Thinh Dinh’s setup

Disclaimer: this is me (author of the blog). Not that I am anywhere close to being a successful entrepreneur (yet), but since I have to start with something – err, someone – what can be better than starting with myself ?

Short bio

I’m a startup co-founder, blogger, freelance consultant and tech enthusiast. I’ve yet to launch a successful business, but I’m working at it. While I live in the city, I love nature (forest, countryside, the Shire).

Show us your desk

Okay. I actually have two desks. The first one, my “main serious focused” desk:

Thinh Dinh's main desk

and my second one, that I use mostly for mindless browsing, youtube, emailing and less serious stuff:

Thinh Dinh's secondary desk

Currently I work at home, so these constitute both my work and home office.

Now let’s dive into the details !

Hardware

Both desks are basic Ikea Linmon desks, the main desk is the big version on top of an Alex drawer case and two Vika Adils legs, the other is the small tabletop with four legs. Since the desks are close from each other, I use the same chair, a grandiose DX Racer King Series chair that came as a Christmas gift from my beloved girlfriend.

On the main desk, I have:

  • a closed 13″ MacBook Air mid-2012, Core i5 with 512Gb SSD (it came with a 128Gb SSD, but I replaced it with a Transcend JetDrive 520), to which I added an additional 256gb memory card
  • a Dell U2715H QWHD 2560x1440p 27″ LED monitor
  • Apple Magic Keyboard 2
  • Daffodil Wirless mouse. This thing costs less than $7. It’s not as fancy as the Magic Mouse, but I like it a lot. And for this price, it’s super functional
  • Sharkoon XXL mouse mat (which I own since just 2 days, which is why it is a little wobbly on the pics) Update: after a few days, I realized that the bumps weren’t because it was new, but rather a delivery defect: the mat was poorly folded, so the bumps wouldn’t disappear even after a week. I returned it and replaced it with a Perixx DX-1000XXL which lay perfectly flat after a few hours
  • Apple iPad Air 64 Go with a Smart Cover, on its stand
  • iPhone 6 Plus 128 Go, also on its own stand (but I took the pic with it, so you only see the stand on the right of the monitor)

On the secondary desk, there is:

  • a fully loaded MacBook Pro (Core i7, 16Gb ram and 512 GB SSD). It’s not mine though; it’s been lent to me by my current client
  • a Samsung SCX-3200 black and white laser printer (this is isn’t produced anymore by Samsung)

And that’s about it for the hardware I use to get things done. Am I an Apple addict you ask ? Well, to be honest, I’ve kinda fell in love slowly but surely with the Apple ecosystem since 3 years, time at which I purchased my first Apple product (the very MacBook Air you see on my main desk). I used to be 100% PC guy but, hey, whatever works nice and fast will do it for me.

Software

At first I was going to throw a huge list of all the software that I use, but it’ll be better if I separate it into categories.

General purpose

  • OS: OS X 10.11 El Capitan, iOS 9
  • Browser: Safari and Chrome. Safari is my browser of choice, since these days I’m mostly on MacBooks, plus nowadays it has almost all the extensions I used to have in Chrome. While still not as powerful as Chrome, it uses WAY LESS battery juice than Chrome, which saves me 3 to 4 hours (I’m not exaggerating) of battery life when I’m on the go. But I have to admit  that, in terms of pure functionality, thanks to its vast plugin ecosystem, Chrome is still above, especially for the heavy/power user
  • Email client: Usually Gmail web client, but currently I’m trying out a promising newcomer, Polymail
  • Password Manager: KeepassX. I’m really paranoid when it’s about storing my passwords, so I prefer to use a local database Update: by the time I edit this article, I switched over to 1Password. My password database is still on my computer, but the interface is 100x times better and the integration with OS X / iOS is a lot better

Productivity

  • Evernote: undoubtedly one of the most important piece of software in my setup. I use it as a memo for all my ideas and projects, as a journal to write my every day thoughts, as a web clipper, to save all the valuable information I find on the internet, and as an archive cabinet, where I store all my scanned receipts and invoices
  • Todoist: for all my todos. I love the way it manages projects and the flexibility for organizing all of my tasks easily, while its interface is simple yet efficient and powerful
  • Pocket: Love this read-it-later service. While I use Evernote for articles and stuff that I want to “permanently” store, Pocket is great as a throw-it-all for one-shot articles that I want to, you guessed it, read later. Who uses bookmarks in 2016 anyway ?
  • Momentum: I’m talking about the OS X app, not the Chrome plugin. I started using it just recently, but I think it can really help me with one thing that I often struggle with, which is continuity in my work
  • Alfred: I wonder how I could live without it. Fantastic time-saver, productivity enhancer, shortcut-provider, keyboard launcher
  • Trello: my go-to tool for organizing projects. The card system with the Kanban flow just works
  • Slack: yes, I listed Slack in Productivity, because it does amp up my productivity by avoiding me to send dozens of emails per day
  • Dropbox and Google Drive: I use both on my computers (actually I even use a third file syncing app, Bittorent Sync)
  • Google Agenda: is it necessary to explain ?

