ST's Setups, Part 1: The Mac

My view is that you sort of have to be a cross-platform kinda guy to be in the higher-ed/media making biz. If it was just about me doing my own thing, I could get by as either a Mac fanboy or a Windows apologist. Or even an open-source junkie. And I’ve been all three! However, I teach a LOT of students in a given year. Hundreds. Most of them are already invested in one platform or another, and it’s not realistic for me to say “well, just go get a new setup.” My theories on ubiquitous computing and standard platforms are fodder for another post.

Anyhoo, per my students’ request, later in the week I’m doing a day on building a complete open source rig. I’ve also gotten a bunch of requests to reveal the inner workings of my own personal setups. Today, I’ll talk about my Mac setups, then Windows, then Linux.

I was a Mac fanboy for a long time, then I quit and was solely windows for years. I recently going back into using Macs because I have to teach Final Cut Studio though I don’t use it myself.

Advantages of Choosing a Mac:
Mac OS X doesn’t have activation (this is almost reason enough to choose one). Macs run Windows better than almost anything. Superbly designed hardware. Very easy to support.

Disadvantages of Choosing a Mac:
Apple is insidious at segmenting its product line to encourage people to buy a much more expensive computer than they really need. Very laborious to keep running at optimal performance.

The Hardware:
I use a MacBook Pro for most stuff, and a MacPro for production work. The MacPro is a mid-range 8-core Xeon, 8GB RAM. My biggest suggestion on a tower is to go out to Best buy and get a smaller 10,000RPM drive, and install that as your boot drive. The effect this has on the speed of the whole system is astonishing (this is a suggestion for Windows as well). Never get extra RAM from Apple, always go to and install it yourself. MUCH cheaper, and not hard to do. My MacBook Pro is one from early 2008 (not the wacky ones with only FireWire 800). Its got a midrange Core2Duo, 320GB drive and 4GB RAM. Drives and RAM are a scam on Apple laptops, but its such an incredible pain in the ass to replace hard drives on the older ones (this is much improves with the very new ones) I usually just say bite the bullet.

The Software:
The MacPro has the same software as the lappy, but ONLY production software. None of this office and productivity stuff.

  • Adobe Master Collection (Must have. Worth every dime. CS4 FTW.)

  • Final Cut Studio 2 (I don’t use this myself, I just keep it to do video tutorials for students. I actually dislike it.)

  • AppZapper (so. good.)

  • ArCHMock

  • BatChmod

  • Maya 2009 (Must have. )

  • Celtx (Not sure why anyone would pay to use Final Draft)

  • Ecto (Using it right now to write this!)

  • EndNote X2 (Ugh. Sucks, but necessary for citations.)

  • Evernote (Get this now.)

  • FileWrangler (excellent file renamer)

  • Firefox (with Zotero, Foxmarks, and FireFTP plugins)

  • GarageBand (the #1 reason to buy a Mac. So much fun, and the projects open right up in Logic)

  • Goliath (WebDAV implemenation is still iffy on macs. Don’t understand why, but this helps.)

  • KeePass (Almost as awesome as 1password, but this is free and open source)

  • ScreenFlow (Best screencast app I’ve ever used.)

  • SketchUp (Fun!)

  • Split & Concat

  • Handbrake (Go get it now.)

  • jDownloader

  • Logic (You’ll never go back to ProTools.)

  • MacGourmet Deluxe (I use this almost every single day.)

  • Microsoft Office 2008 (Heh. Come on.)

  • Nocturne (good in the car. and in meetings.)

  • iTunes

  • iPhoto (Aperture is a farking DOG. And Lightroom is great, but doesn’t integrate well with the rest of the system)

  • iWork 2008 (Basically, for Keynote. But I like Numbers too.)

  • OmniFocus (I also bought this for my iPod. Until there’s real ToDos and Notes in OSX that actually work with the iPod and MobileMe, this is the one)

  • OmniPlan

  • OmniGraffle

  • Onyx (Critical. This is pretty mucht he only way to keep an OS X system running in top condition)

  • Parallels 4, Running Vista SP1

  • Papers (Amazing. I have hundreds of PDF eBooks, and this really made them sing.)

  • Processing

  • Quicksilver (I never use it, but I feel like I should)

  • Shimo (for using my schools draconian wireless VPN.)

  • Skype (also never use it)

  • Skim (awesome for taking notes on student papers)

  • TextWrangler (I’d love to use TextMate, but I’m not spending money on a plaintext editor)

  • TrueCrypt

  • Toast 9 (shouldn’t really need this, but it ends up coming in very handy)

  • Twitterriffic (best Twitter client EVAR)

  • UnRarX (Meh.)

  • uTorrent (it’s about damn time this came out for Mac)

  • VDMX5 (Finally a VJ app that doesn’t have a fatal flaw.)

  • VLC (Go get it now.)

  • VisualHub (very helpful, esp when used in conjunction with Handbrake)

  • VueScan (never never use the software that came with your scanner)

So. Now go out to and search for them. Comin up next: Windows. Actually very similar to this list.