Ian MacLarty


Ian MacLarty

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm an independent game designer, artist and programmer from Melbourne. I make a lot of small experimental games often with a visual focus. You can find my portfolio here: http://ianmaclarty.com. I'm currently working on an abstract puzzle game.

What hardware do you use?

I mainly use a MacBook Pro (2017, 13", no touch bar). I don't use any external keyboards, mice or monitors. I dislike having to plug and unplug things and I like working in the kitchen where there's plenty of natural light. I also have an older desktop (Intel i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, GTX660 GPU, 1TB mechanical HDD, 23" monitor) with Linux and Windows 7 that I use less often, mainly for testing or playing games.

I have an iPhone 6 that I use for testing and sometimes for music production. I also have an older iPad and some older iPhones and a cheap Android phone that I use exclusively for testing. I have a pair of KRK KNS-8400 headphones and a Behringer C-1U microphone for audio work.

And what software?

I mostly work in the terminal and use vim as my editor. I use the standard Terminal app on Mac and whatever the default terminal on Linux Mint is. On Windows I use MSYS and rxvt. I often write bash or node.js scripts to automate repetitive tasks.

I use my own game engine called Amulet which is written in C++ and uses GNU make as its build system. I use the Clang, GCC and Visual C++ compilers. I've found Valgrind very useful for tracking down memory errors and leaks. I rarely use a debugger, preferring print statements (this is somewhat ironic, because I did my postgraduate research on debuggers). I write my games in Lua and use LuaJIT on desktop and vanilla Lua on mobile and browser.

For 2D graphics I'm currently using Acorn, but will sometimes use GIMP when I'm working on Linux. For audio I use Audacity on Mac and Linux and on my iPhone I've used Figure to produce music and Animoog to produce sound effects. I've also used SFXR.

I occasionally use Blender for 3D modelling or trailer production. Sometimes I'll also use iMovie for trailers, though it doesn't give as much control as Blender. I use GIF Brewery 3 and QuickTime to record GIFs and gameplay footage respectively and Handbrake to transcode between video formats.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm pretty happy with what I've got. I'd like to get more into music production so if I could afford it I'd purchase Ableton Live and maybe get one of those fancy Ableton Push devices.


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Jenny Jiao Hsia


Jenny Jiao Hsia

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi, my name is Jenny Jiao Hsia and I'm an independent game developer based in Brooklyn, NY. In 2014, I collaborated with AP Thomson on a small game about smooching and loneliness in space. The following year, we worked together again and released a game about computers, magic, and insecurity.

Some of my solo projects include games about doing your makeup in 10 seconds or less, putting a noodle-limbed through a serious yoga workout, and feeding your hungry buddy on a date!

When I'm not making games, I like prototyping with microcontrollers and sewing plush dolls called Bedtime Buddies.

What hardware do you use?

I use a 13-inch MacBook Pro (early 2015) to make my games. My computer isn't equipped with a lot of storage space, so I keep my files on a portable external hard drive. For drawing, I use a small Wacom tablet and this mouse — it's cheap, but reliable… and I really like how it fits in my hand.

I always carry a notebook with me so I can jot down ideas and designs wherever I go. I really like how the pages are dotted instead of gridded. It provides enough of a guide to draw in straight lines, but doesn't constrain me too much if I want to scribble freely. I using pens instead of pencils, and this one is my favorite to write with!

For non-digital crafting, I've been using this small sewing machine from Janome. It doesn't come with a lot of fancy buttons or options, but this basic model gets the job done for me. I like the color and size a lot, but I wish it could handle thicker fabrics. Sometimes it even chugs a bit. If you're a beginner to sewing and you're looking for something fun to play around with — I would recommend it. However you might want to make an investment and upgrade to something sturdier if you're looking for a machine for long-term use.

I find a lot of my textiles from the thrift store — I'd recommend checking out the curtains and blankets because you get a lot of quality fabric for a really low price. Just throw them in the wash before cutting and sewing with them! I pick up my other materials (like embroidery thread, buttons, ribbon, beads, key rings, etc.) at Flying Tiger and Michael's. It's fun to browse those stores because you can find really neat materials that will add a lot of character.

I've been using a Makey Makey to prototype the hardware portion of my controllers and I create the final version with a FLORA microcontroller and conductive thread. I'd recommend checking Tinkersphere and Adafruit if you're looking for more sewable electronic parts.

