Dan Bruno


Dan Bruno

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Dan Bruno, and I'm a video game designer. I currently work at the music game developer Harmonix, and I'm working on a side project game as well. I also play music and write.

What hardware do you use?

I'm mostly an Apple guy. I have two computers, a new 5K iMac and an old refurbished MacBook Air. I also have two iOS devices, a new iPad Pro and an old iPhone 6S (whose battery I just replaced – gonna put off buying a big phone as long as possible!).

That said, I also write by hand a lot. I tend to use Pigma Micron pens and Field Notes notebooks. Most importantly I use Hobonichi Techos for journaling, which I've done every day for about three years now. If my apartment building was burning down and I could only get one armful of stuff out the door, I'd grab the Techos and leave everything else.

As for audio hardware, I have a Scarlett 2i2 USB audio interface, a few miscellaneous microphones, and a bunch of instruments: two guitars, two basses, a mandolin, and a digital piano.

And what software?

I use the game engine Unity for the aforementioned side project. (Though I'm still running an old version from 2015, because upgrading is expensive!) I do the C# work in Visual Studio Code, although honestly I'm not a proficient enough programmer to have strong opinions about source code editors.

When messing with music, I use Logic Pro X for recording and Sibelius for notation. (I'm also running an old version of Sibelius because upgrading is expensive.) For more general audio shenanigans, I sometimes use Audacity or Audio Hijack.

I recently started blogging again. To support that, I use the static site generator Hugo and the FTP client Transmit. Relatedly, I've been getting back into reading RSS with NetNewsWire, which Brent Simmons recently reacquired. The current iteration is still early in development, but it does everything I need already.

I usually just do my writing in Notes or TextEdit (or Visual Studio Code, if I want Markdown), but when I'm working on something longer I'll use Scrivener. Most of my Scrivener writing to date has been for National Novel Writing Month, but I'm currently experimenting with using it as a game development tool as well.

I'm not a big film or television person, but I use MakeMKV and Handbrake to get digital versions of the physical media I do own and then store it all in Plex.

A grab bag of other things I see while rifling through my Applications folder: I use Acorn for image editing, Quicksilver for app launching, and 1Password for password managing. I use Backblaze and SuperDuper for backups. I'm not all-in on GTD quite yet, but I use Things for to-do lists. I use Versions for source control on my game.

As for iOS, I find that I can get pretty far with the stock apps. The third-party ones I use the most are the podcast player Overcast, the library ebook manager Libby, and the iPad drawing app Procreate. I recently stopped using Twitter in favor of Mastodon (hello!), but I was a big fan of Tweetbot as well.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm happy with what I've got, really. If money were no object, I'd probably just upgrade the things I already have – I could keep up with newer pro hardware, maybe, or buy up-to-date versions of software instead of clinging to old releases until they're deprecated. I need time and mental energy more than I need a better setup, I think!



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Martin O’Leary


Martin O'Leary

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Martin O'Leary! I live in Newcastle Upon Tyne, in the north-east of England, where I make art on the internet, and I design exhibitions for Life Science Centre. I used to be an academic, studying glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, but I don't do that so much any more.

I have a Twitter, a Patreon, and a web shop.

What hardware do you use?

I live and breathe through my 2017 13" MacBook Pro (the cheaper model without the Touch Bar). I've been using Macs since around 2005, and I don't think I could switch away. At work I have to use a Windows machine, and using it feels like trying to type while wearing oven gloves. I also have a 2011 MacBook Air, which I use as a secondary machine for art installations, long-running tasks, etc, and a box of Raspberry Pis and miscellaneous Arduinos.

My phone is an iPhone 6, but the battery life has become abysmal so I'm looking to upgrade. I recently bought a second-hand Samsung Galaxy A8 for an art piece, which is a really nice piece of hardware, but I'm too tied into the Apple ecosystem to switch to it full-time.

My "studio" is one side of our guest bedroom, where I've got an IKEA NORDEN table, which is sturdy and nice to look at, but not so nice that I feel bad about dropping a soldering iron on it. It's currently playing host to the beginnings of a homebrewed modular synthesizer, and an EleksDraw pen plotter. The EleksDraw is a temperamental beast, and a testament to my willingness to spend time fixing things rather than spend money on something which actually works.

When I'm thinking, I produce a lot of "write-only" notes, usually on whatever scrap printer paper I have lying around. For more permanent notes, I carry around a lime green Leichtturm1917 A6 Pocket notebook for art notes and a black hardcover Moleskine Classic Pocket for work stuff, to-do lists, etc. I like Uni-ball Signo Gel RT pens, but I keep losing them. For actually producing artwork, I use Sakura Pigma Micron pens on Daler-Rowney Smooth Cartridge paper.

