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.
Around 2015, when I was only using a 13" MacBook Pro, I wanted something faster and a larger display to pair with my growing desire to edit and publish more photography on this site. So I wound up with a 27" 5K iMac (and 12" MacBook). But two years with that setup I began to feel the same need to have modern hardware and wanted something faster again.
While the 5K display on the iMac was phenomenal, the inability to run top of the line hardware was starting to get to me. And you can't upgrade the CPU and motherboard on an iMac if you wanted to jump to the latest generation processor. I really wanted a much faster GPU and was interested in going with Windows build this time instead of a hackintosh build as I had done before.
I built that Windows 10 PC and wrote about it in detail in my longest article ever: Building a Lightroom PC. It served me very well and was a fun project. It also received a bit of attention from PetaPixel, DPreview and others.
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
Then a year passed and I moved to New York. I wanted to downsize my possessions for the move and the expectation that I would have a smaller apartment in NYC. I shipped that large computer home and built small form factor (SFF) Windows 10 PC. Despite the size with its mini-ITX motherboard and SFX-sized power supply, it's even more powerful than my last desktop.
It has a watercooled 8-core delidded Intel i9 9900K processor as well as a hefty Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti graphics card but for me the real masterpiece is the lovely and expandable Louqe Ghost S1 case.
Depending on your needs, you can add so-called "tophats" to provide more room for things from storage to watercooling radiators. Building in the confined space was definitely a challenge but it was made manageable with some custom-length sleeved power cables.
But the biggest surprise is just how quiet this thing is. During regular use the PSU and graphics card fans are completely off and it's just the large radiator fans spinning slowly. I have been extremely impressed with this setup.
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. I ended up with this Humanscale Float from Room & Board with a walnut top (pictured below). It looks great and is very sturdy.
I used it for almost 4 years and loved it, but when it came time to move to New York, I decided to have it shipped back home instead of come with me to New York. It was a great desk but was extremely heavy and I worried I may not have space for it in a smaller New York apartment.
Likewise, I sold my Herman Miller Embody when I moved. It served me well over the ~7 years I've owned it but I was up for something new, in a different color, and ideally lighter. Everything about the Embody felt heavy and hard to maneuver.
I ended up going with a newer Herman Miller model, the Cosm. It's a fairly simple task chair with almost no controls—just height—making it a huge departure from my previous Embody chair that had tons of adjustment knobs.
The Cosm also feels much, much lighter. It's a breeze to move around. I opted for a custom order: low back in Glacier fabric color with a white chassis, no armrests and a polished base.
As for the desk, I knew I wanted something less deep than my previous desk as I really didn't need it to be 30-inches deep. I would have preferred something less wide as well but really did not find many stylish desk options that were small and New York apartment friendly. I ended up going with a simple white and gray Floyd desk.
Herman Miller Cosm
Low-back, glacier/white colors, no arms
Simple, affordable, easy to assemble
Xiaomi Mi LED lamp
WiFi-enabled, tunable color temp
elegant and functional
Herman Miller Embody
the perfect task chair
Lets get the keyboard out of the way first. It's the new Apple Magic Keyboard. It's considerably more compact than previous models and takes some getting used to with the reduced key travel. But I love it. I find the super low profile helps my wrist pain as I don't need to awkwardly angle my wrists up to hit the keys. Battery life is fantastic and I use it with my Windows PC without issue (of course I use KeyTweak to remap a few keys to my liking).
Now, on to the mice. Yes, I have three. For the past few years I have had some recurring wrist RSI pain from my computer and phone use in my right wrist. To keep it in check I've found it helpful to use a variety of input devices. I have the Wacom tablet, a regular Logitech MX Master 2s and finally a Logitech MX Vertical.
Logitech MX Master 2s
Logitech MX Vertical
USB-C, vertical wireless mouse
Wacom Intuos S
Graphics drawing tablet
Apple Magic Keyboard
I try to use the Wacom tablet the most and reduce the amount I articulate my wrist and instead move the stylus pen with my whole arm. I haven't used the Wacom that long, so I'm still learning proper form. I tweeted my impressions on using a Wacom tablet after my first two weeks with it in this thread.
