Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

Jeff Atwood

Jeff Atwood

Developer, co-founder of Stack Overflow

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Jeff Atwood, co-founder of Stack Overflow and long time blogger at codinghorror.com. Since 2013 I've been working on Discourse, an open source discussion platform.

I came to be a programmer, a writer, an entrepreneur, and a father, in that order. I am still at least three of those things.

What hardware do you use?

I try to live by the golden rule: always have at least five computers within a ten foot range of where you are at any given time. Here's what I use regularly:

I was never a big Apple fan, but the way they made such dramatic jumps in mobile performance over the last 4-5 years, plus their unexpected turn into world class mobile hardware security ... has kinda turned me into a believer. Apple has always been good at closed ecosystems, haven't they? And for better or worse, we live in the era of the ultimate closed ecosystems.

The Surface Pro is probably my preferred device at any given time if I have to pick just one. They've really perfected the tablet keyboard in the last version and I love the form factor. I just ordered the new Surface Pro, too, though you definitely need to go with the i5 or i7 to have a meaningful performance difference between this and the latest iOS hardware.

I apologize for the lack of Android here, because although the OS has improved dramatically in the last 2 years, I've really struggled to find hardware I like that runs Android. Everything is Qualcomm, and Qualcomm is .. not so good lately. That said, I love the Google ecosystem and I set my Mom up with the Nexus 9 and Pixel phone. I sure hope one day Google will make their own mobile hardware like Apple does.

And what software?

I guess it's true, every other version of Windows is the good one: Windows XP good, Vista bad, Windows 7 good, Windows 8 bad, Windows 10 good. While Stack Overflow was mostly a .net and Windows platform, it's true that Linux is a big part of my life now with Discourse -- and the big news is that, in Windows 10, Microsoft has internalized Linux on Windows! I can launch a real Bash shell with a real Linux right in Windows, with (almost) no virtualization overhead.

In a stunning plot twist, it turns out that Microsoft was the one to finally make it the year of Linux on the Desktop. That's right, you no longer need to pick iOS if you want kinda-sorta-Unix on a modern GUI that won't make your eyes bleed. Well, not too much, anyway.

That said, I'm not an OS bigot, I use OS X (albeit very, very lightly), Linux, Android, and iOS regularly alongside Windows. Diversity is good for the soul.

My favorite software of all time happens works on every platform: the web browser. Modern versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari are all my huckleberry and I love them like I love my kids. For development I use Visual Studio Code, which is built using browser technology and works everywhere, and has become remarkably great in the last year as they keep iterating on it. I also need a clipboard history tool installed wherever I go, because the world was built on the back of the humble cut and paste.

What would be your dream setup?

I dreamt for years about high DPI displays, and those finally happened, even on desktop, thank God. I recently purchased an OLED television and the quality of the colors and the depth of the dynamic range -- blacks that are infinitely black -- blew my freaking mind. So now I'm desperate for OLED displays on my phone, my tablet, and my desktop and laptop and everywhere else.

I guess I want everything I have now, but with 8k OLED high DPI screens. I also believe the world where your smartphone is indistinguishable from your laptop, performance wise, is nearly upon us, so I'd like that too. Let my smartphone be my mobile device and I can just plug a keyboard and my fancy OLED screen into it.

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