I carry everything around in a blue Osprey Quantum backpack, which I've had for nearly a decade. It's been everywhere with me, from fishing boats in East Greenland to fancy-pants art galleries. They don't make this design any more, and I'll be gutted when it eventually gives up.

Some other objects in my life that I'd recommend without hesitation: the Nintendo Switch, the Le Creuset cast iron casserole, my old Berghaus hiking boots.

And what software?

I live in the terminal, using tmux and oh-my-zsh to make things slightly more friendly. I have Vim reflexes burned into my fingers, but I actually do most of my text editing in VS Code these days.

Python is my first-choice programming language for most things (the one major exception is that I do all my daily generative sketches in Clojure). I use a lot of Jupyter notebooks, but I'm a terrible person, so they're all called something like "Untitled94.ipynb".

I go through phases of using note-taking and productivity apps, and phases of completely freestyling my garbage fire of a life. Right now I'm using nvALT as a note-taking app (I'm typing this interview into it), which at least has the advantage that when I eventually give up on it, all my data will still be in easily accessible text files. My office calendar and email live in Outlook, and my home stuff in Google Calendar and Gmail – I can't say I like either very much, but they do the job.

Dropbox, 1Password, Chrome: these feel more like basic infrastructure than "software" that I "use". I use Keynote for presentations, and it's fine, I guess? I feel like there's a market for better presentation software. I use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for a lot of stuff, and they're both great, exactly what you want out of expensive commercial software.

On my phone, I pay far too much attention to Twitter and Slack. Recently I've been using Mastodon a lot, but I haven't settled on a client I like, so I've been bouncing between Amaroq, Tootdon, Toot! and the web interface. The main drain on my battery life is probably Marvel Puzzle Quest, which is my block-matching zone-out game of choice.

What would be your dream setup?

Infinite storage, both digital and physical. Someone who comes by once a week, and discreetly files away all my discarded projects, so they disappear from my sight, but I can find them again later. A nice big window with a view of a tree and the ocean. A cold breeze and a warm fire.

If you mean, like, actual computery stuff, then one of my colleagues has a reMarkable tablet and I kind of want to steal it, but that would probably get me fired from my job.



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Aleks Krotoski


Aleks Krotoski

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Dr Aleks Krotoski. I'm a psychologist and journalist, though I make my money from the latter. I present and produce radio programmes for broadcasters around the world, including BBC Radio 4 (the long-running Digital Human series) and BBC World Service.

What hardware do you use?

I'm a laptop lady, though my house is full of robots and automated thingies.

When I say thingies, I mean the lights, the heat, the door, the audio system. All of it is voice activated. Most of the names I can't remember or are changed when I'm not looking, so I can't do any of these things. I also have a Loomo and other redundant AI bots kicking around too. This happens when you live with a futurist!

And what software?

I'm pretty vanilla – the most exciting software I use is probably SelfControl, an oldie but a goodie. It stops me from being distracted by the usual web culprits when I'm trying to write a book in Scrivener.

What would be your dream setup?

Desert island, soft breezes, lots of cultural institutions a short walk away.. and probably what I have now in terms of double monitor, fast Mac and a big room to work in. Also, a standing desk. Very important.



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Hot Dad


Hot Dad

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Hot Dad/Erik Helwig. I make and release music and comedy and comedy music on the internet, the majority of it released initially through my modestly successful YouTube channel. My work is Patreon-supported. I've often described what I do as emotionally-charged comedy music. I'm responsible for that video with the Hedgehog image that a lot of people really, really, really like.

I always enjoyed making funny things, but it wasn't until I tried to make it in serious music (i.e. self-funded a pro album by my initial moniker, Girls Who Care, and couldn't find any record label interest; I, in my inexperience/naivety, took this as a "major defeat" and didn't release that album for 3 more years) that I realized comedy music offered me more creative freedom (which is where that whole "emotionally-charged" bit comes in) and less overall competition. And YouTube exists, so that gives me a place to post videos and stuff. My terrific video editor/graphic designer is Peter Bjorndal.

What hardware do you use?