As for the Logitech mice, I'm a huge fan of their large ergonomic shape that makes it much easier for me to use for long periods than something low profile like the Apple Magic Mouse for example. I also appreciate the Logitech mouse customization software and the use of their unifying receivers and the ability for each mouse to switch between three channels. This proves hugely useful when use the same mice between various devices. I use this functionality constantly when switching between using it with my personal laptop, my work laptop and my 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. However, with the new iOS 13 beta showing improved functionality for USB-C file access on external drives (as well as the ability to import photos directly into any app and not require it goes to the Camera Roll first), having the new iPad would make things easier to directly connect my external SSD when traveling without using an adapter. That would allow me import hundreds of gigs of RAW photos and videos while traveling, and then move them to an external SSD. But I'll probably just wait for the next generation to come out.
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.
Apple Watch 40mm
Series 4, GPS-only
First and foremost — my internet connection. I'm very lucky to have gigabit symmetrical fiber via Verizon FiOS. This definitely comes in handy when backing up hundreds of gigabytes of photos and videos after a trip.
While my place 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 now have three Eero devices: two larger Eero base stations and a smaller Eero Beacon.
Eero & Eero Beacon
2 base stations, 1 Beacon
Gigabit, I use both 5 and 8-port models
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.
I ended up loving my Eero setup so much that I got an Eero kit for my parents and added their account to my Eero app so I can remotely diagnose/reboot the system for them if there are any issues.
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—especially with a fast gigabit connection, I need my desktop PC and NAS to be wired. 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.
I use the Amazon Echo along with some Insteon devices to control lighting in my house. It's a wonderfully convenient solution and I have found the 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
Connects to router
for plug-in lamps
Insteon wall switch
dimmer for ceiling lights
Amazon Smart Plug
Cheap, easy Alexa integration
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.
When I moved to New York I ended up selling my black Sonos Play:1's and Sub, as well as leaving my TV and Playbar in my house that I rented out. I loved that setup but thought my New York apartment would be smaller and have more neighbors, so I didn't necessarily need a subwoofer or the most capable soundbar. I knew I loved the Sonos system, I just wanted to downsize a bit.
I went with the new Alexa-enabled Sonos Beam sound bar and two paired rear Play:1s with Sonos Stands. All in white to match a few other accents in my room, along with the lighter floors. I also have another Play:1 in my bathroom and the Sonos One in my bedroom. It's just so easy to play music to any or all of the Sonos speakers with Spotify and other music services.
As for the TV, I was happy to retired my older 1080p 65" Sony TV when I moved. At the time it felt like it was too early to go 4K in terms of the content available. But now in 2019 with a plethora of 4K content available and the 4K Apple TV, it felt like the right time.
This time I went with an OLED TV instead. I opted for the just-released-at-the-time 65" LG C9. It's ridiculously thin, so thin that I had someone come over to help me unbox and mount the stand as I was worried I would crack it.
Why OLED? OLED TVs have extremely high contrast levels, deep blacks and vibrant colors. The downside of OLED displays is that they are not as bright as LED-backlit TVs, making it less than ideal for viewing in bright rooms, and the potential for screen burn-in. I weighed the pros and cons and decided to proceed with OLED regardless. I've had it for a few months now and absolutely love it.
LG C9 OLED TV
Super thin, 65" 2019 model
Joren media console
by Rove Concepts
Apple TV 4K
Siri remote, 32GB
Apple TV remote case. The best $8 you'll spend
2 for rear satellites
White, hides wires
TV sound bar
elegant wireless sub
LED, 3D, Android TV
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 two 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. I most frequently just make single cups with a Kalita Wave 185 dripper, but I use my french press often too. Beyond that I love my Heath mugs and plates.
Fellow Stagg EKG
1200W, gooseneck electric kettle
Kalita Wave 185
pour over coffee maker
Breville coffee grinder
burr with 60 settings
Breville espresso machine
1600W, PID temp control
plates, mugs, bowls in indigo and slate
hard to beat quality
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 Everie. I have also been pretty happy with these sous vide bags you can vacuum seal with a simple hand pump.
I originally had the Anova sous vide cooker but began to prefer the ChefSteps Joule. It's smaller, more powerful and has a better cooking app. I constantly had connectivity issues with the Anova model.
