My Work Setup

My Work Setup

This page details the specifics of the various pieces of software and hardware I use. I change things reasonably often, so this page will serve as a living document and a place to point people to when I get asked.

Home Office

Steelcase Leap
The Steelcase Leap is the primary competitor to the famous Herman Miller Aeron chair. I tested both chairs side by side and liked the Leap better. I am delighted with my purchase and liked it way better than the Aeron due to the increased support.

U-Shape Desk
I bought a solid-wood Maple U-shaped Desk with a hutch from the same place I bought the Leap, and the desk is a sturdy, well-made piece of furniture. It gives me plenty of space to spread out and work. I do not know what brand to link to anything, but I love it.

Tech

I use three main computers, each with different use cases. Windows is my preferred development environment, but open-source stuff runs smoother on Mac, so I got an iMac.

Lenovo K450e
This machine is a powerhouse that I’ve upgraded to an i7 processor, 64 GB of RAM, 8GB video card, and 8 TB storage. I use this for .NET development, photo editing, and almost everything else in my daily work routine.
It’s paired with dual 32″ LED monitors.

Alienware Aurora R10 (added 12/27/2020)
I’m trying to teach myself data science and machine learning. I wanted to get the NVIDIA RTX 3090, but it’s sold out everywhere. I found that Alienware was selling them as an option with their configurations, so I invested in a new machine. This config comes with the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, 64GB Dual Channel HyperX(TM) FURY DDR4 XMP at 3200MHz, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 24Gb GDDR6X, CPU Liquid Cooling, 1000W Power Supply, and 2TB M.2 PCIe SSD (Boot) + 2TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s (Storage).

LG 43UD79-B 43″ Class 4K UHD IPS LED Monitor (added 10/4/20)
I am completely enamored with this upgrade. The monitor supports up to 4 devices connected, and I can now adjust my workflow to support my needs. I rotate between 2 quadrants for Windows on top, 1 for my iMac on the bottom, and one for my MacBook Pro to a full Windows screen to a three-quadrant split for Mac and Windows.

XL Oak Wood Monitor Stand for Desk ($117)
I contemplated getting one of the fancy desk monitor stands that all the YouTubers are raving about, but decided to try going a different route and got this one instead. I’m glad I did because it saved me a lot of money without sacrificing quality. The stand supports the LG monitor, providing me with a shelf to store items and an open space for storage. I paired this with the Juvale Set of 2 Faux Leather Valet Tray for $14. I store the hexagon version on the shelf and the rectangular one in the open area. It helps keep my desk organized and tidy. I store a small notebook with a pen, remotes, and miscellaneous items in each.

27″ Retina 5K iMac Pro 2016
Intel Xeon W Processor 3.2GHz; macOS High Sierra; 32GB RAM; 1TB Solid State Drive; AMD Radeon Pro Vega 56 8GB HBM2. I use this as my primary dev machine for anything related to non-Microsoft development work, including PHP/Laravel, Python, and more.


I paired this with a Samsung 27″ LED monitor for a dual monitor setup, which I set up as a secondary monitor with my MacBook Pro.
9/1/2023 – My iMac Pro started developing issues with constantly crashing after many years of reliability. It is now replaced with the Mac Studio graciously provided by my job.

Mac Studio M2 Ultra (Added 9/1/2023)
The config comes with the Apple M2 Ultra with a 24‑core CPU, 60‑core GPU, 32‑core Neural Engine, 128GB unified memory, and 2TB SSD storage.

Satechi Stand & Hub with SSD Enclosure ($75.99) (9/1/23)
I wanted more ports on the front as I work with multiple drives and SD cards for photography. I switch between things like my scanner and USB drives, so I decided to invest in the Satechi Stand & Hub as their website claims it’s compatible with the Mac Studio. As a bonus, it also supports up to a 2TB M.2 SATA SSD drive, bringing my Mac’s capacity up to 4TB. Usually $99, but I got it with a 25% off coupon on Labor Day weekend.

IFCASE Aluminum Under Desk Stand Mount for Mac Studio M2 M1 Max, Ultra with Anti-Scratch Pad (Silver) (19.99) (9/1/23)
I bought this to be able to mount the Mac Studio and the Satechi Stand to the underside of the desk. I drilled new holes to hide the cables better to make things more neat. The mount is made from aluminum, matches the Studio Max’s finish, and perfectly fits the Mac and the Satechi Stand together.

WD Black 2TB SN850X NVMe Internal Gaming SSD Solid State Drive ($99.99) (9/2/23)
Purchased to install in the Satechi Stand. The drive was on sale and has the performance of up to 7300 MB/s for read and write, which was better than most other drives on the market. Usually $118 but Amazon had a $19 coupon which made it cheaper than most of the lower performance M.2 drives.
The drive didn’t actually fit the Satechi Hub, so I had to return it.

WD Blue 3D NAND 2TB Internal SSD – SATA III 6Gb/s M.2 2280 Solid State Drive ($111.81) (added 9/11/2023)
Purchased to install in the Satechi Stand. The drive is not as performant as the NVMe drive, but I’m using it for time machine backups and also for extra storage for things like video and photo editing.

