Tools of the Trade

I work as a Systems Administrator in a mostly Windows Server environment, plus our VMware cluster that runs on top of Nutanix hardware.  My laptop is a late 2013 15″ MacBook Pro, 256 GB SSD and 8 GB of RAM.  I’ve listed the software I’m using roughly in order of importance.  Up until I got the Mac, I had always used a laptop with whatever the current client version of Windows was at the time (XP or Windows 7).


  • 2013 15″ MacBook
  • Dell 2415Q External Display
  • mStand Raindrop Stand (
  • Apple Wired Full Sized Keyboard (the one that includes a full number pad)
  • USB Mouse


  • Royal TSX (RDP and SSH)
  • Microsoft Office 2016
  • Virtual Box (Local Windows VM)
  • Chrome
  • vSphere Client (thick client as well as the web interface, which still requires Flash, hence running it on Chrome in a VM vs OS X)
  • Notepad++ for some powershell stuff
  • Dropbox
  • Omnifocus  (OS X and iOS)
  • Notability (OS X and iOS)
  • Text Wrangler
  • Super Duper!

As it turns out, at least with the way I work, this MacBook is more than capable of being used in my day to day job.  I have never been someone who installs snap-ins and other administrative tools on my local laptop.  Even when I had a Windows 7 laptop I would RDP into a “management” server that had all the tools, etc I needed.  I never liked the idea that the computer I use to browse the web (whether that be Safari on this Mac or IE on my previous Windows laptop) also being the machine that I use to connect to servers, SANs, and other bits of critical infrastructure.  That also gives an added benefit of not being tied to this piece of hardware.  I could drop this computer in the river and be up and running on a different computer VERY quickly.

There’s nothing in Outlook, all of that is stored in Exchange.  Royal TSX’s configuration is 1 file that’s saved on either Dropbox or my local documents folder.  My local instance of Windows is a VM that’s also a file location in my Documents folder.  Both of those items are simply files as far as OS X is concerned.  They are backed up regularly by multiple scheduled processes (Time Machine/Super Duper to a local USB drive, and we use Druva’s inSync to backup client machines to a locally hosted server).  Dropbox is Dropbox, what is there to backup for the purposes of this discussion?  Omnifocus is sync’d with Omni’s cloud service, and it also writes a backup of its entire database locally on a regular basis, which is then grabbed by Time Machine and Super Duper.  Notability is used for quick note taking and sync’s with iCloud, though it’s mostly used as a staging area for manipulating data or jotting down quick thoughts vs long term storage of documents (though it can be configured to backup to Dropbox if needed).  That rule applies even more so for Text Wrangler, but if there was something I wanted to keep permanently with Text Wrangler, everything is saved as a text document to the local drive and picked up by the backup methods discussed above.

Although some of these applications are Mac only, none of them exist in a genre exclusive to the Mac.  You could even make the point that if this were a Windows laptop, I wouldn’t need the Windows VM I use now.  Maybe, maybe not.  There is a lot to be said about the convenience of VMs simply being files on the host system.  It makes them easy to backup and easy to move around.

There are plenty of other applications that are used from time to time, but the list above covers the tools I use all day, every day.

Although I skipped Windows 8 and have not yet used Windows 10, I find that OS X’s implementation of Virtual Desktops (Spaces) as well as Window Management via Expose to be wonderful.  I’d legitimately have trouble moving to a computer that didn’t offer something like that.  Then there is the build quality of the actual laptop, battery life, thinness/lightness, and the great sleep/wake/sleep cycle for weeks on end that Windows was never able to pull off.  Top that off with having access to iMessage and FaceTime audio/video, being able to send/receive phone calls from my Mac, and other seamless connections between my iPhone and iOS apps and OS X, and I would be very hesitant to move back to Windows as my daily use machine.