Zahra Zainal


Zahra Zainal

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Zahra Zainal, an illustrator and graphic recorder based in Melbourne, Australia.

What hardware do you use?

For illustration: I use a 12.9" iPad Pro + Apple Pencil.

I used to always carry a sketchbook for sketching on-the-go. Now, it's my iPad Pro. I'm pretty in love with how clean it is to use. I used to scan my paper drawings and refine them digitally, and the iPad cuts out that step altogether. It makes sharing stuff with clients easier too. It's also the closest thing to a digital sketchbook for me.. I found Cintiqs really hard to get used to!

For design work and admin: I currently have an iMac desktop, with a medium sized Intuos tablet. I'm about to switch over to a 15" MacBook Pro, as I need my entire set-up to be packable for travel.

For writing, exploration and planning: LAMY Safari rollerballs, and large, hard-cover ruled Moleskines. I always try to get Moleskines when they are on sale. Otherwise, it becomes a pretty pricey habit!

I'm also using a Moleskine Monthly notebook to plan. It helps me see what I've spent my time doing, and what I'll be doing in the future. I draw little heart characters at the end of my week, which indicate the overall vibe of the past 7 days.

Bose noise-cancelling headphones help me get into Concentration Zone.

And what software?

Procreate on the iPad Pro is simply divine. The Procreate interface responds the usage patterns of long-time Photoshop users, who are starting to make the switch over to devices. I also sometimes like Tayasui Sketches Pro, or Adobe Sketch for their brushes and blending.

The Adobe Creative Cloud Suite, mainly Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat.

Google Docs and Sheets for planning and sharing.

What would be your dream setup?

A super light, strong, foldable laptop that packs into its own tiny bag. It can also transform into a tablet, to be used with a responsive, pencil-like stylus. It's like if this Kathmandu foldable backpack, the MacBook Pro and the iPad Pro had a baby. Same Moleskin diaries, except they now weigh nothing. THE MOST ULTRA LIGHT SET-UP!

A sun-filled home studio to work out of, or on an Internet-equipped boat, with the sea in front of me.

My cat sitting on my lap as I work, but by choice. This is the part of the dream that is probably hardest to achieve.


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Jenn Schiffer


Jenn Schiffer

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Jenn Schiffer and I'm an engineer and artist living in Jersey City. I say I live there "on purpose" to thwart tired Jersey jokes and because I'm originally from Brooklyn – so, honestly, I've ~done my time~. I'm in the city virtually every day, though, especially since I started my shiny new job at Fog Creek. They recently hired me as a Community Engineer for Glitch, which is a cool in-browser IDE built around the idea of an inclusive community of coders and learners. I made up the title "Community Engineer" because I think it reflects that this product is for everyone and not just seasoned developers. I have also been engineering some cool stuff with it.

Lately I've been more focused on art and community than on being patient with expensive hardware and software, as is reflected in my mostly hand-me-down Apple collection.

What hardware do you use?

In the office I have a 15" MacBook Pro. I'm still trying to figure out how to get Siri to leave me alone. I keep it in the office because it's ginormous and doesn't fit in my backpack with the rest of my things. At home I have 13" Macbook Pro that I bought off of my last job, so it's a few years old, no Siri to be found! I recently purchased a huge Mac display from a local startup that shut down and needed to liquidate and I keep that on my kitchen table. I also have an office with 2 large HP monitors but it's also my art studio and so it's hard for me to work with all the paper and markers I'm way too busy to properly put away. So, yeah, that's why I have a ginormous display on my kitchen table.

Most of my hardware has been monopolized by Apple just by pure convenience. I just got an iPhone and I love how they don't crack as soon as it hits a surface harder than a pillow feather. If anyone at phone manufacturers are reading this, I want you to know that I know this technology existed well before we put a HABITABLE SATELLITE INTO OUTER SPACE nearly 20 years ago. Anyway, if you asked me the model of my iPhone, all I could say is "it's pink and it doesn't crack anymore, also I wish Siri would leave me alone."

