NOT The Setup / Interview

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Aaron Pressman

Aaron Pressman

Reporter, blogger

Posted June 12, 2013 in community

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Aaron Pressman and I've been a reporter for going on 24 years writing for publications like Businessweek, The Industry Standard (may she rest in peace) and Wired and companies like, Bloomberg and -- until recently -- Reuters. Just now, I'm joining Yahoo! Finance as their tech reporter. I've always covered business with the emphasis shifting over the years from Wall Street (when I lived in NYC) to politics and Internet policy (when I lived in DC) to more of the investing focus I have today (in Boston). I first started my own blog in 2005. I'm ten times happier and smarter than I used to be thanks to my awesome wife, Whitney Connaughton.

I'd like to take credit for calling bs on a couple of recent investment debacles. I spent much of 2004 and 2005 getting slammed by commenters on for saying that a housing bubble was brewing and I was all over the ethanol bubble of 2006. I got myself in hot water with right-wing web sites and their fans a few years ago when I wrote that the Community Reinvestment Act and other government efforts to get banks to lend to poor people did not cause the credit crisis and our subsequent economic collapse. If you have a burning desire to read more, some of my older stuff is here and my current stuff is here.

What hardware do you use?

With the encouragement of my most excellent wife, and to keep out of Laptops Anonymous, I have greatly cut back on the number of computers I use on a daily basis. Last year, I got fed up with Apple's OS X and the razor-edged aluminum MacBook Pros and switched to a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. It's a huge change after, what, 12 or more years on the Mac but it's great to think different with the new sleek, matte black machine. I'm using Lenovo's USB 3.0 dock to hook up to a big screen, keyboard, mouse and all that when sitting in my home office.

Connected to the TV in our family room, we have a Mac mini server (Mid 2010), the first of its kind to have an HDMI port. I had high hopes about ripping all my DVDs to the disk and creating an awesome digital movie library. That didn't quite turn out to be remotely doable in my spare time so instead we've ballooned our collection of DRM-locked iTunes movies. Doh! My trusty old 24" iMac (Late 2006), a fantastic machine in its day, has been demoted to be the kids' main computer. There are a couple of home brew Windows boxes in the attic that we keep around for gaming purposes.

While cutting back on computers, printers seem to have proliferated. We have the wireless HP Officejet 6000, an HP Deskjet 6940 and an HP all-in-one c4200 we got for free with one of our Macs. There's also a wireless Brother HL-2170W laser printer I got on super-sale at Staples. 

I'm toting an awesome Google/LG Nexus 4 pocketwise. There are also too many iPads (generations 1, 2 and 3 with a mini on the way shortly) and ereaders (mainly 3rd gen Kindles with one Paperwhite), some of which usually find their way into my bag, a black leather Knomo Bungo messenger bag. 

And what software?

There's an old fake ad routine that used to be on the radio in Boston when I was growing up for "generic food bars." At one point, the announcer would say something like "I put one in my mouth, my briefcase, the trash can, whatever's open." That's kind of how I write -- with Microsoft Word, WordPad, Windows Live Writer, Google Docs, Wordpress, MarkdownPad, BBEdit on the Mac or whatever's open. On my phone, I use Epistle or Evernote, mainly.

Most personal blog entries are done directly online in Chrome/Wordpress but every time some weird save bug loses an entire post I've just written I swear I'll stop. Since I switched to Windows, I've been in need of a good, lightweight HTML editor. I tried and rejected NetBeans, which was total overkill for my needs, and now I'm trying BlueGriffon.

I'm a big Excel user for mathy stuff and lists. For photo management and retouching, I use and enjoy Adobe Lightroom. Luckily, before I abandoned the Mac, I had already switched to the excellent cross-platform email program Postbox.

Windows 8 is certainly a work in progress and I have virtually eliminated any trips to the interface formerly known as "Metro" using the awesome Pokki Menu app. It's more like Windows 7.1 than 8.0, I guess.

Web-wise, it's Chrome all the way. Now that it's finally on Android, too, I am a very satisfied customer. I do plenty of the social networks like Twitter and Google+. I also use Zenfolio for photo displays both public and private. Feedly now manages my many RSS feeds. To save some trees, I send long articles I want to read later directly from the web to Pocket and then on to my Kindle using crofflr. iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Cloud Player supply the sound track of life. Google Voice is simply the coolest mash-up of online tools, cell phones and the POTS that there ever was.

My biggest problem software-wise used to be saving, cataloging and retrieving notes I had gathered as part of researching articles and blog posts. "Notes" could be anything from a whole web page to a chart of a company's 10-year revenues to an interview with a source. I tried so many, many options before Evernote arrived on the scene. I consider it pretty much perfect. Two key attributes are critically important: multi-platform access and the ability to get everything out that you ever put in (in case you change your mind some day and for archival purposes).

In the utility tool box, aside from the aforementioned Pokki Menu, CrashPlan does offsite backup, DropBox synchs files, 1Password stores passwords on Macs, iPads, PCs and Android and Handbrake rips videos.

The 4.1 version of Android, "Jelly Bean," is a joy on my Nexus phone. Favorite apps include Amazon's Cloud Player and Kindle Reader, CalenGoo, HBO Go, Pocket, Pocket Casts, Postagram, Tango and Wordpress. For some strange reason, Verizon is still only providing access to its super-cool FiOS home voicemail app on Android, not iOS. I'm also a huge fan of Android widgets especially Google Voice, Traffic and Weatherbug. And Lookout Security protects me from the bad guys' malware and viruses. On the iPad, I like the Tweetbot twitter client and Feedly RSS app. Photosmith is a cool new way to sync photos with Lightroom, too.

What would be your dream setup?

It's funny. When I first posted my "dream setup" only 3 years ago, I wished for a MacBook Air with crazy more storage and a way-faster-than-USB port, an iMac with a humungous screen and a note-stashing program which could "run on multiple computers and operating systems, have fantastic yet simple search and organizing features, index every word of everything saved, also be accessible on the web and automagically sync everything behind the scenes." Guess somebody up there was looking out for me.

Now a days, I'm dreaming a little bigger and awaiting the perfecting of the smart phone as do-it-all computer, kind of like that crazy, voice-activated, holographic-display-enabled, super computer in a credit card called Selma that they had in the 1990s TV show Time Trax. So much of my digital stuff is already in the cloud. Motorola has started the hardware ball rolling with their laptop accessories for Droid phones but there's still a long, long way to go. Also, did I mention that I CANNOT STAND most of the changes Apple has forced upon us in Lion and Mountain Lion? Please, roll it back so we can get some work done! And, while you're at it, DO NOT claim a year long exclusive on the next great connection technology (Thunderbolt!) so that 99% of peripheral makers will twiddle their thumbs and release nothing until the ports start showing up on Windows computers.