Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Felix Salmon. I'm the chief financial correspondent at Axios (subscribe to my weekly newsletter here), and I also host the Slate Money podcast. Occasionally I send out a personal newsletter.
What hardware do you use?
I used to be a huge fan of Apple hardware; I even wrote a column once saying that the titanium PowerBook G4 changed my life. I admit in that piece that I once believed in the tenet that "buying Apple hardware is an even better investment than buying Apple stock." I don't believe that any more, even though I still use Apple hardware exclusively, as I have done since I bought my beloved LC II in 1992.
I have a brand-new MacBook Air at work (which they might switch to a MacBook Pro so that I can run a dual-screen setup), I have a personal 2015 MacBook Pro, and then there's the 27" iMac Retina 5K in my home office, which is the last really good personal computer that Apple made. It's beginning to show its age, and I recently spent $300 to replace the failing SSD, but I'm not ready to give it up yet, especially since Apple's still shipping essentially the exact same model, at pretty much the same price I paid. I always use the Apple extended keyboard, which I love, and either an Apple mouse or an Apple trackpad, I think the mouse is better but for some reason I have a trackpad in my home office. I have a second screen where I keep Slack and TweetDeck.
One reason I hate the new Apple laptops is that they don't have USB ports, despite the fact that USB has become a universal charging protocol. When I'm traveling I often use my laptop as a portable battery to recharge various other devices, including my electric toothbrush and my Bose QuietComfort 35 cordless headphones. (I'm not a huge fan of those, either, they're a bit too bulky, I don't like the way they keep on talking to me about what they've connected to or disconnected from, and they tend to press on the arms of my eyeglasses.) I love anything that doesn't come with battery anxiety, like, well, my Masahiro Maruyama eyeglasses, or my original Withings Activité watch, which is waterproof, so I almost never take it off. It measures how much I sleep, and how many steps I take each day. I think I've changed the entirely standard watch battery three times since I bought it in 2014. They've come out with a whole bunch of updates, none of which are really improvements; the only thing that would persuade me to upgrade would be something which measured my heart rate but didn't have any kind of display. Sensors are cheap; displays are expensive (if only in terms of battery life). If I want to find out what my heart rate was, I'm happy to ask my phone.
The phone is a black T-Mobile 128GB iPhone 7, which I use naked (without any kind of case). The design is too sleek and beautiful for me to mar it. I've had to replace the screen only once after dropping it. T-Mobile doesn't come close to having the best coverage, but once you've experienced the wonders of free international roaming, you'll never use any other carrier. I also have a black AT&T 128GB iPad mini 2, which is a clunky horrible thing and slow as molasses. I use it for catching up on news in the morning, for reading books and PDFs, and as a data modem on the road. It's not great at any of those things, so it's probably next on the upgrade list, as soon as the new iPad minis come out.
My most recent upgrade was a reluctant one, at the strong urging of my wife, who was sick and tired of looking at my battered old Osprey backpack. I loved that thing, but I went out and bought a new Thule Paramount, and I really love it – I should listen to my wife more often. There's a super-clever rear zipper just for the laptop compartment which makes getting the computer in and out a breeze, and everything else is the perfect combination of good-looking and rugged. It even has an external pocket for my umbrella, a small old Hammacher Schlemmer model they no longer make and which I'm going to be very sad when it dies.
My best big hardware purchase was undoubtedly my Jarvis standing desk, which singlehandely cured me of a really nasty pain across the back of my shoulders. Given the choice I probably wouldn't choose the Evolve model again, because the depth of the drawers starts to dig into my thighs when I'm sitting. But it's effortless to go up and down, which I do multiple times a day. I also have a manual FlexiSpot device that sits on top of my desk at work, which isn't nearly as sleek or lovely.
I'm always promising myself that I should read more books, and I have the perfect device for doing so: an Eames Aluminum Group lounge chair with ottoman. I've put a little circular side table next to it which is perfect for a glass of wine or whisky, alongside an Artemide Tolomeo floor lamp; it's my own little corner of modernist bliss.
And this really is a productivity tool, although it was never intended to be one: My sea serpent bracelet from Jill Platner. I put it on and take it off dozens of times a day, and slide it back and forth between my hands. It has the perfect weight and feel – I do it without even thinking about it. Let the teens have their fidget spinners; I have something way more beautiful.
And what software?
My biggest change in recent years has been from writing in apps to writing in browsers. I used to write all my blog posts in Ecto, which would upload them straight to my blog; longer stuff I'd write in WriteRoom. Now, almost everything happens in Google Docs, except for when I write straight into the Axios or Substack CMS. (Both of which are lovely, WYSIWYG, very simple and easy to use.) My terror of web browsers eating my work has disappeared.
For desktop I use a lot of native Apple apps, including Mail, Notes, Calculator, Preview (which is powerful and very underrated), even Safari. Always open are Slack and TweetDeck. I have lots of old RSS readers in my dock, but don't use any of them any more. I use Excel a fair amount, but I hate anybody who forces me to use Word or (even worse) PowerPoint.
In iOS I use the native Twitter app, Outlook for mail (but Gmail to search my mail archives), and, of course, Slack. I use Overcast for podcasts. For reading it's Instapaper, the Kindle app, and the native iBooks app. I use Nuzzel a lot, along with the NYT and WSJ apps. To record interviews I used to use Voice Recorder but now I'm using Alice. There are very few pieces of software I really love, but 1Password comes close. I have lots of messaging apps (Telegram, Signal, WhatsApp, Messenger, you name it) but don't really live in any of them other than Slack and Twitter. If I've missed your message, I'm sorry.
What would be your dream setup?
Would I love a couple of iMac Pros, one for home and one for the office? Sure! With a nice big second screen, and possibly even a third vertically-oriented screen for reading PDFs. (I had that for a while when I was at Reuters, it came in more useful than you might think.) A Bloomberg terminal. A CMS which allows multiple simultaneous editors like GDocs does. And some kind of magical subscription to everything I might ever want to read.
Mostly what I want is a single app that consolidates, prioritizes and archives all my messages, whether they're Twitter or Slack or Instagram DMs, email, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, everything. Failing that, maybe just a way to search Twitter DMs. And an "edit tweet" button. Come on, Jack, how hard can it be?