I do almost everything "in the box" right now, for both creative and limited financial resources reasons. In terms of hardware, I use a UAD Apollo Quad FireWire audio interface, a Shure KSM32 microphone for vocals, KRK Rokit RP8 G1s as my studio monitors, Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones, a Fender Telecaster + Squire Stratocaster + Squire Mustang bass, a Yamaha PSS-470 (not circuit bent), a Novation Launchkey 49 MIDI controller, and a Novation Launchpad Mini. I don't do anything all that crazy or interesting with anything – I tend to work in little flourishes of excitement + inspiration, so I'm just trying to capture ideas as quickly as possible and build, build, build from there. My current computer is one I built myself with an i7-3770k at its core(s). I will be building a new machine soon. My video camera is a Canon T5i.

I have plenty of equipment for live shows too (I haven't been doing many of those; I hope to soon, though!), but I don't use any of it in my current recordings. I just bought a Roland JC-77. I will say that my live backing tracks are run from a 2011 MacBook Pro with a MOTU Ultralite MK1 FireWire interface. It's an older interface that is "road-tested" and was recommended via internet forums for its reliability/stability.

And what software?

I record exclusively in Ableton Live 10. When I was first learning to compose music back in 2010ish, I realized that Live's session view was the most natural for me since my brain worked best when I just looped a section and built on that until I had something I was happy with. It allows me to work in manageable chunks instead of the vast expanse of a full song (scary!). I normally record gibberish vocals for each section as well, and figure out the words later. I then take what I've built in session view, and record it into arrangement view, one section at a time until I've got a song. It just feels right! Sure, I still need to record vocals and make plenty o' tweaks after that, but this method allows me to very rapidly create a pretty meaty skeleton, and, like the rest of us, once I have a skeleton, I feel much more confident.

As far as softsynths go, I primarily use the TAL-U-NO-LX/TAL-Noisemaker and Sylenth1. I use a lot of UAD plugins. I tend to use a lot of the same plugins over and over again until I arbitrarily read an interview with someone far more talented than me who has some other plugin they really like, in which case, I give it a shot and potentially make it a new habit. I use a lot of the 1176/LA-2A compressors, the SSL E Channel Strip, Pultec EQs, EMT 140 and 250 reverbs, the Ampex ATR-102, Neve 1073s, the Fender '55 Tweed Deluxe and Chandler GAV19T for guitars, and the list goes on. I also use some Izotope, Soundtoys, and Waves plugins sometimes as well. Superior Drummer 2 is what I normally use for drums, along with some of the Ableton Live Suite kits/sounds. I learned everything I know about mixing/mastering from the brilliant Andrew Maury (who produced/mixed/mastered my Girls Who Care record along with a handful of my other things), so often I end up using presets and tips he's taught me that have worked great in the past.

What would be your dream setup?

Doing what I do the way I do it, I wear a LOT of hats (some I like, others not so much), and that can get really exhausting. It's nice to have all of the control (and it definitely helps to not have to split up my streaming royalties between multiple performers/songwriters), but the knowledge that others are highly specialized and adroit in their respective fields weighs on me and it's true, I could be releasing even better (imho) stuff if it was all being professionally mixed/mastered, in the same way that my videos became so much better after Peter began editing instead of me (visual art is definitely not my strength). And that would subsequently free me up to work on writing something new instead of tweaking the mix all day (although I think I've definitely gotten better/more particular about what I like in that realm, and have grown to enjoy certain aspects of the process).

A dream setup for me would involve the option of delegating tasks like mixing/mastering to outside professionals when it felt right/necessary. Higher budgets would make that possible. As far as upgrades, I don't have any specific ones, but I have plenty of nebulous ones. I'd love some analog synths to play with, new and vintage, cheap and fancy, along with the capability to easily record a drum kit (I own a DW drum kit, but I never use it on my recordings because it's not convenient to record at the moment). Another set of studio monitors for A/B'ing mixes, and more microphones generally. More software plugins, naturally. And all of these expansions would need to be within reasonable limits since I don't want to end up with analysis paralysis regarding which random device I want to use when trying to get started on a fleeting idea. I think it's most important to just do it, even if it's not totally perfect (you can't edit/improve something that doesn't exist!), and without this philosophy, let's just say I never would have have finished much of anything. Sure, I have plenty of details I get neurotic about in every track, but that doesn't change the fact that it's totally fine that a lot of the time I just grab a preset and start quickly building those melodies while they're fresh in my mind. Maybe tweak them later, maybe not. Who knows!



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Edith Prakoso


Edith Prakoso

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hello! My name's Edith Prakoso and I'm a graphic designer. Some may know me as Subfauna. I've just started working in an architecture studio called ARM Architecture as their in-house designer a few months ago. I mainly work on project proposals, tender submissions, external communications, social media and occasionally some environmental graphics. I'm also passionate about colours, pattern and surface design on the side.

