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Blake Stoddard

Senior Operations Engineer, Epic Games

in mac, service

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Blake Stoddard and I'm a Senior Operations Engineer at Epic Games where I support the infrastructure and reliability needs of the Epic Games Store – that's everything from leading migrations to Kubernetes, testing new CDN providers, writing Grafana plugins to help us visualize and monitor our service health, enhancing our developer experience with new tools like ephemeral branch deploys, and pushing us towards faster and safer releases with strides in CI/CD practices.

I'm based on the east coast of the United States – in Raleigh, North Carolina. My life outside of work is consumed by spending time with my beautiful and caring wife who puts up with my incessant bullshit, biking (either on a custom Santa Cruz Tallboy or a Peloton Bike+), cooking, and recently… espresso (dear wallet: I'm sorry).

What hardware do you use?

For work:

2021 16in MacBook Pro (M1 Max 32c GPU, 64GB RAM, 4TB SSD) in Space Gray: This is my main machine, it's what I use both docked at my desk and around the house/on-the-deck if I'm at home. It replaced a 2019 16in MacBook Pro (i9, 32GB, 2TB SSD) that would last approximately 2.8 minutes on battery and would get hot enough to thaw an Uncrustable reasonably quickly on the bottom (I was very happy to not be using it daily anymore, though it still sits on my desk in case I need to look at something that doesn't want to play nice with M1 or Rosetta).

Real Talk™: I'm kinda getting tired of Space Gray and would've opted for a silver laptop in a heartbeat if it was an option, but I wasn't going to complain at the absolute beast of a machine that I was offered instead – our internal IT staff put up with a lot from me, I <3 them for it.

Thinkpad X1 Nano Gen 1 (i7-1130G7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD): I'm not in a direct on-call rotation for EGS, but I am in a rotation for an internal incident commander role – this is the device I have to support that need. I didn't love carrying around my 16in chonky boi when I'm on-call because if I'm paged into an incident as part of this rotation, I mostly just need Zoom, Slack, and Google Docs. The X1 Nano is the perfect machine for that – it's incredibly light, has enough power, and the battery life is good enough.

Apple Pro Display XDR (glossy + the Pro Stand): This is absolutely the most opulent thing I own, and I have absolutely zero reason to own it, but it's just an absolute dream to use. I used dual displays for years and eventually settled on just one because it helped me focus – the Pro Display XDR takes that up a notch by giving me even more space to see all of my YAML at once. My biggest complaint with this display is really that I have my desk against a wall in my office, which means I never get to see the beautifully milled holes on the back!

I've also got the custom Logitech webcam that magnetically attaches to the top of the display – it does the trick but isn't anything to write home about.

Apple Magic Keyboard with Touch ID + Apple Magic Trackpad (and sometimes a Logitech MX Master 3 (depends on what mood Bluetooth on macOS decides to be in)): Yes, yes I know what you're thinking… "how CoulD yOU USE sUch a sHItTY kEYBoArd, wHy aren't YoU uSinG a MecHaniCal kEYboaRd" and the answer is that I've tried and I just didn't like it. I don't enjoy the angle it puts my wrists at, even with a dedicated wrist rest, especially compared to the Magic Keyboard where my wrists stay flat while I use it. I'm sure there's some ergo warriors who are going to tell me I'm wrong, and you're probably right, but this works for me and I haven't had any hand/wrist/arm pain yet.

Touch ID on this keyboard is… not great IMO. It only works half the time for me if I'm using the keyboard wirelessly, and the whole reason I have a wireless keyboard is to not have to have it plugged in all the time – CLEAN DESK PLZ.

Fully Jarvis Bamboo Standing Desk (alloy extended base, 60"x30" - 1.5ish meters x .75ish meters - contour top): This desk is almost perfect. If I was going to do it again, I would not order the contour top because I feel like it puts me too close to my monitor and I don't love that.

Even though I'm pretty average height for a male (5'11"/180cm), I still found I needed the extended frame to get the desk low enough that I felt I could sit ergonomically with my feet flat on the floor, knees bent correctly, and my elbows at a roughly 90 degree angle.

