Uses This 2020 Edition

What is this?

Over the 10 ish years, I have been fascinated with the website: usesThis. It's a wonderful way to get a behind the scenes view of the hardware and software that people use. The folks who take part range from game developers to makers. This leads to ecclectic answers to 4 specific questions.

In the spirit of this format, I figured it would be fun to write my own 'interview'. So without producing too much intro fluff, let's get started.

Who are you and what do you do?

Heya, I'm Braden Douglass or 'phonetically' @braidn throughout the web. I am a Fullstack, mostly Back-End leaning developer at Glossier. Most of my arrant thoughts end up on my personal blog titled: Cloudbacon and I have a ton of odd projects strewed throughout GitHub.

In my off time, I tend to be a bit of a programming language explorer. At its core, this means that I spend, usually around a year, to explore the ins and outs of a single programming language. Some of the languages that I have had the honor to build software in span:

Ruby, JavaScript, TypeScript, Crystal, Clojure, Elixir, Rescript/ReasonML, GoLang, Elm, Erlang, Io, Lua, Perl, and likely a few more along my journey. Along with programming languages, I am also deeply interested in exploring sound type systems.

What hardware do you use?

My main and only computer is a late 2019 13inch MacBook Pro. Lots of folks seem to have problems with their 2016-2019 MacBooks. They complain a lot about missing escape keys (more on this later), poor keyboards, or wifi/bluetooth modules that are flakey.

If I am being completely honest, I have never used an escape key that wasn't bound to Caps Lock. That key is a whole lot closer to the home row than an Esc key will ever be. I also haven't used a built-in keyboard in such a long time due to the awesomeness that is the HHKB. They are smaller (60%) keyboards that have comfortable key travel and plastic cases. They can slip into a backpack and used, without too many judging eyes, under a coffee shop table.

Besides the HHKB, there are a host of other keyboards that get plugged into the laptop. A Green M60-a with Tealio switches, a Modern M0110 with NOS SKCL Alps green switches, and two Norbauer TKLs.

Due to the MacBook having 4 seriously amazing Thunderbolt 3 ports, when at home it get's plugged into a Caldigit Thunderbolt dock. This feeds an old 27 inch MiniDisplay Port Apple Cinema Display and some random 24 inch vertical Asus monitor. Other random things that are plugged into the Caldigit is some old CST Trackball (when they were CST), a hot swappable Ergodox, and a Schiit Fulla.

Due to some software choices (below), I am pretty indept to the Apple ecosystem this means my phone is some Pro derivative of the current IPhone generation. A few years ago one of my phones experienced a random logic board failure. Due to this unfortunate turn of events, I have been apart of Apple's rent-a-phone program ever since. While the iPhone has had a slightly incremental design philosophy over the past few years, I still pine for the old 4s/5 designs. The glass backs shattered instantly and antenna gate but, the blocky design was so fun versus the rounded corners of today's slippery iPhones.

Everything digitally that I have ever owned is backed up to a Synology DS918+. It's filled with 4TB Iron Wolf Pro NAS drives and utilizes an MSATA cache runing a pair of 256GB Samsung 960 EVO M.Sata drives. This was a bit of an upgrade from an older Drobo and wowzers! The speed, throughput and functionality of these Synologies is spectacular.

For capturing life stills I adore anything from Fuji. I recently decided to pick up an Xpro-3 to pair with both a 23 f2 and 35 f1/4. The Xpro is so quirky with its' missing rear LCD however, the pictures it produces are spectacular. The 23 f2 lens is what I predominatly travel with due to it being weather sealed and , if I am being honest, the best focal length of any Fuji lens. The 35 produces better images but, it's much bulkier and tends to stay around the house due to no weather resistance.

For my scribbling needs I still turn to Field Notes and any pen with a Schmidt easyFlow 9000 refill.

And what software?

99 percent of all code originates in NeoVim. It's not a terrible environment and to be honest the, built in Lua engine has led to some spectacular, none-vimscript (or Python) plugins. I also author most blog posts and slides in NeoVim as well. At one time I was a huge believer in Tmux but, over the years its rendering speed has fallen by the wayside. This has led me to pickup Kitty as a terminal emulator and leave the multiplexers behind.

Homebrew and Docker manage most of my environments. Having an enviornment that's quick to spin up, especially if I just dropped my laptop in the toilet, has been a huge focus of mine over the years. The tool that makes this possible (aside from HomeBrew and Docker) is a tiny shell tool called: strap. At its' core it's the spiritual successor to Boxen.

I use Git and GitHub to be social around code and as a tool for version control. Any time I find something interesting on the web it gets saved to Pinboard and Feedbin. Bookmarks and RSS are still some of the more simple ways to capture HTML based content. When I want to read something longer-form, I reach for Marvin. More technical books are consumed from Safari Online's splendid iOS app.

When it comes to planning work along with my life, I lean heavily on OmniFocus. This one app has kept me on track throughout the past 10 or so years. I stick pretty heavily to a GTD mindset, especially when it comes to the notion of contexts or 'spheres of focus'.

Productivity is usually divided into two parts:

  1. One part for planning
  2. And one part for research.

My streak using note taking tools has been considerably shorter than OmniFocus. However, in the past year I have settled nicely into Roam. Roam's ability to become better the more info you throw at it is exactly what I need. I produce a lot of written thought and using Roam's linking and query filters, allow me to easily navigate the jumble that is my brain. Doing this efficiently with a markdown wiki would be impossible/extremely inefficient. Any prose and all prose begins its' life in drafts.

I tend to explore the web privately using Firefox Dev Edition, listen to music on Spotify, and podcast through Overcast. When I want to consume thoughts and opinions from 'humans', I tend to reach for old school IRC using Textual or just hang out on Twitter.

To wrangle all of this together (and across multiple screens), I use a tiling window manager called Amethyst, Alfred as a launcher, and bake a lot of hotkeys into my keyboards using QMK

What would be your dream setup?

Maybe this will manifest itself soon but, I would love to see a return of the 12 inch MacBook Pro. This time running a super retina screen and some overclocked (A14x or z) Mac-derived system on a chip. Rocking 32 gigs of RAM with some silly battery life. Two 16:10 ratio monitors mounted on arms (one horizontal, one vertical), a Heil PR40 on boom for my voice and a Canon EOS 7D with a prime lense for crystal clear video content could round things off nicely.

Other bits that would certainly enhance my life would be perhaps something running the caliber 9SAS dressed in steel for my wrist, a 8-9" Chef's knife from Carter, and an ergonomic U80 with whatever the silent linear of the week is.

Concerning software, everything is pretty chill and likely will be for years. For someone who pines for modal editing, driven by xmonad tiled windows, new software isn't something to look out for.

VSCodes dev containers though are cool and if these could extend to work at an OS level, that could be quite interesting indeed! Think: opening a folder boots a Docker container that portals the user into a shell to be able to instantly work on whatever's in said folder. Instant Developer productivity and with the only requirement being that Docker or a container like system installed on the computer.