Uses This

1212 interviews since 2009

A picture of Casey Johnston

Casey Johnston

Writer, editor

in editor, mac, writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Casey Johnston, and I was an Editorial Director at VICE. For five years I've written the science-based health and fitness column Ask A Swole Woman, which I've evolved into a newsletter, She's A Beast. Previously, I worked for The Outline, Wirecutter, and Ars Technica, and I've written freelance for a bunch of places.

What hardware do you use?

I have an early 2020 MacBook Air (pink :)) that is probably my primary computer, if I'm being honest; I like to sit outside in our backyard in outer Bed Stuy and work. It's pretty specced out for an Air: 1TB of storage, 1.2GHz i7 processor, 16GB RAM. My parents, for all intents and purposes, behaved like they lived through the Great Depression, and very much raised me in that tradition, so I always got the penny-pinchingest of computers that would start to drag ass 6 months after I bought them, and then I'd have to use them for another 4-5 years. But eventually I brought my approach to justifying the time and costs of working out and my health to my tools: Just as I have to live in my body and I'm trying to make it nice and want to feel basically comfortable, mobile, and strong, I spend 90% of my time on a computer or phone, so I deserve for them to be nice and not causing me constant anxiety, like shutting down from overheating or running out of RAM or storage. I will spend the extra 500 or so dollars on a thing I will have for 3 years minimum to make it as friction-free as possible.

I have an iPhone 11 Pro, for the same reason; when I'm not on my computer I'm on my phone, and there is no room in my life for my phone to suck. I take a lot of pictures, my phone is my camera, and I want a nice camera. Actually my phone is not really my camera anymore, I bought a Fujifilm X-S10 a couple months ago, my first mirrorless camera, but I'm not carrying that around with me. My phone screen is cracked and I need to get it fixed before the warranty runs out. I scrimped all my little pennies together to buy the iPhone the day it came out in 2007, and I've been upgrading every two years since, no more and no less. That means I'm due for a new one next month, and I still get excited about that.

I just got some Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones on-sale-ish on Prime Day, for also the same reason; New York apartments are too small for me to have an office so I deserve that little investment in trying to control my environment.

I have a desktop setup with a Windows PC I built three, almost four years ago (my second build of my life) that is getting a little long in the tooth. I just upgraded the RAM maybe 8 months ago to 32GB from 8GB, and I'm still rocking a GeForce GTX 1060, which I was more ashamed of until I saw a graphics card poll recently and it's still the most commonly used one (I assume because everyone, like me, has been priced out of upgrading by bitcoin miners the last two years). I have two monitors, one BenQ and one Dell that is better specced for gaming, though I'm an intermittent gamer at best; I don't like to buy consoles but grew up with a controller in my hands, so mouse and keyboard is not really my venue when it comes to any game that requires coordination, but I love to buy cheap 5-10 year-old indie games on Steam and play Overwatch with my three siblings sometimes.

I recently had to throw out my Razer mouse because it just wasn't working anymore, and now I have some lame Bluetooth mouse that I'd like to replace with a wired one, but haven't picked one out yet.

I have a POK3R Vortex mechanical keyboard that I bought before learning it's apparently a huge cliché among mechanical keyboard people. One of the keycaps broke, which was fucking annoying, but fortunately I have extras, and it doesn't have arrow keys, which I hate. If you're getting a mechanical keyb: Get one with arrow keys. It has Cherry MX Brown switches, probably another cliché, but I really notice a difference in typing comfort and speed compared to my MacBook keyboard, so any chance I get I recommend mechanical keyboards to anyone whose primary job is typing. Save your fingers!! I also enjoy the swirly rainbow lights that it does.

I have an incredibly old Logitech webcam for all the video chat meetings lately that I will also use for streaming occasionally, and a Yeti Nano mic on a scissor arm; I should have just gotten the regular Yeti. I have a 4TB RAID 1 external HDD where I back up and hoard all my files. I have so much shit and I'm terrified to lose any of it, but I still haven't figured out a good system for being able to access everything I want to easily, but at least there's somewhere to put it; I refuse to use Google Photos or iCloud.

And what software?

All my writing time is spent in three places: Evernote for capturing notes and stray thoughts and working on drafts where they can't be peeked at; Google Docs for one-off drafts of stuff I'm writing or editing that are ok for people to peek at; and Scrivener for longer-form stuff. I don't feel like I take advantage of even 10% of what Scrivener does, but I like the full screen mode, being able to put two docs side-by-side, snapshot drafts, and a few other little things. I own it for both PC and Mac, I love it that much.

