GNU Emacs

Platform: Windows, Linux, Mac

I have recently been trying Emacs because I have heard it is highly configurable and has amazing features like Org Mode and Magit. My initial impression was that it was extremely difficult to use due to its unintuitive design and high reliance on keybindings. After watching some videos by System Crafters, I slowly picked up on these keybindings and how to go about configuring emacs to my liking. I especially liked the Emacs from Scratch series which helped me build up my personal emacs configuration. I have been using this configuration for a couple months, but I have come to realize that there are just too many missing features and issues that I kept having to find resolutions for.

This is why I decided to switch to Doom Emacs, which is a distribution of Emacs that comes pre-configured with stability, performance, and vim keybindings in mind. The DoomCasts series by Zaiste Programming provides a good introduction to Doom Emacs in video form. My experience with Doom so far has been great. It works a lot more like what I expected my personal Emacs configuration to be, but is much easier to use and configure. Startup time is significantly faster, editing files is faster, vim-like keybindings are already setup, and it is functional out of the box. You can checkout my Doom Emacs configuration on GitHub. I have been using Chemacs 2 to easily switch between my personal and Doom configurations so I can compare and make improvements.

Visual Studio Code

Platform: Windows, Linux, Mac

Visual Studio Code is one of my favorite text editors. I have previously tried Sublime Text, Notepad++, and Vim , but I was never fully satisfied with their functionality. When I first started using VS Code, I wasn't convinced by it either. It looked like just another text editor with no special features. Over time, Microsoft has done a great job of improving stability, speed, and functionality. The feature that finally made the decision for me was the community support for extensions. If you are a die hard Vim user for example, there's a Vim emulation extension that should ease the transition. I just love the overall aesthetic, auto-completion, and sheer number of features available. It runs on every platform you could conceivably develop on and it looks great! Check out some of my favorite extensions and customization options below.

Font

My current favorite font for development and general use is FiraCode. I love the style and ligatures for common character sequences such as comparisons and arrows (e.g. >=, ->, and ==>).

Follow the installation instructions for your platform. Then follow the VS Code instructions to enable the font in the editor.

Notion

Platform: Web App, Mac, Windows, iOS, Android

This is my current favorite productivity app. I use it to keep track of things like homework, personal tasks, gift ideas, shopping lists, personal wish lists, upcoming video games, etc. I previously used Trello and Google Keep to track tasks and random bits of information, but Notion has been a game changer. While the full experience is locked behind a paywall, you can get the paid tier for free if you have a university (.edu) email. If you haven't already, I would suggest giving it a try. Use this referral link to get some free credit on your account to use if you decide to use any of the paid tiers.

Additionally, if you are looking for some cool tools to modify your desktop client experience, check out notion-enhancer by dragonwocky. Release v0.10.0 added a tabs feature so you can get a browser-like experience in the desktop client and (my personal favorite) dracula theme.

Ferdi

Platform: Windows, Linux, Mac

Have you ever wondered if there was an app to combine all of your messaging apps into 1? Well, Ferdi is the answer. I used to keep multiple tabs and programs open so I could see all of my messaging services at once, but with Ferdi, they are all neatly packaged in one application. Any messaging service with a web app can be accessed through Ferdi. Give it a try, I'm sure you will enjoy it as much as I do. The best part, it's free and open source!

Pocket Casts

Platform: Web App, iOS, Android

This is my preferred Podcast app. I have it on my Android phone and on my Arch Linux desktop and laptop. I purchased the web app and android app prior to the new subscription model that Pocket Casts has implemented. Luckily, they listened to customer feedback and gave lifetime access to Pocket Casts Plus for those who previously purchased the web version. While I'm not a big fan of subscription models (especially when they previously didn't exist), I appreciate that they have implemented a free tier that has the majority of features that most people will need.

Spotify

Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android

This is my preferred music app. I love having access to streaming music on all devices I use and integration with many smart home devices. Overall an excellent product and very reasonable prices, especially with the student pricing plan. Check out some of my favorite songs in the music section.

