I've been here at Android Police for over a year, now, fighting my way up the ranks and RSS feeds. So far I've succeeded, and having the opportunity to spend my days writing about technology has been incredible. As a result of that, I've accrued a ton of hardware and software, much of which has become an integral part of my workflow and life.
So here's a peek at all the stuff, personal and professional, that lets me do me.
As a disclaimer for the organization of this subject, I'm not the sort of guy to keep my work life separate from my personal life. I'm of the opinion that, ideally, you should seek to do work that you enjoy enough to make it personal. Thankfully, the last year here at AP has very much worked with that view in mind. But, I do still keep my personal expenses separate from my business ones, so I thought that a Work/Play dichotomy might be an interesting way to sort the stuff I dig.
But, first I need to get one important thing out of the way, as it's both work and play.
Phone: Pixel 2 XL
Although I'm sure David and Ryan have many more than me, my desk is still usually littered with at least seven or eight different phones. I tend to swap between them capriciously. Up until this morning, I was using my Essential Phone, but my repeated frustrations with it typically drive me back to my panda Pixel 2 XL within a day or two.
If you see leather in the background of a photo on AP, you can be pretty sure I took it.
To be honest, the Essential Phone is probably my favorite device from last year, and I switch back to it every couple of weeks. But with the signal woes, missed calls, occasional but total loss of data, and general jank, it's hard to recommend. As a concept device, the Essential Phone is pretty fantastic, and I love the industrial design and materials. But as a daily driver, it's just a lousy phone.
With a phone come apps, and I've got a few I really couldn't live without.
Again, I'm a bit mercurial with technology. I really do like change. So, at a minimum, I like it when my phone experience is a tiny bit different each day. That's why every one of my Android devices has Muzei on it.
It gives me a blurry random bit of art each day, sort of like the Google Arts & Culture new tab extension for Chrome (which I also dig).
Like most 20-somethings, I use Reddit, and I have a particular client that I prefer: Slide for Reddit.
Apart from a couple of bugs, like comment threads randomly changing to the wrong color and occasional issues with new major Android releases, it's a solid app. And it's open source, which I appreciate both from a moral and a security standpoint.
I've played around with probably 8-10 different Reddit apps over the years, and a few specific features like vertically scrolling image galleries and uncluttered comment navigation/hiding pull me back to Slide every time.
I listen to a lot of music. You probably would too if you spent most of the day at a computer writing. And, with the fast-changing nature of technology news, I also don't have a lot of time to follow too many artists or new releases I might like. It's hard enough keeping up with Google's last-minute midnight releases. So, I just let Spotify do it for me.
Every Monday I listen to my Discover Weekly, and the Daily Mix playlists might get a bit repetitive, but they're nice when I don't feel like throwing together a new playlist for something—I already have more than a few. Even the Friday new release playlist is good. At least, when it isn't foisting every new cover by Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox on me because I listened to one song one time Spotify! (Don't repeat my mistakes.)
Lastly, I have very particular tastes in a lot of things, but that's especially true when it comes to my widget/homescreen configuration. In fact, I've been using a few different variants of the same overall widget configuration since 2012.
Originally I made it for Zooper Widget, but since that's basically dead, our readers (I ❤ you) pushed me over to KWGT, where I was able to rebuild it. It's not a complex widget by any means, but a few of our readers have previously expressed interest in it, so I've uploaded it (direct download warning) for anyone that's interested.
As they say, it takes money to make money, and that means I have to spend some of the cash I make here at AP on the stuff that lets me do work.
I drank the Kool-Aid: standing desks are awesome. I made the switch after my last move when my giant, ancient leather-top desk was just too big a pain to bring with me. IKEA's $239 SKARSTA was a cheap entry into the concept—standing desks get expensive fast—and so far I dig it. For the first month or so I used to alternate between using it in a standing and seated configuration, but now I'm all standing all day long, even when Corbin, Jordan, and I get to Overwatchin'.
I used to have a cheap and mediocre "anti-fatigue" mat, but just a couple of months ago I decided it might be worth spending a bit more money on something nice, since I'd be standing on it for 8+ hours during the day. My new TerraMat is pretty expensive at $94, but my feet feel a lot better. The different textures and shapes are also a vigorous and stimulating distraction during the day.
