Uses This

1270 interviews since 2009

A picture of David Crawshaw

David Crawshaw

Co-founder, CTO (Tailscale)

in bsd, developer, linux, mac, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am co-founder and CTO of Tailscale. I like to write code and help others write code.

What hardware do you use?

My setup grew to deal with 2020. I have four computers:

And what software?

My primary development machine is the MacBook Pro 16". I have a lot of feelings about macOS: it is astonishingly painful for developers, but makes up for it with a consistent experience for users. To be a programmer is to be both, so I pick macOS for the good fonts and reasonably-consistent experience that adapts to decades of changing hardware.

The laptop is mostly plugged into an external screen. I find laptops to be mostly a disappointment. Each week I check to see if an iMac 5k with the new CPU line has been released.

The 2014 iMac 5k I dedicate to video conferencing, mostly Hangouts and Zoom. It got pulled out of mothballs in early 2020. Microphones are important, so I have an Elgato Wave:3 and open ear headphones. I also attach the back camera of an iPad Pro. Using a dedicated machine lets me turn away from my work to focus on who I am talking to. Also on large calls I don't have to listen to a laptop fan trying to keep up.

As I can't pin down the latency characteristics of WiFi, I ethernet to all of my computers. Cutting a few milliseconds out of audio lag makes conversations (which WiFi introduces... randomly) makes a difference.

The Headless AMD Threadripper is running Proxmox. My main Debian environment runs as a VM here, along with various Windows test VMs, and an Ubuntu VM running matlab for my SO. Mostly I connect over ssh to Unix, occasionally RDP. When I switch away from programming in Go, I switch to this machine to run slow compilers (like llvm).

All the sockets between my computers are over Tailscale, so whenever I grab the laptop and leave the house, the connections to my VMs and NAS remain stable. I use the sharing feature to give friends and family access to the NAS. This also doubles as an exercise in eating your own dog food.

Debian is a decent programming environment. It has some of the consistency properties like macOS, but fails unexpectedly. I tried to create an rc.local file last week, but those are gone apparently. My previous attempts to get 4k screens working on Linux failed, so I stick to 5k Mac desktops. Overall, Debian is fine.

My router / small NAS is an ongoing experiment. I switched it to Linux for disk performance but would like to get this back to OpenBSD. (I miss pf.)

The router and Proxmox machines are attached with some QSFP+ 40gbit hardware I got off eBay. It's fun! I highly recommend playing with second-hand network hardware.

For writing software I full-screen a terminal and use Vim. Ctrl+Z for a shell. Every now and again I go searching for a replacement IDE. VSCode came closer than anything else in the last two decades to replacing Vim, but somehow I am back here.

What would be your dream setup?

Realistically: an iMac 5k with an M-series CPU.

If I really wanted to dream: a hackable Unix system with an integrated 5k+ screen and X server, and the OS keeps up to date with improving hardware without moving things around on the screen or changing keyboard shortcuts. But that dream seems to be getting further away.