Elgato Stream Deck XL (199.99) – (9/2/2023)
I will try my hand at creating some video courses and decided to purchase the stream deck to help automate some workflows, as many others swear by the device as a must-have.

Elgato Key Light Air ($99 each, set of 2) (added 11/25/2023)
I’m buying into the Elgato streaming gear as it’s top-notch quality and integrates nicely with each other. The lights provide a smooth, even glow and are customizable with the colors and brightness.

Elgato Stream Deck Pedal ($59.99) (added 11/30/23)
I bought this to provide an easy way to start and top recordings hands-free. It provides three trigger actions total, so I’m currently using it to start and stop recordings, toggle the Key Light Airs, and end meetings using Mutedeck.

Logitech Brio 4K Webcam ($181.04) – (9/2/2023)
My new LG monitor doesn’t include a webcam, so I decided to splurge on a better one that supports tripod mounting. I’m going to try to create training materials and thought it’d be wise to be able to move it around for better angles.

Logitech for Creators Blue Yeti USB Microphone – ($70.22) – (10-12-2022)
I purchased this to help record myself and adjust my speech rate before creating training materials. I will also be using it in the training videos I create.

InnoGear Mic Stand – ($21.99) – 10-12-2022
Not a great purchase. The knobs do not keep the arm folded when not in use, even with the microphone removed. I was hoping to keep the arm mounted and just swivel out of the way. I’ll make do for now, but will probably invest in a better arm after I get some videos created.

FULAIM Boom Mic Arm ($61.27) – (9/22/2023)
The InnoGear was too problematic, so I purchased this Mic arm, and it’s superior in every way. It actually works really well. It mounts to my desk with a bullnose edge, and the arms are super solid. They hold position without needing to adjust any knobs and support the weight of the Yeti really well.

LG 49WL95C-W Ultrawide Dual QHD Monitor 49″ – (9/1/2023)
I decided to splurge on the Ultrawide because I often work in applications side by side while creating and referencing documents and/or coding. This has been absolutely game-changing for me. If you want true 5K, see the notes about cable, as none of the included cables worked for me, nor did any of the other cables I had, including 8K.

Maxonar USB C to DisplayPort, 8K 60Hz Type C to DP Cable 6.6FT ($15.96)
If you want to connect your Mac Studio Ultra to this monitor and want to utilize the 5k resolution, the only cable that worked for me was this USB-C to Display 8k cable. None of the HDMI cables (including 8k) I tested worked, but I’m still unsure why.

MELIFO Curved Monitor Light Bar PRO – ($99.00) (9/27/2023)
I bought into the monitor lightbar craze and purchased a knock-off version of the popular BENQ lightbar that I’m thrilled with overall. The package I received appeared to be a return as things weren’t sealed, and the remote didn’t come with a battery cover.

Yamaha SR-C20A (Added 9/20/2023)
The audio on the internal speaker for the LG monitor didn’t work great, so I decided to get a speaker. With the size of the monitor, a soundbar seemed more appropriate since it could sit on the desk under the monitor. I needed something that would work with meetings and video calls, so I worked with Crutchfield, who was very helpful, and they recommended the Yamaha soundbar. I’m very happy with the purchase, and it works well with the Logitech Brio for meetings.

MacBook 15″ Pro 2015
Retina display, Quad-core Intel Core i7 2.8GHz, 16GB RAM, 1TB PCIe-based flash storage.

Synology 8 bay NAS DiskStation DS1819+ ($949.99) with 4 WD Red 10 TB drives ($1,236.81) & DS1813+($977.98)
I use two 8-bay Synology that I use as my first backup for all machines. I use Synology Drive to sync files between my devices.

Drobo Pro FS – 8 Bay
The DroboPro FS was my first NAS system, and it was a terrible purchase. On paper, it sounded great, with features including hot-swappable drive support, data recovery, fault tolerance, etc. What ended up happening is far from the truth. I’d periodically lose files after rebooting the unit.
Update 6/12/20 – To make matters even worse, Windows just killed support for SMBv1, and the Drobo isn’t getting any more updates, so that it will be even more useless soon. I’m moving all my data to my Synology and may invest in a replacement Synology unit using the same drives. I definitely will never invest in another Drobo product ever again.
2021 – I officially replaced the Drobo with a Synlogy DS1819+ and just disposed of the Drobo. I won’t ever get another product from them.

TaoTronics SoundSurge 60 – $40
I am not an audiophile, so I can’t justify spending much money on headphones. I had a Sony headset I bought at Best Buy for years, which was wired but did everything I needed, including noise cancellation. Sadly, after about ten years, it finally broke. My needs are basic, and I just wanted headphones with excellent audio quality, Bluetooth and wired support, active noise cancellation, and good battery life. The TaoTronics SoundSurge 60 showed up on a deals site with great reviews. At $40, I pulled the trigger and am extremely happy with the quality. It folds compact, has a long battery life averaging about 10-12 hours of usage, and the active noise cancellation is powerful. When traveling on airplanes, turning on ANC means instant silence from the cabin noise.

