Feb 8, 2015
Mac Setup: The Workstation of an Expat Theatrical Producer
This week we’re featuring the great Apple setup of Theatrical Producer Toby S., who humorously shares some of the challenges faced by expats while working and living abroad in a nation filled with counterfeit gadgets and fake everything. But the Macs are all real, so let’s dive right in an learn a bit more in this amusing overview:
Tell us a bit about what you do, and how this setup came to be
Don’t kill me… I was a manager at Microsoft in the early 1990’s. …rolling on 25 years…. and having spent 25 years as a theatrical producer (Broadway, West End and throughout Asia), I switched to Apple in entirety a couple of years ago, fed up with continuous updates, virus’s, driver issues and a general feeling of always fighting to keep PC’s networked and working together. Started with a couple of MacBooks plus iPhone and iPad, and fell in love with Apple simplicity integrated hardware/software.
Since then, I created a 100% Apple solution that allows me to base myself remotely in Shanghai, China, (I travel a LOT), but stay in close touch with US and London and Australia via Internet with a flashed router with 24/7 VPN (to bypass/leap over the Great Firewall of China), and various Mac solutions to run my office and household.
Seems a little Apple overkill, so let me explain that living in China without access to English versions of nearly anything, and most everything fake, I tend to purchase Apple stuff overseas and bring it back to Shanghai, stocking up on replacement equipment.
What hardware makes up your Apple setup?
My home office in Shanghai consists primarily of the following:
- iMac 27” (late 2012 – fully loaded)
– my primary computer for email, budgeting and show concept planning
- Macbook Pro Retina 13” (2014 – fully loaded)
– my portable computer, for travel and business meetings. Basically using DropBox to share all current files
- Macbook Pro 13” (2011 – fully loaded)
– my Chinese based media server (cannot get any english TV, or movies, so using Apple Remote Disc for DVD’s, iTunes music collection and AppleTV streaming through my home
- Apple TV (5 in total – living room, 2 bedrooms, home office & a travel one for hotels)
– For loud English movies and TV to annoy our Chinese neighbors, and for me to dream of clear air, blue skies, tasty food and english
- iPhones, iPads etc… (all latest iPhone 6+, 6 or 5S, iPad/iPad Mini for global, domestic China and travel use)
– For ultra synced portability of my Evernote, dropbox, wechat, key video/music files and occasionally a phone call
- WD MyCloud EX4 12TB NAS
– cloud based storage of about 2tb of key reference files, the rest as Time Machine for the network.
- TerraMaster F4 8tb USB external drive
– Fast Time Machine backup of my iMac and DropBox.
- WD MyBook 4tb USB external drives (3 in total – 2 in use, I spare for emergency)
– One for my music collection (over 5,000 CD’s digitized). The other for film clips – Broadway/West End musicals mainly.
- WD MyBook Thunderbolt Duo 8th external drives
– For my DVD collection – TV shows and Movies.
- Canon CanoScan LIDE
– Mainly for scanning Chinese contracts and OCR to read the hilarious translation and ridiculous clauses.
- HP Color LaserJet CP1518ni
– Mainly for printing English and Chinese contracts that will be later ignored by Chinese business partners.
- iHome AirPlay Speaker
– For showtunes blaring in Shanghai to annoy everyone around me, and give me the feeling of NYC.
- ASUS RT-AC68U Router flashed with Astrill VPN
– The only non-Mac, yet most important device to allow us to jump the Great Firewall of China, but we used a foreign IT specialist to flash the ROM using an english ROM with built in Astrill VPN in order to access foreign services (such as google, youtube, Facebook etc..)
- Apple Airport Extreme (2 of them)
– To bring normality of a good network to our home, and home office, with all the back to mac features and ease of management.
- Apple Airport Express (4 of them)
– To extend the WiFi to hard to reach corners of the Chinese building with 18” concrete walls (built to withstand Japanese air raid presumably), and to travel with us to hotels.
- Chinese UPS
– to provide about 45 minutes of battery power for all devices in my office when Chinese building power stops (frequently)
What apps and software do you use most often? Anything you can’t do without?
All computers are loaded with English versions of Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Premier, iTunes, Aperture along with WeChat Desktop, and Evernote.
Evernote syncs between all devices and computers seamlessly and lists all taxi address in Chinese for all places any of us want to go to in most cities in China — a lifesaver for dealing with generally almost blind Chinese taxi drivers — showing them my iPhone with a bright Chinese address usually gets me where I want to go. WeChat is used as my primary communications tool, messaging, moments, VOIP globally, video, photo sharing and file sending etc….
Do you have any advice you’d like to share?
Recommendation for those lovers of IT considering a move to China…. Don’t. It’s expensive and a daily challenge to work around, along with abhorrently slow everything….
- Biggest IT peeve… a couple of years ago I was trying to setup online banking with my local (major) Chinese bank – I found out in order to do so, I needed to ONLY use a FAKE Chinese version of Windows XP, along with a Chinese PC, and interface only in Chinese.
- Second biggest IT peeve… super slow internet (I have a 50mb Fibre Optic line into the home, but real download speed is closer to 7mb, upload around 3mb. this coupled with blocking/banning of nearly everything foreign — everything google, gmail, youtube, Facebook, NYtimes.com, BBC.co.uk, etc.. etc.. etc…
- Third biggest IT challenge… not succumbing to the fake markets, fake software, fake hardware etc… the devices are super cheap, look authentic — even with fabulous anti-IP holograms, but who knows what happening beneath the surface.
With my current setup, I sometimes feel like I’m anywhere but in mainland China. For me, its a place of solitude and productivity.