And what software?

I like to live dangerously by browsing with BLEEDING EDGE browser versions like Chrome Canary and Firefox Dev AKA Aurora. Sure, it makes doing video conferencing a living hell because there's always a browser update that breaks it, but video conferencing is supposed to be a living hell to prepare us for the real one.

Over the past month I've been writing all my code in Glitch, but outside of that I've been using Atom. I use the regular Terminal.app that my computers come with but they work for me thanks to custom dotfiles that I've made to add emoji to bash and each command start by addressing me as "princess jenn." I always have an IRC client, Slack, a BLEEDING EDGE browser, Spotify, and Messages open. Today I had to open Skype, which has been emotionally taxing. Please keep me in your thoughts.

What would be your dream setup?

I would love a 13" Macbook Air that can have 16GB+ of memory. And I would like to be able to take it apart to mod it like I used to be able to do to all my old iBooks. I also wish Apple would stop doing that thing where they decide to Thunderbolt everything and then a year later USB-C everything. And taking away the headphone jack was annoying as fuck. I used to build machines for Windows and Linux, but they work so unpredictably (if at all) with various peripherals (ie. any of the 900 projectors I encounter when speaking at conferences) that I cannot adopt them full-time unfortunately. Maybe one day. I just really want Siri to leave me alone.


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Dominik Johann


Dominik Johann

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi, I'm Dom, a graphic designer and illustrator based in Germany. I'm the art director and a co-founder of Crows Crows Crows. We've made games like Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist, and Accounting for Virtual Reality. Right now I'm also working on the monochrome Zelda-like Minit. I'm into old cartoons, plants, and music.

What hardware do you use?

Most of my digital art is done on a 13" MacBook Pro. I've got the one with the weird touch bar and it's been glitching out on me a lot, to the point where I can't turn off the keyboard light sometimes.

I draw on a Cintiq screen (which I'd recommend over conventional tablets because it feels a lot more precise and immediate), but at home I've got a big Thunderbolt-knockoff Dell display. There's a little button connected to a cable connected to a hub that switches from my Mac to a PC. That one's used for Real Gaming, or when I bolt virtual reality headsets to my face.

Sometimes I do music and voice work, so I've got a Rode NT1-A microphone hooked up to a bright red Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface. Both are pretty affordable and make voices sound nice. My headphones are Beyerdynamic DT-770, huge but lovely and comfortable.

Sketches, notes and ideas go into a small Leuchtturm1917 book with dotted pages. I can't really deal with pencils so I use Staedler pigment liners exclusively. The 0.2 mm version works perfectly for me.

And what software?

Most of my time is spent in Photoshop CC, a heavy duty tool for almost everything I do in 2D. The animation engine is terrible and unreliable, so I've been trying out Aseprite for pixel art and animation. Illustrator is great for vector things but I recently switched to Affinity Designer, pretty good so far!

My team works in the Unity game engine, which I'm using in combination with Substance Designer for node-based textures and materials. I love to prototype story ideas in Twine, a free little tool for interactive fiction.

There's Ableton Live for music composition and sound design, or when I need a five minute break to just mess around with little loops. Web and application design happens in Sketch, which gets really really good if you use Sketch Toolbox and its plugins!

The more boring ones: odrive to manage my synced Dropbox and Google Drive files (AKA most things on my computers). Sublime Text for code and quick notes. Discord – The Chat for Gamers – for team communication, Asana for planning and productivity, Tower for version control.

On my iPhone, I use Tweetbot and Headspace to adjust my level of calm. And since most of my work is visual I listen to lots of podcasts with Overcast on the side.

What would be your dream setup?

