Jeff Dean


Jeff Dean

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Jeff Dean, and I'm one of two Google Senior Fellows at Google. I do computer systems and artificial intelligence research and write software, and have worked on a variety of systems like Google's advertising systems, Google Search, Google Translate, MapReduce, Bigtable, Spanner, Protocol Buffers, Snappy (a.k.a. Zippy), LevelDB, and TensorFlow, among others.

At the moment, I lead the Google Brain project, Google's deep learning research team, where I work on systems for machine learning, especially deep learning, and help lead our efforts in machine learning research, as well as emerging applied research areas where machine learning is crucial, such as healthcare, robotics, perception, and natural language understanding, and our continued development of TensorFlow as a key platform for machine learning research and deployment of machine learning systems and features. You can find out more about our research by seeing our list of recent Brain team publications. You might also enjoy the Reddit r/MachineLearning AMA that our team did in August, 2016.

What hardware do you use?

At work, I mostly use an HP Z620 Workstation with an NVidia GPU card in it, running Linux, with a single 30" monitor. For portable uses and for giving talks, I rely primarily on a MacBook Air and sometimes on a Chromebook Pixel. I have a Nexus 5X Android phone, and also use a Nexus 9 tablet for surfing the web and reading ebooks and technical papers. I use a sit-stand adjustable desk and rely on on the nearby microkitchen's espresso machine quite heavily.

And what software?

For writing code, I use emacs and Google's internal distributed build system (a version of which was open sourced as Bazel) and our version control system, plus Google's internal code searching tools that allow me to quickly search over Google's whole code repository (similar to our once-available Google Code Search product, as described by Russ Cox).

Most of the code I write is in C++, although I've written fair amounts of code in Java, Python, Perl, Self, Cecil, x86 assembly, and Pascal over the years. For writing, commenting and collaborating on internal technical documents, I use Google Docs. For technical papers, I and my coauthors usually use LaTeX. For giving presentations, I almost exclusively use Google Slides. For handling email, I use GMail with lots of filters to automatically file and label message (I get about 1400 email messages per day, so I have to be quite efficient to deal with it all in a reasonable amount of time). I use the Chrome browser and do web searches using Google :).

What would be your dream setup?

I pretty much have it. Mostly I enjoy doing research and writing software to solve difficult problems with great colleagues, and where the results of our work are used by lots of people. A lighter laptop with a bigger screen would be great, though. A view of the ocean would also be nice.


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Veronica Berns


Veronica Berns

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Veronica Berns and I'm a science and comics lady! When I was working on my PhD in chemistry a few years ago, I decided to write two versions of my thesis: the normal, expected, technical version that probably only my committee will read, and then also a comic book-style version aimed at all of my family and friends who don't think about science every day. Now I'm working on more science comics accessible to a general audience, and I also teach chemistry at Northwestern University!

What hardware do you use?

To make illustrations for a comic, I start with paper and a colored pencil, and then I trace the lines I like with a fat line Sharpie. I draw everything as big as possible, and then scan it at high res with a Doxie Go portable scanner or using my home printer (Brother HL-2280DW). All of my editing and coloring of the images takes place on the computer. I have a workhorse MacBook Air from 2012 that basically contains my whole life on it. I just got an additional monitor — one of those giant Apple Thunderbolt displays — and let me tell you: it's a game changer.

And what software?

The image editing is all a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator, and the layout for my book was done in InDesign.

Generally I write a script for a comic in Simplenote or Word before I even think about drawing anything. I tend to like Simplenote for tagging and sorting through files, but I like writing in a table format that Word offers, so I haven't really settled on a system.

My cat is an essential piece of getting work done, since she's always around and sitting on important things. I guess I could count her as software.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm not super picky! I try to make anything work: I've made drawings on scraps of paper and napkins, and "scanned" stuff with my phone camera. So I'm pretty flexible.

My preferred methods above have emerged from being scrappy, trying things, and working with what I have and what I know. I learned Photoshop for editing figures at work, so that's what I'm comfortable with. Inertia is a powerful force of nature.

I have tried drawing on digital tablets instead of the paper-then-scanner method, and I may want to go that way in the future, but it hasn't happened yet. I'm really liking having a huge secondary display though! Some change is overwhelmingly good!


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Terri Burns


Terri Burns

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Terri Burns! I'm a product manager at a big company, an apprentice at a small company, and an occasional writer. But really, I'm just a lady who likes to make stuff, talk to people, and peruse the internet.

What hardware do you use?

