Samantha Vilkins


Samantha Vilkins

Who are you, and what do you do?

I wear a lot of hats. That's an idiom, not my job. I'm a PhD candidate in science communication and also the Communications and Engagement Officer at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at The Australian National University, where I also tutor, write, et cetera. I also do freelance photography/design/writing where I can. I just finished up working at Trove at the National Library of Australia and I've got the mug to prove it.

What hardware do you use?

I exclusively use Pilot G2 0.38 pens. They are a great solution between "using shit pens" and "caring way too much about pens". I use the pens in notebooks from Octaevo. I'd prefer to type notes into my phone but I end up in meetings with people much older than me a lot and the youngest person in the room constantly tapping at their phone isn't a great look. I also think better on paper.

My laptop is a late 2013 MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM. I'm the sort of monster who cracks open Photoshop to resize a screenshot on the bus, so I'm not sure what I'd do without it.

I've got a fancy Rain Design mStand alongside a fuzzy Acer monitor at home, and a glorious Dell UltraSharp alongside a pile of old books as a stand at work, because I'm all about balance.

I own two WASD mechanical keyboards, the same model. One's Cherry MX clears all-white with mint legends and a mint Enter key that reads 'GO!', and the other is Cherry MX browns, greyscale with bright yellow keys spelling out my name. I adore them.

My camera's a Canon 60D and my go-to lenses are my 24mm / 50mm / 85mm primes.

I bought a second-hand rose gold "women's" Moto360 v2 and wear it every day. It can do almost nothing — it's as if I tore out the notification light of my Pixel 2 and strung it round my wrist — but it looks good, starts conversations, alerts me to things while it's rude to look at my phone or it's not on my person, and most importantly, I can set the background to my favourite green and set the text to spell out the time in letters which takes me longer to process than a digital face and thus entertains me to no end.

I care so little about audio quality that a few years ago I bought 4 packs of LG G2 headphones off eBay and keep a pair in various bags and desks. I also just bought a pair of white BlueAnt wireless headphones because my new phone lacks a headphone jack and I hate how much I love them.

I've got a Blue Yeti USB microphone for when I inevitably start a podcast.

I was recently fitted for new multifocal glasses, because we all have to face our ageing mortal bodies in our own ways.

I use one ModernCoup bag for every occasion. I love it to death even as it's destroying my back.

I've got Aglaonema commutatum, Spathiphyllum petite and Parlour palm plants from Plants in a Box and a Pothos plant from The Name Is Planted at my desk in a long con I've got to make me want to come to work each day to check on them.

I've got a plush office chair I stole (okay, they were giving it away) from my university, wheeled a quarter-way across campus in the rain, and had to re-construct my desk around as my room is too small to fit it otherwise. It was worth it.

And what software?

I am constantly gaining and shedding bits of software, either for specific research kicks or life admin — the latest were gensim, sndpeek and 1Password.

As a baseline, my vital organs are hooked into the Google ecosystem — 16 separate Calendars, Maps multiple times a day, autobackup Photos, Sheets abound, Keep for every thought. Quick thoughts from Keep get regularly sorted out to: reminders/events in Calendar, saved/tagged links in Pocket, or drafts/ideas in a folder in iA Writer. The iA Writer folder is in my Google Drive so it's on my phone, as well.

I use Papers for research and references, but only because it actively frustrates me the least out of the options.

I use the macOS Mail app to deal with my 4+ regular email addresses and I would love to upgrade to something nicer but absolutely everything else has failed me, so here we still are.

I use Tweetbot because TweetDeck crossed me one too many times.

I use Spotify lazily and Pocket Casts earnestly. I keep a Shazam widget on my phone homepage so I can use it inconspicuously when around cool youth. My other widgets are my Outlook calendar, Google calendar, and Google Keep. The BOM Weather app is crucial.

I was gifted a copy of Adobe Photoshop CS2 when I was eleven years old and doubt I've closed it since then. I use Lightroom/Premiere/Illustrator/InDesign when it comes to it, all on a CC subscription.

Any and all programming I do is extremely amateur hour and usually in Notepad++ or TextWrangler. I'll dip into R when I have to but I use Excel to within an inch of its life.

I have a rotating new-font/new-colour-palette new tab page, and I'd recommend it.

What would be your dream setup?

Always more light and less carpet.



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Samantha Goldstein


Samantha Goldstein

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm a software engineer and general tinkerer. I love making things with my hands, especially things that combine organic materials like clay and wood with micro-controllers and small chips. I like making things that are like me: soft, warm, and a little ridiculous.

What hardware do you use?

A photo of Samantha's pink keyboard on her desk.

I use an Epilog Fusion laser cutter for cutting wood and acrylic for jewelry making. I really adore this little baby blue soldering iron, and my headphones that match. I just got this amazing mechanical keyboard and have some pastel keycaps on the way. I'm can't wait to get some time to watch a movie and swap in my new keycaps. My keyboard Cherry MX Blue switches which are extra clacky and have a really satisfying tactile bump. I love the way it feels to type — every keystroke a resounding clack and every line a manifesto! I have a lot of handmade work and jewelry — it's meaningful to me to know that time and care went into the tools around me, and I think it helps remind me of what I want to put into my own work.

I do, admittedly, have a bit of a zombie pit for hardware projects on pause. I once made a ceiling mounted light installation with an Arduino Uno that responded to the audio levels in the room for a party. It was SO janky and potentially a bit dangerous, to be honest, but I was really on a Halt and Catch Fire bender and I think the solder fumes were getting to my head.

When I'm not at home tinkering I ride my bike everywhere I can or I make espresso and wander around the city with my favorite to go mug.

And what software?

I have a terrible memory. When I switch panes the words from the previous page are completely lost to me in the transfer, so I use Snappy to stick things to my screen and Spectacle to manage my window sizes with keybindings. vim has given me a very dynamic way of thinking with my fingers, but left me with a taste for absolutely never lifting my hands off of the keyboard that Spectacle helps to satisfy.

I use vim at work, mostly because when I learned in college I didn't know there were other alternatives and it made me feel very 1337. In fact, I used to SSH into every single vim window because I didn't realize that vim panes existed for years; it was a dark time. These days I use tmux to persist my panes through SSH sessions. At home I use Atom for editing (with vim keybindings). Having two editors helps me separate my work-programming from my home-programming and helps me context switch between the needs of an enormous mono-repo, and my pretty humble home project space. I've been using Bear for note-taking and dramatically upping my ability to write Markdown on the fly.

I have a couple custom key remaps that I use Karabiner for. I consistently reached the wrong distance for the ESC key for vim, and the hand position of CTRL-B for tmux felt awful. To deal with that I remapped caps lock to CTRL when used with other keys and to ESC when used alone. Long gone is my vim-based pinky strain!

What would be your dream setup?

I want a nice space with lots of natural light and a pottery studio nearby. I'd love a more sophisticated espresso machine and one of those cute peg boards to display and store all of my tools for pottery, jewelry making, and hardware. I love to have my tools visible but neat (like a wall-mounted knoll). I really need a way to hide my chords and cables. Who knows, maybe if my things are well organized it will rub off on the rest of my life.

I also have my eye on a number of artisan keycaps, like this, these, and these. I'd really like a more advanced soldering station, one that will suck up solder fumes and desolder mechanism!

After seeing Claire Dane's Met Gala dress I'd love to get my hands on some fiber optic fabric and make something with it as well in order to make some more wearable electronics!



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