Adam Gnade


Adam Gnade

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Adam Gnade and I do a series of books and "talking song" records that are meant to build a connected world of stories, plotlines, and characters to show how it was to live in our time. It's my life project and my releases come out on Pioneers Press and Three One G.

As far as the music, one review said it sounds something like "Southern California kid who grew up on weirdo noisey punk records then left home to seek his fortune and got into weirdo noisey folk records and tells stories instead of sings."

The books are all fiction but a couple years ago I wrote one non-fiction fluke called The Do-it-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin' Sad and oddly enough that's what pays the rent. I never intended to write non-fiction but it happened. Life is strange.

What hardware do you use?

For the "talking songs" I use a series of acoustic guitars I've taken down to four strings, sawed the heads in half, and retuned to a GA#DF banjo tuning. I also record with a five-string Deering Goodtime banjo, a kiddie acoustic guitar I borrowed from my four and six year old godsons, and occasionally solo electric guitar because I like Cat Power's Moon Pix record so much but I don't have one right now (an electric guitar, I mean. I have Moon Pix).

I record either in studios, in which case I'm backed by a full band and recording is out of my hands, or at home on the farm. When that happens I record primitively with boomboxes and cellphones. Before that I used a very old digital camera and would convert the video file to a sound file. Gave it an interesting fuzzy lo-fi sound.

For books I write in composition notebooks then edit on an old tiny laptop my girlfriend gave me called "the Baby Laptop." It's an Acer Aspire One and it's basically a glorified typewriter that goes anywhere because it's so small. It doesn't do much and it's too slow to work well online but that's better because it keeps me on track. I like it a lot. I feel well-armed with it.

And what software?

For editing my books I have a Microsoft Word knockoff and for home recordings via the phone it's something called HD Audio Recorder Pro which is such a generic name I had to look at it five times in order to type that. It's really crappy but it sounds like a cassette recording without the hiss and I'm into that.

What would be your dream setup?

For the last year or so I've operated under this dumb/proud idea that you should be able to work anywhere so I record and write wherever I am. In hotels, in the back bedroom of the farmhouse, in my big yellow chair by the window, etc. I wrote my book Caveworld in the barn here on the farm. The one before that, Hymn California, I wrote mostly in cars, airports, buses, and that sort of thing.

Once I get over that I'd love to build a shack in the lower fields here with a good view of the woods. It would be something like: small, low coffee table with a stack of composition notebooks and a jar of pens, my yellow chair from the farmhouse, and the best analog handheld tape recorder 1971 had to offer. Maybe a Fender Twin amp in one corner I could plug into with a nice plastic Japanese electric guitar to get spooky. Sparse besides that. Wood burning stove would be good too.


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Douglas Wilson


Douglas Wilson

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Douglas Wilson, an Assistant Professor ("Lecturer") at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. I teach and research game design. I also co-own a small video game studio, Die Gute Fabrik, based in Copenhagen. We're known for games like Sportsfriends and Where Is My Heart. I do design, team management, and some programming.

What hardware do you use?

Mostly just my MacBook Pro! I don't even use an external keyboard or dual monitors or anything, it's pretty basic. When I was working on Sportsfriends, I also used a PS3/PS4 devkit. I also use video game controllers like PlayStation Move controllers, Xbox 360 pads, and so forth. My installation games like Edgar Rice Soirée often call for basic materials like string and rope.

And what software?

Despite using a MacBook Pro, I still primarily run Windows. Winamp is the most important piece of software on my computer (I'm a big music nut).

For academic work, I use Word for writing (e.g. my book, conference papers) though it's kind of awful and I'd like to find some more serious writing software.

For game making, I've been using Unity the last few years, mostly because I like working in C#. Unity also makes it easier for me to collaborate closely with my musician, Alessandro Coronas. We're working on a procedural music system together. Because my collaborators are scattered around the world, I do a lot of voice and video calls. I primarily use Skype, but I loathe it deeply. I also use Slack and Google Docs. I do have some anxieties about using so many products by large corporations, storing my data on their servers, etc. Perhaps I should get more serious about using software/server alternatives…

What would be your dream setup?

Mostly, I wish there was better options for voice/video calling software. Slack is starting to integrate that kind of functionality, which would be quite convenient, but those features aren't quite there. But if I can let my imagination run wild I wish I had a teleporter so I could work with my collaborators in person whenever I wanted. Remote collaboration is hard!


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Nicole He


Nicole He

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Nicole He, a programmer and artist, currently a graduate student at ITP at NYU. I like to make things that are playful.

What hardware do you use?

I do most things on my 2015 MacBook Air, which is usually covered in food.