Sony WF-1000XM3 – $180
My previous earbuds were the ENACFIRE F18, which I purchased for about $25 during Prime Day. They lasted about two years but had intermittent issues. The sound would frequently randomly drop in one ear and require a head bobble to restore sound. The battery life averaged about 2 hours in use and dropped to about 30 minutes after two years. I use my earbuds on my daily commute, so I decided to get something with better battery life and active noise cancellation. Contrary to my previous statement, I splurged on a better set of earbuds and settled on the popular Sony WF-1000XM3. Ironically, I do not trust ANC on the commute because I’ve missed important announcements, such as train delays.

Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap – ($411.99) – (9/26/2018)
I have owned many document scanners over the years, but this one has been the most reliable. I purchased it in 2018 and have used it regularly since to scan documents to searchable PDFs to get rid of paper copies of documents. O

Brother HL22700-W – (~$80)
I’ve had this printer for over ten years, and it’s still on the original toner cartridge. I haven’t printed color documents in a long time, so this printer has done well. I bought it because it supports wireless, but no matter what I do, I cannot get it to join my network.

iPad Air Gen 5
I use this for testing work, playing games, and reading books and movies when traveling.

Meetuo 2 Pcs Cell Phone Stand ($8.50)
I wanted an easy way to see my phone while charging it on my desk. This stand is adjustable, reasonably priced, and supports the weight of my Pixel 7 Pro.

Ascrono – Charging Station Compatible with Apple Magic Mouse 2 ($40.46)
I bought this for an easy way to charge my magic mouse, and it’s one of those quality-of-life improvements. I dock the mouse to this, and it’ll charge it full.

Apple Magic Keyboard with Touch ID ($160)
I prefer ergonomic keyboards like my Logitech Wave over anything Apple makes, but the fingerprint reader makes authenticating much more convenient.

ProtoArc Foldable Keyboard and Mouse ($66.48) – (Added 5/8/2024)
I had to travel for work for an extended period of time and was missing a full keyboard. I decided to splurge, get a travel set, and take a gamble on this set. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the keyboard. It’s sturdy, functional, lightweight, and has some nice features, like pairing without needing a USB dongle, though it came with one as a backup. The keyboard and mouse will also pair with two devices, which might be handy when pairing them with my iPad. The mouse isn’t ideal from an ergonomic perspective, but it’s better than nothing.

Development Tools

Visual Studio 2015-2022 – Free Community Edition (Updated 9/1/2023)
I have all three versions installed side-by-side to maintain various projects and codebases. None of the other IDEs hold a candle to how productive and enjoyable development is in Visual Studio + Resharper. I no longer maintain multiple versions of Visual Studio and now use Visual Studio 2022 with Resharper.

Visual Studio Code – Free
When I’m not using JetBrains tools, I use VS Code on my Mac for quick coding work.

Github/Bitbucket – Free
I use GitHub for my free projects and Bitbucket for my private ones.

JetBrains Toolbox – $149.00/year
I use many of the JetBrains tools, which are among the most valuable subscriptions I have.

  • Resharper
    Having worked with Visual Studio with Resharper for so long, I can no longer use Visual Studio without Resharper, as the keyboard shortcuts are all in muscle memory. During an interview, I blanked on writing a for loop in code because I got used to Resharper’s templates.
  • PHPStorm
    PhpStorm is my favorite PHP IDE for working with Symfony, Laravel, Drupal, and WordPress.
  • PyCharm
    I use PyCharm when developing Python code. I’m currently learning Machine Learning and Data Science stuff for work, and Pycharm is a massive time-saver for things like working with Jupyter notebooks, Flask, and more.
  • WebStorm
    I use WebCharm to build static Javascript tools like NodeJS and VueJS.
  • JetBrains AI
    I signed up for JetBrains AI because it’s well integrated into the JetBrains tools. The code is sometimes not the best, but some of the features it offers are things I utilize like AI commits and documentation.

Notepad++ – Free
Notepad++ replaces regular Notepad on Windows and serves as my default text editor. I use it for quick editing on just about everything.

BBEditFree $53.30
I use the free version of BBEdit for general code and text editing on Mac since they discontinued TextWrangler. I upgraded to the paid version for version 14. I use BBEdit to jot random notes and the new feature to title files in the list automatically. I also used BBEdit daily and felt it was essential to support the developers.

SMSS/MySQL Workbench – Free
When working with Microsoft SQL, I use SQL Management Studio ApexSQL tools, especially Autocomplete. When working with MySQL, I use MySQL Workbench.

MAMP Pro – $34.50 for MAMP 5.0 upgrade
I bought the subscription to MAMP Pro only because it saves so much time setting up and running development environments.

Insomnia – Free
I use the free version to test REST APIs I build quickly, which helps isolate issues.

Draw.io – Free
When I do diagrams or technical architecture planning, I always turn to Draw.io. I cannot say enough good things about it. It’s a free, open-source project, but it’s so well made, and both the template and symbols library are extensive. I’ve used Visio, Gliffy, and a few others and always return to Draw.io.

CoPilot – $100/year
I have a subscription to GitHub Co-Pilot that my job pays for. I use this quite a bit in VS Code and JetBrains when developing.

