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 Dana Contreras

Dana Contreras

Systems engineer (Twitter), pilot

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm a systems engineer on Twitter's infrastructure team; I've been at Twitter since early 2010. I keep the tweets flowing and the whales at bay. I'm also known as DanaDanger, or Ms. Danger if you're being cheeky. I'm a licensed commercial pilot too but these days I only fly recreationally.

What hardware do you use?

My official Twitter gear is a 2.7 GHz 13" MacBook Pro with 8 GB RAM and a 500 GB SSD. The SSD makes all the difference when I'm dealing with large code repos (which is all the time). At work, I attach it to a 24-inch Dell U2410 monitor, which is almost wide enough for a Scala project window and a terminal side-by-side at the widths and font sizes I like. I could use another 100 pixels of width. My monitor rests atop a (now nonfunctional) NeXTstation Turbo, just for the nostalgia. I use a stock Apple extended keyboard and some random Logitech mouse that they threw at me when I got here. I'm not picky about my input devices; I just don't want them to change once I've grown accustomed to them. And in any case, nothing will ever outdo the keyboard I had on my NeXT.

I'm a total cheapskate when it comes to headphones because I constantly lose them. Right now I've got two pairs of Sony MDR-EX10LP earbuds that I bought at an airport one day when I forgot to pack my Apple earbuds. The Sonys are surprisingly comfortable, and they carry enough bass to make for satisfying heavy metal and drum 'n' bass, so now they're my favorite cheapies.

As for handhelds, I carry an iPhone 4S with a kick-ass etched steel backplate. I have Verizon so my phone is actually usable. My e-reader is a first-gen nook that I love dearly for its simplicity. But I still buy a lot of paper books, especially ones I want to see on my bookshelves. I own an iPad 2 but I never use it.

When I fly, I use a Lightspeed Thirty 3G headset with 20dB passive and 30dB active noise cancellation and a pair of Ray-Ban aviators. (I like to joke that I'm the only person in San Francisco who wears Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses and actually is an aviator.) Lately I've been flying a Cessna 162, which is comically small for a commercial pilot, but it's a fun little airplane with a really nice glass-panel cockpit that has all the goodies like GPS, moving map, terrain/altitude alerts, and so on.

And what software?

What would be your dream setup?

Honestly, a small, clear lake, a hammock, infinite bookshelves, a canoe, and like-minded company. I love my work, and I will continue to do my work in one way or another for as long as I live, with whatever devices I have before me. I've programmed on VIC-20s, old Palm Pilots, baby Macs, NeXTSTEP, ULTRIX, whatever. I just like figuring out how things work, solving problems, and learning cool tricks. But I pray one day to be free from the structures of corporate culture. Oh, and I want a seaplane.