Considering the irresponsible consumerist society we’re living in, I probably shouldn’t incite you to buy even more stuff. Buy experiences, not things. Spending two weeks of your summer in a surf camp on the coast of Bali, California, or France is more valuable than upgrading a merely one year old Macbook. Owning just a guitar and a songbook is still more fulfilling than buying that new drone you’ll use maybe once, then never again. Remember how excited you were when you first got your newest phone just one year ago? It can’t be as bad as you like to tell yourself merely one year later, just because it’s not the latest model anymore.
In the end, stuff is just exactly that … stuff. Oftentimes, as soon as we have it, it’s of no interest to us anymore and we already have our eyes on the next thing to buy to fill that void. Always on the chase, never happy—this has become completely normal nowadays.
Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.— Naval (@naval) March 28, 2017
But still, something’s got to get the work done, you have bills to pay. You don’t want to be stuck with crappy equipment in those 50 weeks of the year that you’re not in Bali. I don’t advocate for buying only cheap or living like a hermit, I’m just trying to live more consciously. So here’s a selection ot items that add value to my life instead of just filling up my space. If something lasts 10x longer or gives me 10x the value, I’ll gladly play 2x the price. In the long run, that’s more economical and you save money making your buying decision like this.
My main computer is a 2015 MacBook Pro 13”. I left the Windows world many years ago and don’t see myself returning any time soon, even though I would get better hardware for a better price if I did. The macOS ecosystem is what makes me the most productive, not an increase in CPU clock rate by 500 or 700 MHz.
I’m using a 27” display from Dell, the U2713HM, which is already a couple of years old but nevertheless still great for coding, editing photos, or just watching videos.
It seems everyone and their mother is using the Logitech MX Master 2 mouse, but if you neither care for a second wheel for horizontal scrolling nor own a 4K display nor plan to use your mouse on a glass surface, you don’t need to blow money for features you don’t use.1 I got a good price on the more affordable Logitech M720 and don’t miss any features. Depending on the size of your hand, the M720 is also more comfortable than the MX Master. And it has replacable batteries, in constrast to the the MX Master.
For audio, I recommend the Beyerdynamik DT-770 Pro (250 Ohm). No one beats Beyerdynamik, except Beyerdynamik. These are so comfortable that you can wear them for hours without any pain. I don’t own fancy speakers, since they’re inferior to quality headphones anyway and I want to keep my setup simple and my possessions as few as possible. For having friends over or listening in the kitchen, I recommend something portable.
If you work in an open plan office or travel often—and are willing to sacrifice audio quality for noise cancelling—I’d get the Bose QC25. I don’t like their successor QC35, since—again—their batteries are not replacable. Lithium Ion batteries have a limited life span and when they die you can basically trash the entire headphone, since Bose does not offer a battery replacement.
I don’t like external hardrives for permanent storage of my data. No matter their capacity, one day they will be full. If you shoot RAW or rip your Blu-ray collection to get rid of your physical possessions, this day will come sooner than later. Manually moving your data to a new home is error-prone. Also, storing your most precious data on a single non-mirrored disk is dangerous. Should that disk fail, all your irreplacable data would be irretrievable lost. You definitely need a RAID system for your permanent storage to guard yourself against disk failure.
Since DAS (Direct Attached Storage) is too expensive for non-professionals, NAS (Network Attached Storage) is the way to go. With a NAS, the disks are not treated separately but as one big cluster. If you run out of storage, you simply put another disk in one of the free slots and the size of the volume grows with your data. No need to shuffle files around. There are two main competitors in this market, QNAP and Synology where Synology has the much better operating system. I own a Synology DS918+, one of their 4-bay DiskStations from their 2018 lineup addressed to prosumers and small businesses. Inside the NAS live Western Digital Red disks. The DS918+ supports four disks with a capacity of up to 10 TB each, resulting in a theoretical maximum storage capacity of 40 TB.
You should also get a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) such as the APC Back UPS ES 700VA to protect your most delicate devices from power spikes and guard yourself against data loss. Imagine yourself transferring your vacation pictures to the NAS over your network and suddenly—power outtage. Your NAS abruptly shuts down in the middle of the data transfer. Also, without a functioning router there’s no more network connection. Such devices need an emergency power supply so that you can bridge the time to safely finish the data transfer in case of a blackout.
