Hi! Tell us about who you are and what you do

Hey! My name is Paulo Coelho Alves. I live in Lisboa, Portugal with my partner, our 2 year old kid and a 10 year old cat with a bad attitude that’s only slightly mellowed out in her old age.

I’ve been working at Plex, a fully remote company, for the last 7 years, where I’ve helped ship a ton of features for our Web client. Most of my days are spent working with TypeScript, React and Next.js.

I tend to my digital garden and sometimes let my thoughts float out into the Internet. I’m perpetually on a quest to read more.

I also make ambient, IDM, DnB and other types of music as Life Patterns. Most of it happens in the laptop, after work, pushing notes around using the keyboard and mouse. Sometimes in the Ableton Push 2 that’s on my desk, but not as often as I’d like. Of course, Ableton came out with a standalone Push shortly after I purchased mine.

Angled photo of the desk, with a plant visible standing on it

What is your hardware setup?

2021 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro chip and 32GB of RAM. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the fans on the thing. Maybe once while running part of the Plex backend locally in Docker. This machine is a beast and probably the best computer I’ve ever used.

My keyboard is a Keychron K8 with RGB Backlight, frame and Gateron Blue switches. Cheap, but it doesn’t feel like it. I use it with a wooden palm rest which provides some much needed support for my wrists.

I might be the only person that likes Apple’s Magic Mouse. The battery lasts forever, it feels comfortable, the gestures are great. Got mine years ago and haven’t felt the need to switch. Maybe it helps that I’m on the keyboard most of the time (vim keybindings everywhere I can enable them).

Got some sort of 4K monitor. Probably the best upgrade to my setup in years. Before that, I felt guilty using an external monitor and not taking advantage of the MacBook’s ridiculously high-resolution monitor. Single monitor, single app per space (sometimes more, in which case Amethyst will do its thing and tile the windows automatically). Works for me.

Just recently got a standing desk from IKEA. It’s awesome and I wish I’d gotten one sooner. My chair is also from IKEA–it’s just OK. Doesn’t kill my back but it’s not terribly comfortable either. One of these days I’ll find a decent second-hand Herman Miller and never buy another chair again.

I mostly listen to music on a relatively cheap but great-sounding Sonos speaker (also from IKEA). Sometimes a record goes on the turntable, but that’s currently in the living room. For headphones I mostly use the AirPods Max, which I purchased as a last resort while dealing with anxiety triggered by loud neighbors. The noise cancellation is magical but the Bluetooth pairing is frustratingly inconsisent.

And what are the favorite items in your workspace?

This gel ink ballpoint pen from MUJI is the best. Cheap, reliable, comfortable. Refills are dirt cheap too, so unless the body breaks down I’m set for life.

The MD Notebook is my go-to for light bullet journaling and quick notes. It’s beautiful and functional!

This modern cassette player by we are rewind is great to take on walks. My tape collection is still small, but there’s no shortage of good stuff coming out through Bandcamp. I love that it forces intention on the act of listening to music: what you take with you is what you have.

Close up picture of the part of the desk with magnetic casettes visible

I keep an aroma stone from MUJI under the monitor. Every morning I toss in a few drops of essential oils and enjoy the fragrance for a few hours. I know nothing about aromatherapy, I just like nice smells. Something citrusy, eucalyptus or ylang ylang are my go-tos.

I love being surrounded by and taking care of plants. They don’t take much work and give so much in return.

Room corner with plants, tiny sofa table and a chair

What is your software setup?

Generally speaking, I prefer:

  • For local software, single payments over subscription models
  • For online services, open-source over closed-source, self-hosted whenever possible, 100% user-supported over VC, paid over free

I’ve been on a quest to reduce & simplify my software stack (inspired by Jack Baty). Obsidian manages my evergreen notes, clippings and posts. I also use it to manage work tasks, meeting notes, projects, etc. Enso is a recent find but I can’t recommend it enough. Every morning I sit down and just write for a few minutes on nothing and anything to get my thoughts in order. For posts or other longer-form writing, iA Writer.

For writing code, I’ve gone from vim to NeoVim to Emacs (using Doom Emacs) to VS Code. It mostly just works and doesn’t trigger my impulse to tinker with the settings nearly as much as the other two. That said, I’ve been feeling the siren call of Emacs again. So far, I’ve been able to resist it and just get work done.

I use Fastmail for email, Kagi for search, NextDNS for blocking ads and trackers, 1Password for managing passwords (it also integrates nicely with Fastmal, creating dummy emails when I sign up to new services).

I do a lot of my reading on Feedbin (through Reeder), but more often than not I’ll go straight to the source and check out the websites of people I like/admire. Feedbin also contains my read-later pile, which I try very aggressively to keep lean. Occasionally I’ll throw away the entire list and start fresh.

I mostly use NearlyFreeSpeech.NET for hosting and blog using the delightful Bear Blog.

Arc has been my default browser for well over a year. They do so much right and the app is a complete delight to use. I’m not sure how I feel about Browse for Me–it sure is convenient, but I wonder how much I want to strip away the actual browsing away from the browser experience. I like to follow trails of links down unexpected paths. That said, the A.I. features generally stay out of the way and can be disabled.

What are your favorite programming or scripting languages?

I’ve been working with JavaScript and TypeScript for so long I’ve grown to love it. The little language that could. It suits me well both professionally and personally. I’ve dabbled in a few others, but JS/TS is what I’d call home.

Is there anything you are missing in your setup?

More plants, always. A more comfortable chair. I’ve been eyeing these cute wooden figurines. An EP-133 K.O. II would be nice but probably destroy my productivity. Or it’d just make me really productive at jamming and making music.

The whole room is visible on the photo: with the desk, wardrobe and window

What book comes to your mind that you would like others to read?

Some recent favorites:

Some all time faves: