What I Use to Do What I Do: The Architect Who Also Podcasts Neal A. Pann

What I Use to Do What I Do: The Architect Who Also Podcasts

Welcome to another installment of "What I Use to Do What I Do," the series in which people talk about how they use hardware and software in all parts of their life -- and what tech they love and hate. Today, we've got an architect who balances his practice with a civic commitment, a podcast and marathon training.

Who are you?

I'm Neal A. Pann, in Livermore, California. I'm an architect with a solo practice and I serve on the planning commission for the City of Livermore. I'm also a podcaster; I co-host the Archispeak podcast. (Learn more about my architecture practice.)

Describe your current hardware set-up: What kind of desktop or laptop computer(s) do you work on and what operating system are they running?

My main computer is an early-2009 24" iMac with 8GB of RAM and an upgraded 1TB internal solid state hard drive. I'm running the latest version of OS X, El Capitan 10.11.3. Connected to that iMac is a 27" Apple LED Cinema Display, an Extended Keyboard, a Magic TrackPad and an Apple Mouse, which I find quite useful for the architectural CAD work I do on a daily basis.

I sometimes use my late-2008 MacBook, which also I upgraded with a SSD. And I have an iPad Pro and iPhone 6.

What desktop apps do you absolutely depend on to do your job?

Other than the obvious apps, Mail and Calendar my must have desktop apps are AutoCAD LT for Mac and Vectorworks. Both apps are what I use to create the designs and construction drawings that are the instruments of service I provide as an architect.

Two other critical apps that I use for the creation of the Archispeak Podcast are Skype and Call Recorder. In addition, my co-hosts and I share files using Dropbox, which I'll go into more later.

Which desktop apps do you absolutely depend on to do your life?

Apple's Mail, Calendar and Messages are the three most used apps that I depend on. Of the three, Calendar is the most important. I have two kids and we could not coordinate their events, my wife's events, and my work, personal and responsibilities as a Planning Commissioner without shared Calendars.

Which desktop app(s) do you begrudgingly use and why? What would you change about these apps if you could? 

Skype is the first that comes to mind. Why? The UI is completely confusing to me and I only use it for recording the Archispeak Podcast. Other then that, I never touch it.

The other app I would add to this list would be Parallels Desktop. Not the app itself, but the Windows OS that I need to run the comic book cataloging software, ComicBase. (I use that software to manage my collection of nearly nine thousand comic books.)

What's your current mobile set-up? How many different devices do you have and what do you use them for?

As mentioned earlier, I utilize my late-2008 MacBook as my mobile desktop for doing CAD/BIM work away from my office, although I've been experimenting with using my new iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil as a possible substitute. For editing my CAD files, the apps available for iOS cannot completely replace those I use in OS X.

Most of my communication and news reading is handled by my iPhone 6 or with the new iPad Pro.

What are your must-have mobile apps? Why?

My must have mobile app is my Nike+ Running app. I have a monthly goal of running 100 miles per month, and I am currently training for a marathon in March. I track all my runs, indoor and outdoor using the Nike+ Running app.

What cloud-based services do you use and love? How do you use them and why do you love them?

Dropbox! Dropbox is an essential cloud-based service which allows me to collaborate with others by sharing folders. It’s how I work as a consultant with other firms and how my co-hosts of Archispeak share our audio and other files critical to the recording and business of the podcast.

What one weird and nonintuitive app or device helps you do your work better?

I prefer quiet when I'm working, so I usually don't have any music playing and I never have the TV on the background. But the one app I use to make my work better is called Should I Sleep? It's a simple app that prevents my MacBook from sleeping if it detects an active network connection; this is useful when I'm consulting in another office and connected to their server. Thanks to this app, my MacBook won't go to sleep and break any network connections, and I don't have to keep reconnecting to a network after coming back to my computer.

What other tech in your life or household rocks your world?

The most useful tech I have in my home is Logitech's Harmony One remote control. Everyone in the family uses it to control our TV setup. That setup includes a receiver, TiVo HD, 4th-generation Apple TV, a Blu-Ray disc player and an old, rarely-used five-disc CD changer. With a tap on the remote's touch screen, even my eight-year-old daughter can switch between the TiVo and the Apple TV with ease.


Are you someone who wants to talk about the tech you use for work and life? Do you have strong opinions about the tools you use to get things done? We'd love to feature you -- reach out on Twitter to @lschmeiser or connect with Lisa Schmeiser here.

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