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.
I have three main computers that I use, each having different use cases. Windows is my preferred development environment, but open-source stuff runs smoother on Mac, so I ended up getting an iMac.
This machine is a powerhouse that I’ve upgraded to i7 processor, 64 GB of ram, 8 video card, and 8 TB storage. I use this for .NET development, photo, editing, pretty much everything on my routine day-to-day work.
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).
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.
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.
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 have two 8-bay Synology that I use as my first level of 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 that 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 it’s going to 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.
The Steelcase Leap is the primary competitor to the famous Herman Miller Aeron chair. I tested both chairs side by side and ended up liking the Leap better. I am delighted with my purchase and liked it way better than the Aeron due to the increased support.
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 have no idea what the brand is to link to anything, but I love it.
TaoTronics SoundSurge 60 – $40
I am not an audiophile, so I can’t justify spending a lot of money on headphones. For years, I had a Sony headset I bought at Best Buy, which was wired but did everything I needed, including noise cancellation. Sadly after about ten years, it finally broke. My needs are pretty basic, and I just wanted headphones that have 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 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 during Prime Day for about $25. They lasted about two years but had intermittent issues. The sound would frequently randomly drop in one ear and require a head bobble to get sound restored. 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. Being contradictory to my previous statement, I splurged on a better set of earbuds and settled on the popular Sony WF-1000XM3. Ironically, I find myself not trusting ANC on the commute because I’ve missed important announcements such as train delays.
Visual Studio 2015-2019 – Free Community Edition
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.
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 is one of the most useful subscriptions I have.
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 completely blanked on writing a for loop in code because I got so used to Resharper’s templates.
PhpStorm is my favorite PHP IDE for working with Symfony, Laravel, Drupal, and WordPress.
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.
Notepad++ – Free
Notepad++ replaces regular Notepad on Windows and serves as my default text editor. I use it for just about everything for quick editing.
Free $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 automatically title files in the list. I found I was also using BBEdit daily and felt it was important 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 in getting development environments set up and running.
Insomnia – Free
I use the free version to test REST API’s I build quickly, which helps isolate issues.
Draw.io – Free
When I do diagrams or technical architecture planning, I always end up turning 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 end up coming back to Draw.io.
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 have the console open but being able to see console.log messages while developing sounded extremely useful. During the pre-order, it was $5, so I figured why not. I use it daily now in my development, and it’s a simple quality of life improvement.
Responsively – Free – (added 10/20/2020)
I just discovered this tool and I’m finding it invaluable for front-end development testing. It lets you preview multiple resolutions and auto-scroll at the same time to view content across different screens. Highly recommended if you do any kind of front-end dev.
Backblaze – $60/year
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.
Synology C2 – €139.98/year for 2 TB
I replaced Glacier with Synology’s C2. it’s predictable pricing, and I can restore data faster and more reasonably in the case of data loss. I’m using this to back up essentials, including photos, my Synology Drive files, documents, etc.
DigitalOcean – Varies, but averages $30/month
For anything that needs to run on Linux based systems (including this blog), I use DigitalOcean. Most of my work runs perfectly fine on the $5 droplets.
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 is quickly becoming an indispensable tool 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 what the user was doing before the error occurred. It helps track down bugs, and user-reported issues, even while in the development phase.
LastPass – $60/year Family Plan
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’m going to 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.
Dropbox – Free
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.
AWS S3 – $.14/month
I’m using S3 buckets to store automated backups of things like my WordPress sites.
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 do a restore. I’d love to find a better option but 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 had to use a 3rd party tool. It took hours to get my bucket info and then another day to restore the files in question. Deleting my backups took over a week, and it ended up costing me close to $150 to delete everything. I’m going to set up an offsite backup server at my wife’s office using a Synology and remotely backup to that.
Evernote is an application software designed for note-taking, organizing, task lists, and archiving. I purchased a plus subscription to it and use it for personal and work. I use the Evernote browser plugin nearly every day to save reference content and recipes.
Trello – Free
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.
Private Internet Access – 99.00 for three years
VPN tool for when I’m on a public network or test what a site looks like from another country.
Microsoft Office 365/Google Docs
I find myself switching between the two products depending on what I’m doing. For personal stuff, I’ll fire up a Google doc 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 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 sooner. Worth every penny for using 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 end up buying the subscription when it goes on sale, which is pretty much every year.
The biggest ding for it is that it doesn’t work with WordPress, which is 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 add to my daily use.
MXRoute – $10 every three years
I use MXRoute for my custom domain email hosting. 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 amount of spam I get. If I need to send an email from the alias, I’ll set up a temporary mailbox. Great value for the extremely reasonable rates they charge.