Many of my projects are made with microcontrollers. The two that I use the most are Arduino, for things that require physical interaction, and Raspberry Pi, for things that require the internet. We have a lot of equipment and tools at school, including a full wood shop. I'm still scared of a lot of the big, loud machines, but I'm slowly learning how to use each terrifying power tools one by one. I do frequently use the laser cutter, occasionally the CNC techno router, and other things like the drill press and band saw.

There's a lot of wiring and soldering, so two tools I use the most are my digital multimeter and my wire stripper and cutter.

And what software?

Mostly, I code in JavaScript (for web stuff) and Python (for bots and text generative stuff), with a little C# for Unity work on the side and C for Arduino. I just agreed to begin a Kinect project over the next couple months, so presumably I'll be getting all up in some C++ real soon too.

For version control and hosting code, I use git and GitHub. For server stuff to run experimental sites and secret Twitter bots, I use DigitalOcean or Heroku.

I switched recently to Atom as my text editor. I'm constantly looking for the ideal color theme that's perfectly beautiful and functional in a way that reflects my exact mood at any given moment, and I think I'll probably never be satisfied.

I use the Adobe suite for quick and janky video and GIF-making. 1Password for password management, Dropbox for storage, and Backblaze for backup. And of course TweetDeck, for terrible distraction.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup is an idyllic, remote cabin in a forest with a gentle creek that runs nearby. There are fruit trees outside, ripe for the picking. The cabin has an enormous kitchen with wide windows that let in the sunlight and crisp air. There's a fireplace. Also a squat rack. And flawless, lightning-fast wifi. And obviously the forest is full of friendly, magical owls and bears who can teach me ES6.


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Emma Lugo


Emma Lugo

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am Emma Lugo, and I make experimental video games, usually first-person experiments in procedural generation, but sometimes they're 2D shooters or dating games or puzzle games or whatever I feel like making. I also sometimes make music, mostly for said video games.

What hardware do you use?

My main work machine is a Windows desktop I built a few years back. I also have a Windows laptop that I use when I'm travelling. For recording audio, I have a Samson C01U microphone which is attached via shockmount to an $8 IKEA lamp I took the lamp part off of and mangled with a drill press. I also have a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface which I use to record my electric guitar, which is an extremely old Squier Stratocaster. For monitoring I also have a terrible <$100 Ibanez amplifier.

And what software?

Almost all of the games on my itch.io page were made with Unity, which is a lovely piece of software that allows me to get things done so much faster than I would otherwise. I've used other engines and frameworks, but nothing compares to Unity in terms of what it lets me get done quickly. My code editor of choice is Visual Studio when working with Unity, and Sublime Text 3 otherwise.

I also rely on an immense amount of free and/or open-source software and libraries, including but not limited to: Bfxr for sound effects, Tiled and Tiled2Unity for 2D level editing, the work of Keijiro Takahashi for many visual effects, the work of James Hostetler for yet more visual effects, Yarn and Yarn Spinner for dialogue.

When making art (which I do very rarely), I use Photoshop for 2D things and Blender for 3D things.

For audio editing I use either Audacity or FL Studio, depending on the intensity of the task. Usually I record audio with Audacity then bring it into FL Studio for editing + effects.

For collaboration I mostly use Skype, which I would not recommend, and Google Drive, which I would recommend very heartily.

What would be your dream setup?

More analog music things. Right now I lean very heavily on software synths and effects to get my music to sound right, which is not how I like doing things. I like having lots of physical knobs and buttons to push, and the limitation of only having the sounds I can make with my guitar and pedals (and hopefully synthesizers in the future) means that I can decide on sounds faster than having a whole world of sounds at my fingertips.


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Joe Veix


Joe Veix

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm a writer/editor based in Oakland, CA. I'm currently the Culture Editor at Newsweek, and previously I've freelanced for The New Yorker and Playboy and Vice and a few other places. I also post a lot of crap online.

What hardware do you use?

I spend most of my days looking at a 2013 MacBook Air and an iPhone 5S. For jotting down quick ideas and notes, I use a small Muji A6 notebook and a Pilot G2 .07mm pen. I've been using the same pen for ~6 years, replacing the ink cartridge whenever it runs out. I don't know how I haven't lost or broken it after all this time. It's not special or anything. But I'm cursed to carry this pen with me to my grave.

And what software?

I write most of my early drafts and outlines in Apple Notes, synced across my various devices, with all the auto-formatting tools turned off. When I'm ready to work on a more serious draft I'll copy/paste the text to Pages or Google Docs. For other projects I use janky outdated bootleg copies of Photoshop and Final Draft. For help procrastinating on answering emails, I use Google Inbox.

What would be your dream setup?

I suppose I mainly want hardware/software I don't have to think about, that doesn't get in my way with intrusive UIs and unnecessary tools. The closest I've come to that ideal is Apple Notes. Except now they keep adding new features and it's getting too bloated and complicated, so I guess I'll quit writing.


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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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