David Lawrence Miller


David Lawrence Miller

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm David Lawrence Miller, and I work as an ecological statistician at various places (currently between the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation in Hobart, Tasmania and the University of St Andrews in Scotland). I spend a lot of time thinking about how to model where animals are in space and how we can use those models to count them better. Much of my time is spent doing modelling of whales, but I like to be fairly species-agnostic.

For fun I like to make weird things with computers, usually involving some kind of stochasticity. I've written a few Twitter bots, the most famous of which is @birdcolourbot which tweets the colours (as identified by humans) of various North American birds (a little write-up it got in NYT). I also wrote @transect575 which takes observer comments from survey data looking for whales, and builds haikus.

What hardware do you use?

I currently use a 2013 MacBook Air – it's the best computer I've ever bought. It seems to still be working fine, though I am dreading the next upgrade. I use a Nifty MiniDrive with a 128Gb SD card to store large things (music, movies, datasets) without having to cart around an external hard disk (get the fastest, largest card you can!). If I need to do "serious" computing, I send my jobs to a server called isbjørn (polar bear) in St Andrews with more cores/RAM than I can count.

I'm about 2m tall so most of my hardware is really about making using a computer comfortable.. At home I use the largest Dell monitor (propped up with some of my wife's economics textbooks) I could afford a few years ago and an Ikea height-adjustable desk with an Aeron for when I sit. I use a Kinesis Freestyle II keyboard; top tip is to get some grip tape to put on some of the letters so you can find your way round when you start using it. I also use a 3M EM500 vertical mouse, though avoid mousework as much as possible.

When I travel I take the keyboard and the Roost stand; both can fit in hand luggage fairly easily. I have a Tom Bihn Brain Cell vertical case for extra laptop protection (after an unfortunate overheating situation caused by a previous laptop turning itself on in my bag a few years ago).

I don't really care about mobile phones aside from their camera, eBird (for birding) and Tweetbot (for Twitter). I have an iPhone SE because it's pretty much the smallest functional phone I could find that has a good camera.

For mathematics, I tend to use a Lamy Studio extra fine point fountain pen (Lamy ink seems to be good), a couple of colours of Muji gell ballpoints and a large hardback Moleskine plain notebook (people who do maths on lined paper freak me out).

For bird watching I carry Monarch 3 8x42s and use a cheap adapter for the iPhone, which lets me take nice-ish photos. I think paper guides are still ahead of phone-based ones for now (aside from Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Merlin app for North America).

Sony MDR-V6s are easily the best headphones I've ever owned. They are not good for walking around/travel but for sitting in a quiet office, they are perfect. I am regularly pleased by how good they sound and how comfortable they are for long periods (you can get replacement covers, which are much more comfortable than the faux-leather ones they come with).

And what software?

I spend 80% of my time in the terminal (iTerm2) and the rest in Thunderbird. vim is where most of my code/paper editing happens, when writing papers, I use Papers citation manager to quickly insert references (set up to pop-up search in any context with a double tap of ctrl) – this is the only thing that keeps me using that program but it saves a lot of time.

Almost all my programming is done in R. I write most of my analyses in R Markdown then convert to LaTeX/PDF/HTML as necessary.

Almost everything I do ends up in git, I use git-prompt to show the status of the working repo in my bash prompt.

Sitting in my menubar is Arq (backup), Caffeine (stops your Mac sleeping), 1Password and f.lux (set to pretty red all the time, for the sake of my eyes).

What would be your dream setup?

Something that's both small and rugged would be great — an indestructible MacBook Air 11" would be perfect. I haven't looked at non-Mac laptops in a while, but given Apple's increasing complications with cloud-based solutions, I'm thinking of going back to Linux (after 13 years on Mac). A more portable version of the Kinesis keyboard would be great too.

I'd love something better than Thunderbird to deal with e-mail, especially for large inboxes that does modern stuff like deferring mail — I've yet to find something open and usable.

I'm relatively happy with what I have at the moment software-wise. Turning the question on its head, I think my nightmare setup would involve having everything be cloud-based. I really value being offline and not having constant pinging of e-mail/twitter/etc. Most of my current setup involves asynchronous communication with the internet, and this suits me very well.


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David Lublin


David Lublin

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is David Lublin and since 2004 I have been half of a company called VIDVOX that makes software for artists. I do a bit of everything, which includes coding, design, sales, support, marketing, tutorials and documentation, beta testing, blogging, tweeting, community building, managing freelancers and a bunch of other things.

We find that open standards are particularly important for creative communities and we maintain two open source projects that we are especially proud of. The first is the Hap video codecs, a set of movie formats that use GPU accelerated decompression for playback of extremely high resolution video on Mac, Windows and Linux machines. The second is ISF (Interactive Shader Format), an open specification for writing GLSL shaders that can be used as video generators and image filters across different host applications on desktop, mobile and web platforms. A bunch of our other useful low level code for working with specifications like MIDI, OSC and OpenGL is also available on GitHub.

I also sometimes make art!

Mostly I am known for VJing, which is live video performed remixing, usually along with music. I've gotten to do a lot of fun shows over the years including a performance at Lincoln Center and a tour with Girl Talk back in 2011. For geek points, the one time I got to fill in for The Eclectic Method for a Doctor Who fan meet up at Comic Con was maybe my top moment personally so far.

