do items, general notes, blog post drafts and extended thoughts. Until Bear makes a web (for Windows usage) or Android version, I also use Google Keep for some things. But with the launch of the new Gmail and it's great integration to Google Tasks (and the new Google Tasks mobile app), I may start using that more for basic lists. I also find 1Password to be an indispensable part of my daily workflow.Development
Nothing special here: Google Chrome, Atom text editor (with M+ 1m typeface and Framer UI theme, Framer Syntax), iTerm, ImageOptim, JPEGmini and Panic Transmit (for Amazon S3). On Windows, I use Hyper for the terminal, XnConvert for image compression and CloudBerry Explorer for my Amazon AWS needs.Design
I do the majority of my high-fidelity visual design work in Figma. I'm also a huge fan of xScope. When it comes time to develop interactive prototypes of my designs, I always turn to Framer. It's a vital part of my design process. Learn much more in these two articles I wrote: Designing Twitter Video and Provide meaning with motion.Misc software & services
Google Nearline storage, AWS Glacier, Dropbox, Backblaze and Backblaze B2 (for the NAS), Typography.com Cloud for webfonts, GitHub, Gauges (site analytics). I also use VirtualPostMail to receive and scan my physical mail (great for traveling or moving between houses).
This site is based on Jekyll, hosted on S3/CloudFront with AWS Route 53 and all designed and developed by me. It has been my hobby for more than a decade. :)