What Do People Use to Get Stuff Done?

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Recently, I stumbled upon this great source of inspiration: http://usesthis.com/interviews/

I kept reading and reading the Linux section for hours. This series of interviews is exactly what pushes my digital life forward. People are being interviewed what hardware they use, what software they prefer to do stuff, and - most thankfully - what wishes, visions, and dreams they have about their future setup.

I can not emphasize on how mind-blowing those stories are to me!

A small set of examples

From what I have read so far, there are many great links hidden in those interviews. Unconventional solutions of extraordinary minds for common tasks.

Joe Armstrong, Software developer (Erlang): writing code in Emacs, using printf debugging only, wants voice input, having great ideas how to prevent theft of hardware.

Andy Bakun, UNIX systems administrator: He describes his monitors, also in dual-screen and portrait mode setup. Old school keyboards, xterm layouts, pretty standard software tools and services. He is really into GNU/Linux on servers and their administration. I guess there will be cool tools coming from this guy.

Gene Spafford, Professor (Purdue University), security expert: wide range of hardware used, uses one of several "disposable" ASUS EE PCs running Ubuntu for being abroad, uses ScanSnap document scanners (like me), combines both, a large number of systems and the possibility to do everything with a small set of devices.

Joey Hess, Software developer (Debian, git-annex): besides the fact that he is the author of many tools I am using, he lives a most interesting life: working on a Dell Mini 9 (9-inch display!) only, no computer desk, coding in Haskell, no cell phone or tablet, internet connection only on demand and thus, working asynchronously, producing and consuming only his own electrical power, 12/5 Volt house-hold setup, and so forth.

Rob Pike, Software developer (Unix, Plan 9): he shares the opinion with me that for certain aspects, we once had better solutions around. He is the author of the acme text editor (mind-blowing screencast!) from Plan 9. This fine piece of software has many nifty features even my Emacs/Org-mode does not provide! His statements in the "dream setup" section is most interesting: no local state on the computer, the network is the computer. The computer you are using currently is only a portal to your digital assets: computing as an infrastructure. This is a true visionary man!

Eric S Raymond, OSS developer, writer ('The Cathedral and the Bazaar'): Being one of the open source godfathers, he is using rather standard hardware. However, he is a fan of tilted monitors (portrait orientation, like me).

Greg Kroah-Hartman, Linux kernel developer: his requirements are mostly compiling-based where he optimizes to the maximum. Using git, he is able to setup his working environment on a new computer in a couple of minutes. He lives in mutt and vim for heavy email handling and editing. If his Nexus 7 had 4G, he drop his cell phone in an instant.

Andy Hertzfeld, Developer (Macintosh), software designer (Google+): Still a truly Apple fan using rather common software.

Andy Smith, Software developer (OpenStack for Rackspace): Interesting hardware gadgets (including a variety of headphones). He is using GNU/Linux and OS X but with some disagreement on Apples solutions.

James Gosling, Software engineer (Java): He's got a really impressive number of computers at home! His software section also holds tips for managing photographs and he seems to be very satisfied with his current setup.

Richard Stallman, Freedom campaigner: Another geek that does all of his stuff on only 9 inches. He is using his baby, the GNU/Emacs, of course. I did not know that he is using it only in the text console. He is also offline most of the time and always reviews and revises the outgoing email messages. What a fine habit to do. In the "dream setup" section he states that he wants to have state-of-the-art speed and memory. However, the freedom is more important to him. He sticks to his values, no question.

Aaron Swartz, Hacker, activist: He was using his MacBook with no external monitor or external keyboard. Having too many external hard disk drives, he suffered from the resulting fragmentation issue. Interesting to read that he was looking for a todo management system which integrates with email. Another things I can copy: he wished that everyone had perfectionist levels of attention to detail. This bright young guy was killed too early by the US "justice" system as shown in this documentation. It's worth watching.

John MacFarlane, Philosophy professor, developer (pandoc, gitit): this interview qualifies Mister MacFarlane as a real geek: vim, Emacs, Org-mode, LaTeX, mutt, notmuch, Haskell, you name it.

Ethan Schoonover, Designer, developer (Kinkless, Solarized): This is also a very interesting pal: designed and developed OmniFocus which is a very good task management tool, created the famous Solarized color scheme many people are using, uses Happy Hacking Professional 2 keyboard with blank key caps, developed a grip desk with professional lighting supports and grip hardware (for working in sitting and stand-up position), dislikes Kindle because of lack of note taking features (like me), and so on. His thoughts on software is really worth reading since I don't want to quote it here in total. Interesting to read that he is using TaskWarrior as task management tool (remember OmniFocus). I'd love to chat with this guy since he seems to have similar (but different) thoughts on many things like Apple hardware but without OS X, plain text everywhere, no lock-in effects, and so forth.

It is interesting to read that the overwhelming majority of people are using Apple hardware - not always using OS X though. Further more, SSDs seem to have replaced hard drive disks everywhere.

My setup, your setup

I summarized my own hardware/software setup. If you want to share your setup with me (or even this blog), please feel free to send me a couple of lines. Minimum requirement is: used hardware, used software, visions for the future.

See also this blog entry.

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