Services/Subscriptions

toast.log -$5 (added 9/8/2020)
I bought this on a whim on a pre-order because it looked extremely promising. Not having to open the console but seeing console.log messages while developing sounded extremely useful. It was $5 during the pre-order, so I figured, why not? I use it daily in my development, and it’s a simple quality-of-life improvement.

Responsively – Free – (added 10/20/2020)
I just discovered this tool and find it invaluable for front-end development testing. It lets you preview multiple resolutions and auto-scroll simultaneously to view content across different screens. It is highly recommended if you do any front-end development.

Backblaze$60/year $140/year (Updated 3/25/23)
My second level of backup. Backblaze is affordable and is a set-it-and-forget cloud backup solution. When consulting, I recommend this to everyone. It’s saved so many people from losing work and essential files that it’s an easily justified yearly expense.
3-25-23 – I added Backblaze to my iMac Pro, so I’m now backing up two computers. I turned on one year of history on one computer.

Synology C2 – €139.98/year for 2 TB
I replaced Glacier with Synology’s C2 because of its predictable pricing and the ability to restore data faster and more reasonably in case of data loss. I’m using this to back up essentials, including photos, my Synology Drive files, documents, etc.

ServerAvatar ($447 Lifetime Deal) – Added 9/2/2023
I don’t know how I overlooked adding this to my list, but this is a lifetime deal I purchased in 2021, and I use it almost daily. It lets me securely spin up servers and websites for both web and production. It’s one of my best purchases, saving me so much time.

DigitalOcean – Varies, but averages $30/month.
I use DigitalOcean for anything that needs to run on Linux-based systems (including this blog). Most of my work runs perfectly fine on the $5 droplets. (3/1/2023) I switched from DigitalOcean to Hetzner for hosting. The servers provide the same performance but are much cheaper.
Total Spend from 3/1/2016-6/1/2023: $2,772.22

Hetzner – Varies, about $15.21 (3/1/2023)
I switched to using Hetzner for my dev work. All my sites have been switched from DigitalOcean to here. I currently run two servers, one for production sites (including this blog) and one for development projects. I’m paying 1/2 the price of DigitalOcean, but my production server has more resources than the old DigitalOcean server.

Sentry.io – Free
Sentry is open-source error tracking that provides visibility across your entire stack, giving you the details you need to fix your bugs. I use this for every project I work on with the on-premise hosted version on a $5 Droplet. I switched to the hosted version as I wasn’t hitting anywhere close to the free limits, and there was no point in spending the $5 a month.

Logrocket – Free
Logrocket quickly becomes indispensable for my side projects, especially when paired with Sentry. It provides the ability to replay bugs and see what the user was doing by tracking logs, stack traces, and a video snapshot of the user’s actions before the error occurred. It helps track down bugs and user-reported issues, even during development.

LastPass – $60/year Family Plan (ended 12/1/2023)
I recently switched from RoboForm to LastPass to manage my passwords and keep things organized and secure. Overall, LastPass has a much friendlier UI than RoboForm. I will evaluate Bitwarden next as I definitely have issues with LastPass and their support is pretty terrible.

I reported a UI bug on the website (search for a string, delete or update a password, and the UI doesn’t refresh) and they reported it was functioning as expected. In another bug, shared passwords came over as blank. LastPass’s documentation said the fix is to revoke and re-send the password, which I tried with no luck. Reaching out to support, I explained I already followed the instructions in the article. Their solution? A link to the same article I had already explained I followed.

1Password – $60/year Family Plan (added 12/1/2023)
I switched from LastPass to 1Password. I tested Bitwarden and was not happy with the experience. The UI on all platforms is subpar for the average end user, and I didn’t get past a few hours of using it. I then tested 1Password, and the entire experience has been a breath of fresh air. It addresses all the pain points I had with LastPass. I’ll write a blog post detailing my experience.

Dropbox – Free (Updated 9/1/2023)
I’ve used Dropbox for as long as I can remember, and at one point had a paid subscription, but switched back to the free plan and now am slowly switching away to use Synology Drive instead.
9/1/2023 – I have entirely switched from Dropbox to using a combination of pCloud and Synology Drive.

pCloud – $599 Lifetime – Family 2 TB + Encryption (added 10/31/2021)
Dropbox’s limitations were annoying on the free plan, so I purchased a lifetime subscription to pCloud to use in conjunction with Synology.

AWS S3 – $.50/month
I’m using S3 buckets to store automated backups of things like my WordPress sites.

Amazon Glacier
My third-level backup, and this is my final disaster recovery plan if everything else fails. I hope never to need to use it as it’ll cost a lot to restore. I’d love to find a better option, but I haven’t been able to do so. I finally gave up on Glacier after running into a situation where I needed it. An app went rogue and deleted files on my desktop, which replicated to my local backups. I did a restore from Glacier, and it was excruciating. There’s no web UI, so I used a 3rd party tool. It took hours to get my bucket info and another day to restore the files. Deleting my backups took over a week, costing me nearly $150 to delete everything.

Evernote
Evernote is an application software designed for note-taking, organizing, task lists, and archiving. I purchased a Plus subscription and use it for personal and work. I regularly use the Evernote browser plugin to save reference content and recipes.
Update 8/1/2022 – I canceled my paid plan and switched to Notion.

