Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

Holmes Wilson

Holmes Wilson

Co-founder (Fight for the Future)

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm a co-founder of fightforthefuture.org. The Internet has this massive potential to make peoples' lives better. Our mission is to defend and expand that potential. We're best known for organizing the first online protest against the censorship bill SOPA.

What hardware do you use?

I use a MacBook Pro 13" with an SSD, and a 1TB drive in place of the optical drive (using Optibay).

Sometimes I work with music, and depending on external hard drives is terrible. They're heavy, they get disconnected, and they're never there when you need them. So I really like having a laptop with a ton of storage space.

A big part of my hardware setup is about making it more comfortable and bearable to spend long stretches of time typing. (Wrist pain can get really serious when you're doing all your work on a laptop keyboard!) I use Dragon with a Sennheiser ME3 microphone for speech recognition. And when I'm at a desk I'll use a Microsoft 4000 ergonomic keyboard with a Magic Trackpad. For me that's the best ergonomic pointing device.

I spend huge chunks of time in Brazil (my wife is from there and we've lived there a lot) so everything has to be really portable. There's this old 22" ASUS monitor they don't make anymore that fits really nicely into suitcases.

I've also got this wireless headset that lets me stretch my legs on calls, and has a really good UI for muting, though the range isn't great.

And what software?

I use Taskpaper for personal todos, and Trello for team todos. We use Grove for group chat, which is a sort of perfect IRC / webchat hybrid. Since it's IRC, there's a million desktop and mobile clients that connect to it.

I use Balsamiq for mockups. It feels old-school in some ways, but I'm faster with it than with anything else.

Since the Snowden-NSA revelations we've been trying to move away from services that collaborate with the NSA and use end-to-end encryption wherever we can. So, fastmail.fm is (slowly) replacing gmail and WebRTC is slowly replacing Google Hangouts (we ditched Skype ages ago, thankfully). Most of us were already using Adium for messaging, which uses OTR to make privacy easy. Adium is wonderful. I also use GPGTools in Mail.app with my colleagues and some of my closest friends.

I use the Private Internet Access VPN to protect the privacy of what sites I visit, and I've installed it on our home router so everyone is protected. VPNs are great because they offer a ton of security and privacy, but with no hassle. You can just set them up and forget that they're there.

For making music and performances I use Ableton Live. It was the first digital music app that ever really put me in a position where I could have an idea and actually create it. I love Live. If you make music you absolutely have to try it.

I use Transmission to download stuff and VLC to play it :)

Finally, in the last couple years, affordable Android phones got fast enough to be actually useful for day-to-day work. The large screens and the availability of almost every platform I use for Android makes it pretty easy to do real work on my phone. Swiftkey and Google's built-in voice recognition make typing almost fast enough (but not quite!). The only real gap is for composing and editing text, or building mockups. Speed and software are the limiters. It will be a beautiful day when I can ditch my Mac for a cheap phone or tablet with a (mostly) open source operating system.

What would be your dream setup?

A wireless headset with house-covering range and great battery life, perfect voice recognition with a good user interface, and a phone with good enough speed and software that I could use it for all aspects of daily work (writing and mockups, as well as browsing, email and chat).

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