Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of James Turnbull

James Turnbull

Engineer, author, CTO (Empatico)

Posted in developer, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi! I'm James. I am an engineer and author. I love building products and teams.

I work as CTO at Empatico, a not-for-profit educational technology company. We connect elementary (primary) age students from different backgrounds and geographies with a focus on developing their curiosity about others and their communication and empathy skills.

Prior to that, I was the CTO at Kickstarter, the VP of Engineering at Venmo, and was an early employee at both Docker and Puppet. I've also built product and run teams in finance, telecommunications, biotech, gaming and technology companies.

I write technical books about topics in engineering, operations, and security. I've written ten books, including The Docker Book and The Terraform Book.

I'm originally from Melbourne in Australia but my partner and I have been living in the United States, most recently New York City, for a number of years now. I am deeply in love with the city. I love the subway, the noise, the people, and even the rats and the smell of stale garbage. :)

What hardware do you use?

Day-to-day I use a 2016 Macbook Pro with Touch Bar and my phone is a Google Pixel XL 5.5.

I do a little bit of gaming and I have a Windows-based Puget Systems PC that basically just runs Steam.

I read a lot and I am a huge fan of the Kindle as an e-reader. I have owned one of pretty much every Kindle model released and currently use a Kindle Oasis. The battery life makes it great for travel and the lighting and crispness of the screen make reading in low light - planes, bars, cafes, badly lit hotel rooms - super easy.

And what software?

My life runs out of a combination of G Suite, Postbox, Remember The Milk, 1Password, and Evernote.

I have multiple Chrome profiles for different purposes and usually have way too many tabs open at a time.

I also use way far too many communications tools. Seemingly like everyone in tech, I belong to more Slacks than I can manage, including being one of the owners of the NYC Tech Slack. I use Signal, Skype, Trillian to consolidate GTalk and Facebook (and checking my accounts in there I still have some Jabber accounts, ICQ, and AIM too), and AirText. I was an early Twitter user - my first tweet was something like "Huh. I don't get it." - and it's a platform I both like and loath, depending on the day.

I write every day, both code and prose, and I've used a number of editors over the years. Recently, I've settled on Visual Studio Code, Microsoft's open source code editor/IDE, which I use both as a text editor (my books are Markdown with a bit of LaTeX for higher level formatting and use Pandoc to turn them into formatted artifacts) and an IDE. Code has got vim bindings and excellent Git integration which, since most of what I write lives in GitHub, works out pretty well.

I can't escape the command line though and I use iTerm2 running fish and will often jump into vim on the command line for quick edits. I also use Weechat for the handful of remaining, fairly quiet, IRC channels I am still resident in.

What would be your dream setup?

In my old house in Melbourne, I used the master bedroom as an office. I bought a huge antique dining table for the center of the room and every wall had bookshelves. That was amazing and I loved being able to move around the table, spread out books and papers, and work from different angles. I'd love to recreate that again.