ChefSteps Joule sous vide cooker
Small, Wi-Fi enabled, 1100W
Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker
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.
When I moved to New York in early 2019 I downsized a good deal and didn't bring much furniture with me. I outfitted my bedroom with a Casper mattress and platform bed frame. When it came time to add nightstands I went with some simple ones from Floyd and added my Sonos One and Casper Glow to them.
I have become quite fond of the little Casper Glow as my bedside light. It's a rechargeable and wireless smart light. You flip it over to turn it on, twist it to adjust brightness and use the app to have it automatically turn on slowly in the morning at a time you set to naturally wake you up. It also slowly turns off in the evening as you get ready for bed.
But my Dyson handheld vacuum has to be my favorite household appliance. Extremely powerful and versatile, I find myself using it a few times per week.
Dyson V10 Absolute
the best handheld vac
Wifi-enabled air purifier, heater, fan
Eames molded plastic side chair
Charcoal, chrome base
Elise floor lamp
Both 32" and 48" models
Floyd side table
Smart speaker with Alexa
wireless smart light
Case Study planter
Small for my Snake plant
And finally, I love having plants around the house. I have a few large window sills for succulents that can deal with direct sunlight, then a few others elsewhere in the house: neon pothos, monstera deliciosa, fiddle leaf fig, snake plant, pilea peperomioides, rubber tree plant.
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 typically use my Bose QuietComfort 20 noise-cancelling earbuds or larger wireless Sony WH-1000XM3 wireless noise-cancelling headphones. They're both great at quieting surrounding office noise and airplane noise when traveling, but the larger Sony headset is definitely better. The Sony also has USB-C charging and a robust set of noise-cancelling optimization options with the mobile app.
Top-notch wireless noise cancelling headphones
Bose QuietComfort 20
Bose SoundSport Wireless Free
Bose SoundLink Mini II
Portable wireless speaker
For exercise 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.
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. 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 walking to work, on the subway and more.
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 my phone, a thin wallet and a pack of mints. My current wallet, a slim card case from Everlane, only has room for 2-3 cards and a tiny sleeve for cash.
Take a look at my camera gear page for a look at my bags.
Compact yet handles up to 55mph winds
Warby Park Percey sunglasses
Clear frame, polarized lenses
A few years ago I wanted to try to read more—a lot more. I gave myself a challenge to read 24 books in 2017 and got the Amazon Kindle Oasis. I achieved that reading goal and am still very happy with my Kindle. It has quickly become one of my favorite devices and I've read over 40 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 PowerPort Atom PD 1
Tiny 30W dual USB-C PD charger using GaN tech
Anker PowerPort Atom PD 2
Tiny 60W dual USB-C PD charger using GaN tech
PowerCore 13000 C
Anker's portable charger with USB-C
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 C FIPS to the larger YubiKey NEO (both USB Type A and NFC compatible). I also a Google Titan security key kit.
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 Synology NAS, which is also backed up to the cloud. Read more about this setup in detail in Storage for Photographers (Part 2).
I have been using Bear app for iOS and macOS to keep track of various lists, links, to-do items, general notes, blog post drafts and extended thoughts for a while but have begun using Notion much more lately. I use my Windows machines often and Bear doesn't have a web version yet. I also use the Google Tasks app (love its nifty integration in the new Gmail). I also find 1Password to be an indispensable part of my daily workflow.
Sometimes if I'm working on a very large blog post, I'll use Ulysses on iPad to help me organize it while writing.
Nothing special here: Google Chrome and Atom text editor (I'm partial to the M+ 1m typeface) are the mainstays of any web development I do. These days most of my development happens on Windows using Ubuntu via WSL as mentioned here.
Windows: Hyper (terminal), XnConvert (image compression/conversion to WebP), CloudBerry Explorer (S3), Bulk Rename Utility (for misc advanced image renaming needs), KeyTweak (for customizing the keyboard layout), QuickLook (for easy file previews) and XMeters (for keeping an eye on system usage and resources).
Mac: I don't actually own a personal Mac anymore (just iOS devices), but when I did I would frequently use iTerm, ImageOptim, JPEGmini, WebPonize, and Panic Transmit (for Amazon S3).
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.
Google Nearline storage, AWS Glacier, Dropbox, Tarsnap, 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. :)