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 Diana Smith

Diana Smith

CSS artist, UI engineer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Diana Smith. There’s a chance you might know me from my CSS art, but what I am in my daily life is a UI Engineer, or front-end specialist, or web developer. The industry hasn’t really reached a consensus on the proper nomenclature, so in the meantime I can be described as a wrangler of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Or, someone who works on computers but who won’t be able to help with network problems.

What hardware do you use?

At home I use a Lenovo Flex 4. When I’m not at home I use a work-issued Dell Latitude E6440 laptop, and two 27” monitors (one Dell, one Samsung).

At work I have a very massive pair of Sennheiser HD 380 Pros. At home I have some very lightweight LoHi bluetooth earbuds to which the phrase “so comfortable, you can’t even feel them” applies, because I often forget they’re on my head as I walk out of the house and into my car - then two blocks later I’ll suddenly hear the beeping as they’ve lost connection.

My Motorola Moto G Plus phone is a bit of a crossover item, as I use the Symantec VIP Access for two-factor authentication when using the work VPN. I’m not required to actually use my phone for traditional phone purposes like talking, so outside of authentication it’s mostly used for gmail and news browsing.

And what software?

Now that the lines are so blurred between sites and apps, it’s sometimes hard to tell what qualifies, but in general:

Home and Work: Chrome, Atom. Gmail/Hangouts. And Spotify, just for when I can’t control the noises in my environment.

Work Only: Firefox, SourceTree, Outlook, Skype, Slack, JIRA.

Home Only: Netflix, Reddit.

What would be your dream setup?

Here is my terrible secret - fancy hardware or software is totally wasted on me.

My Lenovo ideapad? When I was researching and shopping for laptops, I insisted how important it was for my delicate artistic visions that I get the one with:

  1. a touch screen monitor, that:
  2. swiveled 360 degrees to transform itself into a tablet.

It’s been almost two years since I’ve had the thing, and I’ve used both of these features exactly zero times.

The Sennheisers? Don’t get me wrong, they sound fantastic. But their primary purpose is to be huge. I work facing a window, so if someone were to come up from behind me and try to engage in conversation while I was listening to loud music through microscopic earbuds, it might lead them to believe that I was simply ignoring them. I am not. Hence why the large headphones are important. So really, you could slap a huge pair of $5 headphones on my head and I’d be happy.

My old digital art-making software that was expensively subscription-based? Unsubscribed. Have not missed it.

The times in my life in which I’ve been the most artistically prolific have not been when I’ve been surrounded by the finest art-making materials - instead, they were inspired by restrictions like “create art using only two colors” or “draw something using only the glitchy transparency effects of Facebook’s Graffiti app”.

Even if it’s not expensive - or even if it’s free, I have a weird aversion to becoming reliant on things that make life seem too easy. As soon as I felt myself falling in love with React.js and Vue.js, I cut myself off of from them and put myself on a strict vanilla JS diet. My fear was that I would soon forget how to do anything without the help of a framework. I loved both of them, but I just used the lessons they taught me and moved onward. As a result, my JS projects are now even more satisfying to build.

Note: I should probably insert a disclaimer here about how this “too easy” mentality doesn’t apply to everything in life - I ain’t exactly complaining about indoor plumbing being too convenient, nor do I insist on personally foraging for all my food.

However, on the more modern side of life - I really do love that despite its sophistication, technology is becoming more and more affordable and accessible.

My amazing job that pays my bills was made possible by the experience I amassed via free software and free online resources. My tasks don’t require a beefy video card or tons of RAM - they simply require my undivided attention.

The art that I make in my free time is completely digital, which means that it requires no physical resources other than the calories I put into my body to allow me the miniscule amount of energy that it takes to type. That never ceases to blow my mind - being an artist in this day and age means I don’t even need materials like paint or brushes - art can literally be conjured out of thin air.

And if I ever am at a loss for helpful techniques with which to help me better do my job, I can use any of the internet-enabled devices within my reach to search the entire internet for all of the freaking information in the entire freaking world.

Seriously, what more could I ask for?

If I were hard-pressed to name a dream setup… I don’t know, a few wireless monitors at home, maybe? But I truly don’t know if I’d even use them.

There’s probably an argument to be made that this isn’t the healthiest approach - that I’m not accepting the possibility of better methods, or that I’m complacent with mediocrity. And I would then be the first to admit that yes, I am often this dog.

But I am very much not on fire - I’m simply working on a modestly-sized laptop from my non-ergonomic couch. And my creativity always seems to be the most sparked by a logistical challenge. So I kind of never want to be without at least some sort of obstacle. And that works just fine for me.