I mean, I get to dance while I listen to music and work. How great is that?
David was kind enough to spend a ton of time recommending a good external DAC/amp to me on the cheap, and the FX Audio DAC-X6 he sold me on is a little trooper. I paired it with a Sennheiser HD 600—though, in hindsight, I wish I had gone for the cheaper Massdrop HD 6XX—and I'm reasonably satisfied.
My musical tastes tend toward electropop/synthy stuff (interested parties can peruse my public playlists on Spotify) and other than a forgivable bit of distortion at the high end with higher volumes, I've been very pleased with my current setup.
I spend a lot of time walking around the city (hate driving), and on the go, I usually use either my Xiaomi Hybrid buds or Essential's USB-C Earphones HD. The Xiaomis I dig from a disposable price-point. It's not a big deal if you lose them, and they sound good. I have had them a while, though, so there are probably better choices at that price now.
The Essential Earphones HD, on the other hand, I use from a lack of choice. There aren't any decent cheap-ish non-noise canceling USB-C earbuds out there—although multiple OEMs remain disturbingly enthusiastic about dropping the headphone jack. Even so, you're probably better off with a dongle than the Earphones HDs.
If you have a four letter name starting with "Ry" here at Android Police, you're into keyboards. I haven't cultured as refined an opinion on the subject as Ryan, but I have used enough to know my preferences. I'm all about the most tactile high-resistance experience I can get. The harder I have to slam my fingers down to trigger a press, the bigger the bounce as they approach bottoming out, and the stiffer the tactile bump ( ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) ), the happier I am. I'm also a fan of floating designs, aluminum decks, PBT, and row-sculpted SA profile keys—though never the latter two shall meet.
Right now, all that combines to mean I'm using a Massdrop (read: Ducky) DSX with MX Clears and the Pulse SA keyset. I'd love to find a smaller 60% board to like, but I wasn't a fan of my Pok3r, and I can't get ahold of a WhiteFox Aria with MX Clears.
Some people don't care about their keyboards that much, but I find that I can type faster (110+WPM), more comfortably, and for longer periods of time with a good board. With this job I spend most of the day at a keyboard, so it's nice to have a good experience.
Camera: Sony a6000
I made that strap.
Like almost everyone here at AP, I use a Sony Alpha a6000. Cody is our resident Camera fanatic (who fanatically hates it when we call him our expert), and both he and David pushed me toward the model. So far it has performed well and I'm very pleased with it, even if my skill at photography is still lacking.
As far as lenses go, in addition to the kit it came with, I have Sony's 3.5/30 macro and the G 4/18-105, which I used for all of MWC. They've made a great pair for both pleasing up-close shots for reviews and a bokeh-licious experience even on zoom. I might switch to one of Sony's new full-frame mirrorless cameras, though.
Computer(s): Too many
Again, like everyone else here, I built my desktop. (Obligatory "It's not much, but it's mine.") I'm planning on upgrading it sometime soon—preferably when Spectre/Meltdown-free hardware finally hits—as both my CPU and 16GB of RAM are starting to feel a bit dated in some workflows, but it's been a trooper.
- Fractal Design XL R2
- ASUS Maximus VI Hero
- Intel 4770K @4.5GHz
- Nvidia GTX 1080 (MSI-flavored)
- 16GB DDR3 2133 (I desperately need 32GB, but I also don't want to spend $300+ on that much DDR3 if I'm going to move to DDR4 with a new build)
- Samsung 850 Pro 1TB
- Too many hard drives
- Dell U3014 (1600p), vertical-mount Eizo FS 2333 (1080p)
I made all of those sleeves.
I've also got a small pile of laptops. My go-to for work is a recently acquired 13" MacBook Pro 14,2 (2017), but I also have an XPS 13 9343, an ASUS C101 Chromebook Flip, and an old MBP 8,1 (early 2011) that I not-so-fondly refer to as my "shitmac," in which I swapped the optical drive for a 2TB HDD and plopped in an SSD.
