The Setup


What do people use to get stuff done?

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Glenn Fleishman

Glenn Fleishman

Editor (The Magazine), podcaster (The New Disruptors)


Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Glenn Fleishman, a recovering typesetter, who recently added "publisher" to my "editor" title at The Magazine, a fortnightly periodical for curious people founded by Marco Arment. I've worked making granola, running the tech at a Kodak educational facility in Maine, as a managing editor at a book firm, and at for six months in late 1996.

I host the podcast The New Disruptors, built the backend at TidBITS (where I also write), and am a regular contributor to the Economist. (I wrote "The Sharing Economy" cover story in March 2013.)

What hardware do you use?

I've got four systems that I will list in declining screen area.

A 2011 Mac Mini, which I recently bumped from 8 GB to 16 GB of RAM (for less than $100) with two external 19-inch displays, is my primary machine. I have two keyboards. A hard-action Matias Tactile Pro (FK302 model) that I use for everything except when I am taking verbatim or other notes while talking to people by phone or VoIP. For that, I have a scissor-action Macally icekey that's no longer sold. I've worn out two previous Matias keyboards through an incredible amount of use. I learned to type at age 11 and run about 100 wpm.

I use this computer with a standing desk that also has a treadmill that I can use while working. I stand on a foam mat when I'm just standing. This is in a basement home office.

For work around the town and on the road, as well as upstairs, I rely on a 2011 MacBook Air, which I love more than any laptop I've ever owned, even though its motherboard died about 13 months into its lifespan and I had failed to purchase the extended warranty I always buy for Apple laptops. (Pro tip: Apple Stores don't necessarily tell you this, but one of the geniuses at the store near my house did. For slightly more than the AppleCare warranty cost, you can get a repair of anything wrong with a Mac, but it has to be sent back for a few days to a central depot. I had an $800+ motherboard fixed for about $300 including tax.)

An iPad 4 serves as a portable reading and video-watching device. The MacBook Air is so compact that I don't use the iPad for much in the way of entering data. And an iPhone 5 can be an effective office-away-from-laptops.

My kids have access (at parental discretion) to a very old iPod touch and an iPhone 3GS (with cell service turned off), as well as an iPad 2 and a 2009 MacBook.

And what software?

First and foremost is BBEdit. I was a latecomer to it, being required to used Word for most of my writing because editors relied on it (especially for tracking changes). But around version 8 several years ago, I started to use it more consistently. Now I essentially live in it. Probably 85% of the time I'm not reading or writing email — with the Mailsmith client designed by Bare Bones founder Rich Siegel and now maintained as freeware — I'm programming, writing, or editing in BBEdit.

The Magazine and TidBITS use Markdown as our native format, and I convert from Markdown into the HTML required by the Economist's CMS. I use SVN for version control with The Magazine and TidBITS as well. I recently discovered and fell in love with Zenna•Ware's Cornerstone as a Mac SVN manager. If I need to deal with a Word .doc or .docx file, I use Pages instead. I started using TextEdit not long ago to help with certain conversions, such as taking an RTF file with embedded links and exporting as not-too-horrible HTML, which I could then convert into Markdown.

Rounding out the Bare Bones-related triumvirate is Yojimbo, a sort of junk-drawer program that lets me drop in notes, serial numbers, Web pages, images, and PDFs, and optionally encrypt individual items.

My desktop and iOS Twitter client is Tweetbot, and I use Kiwi for on my Mac and Netbot for iOS. My only issue with Kiwi is that it needs multi-account support.

I spent May deep in development and design of The Magazine to launch minor revisions after my purchase of it had completed. On the low-level side, I was using PHP with jQuery for JavaScript and Stripe for credit-card processing. On the higher-level, I relied on Oracle's MySQL Workbench for MySQL database interaction and GitHub for Mac for version control.

I admit a bit guiltily that for previewing and designing CSS, I turn to MacRabbit's CSSEdit 2.5, a version that's no longer shipping, as its functionality was absorbed into the company's Espresso Web site development software.

Skype is invaluable. However irritating it can be, and however much I dislike the user-interface changes in the 5.x client update for Mac, it's still something I rely on. I gave up a landline phone line years ago, and switched to Vonage, until I found that Skype was much cheaper, more flexible, and not bad at all. When I record my podcast, I use Skype for the call, and can record my local audio while asking the guest to record his or hers as well.

What would be your dream setup?

With the memory bump on the Mac mini, I'm fairly close to an ideal situation computationally: I have the computer, keyboards, and desk that I want. I would like to find affordable and compact IPS displays. But all the ones I can find are 16:9 ratio and huge. I'd also like to switch to SSDs for everything: boot and local backup. But the cost for my current capacity needs is too high.