As a sort of record of products and services I like and use, I’ve decided to write this post, inspired by I Use This - leo.fm. Mine will be a little different and will focus more heavily on services in addition to products, but I felt it important to acknowledge where I got the idea. Leo Laporte is, in fact, the inspiration various facets of my life, others of which I’ll eventually cover here.
The technology powering this website:
I’ve been wanting a blog – a place where I can publish my work, experiences and opinions. A product of some consideration, trial and error, I’ve chosen the services detailed below as the backbone of JakeRusso.com
Hover is one of the best domain registrars I’ve come across. Since they’re comparatively expensive, versus Porkbun and Cloudflare (Registrar), I’ve yet to transfer all of my domains over. Hover is relevant since JakeRusso.com is registered with them. Their interface is organized and sightly, and their support (including phone!) is outstanding. Sidenote: Hover is very reasonably priced – the deal of the century versus GoDaddy; but, as is common knowledge on the internet, (or, at least, in certain, more informed segments of it) GoDaddy Sucks™.
Cloudflare is an internet favorite. Chances are, you’d recognize a Cloudflare error page, even if the name is unfamiliar. And approximately everyone on the internet has visited a Cloudflare-powered site. If you thought WordPress was ubiquitous at ~30%, Cloudflare powers about four in five websites, including this one!
Cloudflare has a number of powerful and useful features, from firewall rules to redirects, Pages (which we’ll get to in a moment), the CDN, etc., etc., etc. Oh, and it’s a great DNS host. Many of its features are available to sites on the free tier (like this one). The Pro plan is relatively affordable at $20 per month, but there isn’t much on my list missing from the free plan’s feature list.
Cloudflare, as I learned quite recently, offers hosting for static sites. Conveniently, this is a static site, so Pages hosts it for free. At the time of writing, I have ~no idea how to use Git, which means updating the site is a bit of a hassle. Currently, I compile the site into a folder using Hugo and upload it, manually, to Pages. I could use GitHub and Git to update the site straight from the command line in Visual Studio (which Pages would grab), but I haven’t quite worked that out yet. I’ll get to it! Famous last words.
Hugo is pretty cool. It’s sites are both blazingly fast and rediculously cheap (even to the point of being free) to host. While CMS systems like WordPress require more capable computers / servers to manage databases, assemble webpages, and run the backend interface, Hugo reminds me of how I learned to make websites years ago, using HTML and a few folders. With Hugo, posts and pages are written in markdown, then assembled into HTML files (based on the template, with the necessary CSS and other supporting files, of course). Those HTML files and other static resources have only to be served to the user by the web host, no database manipulation or complex page assembly required.
PaperMod by Aditya Telange
I’m not very capable at web design. I tried, on and off, for a year to design a site in Webflow before giving up and switching to Hugo. Browing the available themes, I found PaperMod, which I liked out of the box. It has a super clean and minimal interface, and I like the post and page formatting. The template also has a mode that makes the homepage reminiscent of my old Carrd site – a circular profile picture with a short description and buttons below. After some minor configuration tweaks and page creations, the site was ready to go under the new template. As you may’ve noticed, theres a small attribution at the bottom of every page with a link to the GitHub repository. In years past, this might’ve annoyed me; but now, it’s a small price to pay for a great template. And I’m proud to promote the creator of such an elegant design.
I’d be remiss at neglecting the opportunity to elaborate on the service that ran my site for three years. Carrd is a sophisticated, one-page site builder – great to have in your arsenal. Though JakeRusso.com is no longer a Carrd site, various components like my contact page (an embeded Carrd form), and my email subscription form are hosted there. Their Pro plan is very fairly priced and constantly on sale for (“Basically”) Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And even if I no longer used Carrd, I’d keep my subscription active for the loyalty I feel towards its (indie!) developer, ajlkn, who helped me recover my registrar account (containing JakeRusso.com) when no one else would. Thanks, AJ!
I don’t buy into the “second brain” thing. Productivity gurus promoting it and other notetaking and task managing apps all spout the same barely-coherent sludge, akin to that of an AI. But! Obsidian is a highly-capable markdown editor, which is exactly what I need to write this blog. The first few posts I wrote (or, at least, tried to) were written in the Visual Studio text editor. While VS is great for making tweaks to configuration, organizing files and using the command line, it’s less apt to an enjoyable writing experience. Obsidian fills that gap (much better than do the programs you might find when googling “markdown editors Windows”). I downloaded it a while ago on a whim and rediscovered it from the desktop icon it’d created during install. The interface is nicely themed, minimal, and distraction-free. Though Obsidian is feature-packed, I choose only to use the simplest ones – I got adventurous a minute ago, creating a folder in which to place these posts!
Email fascinated me for a few months of mid-2021. I’d been deciding on an email provider for JakeRusso.com, between Fastmail (a recommendation of Leo Laporte) and Google Workspace. Workspace has Gmail, the world’s favorite email provider, and Docs and Drive, apart of their collaboration suite. With Fastmail, it’s easier to manage multiple domains and aliases, though Gmail is better in terms of availablility and deliverability. It was during the Fastmail DDoS attack of late 2021 that I created my Workspace account and switched JakeRusso.com to Google email, frustrated with my inability to access my account. Having a separate Google account, at my eponymous domain, for business and collaboration has been nice. Both Fastmail and Workspace are great email providers, and it’s difficult go wrong with either. Though different use cases would prescribe a strong recommendation for one over the other. I’ll detail those use cases, comparing the providers and my experience with them, in a later post.
