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 Jim Crawford

Jim Crawford

Game developer (Frog Fractions)

Posted in developer, game, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi, I'm Jim Crawford. I've been coding since I was 12 and making music since I was 15. Lately I've been making games under the name "Twinbeard," and the thing I've done that you're most likely to have heard of is Frog Fractions.

What hardware do you use?

When my desktop machine conked out for the second time in a month and I got sick of fixing it, I decided it was time to switch to a machine I couldn't fix, so I wouldn't feel obligated to. I shopped around for a sturdily-built PC laptop that also had good 3D acceleration, but those two features seem to be mutually exclusive in the PC space. I ended up going with an ASUS laptop with ... hang on while I go find the order confirmation email ... 1080p, i7-2630QM 2.0GHz, 4GB DDR3, 500GB HDD, Nvidia GT 540M, and of course terrible plastic hinges. The software condition it shipped in was embarrassing: there was so much garbage pre-installed that it would consistently hard-lock within a minute of booting. I ended up wiping the disk and installing Windows 7 fresh, and it's been treating me fine ever since. Except for the hinges coming apart, but that's par for the course.

I've been borrowing a friend's MacBook Pro to do iOS development on. The construction is really nice, and while it doesn't make a great Windows machine, and I dislike Apple in general, my next laptop is probably going to be a Macbook.

It's hard to express to you how convenient it is to be able to just grab your primary machine and go anywhere with it. I've been working out of coffee shops and attending game jams so much more frequently than when I was chained to a desktop machine.

When I'm at home, though, I use my old desktop machine's monitor as a second screen. It's a Samsung 2333HD, a 23" 1080p display that's sort of a monitor/TV hybrid. I picked it in part because it has connectors that game consoles can talk to, including an RF input.

On the audio side, I've been using a Zoom H1 field recorder for almost all my recording work. It's designed as a compromise and as such is not awesome at any particular recording task, but it does a good solid job in almost every situation.

I've typed in Dvorak since about 2001. If that's not hip enough for you already, I actually type in a Dvorak variant that a friend of mine came up with, a compromise between Dvorak's letter placement and QWERTY's punctuation placement, which is better for programming in C-like languages. I don't find that I type any faster in Dvorak, but I do find that I'm more comfortable.

It isn't a fair comparison, though, because when I learned Dvorak I also took the opportunity to learn to properly touch type. Whenever I have to use QWERTY, I revert to a wrist destroying three-finger method I taught myself on the Commodore 128, in which my left pinky stays in contact with the tab key at all times. I'd always known it was bad form, but I never would've been able to motivate myself to relearn how to type if I hadn't been forced to slow down by the new layout.

And what software?

I've been using Visual Studio for native PC and .NET work, FlashDevelop 4 feeding through Adobe's Flex compiler for Flash work, and Xcode for iOS work. Visual Studio is the only one of these I'd characterize as good; the other two IDEs are glitchy and persnickety, but generally get the job done.

I almost always have Pidgin open, Dropbox running in the background, and Google Docs and Gmail in a browser window -- the particular browser varies.

For version control I use TortoiseSVN. Lately I've been putting the occasional project in Git to try to get the hang of it, and while it's still confusing, at least one advantage is already clear to me: when I use Git I commit after every distinct change, because commits don't feel as significant. When I use SVN, I can't psychologically justify committing every individual change and I make one big commit at the end of the night.

For audio, I use FL Studio for composition and Audition for editing, and I like both a lot. When I'm in a chiptune mood I'll pull out Schism Tracker, though it's been frustrating me lately since its interface is not a very good fit for a laptop keyboard.

I've also got a big pile of command line utilities that I've been collecting in a directory since the late 90s. Some of these I use almost every day, like the ancient version of pkzip that still uses the switch syntax from the DOS version, and BladeEnc, still the only MP3 encoder I've found that doesn't insert 50ms of silence at the beginning of the encoded MP3. Others, I'll probably never use again, like Borland's TASM and TLINK, the GDS image viewer for DOS, and DOS Frotz.

What would be your dream setup?

This is such an open-ended question. I love it. Okay, in the short term, something like the wearable computers with whole body input and contact lens displays we saw in Vinge's Rainbows End.

In the long term, well, let's just say if I'm not software within the next 30 years, we've screwed up as a species.