Most days I dream of this: a standing desk, a neutral room with a smooth concrete floor, flooded with natural light, in an office with friends and collaborators doing the same sort of things I do. But I've been travelling a lot and I just wish your typical digital art setup could be more mobile, disconnected from any specific work space. No tower PC rig, laptops only, and I'd love to draw on the go, outside in the grass, maybe on an iPad? There should be lots of cool flora and bird ambience, and a cabin for cooking, music and contemplation.


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Sylvain Tegroeg


Sylvain Tegroeg

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hello! I'm Sylvain Tegroeg, a French designer based in Amsterdam. I'm a multi-disciplinary creative with a broad background in design and applied arts. I've been working for three years as a freelance designer following my graduation at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie. While working for myself, I take on commissions for a large range of projects – product design, graphics, but mostly illustrations. I also enjoy photography and 3D modelling in my spare time.

What hardware do you use?

I love to make things with my hands, and this is the reason I've stuck with hand-drawn illustrations. Most of the time I use thin fine liners/Rotring pencils (0.5mm) to create intricate details. I've been sketching in drawing books for at least 10 years, and I still feel the most comfortable with a "minimalistic" black and white art style.

And what software?

I do use high resolution scanners to copy my illustrations and import them into Adobe Photoshop, and to make minor changes to contrast and to keep the maximum authenticity and quality of the image. Once in a while I like to make vector illustrations, and Adobe Illustrator is the perfect tool for that. I used to work in Solidworks and Maya before switching to Rhino for modelling and 3D printing purposes.

I recently learned to work with Unity on the game Hidden Folks, which was a step forward in making my illustrations animated. To communicate while working in a team, I love to use Slack and Trello for their ease of use and organisation.

What would be your dream setup?

This is a tough question! I never really project myself into the future, even though I'm quite imaginative. Maybe I'm already living my dream by making my passion into my profession, working with great designers. So my wish is to keep this going as it is, and have more cool projects come along!

I might like to set myself up a bit away from the dense city life, have my own studio space/gallery or a pop-up shop to show off my earlier and upcoming projects.


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Nicklas Nygren


Nicklas Nygren

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi! My name is Nicklas Nygren. Under the name Nifflas I create and release videogames. I've just wrapped up a new game called Uurnog, for which I developed integrated algorithmic music software. Now that it's released, I plan to take a deep dive into algorithmic music.

What hardware do you use?

I do most of my development work on my Dell XPS 15 and a pair of AKG K712 headphones. To code sign for macOS, I use one of the cheapest Mac Minis.

I have a sound experimentation setup which I use for creating instruments for my music software. This setup consists of a Yamaha PC-100 PortaSound, a Yamaha KX-400 tape cassette deck, a Waldorf Streichfett, a Behringer V-Amp 2, an Electrix Warp Factory, an Alesis airFX, a Korg volca fm, a Nintendo 3DS, and finally two Teenage Engineering pocket operators (PO-12 and PO-32).

An interesting thing is back when I was a beginner at this, I'd use far more complicated synthesizers with way more parameters, as if it was the parameter count or price tag that made things good. My music also usually had way more tracks than anything I do now. These days I get excited when I find an early 80's toy keyboard at a second hand store.

And what software?

I develop games in Unity. Though I used to compose music in Renoise, I'm moving toward primarily composing in Ondskan, which is an algorithmic composition tool which can be integrated with games and allows for very unusual game-music interactions. Though I use too many VST plugins to list them all here, my favorites are generally the ones that can manage to sound unique and interesting without the use of too many parameters. Some of those include Chromaphone, Drumaxx, JuceOPLVSTi (a fantastic OPL emulator) and Microtonic. I particularly like wavetable synthesizers and plan to make one of my own in the future.

What would be your dream setup?

I don't have one in the traditional sense. There's some specific music software I really need, but they don't exist yet so I have to make them. I need to experiment more with procedural music, audio DSP, and learn C++ and a bit of neural networks to get there. Thing is, a year ago when I started to plan my music software, getting to where I am now was my goal. It, however, appears the goal already moved before I could reach it. For this reason, even though I'll be releasing software, I'll probably never actually reach it and be like "OK, now I'm done with my setup and happy". It's lucky I enjoy the process so much!