I have two MacBooks — an Air and a Pro. I don't think one's really better than the other. I also have a planner and a notebook. The planner is used to organize all the things I need to get done during the week. The notebook is used when my planner gets too messy and I need to rewrite my lists (this happens often), and when I need to sketch through something I'm thinking about. Oh, and my iPhone 6S. Pretty much always on that these days.

And what software?

I mostly use every product on the G Suite a ton, except for Google Plus and Google Sites. I use Twitter/TweetDeck, almost just as much. I Snapchat a lot, too. (Wow, I sound like such an obnoxious Millennial.) I also love vim as my text editor, Signal to send encrypted messages, Spotify for my music, and Dark Sky so I can obsessively check the weather.

What would be your dream setup?

It'd be cool to have a 27-inch Retina display iMac, to use as a monitor. But other than that my dream is just to have enough space for a really, really large desk to hold my monitor, laptops, a stack of notebooks/books, and other miscellaneous stuff. I think it's an attainable dream!


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Ryan Lee


Ryan Lee

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Ryan Lee, a bread baker and a potter recently relocated to Harstine Island, WA. Choosing an appropriate name for the project has been a constant struggle but right now I call it bakerpotter. I plan to build a little homestead wood fired bakery this winter but I'm currently focusing most of my attention on making pottery.

I like to make simple functional pots that folks will use everyday and that never go out of style. There's a certain satisfaction in the pursuit of these crafts – both are incredibly simple and nourishing, but in their simplicity there is an incredible margin for variation. I've embraced the wild and natural elements in both crafts and have actively rejected technology that would narrow this margin for variation. I plan to spend my life pursuing an ideal and hope I never find it.

What hardware do you use?

I'll focus on the pottery project. I use a rusty old Brent potter's wheel from the late 1970's – it's a little rough but it was cheap and works. When throwing pots I use a piece of wire, a sponge, some thin pieces of wood for shaping and sometimes calipers. I fire everything in two stages, I use a Skutt Electric Kiln for bisque firing and a bespoke gas kiln for glaze firing. The gas kiln consists of the shell of a broken electric kiln with a few holes cut into it, a burner bolted on and a few propane tanks that I keep in a hot water bath to prevent them from freezing.

And what software?

Clay.. Get it? Software? I can't resist a bad pun. Feldspar, silica, dry clay, and lately wood ash are some of the materials that go into making glazes. Oh, and I would have to say the firing schedule. I fire all of my work to around 2300 degrees with a reduction cooling cycle. By starving the fire of oxygen you can force it to pull available oxygen molecules from other chemical bonds in the clay and glaze, essentially changing the molecular structure and more importantly creating interesting colors and textures. I built a website with Squarespace and use Wave the keep the money right.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm very fortunate, I have a dedicated space and in the past several months have been making pottery full time in a beautiful place. That being said, heat and insulation in my workshop! I recently took over our living room because I couldn't work in the cold any longer. A quiet potter's wheel would be a dream – mine is so loud I have to crank the volume if I want to listen to anything while I work. A pugmill for recycling clay; doing it all by hand is really hard on the body.

I could also really use a larger kiln that could be fired with wood or gas or both. Wood adds a whole new set of variables to the firing process, I'd like to take that on.


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Sebastian Quack


Sebastian Quack

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Sebastian Quack, and I work as an artist and game designer, sometimes as a curator. I create games and run participatory art & urban design projects that happen in-between screens, people and the cities they live in.

What hardware do you use?

For everyday communication I use a MacBook Air and a simple HTC Android phone with dual sim. In projects I use very weird hardware, often mixing low tech and high tech. Non-technical tools like chalk or industrial dunnage bags are great for street games, as well as walkie-talkies, flashlights, MP3 players. Anything that is cheap, robust, simple to use and doesn't break when it falls on pavement. For audio games in the landscape I've loved using Minirig speakers.

Everyone has cameras in their phones now, but for quickly equipping players with easy-to-use cameras with preloaded footage, for example when doing video walks, I loved the Kodak Zi8 pocket camcorder. I like working with LEDs and batteries taped together – you can attach them to plastic turtles to play Turtle Wushu at night. For drifting, a form of aimless wandering through the city with music, I love using analogue silent disco radio transmitters and headphones. For recording drifts I've used a GoPro.

And what software?

For browsing, I'm mostly on Firefox or Chrome, for documents and spreadsheets I use Google Drive, for coding I use TextMate, but any code editor is fine for me. In terms of coding ecosystems, I'm happy with Ruby and Rails and more recently node.js and Meteor. For hosting I like Heroku and AWS, but I also have some projects running on Uberspace, a German shared hosting provider that gives you a lot of flexibility (and has a pay-as-much-as-you-want model). For graphic work, I've recently discovered Affinity Designer, a superb and affordable replacement for Adobe Illustrator.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup would be truck or a maybe a blimp, boat or a mobile shipping container that moves with me from place to place for projects. Basically a combination of office, makerspace, game design studio, repository of weird equipment for games, library, cooking, café and meeting area. There should be detachable or foldable architectural elements that you can use to transform the space around wherever this thing lands.


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Graham Linehan


Graham Linehan

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Graham Linehan, I'm a writer and director. I'm known mainly for The IT Crowd, Father Ted and Black Books but I've also written Count Arthur Strong, The Walshes and an adaptation of the Ealing film The Ladykillers for the stage.

What hardware do you use?

I have an Alienware which has failed so often on me that I've given up on the idea of playing PC games. I'm thinking of going desktop Mac, as I have a MacBook Air which has never let me down. I want things that just work.

And what software?

Scrivener. I love working in it. It makes writing a pleasure.

Magic Whiteboard for scribbling on. Dan Harmon's story circles combined with Magic Whiteboard = my secret weapon when beginning a script.

I transfer a story to WorkFlowy when I have it mostly worked out, drilling down into each beat so that I have a 'menu' of ideas to draw from when writing a first draft. The 'menu' concept comes from this brilliant Michael Moorcock advice.

What would be your dream setup?

A room where the walls, floor and ceiling were all whiteboard. Maybe not the ceiling.


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Alicia Swiz


Alicia Swiz

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Alicia Swiz! I'm a professor, performer and full time feminist. I teach gender, pop culture and media literacy, in the classroom and on stage. I host a monthly feminist-friendly comedy showcase in Chicago called Feminist Happy Hour and my current long term project is SlutTalk. My heart has always been invested in girls' and women's well being and self esteem but the last few years I've become increasingly passionate about dismantling the the culturally accepted shame we inflict on women's bodies and lives. SlutTalk is collective dialogue that seeks to destigmatize the word slut and encourage sex positivity.

So far SlutTalk has manifested as monthly performances featuring local performers telling true stories, workshops on dating, sex and feminism, a radio talk show, and I am currently piloting “SlutTalk with Teens” with a local high school. In 2017, I want to expand my reach through touring and podcasting with a long term goal of a documentary and book.

What hardware do you use?

2012 MacBook Air, iPhone 6 with a busted screen, Papermate felt tip pens, notebooks (any and all). Thanks to my friend Heath, we record live events with a Tascam DR-40, often in 4 channel recording mode with a feed from the house system. At the monthly FHH, the Tascam DR40 is used for backup and audience recording, and the venue's Behringer X32, which has the ability to record the main outputs directly to a USB flash drive, is the main recording. The recordings are then mixed down in Adobe Audition.

And what software?

Does social media count as software? I currently rely heavily on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Squarespace is where I host my website. Gmail. Microsoft Office, Adobe Audition.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup is a mobile studio/venue. Technically, a van. A sweet, refurbished van outfitted with a lounge/recording studio with four Shure Beta 58As, swing arms for each, and a pair of AKG C214s for backup and room sound, feeding into a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 interface as a preamp. The Focusrite Scarlett would be backed by a MacBook Pro running Adobe Audition for recording and editing. The Tascam DR-40 would stay on as backup recording and street recording, in addition to two pairs of AKG K240 headphones.

And a new iPhone with case.

Support our journey & follow @wearesluttalk on Instagram & Twitter.


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Jen Christiansen


Jen Christiansen

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Jen Christiansen, currently senior graphics editor at Scientific American where I art direct and produce science-centric data visualizations and illustrated explainer diagrams.

What hardware do you use?

I almost always start with a black Pentel Sharp mechanical drafting pencil, for marking up and sketching in the margins of article manuscript printouts. As my research expands, I'll print key references, and file in tabbed manila folders, the surface of which become covered with more pencil sketches and notes. For complicated topics, I'll break out highlighters for color coding. Or an old set of 36 Faber-Castell colored pencils and scrounged scraps of tracing paper if things get really hairy. Scanning pencil concept sketches with the massive multi-purpose print/scan machines at the office is devoid of joy (totally networked out, requires a passcode/ID scan, very little control over scan settings). So I photograph sketches with my iPhone SE instead of using the scanner.

Then I move on to my company-issued MacBook Pro (Retina, mid 2012), on a Rain Design mStand, adjacent to a 23 inch monitor on a swing arm. (When I'm working from my home studio, I've got the laptop hooked up to a 23 inch Dell U2311H Display, which I swap over to my personal mid 2010(!) Mac Pro tower as needed). In occasional bouts of disgust at the grime that appears on my Apple USB Keyboard keys, I'll use electronics wipes to clean them off. I back things up on a LaCie Rugged external drive (stored in a vintage sewing box). I used to draw with my Wacom Intuos Pro pen tablet daily, but I seem to have slowly shifted to a standard issue Apple mouse for most things.

Key additional pieces of home studio hardware: crocheted cat bed from Etsy (cat to my left, laptop to my right), and wire paper tray on the shelf.

Jen's cat.

And what software?

I use standard print magazine fare — Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Acrobat Pro — on a daily basis. Also Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint for reading manuscripts, opening scientist-provided data and image files, etc. For research and project management, I dabble in Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Docs/Sheets. I've tried and discarded several organization apps. My favorite no-frills standby: to do lists made in TextEdit saved to my desktop, and Notes on my iPhone.

What would be your dream setup?

I would love a new Mac tower and laptop — supposing that my current models are due to choke. But otherwise, I'm pretty content with my home studio setup (lots of desk space, natural light, peaceful, resident cat, neutral gray walls). Non-glitchy WiFi for my home studio from a company that I feel better about paying for it would be an improvement. And built-in bookshelves galore, including ones sized perfectly for Moleskine notebooks would be great. Oh, and there's a jagged oversized hole in the ceiling around the radiator pipes in the corner that always seems to be in-frame for video conferences. Hmmmm.. maybe I should just fix that.


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Sophia Gracias


Sophia Gracias

Who are you, and what do you do?

Sophia Gracias, Creative Lady & Melbournite. Currently working full time in stationery product design. On the side I work as a surface designer and artist.

What hardware do you use?

I use an ASUS PC from many years ago that's plugged into a gaming monitor. I'm struggling to let go of it because I love it and I really dislike changing technology. Eventually I'll get a Mac and it'll be a game changer – many people have assured me of this.

When I'm making art I use various mediums, including pen, found papers & glue, or Gouache. I recently learned that a lot of people don't know what Gouache is, and I would describe it as useful watercolour-style paint. I've tried to use expensive paint brushes, but the one I got for free in a watercolour set works the best for me every time.

And what software?

I'm using Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office & Dropbox religiously. Google Docs, WeTransfer and Instagram for in between. One day I'd like to expand my software skill set and learn some CAD for 3D product and mold development.

Recently I've been using Slack, strictly outside of working hours of course. It's the only way I can get my daily quota for using the :pray: emoji up. Also, it makes me feel connected to some pretty incredible people.

What would be your dream setup?

This reads like a wishlist for Santa Claus:

  • A brand new Macbook Pro
  • iPad Pro & Apple Pen
  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  • A Herman Miller Aeron
  • A fancy Swedish style desk
  • One of those taps that has fizzy mineral water freely flowing from it
  • A pack of black Gel Pens that don't give my ring finger a sad little bump
  • One of those Gouache Sets with Japanese writing on it (everyone on Instagram uses them and I suspect that they could be magic)
  • A corner office in the Flatiron Building in NYC

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Conner Habib


Conner Habib

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi, I'm Conner Habib. I'm a writer, a writing coach, a lecturer, and an activist. For eight years, I was a gay porn star, which I still do on occasion, just not as often now because I like eating donuts way more than I like going to the gym. I have a hunch that I'm the only person who's ever won awards for teaching, writing, and porn.

As far as writing goes: I'm writing a book about critical theory and the occult, revising a screenplay and a play, and meeting with writing coaching clients every week. For lectures: I speak at universities and organizations around the world about sexuality, sex and I also give lectures online courses about philosophical and occult topics.

What hardware do you use?

I'm sure there are lots of porn-related jokes about hardware here. My life is pretty analog except for my Mac. I read books; books books, not on screens. When I give talks at schools, I usually just talk in that old school storytelling way. Also: coffee.

And what software?

When I give online courses, I sell tickets through Eventbrite and conduct the courses on Zoom. Both are easy. When I meet with writing coaching clients that don't live in LA, I use Skype.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm pretty happy with my own life, but it's not been easy getting here; so my dream setup is a worldwide thing: Technologies or a new ways of thinking or organizations geared towards getting people out of the 9-5 workforce (if they want out) and toward doing the things they really care about.

I don't mean the old trope of "do what you love" where you're a tech employee eating cereal in the office at 11AM, and then sliding down an inflatable tech campus slide while inwardly feeling like your soul is dying. Or where you have an office job that dims your light every day and that your idiot boss thinks can be redeemed by Crazy Hat Fridays.

Instead, I mean setups aimed at making your day truly meaningful to you, and that would get you participating in the world in a way you'd love.

My dream setups are setups that help create a world where everyone is happier in and loving their days.


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