The Setup


What do people use to get stuff done?

Santiago Ortiz

Santiago Ortiz

Developer, visualiser

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Santiago Ortiz, married father of two, living in a small town in Argentina. I invent stuff using code, I research a lot and I love to experiment. I do interactive information visualization, and I'm a specialist in networks visualization. I'm interested in diversity (books, activities, people, places, data, stories) and innovation (creativity + social meaning + methodology + time + execution).

I studied mathematics, with an emphasis in complexity, which I reckon is my most basic tool.

What hardware do you use?

My first computer was a Macintosh 512K (well, it was my parent's computer but I used it like hell), and at 15 I got my first own one, a pocket tactile computer, the wonderful Casio PB-1000 (tears). Afterwards I began using all sort of desktop Macs, with a 6 month black hole using a PC. Then, in 2001 I quit Colombia and start living in different places, and of course I started using iBooks and MacBooks (the first one: the "snow" iBook, the most beautiful one so far in my opinion)

I've tried different things: small screens, comfortable to travel with, and big screens, comfortable to work with, and I still don't know what's better for me. Currently I'm with the big screen - I have a 2010 MacBook Pro 17".

I'm in the verge of buying a new portable and still can't decide whether to buy a MacBook Air (perhaps I should wait for the 13" with Retina display), or the 15" MacBook Pro.

Other important hardware I use:

iPod nano 6th generation, - I don't think it will be beaten for a long time (why bigger, why smaller?). I mainly use it for listening to audiobooks, so it has a considerable impact in my work.

I have an iPad but I don't really like it or use it, so it's basically for my kids. I hate cellphones - I have an ugly one that I barely bring with me (I never charge it, actually).

My favorite gadget is, without a doubt, the Kindle, and I'll soon update it to the Paperwhite version. For some reason this the only device I consider a 'gadget'. The other hardware are tools, and it's nice to have the most suitable ones, but I'm never extremely excited when buying one (and I don't give a shit about Apple device packaging). On the contrary, I'm very eager to get my brand new Kindle and I can imagine I'll be carrying it in my bag, even if I know I won't read anything.

And what software?

I use the development tool Aptana Studio 3 to code all my projects. I code in JavaScript and use my own framework which is actually my main software. I'm not completely satisfied with Aptana (it's slow), but I'm not sure there are better options (perhaps I'm waiting to change computers to see things working better magically?).

I often create my own tailor-made software. For instance: I have created a freelancer projects manager application, which of course contains visualizations of how I'm doing with schedules, intensity of work, milestones, deliveries, money, and also travel and work and personal events (Could it be a product to be used by others? Maybe).

One of the most important tools in my work is Delicious, which I believe has been highly underestimated. I don't use it as a simple bookmarking tool, it's the place I've organized my research for the last 10 years. I have more than 3K references and I've spent a lot of time taking a care of it, organizing, cleaning and renaming tags and creating my own use rules. It contains more than 700 Wikipedia articles that somehow define the conceptual basis of my research. I have what I call categorical tags, that act as definitions instead of associations: [postblog], [wikipediaarticle], [project], [video], etc. Based on my Delicious information I built my knowledge database exploration space.

Evernote is amazing. I have a notebook with more than 160 well-described projects I want to do. And as Evernote allows me to export the data, I have in mind this project of publishing and visualizing these ideas, allowing people to comment or to choose the ones they want me to do first (or to just take the ideas and use them).

Sporadically, I use Photoshop and Illustrator to process images, or, eventually, to make a sketch or a scheme to explain something to a colleague or client.

Other indispensable tools: Dropbox, Safari, Chrome, Mail, Skype, Fetch, Google tables, Google Reader (tears).

What would be your dream setup?

I dream of an impossible chimera: a MacBook Air 17" with a Retina display.

The big jump I have pending in terms of tools is to start using Github. It's suitable to share code with clients and colleagues, but what I really want to do is to publish and open my framework. It's not something I can do now, though, because it's not completely stable yet and lacks comments, documentation and examples. But I'll do it!

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