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James Primate


James Primate

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hello! My name is James Primate and I am a musician, video game developer and general internet basement art type person. For music, I'm mainly known for Bright Primate, a chiptune/vocal duo with my writing partner Lydia, as well as some assorted video game soundtrack work. As for game development stuff, in 2013 I co-founded a little company called Videocult with the lovely artist / programmer Joar Jakobsson for the purposes of making our current project (and white whale) Rain World, published by Adult Swim Games for PS4, PC, whatever.

What hardware do you use?

Odds and ends mostly! For ye olde chiptune music band I use a collection of repurposed old Nintendo Game Boys that have been customized for better sound quality and backlit for visibility on stage. I also use a number of iPads for performance, either for live-triggering samples or as touch based synthesizers, etc. Lydia uses a TC Helicon VoiceLive Touch 2 for live vocal effects. Little of my music performance gear is what one would consider a proper musical instrument, though I do have a microKORG XL keyboard that I use for coding and the occasional melody line.

For game music and sound design it's a fairly boring array of low spec laptops, cheap MIDI keyboards and old iPads. I have an 17" Asus X750JB laptop that I use for the bulk of my audio production work, and it serves my purposes just fine. My go-to MIDI keyboard is a Novation Launchkey 49, which I have surprisingly strong feelings for considering it's a generic plastic thing you can find anywhere. I got that one specifically because it can work off of USB power, so doesn't need cables or batteries beyond just the USB input itself, AND it works perfectly when plugged into iPads, which is awesome and rare for something with so many keys!

Speaking of which, I use iPads and iPhones a ton these days for synths and audio waveform manipulation. There's so many strange and interesting iPad music creation apps and tools that are out there these days! When I was coming up it was all about weird VST programs that you'd find on some Russian guys website late at night, but now that culture seems to have all moved over to the App Store, which is pretty awesome. I really need to get some new iPads though, as my 2s aren't doing so hot these days.

I have a collection of keyboards and hardware synths, but mostly they just collect dust I'm afraid! Same goes for the assorted guitars and such, though I do have a Korean-made Kraken brand 8-string electric that I've used for sound effects and the occasional lush chord or plinky plink where necessary. For field recording and random audio capture I use a Zoom H4n Pro which is much nicer than I deserve considering I mostly use it to record the sound of dirt being crunched under a boot or various bits of metal junk being smacked together.

As for video game production (AKA my real job), up until a few days ago I had mostly been using the same old Asus X750JB laptop from above and had been feeling pretty smug about it. I'm kind of anti-gear, like "you don't need expensive equipment to make art!" sort of philosophy, so having a workman-like middle of the road laptop appeals to me on that level. But right now I'm working on the TV trailer for Rain World under a super tight deadline and the limited spec GPU and RAM of that workman-like laptop just couldn't handle dealing with the high quality 60fps 1920×1080 video capture or editing! It was awful! Would crash even just when scrubbing through the clips! So I ran out (literally), rushed to MicroCenter and picked up this horrible ugly monstrous abomination of a gaming laptop, and despite all my silly pretensions I totally absolutely love it. It's an Asus Predator 17 (lol) and it eats raw video for breakfast, spits out 4k renders like it's nothing. I'm hereby converted. It's got super tacky backlit red keys and is so obviously styled like Optimus Prime's codpiece, lmao. I feel like I need to go out and get a Call of Duty hoodie to complete my ascension.

And what software?

For hardware chiptune on Game Boys I use a program called Little Sound DJ (LSDJ for short), which is a synthesizer and sequencer built into a Game Boy cartridge.