What hardware do you use?

At work I have to use a PC as it's an all-Windows office. At home I mainly work on a 15" MacBook Pro, but if it's a more time-intense project I would hook it up to a larger screen along with a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet that I use just as a mouse. For sketches, drawings and other experimental visuals I use an iPad Pro. I also have an AxiDraw, which I use to "draw" vector artworks for one of my ventures called Autogiraffe.

Most days I use my iPhone for taking photos and videos but also have a Fuji X100s, a Yashica T4 35mm film camera and a Sigma DP2S, an old digital camera that is a bit slow and cumbersome but still brings up the best colour I think.

I have a SONOS Play:1 for room vibes but also have my trusty AIAIAI TMA-1 headphones, that I've used and travelled around with for almost 7 years now.

And what software?

I use the whole range of Adobe CC (InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, After Effects, LightRoom), for most of my work. Vectoraster for colour and pattern explorations. Patternodes to generate patterns and animate them. InkScape to operate my AxiDraw. Also sometimes I look at one-off vector generating apps such as TexTuring and StippleGen. I use Procreate, Sketches, Adobe Draw, Adobe Sketch and iOrnament on my iPad Pro. I also have Procreate Pocket on my iPhone just in case I'd like to "record" colours or just feel like sketching something.

iA Writer for writing and Sublime Text for note-taking and (very) basic WordPress/HTML/CSS editing. Trello for Kanban-style project management, which has been especially useful for my in-house position so far as I can just show everyone what I'm up to and what needs to be bumped up in priority.

There are times when I would play around with 3D programs such as SketchUp or Rhino3D, but I never use them often enough and so everytime I open them I've forgotten how to do everything and it would feel like starting from scratch again.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm pretty happy with my setup, but would ideally like a bigger space where I can have a small photography studio and a space to do hand-drawn illustrations or paintings and to just make random stuff. And a CNC router would be great too.



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Scott Jon Siegel


Scott Jon Siegel

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Scott Jon Siegel! I'm a game designer currently residing in Oakland, California.

I've spent the last decade making free-to-play casual games, primarily for Facebook and mobile. Some of my most successful projects were Zynga's Café World and Playdom's Gardens of Time, both of which had millions of people playing them every day, which still blows my mind. My proudest work to date was iterating on a variety of game prototypes at PopCap/EA, and I've given talks on supporting active prototyping efforts within large game companies.

As a designer of casual games, I like to tell people that I make games for everyone. My favorite experiences are those that everyone can play, and anyone can enjoy. This means that I prioritize experiences that are delightful in their simplicity, but offer satisfying and accessible challenge for players of all ages.

These days I'm consulting and contracting, working with some truly great clients on a variety of exciting projects. I also sing karaoke mashups, which is exactly what it sounds like.

What hardware do you use?

My main computer is a 13" 2014 MacBook Pro, which I strongly feel is "peak Apple": Fantastic back-lit keyboard (that doesn't get jammed); Trip-proof MagSafe power connector; glowing Apple logo on the lid. With an SSD and maxed-out RAM, it's still lightning fast even after four years, and I'm in no rush to upgrade.

Scott's MacBook Pro.

At home I have a 21.5" 2017 iMac with a second monitor, which acts as home base for all my media, and for more memory-intensive projects like music and video. My phone's an iPhone 7, since I've become somewhat allergic to early adoption.

I do a lot of commuting to and from San Francisco by BART and bicycle, and spend most of my time working either out of coffeeshops or clients' offices. I haul my gear around in a Timbuk2 Command Backpack, which has a gloriously excessive number of pockets and compartments. One constant in my backpack is a portable 14" whiteboard, because I can't imagine working without a whiteboard and get kind of salty when a client doesn't have one.

And what software?

Some game designers are numbers-focused, with a lot of the design work focused on tuning variables within spreadsheets. Because I'm an experience-focused designer, my most important tools are those that let me explore interaction concepts, and help visualize and share design direction with others.

Sketch has quickly become the most important piece of software I have. I use it to create mockups, wireframes, and even to just play around with game ideas. Since I design most often for mobile, I use Sketch Mirror to see how the designs look on my phone, and use Sketch's simple prototyping features to test UX flows. For sharing prototype flows with others I use Marvel, which lets me easily send direct links to prototypes that can be easily viewed on desktop or devices.