For backup purposes I nevertheless own an external harddrive. A failing disk would after all take only a copy of my data and not the data itself. Now that SSDs are getting more affordable, it’s become reasonable to use SSDs for backups, too, to make use of bootable backups. For external disks there’s no use in buying a NVMe drive due to the transfer bottleneck. USB 3.0 is simply to slow (300 MB/s) to even make use of the speed of a SATA disk (600 MB/s) let alone a 4x PCIe-disk with NVMe (3.94 GB/s). Even with USB 3.1 (900 MB/s), any NVMe disk would just be a massive overkill and a huge waste of money if you’d use it only as an external disk. Just get the Samsung 860 EVO and a case that supports UASP. If a small form factor is more important to you than anything, get the Samsung T5, although I wouldn’t recommend it. Its USB controller—the thing that almost always dies first—is soldered to the SSD, so if that controller dies you can not only throw a fully functioning SSD into the trash can, you can’t even retrieve your data.
As a router I use the Asus RT-AC68U. If you live in a small appartment or dorm, that router covers every corner of your flat. If you live in a bigger apartment or own a house, then you probably also have the financial resources to afford a mesh network system such as Eero.
I’ve written a blog post of its own on how I set up my Mac and what software I use.
I also have a dedicated page for my photography-related gear.
Backpacks and Travel
Every-day Tech Backpack
Carry-on Backpack for Travelling
I travel exclusively with carry-on backpacks. I don’t own any suitcases. This is because I don’t want to have to check-in my luggage when travelling by airplane or long-distance bus. With a backpack I just leave after arriving instead of having to wait for my luggage. Also, I dislike pulling a suitcase over cobblestone. In my opinion, the Tortuga Setout is the best carry-on backpack and superior to the Minaal, GORUCK, Tortuga Outbreaker, or the more affordable Osprey backpacks. Check out this amazing review.
If you travel, you need packing cubes. They are great for organizing your clothes and prevent your underwear from falling out of your backpack when you just wanted to grab your jacket. The packing cubes from AmazonBasics get the job done perfectly, no need to spend more money than necessary.
Coffee and Tea
I’m an avid tea drinker. I drink coffee as well, but I prefer green tea for its health benefits—especially after noon. Caffeine has a half life of about 6 hours. This means that when you drink a cup of coffee even as early as 10 AM, there still remains 25% of that coffeine in your body 12 hours later when you want to go to sleep at 10 PM which prevents you from reaching a state of deep sleep. Deep sleep is even more important than REM sleep because it is in this state that the body clears out the toxic proteins in your brain that have accumulated during the course of the day. If you drink caffeine after noon, you’re depriving your brain of this important “cleansing”. As opposed to coffee, green tea contains theanine which is why green tea is so relaxing and you can drink it even in the evening despite the fact that it also contains coffeine—especially when you add honey and Apple Cider Vinegar to your tea. Theanine is what makes you feel energized and yet calm rather than all jitter-y.
I like to always take some tea with me when I leave the house for work/university. The best travel mug for coffee or tea, in my oppinion, is the Hydro Flask 16 Oz. travel mug. To brew the tea I use the Finum Tea Basket. To brew coffee I use the pour over technique and a Bodum Pour Over Coffee Maker, mainly because it works with standard Melitta filters from the supermarket and doesn’t require filters as expensive as those needed for a Chemex or a Kalita dripper. Allegedly, its glass is also more shatterproof than that of a Chemex.
Reusable Water Bottle
Tap water is the most regulated and safest water to drink here in Germany where I live. There’s no added fluoride like in the U.S. or in Canada and it’s safer than store-bought mineral water like Evian, Volvic, or Gerolsteiner, which often contain germs, pesticides, or even Uranium. There are many good documentaries about the problems with bottled water and the business practices of companies like Nestlé. There’s also the problem with microplastics. I drink tap water exclusively, filtered with a Brita filter, and use a reusable 40 Oz. water bottle from Hydro Flask.
Sure, its price tag might first seem high, but if you do the math, you will realize that you will break even pretty quick and save real money from then on. If you drink at least 2 liters of water a day like any adult should, you’d spend at least 2 bucks a day for water if you buy bottled water. So the break-even point occurs within a month—even earlier if you drink more than 2 liters a day. So after the first month you can drink water practically for free. Bonus effect: no more hauling of heavy water bottles to your appartment.
I use an Apple Watch with AutoSleep to track my sleep times, sleep quality (based on movement) and heart rate (from the embedded sensor in the Apple Watch) to see how well I slept. The book Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker really has opened my eyes in that regard.