For general audio stuff and sound design I use Cockos REAPER for my music DAW (note: I believe this blog interviewed one of the creators of Reaper, right?). I really love Reaper. The workflow is so easy and unfussy, it's updated constantly with new features, plus it's vastly cheaper than anything remotely comparable. Because of how lightweight it is and the way you can nest tracks I usually have an entire soundtrack saved to one single project file! I even can drop in video to use as a guide to help tighten up SFX timings, or line-up music cues for videos, etc. REAPER does it all!

I use a ton of interesting iPad apps for music and sound design that I definitely want to shout out, as I feel like people never talk about app music tools. First and foremost is Samplr, which is a live waveform manipulation tool, so you can literally grab the waveform of the audio with your fingers and manipulate it, outputting all manner of wild sounds. I also love Moog Music's Animoog synth, which is a super deep motion synth that also has a similar touchscreen component where you can manipulate the envelops and timbres using all 10 fingers, and give some stunningly nuanced sounds when used cleverly. Waldorf's Nave is another synth app that gets used a ton and I couldn't do without. I have had a number of Waldorf's hardware synths, such as the Blofeld and even an old Microwave (real synth nerd stuff), and the Nave blows them away, IMHO.

With the iPad you have so much more processing power at your disposal compared to some purpose-built hardware keyboard, plus menu-diving is a breeze on the large iPad touchscreen compared to some cheesy half inch tall LCD display with buttons and a knob. I could probably go on for hours about music apps, but for the sake of some semblance of brevity I want to do a final shout-out to my favorite app, e-l-s-a, which is a super novel loop-based sample synth that makes some hauntingly beautiful sounds from rubbish audio capture, and that's what I love!

For gamedev my personal workflow is mostly on bespoke software, editors and devtools that Joar wrote specifically for Rain World, but beyond that it's fairly standard stuff: Unity, Microsoft Visual Studio, Adobe CS stuff like Photoshop, Illustrator, Director, etc. For video work I'm using Magix Vegas Pro 14 (used to be called "Sony VEGAS").

What would be your dream setup?

As mentioned before I'm pretty indifferent to gear so I don't have much in the way of dream equipment or aspirations in that direction (other than maybe a Roli Seaboard at some point), but being comfortable and quiet is key for me. I have pretty sensitive hearing, so I like to have some white noise in the background to cover up the assorted noises of the outside world. Also ideally this would be in a location where there is a good variety of food a walkable distance away; long enough to where one can think things over on the way but close enough to where it wouldn't interrupt the day to take a food break. Basics!


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Kyle Kingsbury


Kyle Kingsbury

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name's Kyle Kingsbury, and for reasons I've never fully understood, machines around me tend to break down in unusual ways. I'm making the best of that curse by testing distributed systems to see whether they're safe. I introduce network partitions, clock skew, and other failures, and carefully observe the system I'm testing to see whether it loses data, makes stale or invalid data visible, or allows transactions to interleave improperly. I write reports and give talks on my research, and also offer consulting and training classes at companies and conferences.

In past lives I was a photographer, physics student, aikidoist, IT support person, network ops engineer, and backend developer. I've published some very minor research in Physical Review Letters on chaos in nonlinear quantum systems. I blog about software and wrote some open source projects, like Riemann. I've also made woodcuts, websites, 3D renderings, shirts, short stories, furniture, music, books.. and just finished making a lamp last week. I like creating things, even it's just as an amateur!

What hardware do you use?

The safety analysis work I do is CPU and memory intensive, and readily parallelizable. Comcast gave me an OSS research grant to build a machine for that work, so my desktop is a ridiculous 48-way Xeon (2x E5-2697v2), with 128GB of ECC DDR3 and 11 TB of miscellaneous SSDs & spinning rust. The motherboard is wonky and refuses to find half the disks on boot. You can crash the box by using certain USB ports. We have a complicated relationship.

There's definitely a trade-off between performance and being locked into a tiny set of weird motherboards that support that kind of hardware. I don't necessarily recommend it unless you like being the kind of person who opens their case every few weeks, muttering "what is it THIS time" under their breath.

