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 Alex Gaynor

Alex Gaynor

Software developer

Posted in developer, mac, linux

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Alex Gaynor. I'm a software engineer, often with a focus on security. I currently work at Alloy, which is a company building data infrastructure and tools for politics. I'm also very involved in open source. I'm a core developer of the Python Cryptographic Authority and CPython, I'm one of the authors of the Hallow SSH Certificate Authority, I'm a member of the Rust Secure Code Working Group, and I help fuzz projects like ImageMagick and GnuTLS via Google's OSS-Fuzz.

What hardware do you use?

My primary laptop is a Pixelbook with the maximum RAM/CPU. This is my primary development machine. My phone is a Pixel 3a in grayscale mode. I don't do terribly much with my phone. I've also got an old MacBook Air which I mostly use for games, and a Nintendo Switch which I use exclusively for games. I have a Fitbit Inspire HR on my wrist, which orders me to get up and walk around. I've got a pair of Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones, which are the most ridiculously comfortable pair of headphones I've ever had. Finally, I use a Yubikey Neo and a Yubikey Nano as my security keys, and I carry a large collection of other models with me to give away to folks who want/need a security key.

And what software?

I do my development inside Chrome OS's Crostini, which is a VM with a container running a Debian userspace inside of it. I love the security properties I get with this system, particularly that the Virtual Machine Monitor and emulated devices for Crostini are written in a memory safe programming language (Rust).

I'm obviously using Chrome as my web browser as a result. I always run with HTTPS Everywhere (generally in "Block all http:// mode"), Privacy Badger, and uBlock Origin.

My primary text editor at the moment is Sublime Text, but I change text editors semi-regularly (perhaps every other year), so I'm not overly attached. My shell is fish, which is a wonderfully usable tool to spend my days in. A look at my shell history tells me my other important tools are: git, which is my VCS of choice, ripgrep, which is an essential tool for quickly browsing and searching a codebase, and vim, which I occasionally use for lightweight code reading and even more occasional editing (as a friend of mine once observed, "Sometimes Alex accidentally opens vim").

My default messaging app is Signal, because I care quite a bit about security. And 1Password for managing my passwords because I care about security and usability.

What would be your dream setup?

Beefier CPU and more RAM in my laptop. If I could get something closer to a top of the line MacBook Pro running Chrome OS, that'd make me very happy. I'd love it if Chrome OS had more tools for managing multiple VMs so I can maximize the isolation between different things I work on, bringing it closer to something like Qubes OS, but without sacrificing usability very much.

But most of all, I'd really like it if I could get the Chrome OS security model without tying myself to Google.