NotionFree (Added 8/1/2022) $96/year
I tested Notion and switched from Evernote. I’m currently on the free tier but plan to upgrade to the paid plan in the near future. The import from Evernote doesn’t work, and their support team wasn’t very helpful in resolving it, so I haven’t already upgraded to the paid version.
Update – 1/5/2023
I finally found a way to import my Evernote documents to Notion. This free, open-source tool saved me a lot of time, and unlike the official importer, it works. https://github.com/vzhd1701/enex2notion I sent vzhd1701 a cup of coffee and switched to a paid plan on Notion for $76 for the first year.

Trello – Free – Update 10/19/2022
I’m on the free plan, but I use this to keep ideas and projects organized. I mainly use it to brainstorm and collect my thoughts. I hit the limits of the free tier after Atlassian acquired it and could no longer use Trello. I switched to Taskade.

Taskade – $224.10/Lifetime – Added 10/19/2022
I bought a lifetime deal with Taskade, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite organizational tools. It does everything Trello does but offers mind maps and more. It helps organize task lists, take structured notes, manage projects, and collaborate with others. I use it to get more organized, brainstorm, and track progress.

Private Internet Access – 99.00 for three years
I use a VPN tool when I’m on a public network or to test what a site looks like from another country.

Microsoft Office 365/Google Docs
I switch between the two products depending on what I’m doing. I’ll fire up a Google Doc for personal stuff if I need to do something quickly or collaborate with someone on a document since it’s free with Gmail. If I’m doing business-oriented work, I’ll usually use Word/Excel. I have a paid subscription to Office, but when the subscription expires, I may switch to Google Docs entirely.

FontAwesome – $60/year
I missed this when it was on Kickstarter, and I regret not getting it sooner. It’s worth every penny to use standard icon glyphs across my work.

Cloudflare/Namecheap/Name – $10/year per domain
I wrote a post about why I’ve switched most domains to Cloudflare. A few domains are left on Namecheap and Name as Cloudflare does not support the TLD yet, and I’ll move them once Cloudflare adds support.

Grammarly – $62.98/year
Grammarly is a handy tool, but one I only use when I have the license active. Grammarly’s regular price is $150 a year, but I don’t think it’s worth more than $70 a year. I buy the subscription when it goes on sale, which is pretty much every year. The most significant ding for this is that it doesn’t work with WordPress, where I do most of my writing.
Update 5-21-2020 – The latest version of Grammarly’s Chrome plugin does work with WordPress Gutenberg blocks, which increases the value added to my daily use.

MXRoute – $10 every three years
I use MXRoute to host my custom domain email. I’m a massive fan of the service and the support they provide. As they provide unlimited forwarding, I set up an alias for each company I sign up to limit the spam I get. If I need to send an email from the alias, I’ll set up a temporary mailbox. Great value for the highly reasonable rates they charge.

Burner Mail – $49/Lifetime
I’m using Burner Mail to generate emails for services I won’t use often or don’t trust to spam me. For example, I generated an email for Toyota when I was interested in getting quotes on a car. The salesperson refused to quote me but would spam me, saying, “I have a great deal for you, but if you don’t respond now, it’ll get sold to someone else.” I unsubscribed but would still get emails from the dealer, so I just deleted the burner.

RemotePC – $60/year – Cancelled 8/01/2022
I used to have a paid subscription to Logmein before their prices were raised unreasonably. I miss it for the convenience, but $35/month per computer for something I use four times a month at most is stupid. I switched to Teamviewer, but they got highly annoying with their constant “Commercial Use detected” warnings. They’d review the logs, see if I used it in the terms, and reset my account, only to have it happen again. RemotePC was to access my home computers when on the road. Most of the time, it’s to test something not working on my company’s network to eliminate the possibility of it being a network issue.

Update: 8/1/22 – Since switching to working from home, I haven’t needed to remote into my computer, so I let this subscription lapse.

GetScreen.me – $297/Lifetime (added 7/1/2021)
I often have to support friends and family, and I’ve been using RemotePC, but it’s been cumbersome for some of them. I just tested GetScreen and pulled the trigger, as it’s lightweight and easy to use. Having it be browser-based is even more impressive, as it means I don’t have to have a client installed and can help people from anyone’s computer as long as I have my login. This is light years ahead of Teamviewer as well.

Lambdatest – $90/year
Perform automated and live interactive cross-browser testing on 2000+ real browsers and operating systems online. A few years ago, I bought a deal on Black Friday that grandfathered me in for $90 a year. I don’t use the tool often, but it’s helpful to test sites when a user reports a bug.

BigMarker – $699 Lifetime
BigMarker is a browser-based, no-download webinar software. I use this for quick meetings but hope to use it for products I’m building once launched.

Trackmysubs – $15 Lifetime
I use Trackmysubs to track my active subscriptions. I configured alerts to remind myself when subscriptions will renew so I can review and decide if they’re still worth keeping.