I use a standard layout Das Keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches, and cannot believe that I'm the sort of person who cares about that. Maybe it comes with bring a Vim user. There are no labels on the keycaps (it was the only model they had on sale) which means it takes me forever to type passwords — and every time I use Mutt is a game of Russian Roulette. I use a Logitech G5 laser mouse, which may be the closest to the Platonic ideal pointing device as it is possible for late-stage capitalism to produce.

My display is a 32-inch 4k Dell — I think it's a UP3216Q. It's a wonderful screen for editing photographs and for rendering lots of xterms, which, let's face it, is 90% of my computing life.

I sometimes shoot with a Nikon D700, which has spectacular autofocus and low-light performance — but when traveling I prefer my D7000 with a 28-300mm Nikkor. It's lighter, offers better resolution, and that lens is incredibly versatile. I really like Nikon's ergonomics, though most of my photo friends shoot with Canon.

Some of my talk slides are drawn using Sakura technical pens and Whitelines grid notebooks. I take photos with my phone or camera on a tripod, and clean them up in GIMP. That process doesn't work well for color work or for editing on planes before the talk, so I've moved to an iPad Air 2 with the Paper app and Pencil stylus. It's honestly kind of a pain — the stylus is unreliable and palm rejection doesn't work, so I have to redraw things a whole bunch. But the flexibility, and being able to spit out a PDF with a few taps is great.

And what software?

I run Debian (hi Jess!). It's mostly stock except for ZFS, and using OpenBox+GKrellM+xfce-panel as my window manager. I love having virtual workspaces and configurable bindings for everything. I use irssi for IRC, Mutt/Geary for mail, Chromium for browsing, and Pidgin for IM. I edit photos in darktable and The GIMP, and do my vector work in Inkscape. Morganastra sold me on the Fish shell a few years ago and I've never looked back.

I'm hopelessly reliant on middle-click-paste. Laptop trackpads drive me nuts. This is entirely my own fault.

Every so often I try to become a Normal Computer User so I can spend less time futzing with my weird tools, try OS X for a week, and give up. At this point I live in perpetual, mild trepidation that the people who maintain the Galapagos island of software I rely on will stop caring, stranding me in desktop Linux limbo.

I have a terrible memory and need to see everything on the screen at once, or I'll forget! So when I'm writing software I live in six to twelve gnome-terminals. Most are running Vim, editing the different namespaces I'm calling through at that time. Then there's usually a clojure repl, and a test runner that automatically reloads and runs tests when I write files to disk. Maybe a window for git commands and running various tools.

I think I learned this way of working from my Dad, who's a UNIX hacker — works on filesystems, operating systems, that kind of thing. We were chatting about work setups last year, and even though he works in C and I'm using this high-level functional Lisp, we still use the same tools. We both have poor memories and have to see the whole call stack laid out across the screen in order to reason about a program! I see people program in one window on a laptop sometimes, and that just seems like… some kind of code sorcery! Must be cool.

Aphyr.com is a big mass of custom Ruby+Sinatra running on a Linode. Jepsen.io is a Clojure site, running on Skyliner. The articles are written in Markdown and preprocessed with Pandoc. There's a lot of LaTeX in my life, come to think of it.

There are a bunch of miscellaneous Clojure, Ruby, and Perl scripts for various things too. You know those movies — like, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, or Wallace and Gromit — where they pan through an inventor's household and they have all these ridiculous gizmos for making eggs and answering the phone? That's kinda what my ~/bin is like. There are daemons for taking ZFS snapshots and backing things up to my NAS and S3. Keeping SSH reverse tunnels open. Scripts for tearing apart PDFs, adding my signature to a page, and stitching them back together again. Spinning up clusters of Debian nodes in LXC for Jepsen tests. Setting the color of the lights in my living room by generating color schemes and downloading them from websites. Rsyncing my phone's photos to an SFTP drop. There's a daemon on aphyr.com that parses email describing current prices in EVE Online's market, loads that into sqlite, and uses a hilarious n-way self-join to pathfind efficient trading routes. Compute Goldberg machines everywhere.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm sure there's an upper limit to the number of xterms I can reasonably have in front of me, but I don't think I'm anywhere near it yet. A 50" curved display might be nice? Also I'd like keys with labels on them, so you could tell what buttons will, say, mark an email as unread vs delete the entire thread and forward jockstrap selfies to your clients.