I use OmniGraffle when I need to visualize how game systems connect together. Most games I work on have interconnected "metagames" around the core gameplay, and part of design and documentation is visualizing how those systems interact with each other (e.g.: which features generate which resources, and what those resources are used for). I can't figure out the best design without drawing the arrows, so Omnigraffle's the perfect tool. Those same flow charts become an important part of documentation when describing the game's structure to the rest of the team.

Scott's Gardens of Time flow chart.

My design specs are usually written in Google Docs, or on a Confluence wiki, where I can spread out more complex feature documentation over multiple pages that can reference each other. Recently I've actually been using Google Slides for simpler specs, since it forces me to organize the documentation into sections on different slides, and encourages me to use more visuals and fewer words. (Though I'll always use Apple Keynote for actual presentations.)

I save most of my files in Dropbox to keep them synced between my desktop and laptop, and to give me easy access to everything from my phone. Since my desktop also has all my media I use BackBlaze to run regular backups.

My brain lives in the cloud. I use Wunderlist to keep track of all my tasks. 1Password remembers my umpteen-million logins so I don't have to. And I've been using Simplenote to take notes on literally everything for the past ten years (which reminds me I really should backup my Simplenote archive. brb)

What would be your dream setup?

Portability's the most important thing for my current work dynamics. Give me a fast laptop, a comfy bag, and an easy way to doodle ideas, and I can be productive from pretty much anywhere.

If I found myself tethered to a single office for a while, I'd love to have a fast desktop machine, a convertible standing desk, and a real good chair.

Oh, and and whiteboards. I'd cover every surface with whiteboards. Whiteboards for days.



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Molly Lewis


Molly Lewis

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Molly Lewis. No one has ever put a hat on my head and said "this is your job" so I just keep trying on hats: I'm a songwriter / ukulelist (if that's a word) / YouTuber / illustrator / podcaster / Twitch streamer / hyphenate. I'm not sure if none of the hats fit, or if I just really like collecting hats.

Each hat comes with its own tech kit, a fact which has made this interview very difficult to sort out. This is the operational kit as of September 2018, but the landscape is shifting constantly.

Currently I'm running a Patreon on my own behalf, where I'm previewing original songs before they hit my YouTube. I'm also the producer & host of Peanuts Gallery, a podcast where me & my pal Josh A. Cagan revisit the Charlie Brown / Peanuts animated primetime specials chronologically.

What hardware do you use?

Ho boy I sure do have a lot of different gizmos. My partner & I tend to surround ourselves with tech in the same way a bird gathers shiny plastic garbage for their nest / mating display / etc. So, I own & have used more tech than is listed here, but this is the stuff I'm currently using / on a first name basis with.

Overall I use a 15" 2013 MacBook Pro for most of my production, and am generationally bought into the Apple walled garden of products (starting with a hand-me-down Newton from my dad all the way back in the 1990s). There is also an Alienware PC laptop that I've borrowed from my partner for gaming/streaming & refuse to understand any further.

VIDEO

For any video I generally use an iPhone 6S Plus, often with a Moment wide angle lens on it. I occasionally use an Osmo Mobile gimbal for stabilization, but usually I can't be arsed to pack it – it feels like a selfie stick with something to prove. With the iPhone I can AirDrop footage straight to my laptop to edit, it's the BEST.

In special cases I've used micro4/3 cameras to shoot video, specifically the Olympus E-P2 & Panasonic DMC-G5 bodies, with a 14-42mm Panasonic Lumix G Vario lens (which is basically a pancake lens that can also zoom, it's perfect). I have a real soft spot for the E-P2, and I'd use them more but I hate juggling SD cards when there's a perfectly good iPhone camera sitting right there.

I do also have a Ricoh Theta V camera, for spherical video, and the attendant Ricoh TA-1 microphone that Audio Technica made, for spherical sound. Those almost exclusively live on a Vanguard VEO AM-264TR monopod. It's maybe the most excited I've ever been about a camera, except maybe the Game Boy Camera.

AUDIO

My main music microphones are a stereo pair of Ear Trumpet Edwina condensers – their names are Gred and Forge.

This gets pumped into my Mac through a FocusRite 18i8 interface (sometimes a 2i2). I'm still not totally sure what the FocusRite has 18 or 8 of, I rarely use about more than 3 inputs at a time. I have a pair of M-Audio BXS reference monitors in a closet that I also refuse to understand, but should probably plug those into the FocusRite at some point.

My podcast microphone of choice is an Audio Technica 2035, which I found through Tested's breakdown of their podcast kit.