I take photos using an iPhone 6S and my workspace consists of a small IKEA table and one of those heavy-duty folding chairs from Costco.

And what software?

I use Unity to make games and Bitbucket for source control. For art, I make 2D assets in Photoshop and 3D models in Maya. I edit sound effects in Audition and I record gameplay footage with QuickTime Player and Soundflower. Sometimes I use LICEcap to capture gifs — the framerate can end up looking sort of choppy and slow, so I will occasionally resort to Photoshop to create better quality gifs. I use Google Drive on a regular basis, and recently I've been experimenting with the Arduino IDE. My favorite app to edit photos with on my phone is VSCO and I like doodling on these pictures with Facebook's Messenger app.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup would include a big sturdy desk, a nice comfy chair, an enormous bulletin board, a more serious and robust sewing machine, a powerful Mac Pro with tons of storage, and a couple of extra monitors!


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Jillian C. York


Jillian C. York

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi! I'm Jillian C. York, and I'm a writer and activist whose work explores the impact of surveillance and censorship on marginalized communities. Most of that work is with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and my main project there, Onlinecensorship.org, and I also do quite a bit of writing and public speaking.

I've been based in Berlin for the past three years, and I don't think I'll ever love a city more than this one. You can be whomever or whatever you want in Berlin. I love my communities here, and the fact that I can carry a beer wherever I want, and the fact that the city is really pretty diverse when you delve into it.

What hardware do you use?

I just got a souped-up, gently-used 13" MacBook Pro Retina from 2015 and I love it. The screen is amazing, such an upgrade from the ca. 2012 13" Air that I'd been using. The speakers are also decent, which is important to me – I spend a lot of time traveling and a lot of time listening to music… and I don't have the space to carry a speaker.

My phone is a 1-year-old iPhone SE (rose gold); I switched over after years of using Androids. My last two were Sony Xperia Z1s, and I loved them for their ability to take strange night photos, but the screens stop working if you crack them, and I'm clumsy. I really like small phones, though, and wish more designers thought about people like me who have small hands!

At work, I do my listening on a pair of aged Harmon Kardon SoundSticks with a USB-only connection. I love them, and I wish more things were so oddly crafted. I use Apple's standard earbuds, ever since Phillips discontinued my favorite in-ear headphones. Ideally, I'd use over-ear noise-cancelling headphones, but my sometimes-angry ear piercings won't let me.

I'm also a really big fan of paper. My partner and I are both really into Post-Its, which you can find all over my walls, inside my notebooks, and on pretty much every inappropriate surface you could imagine. My notebook is a Leuchtturm1917 – dotted and hardcovered. It's apparently great for bullet journaling, which I always try to start but end up just scribbling things in my usual way. And I'm very picky about pens: The Uni-ball Vision Elite has been my go-to for a decade now.

My house is mostly pretty low-tech… no microwave, television, or sound system. If it weren't for my Bluetooth-enabled smart lightbulb, you might be able to enter my flat and imagine yourself in a different decade entirely 🙂

And what software?

I talk a lot about privacy and occasionally teach people how to use privacy-enhancing technologies, so I'm pretty attached to Tor for safer browsing, KeePassX for secure password storage, and Signal and Wire for communications… Wire in particular is so much fun – there's one friend with whom I play tic-tac-toe pretty frequently with the doodle feature.

I travel a lot, so staying organized is really key – I use Bear for on-the-go writing and note-taking, TripIt Pro for keeping my travel details in one place, and I sync up necessary documents with iCloud.

I've spent a lot of the past couple of years writing music, and have to give some love to GarageBand… I find most of Apple's default software pretty useless, but for an amateur composer with a background in music theory and performance, this is a beautiful piece of software.

What would be your dream setup?

Ooooh – Is it weird that the first item that I think about in my dream setup is the table? I want a huge, handcrafted wooden table in a sunny, window-filled room, with lots of plants (that someone else is in charge of keeping alive) and some sort of fantastic built-in surround sound.

I could (and probably should) integrate some ergonomics into the situation – a better chair, a keyboard to stave off the carpal tunnel, perhaps even a mouse. I don't know why, but these feel like luxury items.

But the pièce de résistance would be the teleportation device tucked into the corner that would allow me to meet with anyone whenever I want… and would allow me to avoid flying forevermore!


