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A picture of Kris Howard

Kris Howard

Tech leader, blogger, crafter, speaker

in developer, knitting, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi! My name is Kris Howard, and I'm a manager in the Developer Relations team at Amazon Web Services. I lived in Sydney for the past 19 years, but at the end of August 2020 I relocated to Munich, Germany with my partner (in the middle of a pandemic!). I do a lot of public speaking at meetups and tech conferences, which used to be in person (involving a fair amount of travel) but nowadays is mostly online. I started my career as a web developer, and I'm still maintaining the Roald Dahl fan site I built in university in 1996 as well as a personal blog that dates from 2000. I am also an award-winning knitter as well as a sewist of clothes for myself and my partner. Lately I've been experimenting with streaming knitting on Twitch.

What hardware do you use?

One of the criteria for finding somewhere to live in Munich was a place where I could have a combination office and craft room. Thankfully, we found one and I've been busy setting it up now that our furniture finally arrived on the boat from Australia.

On my work desk, I've got a 13" 2017 MacBook Pro that is well due for an upgrade. It sits on a Thermaltake Massive V20 laptop stand for extra cooling and plugs into an Alogic USB-C hub. Plugged into that, I've got a Dell 24 monitor, a papalook HD webcam, a Neewer microphone, and an HP Elite keyboard. (It's a German keyboard so a few of the keys are different, but I've mapped it to the layout I'm used to.) I've also got an original Apple Magic Mouse, which I love and will mourn when it finally dies. For extra light when streaming, I've got a Neewer LED ring light as well as Dimmable Bi-Colour LED Light on a stand. When my AirPods aren't charged up, I use Bose QuietComfort 25 noise-cancelling headphones (which are the only over-ear ones I've found comfortable on my giant head). I've also got a 3rd gen Echo Dot (still set up for Australia) as well as a 1st gen Google Home Mini (set up for Germany). When I'm working, I sit in a ridiculous Secretlab TITAN D.Va gaming chair. (No, I don't play Overwatch, but it was in stock and I liked the pink!)

For personal computing, I stick within the Apple ecosystem. I've got a 13" 2015 MacBook Air that's still kicking, though I did replace the battery a few months back. I also have an 11" iPad Pro that I use with a Logitech Slim Folio Pro and Apple Pencil for travel. I also spend way too much time staring at my iPhone 11. We've also just got a Brother 2750 multi-function printer, which I use for printing reams of German bureaucracy and the occasional sewing pattern.

On the craft side of the office, I recently got an IKEA Bekant electric sit/stand desk. At one end sits my Janome Skyline S5 computerised sewing machine. At the other end is a large 24"x36" Fiskars self-healing cutting mat that I use with a KAI rotary cutter. (I can raise the desk up to be more comfortable when standing and cutting!) My Good Scissors are Soft Canary dressmaker shears.

For knitting, I pretty much always use circular needles. I've got a set of addiClick interchangeables, as well as an assortment of addi Turbos and KnitPros. I prefer knitting with natural fibers, and my current project is using Lana Grossa Cool Wool Fine 100% merino wool. On the rare occasion I buy yarn in a skein rather than a ball, I have a hand-cranked ball winder that I use with a swift.

Beyond that stuff, I read books on a Kindle Paperwhite. I like being able to plan my work week on paper, and for that I use a Stalogy Editor's Series notebook in a Hobonichi Techo 2016 Hello Kitty cover that a friend brought me from Japan. On my wrist I wear a Withings Steel HR, which I love because I get the benefits of a smart watch (activity tracking, notifications) in a form factor that actually looks like a watch and only needs charging every few weeks.

And what software?

My working day is generally spent in Firefox, Slack, Amazon Chime, and the Microsoft Office Suite. If I need to give a presentation, I tend to use PowerPoint for internal work-related ones and Keynote for external or personal. I use AWS for all my coding demos, of course! I also use Canva to occasionally create graphics. For streaming to Twitch, I use OBS on my laptop and OBS Camera on my iPhone.

My personal sites run on Wordpress that I host on Amazon Lightsail. For updating them, I use Atom with its built-in GitHub support. If I need to do anything with images, I use Acorn. If I need a terminal, I use iTerm2.

I was an early Gmail adopter and I use Google Drive for sharing docs with my partner. We also have a shared Todoist to-do list and a Google Calendar for organising our life. We also use YNAB (You Need a Budget) for managing our joint finances. I store passwords in mSecure. I also use Contacts+ to augment my address book, because it allows you to add tags and arbitrary notes to people and then search on them later. (I'm terrible with names so it helps to know where and when I met someone.) I've built a custom Mac Automator workflow that I can invoke from a LinkedIn profile to add the person to my Contact+ address book. I use Tweetdeck in the browser and Tweetbot on my iPhone for managing Twitter, and The Old Reader for reading RSS feeds. (I'm still bitter about the loss of Google Reader, which I loved. 😭) I listen to music and podcasts on Spotify.

For my crafting, I'm a big fan of (and contributor to) FreeSewing, an Open Source Javascript library for creating made-to-measure sewing patterns. You just upload your measurements, select some configuration options, and generate a completely custom pattern to print out. Genius! For knitting, I use Ravelry to record all of my project data and find new patterns to knit. (I'm "webgoddess" over there if you want to friend me.) I use Notability on my iPad to organise my knitting patterns and mark up PDFs with the Pencil. I also occasionally use Knit Counter Lite on my iPhone, if I'm knitting a pattern that requires keeping track of rows.

Lastly, I just want to give a shout out to Clue. If you menstruate, it's a great way to track your cycle and get insight into why you feel the way you do.

What would be your dream setup?

It's about time to upgrade my work machine, and man, what I wouldn't give for an M1 MacBook Pro! (I think it's a longshot though.) I've also got cables running everywhere, and I'd love for something to just hide all that.

Beyond that I'm pretty happy, especially considering we just had an international move. Sure, there's still a lot of stuff in storage in Australia that I miss, most notably my beloved Singer Overlocker and most of my knitting and sewing pattern books. I'd love to have a babylock Coverlock machine someday. I also recently joined a Facebook group for sewists who use projectors to project patterns directly onto fabric, so I'm watching eBay and Facebook Marketplace for an Epson UST. But I've got more than enough to keep me occupied for now..