If you are interested in adding some cool themes and improving performance to the spotify desktop app, check out spicetify.

YouTube Vanced

Platform: Android

I discovered this on a MEGA PRO TIPS post on r/galaxys10 (tip 29). All relevant information on what apps to download and a fix for a login issue can be found in the reddit post. The gist of the app is that it removes ads from YouTube on your android phone and you can play music while your screen is off for free.

Vivaldi Browser

Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android

After trying Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Brave, I finally decided to go with Vivaldi. It will be very familiar for those coming from Chrome since it is also based on Chromium. The main reason I like it is for its customizability. There are so many features available to the user like tab stacking and tiling that I find extremely helpful. If you are a browser power user such as myself, I think you will find it really hard to switch to another browser's tab management system. Vivaldi's is by the best I have used. Additionally, most if not all Chrome extensions can be used with Vivaldi and it has built-in ad blocking and tracking prevention. Definitely recommend that you give it a try.

Signal

Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android

I'm a big fan of free and open source software. This is especially important with messenger apps where user privacy is very important. Signal uses the same end-to-end encryption protocol (Signal Protocol) as WhatsApp, but without the Facebook tracking. This means it is incredibly difficult to intercept and decode messages sent through Signal. Since Signal is an independent nonprofit, they are not tied to any major tech company and they cannot be acquired by one in the future. They are entirely funded by donations and grants. If you are looking to move away from messenger services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, Signal is the best option.

Laptop: System76 Oryx Pro 7

I was looking for a Linux laptop that I could use for development, general productivity, and gaming over the next couple of years. While I love my desktop and my ultrabook laptop, I really wanted one device that could fill both roles. After doing some research, I landed on System76. They are a U.S. based company that specializes in selling Linux laptops, desktops, and servers. They also make their own Linux distribution in Pop!_OS. Of their available laptops, the Oryx Pro lineup seemed to be the best balance of portability, power, and hybrid graphics. The last point is especially important to me because I want to be able to extend battery life by turning off the discrete GPU when I don't need it. Overall, I am very happy with my purchase. For more information, check out my review.

Tablet: Microsoft Surface Go

I primarily use the Surface Go as a secondary-device and tablet. I use it for media consumption, occasional textbook / pdf reading, and for taking digital handwritten notes with the Surface Pen. It is by no means powerful enough to act as my primary device. The Surface Go 2 has since released, so you may want to look into that instead. If you do end up going with the Surface Go, make sure you turn off S mode to be able to install apps that aren't on the Microsoft Store. I would generally recommend looking for bundles as the type cover and pen are not included by default.

I did experiment with running BlissOS on this tablet since I really like the hardware, but I'm not the biggest fan of Windows. After a bit of configuration, it was definitely usable, but had some deal breaking issues. The first one being battery drain. It seemed like the battery life was much lower than I would have expected and I didn't find a good way to resolve this. The other big issue I found was with the on-board speakers. When listening to music or watching a video, the audio seemingly played at 1/2 the normal speed. When connecting headphones to the headphone jack, it had the same issue. However, audio worked perfectly when connecting headphones over Bluetooth.

Phone: Samsung Galaxy S10+

Got the Galaxy S10+ on sale on Amazon's Prime Day. My previous phone was a Pixel 2XL which I really liked, but I decided to switch to a Galaxy after the Pixel 3 was a bit of a disappointment and the Pixel 4 wouldn't come out until later in the year. Other phones I considered, but ultimately decided against were the OnePlus 7 Pro and Samsung Galaxy Note 9. In retrospect, I would have waited to replace my Pixel 2XL until the Galaxy Note 10+ came out and the price dropped down to something reasonable. However, I am happy with my decision as is.

Watch: Samsung Galaxy Watch

I previously had a Moto 360 Sport smartwatch, but the performance was extremely disappointing. After looking at other Android wear devices, I didn't feel that another compelling watch on the level of the Apple Watch for iPhones existed. Thus, I decided to switch to the Galaxy watch. My primary impressions of Tizen OS vs Android Wear is the lack of supported apps. I have found that this really isn't that big of a deal as it has great media controls for your phone and the amazing rotating bezel interface. This is by far the superior input method for watches and I feel that all watches should have some variant of this. Overall, the performance is great and I have come to appreciate Samsung's brand of apps for my phone and watch.

