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A picture of Laura Khalil

Laura Khalil

Marketer, puzzler, robot builder

in hacker, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm a marketer by day and nerd by night. As the self-appointed Chief Nerd Herder for, I blog about science, technology and art. I hack, make and dream and try to encourage my readers to do the same, regardless of their level of experience. I'm more of a generalist than an expert in anything, but that doesn't stop me from trying out new science projects and learning as much as I can from those around me. I look forward to the day I can hold an electric saw and people don't run out of the room screaming in abject fear. We're not quite there yet.

When I'm not behind a computer I can be found making robots, solving puzzles, tinkering with my ham radio or running around San Francisco playing alternate reality games.

What hardware do you use?

I've got a beat up 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo white Macbook. It has travelled halfway across the world with me and is falling apart at the seams...literally. I also have a beautiful 24-inch widescreen monitor from Dell.

I finally caved and purchased a smart phone after my phone company (Helio) went out of business. I went with a Samsung Moment which is running Android.

I have two cameras: a Nikon D40 and a Canon PowerShot SD1100IS 8MP. I generally keep the PowerShot with me at all times for quick photos on the go. The Nikon comes out for dedicated photo walks.

I own two telescopes: An Orion SkyQuest XT8i Dobsonian and a Galileoscope. The XT8i has an 8-inch mirror and is awesome for seeing deep into the sky. It is also about 5 feet tall and 70-lbs with the base so that only comes out for special occasions. The Galileoscope is a limited edition DIY telescope with a 2-inch diameter. It was created for the 2009 Year of Astronomy. It's small enough that you can hold it with your hands but it can also be affixed to a tripod.

In my electronics kit, I have a soldering iron which I use to construct everything from a TV-B-Gone to my own electrical component jewelry.

To round out my nerd cred, I use an Elecraft K2 HF amateur radio.

I nearly forgot. I have a Wii which I use to stream Netflix. Prior to that I was using it to play Dance Dance Revolution, but after some rather overzealous stomping around, I injured my knee and have had to resign myself to the fact that I am no longer 13.

And what software?

Google, Google, Google: Gmail. Google Calendar. Google Reader.

I go between Firefox and Chrome for web browsing and use Grooveshark for streaming MP3's.

dorkbyte is created with Wordpress and hosted by yours truly. My writing can usually be found on a Google Doc or in a wiki. I am a huge wiki advocate and really would love to see more business users adopt them. I have a free PBWorks account for my community projects which I use to collaborate with others: robot builds, puzzle challenges and other competitions.

In terms of actual software, I use Picasa to edit and store photos, Audacity to record audio and TextMate for dabbling in Ruby and Python. I really enjoy Skitch for marking up pictures and Balsamiq for creating mockups.

What would be your dream setup?

I'd like a second 24-inch monitor. I'd also like a laptop with a 19-inch collapsable screen that weighs less than 2 pounds. Somebody call Apple and put in an order for that. But barring that, I'm really OK with my old laptop.