I can't stand Evernote sometimes, and I will get the spinning wheel of death when I'm trying to just quickly write something down. But I have a subscription to it, in part because I also use it to enable my digital hoarding--when there is something I don't want to get rid of but also don't need to keep, I will take a picture of it and put it in Evernote in a corny "notebook" titled "memories." I don't have a childhood home where my family can keep all our stuff, and I have no room here in New York, so I just have to traumatically throw away a lot of things, and that's how I cope.

I know Evernote is not cool or trendy among tech people, but I need something omnipresent to write stuff down. I don't like Google Keep, and I don't have the patience to figure out what Notion is. My worst habit is that instead of putting notes in Evernote, like when it TAKES MULTIPLE MINUTES TO LOAD, is that I will text whatever it is to myself, because iMessage opens instantly and even if the text doesn't go through it's recorded on the end of the device where it was written. This also means I have to go back and transcribe stuff from my text messages to Evernote.

I'm really trying to be better about writing stuff down and record-keeping; I think I have a very special combination of mental health issues where I both find routines extremely helpful and rewarding, but also it's a colossal struggle to recognize where they are needed and implement them, so I'm lately trying to be extremely deliberate about capital-U capital-E Using Evernote. I've realized I really need something like Evernote essentially as an externalized brain, because I lose track of like: What step was I on in consolidating my iPhoto libraries to one external drive? What was the roadblock I was having with Time Machine backups? Or even, did I keep that thing I was thinking about throwing out, and is it in our storage unit in the basement? I don't know how anyone keeps track of all this stuff.

I use notebooks for a lot of writing too; I love Muji paper products and planners, and Leuchtterm. I'm a pen hoarder, too, but then I will do shit like developing an undying loyalty to some random Bic Round Stic. "Finishing" a pen is a big hobby of mine.

Other than that, I spend a lot of time in Slack, which is where my work chat is as well as some friend-based chats. I run a Discord server for readers of my column, where they can post about how their lifting is going, what they're eating, ask each other for form checks or tips on gyms or equipment, stuff like that. It's a very nice place and I'm very happy it exists.

I keep passwords in 1Password, which is such a lifesaver. You don't realize how many logins you're trying to keep in your brain until you start letting something like 1Password track them. How many logins could you possibly have? Ten? A couple dozen? Wrong--it's upwards of 400 fucking logins.

I use Chrome for browsing and use a lot of extensions (the cursed Evernote!!, OneTab to move or save sets of tabs, Chromecast to play YouTube videos on the TV, Pocket to keep track of things I read, the list goes on) and I don't think all of them work on other browsers. I haven't checked in a while but it's low on my list. My Backblaze is currently broken and I haven't figured out how to fix it yet but technically I back up to that as well as Time Machine locally. What else? I read books on Kindle. When I stream I use Streamlabs OBS. Gmail and "Meet." Steam, as I mentioned. Skitch, occasionally. Canva for making pretty Instagram posts and sometimes art for our articles. F.lux for orange-ing my monitor at night. Dropbox for sharing my Scrivener files between computers. Spotify for music.

What would be your dream setup?

Honestly I think what I have is pretty great; I want a better mouse and would love to upgrade my desktop to something more powerful, though I recognize I don't really need it. If Ilhan Omar can have a $5,000 PC to play Among Us, then why can't I have like a $2,500 PC to type my words? I will get a new graphics card, eventually, though waiting for prices to ever come down is probably a mistake. I feel very fortunate, though, to have two computers.

This is my first MacBook Air after like a decade of having MacBook Pros, until the butterfly keyboards did me dirty; I think I would go back to a Pro for my next computer now that the keyboards are fixed, because I do occasional video editing and would like to do more, and that's the one thing that gives Airs the spins still.

I really want a better desk; I have an old IKEA desk that still works Fine, but it could be bigger. What would make the biggest difference, though, is just having my own office; unfortunately my actual work office didn't offer that pre-COVID and is moving to hot-desking "once we go back" so I don't even have my own desk there anymore, greatly impoverishing any argument they have for me to ever go there. I guess since we are dreaming, I wish I had a personal archivist, or excuse me, "visual director" like Beyoncé has. I hate managing files but hold them very close and could probably stand to lose a lot of stuff, but need someone to hold my hand while I do it.

Uses This is supported by ZSA, makers of the Moonlander, ErgoDox EZ and Planck EZ keyboards. They also publish an awesome newsletter.