The Setup

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

Håkon Wium Lie

Håkon Wium Lie

CTO (Opera Software), creator of CSS

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Håkon Wium Lie and I'm the CTO of Opera Software, maker of browsers. In 1994 I invented a small language called Cascading HTML Style Sheets which developed into CSS which is used to describe web typography. I'm still actively involved in making sure CSS can do things beyond scrolled web pages. Especially, I'd like to see CSS replace native apps.

In addition to computer stuff, I have a woodworking studio and a small organic farm with apples, geese and sheep.

What hardware do you use?

I'm typing this on a Thinkpad X220. It's a great machine with room for a 1TB disk, analog and digital video ports, and a classic Thinkpad keyboard. Alas, Lenovo switched to island style keybords in 2012, so I will depend on online auctions for a steady supply of used X220 in the future.

I take about 20k photographs per year with my Canon SLR. If you're not a great photographer, taking many photos improves your chance of getting some good shots. Canon 6D lets me take more photos per second than my previous model.

The Lowepro Fastpack 250 has room for the laptop, the camera and lenses to spare. I've travelled around the world with only this bag as my luggage.

I wear a Swatch model GB743, which is lightweight, ticks, and has high-contrast analog dial with day and date. I only take it off to change battery.

I drive electric cars: a Think from 2002 (still with original batteries), and a newer Nissan Leaf. Both are fantastic cars. I have an old diesel Landrover for the one thing electric cars don't have: a tow hitch. At the farm, I drive an Argo 580, an amphibious tracked vehicle. The geese like it, too.

I also carry a phone with me, but I don't have a favorite. Mine is not an iPhone, though the first computer I used was an Apple II in 1980. I now prefer real apples.

And what software?

I currently run Linux Mint on the Thinkpad. The Thinkpad keyboard is almost perfect, but the Control key is in the wrong position. Therefore, after installing Linux, I run a utility to switch the Control key back to where it was in my childhood. For some reason, computer makers decided to place the totally useless CapsLock key there.

Thereafter, I install the Opera browser. Opera comes embedded in many phones and TV sets, and on Windows you are offered a choice of browsers, at least in Europe. On Linux, I install it myself.

Then comes Prince, which converts HTML and CSS to beautiful PDF files. (Disclosure: I'm the chairman of the board of YesLogic, the company behind Prince.)

I also use emacs a lot. I type this in emacs, and I read email in emacs (in vm, to be precise). I've used emacs since 1988 and I have email archives from back then.

What would be your dream setup?

The phone is the device that causes me most embarrassment and therefore should be fixed first. My phone makes calls and sends meaningless messages from my pocket. When I try to make phone calls for real, I get very little feedback while holding the phone to my ear. I'd like to press a tactile button to make the call, and to have tactile feedback from the phone while it tries to connect the call. Finally, I'd like a tactile button to hang up.

I'd like to carry more data with me. This includes my full-text browsing history, all my email, Project Gutenberg, and Wikipedia in several languages. For privacy reasons, I don't want personal data to cross borders unnecessarily. I'd like to see Norway use its unique natural resources to improve privacy on the internet.

My dream setup also includes a browser which can show data and documents in paged presentations, as opposed to scrolled views. Pages and columns have been basic building blocks in typography since the Romans started cutting scrolls into pages. This is not why browsers should support them. We should do so because they help us make better, more beautiful user experiences on mobile devices.

Final wish: an electric car with a tow hitch.

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