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Michael McMaster


Michael McMaster

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Michael McMaster, and at the moment I do a few things. I make videogames with House House, a very small studio that I co-direct – last year we released a game called Push Me Pull You and we recently announced our second project, which is called Untitled Goose Game for the time being.

I'm also working on a PhD, which I started this year at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, where I'm researching the position of videogames within art and design museums. I also work on-and-off as a sessional tutor at RMIT, where I teach game design practice to undergraduate students.

That sounds like too many things, when I write it out like this, and it probably is.

What hardware do you use?

For my game development work, I have a big heavy PC that I put together a long time ago, with two monitors raised up to eye level on big books. I have a Microsoft Sculpt ergonomic keyboard that I ought to use, but its wireless receiver drops in and out a lot so right now I'm typing on a very plain Logitech keyboard. My mouse looks like a plain matte-black mouse, and it's very nice to use, but it is unfortunately called a Razer DeathAdder. I sometimes draw using an Intuos Pro Medium. My desk is usually cluttered with game controllers – right now there are two DualShock 4's and an Xbox 360 controller.

For my research, I use a 2015 MacBook Pro, and a pair of Urbanears Zinken headphones. Lately I've started doing some audio interviews, too, so I bought a Sony ICD-PX470 digital voice recorder, though I always end up doing a backup recording on my phone (a Nexus 5X) because I'm paranoid of the voice recorder failing and wasting my subjects' time.

And what software?

Our current videogame is being developed in Unity, and though I've never felt all that comfortable using it, I'm learning slowly (much slower than the others on our team, who are very patient and nice about it). My main contributions to the game are asset production, art direction, and graphic design: I use Blender for 3D modelling, Photoshop for concept art and various sketches, and Illustrator for mocking up things like UI elements. Blender is a very strange program in a bunch of ways but I've been using it for years and I really like it. Although the four of us work in the same office, we all keep different work hours, so we use Slack a lot to communicate when we're not in the one room.

My research is done across a heap of Google Docs and a lot of notes in Google Keep – I think a lot about switching to something more fully-featured and useful for long-term projects, like Scrivener, but this is what works for me at the moment. I also use a Chrome plugin called Strict Workflow that acts as a pomodoro timer, and blocks out sites like Twitter and Slack for 25-minute periods so that I can focus on work (I struggle a lot with distractions, so this helps a lot).

What would be your dream setup?

It depends how dreamy I'm allowed to get! I have three desks – one at home, one at university, and one at my studio's office – and a lot of the time I feel like most of my life is spent moving in vectors between these three spaces. I'd really love two rooms right next to each other – one with all my research books and a clean desk, and another with all my game development equipment – so that I could switch between work modes more easily. Also, a big lazy dog that follows me between the rooms and sits with me while I work. And a standing desk, I guess.


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Claire Hopkins


Claire Hopkins

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Claire Hopkins (pronouns: she/her), and I am a botanist and informal science educator. I run the website Brilliant Botany, a hub of plant science information that includes resource lists, merch and weekly YouTube videos. I spend my time updating the site, researching scripts, generating graphics and editing videos.

I also run a small Etsy shop selling knitted items, walk dogs and have a day job at a biotech company. In my spare time I knit, watch TV, walk my dog, and read. I love urban fantasy, The Great British Bakeoff, and makeup.

What hardware do you use?

For filming and photography, I use a Canon Rebel T5i DSLR with a 18-55mm lens, a Rode VideoMicro microphone, and a Parrot Teleprompter, all on top of a Polaroid PLTRI72 72" tripod. I currently use a Genaray Octolux Light. I use my iPhone 6 for taking photos, to run my scripts on the Teleprompter and check social media. I have an Opteka 10x Macro Conversion Lens that I occasionally use to get close-up photos and video of plants.

My computer is an iMac with a 21.5 inch display. It sits on my dining room table, surrounded by the files, stamps, and all of the other supplies I use to maintain my site and package merch. The floor is also covered in dog toys.

For keeping track of my schedule and tasks, I use a Compact Lavender Bliss Passion Planner with a Pilot Retractable Precise V5 RT pen. I'm lost without my planner!

And what software?

My Mac currently runs OS X El Capitan. For editing, I use iMovie, as I don't have particularly complex editing needs. I plan to upgrade to Adobe Premiere in the near future.

For graphics for my videos, website and merch, I use Adobe Illustrator and occasionally Adobe Photoshop.

For script writing, I use Google Drive, since this allows me to work on things wherever I am.

My website is hosted on Squarespace, and I use HootSuite to schedule posts to Instagram and Twitter.

What would be your dream setup?

Oh boy, my wish list is extensive. I would love a DJI Mavic Pro drone, allowing me to add cinematic shots to my videos. A MacBook Pro to let me to edit on the go. A Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens. A ring light to use as a key light. A lavalier microphone. A proper desk chair to support my back while I'm editing. Or perhaps just an experienced editor to do my editing, as it's not my forte!


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Coraline Ada Ehmke


Coraline Ada Ehmke

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm the notorious social justice warrior Coraline Ada Ehmke. I work remotely from Chicago as a Principal Engineer for Stitch Fix. I'm an open source advocate, international speaker, and software developer with over 20 years of experience building apps for the web. I was recognized for my work on diversity in open source with a Ruby Hero award in 2016. I'm also the creator of the Contributor Covenant, the most popular open source code of conduct in the world with over 40,000 adoptions. I'm a founding panelist on the Greater Than Code podcast, and in my free time I work on a secret artificial intelligence project and write and record music as A Little Fire Scarecrow.

What hardware do you use?

2017 MacBook Pro, maxed out specs, side by side with a 27" Cinema Display. I use a Kinesis split mechanical keyboard and a Bluetooth Magic Trackpad.

In my music studio I also use a Presonus FaderPort 8, a LinnStrument MIDI controller, and an M-Audio rack mount audio interface. This lets me record my nine guitars, bass, Prophet analog synth, mountain dulcimer, and vocals and mix them to perfection. The studio is dominated by a walnut-stained Platform music production desk from Output. It's huge, solid, and versatile. It has room for nine racks worth of hardware, a two-tier work surface, and a slide-out tray for my MIDI controllers.

And what software?

If I'm doing Ruby, I do it in both Atom and BBEdit (I love the regex support in BBEdit and I've been using it since 1995!) For Go, I use Visual Studio Code; I'm fairly new to Go so I appreciate the help that an IDE gives me, and there are some great plugins for debugging and testing, too. For Swift I use Xcode. Some people might look down on me for using GUIs but I am a very visual person and I don't mind lifting my fingers off the keyboard from time to time. In the studio I use Logic X and adore it.

What would be your dream setup?

I wouldn't change a thing about my physical space. I work from home, which is great, and my desk is in a sunroom that is pretty much all windows (west-facing so I can see the gorgeous sunset at the end of my day.) I love my hardware setup but I would be even happier with two 42.5" 4k displays, one on either side of my laptop. Preferably on adjustable mounts. In the studio I would love to have a maxed-out 27" iMac dedicated to music production — even my MacBook Pro has trouble keeping up with Logic at a decent sample rate. My Patreon is at… just kidding. Sort of.


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Suz Hinton


Suz Hinton

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Suz Hinton. I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, where I slowly learned to embrace the nerd that I am. I moved to the USA 7 years ago, and am currently based in New York City. I work as a software developer in developer relations at Microsoft.

I partner with both companies and communities to help them make the most of Azure Cloud Services and other Microsoft tools. It's a combination of pair programming, public speaking, documentation writing, and building interesting prototypes. It's fast paced learning and teaching; I never run out of projects that I want to do.

Off duty, I maintain several well loved JavaScript hardware libraries, and build electronic contraptions to delight others with. I really like reading technical papers, and geeking out about frontend performance and accessibility. I also live code on Twitch most weekends, with a quickly growing audience tuning in to watch.

What hardware do you use?

Suz's desktop setup.

I work from home, from my study. I have a cheap IKEA "desk" that I bought over 5 years ago. I sit on a half price refurbed Aeron Chair which supports my back really well during many hours of working. I stare at an Acer K272 27" monitor all day. I use a Perixx PERMICE-712 wireless mouse], and a much beloved Leopold 660M mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX brown switches. I currently have lavender keycaps installed. This keyboard is my pride and joy for writing software.

I use two different computers. My work computer is a Microsoft Surface Book, and my personal computer is a 13" 2016 Apple MacBook Pro.

For streaming, I use a Blue Yeti microphone, two Logitech C920 Pro webcams, and OBS Studio streaming software.

My 3D printer is a Printrbot Plus Metal with dual extrusion and a heated bed. I run it wirelessly using OctoPrint running on a Raspberry Pi. My soldering iron is a Hakko FX-888D.

My coffee grinder is a Bodum BISTRO, and the coffee making process is done with an Aeropress. I import Bonsoy soy milk because I am a weirdo about the taste of soy milk in coffee. It's my one food extravagance, because outside of coffee I'm mostly disinterested in food.

And what software?

I use vim as a code editor. On my MacBook, iTerm is my terminal of choice. On my Surface Book, I live in Bash on Ubuntu running within ConEmu. I use mostly Chrome and Edge as my browsers. OneNote contains my entire life. In there I store my daily task lists, blog post ideas, long term projects, career goals, and almost everything else you can imagine. I also can't live without my Outlook calendar, so I know where I need to be at all times. I listen to music daily with the Spotify app. My favorite headphones to listen with are Sennheiser PX200 IIs.

My favorite software languages to code in are JavaScript and Python.

What would be your dream setup?

Ideally I'd like to work from a room with very large windows and trees outside. I love watching birds and other animals while I'm thinking. I would love a minimalist, white desk (a real one). An additional, separate work desk for soldering and making messy things would be so amazing. I currently program and solder on the same desk, so it's not very roomy or practical. I really like the idea of having multiple screens, like in a clichéd hollywood hacker movie. Right now I don't have the space for many screens. I would fill the rest of the space with plants and the art of my friends. Most of all, I relish a quiet environment. I have adapted to noisy New York City, but love and miss true silence all the same!


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Kornel Lesiński


Kornel Lesiński

Who are you, and what do you do?

I love pixels. I'm a programmer and a newbie small business owner. I work on image compression.

I'm the author of the ImageOptim, pngquant, and a maintainer of MozJPEG. I also work on a few other Open Source projects such as Sparkle (Mac updater) and SuperAgent (like fetch before fetch happened).

I spend most of my time finding ways to make images load faster and look better. My day job is the ImageOptim web service, where I turn my research experiments into a real product.

What hardware do you use?

I use a 2014 MacBook Pro with Retina Display. It's a very nice machine. I have the higher-specced i7 configuration, so the latest MacBooks don't seem like a big upgrade to me.

I use it with the Belkin Thunderbolt dock, so I've been living in the "everything in one port" future for a while. I literally use every single port in my machine and the dock, even FireWire for a backup disk and HDMI for a projector (AX-100). Even though I like USB-C, I'm too invested in Thunderbolt to abandon or dongelize all my peripherials.

I was an early adopter of high-res monitors. I've got an now-old 30" Dell WFP3008. It's big, heavy and emits significant amount of heat, but I got it when it was one of the few larger-than-HD monitors available. Display Port was such a new and exotic thing back then, that I've had to import a mini-DP to DP cable from China.

My other monitor is a 4K Samsung U28D590. It's the early model with a TN matrix with bleak color, lousy viewing angle, and a non-VESA stand with absolutely no adjustment. I also have to reboot it every few days (yes, my monitor crashes). But the 4K resolution still makes up for all of it.

As for keyboards, I don't understand why right-handed people tolerate keyboards with numeric pad taking up space where the mouse should be. I used to have (and love) an A4Tech keyboard with a numpad on the left. Now I use Truly Ergonomic. It deserves its name. It has an unusual, but very convenient layout. Return and Backspace are the middle of the keyboard. Arrow keys are 4-way rather than tetromino-shaped. It took me a while to re-learn touch typing on it, but it was worth it.

I live paperless. You won't find a pen on my desk. I scribble on my iPad or Pixel XL. I scan and archive all documents with an imageFORMULA scanner. It's nice, small and pretty fast.

Speaking of the Pixel XL – it's excellent hardware. Sleek, beautiful screen, with a battery that's almost large enough and charges fast enough. The fingerprint sensor is so fast and so conveniently placed, that I use it, despite knowing that Android's hardware security is weak sauce.

I dread upgrading Android phones. Every time Android migration assistant loses all my data from all non-Google apps. Reinstalls them fresh, with no logins, no local strorage, no save games — nothing). As if Google did not believe data outside of their own servers exists. I might switch to an iPhone, because Apple's Android to iOS migration assistant can't be any worse.

I've got the Daydream VR headset for the Pixel. It's fun for a few minutes. Its controller significantly improves interaction in VR compared to Cardboard, but it has a fatal flaw: it has created another axis of Android fragmentation. The Daydream headset only works with a dozen of its own apps, and deliberately blocks access to the hundreds of VR apps written for Cardboard.

I have a Pebble Time — now a zombie. I use it to check in on Swarm and to reply "OK" to Signal messages. And, with the always-on screen, I can check the time without a shake gesture, 20th-century style!

I've also got an AMD-Ryzen-based PC with elementary OS as my secondary computer for number crunching. I've got it because the Mac Pro is on an "accidental" 5-year hiatus, and today there just aren't any Macs with high-end GPUs.

The last bit of hardware is my beloved Herman-Miller Mirra chair. As a geek I used to think how many more megabytes or megapixels I could have gotten instead of "just a chair", but it has outlived several of my computers, and it's been absolutely good investment that literally saved my butt (and my spine).

And what software?

My computer usage is mainly on the command line. I use iTerm2, for lots of small reasons. I can click to open filenames printed in the terminal. I have shortcuts and color-coded backgrounds for remote servers. Notifications when a background job finishes. It does everything that the stock Terminal does, but a little bit better.

One thing I don't use command line for is git. I'm not going to type hashes — I'd rather click and drag things in GitX. It lets me commit fragments of code line-by-line and visualises history in its full branchy glory, without dumbing it down. I'm holding on to one specific dead fork of many dead forks of GitX-dev that I particularly like.

I used to be a devoted fan of the Opera browser, but sadly the good old browser is gone, and now the product and the company are just a shell of its former glory. I've tried Vivaldi, but it was too slow and buggy for me. Nowadays I'm using Firefox nightly. It's amazing how much Firefox has improved in v57. It's now pretty fast, and handles well my habit of leaving hundreds of tabs open instead of bookmarking anything.

I plan my work in OmniFocus (& Focus GTD on Android). It's the only serious app that does two things: 1) infinitely recursive todo lists (I break things down into smaller and smaller tasks, and don't want any arbitrary limits there) and 2) faithfully implements the Getting Things Done system. When I was starting my business I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of little things that have to be done, and I wouldn't be able to cope without GTD.

I've been programming in C for 17 years, but this year I've sucessfully switched to Rust. Rust has a steep learning curve, but it does deliver. The language, its compiler and package manager are rock solid. It's an amazing language. In some areas it feels higher-level than JavaScript, but it's still as close to the metal as C.

What would be your dream setup?

For the displays, all the cool new tech is already here. I'm just waiting for all of it to be brought together into one maximally awesome model.

OLED (where black is truly black) + HDR (where photographed lights appear as actually bright light, not merely a white patch) + 8K resolution (because why not?) in ultra-wide curved 21:9 format, so I can have the surface of a dual-monitor setup without the gap between them.

I like Apple's combination of hardware and software the best. I just wish they weren't so forgetful about the existence of their Mac product lines. macOS is still the most elegant and usable OS for me, but with every release (containing more and more restrictions, and bash deliberately not updated since 2007) I'm finding it harder and harder to be a supporter of macOS and open-source at the same time. The Mac App Store forbids all Free/Libre Software, so if they ever flip the switch to disable non-App-Store software, I'm out.


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Daniel Kibblesmith


Daniel Kibblesmith

Who are you, and what do you do?

Daniel Kibblesmith, writer for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, as well as comics writer (Valiant Comics, Heavy Metal, Various), and author/co-author of the humor books Santa's Husband and How To Win At Everything.

What hardware do you use?

At work: MacBook Air. At home: Smaller Macbook Air.

And what software?

For work we use Scripto, a collaborative realtime script and teleprompter software (developed by my friend Rob Dubbin, company co-founded by Stephen Colbert), also currently in use at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, The President Show, and others.

For comics, I write primarily in Google Docs for saving, sharing, and storage convenience, although much of it starts by hand, usually in Pilot Precise V5 pens, currently in a crazy orange hardbound notebook I got as a Christmas gift from my parents (I think it's the Mead Cambridge Casebound Notebook No. 07102, but again, in orange for some reason). I also have a Walgreens in-house brand spiral memo pad I carry in my back pocket, after destroying two Moleskin knockoffs by slowly curving them to conform to the shape of my butt.

What would be your dream setup?

I think this is it, I'm good. But I did stay in a hotel over my honeymoon where they put a little tackle-box of coffee and scones outside your door before you woke up, so if I could add anything at this point, it'd be that.


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Jesse Ditson


Jesse Ditson

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am Jesse Ditson – I grew up in Oregon and currently live in San Francisco.

I grew up in a creative family, and music was my first creative field. I was classically trained on cello starting at age 4, which made learning other instruments much easier.

Growing up my family had a 1984 Macintosh in the house, which was my first exposure to computers. There were 1 or 2 games on the floppies we had, and so once I got bored of them I realized I could program my own. This ended up being more fun than playing the games, and so I naturally drifted towards a career in tech.

In high school I got my first programming job through a work-study program, but had a bit of trouble and ended up leaving high school and mostly playing with punk bands and only writing code for fun until I was in my 20s, when I realized writing code paid a lot better and gave me much more flexibility than the jobs I was currently working.
I eventually participated in an event called StartupBus, which put me in contact with folks in Silicon Valley, and a few weeks after the event (in 2011), I moved to SF.

I now spend my days writing code for Attic Labs, and try to be as creative as possible with my evenings and weekends. I love learning things, which leads me down creative paths that include molding/casting, sewing, making music, DIY electronics, painting, and really anything else that helps me move things out of my head and in to the world.

What hardware do you use?

For computer work, I have a Jarvis standing desk at home with an LG 27MU88-W 27 inch monitor mounted to the desk with an arm, and a laptop stand on another arm. The USB-C port handles power, display, and acts as a USB hub, so when I'm using my work laptop (a 15" 2017 MacBook Pro), I just plug in one cord and everything works. When I'm working on music or side projects, I use my home laptop, which is a 2015 15" MacBook Pro.

At work, I use a 24" LG UltraFine 5K display, attached similarly via USB to my MacBook which sits on a Rain stand. I can't say I can tell the difference in quality between the two monitors, and I prefer the home setup slightly despite them being nearly identical.

I do a lot of mobile dev, so I keep a small stack of devices to test things on, and I usually carry two phones so I can dog-food both android and iOS apps. I currently use a Pixel for my Android and an iPhone 7+ for iOS.

Sometimes when I'm drawing or writing the MacBook is way too much of a tool (and illustrating on it is impossible), so I have a 2015 9.7" iPad Pro with the keyboard case and Pencil. It's really nice to be able to be creative without needing a whole computer-sized rig, and the Pencil is my favorite Apple product to come out in recent years. I've been using Wacom tablets and capacitive styluses for pretty much my whole life, and the latency and accuracy of the Pencil is only rivaled by crazy expensive rigs like the Cintiq.

Music is a big part of my work day, and to avoid plugging and unplugging (and because I do recording both at home and work), I have dedicated audio interfaces at home and work. At work I use a Behringer U-PHORIA UM2, which is a really compact 2×2 interface with just the basics. It feels cheap (and it is), but it does a great job. At home I use an Akai EIE Pro, which is a 4×4 and mostly just looks fantastic. I can't say it does anything special.

I leave a pair of open-back Sennheiser HD 598s at work – I've had them for 6 years and they are still incredibly comfortable (even with glasses on, wearing for 8-10 hours at a time) and sound amazing. The open back helps me not feel trapped in my headphones, and lets folks talk to me without shouting or waving. If I need alone time, I stay home.

At home, I don't use headphones, and instead use a pair of KRK ROKIT-5 studio monitors. I'm not sure they'll last much longer, which is unfortunate – but they were a floor model and they sound great, so I would consider re-buying the same model when they die.

If I need to isolate, I have a pair of Sony MDR-7506 headphones that pretty much block everything out. They're amazing for the $80 price tag, but I pretty much use them exclusively for tracking vocals, as they aren't super comfy to wear for long periods.

Since moving to SF have tried to avoid buying nice instruments since I so rarely have a chance to play them. My stripped down setup is:

  • Audio-Technica AT2035 condensor with a desk mount and pop filter.
  • An old MS-20 MIDI controller that they stopped making in the 90s.
  • An Akai MAX25.
  • An Ableton Push (v1).
  • An old 44-key Edirol for bigger keyboard parts.
  • A Teal Fender Squier Jaguar.
  • A pawn-shop bass that I bought when I lived in Philly and keep repairing for some reason.
  • A Yamaha APXT2 3/4 size acoustic/electric guitar – I love these tiny bodied acoustic guitars, they have kind of a dobro-like quality to them which is fun.
  • A Casio SK-5, which is hands down the best keyboard ever created.

For other projects, I keep around:

  • A tackle box full of breadboards, transistors, servos and arduino boards for when I need to build small electronics, along with a nice soldering rig and dremel.
  • Clay, 2-part expanding foam, liquid latex, hydrocal, cheese cloth, and silicon for casting and molding (usually just for masks around halloween). In SF I can pick up all this stuff at Douglas and Sturgess, along with any resins, buckets, and other accessories.
  • Various power tools and enough hex wrenches, tiny screwdrivers and ratchet sets to take pretty much anything apart and put it back together.
  • A giant collection of rattle cans, acrylics, paint brushes, and adhesives for work that usually involves paper.

And what software?

For code I mostly use iTerm2 and VS Code (recently moved to this from Atom, which I'm not regretting at all) – these modern Javascript IDEs are pretty incredible once you have them configured correctly, and I've even been finding myself using XCode a lot less for Objective-C and Swift unless I'm spinning up a new project.

Here are some productivity tools I use do as much for my code productivity as my IDEs do:

  • Alfred – especially when combined with Dash, this has all but replaced Finder for me. The clipboard history is also MVP for me.
  • CloudApp – I capture a lot of screen shots, mainly to share work with co-workers and to attach interaction demos to pull requests. This makes that whole process much much easier – I can make GIFs of anything on my screen with a hotkey.
  • 1Password – also combines incredibly well with Alfred, and helps me avoid password entropy or looking up and insecurely storing work-related passwords.

When I write, I use Medium, which is one of the better web apps ever created IMO.

For communication, I use Slack and Messages for conversations, and Astro for email. I can't say Astro is remarkably better than any other email client I've used, but it checks my boxes, which are: unified inbox, snooze, mobile client, and good hotkeys.

For video work, I mostly use After Effects. I don't usually work with any footage, so I rarely need to do much editing. When I do, I either do it on the command line with ffmpeg or with After Effects, but occasionally open up iMovie for dumb/simple projects.

When designing, I pretty much exclusively use Sketch, but sometimes I draw on my iPad with SketchBook Pro. I eventually vectorize pretty much everything. Lately some tools have emerged (Sketch2AE, bodymovin and Lottie) that have let me move back and forth between Sketch and AE easily, and then to export AE animations back to mobile & SVG/Canvas formats. This is a game changer for me, so I've lately been spending much more time than usual animating rather than writing code.

When making technical diagrams or wireframes, I usually use Google Drawings on desktop and Grafio on iPad. Sometimes before that I'll sketch stuff out with Paper by 53 (also on iPad), which feels like a whiteboard with quantization. It's really really good for rapidly getting ideas down.

For music, I mostly stay inside of Ableton Live and try to avoid using the computer as an input device as much as possible when composing. I used to use Reason a lot, which I liked because it felt much more like a physical device. Lately I've been trying to do my own sampling and sample design, which I'd say I'm still working on. Mainly this means I'm fucking around in Simpler until I give up and pull something from Splice.

The Push is a really great tool for avoiding using a mouse, and can for the most part replace your screen as well. When doing simpler tracking stuff I sometimes just use GarageBand, which is a really excellent tool that gets out of the way. I find that 90% of the time, that's all I'm looking for software to do.

What would be your dream setup?

For the most part, I think I already have it. If I lived in a different city I'd probably do a lot more work on the music setup and dedicate a lot more time to it. Most places I've lived in my life had drum kits in them, and lots of space for collecting and storing weird instruments. Not having that has made it difficult for me to record as much as I used to, which is still something I struggle with.

The obvious missing piece is a cello, which is also really painful not to have around. I'll likely buy one soon, but they are one of the most difficult objects to purchase, and every electric cello sounds like absolute garbage so it's hard to find something that isn't insanely expensive and fragile but also isn't terrible to listen to.

I've always fantasized about having an analog synth rig, and still may explore building out a rack and investing in some of the older synths that really shaped my views on music. I understand the amount of time it would take me to learn a rig like that though, and right now it's not something I can fit in. Maybe when I'm old.


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