What We Use: Logan Booker’s Favourite Gear And Productivity Tips

Seeing as it's the weekend, and I do weekend-related activities here at Lifehacker, it's my turn to crack open my most intimate of crevasses and reveal to you the gear I use in my daily activities.

Hardware

Desktop

Self-built Core i5-750, clocked at 3.8GHz. 8GB RAM keeps the memory demands happy. I've had this machine for a couple of years, after my quad-core Q6600 (again overclocked to 3GHz from its 2.4GHz default) decided to pack it in. Or so I thought. But more on that later.

This is my main games development machine. I often forget I have a second monitor, and I blame dancing between this and my notebook as the cause. When I do use it, I'm always thankful it's there. Currently I'm coding my project in C# and VB .NET (don't ask), so having both IDEs open and visible at the same time really helps keep me sane and limits unnecessary alt-tabbing.

If I was going to upgrade, I'd definitely pick up an SSD. I have one in my notebook and the performance improvement is noticeable... to put it mildly.

Server

When I became an indie games developer, I was in desperate need of a server to handle bug-tracking, collaboration, source control and other miscellaneous software development duties. I had a suspicion my Q6600 PC wasn't completely dead -- I'd just used its demise as an excuse to upgrade. So, I did some troubleshooting and discovered the only thing wrong with it was dud RAM. 4GB worth of new sticks later and it was up and running. Now it's mother to five hard drives, excluding the external back-up you see on-top (you'll need to click to enlarge).

This box runs Windows 7, along with a WAMP (Windows-Apache-MySQL-PHP) stack for internal dev purposes. Two Wordpress installations running custom themes handle bug-tracking and collaboration, while git is responsible for handling source control. A self-made build tool pulls the latest code from the repository and generates debug versions of the game and a custom security app prevents unwanted intrusions over SSH.

Laptop

A Dell XPS M1330, which I purchased when I started my stint as Kotaku Australia's founding editor. Many times I've sought a replacement and, always, nothing is quite good enough to topple the M1330. Sure, there are faster, quieter and cooler notebooks, but none satisfy my exacting requirements. Many newer notebooks ship with absolutely shocking screens, despite great specs otherwise, and few seem to match the quality of my M1330.

To be honest, if I could stick an Ivy Bridge chip in my Dell (or perpetually replace the hardware with faster parts) it's feasible I'd never replace it.

Being almost five years old, it's seen the best and worst of times. I've had to replace the trackpad, the screen bezel, the CPU and the hard drive, though the latter two were purely for performance reasons. A 2.4GHz T8300 replaced the 1.8GHz T7100 and the 160GB 5200rpm HDD was excised for a 128GB Crucial M4 SSD.

My notebook mostly sees use on the weekends -- I've pigeon-holed it as my weekend-editing PC so it's easier to keep my dev and writing lives separate.

Accessories

Mouse

A Logitech MX518. Started using Logitech mice during my Atomic days and never looked back. It's served me well for ages, even though the pads are starting to look balder than Patrick Stewart's head. Never had any reason to replace it and I don't think I'll be doing so in the near future.

Mobile devices

I have an iPhone 4 16GB. It took a while for me to find the nerve to jailbreak it -- I wasn't prepared to learn the ins and outs of another piece of hardware / operating system. But I'm glad I did. I can't imagine having it any other way. It's allowed me to organise the usually-cluttered Springboard to my liking, install an array of Cydia tweaks (like getting rid of Spotlight and the Notification Center) and circumvent many of iOS' more frustrating quirks.

Next upgrade cycle, I think I'll grab an Android handset just for a change.

Software

Browsing

Google Chrome sees the most use, though I have Firefox and Internet Explorer on hand for web development purposes. I don't run any extensions -- Chrome just feels lighter, in a purely ethereal sense. Maybe it's the no-frills UI, or the tabs in individual processes, but everything just clicks functionally for me when I'm using it.

Writing

An old copy of Office 2007 does everything I need and, when it doesn't, there's always Google Docs. Though I tend to use Google Docs more as a file repository than anything else.

Email

Gmail all the way. I've hooked up my websites to forward email to my main Gmail account, and I can send out replies from those domains so my real account remains hidden. Plus, it looks more professional.

My Favourite Tips

Instead of listing my favourite tips, I'm just going to name the single program I use to make my computing life easier: Visual C# Express 2010.

Every time I sit down to use my PC, I identify a task a small app would make a million times less arduous. Right now I'm using a program I coded in C# to help me edit Lifehacker, Gizmodo and Kotaku. It can connect to Bitly to generate short links, reformat HTML to our styles, hijack the clipboard to alter text (such as allowing me to copy-paste URLs directly from Google's search results or convert pounds to kilos with a quick Ctrl-X, Ctrl-V combo) and myriad other tiny things that would normally hold me up if I was doing them manually.

If I can make one suggestion to anyone interested in being as efficient as possible in any field where you use a computer, it's to learn a programming language. It doesn't have to be C#, it can be Python, Ruby... whatever you find the easiest. As long as you're wise about the tasks you code tools for, your productivity will skyrocket.

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Comments

    MX518 ftw! Ridiculously awesome mouse for the price.

      Yeah. Ive got a MX510, basically the same.
      Ive had it for about ten years now. I keep looking for a good mouse to replace it with but nothing has come along. . . although I would like more thumb buttons on the side for games.

        Heh I'll go one older again - MX-500 here. Still see's a lot of miles on my desk at work, and has increased my productivity enormously by assigning shortcut keys to the programmable buttons. It works as well as the day I bought it (10-11 years ago), though arguably isn't pretty these days.

    I just installed an Intel 520 SSD, the performance is noticeably better than my old GSkill Falcon II SSD. Go the upgrade :)

    You say you have external drive backups - but what about fire and theft?

    I wouldn't normally give a toss enough to ask, however your indie game source code repository could be worth a lot - so are you doing backups to the cloud also?

    oh, the M1330... a truly beautiful machine. Hold onto it mate! They don't make 'em like that anymore (or the m1220)

      mate, my old m1330 was the biggest POS i had ever used, Dell replaced the mobo twice under warranty and the ram once. the third time the mobo went, it was out of warranty.

      Now I have my trusty 15" macbook pro and havent looked back.

    I still use my M1530 everyday, best notebook I've ever had, the screen really is something else. It is aging, but aging well, I can Skyrim on it still, with a few tweaks, but its still fast enough to do what ever I need to do, but yeah, like Logan states, until I find something with a similar quality screen, its staying where it is!

    I've been inspired by the last in this post. I've always thought that you have to be a master of technology or it will be a master of you. Now I think that it's time for me to learn some basic programming so that I can overcome some of the inefficiencies of technology.

    After looking around at different recommendations, I think I'm going to start learning Python - Any suggestions why this is not a good language to start with?

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