Also a computer which turns on reliably and doesn't crash when you plug in a keyboard. Maybe I'm setting unrealistic goals here.

On the software front, I'm still hunting for a good email client. Geary's typography is confusing, Mutt is nice but I really like being able to see prior emails while composing a new one, and Thunderbird crashes every ten minutes. I'd also like better color management in Linux, but I can't even begin to characterize how the current setup is broken.

I'm also blowing enough money on AWS clusters these days that it might be cost-effective to build a physical 5-node cluster for Jepsen testing in my apartment. That'd be pretty swell, because LXC containers all share the same clock, which keeps me from testing clock skew locally.


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Larry Crane


Larry Crane

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Larry Crane. I am the editor and founder (1996) of Tape Op Magazine; a mag about the art of recording music. I founded Jackpot! Recording Studio in 1997 and have produced, recorded, and mixed many artists, including Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, The Go-Betweens, She & Him, and many more. I am also a musician, and have made records and toured as a band member. I also do instructional videos about music recording and mixing for lynda.com.

What hardware do you use?

Many analog recording devices. A 32 channel Rupert Neve Designs 5088 console allows analog mixing and monitoring, even of digitally recorded music. I have three Otari tape decks set up for 24- and 16-track on 2-inch tape and a 1/4-inch deck for mixing to. I have BURL and Avid converters for taking the sound from analog to digital and back. A vintage EMT 140 plate reverb provides great effects. I have over 100 microphones of all types.

And what software?

I use Pro Tools 12 HD as it’s the most commonly used in music recording. I am a huge fan of iZotope RX5 which allows detailed sound restoration and editing. The Universal Audio UAD platform hosts some of my favorite plug-ins for mixing use.

What would be your dream setup?

After 20 years of running a commercial studio I feel I have surrounded myself with amazing tools. I wouldn’t mind a Pro Tools HDX system in order to cut out latency issues, but the cost is ridiculous and it also limits your system from running other DAW software, like Logic. Annoying. Buying and maintaining computer systems for a pro studio is frustrating and not very satisfying compared to buying and using quality analog gear, but it is how the marketplace works now.


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Jem Selig Freeman


Jem Selig Freeman

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Jem Selig Freeman and I run a furniture design and manufacturing business called Like Butter. We make a whole range of our own furniture and other custom jobs that come our way. I trained as an Industrial Designer with very few skills, then formed the business with Laura Woodward (now married!) – she taught me to weld, and everything since has been self taught and developed on the job.

What hardware do you use?

An abbreviated list in order of current perceived importance: Multicam CNC Router, Lamello Zeta P2, SawStop Industrial Cabinet Saw, Festool ETS 150/5 sander, cheap eBay calipers, Tajima tape measure, Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones, iPad Pro, iPhone 6, unbranded workstation PC, twin 24" Dell IPS displays, Canon 7D. My all-time favorite PC keyboard is the Dell SK-8115.

And what software?

Chrome and Gmail because the emails are endless. Rhino 5 is our standard CAD package in the business – this started as a budgetary consideration but has since become our best friend for all drafting, designing and CNC preparation. For CNC programming we use EnRoute 5 and 6. SketchUp gets a look-in occasionally when I need to mock up an image for a client in a hurry.

On the iPad Pro I use Adobe Sketch for drawing and the iOS Notes app for organising my daily tasks and client meeting notes.