Blinkist – $39.99/year (Referral link)
Blinkist is one of my favorite services, and I use it regularly. It summarizes popular books into 15-minute digests that you can read or listen to. I typically prefer to read, but I listen to the digests with my wife on long car rides. My typical workflow has been listening to the digest, and when the digest has good material, I read the book. It’s saved me from wasting time on books that easily fluff material.

Amazon Prime – $119/year
It comes with a bunch of stuff, but I mainly use it for the free shipping. I rarely use Prime Video as the movie and TV show selections are generally what you’d find in the big bins at a dollar store.

T-Mobile – $183.39/month
I paid for a five-person family plan, and one person got a new phone, for which I used the split payment plan. Otherwise, it would be about $167.69/month.

Netflix$12/year updated 5/21/2020 – $48/year
I have T-Mobile as my cell phone provider, and Netflix is part of the package. Netflix raised their prices, so I’m paying about $12 a year out of pocket. I upgraded my Netflix plan to the premium HD plan, supporting four devices, so I’m now paying about $48/year extra.

Sidekick.ai – $99/Lifetime – 10/21/2021
I just started using Sidekick, and it’s already proving to be an insanely excellent scheduling tool. It makes scheduling a breeze. My current use case is that I have three calendars – one each for personal use, work, and consulting. Giving time from all three calendars has been challenging when scheduling meetings. Sidekick can register all three and then show availability on each. Another unique feature I find invaluable is the teams’ pages. I can invite people I work with, and as long as they connect their calendars, it allows someone to book a time available for everyone on the team.

Beagle Security – $265.50/Lifetime
I bought a lifetime deal with Beagle Security to run basic security scans on my projects. I don’t use it every month, but it gives me peace of mind that my work is covered by basic security.

clean.email ($199.00/Lifetime)
I have a ton of crap emails I never get to or bother cleaning except for once a year. I was looking for a way to automate cleaning up and almost went the route of writing some scripts to handle it for me but then stumbled onto clean.email. I tested it and discovered they had a lifetime promo for five email accounts for $199. It became a no-brainer, and I set up rules to clean up old emails I no longer needed.

Wellybox ($69.00/Lifetime)
I bought this to automatically track my receipts and invoices from emails, hoping I can do expense reports faster for my accountant. I connected it to my inboxes and let it run in the background. I’ll do a year-end review and see how this tool works out, but it looks promising.

ChatGPT
I use the enterprise version of ChatGPT at my company. I had a paid plan for the Plus version but canceled it once my company provided the enterprise version. It’s pretty amazing how it can handle boilerplate code quickly, allowing me to focus on getting more complex stuff done.

Productivity Tools

Arc Browser – Free (Added 9/1/2023)
I switched from Chrome to Arc on Mac, which has changed my workflow entirely.

Vivaldi – Free (Added 9/1/2023)
On my Windows machines, I use Chrome to Vivaldi as my primary browser.

Alfred – ?32.00 Lifetime
I can’t use a Mac without Alfred anymore because it’s become an indispensable part of my workflow. Check out my must-have powerpack recommendations to make it even more helpful.

Station – Free – updated 9/1/22
I use Station nearly every day as it lets me consolidate quite a few web apps I use in one place. I keep Android Messages Web, Trello, Brain.fm, and a few other sites loaded in it.

Update: 9/1/22—The dev team abandoned Station and turned it into open source, but half of the apps don’t work anymore. I switched to Rambox.

Rambox – 9/1/22 – $168.00/Lifetime
I switched from Station to Rambox, which allows me to consolidate several web apps I use in one place. I keep Android Messages Web, Brain.fm, and a few other sites loaded in it.

Beeper – Free (added 5/1/2024)
I signed up for Beeper and connected my various chat apps to it. So far, it works flawlessly.

iTerm 3 – Free
I use iTerm 3 with my dotfiles, which has many great features/functions and shortcuts that help me be more productive on Mac.

Fig – Free
Fig adds autocomplete to the command line.

Spectacle – Free
I’ve been using Spectacle since I first got a Mac. It lets me move and resize windows easily and gives me a true full screen that lets me flip between windows instead of the weird Mac version of full-screen.

Synergy
Having multiple machines, I love having the ability to share one mouse and keyboard with both my Macs and Windows machines using Synergy. I paid for the license, but to be honest, it’s not great. The developer running the project seems to be causing chaos while figuring out how to monetize the app. I’m finding Synergy can work fine sometimes but then randomly goes buggy with the mouse jumping around randomly with no rhyme or reason. I haven’t found a suitable replacement for it, but the price was a one-time fee, so I’m stuck with it for now.

ShareMouse (9/6/2019) – $184.96 for five years
I found ShareMouse and gave it a shot using the free trial. After the free trial period, I pulled the trigger to purchase it. Thus far, it works without any of the glitches I’ve been experiencing with Synergy. I can now reliably share one mouse and keyboard with my Mac and Windows machines.

SetApp – $107.88/year
I use many apps in SetApp, so paying for the subscription is cheaper than getting the apps individually. The apps I use most are Declutter, CleanMyMacX, Flume, Rocket Typist, Forecastbar, Timing, InstaCal (seriously, it’s 2019, and Apple still doesn’t have a quick view calendar?), CodeRunner, Paw, Marked, Bartender, and a few others.

