Uses This

1281 interviews since 2009

A picture of Martin O'Leary
Image by Chris Owens.

Martin O'Leary

Artist, developer

in artist, developer, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Martin O'Leary! I live in Newcastle Upon Tyne, in the north-east of England, where I make art on the internet, and I design exhibitions for Life Science Centre. I used to be an academic, studying glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, but I don't do that so much any more.

I have a Twitter, a Patreon, and a web shop.

What hardware do you use?

I live and breathe through my 2017 13" MacBook Pro (the cheaper model without the Touch Bar). I've been using Macs since around 2005, and I don't think I could switch away. At work I have to use a Windows machine, and using it feels like trying to type while wearing oven gloves. I also have a 2011 MacBook Air, which I use as a secondary machine for art installations, long-running tasks, etc, and a box of Raspberry Pis and miscellaneous Arduinos.

My phone is an iPhone 6, but the battery life has become abysmal so I'm looking to upgrade. I recently bought a second-hand Samsung Galaxy A8 for an art piece, which is a really nice piece of hardware, but I'm too tied into the Apple ecosystem to switch to it full-time.

My "studio" is one side of our guest bedroom, where I've got an IKEA NORDEN table, which is sturdy and nice to look at, but not so nice that I feel bad about dropping a soldering iron on it. It's currently playing host to the beginnings of a homebrewed modular synthesizer, and an EleksDraw pen plotter. The EleksDraw is a temperamental beast, and a testament to my willingness to spend time fixing things rather than spend money on something which actually works.

When I'm thinking, I produce a lot of "write-only" notes, usually on whatever scrap printer paper I have lying around. For more permanent notes, I carry around a lime green Leichtturm1917 A6 Pocket notebook for art notes and a black hardcover Moleskine Classic Pocket for work stuff, to-do lists, etc. I like Uni-ball Signo Gel RT pens, but I keep losing them. For actually producing artwork, I use Sakura Pigma Micron pens on Daler-Rowney Smooth Cartridge paper.

I carry everything around in a blue Osprey Quantum backpack, which I've had for nearly a decade. It's been everywhere with me, from fishing boats in East Greenland to fancy-pants art galleries. They don't make this design any more, and I'll be gutted when it eventually gives up.

Some other objects in my life that I'd recommend without hesitation: the Nintendo Switch, the Le Creuset cast iron casserole, my old Berghaus hiking boots.

And what software?

I live in the terminal, using tmux and oh-my-zsh to make things slightly more friendly. I have Vim reflexes burned into my fingers, but I actually do most of my text editing in VS Code these days.

Python is my first-choice programming language for most things (the one major exception is that I do all my daily generative sketches in Clojure). I use a lot of Jupyter notebooks, but I'm a terrible person, so they're all called something like "Untitled94.ipynb".

I go through phases of using note-taking and productivity apps, and phases of completely freestyling my garbage fire of a life. Right now I'm using nvALT as a note-taking app (I'm typing this interview into it), which at least has the advantage that when I eventually give up on it, all my data will still be in easily accessible text files. My office calendar and email live in Outlook, and my home stuff in Google Calendar and Gmail - I can't say I like either very much, but they do the job.

Dropbox, 1Password, Chrome: these feel more like basic infrastructure than "software" that I "use". I use Keynote for presentations, and it's fine, I guess? I feel like there's a market for better presentation software. I use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for a lot of stuff, and they're both great, exactly what you want out of expensive commercial software.

On my phone, I pay far too much attention to Twitter and Slack. Recently I've been using Mastodon a lot, but I haven't settled on a client I like, so I've been bouncing between Amaroq, Tootdon, Toot! and the web interface. The main drain on my battery life is probably Marvel Puzzle Quest, which is my block-matching zone-out game of choice.

What would be your dream setup?

Infinite storage, both digital and physical. Someone who comes by once a week, and discreetly files away all my discarded projects, so they disappear from my sight, but I can find them again later. A nice big window with a view of a tree and the ocean. A cold breeze and a warm fire.

If you mean, like, actual computery stuff, then one of my colleagues has a reMarkable tablet and I kind of want to steal it, but that would probably get me fired from my job.