Recently I have been making a number of Twitter bots, most noteworthy of which are @TVCommentBot (a bot that watches live broadcast TV and inserts its own closed captioning) and @TVFaceBot (a bot that looks for faces on live broadcast TV and tweets them), and a few spin offs like @StarTrekTVBot (because I've run out of Star Trek episodes to watch) and @TVCrimeBot. Related to this I am also now developing a website for bots to find love online called bot.dating.

Probably the project that I am most passionate about is MIDIDogs.biz which is a website where I post videos of digitally synthesized barking dogs singing your favorite TV themes and pop songs along with puntastic titles like "Paw and Order" and "Fluffy The Vampire Spayer" and "Game of Bones" and "Doggie Howser" – I take requests.

At the most recent Stupid Hackathon my project was the low tech "Yell Hole" which is basically a bucket with sound insulation that you can put on your head and yell into without disturbing your neighbors.

What hardware do you use?

Currently my primary development machine is a 15" TouchBar MacBook Pro with an LG 4k display. I miss the physical escape key but otherwise very happy. I've used a similar setup of a MacBook Pro along with an external monitor for over a decade and this is the best version of it yet.

For work I have a lot of Macs for testing, we need pretty much every GPU and macOS combination readily available in case a user has a problem. Along these lines I have several high end audio interfaces (e.g. the MOTU 828 and YellowTec PUC2 on my desk right now), video capture devices (Blackmagic UltraStudio 4k & Mini recorders, a few Logitech webcams, some old DV / Firewire gear in the closet..), MIDI controllers (lately enjoying the Numark Orbit, APC mini, Korg NanoKontrol and a Serato DJ-style controller when doing my own shows but I probably have over a dozen others in storage), plus some DMX lighting gear (most used are ENTTEC ArtNet boxes and a few older Mega Pixel LED bars from American DJ) and other random things we support like WiiMotes. I also have a handful of cheap-ish external monitors that we sometimes use for testing multi-screen output configurations. We are always getting new stuff, usually when someone has a problem with something we don't have on hand already.

Right now @TVCommentBot and @TVFaceBot are running on a 2010 Mac mini that is plugged into my living room TV so that I can watch the feed instead of regular TV. The system gets broadcast TV over the airwaves through a standard antenna and a cheap digital TV receiver which outputs HDMI that is captured with a BlackMagic Mini recorder. A MIDI controller is connected for adjusting some parameters of the software without having to access the keyboard and mouse which are difficult to reach.

I have an iPhone 5s for all of the things you'd expect someone to have a smartphone for that gets used constantly and a 3rd generation iPad which does not get much use. So far I haven't had a compelling reason to upgrade either to a newer model.

For headphones I've had the same pair of Sony MDR-7506's for about a decade. I also often use the standard iPhone ear buds outside of the house.

My desk is a GeekDesk which I confess is usually used in sitting mode lately. I am thinking about installing some basic drawers for holding the small pieces of gear that end up cluttering the top area.

The best purchase I have made in the last few years is a peg board with hooks for organizing my large cable collection that makes it possible to connect all these things together.

I have had the same HP LaserJet 1320 printer since 2004 and have tried out lots of different kinds of small notebooks over the years (currently making my way through a small graph paper book from Muji). I have a couple of typewriters that I've collected over the years, a newer Olivetti MS 25 Plus manual sometimes gets dusted off for use.

And what software?

When VJing and otherwise making video art I typically use VDMX which is software that we primarily work on at VIDVOX. Sometimes I'll connect it to other custom software using Syphon or MIDI / OSC.

I write most of my code in BBEdit, Xcode for compiling and Tower as my Git client. When needed I am ready to get down with Terminal.

Online I use Chrome for web browsing, Adium for chat and Transmit for FTP. Squarespace for blogging and Vimeo for video hosting.

TextEdit for writing words and Keynote for making presentations. I often use Stickies app on my Mac for keeping quick notes and snippets.

When creating new video filters typically I will use our free ISF Editor, an in-house tool we released for writing and previewing GLSL shaders. Though not as often as in the past I also still make use Quartz Composer from time to time.

For making video tutorials ScreenFlow is my favorite. I will sometimes also use iMovie or QuickTime Player 7 Pro as part of my video workflow. Lately I have been trying to use Affinity Designer and Photo for the basic image and vector design work that I need to do.

Some of my bots make use of open source machine learning techniques – I got started with one called DeepBelief which is still what powers the object detection for @TVCommentBot, though nowadays there are lots of even better libraries like TensorFlow available for this kind of stuff.

What would be your dream setup?

A giant science fiction laboratory that includes a Holodeck from Star Trek that somehow fits inside my apartment in NYC and is also sound insulated because I love working from home but being able to walk across the street for a bagel / slice of pizza pretty much anytime of day is also a requirement.

A way to directly interface my brain thoughts with machines that doesn't involve installing a microchip in my head.

In the meantime I am thinking of getting a second desk or workbench to make it easier to divide work / art time and having a real life living human assistant would be amazing.


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