Numi – $20
I got this through SetApp, but I find this app helpful. It’s a natural language calculator with a ton of useful functions. It does currency conversions and so much more.

Brain.fm – $25 Lifetime Deal
Brain.fm is a streaming music service that uses things like binaural beats to help you accomplish specific tasks. I mainly use it when coding with the Focus beats. I don’t know if any of their claims are accurate, but I find it helps me stay focused, and the music is pleasant. I purchased this as a lifetime deal.

Adguard – $29 Lifetime Deal for two computers and two devices
AdGuard is the best way to get rid of intrusive ads and online tracking and to protect your computer from malware at the OS level. I use this in combination with uBlock in the browser. I also use it on my phone to prevent ads in most apps.

Dash – $29.99
I bought this for offline documentation, but I barely use it because searching on Google is 100x faster. Adding custom docs turned out to be much more complicated than it should be. It’d be more valuable if it could load things like documentation directly from existing markdown files. Dash is one product for which I should’ve asked for a refund.

Any.Do – Free Plan
I use Any.Do to-do my task management. It has some useful features other to-do apps don’t offer. The mobile version prompts me every morning to plan out my day. If you miss a call, Any.Do can prompt you to remind yourself to call back.
Update (9/18/2021) – I realized I haven’t used Any.Do since Covid started, and switched to Taskade.

Krisp.ai – $39 Lifetime – (added 5/21/2020)
I bought a Lifetime deal on this app and have started using it more now that I’m primarily remote. It eliminates background noise in conference calls supposedly trained using deep neural networks. I’ve tried it sitting out on a patio, and no one mentioned hearing background noise like they usually would, so I believe it works.

Fences – $9.95 (Added 9/8/2020)
I completely forgot about this tool, which works and runs in the background. I’ve been using Fences to keep my desktop organized for years now, and it’s one that I wish I had a Mac equivalent for.

MuteDeck – $39.99 (9/30/2023)
I bought a license to Mutedeck so I can control my meetings using the Stream Deck. It works well and saves me time, so it was worth the one-time fee.

Graphic Design

Adobe Photoshop CC – $90/year for Photography Plan (includes Lightroom)
I have a subscription to Adobe Photography Cloud, which gives me access to Photoshop and Lightroom. I use Photoshop primarily to edit photos I take but occasionally for minor web work.

Adobe Lightroom Classic CC
I use Lightroom to manage all my photography work. I use the Classic version as I can’t stand the cloud version of Lightroom. It lacks the features and precision control I have become accustomed to, and I’m not interested in paying for storage to Adobe when I have plenty locally.

ShortPixel $25 – Lifetime Deal
I use ShortPixel to optimize and compress images on all the websites I build. It’s great for optimizing raster images like PNGs and JPEGs. The service reduces the file size dramatically, with no discernible difference in quality. I typically use the CLI tool for my work.

DepositPhotos
I use DepositPhotos for all my stock image needs. It’s not often, but whenever it comes up, I can find whatever I need quickly, and I’m not worrying about licensing issues. Great for mock-ups, placeholders, marketing assets, and websites I’m building that need royalty stock imagery.

AudioHero – $117 for 9000 Credits
I bought credits to AudioHero to access 250,000 premium royalty-free music tracks and sound effects licensed with all media and worldwide rights. The credits don’t expire.

Applications

These applications don’t fall into other categories but are free.

Sysinternals
I used to use many tools more, but I need them less as everything moves to the cloud. ProcMon and a few others are still useful for debugging issues with my PC, but even those issues are rare now.

Nirsoft
I use many of the site’s tools, but the most useful ones are the password recovery tools. I often deal with friends, family, and customers who forget passwords but have them stored on the machine they need me to help fix.

Muzzle – (added 5/21/2020)
I’m currently working remotely due to the coronavirus situation. I’m doing many more screen shares and presentations; nothing is more embarrassing than when a notification that shouldn’t be there pops up. A co-worker shared Muzzle, a simple Mac app to silence notifications while screen sharing for work. So far, it works flawlessly with Slack, Google Hangouts, and Zoom.

WordPress – Added 11/23/2022

I do quite a bit of work with WordPress, so I decided to organize the info and give WordPress its own section.

Modula – $39 Lifetime
I had a subscription to the Next-gen Image Gallery (now Imagely) WordPress plugin, which was $69 a year for my photography blog. It’s super bloated, and I only used basic image gallery functionality. I got the opportunity to buy Modula, which did the same thing but for a one-time price of $39, and I didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. I replaced Imagely with Modula, and the site performance improved drastically without sacrificing any functionality. I also got a cost savings of $138 over three years.

Brizy – $299 Lifetime (added 10/04/20)
I bought Brizy as a lifetime agency plan for a project a while ago. I mainly purchased it because it’s an alternative to builders like Elementor. I used it to save time building a single landing page for a client and then promptly forgot about it until this week. I remembered I had it and used it for another project where they didn’t have a large budget. I built an entire site in under five hours, which impressed me. I’m hoping to use this on a few more websites shortly now.
Update 6/08/21 – I’m not using Brizy anymore due to performance, feature issues, and bugs. The support hasn’t been great, and the response is usually the generic “We’ll add this to our feature requests,” which never gets resolved. I ended up migrating the one site we did in Brizy to Divi.

