Dylan Vassallo 😁

My "Setup"

July 13, 2011

The Setup, curated by @waferbaby, is a fascinating collection of interviews with people from all over the Internet. In one of these interviews the subject simply describes the software and hardware that they use in their personal and professional lives. I’ve been following site since its genesis and I am inexplicably fascinated by each and every detail shared by the site’s often Internet-famous interviewees. In the spirit of introduction, I humbly present my own answers to the questions posed by The Setup. UPDATE: @waferbaby was kind enough to link to this post on the Community page of The Setup. Thanks to him for that and for maintaining such an interesting collection of interviews.

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Dylan and I’m a third year computer science major in the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of California Los Angeles. I work at the UCLA Center for Embedded Networked Sensing where I develop scientific research platforms that use mobile technology as a vehicle for community involvement.

What hardware do you use?

My main machine is a 13” MacBook Pro. I ask a lot of it, and it has proven itself to be an incredibly reliable companion. My particular model is from mid 2009 and has a 2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo processor; I’ve bumped the RAM up to 8 GB and the hard drive to a 500 GB Seagate Momentus XT, a “hybrid hard drive” with 4 GB of flash memory. When I’m writing code I find that referring to documentation is much easier with a secondary display.

I have a black 16 GB AT&T iPhone 4, though I use it less like a cell phone and more like a beautifully designed handheld computer from the future. My school and the surrounding area are thoroughly blanketed in wifi and cellular connectivity so I’m never far away from the apps and services I rely on and enjoy. My iPhone has probably improved the efficiency of my computing life more than any other device I’ve ever owned.

I also own a black 16 GB wifi iPad 2, which I use mostly for consuming RSS feeds, Instapaper, and my Twitter timeline. I don’t think I could bring myself to manage more than one traditional computer for personal use, but my iPad is a low-maintenance and very capable sidekick.

When I’m not using my MacBook Pro or my iOS devices they’re probably nestled in something made by Incase. In my apartment I’ve got a 1 TB Time Capsule for Time Machine backups and fast, reliable network access. I also have a first-generation Apple TV that I use to run Ubuntu (yes, Ubuntu) and a variety of open source server software. This is facilitated by the atv-bootloader project. I had hoped this would be a low-cost and power-efficient home server solution, but it’s turning out to be more trouble than it’s worth (the unit runs damn hot and running Ubuntu is a hack at best).

And what software?

The all-stars of my Applications folder are Colloquy, Dropbox, Gitbox, Google Chrome, Hulu Desktop, iTunes, Kaleidoscope, Brett Terpstra’s nvALT fork of Notational Velocity, Sequel Pro, TextWrangler, Things, Transmission, Twitter, VLC, and VMware Fusion. Mail.app is not on this list; in my humble opinion the Gmail web interface is the only good way to interact with email servers. I’ve always got at least one Terminal window open and I couldn’t live without Homebrew, the “missing package manager for OS X.” I’m looking forward to Lion and iCloud but I’m less enthusiastic about the inevitable incompatibilities that follow a major OS X update.

I’m running the latest iOS 5 beta and it’s the bee’s knees. My favorite iOS apps are Air Video, Due, Facebook, Foursquare, GoodReader, Instacast, Instapaper, Mailroom, Pastebot, Reeder, Simplenote, Things, Twitter, and Verbs. If you happen to know the developers of Instacast, Mailroom, or Verbs, please let them know that I’ll be first in line if or when they release iPad versions of their apps. When I have time to kill I like to play Doodle Jump, Flight Control, Plants vs. Zombies, and Words with Friends.

What would be your dream setup?

I’m always looking to streamline my setup, but overall I’m very happy with it. Any improvements I can think of simply involve more Apple products, and that’s boring and a bit scary to realize. I would however make great use of a small or medium Amazon EC2 instance even though unlimited cloud computing power isn’t considered futuristic anymore.