RemotePC – $60/year
I used to have a paid subscription to Logmein before raising their prices to an unreasonable price. 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 extremely annoying with their constant “Commercial Use detected” warnings. They’d review the logs and see 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.
GetScreen.me – $297/Lifetime (added 7/1/2021)
I often have to provide support for friends and family and I’ve been using RemotePC but it’s been cumbersome for some of them to use. 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 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.
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, and Smush Pro.
This subscription is becoming less valuable since they deprecated all of the other plugins, and I am currently evaluating replacements.
Lambdatest – $90/year
Perform Automated and Live Interactive Cross Browser Testing on 2000+ Real Browsers and Operating Systems Online. I bought a deal on Black Friday a few years ago that grandfathers me in for $90 a year. I don’t use the tool often, but it’s useful 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.
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 was only using 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 didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. I replaced Imagely with Modula, and the site performance improved drastically without sacrificing any functionality, not to mention I get the 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 ended up remembering I had it and used it for another project where they didn’t have a large budget and built a full site in under five hours, which was pretty impressive to 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 some performance and feature issues as well as bugs. The support hasn’t been great and the response is usually the generic “We’ll add this to our feature requests” which never get resolved.
Divi – $187 Lifetime (added 06/08/21)
I bought Divi due to the great reviews as an alternative to Elementor and even Brizy. It’s more feature-filled than Brizy and has a really strong third-party add-on community which provides more options. It’s really flexible and being able to use it on multiple sites means I can rapidly build sites for smaller clients who need something quick and simple.
Blinkist – $39.99/year (Referral link)
Blinkist is one of my favorite services that I use regularly. It summarizes popular books into 15-minute digests that you can read or listen to. I typically prefer to read, but on long car rides, I listen to the digests with my wife. My typical workflow has been listening to the digest, and when the digest has good material, read the book. It’s saved me from wasting time on some 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 find myself using Prime video as the movie and TV show selections are generally are what you’d find in the big bins at a dollar store.
T-Mobile – $183.39/month
I pay for a five-person family plan, and one person got a new phone, which I used the split payment plan for. Otherwise, it would be about $167.69/month.
$12/year updated 5/21/2020 – $48/year
I have T-Mobile as my cell phone provider, and Netflix comes as a 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 4 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 awesome scheduling tool and it actually makes scheduling a breeze. My current use case is I have 3 calendars – one each for personal, work, and consulting. When trying to schedule meetings, it’s been a challenge to give time from all 3 calendars. Sidekick is able to register all three and then show availability on each. Another really unique feature that I’m finding invaluable is the teams pages. I can invite people I work with, and as long as they connect their calendar, it allows someone to book a time that’s available for all people on the team.
Alfred – ?32.00 Lifetime
I can’t use a Mac without Alfred anymore because it’s become such an indispensable part of my workflow. Check out my list of must-have powerpack recommendations to make it even more useful.
Station – Free
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.
iTerm 3 – Free
I use iTerm 3 with my dotfiles, which has a lot of great features/functions and shortcuts to help make me more productive on Mac.
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 being honest, it’s not great. The developer running the project seems to be causing chaos while trying to figure out how to monetize the app. I’m finding Synergy can work fine some of the time 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 5 years
I found ShareMouse and gave it a shot using the free trial. After the free trial period, I pulled the trigger on purchasing it. Thus far, it just works without any of the glitches I’ve been experiencing with Synergy. I now can share one mouse and keyboard with both my Macs and Windows machines, reliably.
SetApp – $107.88/year
I use a bunch of the 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.
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 to use for offline documentation, but I barely use it because searching on Google is 100x faster. Adding custom docs turned out to be much harder than it should be. It’d be more useful if it could load things like documentation direct from existing markdown files. Dash is one product 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.
Krisp.ai – $39 Lifetime – (added 5/21/2020)
I bought a Lifetime deal to this app and have started using it more now that I’m mostly 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 normally would, so I believe it works.
Fences – $9.95 (Added 9-8-2020)
I completely forgot about this tool as it’s one of those tools that just 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.
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 for managing 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, and 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.
I use DepositPhotos for all my stock image needs. It’s not often, but whenever it comes up, I’m able to 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 get access to 250,000 premium royalty-free music tracks and sound effects that are licensed with all media and worldwide rights. The credits don’t expire.
These applications don’t fall into other categories but are free.
I used to use a lot of the tools more, but I find myself needing 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.
I use many of the tools from the site, but the most useful ones are the password recovery tools. I often have to deal with friends/family/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 a lot more screen shares and presentations, and nothing is more embarrassing than when a notification pops up that shouldn’t be there. 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.
Lifetime Deals: $1,049.99
After detailing all this out, I may have to 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’m going to 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 whitelabel option so I can use it for my consulting side projects so I will be keeping it to use on client projects.