In 1988, if you’d told my Star Trek-loving 12-year-old self that someday I’d get to meet Wil Wheaton—and that he’d know my name—my preteen head would have exploded. Twenty years later, I did get to meet the actor-turned-writer who played Wesley Crusher on The Next Generation, and I still had to contain an embarrassing fit of public fangirldom. Wheaton came to San Diego this weekend to read from his newest book, The Happiest Days of Our Lives, a memoir of growing up a geek in the ’70s and ’80s. Afterwards I got to chat briefly with Wil, who had mind-bogglingly nice things to say about Lifehacker, and who was kind enough to answer my default question for any admirable nerd: “What are your favourite software applications right now?” Here’s what he told me.
Wheaton’s currently a Mac user, but he’s a big advocate of open source, cross-platform software. He used to use Thunderbird to manage his email, but decided to switch to Mail.app with SpamSieve, which he says kills a lot more junk mail than the ‘bird did. Firefox is his main web browser, but he does use Safari to stream music. (He’s partial to streaming rock of the ’80s, and uses Airfoil to send the tunes out to the speakers.) He writes his books using OpenOffice.org, and even though he’s clearly a software geek, he still loves to use actual paper index cards stuck to the wall when he’s plotting out fiction storylines.
If you haven’t been living in a blogless cave, you already know that beyond his acting career, Wheaton is a prolific blogger, Twitterer, and self-published author of three volumes so far. (His books are all Creative Commons-licensed, which is the ultimate in geek author cool as far as I’m concerned.)
My biggest Wil Wheaton hack is this: See him in person if you possibly can, or at least get the audio version of his book. It turns out the boyish charm you’ve seen on television isn’t an act. When you’re in a room with Wil you can’t help but get sucked right into his energetic orbit of bubbly enthusiasm, and if he’s nothing else, he’s real, utterly down to earth, just so damn approachable and nice. Even though he spent his teenage years on the bridge of the starship Enterprise, Wil behaves more like a passionate scifi fan than an icon, and his stories are about that shared experience. (The behind-the-scenes Trekkie anecdotes are just the icing on the cake.)
Huge thanks to Wil for chatting with me, signing my copy of Happiest Days, and just all around making my day.