For both podcast/live music recordings I use a Zoom H6. Sometimes I snake aforementioned mics into it, sometimes I use the little microphone nodules it comes with. It's also a great XLR-USB interface to your computer when traveling (she said, having learned this well after she already bought it).

This is all assuming that I can be arsed to pack a tech bag. For as long as I've been doing this, I've been perfectly happy with the audio/video quality on the camera built into my most current Apple device, and have only ever upgraded my technical setup because I'm told that it would seem more professional, i.e. other people appreciate a difference that I don't notice. I tend to angle for the simplest / most idiot-proof setup possible, and anything else tends to feel like calculus.

INSTRUMENTS

I have a lot of instruments. I haven't made public-facing things with most of them yet though, which means I don't have to itemize them here, Hooray!

The non-ukulele sounds that are asked after the most are the Suzuki Omnichord & the Stylophone Pocket Synth. These are VERY FUN & I'd recommend them to anybody.

I will itemize all my ukuleles, but these are the main ones:

For recording I have a custom MyaMoe concert ukulele. This used to be my touring uke also, but then the top wood fractured along the grain while inside its case – the good folks at MyaMoe replaced the top with a less brittle wood, & it's retired from the road.

My main performing ukulele these days is a Blackbird Clara tenor ukulele. It's molded out of some linen composite that is similar to wood acoustically, but humidity neutral. The guy in the store I bought it from told me I could leave it in a hot car without a problem. To charge its pickup it comes with an absolutely demonic-looking power wort that is AC plug on one end and 1/4" instrument cable on the other. Other musicians who see it think it's cursed.

Here is a list of all my ukuleles (that I know of), alphabetically.

  • Blackbird Clara tenor
  • Kala tenor (basic)
  • Kala baritone (basic)
  • Kala travel-sized soprano
  • Kala UBass bass
  • Magic Fluke™ Flea soprano (w/ pickup)
  • Magic Fluke™ Fluke concert (FIRST)
  • Magic Fluke™ Firefly banjolele
  • Maxitone antique banjolele (almost 100 years old)
  • Mya-Moe concert (custom)
  • Mya-Moe 6-string baritone (custom)
  • Ohana soprano ukulele (pear-shaped)
  • Ohana concert ukulele, brown
  • Ohana concert ukulele, orange (on loan to a friend)
  • RISA TE tenor electric ukulele (newest)
  • Junky blue plastic soprano ukulele (party favor from JoCo Cruise 2017, everybody on the ship got one)

And what software?

I edit my video in Final Cut Pro & my podcasts in Logic Pro X. (I no longer edit my own songs, because that is a process unending.) To capture audio clips for my podcast I use Piezo by Rogue Amoeba. I use Notability on an iPad w/ a Pencil to make all my video thumbnails of late.

For songwriting I have always used Evernote, because Evernote lets you record voice memos in line with the text, and tag notes. I have never used Evernote for anything else & literally can't imagine songwriting without it.

I'm also, at any moment, using about 8 different personal org / task management apps at a time. It would be both tangential and boring to talk about that here, but tweet me at @molly23 if you wanna ask about those.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup would include someone on retainer to buy the tech, plug it all in & troubleshoot it for me.

I don't know what CDZA's setup actually was, but the most attractive thing to me is how tidy & unencumbered it was, and how the musicians seemed fairly free to move. I'm sure there was a headache-inducing amount of planning involved though.

I also really love the freedom that comes with working out of my home but it would be really lovely if I didn't have to store all my recording gear & these 15+ ukuleles in my allotted closet. A short commute between my home and a studio space would be really nice for maintaining some kinda work-life separation, even if that means parking an Airstream in my yard & filling it with ukuleles.



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Felix Salmon


Felix Salmon

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Felix Salmon. I'm the chief financial correspondent at Axios (subscribe to my weekly newsletter here), and I also host the Slate Money podcast. Occasionally I send out a personal newsletter.

What hardware do you use?

I used to be a huge fan of Apple hardware; I even wrote a column once saying that the titanium PowerBook G4 changed my life. I admit in that piece that I once believed in the tenet that "buying Apple hardware is an even better investment than buying Apple stock." I don't believe that any more, even though I still use Apple hardware exclusively, as I have done since I bought my beloved LC II in 1992.

