The IT Guy Essentials - Part #1

The IT Guy Essentials - Part #1

I have collected and used a few incredible devices over the years that now becomes an essential stuff for me. Those are the devices that I need few times over the week or each day, everyday. And without them I will be less happy than I am with them.

The list is not in an any particular order. Sometimes one thing becomes used everyday for a some time and then putted away waiting for another time.

Mechanical Keyboard

iKBC Poker + custom kaycaps

As an software engineer keyboard is my tool for work. I write an enormous amount of text. Is it a source code, instant messaging or writing articles - I need a super nice keyboard. And that is a 60% with a brown MX Cherry switches.

I have Vortex Pok3r and iKBC Poker. One for work and one for home and outdoor adventures (read: hammock in a park). Both have brown switches. Those are the one that don't click but have a distinguish feel of a click. In other words it's perfect for long writing and silent enough to work in open space office.

If you don't understand why someone would pay so much money and accept the hassle to use external keyboard you never used one. They are essential for writing. They're have that feeling that non of flat (rubber dome) keyboards will ever have. It's an experience. And when you fall in love with one you just can't use other without frustrating. And that's the last thing a writer wants.

Also they're have a very long life and looks nice. It takes millions of strokes before braking.

Super Small Netbook

Fujitsu Lifebook P1610

Ultra-portable computer device. It do not need to be powerful but just modern enough to connect to the net, takes USB memory sticks and have a descent battery life (or is easy to have additional battery). It needs to be able to connect my mechanical keyboard also. For that reason any tablet device is not suited. Even if most of them are capable of doing so using that combination is just too complicated. Why? Try to use tablet with a keyboard on a lap or in a hammock. It just don't work well. And using that setup on a desk is totally stupid - I have PC with two(!) 40" monitors on my desk. Why in the world I would use a small, crappy device next to it?

The Perfect Hardware

This kind of a machine have one main purpose - digital, modern typewriter. That's why it can be an old netbook with a word processor. It's cheap and serves well. And in those days it's hard to find a nice little netbook. Most of them have extremely high screen resolution with mutitouch and other bullshit stuff. They brake often and most of the time cost much more than it needs to. That's why I bought Asus EEE PC 701SD and (later) Fujitsu Lifebook P1610. Both are super small and super cheap. It's not that I can not afford latest revisions, I just can't find one that will look nice and fulfill all my needs. And I rater use those money for better external keyboard, more battery and lot of other nice things that I will really using. For example hi-res screens are using much more power and on 7-10 inch screen I need to make everything bigger. Using old tech it's big enough out of the box.

I don't run heavy software (like Godot, GIMP or KdenLive) on that mobile computer. Most of the time I will use terminal and a simple word processor. Using hi-end laptop for that it's an over-engineering.

Right now I'm waiting for that Fujitsu netbook to arrive. I think it will replace the Asus as it's have a better hardware and a lot of nice accessories like docking station and covers.

Update: I arrived and it's one of the best computer I used! I'm writing review ;)

I think I explained the hardware part enough. What about software? Let's start form the ground up - the Operating System.

Haiku OS

I tried Linux on EEE PC and it's working fine for terminal but using X11 with some descent Desktop Environment is too heavy. I tried many of the lightweight DE/WM but they all feels cheap and without any UX vision. I ended with terminals in better GUI but nothing more.

Terminal only system is nice. I setup it so the console have big font and a set of useful programs (nano/vim/mc/wicd/etc.). But then something happens.

Haiku Beta1. I grab the installer and install it on bare hardware. It is the best Operating System for old hardware. It may lack drivers to most of the software (that's expected for such a niche system) but when it works it works super effective. It's butter smooth on this Pentium 900MHz and 1GB memory and SSD drive (but very old/slow in compare to modern M.2 drives). But the best part is that the GUI is polished and thoughtful. It's looking good and works as expected from modern system. Also have many little gems that I don't see anywhere else. For example the ability to stack any windows in tabs. And it's a system wide feature so I can have tabs on any program. And I can put together different programs. This way I can have a window (with tabs) dedicated to one thing (file browser, word processor and translator for writing and another with terminals for remote ssh). Microsoft want's to add this to the Windows 10 but postpone this feature after each update. And I'm sure it will only work with selected software. On Haiku it's just another system feature like maximizing.

Official requirements revel why it works so well.

MINIMUM (32-bit)

    Processor: Intel Pentium II; AMD Athlon
    Memory: 256MB
    Monitor: 800x600
    Storage: 3GB

Looking a the software and my requirements any OS will work. Even FreeDOS. Word processors, terminals and simple web browsers (for wiki/translations/rss) are essentials that any system have already. Haiku is not an exception here and have a descent set of software out-of-the-box. So even with fresh install I can do all I need.

Going to the park or forest for micro-camping with the netbook and writing an article I feel like and old fashioned novelist with an typewriter in a mountains.

As a bonus I'm thinking of showing this setup on any conference for easy topic to start a conversation with strangers. We in the IT world are very bad at that aspect and anything that helps ease this is a nice welcome.

Unfortunately it did not work well on Lifebook. At last at the moment. It's drivers problem. But for that we have a remedy. It's named Linux. GNU, Linux.

Debian GNU/Linux

If the Haiku will not run as expected (it did not) there is always my favourite OS of all time - Debian. I'm perfecting the set of DE and software for years and have a good balance of capabilities vs performance. It will work on anything.

E-Ink Reader

PocketBook Aqua 2

That's the one part of the hardware I always wanted just because the incredible tech that make the screen. But I didn't read traditional books. And readers are build just to do that. But they do this perfectly. Pure example of UNIX philosophy.

But some time ago I figure out that many of the IT manuals I have would be much better to read on a separate device that mimics real paper. Also I wanted to use it while I taking a bath. And there are a water-proof versions! That's how I bought Pocketbook Aqua 2.

Soon it becomes that one thing I always takes to the bathroom. Or to the micro-camping when I know I don't want to write anything but just chill and learn something useful while doing so.

Now I can say that I read a books, just not novels nor fantasy but mostly manuals. Recently I read books like:

That's a wide range of topics but all have one common theme - learning aspect.