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Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

Kellan O'Connor

Kellan O'Connor

Engineer (SpaceX)

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Kellan O'Connor, I live in Manhattan Beach, CA and I'm currently an engineer at SpaceX where I think about the design, layout and manufacturability of the main booster engines on the Falcon 9 rocket. I’ve also got a side-project called Tetherboard, a soon-to-be-launched company that is developing app-controlled, home automation devices that will help change the way we use and control power at home. Been having a pretty good time with it all, and it's not bad living by the beach.

What hardware do you use?

At SpaceX I run an HP z400 Workstation with a couple 30" HP widescreen monitors and a 3D Connexion SpaceMouse for CAD/FEA navigation. Being able to quickly load large rocket engine assembly files and run FEA simulations locally are everyday tasks that the z400 does a good job of handling. Dealing with different sections of the rocket assembly at the same time can get a bit hairy, so in some instances I may run a second session off of a HP blade server.

At home I've got a 13" MacBook Air and an Acer Aspire notebook. The MacBook is used primarily for iOS development (TetherBoard) and the Acer, which was originally bought as a cheap travel laptop that I could abuse, now serves somewhat as a second monitor for pulling up articles, Spotify, and email while I work on the MacBook.

Beyond the above work setups, I’ve got an iPhone 4S (16GB), which I use constantly. I’ve also got a Kindle 3 to fall asleep to, and a Go Pro HD HERO2 for goofy surf and snowboard videos.

And what software?

I run NX 7.5 for mechanical design and ANSYS 14.0 for stress analysis. NX is great for dealing with large, detailed engine assemblies and both are pretty typical packages for an aerospace company. Workbench, one of the platforms that Ansys offers, has really made model generation, meshing and optimization much more streamlined than it used to be.

When I need to, I do relatively simple web development in the newest NetBeans IDE, getting tips from other sites using Firebug, a browser plug-in that continues to impress me. I use Xcode 4 regularly since I'm now immersed in the app-making world. The Xcode environment seems very intuitive to me, but then again I don't have much experience coding.

I use Gmail for personal email. I store and backup with Dropbox and I use Skype fairly frequently. On my iPhone I use Path, Mint, Evernote, Spotify, Instagram, Waze and Flipboard. My collection of apps has been consolidated thanks to Flipboard.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm a minimalist so my dream setup involves having fewer things. Apple products are helping my cause because I can now do so much from my iPhone. It'd be ideal to me to have two devices that do everything I need (e.g. my iPhone and one other computing device), with large monitors setup wherever I happen to be working. I'd also love for the phone/computing device to be more rugged. I want it to be ok to drop things and get them wet. I'm excited about companies like HzO and Liquipel, as well as Pantech with their Element tablet that address these desires.

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