The Setup


What do people use to get stuff done?

Adam Wiggins

Adam Wiggins

Hacker, entrepreneur (Heroku)

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Adam Wiggins, hacker and tech entrepreneur. I make companies (such as Heroku) and I write (such as The Twelve-Factor App and End-user computing). My hobbies include making music and video games, and my social cause these days is ending marijuana prohibition

What hardware do you use?

Pretty standard setup: a 13" MacBook Pro. I spend almost all my time in iTerm 2 and Chrome. I'm not interested in most of the productivity software that comes bundled with the OS: I see the Macbook as a great piece of integrated hardware that lets me run a browser and terminal.

I keep the Dock hidden and launch applications exclusively with Alfred. And I use a lot of custom launchers as scriptable bookmarks.

After six years as a die-hard iPhone user, I switched to an unlocked HTC One last year, and I so far I've stuck with it. I always carry a SIM card switcher since I use different SIM cards when traveling internationally. And a MyCharge aux battery, because running out of battery while on the go is no fun.

Audio-Technica QuietPoint noise-canceling headphones plus generated white noise via A Soft Murmur block out distraction while working.

I carry a notebook with gridlined paper and a pen, because scribbling on a page helps me think.

And what software?

For writing, my workflow bounces between several tools. It starts with a draft in TextMate written in Markdown. Then I paste the formatted output into Google Docs in order to collaborate with co-authors or copyeditors. Then when it's time to publish, it's another cut-and-paste job into Medium. For some things I find it more appropriate to publish to Gist, like my Heroku values document. (I hope Draft or others might one day unify this workflow.)

For web development, my go-to stack for many years has been Vim, Git, Ruby, Bundler, Sinatra, Postgres, Sequel, GitHub, Heroku, and S3.

For visual authoring, I get a lot of milage out of open-source tools. For example, this album cover made using the Gimp and Blender 3D. These days I use Pixelmator for simple image editing because it feels so good on the Mac. For vector illustrations, like the cover of this album, I find Inkscape to be far more useable than Adobe Illustrator.

For creating music, Logic Pro is my main tool. Audacity can't be beat for waveform editing despite not looking very pretty. And of course, I publish to SoundCloud.

I love reading, so I have to mention Pocket (short form) and Kindle (the app, not the hardware) for long-form. Kindle plus GoodReads have amped up my reading in a huge way. I'm very thankful to this combination of tools for making books a centerpoint in my life again.

Right now I'm trying to learn a new spoken language, so Anki deserves a mention. This is a great flashcard authoring tool that syncs across platforms. Flashcards are a deceptively simple yet powerful tool for memorization.

What would be your dream setup?

Well, if we're really dreaming here, I'd like a computing setup like that shown in sci-fi movies (Star Trek, Iron Man, or Prometheus, to name a few). In these fictional environments, your computer follows you around everywhere, perhaps a little device in your pocket or pinned to your breast. But when you're in a workspace (like Tony Stark's lab) it expands to fill all the space around you, via lots of monitors and audio equipment, or maybe a holographic display. This happens seamlessly and effortlessly, not some kind of docking procedure for your laptop or phone.

So my true dream setup would be a world of computing where your digital tools are at once everywhere and nowhere. The individual bits of hardware are tied together into a seamless whole that provides the perfect bridge between the digital world (the world of thought) and the physical world (the world of senses). Bret Victor's Seeing Spaces illustrates one possibility for what that might look like.

But that's kind of a big, far-off dream. So more realistically, um... maybe a phone with a longer battery life and the ability to uninstall iTunes from my Macbook?

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