Fitness trackers that are worn on the wrist are great, but there’s only so much they can do. For instance, they cannot track Heart Rate Variability (HRV). HRV is a very good index for willpower, self-control, fatigue or “readiness” for pushing yourself. For example, when I have a low HRV it wouldn’t be a good use of my time if I’d go to the gym right now, because it would probably result in a mediocre training. At this moment, my time would be spent wiser if I’d do my grocery shopping or answer some emails, and go to the gym later that day when I have a higher HRV. Here’s where the OURA ring shines. Being a ring, it can scan the arteries much better than a loosely sitting wrist strap. If you’re into that sort of biohacking, you should check it out.
You’re probably familiar with f.lux and similar applications that reduce the amount of blue light a device’s display emits. Light, especially blue light, increases the cortisol production in your body which in turn suppresses the production of melatonin. If your melatonin levels are too low when it’s time to go to bed, you will have difficulties falling asleep.
To fall asleep you need two things: enough adenosine and enough melatonin. Adenosine builds up naturally over the course of the day and makes you feel fatigue after a certain threshold is crossed after around 16 hours of wakefulness. To actually fall asleep when that moment has come, you also need sufficient melatonin. Melatonin does not make you tired, but it opens the window of opportunity. On its own, without adenosine, it won’t do anything. You need the combination of both hormones at the right time. Adenosine alone, however, will leave you feel groggy and sleep-deprived yet still unable to fall asleep, since that time window hasn’t opened. This feeling is exactly what’s known as jet lag when travelling across time zones. Such situations—a high build-up of adenosine combined with low levels of melatonin—occur when you’ve been exposed to light when the body’s internal clock—called the circadian rhythm—expected night. You need darkness to allow the release of melatonin. However, with today’s artificial lighting and us spending our last few hours before we go to sleep each day in front of some electronic device, our circadian rhythms are notoriously disrupted. If this topic is your thing, I cannot recommend the book Why We Sleep highly enough.
Fact is, not only our computers and devices emit high-intensity blue light but also our light bulbs. There are special bulbs that reduce blue light or even eliminate it entirely. The most common of these special light bulbs are the Philips Hue light bulbs. They are great, because they have an extremely low melanopic impact. Now what does this mean? Our eyes are excited by light mainly in the blue portion of the visible spectrum. The absorption of light peaks at around 480 nanometers, meaning this wavelength (blue light) is the worst for our sleep rythm. This has to do with evolution and the way our eyes were first created, since 480 nanometers is the wavelength of light that travels furthest through ocean water. In our eyes, there’s a light sensitive protein called melanopsin which is what makes the retinal ganglion cells photosensitive, i.e. reactive to light. The Philips Hue light bulbs don’t stimulate that protein as much as regular light bulbs, i.e. they don’t trigger that state of alertness as much as other light bulbs.
You can even go one step further with Philips Hue. While all light is bad for falling asleep, red light is the least bad. This again has to do with evolution (and with prehistoric men sleeping next to campfires), since the later in the day the warmer the light becomes. If set to red, the Philips Hue bulbs emit light at 626 nanometers, i.e. they show no blue light at all. Thus I’ve set up my Philips Hue to automatically switch to red colors come nighttime. It has to be pure red though. Any light, even if its marketed as “warm” light, still has a significant amount of blue in it—unless it is red. The White Ambiance version of Philips Hue (the cheaper ones that do just white) won’t help, since that kind of an orange color they give is not sufficient. Be sure to buy the White and Color Ambiance version (the one that can do color). There’s also the highly recommended FEIT red light for your bedside lamp, where you don’t need to be able to set the light to white (or other colors)—perfect for the last 1–2 hours of the day. If you want to take it to the extreme, wear these glasses when working at the computer late at night. For more information, head to the f.lux forums or the Hue subreddit.
Fun fact: Philips is an industry partner of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute and helps them combat sleep deprivation and insomnia in NASA astronauts.
I like doing yoga. It helps me with my posture, makes me more flexible and clears my mind after a stressful day. I have the best nights of sleep when I end my day with an hour of yoga at the studio and use their sauna for 10–15 minutes afterward.
This is why I sauna two times a week https://t.co/xGblqVVZpu— Kevin Rose ⛩ (@kevinrose) January 13, 2018
But you don’t even need to join a studio. There are so many awesome youtube channels with great instructors out there that you can practise anytime in your home or in the park. My favorite channels are:
Just use a mat to protect your joints from the hard floor and your skin from scraping. There are basically three main brands if you want a quality mat: Manduka, JadeYoga, and Lululemon. I wish I’d bought the JadeYoga Harmony. I myself got the Manduka PROlite, but I wouldn’t buy it again. It’s just too damn slippery and it took quite an effort to fix that by scrubbing it with vinegar and salt.
