Programs and Equipment I Use
After many requests, here are the programs I use for everything. I'm only putting here programs I consider tried and true and have used for a while.
A lot of people ask about my server configuration and what I do for my website and my email at that domain.
This website is simply hosted on a VPS I rent.
For those looking to start their own real web presence, I recommend renting a VPS rather than buying an old-school host package as the latter tends to be very limited.
With a VPS, you are free to host multiple sites, install what you want, and really act as if it's a real physical server.
I use Epik as a domain registrar.
I use Vultr for my VPS. If you join Vultr via this link to their site, you'll start with a $50 credit and I will get a $25 credit with them for the recommendation if you stay on as a paying customer.
I now host my own email on my server as well.
Setting up a personal email server can be hell on earth, but when I did it, I concurrently made a shell script that sets everything up so I (or you) can easily just run it to fully set up a server yourself.
You can see the script here: emailwiz.
Note that I use my distinct mutt-wizard to access and download and send my mail from my computer.
Software I Use
I'm about getting things done quickly and having as little space between my thoughts and actions on the computer.
I like having vim-like bindings and prefer running programs in the terminal for simplicity's sake. That said, I'm very much against the cringey meme that things in the terminal are "cooler" or "nerdier" XD. Terminals are good for most tasks, but useless for others, for example, browsing the modern web (I admit this unfortunate fact with much consternation) or looking at maps or images or modifying videos by NLE.
I do do some image/video editing with
ffmpeg, but only simple, repetitive tasks.
- Operating System/Distribution
- My preferred distro is Parabola GNU/Linux, a variety of Arch Linux with all free software.
On computers where I either need non-free blobs or proprietary software, I run Arch though. This includes the ThinkPad X220 that I record most of my videos on.
You can see some of my reasons for using Arch/Parabola here.
Linux distributions are generally not distinct enough to have strong feelings about, hence the reason I only rarely care to talk about them.
You can see my opinion on Linux distributions generally here.
- I use st (simple terminal) by suckless.org, which is one of the most minimal, yet easily customizable terminal emulators out there.
You can get my build here!
I've used urxvt in the past.
- Window Manager/Desktop Environment
- i3-gaps. If you want to know why my computer looks the way it does, this is what to check out.
- My monospace font is typically Inconsolata, my serif font in Linux Libertine and my sans font is Linux Biolinum. These are the default fonts in LARBS as well. I have ttf-emojione for emojis as well and noto-fonts and noto-fonts-cjk to give me non-European scripts.
- Status bar
- i3blocks, although now with more (and better) modules than that in the video there. I have modules for music/mpd, weather forecasts, unread mail in mutt, volume, internet connection, battery and time/date. You can find all of these in my
~/.scripts/statusbar/ folder on my dotfiles repo. In some of my older videos I used Polybar, which looks a little more elegant, but I like the gaudiness of my i3blocks as is for functionality.
- Text editing and programming
- vim. Less of a text editor and more of a lifestyle. No, I'm not going to ever switch to emacs. Technically I use neovim nowadays, but it's all the same.
- Web browser
- Firefox. All other browsers are worse. Subscribers will know that I've also used qutebrowser in the past.
In Firefox, I use the add-on Vim Vixen to get customizable vim-like keybindings for mouse-less browsing and AdNauseam for blocking and undermining ads.
- File manager
- vifm. In most of my older videos, I'm using
- ranger. I use file managers less and less nowadays and usually pull one up merely for illustration in videos.
- Mail client
- mutt  . I keep all my mail offline with offlineIMAP. Setting up the perfect terminal-based offline email system can be difficult, so I made mutt-wizard for you and me to make it easy.
- Music/audio player
- mpd with ncmpcpp for a library, mpv for playing songs manually when I select them in ranger. I also occasionally use
beet for music tagging and organization.
- Video player
- mpv. Don't bother with any other video player.
- RSS reader
- newsboat. I've never subscribed to YouTube channels or Twitter accounts or anything else. You can simply give accounts' feeds to newsboat and watch videos remotely via mpv without having to open a browser.
- Torrent client
- Transmission, with the transmission-remote-cli as an interface. Now that I'm a 30-year-old Boomer who doesn't care for copyrighted music or Hollywood movies, I don't actually use my torrent client for anything illegal nowadays though. I mostly seed Linux ISOs, rare old books and language learning materials.
