The Setup

This is a post about the hardware and software I use to get my work done on a daily basis, in a format similar to the one used here.

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Utkarsh, a 21 year old student in the final year of my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering from NIT Trichy. You probably knew that from my About Me page though😉. In my free time, I like reading and listening to music. Oh, and playing the guitar – I’d like to think I’m getting better at it, but I’ll let my roommate be the judge of that.

What hardware do you use?

Since I live in a dorm that faces frequent power issues, my primary workhorse is a HP Pavilion G4 2036TU with 4GB of DDR3 RAM. Compared to the aging Dell Inspiron 1520 I was using earlier, this one is a beast. I’ve swapped the mechanical HDD out for a roomy 240GB Corsair Force 3 SSD that serves all my storage needs for now, and I frequently get sub-5 second boot times. I should probably get into backing up my data in the future, but hey, let’s chalk it down to youthful irreverence plus the fact that I don’t really have anything significant to back up anyway. A 16GB Transcend USB 3.0 flash drive serves as a stand-in for now, holding copies of notes, documents etc.

My phone is a 16GB Samsung Galaxy S (apparently it’s old enough that Samsung’s site doesn’t link to it anymore). It’s a reliable phone with solid specs for its release date, but one that I never liked much thanks to its inherent lag. CyanogenMod has fixed all of that though. It holds most of the music I listen to frequently, and I’ve paired it with the Creative EP630. I’m not much of an audiophile, but these earphones have served me well for years now, and I recently ordered my second pair after I lost the first one. They’re very good for the price, and provide a solid bassline that’s not too overpowering – a must if you’re a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan🙂

In addition, my 4th generation Kindle (the non-touch version) provides my reading fix, although it has steadily fallen into disuse the past few months.

At home, I’ve got a couple of custom-built desktops and a 160GB Sony PlayStation 3. One of the desktops is equipped with a Core 2 Quad Q8400 running at 2.66 GHz, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, 750GB of storage and an Nvidia GTX 260 with 896MB of VRAM (the Core 216 model). I’ve hooked it up to a BenQ G2412 HD and an old pair of Creative SBS240 speakers, and it serves as my go-to desktop for gaming.

The other desktop was built earlier this year, and is powered by a Core i5 2500K running at stock speeds (3.3 GHz), 8GB of DDR3 RAM, 1TB of storage and the onboard HD3000 graphics. A 40″ Sony LCD TV (can’t recall the exact model number) serves as the display, and audio is provided by means of a generic Creative 2.1 speaker setup. Writing this piece has made me realize that I seem to have a particular affinity for Creative when it comes to audio. I should probably diversify in the future.

And what software?

My gaming desktop runs on Windows 7 Home Premium, and the second one on Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. I’ve used a variety of Linux distros in the past, but I’ve settled on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS for my laptop thanks to its stability. I guess you can say I’ve used all three major desktop OSes, although most of my time is spent in a Linux environment. I’m currently running a nightly build of CyanogenMod 10 (based on Jelly Bean) on my phone, which I upgrade every other week or so.

On Linux, music is served up by Rhythmbox, and all other media by VLC. The built-in Document Viewer and Image Viewer work just fine since I don’t use them all that often, although the latter has the habit of driving me nuts since I draw constant parallels with Picasa. For productivity, I occasionally use LibreOffice, although most of my work is accomplished on Google Docs thanks to its universal accessibility and handy auto-save. My lengthy and infrequent blog posts are all written within WordPress’ built-in writing app, and I’ve lost many a draft to its buggy auto-save.

My development work is accomplished by means of vim and the default GNOME terminal. I’ve worked with CUDA 4.2, and I enjoy the flexibility provided by the command line in addition to that powerful “close to the metal” feel. I plan on getting started with source control sometime in the near future, and I’ll probably steer towards git.

Firefox used to be my browser of choice, but I’ve somehow settled on Chrome over the past couple of years. The only add-on I’ve ever needed is AdBlock Plus. Since most of the stuff I use on Linux is cross-platform (stuff like VLC and Chrome), it’s what I use on Windows and Mac as well.

Finally, I’ve never been a huge fan of desktop mail clients or IM, so that pretty much rounds out my list of software.

What would be your dream setup?

From my perspective, I pretty much have a dream setup – it more than meets my needs. If I were to go all out though, I’d plug in SSDs as boot drives on both my desktops, and buy a beefy card like the GTX 680 for my second desktop (disclosure – I’m an Intel + NVidia fanboy) to handle the more demanding games coming out this holiday season.

I’d love a decent multi-monitor setup (even if it is just two of them with one in portrait mode), and either the Microsoft Surface or the iPad sometime in the future even though they’re probably overkill.

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