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 Audrey Eschright

Audrey Eschright

Software engineer, community organiser

Posted in developer, mac, writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Audrey Eschright, and I'm a software engineer, writer, and community organizer. Most recently I was a maintainer of the npm cli, and before that I lived the dream of hacking on custom Linux distributions, installers, and a build system for a server appliance (file this under "devops"). My teenage self would have been thrilled. I also run a feminist hacker journal called The Recompiler with an accompanying podcast — and we have a book, The Responsible Communication Style Guide.

What hardware do you use?

I've accepted that the Apple hardware silo is the one I hate least, so I have an iMac, a MacBook Air, and a iPhone. Everything but the phone is 5+ years old and cranky. We have a hand-me-down Apple TV that's pretty neat. The television itself is not allowed to connect to the internet. When I want to use a computer but not really I have an iPad Pro. I recently picked up an Apple Pencil to do more digital illustration.

My body doesn't put up with the default Apple keyboards and trackpad very well, so I use a Logitech trackball and a 60% Magicforce mechanical keyboard with DSA Mystery caps. I was able to unsubscribe from the Massdrop emails before I could end up with more keycaps than keyboards — although I guess I could have solved that the other way.

I do a lot of my planning and note-taking on paper. My daily planner and journal is a Hobonichi Techo and I have the Hobonichi Weeks for work stuff. Currently it's acting as my job search planner instead. I have a Muji fountain pen for when I want to feel fancy, and Zebra Mildliners for blocking off things like travel dates. I subscribe to Sticky Kit, which gives me a monthly collection of stickers from Japan, for decorating my planner pages. Some days I don't feel like writing anything, so I find a sticker that seems appropriate instead. In that way, it doubles as a mood tracker. I also keep a small Scout Book in my bag as something easy to grab — the current one's cover design is the Portland city flag (a gift from a friend).

Other kinds of hardware I use are cameras — I do a mix of nature and urban photography, and some portraits. The iPhone XS is always in my pocket. My Canon Rebel XSi comes out when I have a project in mind or want to use a different lens — it's nothing fancy, and I shoot on manual. I picked up a Holga because I was curious about medium-format films and now it's my go-to for traveling anywhere scenic. It's great to have a camera that's lightweight and indestructible. I collect instant film cameras — most recently the Diana Instant Square but I also have a restored Polaroid SX-70. I have a Holgaroid back that doesn't get much use, now that all of the film is out of production. There are a couple of expired packs in the fridge I'm saving for when I feel inspired.

Another area I've worked in throughout my life is music. Having a performing arts background was a great boost to becoming a conference speaker and organizer. I've moved on (mostly) from classical scoring and arrangement to electronic things. I have a Korg nanoKEY for input, and some odd toys like a kid's DJ mixer. The Teenage Engineering PO-33 has to stay in my office, because if I leave it next to the couch I start sampling our cats late into the night instead of going to bed. Most of the other music production work happens on the iMac or iPad Pro. You can check out my SoundCloud. 😁

For the podcast, I have a Focusrite Scarlett audio interface and studio mic.

And what software?

For programming, I use Sublime Text with the Fairyfloss theme from @sailorhg. I don't like or dislike the macOS Terminal app enough to look for something else. Like most open source folks, my code ends up on GitHub. I've used their project management tool, but I like Airtable better. I switch programming languages often enough that I need to brush up on something a couple of times a year; Exercism is my favorite way to do that.

As a media business, The Recompiler uses WordPress for the website, Trello for editorial planning, Google Docs for collaborative editing, Google Sheets for tracking subscribers, and Zapier for business automation. I have Highrise for managing customer support and MailChimp for our newsletter. The shop is on Shopify — it's fast to set up and has a lot of integration options. I use Xero for bookkeeping and feel thankful I never had to learn QuickBooks.

My personal website is statically generated using Jekyll. I switched from a CMS a while ago when I needed a break from social media, metrics, and any other kind of time or social pressure — it was nice to just make something for myself like it's 1998 again. I have slightly more idea of whether people read my posts now that I've installed Matomo for stats.

For creative work, I use Adobe InDesign, Lightroom, etc. — those are pretty standard choices, which matters when I'm working with other people. I'm writing a book using Scrivener for the first draft. The outlining and organizational features are great for those early stages when I don't know if each section will stay in the same place. Simplenote is the app I use for the raw ideas (and my grocery list).

I use a mix of things for music production — GarageBand on iOS, Ableton Live on desktop, Nanoloop (iOS), and the iPhone Voice Memos app for easy field recording. Right now I'm playing around with several things and don't have a set workflow, but experimentation is part of the fun.

What would be your dream setup?

The thing I wish for most is to have real choices in the major components. The more integration I want, the more I'm tied into a single company's stack — and I do need it to be easy! At this point in my life, I'm not that excited about configuring sound drivers or finding out if my hardware is supported. The year of the Linux desktop will always be on its way, so don't @ me about that. We deserve to have more choices than Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook. Working in open source, I see how even "independent" work depends on these same companies for infrastructure, funding, and other support (lest you forget, all our code is on GitHub, now owned by Microsoft). We need to dream much bigger before we'll really understand how to take that apart.