Divi – $187 Lifetime (added 06/08/21)
I bought Divi due to the great reviews of it as an alternative to Elementor and even Brizy. It’s more feature-filled than Brizy and has a robust third-party add-on community that provides more options. It’s flexible, and using it on multiple sites means I can rapidly build sites for smaller clients who need something quick and straightforward.

Divi Supreme – $197.10 Lifetime (added 11/23/2022)
A collection of Divi add-ons that gives you extra components. I sometimes think it’s crazy that I paid more for the plugins than Divi, but both have paid for themselves multiple times.

WP Rocket – $224.10/Lifetime – Added 10/12/2022
I switched to WP Rocket after testing it on a site and seeing the performance gains. WPMUDev’s Hummingbird never works quite right or breaks everything when enabling advanced features like minifying or merging CSS/JS. WP Rocket seems to handle it perfectly without any real additional tweaking needed.

WP Vivid Backup $239.20/Lifetime – Added 11/23/2022
This plugin is one of the best WordPress backup plugins I’ve used, period. I haven’t seen many that automatically create a site backup before an upgrade.

Duplicator Pro ($549.00/Lifetime) – Added 9/2/2023
I use Duplicator Pro to move sites from dev to production (or vice versa) without worrying about changing URLs.

WPMU Dev – $199.00/year
I use the WPMU Dev plugins on pretty much every WordPress site I develop or manage. The main plugins I use are Defender Pro, Hummingbird Pro, Snapshot, Shipper Pro, and Smush Pro. This subscription is becoming less valuable since they deprecated all of the other plugins, and I am currently evaluating replacements.

Update 11/23/2022 – I might cancel this one next year. I’ve replaced most plugins, as the WPMU Dev ones no longer work well. They’re focusing more on their hosting than building quality plugins.

Hummingbird Pro breaks every site I’ve tried it on. Replaced it with WP Rocket
Snapshot 4 requires you to go through their servers in a cash grab since they only give you limited space. When using the white-labeled version, it puts all the client copies into my storage. Version 3 didn’t do this, and they won’t change it. Replaced it with WP Vivid Backup.
Shipper Pro – Never worked on any site. Literally none. It didn’t matter whether I used the local version or API. Support couldn’t help me get it working. – Replaced it with Duplicator Pro.
Smush Pro – Replaced with Shortpixel

Airbnb – Added 10/12/2022

My wife and I purchased our first property overseas and listed it on Airbnb. I thought it might be helpful to list what I use specifically for Airbnb.

Hospitable – $25/month
I use Hospitable as my Channel Manager. I looked at Guesty, and they told me I wasn’t large enough. I stumbled upon Hospitable. Overall, it’s a very solid platform and helps to sync availability between Airbnb, Booking.com, and VRBO. It has automation tools that allow me to notify my property managers of bookings and send templated messages. The integrations library is building, which offers more functionality to make this a valuable tool. It integrates with Pricelabs and Schlage. The Minute integration isn’t available yet.

Pricelabs – $9.99/month
Pricelabs sets dynamic pricing for the property. I evaluated Wheelhouse and went with Pricelabs because they were cheaper at $9.99 and appeared to do the same thing. I plan to test Wheelhouse and see if it makes any difference to justify the price difference.

Minut – $15/month
We had some problematic renters who threw parties in our condo. We received multiple noise complaints from people blasting music at 4 a.m. I decided to try a noise monitoring system. This is new for me and untested. I prepaid for the year and got the device for free. I’ll see how it works out, but hopefully, I won’t have to use it.

Schlage Encode Lock – $268.73
I went with the Encode lock to set up a keyless entry to enter the condo. The other Schlage lock required a hub to connect it to the Wi-Fi, and it seemed like an extra and unnecessary point of failure.

Hardware

Home Assistant Yellow – $196.38 (added 2/15/2023)
I use Home Assistant for advanced home automation routines. I had it running on a Raspberry Pi, but I wanted to support the project, so I bought one of the yellows.

Pihole(added 2/15/2023)
I run a Pi-hole on a Raspberry Pi, but I have not deployed it to my entire network yet. I will update this when I fully deploy it.

Total Spends

Yearly: $1,588.19 $3,974.82 (10/31/2021) $3,831.88 – 9/2/2023
Lifetime Deals: $1,049.99 $2800.44 (10/31/2021) $3,744.93 (9/2/2023)
Hardware: $416.38 $2,374.50 (9/2/2023)
Airbnb: $868.61 (9/2/2023)

Notes

After detailing all this, I may revisit some of the yearly costs.

  • Is the value WPMU.dev offers worth it, considering how expensive it is to everything else?
    Update 6/12/20 – I will cancel this subscription before my next renewal. They sunsetted most of their plugins, and the few left have started adding features that only work on their hosting, which I will never need to use.
    Update 12/27/20 – I learned my license is unlimited and includes the white label option, so I can use it for my consulting side projects and keep it to client projects.
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