Herman Miller Mirra 2: I've had this chair for seven years now and it's still good as new, and I know it'll go for another seven more.

I went to college at a school where one of the campus libraries literally has a book about all of the chairs it has in it, so I was able to try a ton of different chairs before I landed on one that I liked – highly recommend a visit to your local HM/Humanscale/Steelcase dealer or university library to find what fits your body best.

For not work:

2021 14in MacBook Pro (M1 Pro, 16GB RAM, 1 TB SSD): It does the job, I love love love the 14in form-factor, this laptop is almost perfect in my eyes. Great Twitter shitposting machine.

Custom Gaming Desktop (Ryzen 3700X, 32GB RAM, 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD + 2TB SATA SSD, RTX 3080 FE): Helluva Forza Horizon 5 machine, I probably will end up upgrading it to a Ryzen 5900X at some point because why not. It's paired to a Dell S2721DGF (27in, 165Hz, VESA Not-Really-HDR 400 Certified) that does the job, I don't really have any complaints about it, though I'd love to upgrade to a 4k 144hz display this year.

For input I use a Logitech G915 TKL and a G305 mouse (promise I'm not sponsored).

Confession: I'm really not a huge huge gamer, and when I do play, it's typically a racing game of some sort. Even then, I can't play for more than 30-45 minutes at a time. I don't know why, it's just been something I've struggled with for years. It's a blessing and a curse.

iPhone 13 Pro (256GB, Gold): I buy a new iPhone every year in a very un-environmentally-conscious choice, it's a guilty pleasure. Last year I had a 12 Mini and LOVED the size, but the battery life and very-quick-to-throttle display brightness issues caused me to go back to the full-size phone this year (and also ProMotion).

There's a MagSafe Wallet in Dark Cherry on the back.

And what software?

I'm not sure if I could be closer to an "average person in tech" software stack. I rely heavily on G Suite for email/docs/etc, Slack for chat, and Zoom for video stuff at work. Day-to-day task management + notetaking is split between JIRA (which makes me very sad most of the time, it's a huge time sink for me) and Notion, with code living in GitHub (or GitHub Enterprise depending on what I'm working on).

For executing focused work, I rely heavily on VS Code (with the GitHub Codespaces theme and SF Mono) and GoLand, I use on macOS most of the time (Warp looks sweet though). I use New Relic, Elastic APM, and Grafana with some custom plugins to check up on the health of the services I support.

kubectx/kubens are two tools I cannot live without in my terminal – they make switching between Kubernetes clusters and namespaces so damn easy, and if you pair them with fzf both tools get that much better.

I also frequently spend time in Terraform-land, which I have a love-hate relationship with depending on what I'm using it for (but it's been absolutely wonderful to watch grow over the last few years – kudos to HashiCorp).

What would be your dream setup?

I think I'm almost there. Large-scale, I want to repaint my office from it's current dark blue to something lighter, like an off-white or gray, and turn my desk around so that I can actually see the back of my monitor every once in a while. I wish that I had opted for the VESA mount + a Humanscale arm because occasionally I want to move my monitor around more than the standard Pro Stand allows me to. If I was going to buy another desk, I'd also not opt for the contour on the front – gimme a regular rectangle.

I still haven't gotten the audio in my office dialed in. I really want a set of KEF LS50s, but they're just so big and then I also need an amp to power them, and my once clean desk quickly becomes a rats nest of cables. In the same vein of things-I-have-avoided-because-extra-cables, I really want to do a proper mirrorless camera-based webcam setup along with a real microphone on a boom so that my voice can sound xtra krispy when I serenade people at work with random facts about things they care absolutely zero about (like why I wished I had an induction range instead of a gas one (spoiler: the gas one is wildly inefficient and bad for air quality)).

On the coffee front, I'd love to upgrade to a La Marzocco Linea Mini (maybe a custom one by Specht Design) and a Niche Zero, but both of those are just exceedingly extravagant and I really shouldn't buy them.