The Setup

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

Maria Bustillos

Maria Bustillos

Writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Maria Bustillos, a writer living in Los Angeles.

What hardware do you use?

My main machine is a frail, elderly Dell PC, running XP. It's maybe eight years old. I have always clung to my hardware like a limpet, avoiding upgrades for as long as humanly possible. This is partly a green strategy -- why should more resources be spent on keeping me in shiny new things I don't really need or want? -- and partly because I love my machines like the old friends they are. I have a single, smallish Acer monitor and a Microsoft ergonomic keyboard; those really are much easier on the wrists. I work at an improvised standing desk. It's just a very high, sturdy wooden tray for my monitor and mouse, really, a thrift-shop find. It was six dollars, I think. I kind of sit for a while, stand for a while. Wave my arms around in a rage, from time to time. Add a low-rent DSL connection and voilĂ , my interface to the great world.

I also have an HP G62 laptop. This machine is like $450, an utterly amazing bang for the buck. Though I must say, I really don't care for Windows 7; it's far too complicated, and also pitifully condescending; tries to keep you from getting under the hood. If I could I would go back to Windows 98, or whatever the last one was that allowed you to boot straight into DOS. And I have a Linux machine for web development in my ha! free time.

For interviews I use the mind-blowingly, insanely great Livescribe Echo Smartpen with the plain black Livescribe notebooks. It's an audio recorder in a pen, BUT as you make notes, it syncs what you're writing with the audio. So afterwards, when you touch your pen back to the notes, the audio plays back from the moment of your writing!! Such a superb thing, a genius thing. You only need to write OMG or an exclamation point or whatever, and it bounces you straight back to that place in the recording. I like to have two recording devices going at once: the Echo pen and then a backup, either my Samsung Galaxy SII or my little Sony ICD-SX750, which is a fantastic little battery-operated recorder. The Samsung phone takes great photos, too. When I'm writing for an online publication I don't even take another camera with me, because the phone photos are really beautiful, and more than adequate for web resolution.

And what software?

For software, the best $30 I ever spent was on Applian's Replay Telecorder, a fuss-free Skype recorder. Quality goods, so simple, just gets the job done perfectly. Alas, the same cannot be said of my tough-to-break addiction to MS Word. I do not like this clunky, counterintuitive program, though it's finally become second nature to me to use. But I keep hearing all kinds of writers raving about Scrivener, and am looking forward to trying it out soon. It's just $40, what am I waiting for? I use the Dr. Web anti-virus, I love their product, plus it seems prudent to stay away from the bigger anti-malware companies. And Mat Honan recently scared me into getting a Crashplan account for backups.

I hang out on Twitter all day long. I think the software I use the most, day-to-day, must be Tweetdeck and Firefox. I have every browser but I always go back to Firefox, partly out of nostalgia for the days of Netscape but also because it is gives the freest, least intrusive browsing experience, not trying to sell you or push you into using anything. I am a ferocious anti-monopolist and support open source whenever I can. I also play Scrabble on Facebook most every day with a couple of my oldest friends. I can't even think about quitting Facebook because of my Scrabble habit.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup? I would like to have the Minority Report computer with the wonderful gloves, and also one of those firehoses from the Matrix that you plug into the back of your skull for downloading ALL THE INFORMATION. Except I would be too scared of mind control. But if you could guarantee no mind control, that would be the ideal.

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