I have a Kendal & Hyde (now defunct) satchel, and it works well enough. To much general humor, I used it for all of MWC. But I'm convinced I could design and build a better bag for myself someday. I just don't really want to spend the 100+ hours of hand stitching that would be required unless I get a leather sewing machine.
I also have one of OnePlus' backpacks in gray, blue, and orange, and I'll probably use that for future events. Leather is very nice and quite durable, but it's also heavy, and my back ached by the end of MWC.
We've all got our hobbies. I'm not a programmer like Corbin or Cody, though. Instead, I dig design. In this case, though, I don't mean software design. I'm more into physical goods: the form, shape, function, and materials of objects.
Since I don't have space here in the city for a big garage to explore woodworking or metalworking, I get my fix as I can with smaller goods.
It's a small digression, but since it does come up sometimes when discussing materials in products or reviews (and since some of our readers might be interested in the hobby themselves), I can wax poetic on a few leatherworking details.
Personally, I'm a big fan of Alran's Chevre goat leathers, Walpier's Buttero vegetable tan, and Horween's products, especially its Chromexcell, Dublin, and Shell Cordovan leathers—though I can never afford or find the latter. Because I'm not made of money, I usually get my stuff from a place called Maverick Leather, which sometimes has lower-quality sides (professional term for one-half cow) at a big discount. I oscillate between using Ritza polyester thread and Fil au Chinois Lin Cable for stitching.
Most of my tools are from Rocky Mountain Leather Supply, as they have a decent selection, quick shipping, and good customer service. Since I don't do tooling, I pretty much just use a Japanese Utility Knife (I wish I'd gotten the more expensive model), Blanchard pricking irons (again, wish I had gone for better quality irons), and an awl (yet again, cheaped out). Like any second-rate craftsman, I blame my tools for my own limitations.
All my stuff is hand-stitched, but that is out of necessity and not a superfluous desire for "quality." I'd love to get a nice leather sewing machine, but I don't have space or cash. The same goes for a fileteuse for creasing and edge finishing: It's just too expensive.
For resources, I'd recommend that anyone into considering the hobby check out /r/leathercraft as it's a pretty down-to-earth community with a bunch of helpful people. I've also released a lot of my designs (in Gcode laser cutter-compatible vector, when possible) on Github under a Creative Commons license.
I hate Android Wear. A watch that needs to be plugged in every couple of days is ridiculous, and I don't need a full touchscreen and apps on my wrist. The Pebble Time was my jam: it was simple and lasted ages on a charge. Since then, nothing has tickled my fancy in either industrial design or features. So I've happily returned to dumbwatches. My three recent favorites, in rotation, have served me well.
Last year, I picked up a Seiko Presage Cocktail Time, and I really like it. It's durable, inexpensive enough that I don't feel bad when it gets scratched, and I really enjoy the sort of starburst-textured dial and 6 o'clock round date complication. It's a bit unique for a non-chronograph.
I'm also a fan of my Bauhaus v4 by Kent Wang. I don't enjoy logos or that type of ostentation, and I really like the simple, understated look it provides, with the subtle 'pop' from the metallic blue hands. My Leonard & Church isn't an automatic—or even a mechanical—but I like the wool band, beveled hands, and simple dial (though mine is a bit wonky and off-alignment at 12 o'clock).
I also made that sleeve.
It may have seen better days, but my original 2014 3G Kindle Voyage is among my most treasured possessions. It's the one time Amazon got the Kindle perfect, and I refuse to give it up.
The Voyage's lone flaw is also it's most visible: Soft touch rubber is not durable. In fact, the material is sort of gross, and impossible to keep clean. With that beautiful magnesium there, it's a shame Amazon covered it all up. Even so, the high-res, front-lit, anti-reflective, matte glass, automatic brightness-sensing screen and dual physical "PagePress" pressure-sensitive buttons make it my favorite reading device ever.
So, that's all the stuff I use. Or, at least, the most significant bits. I could easily digress at greater length about my favorite DE razor or my love for linen, and provide examples in the form of clothing—of which I have many. But for most of us, the narcissism presented here should suffice in rendering a reasonable insight into the products I consume.