I have a brand-new MacBook Air at work (which they might switch to a MacBook Pro so that I can run a dual-screen setup), I have a personal 2015 MacBook Pro, and then there's the 27" iMac Retina 5K in my home office, which is the last really good personal computer that Apple made. It's beginning to show its age, and I recently spent $300 to replace the failing SSD, but I'm not ready to give it up yet, especially since Apple's still shipping essentially the exact same model, at pretty much the same price I paid. I always use the Apple extended keyboard, which I love, and either an Apple mouse or an Apple trackpad, I think the mouse is better but for some reason I have a trackpad in my home office. I have a second screen where I keep Slack and TweetDeck.

One reason I hate the new Apple laptops is that they don't have USB ports, despite the fact that USB has become a universal charging protocol. When I'm traveling I often use my laptop as a portable battery to recharge various other devices, including my electric toothbrush and my Bose QuietComfort 35 cordless headphones. (I'm not a huge fan of those, either, they're a bit too bulky, I don't like the way they keep on talking to me about what they've connected to or disconnected from, and they tend to press on the arms of my eyeglasses.) I love anything that doesn't come with battery anxiety, like, well, my Masahiro Maruyama eyeglasses, or my original Withings Activité watch, which is waterproof, so I almost never take it off. It measures how much I sleep, and how many steps I take each day. I think I've changed the entirely standard watch battery three times since I bought it in 2014. They've come out with a whole bunch of updates, none of which are really improvements; the only thing that would persuade me to upgrade would be something which measured my heart rate but didn't have any kind of display. Sensors are cheap; displays are expensive (if only in terms of battery life). If I want to find out what my heart rate was, I'm happy to ask my phone.

The phone is a black T-Mobile 128GB iPhone 7, which I use naked (without any kind of case). The design is too sleek and beautiful for me to mar it. I've had to replace the screen only once after dropping it. T-Mobile doesn't come close to having the best coverage, but once you've experienced the wonders of free international roaming, you'll never use any other carrier. I also have a black AT&T 128GB iPad mini 2, which is a clunky horrible thing and slow as molasses. I use it for catching up on news in the morning, for reading books and PDFs, and as a data modem on the road. It's not great at any of those things, so it's probably next on the upgrade list, as soon as the new iPad minis come out.

My most recent upgrade was a reluctant one, at the strong urging of my wife, who was sick and tired of looking at my battered old Osprey backpack. I loved that thing, but I went out and bought a new Thule Paramount, and I really love it – I should listen to my wife more often. There's a super-clever rear zipper just for the laptop compartment which makes getting the computer in and out a breeze, and everything else is the perfect combination of good-looking and rugged. It even has an external pocket for my umbrella, a small old Hammacher Schlemmer model they no longer make and which I'm going to be very sad when it dies.

My best big hardware purchase was undoubtedly my Jarvis standing desk, which singlehandely cured me of a really nasty pain across the back of my shoulders. Given the choice I probably wouldn't choose the Evolve model again, because the depth of the drawers starts to dig into my thighs when I'm sitting. But it's effortless to go up and down, which I do multiple times a day. I also have a manual FlexiSpot device that sits on top of my desk at work, which isn't nearly as sleek or lovely.

I'm always promising myself that I should read more books, and I have the perfect device for doing so: an Eames Aluminum Group lounge chair with ottoman. I've put a little circular side table next to it which is perfect for a glass of wine or whisky, alongside an Artemide Tolomeo floor lamp; it's my own little corner of modernist bliss.

And this really is a productivity tool, although it was never intended to be one: My sea serpent bracelet from Jill Platner. I put it on and take it off dozens of times a day, and slide it back and forth between my hands. It has the perfect weight and feel – I do it without even thinking about it. Let the teens have their fidget spinners; I have something way more beautiful.

And what software?

My biggest change in recent years has been from writing in apps to writing in browsers. I used to write all my blog posts in Ecto, which would upload them straight to my blog; longer stuff I'd write in WriteRoom. Now, almost everything happens in Google Docs, except for when I write straight into the Axios or Substack CMS. (Both of which are lovely, WYSIWYG, very simple and easy to use.) My terror of web browsers eating my work has disappeared.

For desktop I use a lot of native Apple apps, including Mail, Notes, Calculator, Preview (which is powerful and very underrated), even Safari. Always open are Slack and TweetDeck. I have lots of old RSS readers in my dock, but don't use any of them any more. I use Excel a fair amount, but I hate anybody who forces me to use Word or (even worse) PowerPoint.