Yes, these mats seem expensive at first, but it’s a one-time investment that will last for years. As I said at the beginning, if something adds value to my life I’m willing to spend a little bit more. Please just don’t buy a cheap mat. Your face will be close to the mat a lot and you don’t want to rub your face in a combination of your own sweat and the plasticizers cheap mats are oozing. There definitely is a reason why quality mats are expensive and it’s not marketing. If you buy cheap, you will buy twice.
I cannot grow a beard. Thus I shave every other day lest I look stupid. I find wet shaving gives me the cleanest results. Gillette razors, or any other razors from the drug store, are just a rip-off though. In their business model, the product itself is very inexpensive or even given away for free but requires you to buy expensive refills until the day you die to keep the item working—same as with inkjet cartridges.
Instead, I liked the idea of traditional wet shaving, shaving like our grandfathers did. I picture an old-school barbershop in my mind. It feels kind of manly to me. It’s also sort of a lost art that I wanted to learn. And the razor blades are just so much cheaper.
First, you need a so-called Safety Razor (aka Double-Edge Razor). There’s a heated discussion among shaving enthusiasts which brand is the best, much like car enthusiasts cannot agree on which brand is the best. In my opinion, the best safety razor is the Edwin Jagger DE89 LBL. A pack of 100 blades costs you next to nothing and will last you almost infinitely, since you can reuse a blade 5–10 times before it loses its edge. I use the Astra Superior Platinum razor blades. There’s also the more expensive Feather razor blades, but they are extremely sharp and very aggressive and thus not suitable for a beginner in traditional wet shaving. And there are also more forgiving and mild blades like the Derby Extra blades which, however, don’t produce shaves as clean as the Astra Superior Platinum. Since the DE89 already is a very mild and beginner-friendly razor, I think the Astra Superior Platinum razor blades are the best choice.
If you really want to treat yourself, get yourself a shaving brush made of badger hair as well as shaving soap. There are four different grades of quality for shaving brushes, ranked from cheapest to most expensive: Pure Badger, Best Badger, Super Badger, and Silvertip Badger. I’d get a Best Badger brush, since with Pure Badger brushes the bristles will start falling out after 4–5 months. If you want to read more, check out the forum Badger & Blade or the wet shaving subreddit.
- My Instant Pot DUO60 is one of the best purchases I ever made. I eat lots of beans, lentils, chickpeas, potatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc. and they all turn out just perfect in the Instant Pot.
- NutriBullet Pro Blender
I used ballpoint pens for the longest time. However, my hands started cramping because of the amount of pressure I had to apply, especially in my math classes in university. So I made the switch to Lamy fountain pens, which has not only removed the cramps but has also improved my handwriting significantly.
I use an iPhone SE and even though it’s more than two years old already, I’m still happy with it. I don’t even feel the need to upgrade to a newer phone, because … why should I?
Here’s an image of my homescreen (link to wallpaper):
Maybe you noticed that there are no social media apps on my homescreen—or any other apps that have infinite scrolling for that matter. By infinite scrolling I mean the “pull down to refresh” gesture. That is so that I don’t get sucked into these bottomless pits. I deliberately have only utilitarian apps or apps that help me grow on my home screen, such as the alarm clock or Audible, Kindle, language learning or meditation apps. In fact, I don’t have social media apps installed even on the second or third page anymore, because I don’t want to waste too much of my time on social networks any longer—and honestly, this has been one of the best decisions. I don’t miss them a bit.
These are the apps I use the most on my phone:
- Fantastical: my calendar app
- Weather Line: for checking the weather
- 1Password: my password manager
- Wunderlist: my to-do list
- Kindle: I replaced checking Twitter, Instagram, or RSS feeds during downtimes with reading books.
- Audible: for listening to audio books while walking or doing the dishes
- Pocket Casts: for listening to podcasts
- Runkeeper: for tracking my runs. I like Runkeeper better than Strava.
- Duolingo: for learning languages
- Calm / Headspace: for meditating
- Bear / Evernote: for jotting down ideas or looking up notes while on the go
- Forest: for “locking” my phone, so that I don’t use it when I should be working or paying attention in university classes
- Habitica: for gamified habit tracking
- Readdle Scanner Pro: for scanning documents
- WhatsApp / Signal: my messenger apps of choice
- Halide: this camera app let’s me shoot RAW in contrast to the stock camera app
- Darkroom: for editing my photos
Horizontal scrolling is most useful for video editing but can also be used for scrolling between browser tabs. For non-4K displays the accuracy of most mouses is more than enough, but if you own a 4K display you should get the Logitech MX Master 2. It also has the better Darkfield sensor which allows the mouse to work on glass surfaces. ↩