The Setup


What do people use to get stuff done?

Jordan McRae

Jordan McRae


Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Jordan McRae, I'm an Inventor and the President of Octo23 Technologies, a small invention firm. We focus on technology innovation in the areas of renewable energy, clean water, and ocean conservation. One of our current projects, in collaboration with Haddock Invention, is B-Squares; A modular electronics system with an emphasis on energy harvesting and energy storage.

What hardware do you use?

The core of my day-to-day workstation is built around my 15" MacBook Pro with i7 processor and 8GB RAM and a bluetooth mouse. I recently joined the 21st century and purchased my first smartphone, a Galaxy S II with a 32GB micro SD card. To carry everything around I either use a NorthFace Recon backpack or Timbuk2 shoulder bag. Since I don't own a car but love riding around the streets of Paris, I also consider my bike, a Btwin RockRider 5.0 a critical part of my hardware setup.

For my electronics design work, I use an old-school Weller solder station, MPLAB ICD 3 for programming the PIC series microprocessors, a Fluke 179 multimeter, and a high resolution clamp current meter. I really like my small PicoScope 2204 PC Oscilloscope as an alternative to the bulky and expensive lab Oscilloscopes. Whether it be the dream I had for the next greatest invention or my grocery shopping list, I forget things very easily! To battle against this I try to carry with me, at all times, a pad of paper and pen so I can quickly get my thoughts down. So far I've had best results with Muji's Passport notebook, which fits perfectly into a back pocket, and a uni-ball "eye" ballpoint pen.

When I'm traveling or working on projects in developing countries I'll pull my 13" XPS M1330 out of retirement as a travel/field computer. I also replace my smartphone with an unlocked Samsung Slide phone which lets me use most SIM cards around the world. Part of my travel pack also includes the Hakko FX-901 battery powered soldering iron and a Leatherman Wave multi-tool. For Scuba diving I use a Suunto D6 Dive computer. I also use a waterproof/crushproof Olympus Stylus Tough 8010 camera, good for rugged environments and taking underwater photos. Everything gets thrown into an Osprey Atmos 50 Backpack, a relatively small sized bag that I've had for a while, but perfect for a month of trekking through places like Thailand or Mozambique or doing field work in Guatemala or Haiti.

And what software?

On the MacBook Pro I'm running OS X 10.6.8 and a Bootcamp partition with Windows 7. On the XPS M1330 I have a dual boot of Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux. At some point in my life, I don't know when or why, I became a huge Google fan. Gmail and Google Calendar are my default mail and calendar applications. I use Google Chrome as my web browser and Picasa to store all of my pictures. Google Earth to check out new dive spots, Google Maps to prevent myself from getting lost, and Google Sketchup to plan out my workspace.

For mechanical design I use Solidworks and for electrical schematics and PCB layouts I use Cadsoft's EAGLE software. Although not the most intuitive software to use, I'm a fan of the EAGLE software since it's become popular for open hardware development. For data analysis and mathematical modeling I use Matlab and Octave. To program the PIC microprocessor I use Microchip's MPLAB IDE and for higher level programming in C++ or Java I use Netbeans. Also, I've recently started playing around with web development in HTML 5 and CSS using a simple text editor, TextMate.

Finding ways to make co-innovation and collaboration more efficient is one of my biggest challenges. Some key software tools I use in this area are Skype for video conferencing and Dropbox for sharing design documents. I have both of these applications on my MacBook Pro and mobile. Also, I've recently been incorporating a few of the techniques from the Getting Things Done (GTD) method into my daily life, so Evernote is also one of my key applications. For GTD I also use the multiple inboxes and superstars lab features in Gmail.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm fairly content with what I have now, so I haven't put much thought into this. I'd like to build up my own performance desktop machine with a 30" monitor. I'd also like to make my backup and storage system completely wireless with a 2TB networked attached storage (NAS).

In terms of travel gear, I'm looking forward to picking up Seeed Studio's DSO Quad handheld Oscilloscope. Also, after a recent near death experience while diving in Mozambique with a bad rental regulator, buying my own Aqua Lung Mikron travel regulator is high on my list!

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