Current tools and equipment (2021)

5 minute read

Everyday I use a series of tools that make my life easier. These tool change and morph each year. This is my most up-to-date list of recommended tools and equipment.

Previous snapshots of my tools and equipment lists can be found here: 2018, 2016

Inspired by - A collection of interviews asking people from all walks of life, what they use to get the job done.

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Steven Smethurst and I live two lives. During the day I am a CTO at Chipkin Automation Systems and at night I am a maker, hacker and artist.

What has changed since 2018

A global pandemic (COVID-19) closed my work office and I started working permanently from home (WFM). The pandemic changes the way I work, how I spend my free time and the hobbies that I choose to do.

I have stopped using Slack, Google Hangouts, Skype, and a few other messaging services for Microsoft Teams. MSTeams has its rough edges but it works well for work collaboration and video calls. Since most of my friends are forced to use MSTeams for, everyone is already on the service creating a network effect.

I stopped using FireFox for Internet Explorer Edge. FireFox just had too many issues loading certain webpages made it frustrating to work with. The missing integration with Chromecast was also annoying. I didn’t want to use Google Chrome, because of the reasons I mentioned in 2018. Internet Explorer Edge uses the same engine as Google Chrome with a Microsoft skin. It works well enough.

The AutoDesk Fusion 360 hobbyist license change didn’t come as much of a surprise. Because of COVID-19 and my lack of access to a workshop, I stopped using my CNC router, laser cutter, and 3D printer so I haven’t needed F360 in the last two years. I have not bothered to find a replacement and instead, I do projects that don’t require any CAD work.

Drop Lastpass for BitWarden. Lastpass got bought by LogMeIn and changed their free model making it a lot less useful. While I was a paid customer for LastPass and was unaffected by this change. I also was recommending password databases to a lot of people over the years. When these people couldn’t use the free version anymore they came to me looking for an alternative. After researching alternatives I ended up switching to BitWarden. It does everything Lastpass does with a slightly worse but workable interface. Lastpass lost a paid customer and a champion for their product.

I cracked my touch screen for my Microsoft Surface pro 3. It was my primary laptop but with work from home (WFH) I just have not needed a laptop in the last two years so I have not gotten around to replacing it.

My partner purchased a Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens as a birthday Christmas gift to herself at the end of 2020. I started borrowing the lens on my days off to take photos of birds. I have since become completely enamored with birdwatching. From Zero to full birder in just a few weeks. I purchased a Sony a6400 camera body to go with the lense. Taking this lens out birding gave me a much-needed excuse to leave the house during COVID. I created a deck of bird playing cards with the photos that I have been shooting. I been uploading my photos to INaturalist.

I picked up Affinity Photo to edit photos from the camera and lens, and Affinity Designer for layout work for the deck of bird playing cards project. Both are great tools with fantastic learning resources.

I got 34inch+ ultra-wide monitors that I was wishing for in 2018 and I didn’t like it at all. I ended up switched back to three 27inch monitors that I much prefer. It’s easier to position the three separate monitors in the orientation that I want rather than one very large curved monitor.

I use Calendly to schedule meetings with customers.

What software do you use?

  • Visual Studio Code - A Extensible and customizable text editor. I tend to use this text editor more than I use Visual studio’s these days. It’s Free and extensible.
  • Visual Studio - A fully-featured, extensible IDE and compiler for CSharp, C/C++, etc…
  • WSL - Linux subsystem for windows (AKA Ubuntu bash on Windows). I user this every single day.
  • GitLab - A alternative to Github. git repo, issue tracker, CI, etc…
  • GitKraken - A Git client. Paid app.
  • Beyond Compare 4 - A file/folder comparison tool.
  • Wireshark - A widely-used network protocol analyzer. I use this every single day.
  • Signal Private Messenger - Private secure, end to end communications. My preferred form of communication.
  • Github pages + Jekyll - Main blogging platform.
  • Spotify for music, and Netflix for TV and movies.
  • BitWarden for passwords, and Authy for 2FA

What hardware do you use?

What would be your dream setup?

With working from home my office took over the entire living room of my 540 Square Feet (50 Square Meters) apartment. I have to box up a lot of my project and living room furniture to fit my office. My dream setup would live in a larger place with a separate room for my office, preferably surrounded by art and house plants.

I think a Every Day Calendar would help me keep up with my good habits. I tried to make a few versions but nothing compares to the real version.

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