- Video and Audio
- ffmpeg is the tool I use to record all of my screencasts, and also splice and combine all of the video and audio when needed. I sometimes use Blender for making videos which would require NLE, but I always begrudge it. If you're a novice at video editing, kdenlive would probably be better.
- Writing documents
- I used to write documents in either R Markdown or (Xe-)LaTeX and compile them into either pdf documents or presentations after that. In some videos, I've also used the vim-live-latex-preview for automatic LaTeX/XeLaTeX compilation. I've also used pandoc for document conversion and compiling markdown to .pdfs. Of course if you've been watching my channel recently, you know I've been experimenting with groff/troff to much success and recommend it as a much more minimal and elegant typesetting system, scarcely lacking anything you might need, although lacking documentation, so it'll probably be a jungle at first.
- suckless sent is my new favorite presentation software, which creates a presentation immediately from a plain text file. Barring that, and especially for academic presentations, I use LaTeX Beamer which you can also compile from markdown via pandoc.
I find presenting without software is usually the best in normal circumstances.
- Excel-like spreadsheets
- sc-im for when I need a very visual interface, but I generally use R for the things one typically does in a spreadsheet. Most things you need and excel-like program for can just be done with your core utilities.
- PDF viewer
I used to use mupdf, which is good too.
- Image Viewer
- sxiv. Handles images, animated gifs, has additional thumbnail and slideshow modes and allows you to run custom scripts and read/write to standard input/output. Okay. This is epic.
- Image modification
- GIMP for big things, but imagemagick commands for most little modifications, filter changes, trims, etc.
- Calendar, To-Do list, Appointments
- calcurse if I have to for somethings, but a notepad (a literal physical notepad), or my brain for most important things. I usually write notes for my screencasts on a notepad and occasionally glance at them while recording to keep me on track.
Where can I find good software options?
The program of your dreams is probably listed below:
Hardware I Use
- The main laptop I use is a Thinkpad X220, released in 2011. I bought mine used on eBay for $90, and it included the ThinkPad Ultrabase, which I use at home daily (it can also hold an extra hard drive and I have a 2TB one inside). Old ThinkPads are designed for long term corporate use, and last forever and are made to be easy to repair and improve. They have many simple perks, like their uniquely tactile keyboards, their trackpoints and their ThinkLight (a more commonsense solution to lighting your keyboard at night). Newer ThinkPads are not as good, lacking the classical keyboards and generally being more Mac-like (unrepairable, breakable, and generally bad for an enormous price).
My X220 ThinkPad was Corebooted by tripcode!Q/7.
- Hard drives
- I own two Solid State Drives (SSDs), one for my main laptop (1TB) and one for my desktop OS (512GB). I think they're both "Crucial" brand. SSDs are the only thing I recommend using a good bit of money on in your computer build. They make your computer hugely snappier and apparently use less power.
- I use a bargain-bin mouse and a simple old non-meme keyboard.
- I record most of my videos with a Blue Yeti, which seems to be the dominant model on YouTube generally.
- Logitech C920. I can record audio decent enough too, although the Yeti is better.
What I don't use
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- Proprietary software
- It's sort of weird that my channel has gotten large enough that a huge slice of my viewership has missed one of the main points of my channel: the use of only libre software.
I will not recommend, review or test out proprietary software.
I'm not going to do a video on how to "rice" Google Chrome, I'm not going give you Linux hacks for Slack or Steam.
I'm especially not going to endorse proprietary services that have gone out of their way to spy on or politically suppress their users, just as Discord or Amazon.
One of the many potential take-aways you should get from my channel is that the use of libre/free software, by its nature, is more constructive and extensible—that's the point. There are philosophical reasons for this you'll run across in time, but for now, suffice it to say I will not support the usage of non-free software.
- Emacs has little purpose for people who use tiling window managers like I do.
Emacs is also enormous, and for someone like me who often is in the habit of using my text editor to open just one file, it's massive overkill and a massive drain on time.
My movement in my computer usage has been constantly gravitating to more and more lightweight and minimal programs, using emacs on top of things to replicate my current setup violates this tendency.
Everything I've ever needed to do, I can do perfectly well between vim and i3wm.
- A cell phone
- Don't get me wrong, I own a cell phone, I just don't use it or carry it around or endorse cell phone usage generally. If you do use one, be sure to install F-Droid, which is a application manager for free software programs, and use applications from that.