Wireless Earbuds: Samsung Galaxy Buds

I found these on sale at Costco and heard that the audio quality was among the best for the price. I love that they also have audio passthrough so you can hear your environment when necessary, or keep noise cancelling on. They fit nice in my ears and don't fall out. Additionally, they integrate well with my Galaxy Watch and Galaxy S10+. My only gripes are that the mic isn't that great for taking phone calls and the battery life is not great. Samsung reports 6 hours of charge in the earbuds and 7 hours in the case. In my experience, this is pretty accurate. Don't expect long, continuous music sessions.

Wireless Headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4

I previously purchased the WH-1000XM2's, but decided to upgrade after seeing the XM4's on sale. The XM4's are an improvement in every way and well worth the price. Sound quality is amazing, noise cancelling is excellent, and it has audio passthrough in case you need to hear your environment. If you need wireless bluetooth headphones, this is it. My favorite feature is definitely the ability to connect to two devices (e.g. laptop and phone) at once. This means I can answer a call on my phone while listening to music on my laptop without having to completely re-pair devices. I also really like the battery life. Sony reports 30 hours of charge. If you will be away from an outlet for an extended period of time and plan on using your headphones a lot, these are great.

Gaming Platform Profiles

Steam: SuperStormSrav

Favorite Games

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses
  • Bloodborne
  • God of War
  • Marvel's Spider-Man
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Borderlands 2
  • Dark Souls 1 (Remastered) & 3
  • Dishonored 2
  • Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
  • Fallout 4
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Mass Effect Legendary Edition
  • Minecraft
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • The Sims 3
  • The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
  • Titanfall 2
  • Watch Dogs 2
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Bootleg Football (E.J. Snyder & Brett Kollmann)

This is by far my favorite american football podcast. Brett Kollmann (YouTube's The Film Room) and E.J. Snyder (Senior Draft Analyst Windy City Gridiron) team up to discuss drinks and football each week. I love their enthusiasm for the game and analysis of the week's results.

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History (Dan Carlin)

This is long-form historical discussion and analysis. If you are interested in diving deep into historical events from the perspective of someone who knows how to tell a story, this is the podcast for you. Episodes are generally 4 to 5 hours long and aren't released very often as they require an enormous amount of research.

Decoder with Nilay Patel (The Verge)

This is a podcast about big ideas and other problems. Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel talks to a diverse cast of innovators and policy makers on the frontiers of business and technology to reveal how they're navigating an ever-changing landscape, what keeps them up at night, and what it all means for our shared future. This is one of my favorite interview style podcasts because Nilay does a great job of asking tough questions of his interviewees and explaining complex things in an easy to understand way.

Football Weekly (The Guardian)

I love the light-hearted and sometimes comedic news and analysis of Premier League (and others) matches. The rotating cast of football journalists and long-time hosts are thoroughly enjoyable to listen to every week. Definitely recommend this podcast for any football (soccer) fans.

Lex Fridman Podcast (Lex Fridman)

As an aspiring roboticist, I'm very interested in the state of the art in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics. The Lex Fridman podcast is a series of conversations with prominent members in the field of AI, science, and technology at MIT and in industry.

Throughline (NPR)

The premise of Throughline is exploring how we can look at the past to understand the present. The hosts are awesome and always find very interesting stories in the past relating to current events that help put things in perspective.

The Vergecast (The Verge)

The Vergecast is perhaps my favorite podcast of any genre. The hosts discuss the week's tech news and other nerdy topics as well as interviews with tech leaders. Cannot recommend this enough.

Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! (NPR)

This is my favorite news/comedy podcast. I love hearing about the week's wacky stories and the rotating panel of comedians' opinions on world events.

Spotify Playlist

These are my current (approximately 100) favorite songs.