Powering the Podcast:
Yes, I know. The Jake Russo Podcast only has one episode. My publishing these posts will spark new episodes discussing them. I’ve wanted a podcast for most of my life, and finally (at least on paper) have one. Whether it’s up to date or not, the podcast requires the support of both physical equipment to record and digital technologies distribute.
One of the oldest and most well-know names in podcasting, Libsyn is my host of choice. It’s rich with the kind of advanced (for lack of a better term) features I enjoy (e.g., custom feed domain). They’re also very reasonably priced compared to newer entrants to the space, which start around three times higher. And while they might be a bit behind the times – they just updated their interface to HTML5! – they’re quality of service is rock-solid. I feel obliged to mention Anchor – yes, it’s free.
Libsyn, I suppose to make up for their competitive prices, nickels and dimes its customers in some cases – decent analytics being one of those. For free, they offer a very basic download count and chart; if you’re looking for something closer to analytics, that’ll be an upcharge. PodTrac, another podcasting dino, offers these analytics for free (completely so, until quite recently) through a prepended URL, which Libsyn is happy to support free-of-charge. PodTrac analytics provide more interesting detail than mere number of downloads – device type, geolocation, and more. Plus, the analytics are IAB certified, meaning if I ever sell ads, I’ll have reliable numbers to present to potential clients.
The PR40 is the microphone Leo Laporte has used and recommended for decades. It’s engineered by Bob Heil (who used to host a ham radio podcast on Laporte’s network), with a distinct sound I enjoy – one I can recognize by ear – and is (by my estimate) one of the top microphones used in radio stations. I bought the microphone in gold a few years back after brief stints with $30 USB microphones from Amazon. Though it’s not sustained as much use as it deserves over these years, it’s a great piece of kit, and one which will come in handy soon.
This is all I need. When I bought the PR40, I purchased along with it a Behringer Xenyx X1204USB. It did way too much, and I came to realize all I needed was a high-quality XLR to USB audio interface with live monitoring and a gain knob. My search for such an audio interface landed on the AI-1. It checked all the boxes and is well-made, by a company I trust. It’s much smaller than the Behringer and outperforms it in clarity and noiselessness. Episode two of the podcast will be recorded on the AI-1.
AKG K240 MK II
The K240 series is well esteemed in its niche. While not great for listening to music, or any form of entertainment for that matter, their open-backed design provides a unique experience when monitoring and editing spoken word. Lately I’ve been a fan of variety (something I might discuss later relating to writing instruments) and the K240 is different than any other pair of headphones or earbuds I use. When under recommendation of, you guessed it, Mr. Laporte, I was shopping on Amazon for the K240, I figured I’d go for the MK II.
Outside of the Yellowtec realm of $400 boom arms, the PSA-1 was the one to have. Well-made and miles ahead of the no-name Amazon arms, the Rode is a clear winner. Others like Elgato have made their offerings to the space in the more recent years, and Rode has released a successor, but the PSA-1 is a solid performer and works just as well as I need it to.
Arguably overpriced, the PRSM (-C for champagne) is well-made, like any Heil product. It’s a perfect fit for the PR40, and is as much a means by which to attach the microphone to the boom arm as it is one to prevent stray vibrations and bumps from reaching it. Speaking of overpriced, the going rate for a piece of Heil foam is $20.
Keyboard: Durgod Hades 68
After much deliberation earlier this year, I settled on the not-very-well-known but performant Durgod Hades – what I’d hoped was a diamond in the rough. As of the time of writing, it’s disappeared from Amazon, as is common for these sorts of brands. My model sports black, PBT keycaps and Cherry MX Brown switches. The backplate is aluminum, as is the case, creating a heavy, solid feel and typing experience. The keys are RGB, though I keep them set to white. It took some getting used to, but I’ve come to type well on, and thoroughly enjoy, this keyboard. When it was available on Amazon, it was quite customizable, with a number of switch brands and flavors to choose from, as well as the choice between white or black, PBT or ABS keycaps. I enjoy the 65% layout – a nice balance between compact and functional, and the smallest you can go without sacrificing the necessary arrrow keys. This will be my last keyboard for a while; though, if I find the time, I might build a custom one.
Mouse: Logitech MX Master 3
Of course, a few months after I bought it, Logitech came out with the 3S. But the 3 is well-loved for good reason. It’s comfortable, ergonomic, and substantial. The buttons click crisply, the pointer tracks smoothly, and the scroll wheel scrolls like a dream. The mouse features an additional scroll wheel and thumb button, though I tend only to use the primary scroll wheel and forward and back buttons, in addition to right- and left-click. While a wireless might be unimportant to a keyboard, wireless to a mouse, with all the moving and pointing it does, is certainly valuable. Bluetooth is purpose-made for wireless headphones, but lacks the reliability of the Master 3’s good old 2.4GHz dongle. The MX Master 3, combined with the Durgod Hades, are the type of mouse and keyboard that make you frustrated to use someone else’s.
I considered including more devices in what has become more of a “listicle” than I’d like, my smart home gadgets among those. I might discuss these in greater detail in later posts.
I’ll update this post if I think of anything to add or change.
This is my first real post here, which has been stimulating and gratifying to produce. It’s my goal to write ~once weekly, so stay tuned!
Until next time.
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