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 Ana Ulin

Ana Ulin

Software engineer, engineering manager

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Ana Ulin, and I'm a software engineer and engineering manager. I love working with others to build software, and for fun I read, hang out with friends, knit and solve puzzles.

What hardware do you use?

My main personal machine is a 2014 13" MacBook Air. I love the form factor, and the battery performance ratio. It is not the most computationally powerful of machines, but these days if I wanted to do anything intensive I would run it somewhere on the cloud anyway.

My external monitor is an HP LP3065 30" display, which they don't make anymore. I bought it some 12 years ago, and it's aged remarkably well, including surviving a transcontinental move. It doesn't even have HDMI ports, but it gets the job done.

My keyboard is a Kinesis Advantage2, which has been my favorite ergonomic keyboard since I tried it first in 2009. This is the one piece of hardware I always insist on new employers getting me. I can live with most laptops and monitors, but having a keyboard that fits my relatively small hands and typing style is key to keep RSI at bay and to staying productive. I also love that the Advantage2 has mechanical switches, and that I can map keys directly in the keyboard and not worry about doing it in software - I'm use vim keybindings wherever I can, and I always map the escape key to where the Advantage2 places the ‘Delete' key, so that it is under my thumb.

I use a Magic Trackpad 2 as my pointing device. I keep it velcroed to the center of my Advantage2 keyboard, which has just enough space between the two keywells to accommodate a trackpad. The setup makes it possible for me to keep my keyboard and trackpad in my lap, and work without having to move my hands to my desk. It's great.

My phone is the smaller size original Pixel phone. It's a couple of years old, but the performance is still good with newer apps, and it is still getting all the latest Android updates.

I also have a 2014 original iPad Mini. It's on the slow side for any serious modern games, but it is enough for casual games, browsing the web and doing some email.

Recently I got a reMarkable tablet as a gift, and I've enjoyed playing with it. It does feel much closer to paper than any other tablet I've tried, and it is very light for its size. I wish it had better software to share your writing and sketches with other apps, and I wish it had some backlighting, the way the Kindle does.

Speaking of Kindle, I am a huge fan and do most of my non-web reading on a Kindle Oasis. I have owned most of the Kindle models so far, and they just keep getting better.

And what software?

For coding, I use VSCode, and sometimes Atom or Vim for quick text-oriented editing. I'll try any editor that lets me set vim keybindings, which are really the one thing I can't live without for code editing.

I use Ulysses for blogging, private journaling and writing anything that is more than a few sentences. I'm typing this in Ulysses, in fact. It's great at getting out of your way and letting you write, and has all the functionality I need.

For note-taking and storing documents that I'll want to reference later, I use Evernote, both on the Mac and on my Android phone.

For other miscellaneous tasks, I use:

  • 1Password for password management
  • Kap for screen recording
  • Rocket for adding emojis into any app
  • Be Focused to time work intervals and breaks
  • Alfred for automating little tasks, like easily adding tasks to a text file of to-dos, or hiding all windows and locking my laptop in one go
  • Chrome for web browsing

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup would be a new MacBook Air, and a 4K external display. I'd also love to upgrade my phone and iPad Mini to the latests versions of those same devices.

I also dream of a good solution to let me transfer my handwritten notes seamlessly to a searchable digital format. I've tried a number of things (LiveScribe pens, photographing notes with Evernote, and lately the reMarkable tablet), but nothing so far does quite what I want.