In iOS I use the native Twitter app, Outlook for mail (but Gmail to search my mail archives), and, of course, Slack. I use Overcast for podcasts. For reading it's Instapaper, the Kindle app, and the native iBooks app. I use Nuzzel a lot, along with the NYT and WSJ apps. To record interviews I used to use Voice Recorder but now I'm using Alice. There are very few pieces of software I really love, but 1Password comes close. I have lots of messaging apps (Telegram, Signal, WhatsApp, Messenger, you name it) but don't really live in any of them other than Slack and Twitter. If I've missed your message, I'm sorry.

What would be your dream setup?

Would I love a couple of iMac Pros, one for home and one for the office? Sure! With a nice big second screen, and possibly even a third vertically-oriented screen for reading PDFs. (I had that for a while when I was at Reuters, it came in more useful than you might think.) A Bloomberg terminal. A CMS which allows multiple simultaneous editors like GDocs does. And some kind of magical subscription to everything I might ever want to read.

Mostly what I want is a single app that consolidates, prioritizes and archives all my messages, whether they're Twitter or Slack or Instagram DMs, email, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, everything. Failing that, maybe just a way to search Twitter DMs. And an "edit tweet" button. Come on, Jack, how hard can it be?



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Jenn de la Vega


Jenn de la Vega

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Jenn de la Vega, a culinary artist.

I cater custom events as small as dinners at home to BBQ-themed weddings. I wrote a cookbook called Showdown last year and I just finished artist residencies at Kickstarter and Taste Cooking. I'm currently freelancing as a recipe developer and tester.

What hardware do you use?

I have a MacBook Air with a dead battery, so I am tethered to a wall most of the time.

I take photos and video with my iPhone SE. I did have a 6, but it really cramped up my tiny hands.

My Amazon Basics tripod is fitted with a Square Jellyfish mobile phone adapter.

My kitchen is lab-like, outfitted with an Anova sous vide circulator, Excalibur dehydrator, Aroma rice cooker, CrockPot, Griddle Gourmet panini press, spiralizer, Searzall, digital scale, Cuisinart food processor, popcorn machine, Whynter ice cream maker, and ice crusher (great for impromptu shaved ice parties). I still have the same chef's knife from dropping out of culinary school, a Mercer.

There is always a spare phone battery charging somewhere in my house.

And what software?

On my iPhone, I use Todoist to prioritize my projects and Google Docs to manage them. Buffer helps me schedule social media, always full to the brim with 100 posts. For safety, 1Password keeps track of all my logins (that I promptly forget). Timepage is Moleskine's gorgeous calendar app that has a countdown widget that I use to motivate me for upcoming vacations.

It costs a pretty penny but Scrivener was great for syncing my cookbook via Dropbox to my phone so I could write on the NYC subway.

I lost my Adobe license when I left my desk job but Canva is a good, free alternative for making menus and flyers for events. If you ever need free stock photos, Pexels is a helpful database.

What would be your dream setup?

The dream is a kitchen studio with cameras in the fridge; really good track lighting, photography surfaces (I am really obsessed with Surface Archive). Outside I want a smoker, grill, automated spit rotisserie, and enough land to bury a pig. I need a legit camera and a MacBook Pro to do more video!



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Aaron Edwards


Aaron Edwards

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Aaron Edwards, and I work on special projects at Pop-Up Magazine, a magazine that's experienced live and on a stage. I work with writers, radio producers, filmmakers, photographers, artists, and musicians to translate, adapt, and produce shows for audiences across the country. Before that, I was one of the founding editors of The Outline. I've written for The New York Times, built a news app at BuzzFeed News, and hosted a podcast.

What hardware do you use?

I use an extremely reliable 2012 MacBook Pro that I'm convinced I will own until I'm dead, an iPhone 8 Plus, a pair of Ncredible1 wireless headphones, a notebook from the Dollar Tree across the street, and any fine-point black gel ink pen I can get my hands on. When I'm working from home, I use an iHome iBT72 Bluetooth speaker to play music. I hate the gym, so in true stay-at-home-dad fashion I sometimes read drafts or listen to tape on an Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Bike. Emphasis on sometimes. Not always. Sometimes.

And what software?

The Google Suite is my go-to for all the basics: emails, writing, editing, scheduling, video conferencing, etc. Spotify for music, Tidal for Beyoncé. I stick to the Reminders app and Slack commands for actionable short-term tasks, and the Momentum Chrome extension for broader to-do lists. I have upwards of 30 news apps installed, but I only get news alerts from BuzzFeed News, The New York Times, and The Guardian.

What would be your dream setup?

I'd like to not feel encumbered by capitalism! A window and desk facing a lake would be nice, too.



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