WorkFlowy and Slack form our task management and team communications package – they're both fantastic for managing a small team and 30-60 jobs per month. I use Adobe Lightroom to manage and edit product documentation.

What would be your dream setup?

It's almost there, really – I'm always pushing for less dust and more light, so I suppose the dream would be a clean-room with powerful centralised dust extraction and stacks of natural light through double glazed windows. A lush country paddock for morning tea and maybe a deaf workshop dog to play frisbee. More robots, always more robots, a wide belt thickness sander and some general assembly robotic arms.

All that said, the heart of Like Butter is the team – I'm really lucky to have found and been found by an awesome squad of talented individuals.


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Jamie Sanchez


Jamie Sanchez

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Jamie Sanchez, a full-time creative consultant. My bread and butter is custom WordPress development for clients but I frequently work on branding, event planning, and community building projects for Chicago-based nerds and organizations.

My biggest personal project is Bit Bash, an interactive art festival celebrating games with artistic intent, local cooperative games, and unique installations like VR or custom controllers you'd only find in a festival or museum setting.

My other main project is AnimeChicago, a non-profit anime club catering to young professionals in their 20s and 30s who deep-dive into the academic side of the medium.

Lastly, I'm also a WordPress Mentor for Skillcrush where I help new developers launch their freelance businesses or make drastic career changes to pursue a more fulfilling life.

What hardware do you use?

I'm using a maxed-out 2009 MacBook Pro that desperately needs replacement. I've loaded this machine with 8GB sticks of RAM, upgraded to a blazing fast SSD, and have even swapped the little $6 feet when they started chipping off. It's on its second battery and the “Service Battery" notice came back a few months ago. I'm a firm believer that technology shouldn't mirror fast fashion, and that minimalism includes caring for your tech items long term.

My productivity increases with dual monitors, so I'm using a 27 inch LG at home and a hand-me-down Wacom Cintiq 20 with busted pen input at my co-working desk. Magic Mouse, Bluetooth keyboard, and headphones are a must for desk mode.

And what software?

Most of my design time is spent in Illustrator and Sketch since I work on both print and web projects frequently. Craft does a good job filling in the gaps between Sketch's native tools. Photoshop is still my BFF photo editing suite. I also do some digital illustration on the side but have been waffling between SketchBook, Clip Studio, and Krita. Utilities like Noun Project, RightFont, LittleIpsum, and Sip make the day a little easier.

WordPress websites are a strange blend between admin GUI and text editing. I spend hours each day in Sublime Text and have really customized the environment, but the allure of Visual Studio Code is growing strong. I've used dozens of file transfer tools but Transmit really takes the cake. Chrome has been my go-to testing tool but my BrowserStack subscription has been absolutely invaluable for debugging and launching websites as a solo developer. Command line is fine but visual tools like CodeKit and Patterns really help dispel some cognitive load.

As for productivity software.. I have opinions. OmniFocus is a great tool but leaves a lot to be desired for long-term planning, so some Google Sheet worksheets fill in those gaps. For collaboration needs, Slack, Dropbox, and Google Docs have worked perfectly. 1Password, Focus, Calendly, Harvest, YNAB, and Quickbooks Self-Employed have paid for themselves a thousand times over. I absolutely love Spotify and Numi, which are just nice perks.

What would be your dream setup?

Realistically: The latest 15" MBP all tricked out, three new 27" displays for all three desks, Cintiq 13HD tablet, and the best noise-cancelling headphones and dictation software suite on the market.

Fantasy land: A tablet like the iPad Pro, with high-end pen sensitivity like a Cintiq, maxed out like a pro-gamer tower, that could function as my primary machine and dock into any station imaginable. Just output to a desk setup with monitor/mouse/keyboard setup, plug right into a VR setup, stream to a media system, or transform right into a karaoke suite.

Someday, I'm sure!


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