Other useful apps I use

  • Adobe Photoshop CS 6: always useful when I need to some quick photo editing or rapid design
  • Sublime Text: it gives me the full power of an IDE (and even more) with the footprint, responsiveness and ease of use of a basic text editor
  • Postman: we’re getting a little techy here but it’s a fantastic tool when working with APIs
  • MacDown: fantastic Markdown text editor based on Mou editor, for those who know it. I love markdown so this is a gem
  • OS X Notes: for when I want to jot down something quickly and don’t feel like I’ll need it for as long as things stored in Evernote
  • aText: automatic text replacement. With the amount of things I type, it saves me hours. Tiny footprint, sits in the menu bar, does the job perfectly. Just one word of caution though: the support for this app is non-existent.
  • Monosnap: best screen capture and annotate tool I found so far. It’s like Skitch but better. It even allows you to automatically upload the image to a destination of your choice (FTP, Dropbox, Amazon S3) and have the link ready in your clipboard
  • ShiftIt: makes window management on OS X a breeze. Allows you to maximize (like in Windows, not OS X way), center, windows, or put them side-by-side, and more
  • F.lux: helps you fall asleep faster even though you stayed up too late on your computer by filtering out the blue light
  • MusicTube: sits in the menu bar and lets you quickly search and play anything that’s on YouTube
  • ItsyCal: simple calendar view that sits in your menu bar, and can be connected to your Google Agenda to display your upcoming events

Web apps and services

  • GitLab: just like GitHub but open source, allows unlimited private repositories and can be self-hosted
  • Mailchimp: for my blog newsletters and email marketing
  • Ambient-mixer.com: this website desserves to be more famous. I LOVE listening to “ambient” sounds, while working, reading just at any time. This web app allows you to listen to hundreds of ambient atmospheres, like “Pirate Ship” (my favorite one), “Gryffindor common room”, “Summer forest”, “Scottish rain”, and many more. You can also create and compose your own soundscapes.

iPhone apps

  • Hangouts: everyone I casually chat with is either on it, or facebook
  • Linkedin: I don’t often navigate on Linkedin while on my computers, but I l like to use the app
  • Tweetbot: same as Linkedin. I’m not a huge Twitter user but I like to check it from my phone and this app is a little nicer than Twitter’s official app
  • Kindle: So many books to read… It’s good to be able to read whenever I have my phone with me (which means almost everywhere)
  • KeePass Touch: lets me check my passwords on my iPhone I switched over to 1Password, which integrates better with iOS and its interface is nicer
  • Strong: great app to track your workouts. The user interface is just perfect, especially for when you work with weights
  • Interval Timer: I also do HIIT for my cardio, so I need an specific kind of timer. This app just does it perfectly
  • I also use the iPhone app version of most of the productivity tools that I listed above (like Evernote, Pocket, Trello, ToDoist, Slack…)

Chrome / Safari extensions

  • UpNext (Chrome only): lets you stream music from YouTube and SoundCloud directly without having to open a new tab
  • Buffer: quickly create social media posts that you can schedule and share easily
  • LiveStyle (Chrome only): used along with SublimeText, it renders changes in your code live so you don’t have to reload the page
  • Evernote Clipper: essential if you use Evernote
  • Pocket: like Evernote, perfect companion extension when you use Pocket
  • EditThisCookie (Chrome only): lets you quickly edit or delete all cookies related to the websites you’re on
  • View this page in Clearly (Chrome only): instantly make the current page more readable, clutter-free for easier reading. Note: this extension has been discontinued and is henceforth kind of integrated to Evernote Web Clipper
  • Trello (Chrome only): quickly create a Trello card from anywhere so you don’t have to log into Trello
  • uBlock Origin: neat, straightforward adblocker
  • OneTab (Chrome only): THIS extension. Do you have the bad habit of always having dozens of tabs opened ? OneTab gathers all of them (or the ones you choose) in one tab, in a clear list format, just with a single click
  • Multilogin (Chrome only): duplicates your current tab but with a different session (different cookies) so you can be logged in the same website with two or more different accounts. Note: the extension has been removed from the Chrome web store, I don’t know why
  • Lazarus Form recovery (Chrome only): Ever lost everything you typed in a form after a page reload, accidental close or lost connection ? With this extension, it’ll never happen to you again
  • Select Like a Boss (Chrome only): lets you easily select the text of links (else you struggle with the drag’n’drop)
  • Streak CRM: turns Gmail into a CRM app. It also provides nice features to Gmail, like scheduled sends, open tracking, email follow-ups…
  • Tab to the next (Chrome only): Forces new tabs to open right after the tab you’re viewing

The one productivity tip you’d recommend

Start for 2 minutes. That’s it. Whatever it is you gotta do, just start and do it for two minutes. The best single piece of advice I’ve ever received. 99% of the time it’s all about getting started.

Things we don’t achieve often are things we dread doing because we see so much work ahead of us. But if you give yourself just two minutes, you’ll find it waaaaay easier to get started. And that’s the key: once you get started, the initial barrier is gone, you have momentum and you get shit done.

One last thing: it’s important not to force yourself if you don’t feel like doing more than 2 minutes. It’s essential that whenever you tell yourself “Let’s do this for 2 minutes”, there are no strings attached, because otherwise, it defeats the purpose of the advice.

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