Tech I use : Laptop

I adore my laptop. I bought it last April (that’d be April of 2009), and I’m currently wondering what I did without it. It not only does all the things a computer normally does (word processing, email, Internet browsing, etc.) but it’s also my main music player, and my TV.

It is not my first laptop: my primary computer from 2001 to 2005 or so was one of the clamshell iBooks (graphite, in my case). I loved that, too, for portability in the house, but it was before wireless points were everywhere, and the battery life was so-so, so actually using it for Internet access in other places was problematic.

These days, though, my laptop holds:

  • Both work and personal files (with automatic backups to a Time Capsule)
  • My music files
  • My productivity software
  • Creative projects
  • Notes and files for all manner of things I’d like to remember, think about, or do.
  • Alarm clock (I use Awaken, which lets me select an iTunes playlist to wake me up.)
  • Games of varying kinds (everything from a Tetris clone to World of Warcraft)

All that, and the Internet too!

I don’t use a computer desk at home: by preference, I sit on the bed cross-legged with the computer propped up on pillows, and use it that way. It allows me to adjust the height, position, and other things based on how I feel that day. And it also allows my cat to curl up next to my leg (as she’s doing right now) and be warm and cuddly – something hard to do in a desk chair. I definitely love how the laptop lets me do that easily – but also move to my desk or to a library or to a coffee shop when I need to.

One thing I’m ardent about is personalising my laptop. I have a MacStyles cover on the front (mine is their phoenix image in dark blue) and a matching cover for the keyboard area. Both were easy to apply when I followed the directions, and while there are some scratches a year later, it’s held up really well. (Sometime this summer, I’ll probably replace it with something else, or maybe the same phoenix in a slightly different color)

I also believe in personalising the digital bits: here’s a screenshot of my current dock and one of the desktop images I use in rotation (I’ve got about 20 that rotate every 5 to 30 minutes, depending on my mood). The image is by Vlad Gerasimov, a Russian digital artist who runs VladStudio and it’s called Google Library (note the tiny door in the bottom center right!)

Image of my current dock and desktop: shelves of books with candles as the background image

Image of my current dock and desktop

My icons on the dock (and elsewhere on my computer) come from a variety of sources: I’m particularly fond of the sets on the IkonFactory – most of the program icons on my dock (that’d be the left side) come from their Flurry series (which is an iPhone style set of icons that covers a wide range of programs: I like my dock to have aesthetic similarity).

The right side icons come from a variety of sources: some from Deviant Art, an artist networking site that has grown a set of amazing digital images in the last few years, some from other Icon Factory sets (the first individual book from the left is the Grail diary from their Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail series), and some from Marmalade Moon, an icon creator whose work I like a lot (I use a number of her others for internal folder structures.)

From left to right for the programs, we have:

  • The Finder
  • Firefox (my web browser of choice)
  • Awaken (my alarm clock and egg timer program)
  • iTunes
  • Postbox (my personal mail program)
  • TextEdit (for quick notes, drafts of things I’m thinking about, etc.)
  • Things (my task management program: more on that in a later post)
  • Preview (which doesn’t usually live on my dock, but happens to be open right now)
  • System Preferences (because I’d just gone to select the desktop image I want.)

The stack of books is the alias to my documents folder. The grail diary book is my reference files – things I access a lot (like the tracking file for how far I’ve gone swimming: charts make me happy). The blue book is personal files, the gear is programs I use a lot, and the box that’s ajar is my “To Sort” box. (For a long time, I had a TARDIS image, thanks to Doctor Who – the TARDIS has infinite space, after all – but it doesn’t fit my current aesthetic scheme.)

I also have a work folder, but I’m currently experimenting with what it’s like if I remove that folder from my immediate line of sight when I’m home, and put it back when I get to work, or am choosing to work on something. (It’s an image of a book with an apple on it from Marmalade Moon’s sets: great for a school setting.)

And up in the top right corner is an image of my hard drive: I have used Macs for so long that it’s still insticntive for me to go open from the icon on the desktop, even though the dock would be a lot more convenient. Thus, I still have the icon there, rather than hiding it (as I usually do any attached drives, like my Time Capsule)

Image of my programs folder showing icons for the programs described below

Image of my often-used programs folder

And here, you can see my often used programs.

  • Games (Quinn, World of Warcraft, various others)
  • Utilities (various things I want handy, but don’t use all that often)
  • AddressBook
  • Adium (my preferred chat program)
  • DVD player (yay, Netflix)
  • Freedom (a program that will shut down Net access for a specified length of time or until you reboot)
  • iCal (my preferred calendar)
  • Keynote (presentations)
  • MacGourmet Deluxe (recipes)
  • Numbers (spreadsheet)
  • Pages (word processing)
  • Preview (PDF reader)
  • Pukka (for managing Delicious bookmarks on multiple accounts more easily)
  • Scrivener (amazing writing program)
  • TextEdit (notes)
  • Together (a great way to store multiple PDFs, web files, and other documents with tagging and labels)
  • VLC (for miscellaneous audio and visual files)
  • VoodooPad (will talk about this in a few posts: great for keeping categories of notes together)
  • YNAB 3 (my budget and finances program)

These certainly aren’t all my files – or all my programs. More live in my Documents folder and in my Applications folder. These are just the ones I use most often, where a very short click-to is especially useful.

I also believe in naming my technology: my current computer is named Musica Humana, which is the Renaissance name for the music that we, humans, beautiful and complex and alive as we are, make in the universal song, rather than the Musica Mundana, the music of the universe and the spheres. (Also as opposed to the Musica Instrumentalis, which is human music filtered through technology – instruments – and therefore less directly human.)

My time capsule is named Alexandria, for the Great Library thereof. Yes, I’m a geek. We all knew that, right?

As you can see, I use my laptop for a lot of practical things – but I also believe that the tools should be something we have fun with, that reflects a part of our human personality and preference without getting in the way of the tool.

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