Uses This

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

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John Allspaw

SVP of TechOps, Etsy

Posted in engineer, mac, service

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is John Allspaw, and I'm currently the SVP of Technical Operations at, where I trick people into collaborating and cooperating with each other to solve large-scale infrastructure and engineering challenges.

What hardware do you use?

A MacBook Pro, with an Intel Core 2 Duo and 250G SSD. The Logitech mouse I've had in my bag since 1999, which feels like a comfortable hammer in my hand. A Samsung 22" LCD monitor, which I add to the MacBook Pro's display, above it. I love my Sony MDR V600 headphones. iPhone and iPad for traveling, and a NorthFace Surge backpack.

A 1978 Ibanez Artist EQ, a Takamine ESN40C, an MXR distortion+, a Keeley Compressor, and a Mesa Boogie Maverick are my other tools. :)

And what software?

Oh boy. Things I use every day are: Evernote, Omnigraffle, vi, git, svn, ssh, Chef, Firefox, and Adium. IRC client is irssi running under GNU screen and occasionally I'll use Skype for talking with remote folks on the team. Writing (for books and blog posts) always starts in Word, because I need to not embarrass myself with spelling and grammar, especially given that my poet-sister will call me on screwing those up every time.

The most powerful tools I wield continue to be: grep, awk, sed, tcpdump, and strace/ktrace/truss. Call me old, but they've never failed me and feel like comfortable and familiar tools. My work generally focuses on live production data, along the lines of: how I might change it, where I might change it, how it might be wrong, how it might be correct, how I can characterize its volume, rate, or values. Sampling is almost always (but not always) good enough to get work done, and these tools help me do it.

I use mostly open-source, and whenever they lack fidelity, I'll bake that into my expectations, find workarounds, and recognize that it's on me to contribute a fix.

What would be your dream setup?

A dream setup for me is a 27" monitor (anything bigger is a pain for me), a well-designed chair, and an internet connection. The entire Ashgate Resilience Engineering series. Anything else is ancillary.