Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

Mihai Parparita

Mihai Parparita

Software engineer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Mihai Parparita. I'm an engineer, previously at Google, currently at Quip. At Google I was the tech lead for Google Reader and Chrome Apps. At Quip I end up doing a little bit of everything, but primarily web and iOS work, most recently spreadsheets. I also blog at persistent.info and try to find time for the occasional side project to put up on GitHub.

What hardware do you use?

My primary machine at home is a mid-2010 Mac Pro with 12 cores, 20 GB of RAM, and an ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics card. It also serves as the main storage hub for our house, and thus in addition to a 256 GB SSD it also has two 4 TB drives (one serving as a Time Machine backup). I use the wired Apple aluminum keyboard and a Magic Mouse for input. The output hardware is among the oldest that I own: a 30" Cinema Display that will be celebrating its 10th birthday this year and a set of original Harman Kardon Soundsticks. This is all on top of and under an IKEA Jerker desk.

One of the perks of a doing an (otherwise tedious and delayed) full house renovation was a chance to do a proper home network, so all rooms have Ethernet jacks, connected via Cat6 to a mini server closet with a 24-port Netgear switch and a Mac mini. There are also 4 Airport base stations throughout the house, of various generations. Hooked up to the TV is a second-generation Apple TV that is our TV's only input.

For work my one and only machine is a mid-2012 15" Retina MacBook Pro with 16 GB of RAM and a 768 GB SSD. I end up spending two hours on Caltrain commuting each day, and the "mobile workstation" aspect of a beefier laptop enables me to treat that period as productive time. I carry it in an Incase Compact Backpack which is the smallest backpack I could find that both fit the laptop and didn't get in the way of sprinting to catch the train. Once I get into the office I perch the machine onto a Griffin iCurve and plug it into a 27" Thunderbolt Display that has the same model of keyboard and mouse as at home attached.

I also carry around an iPhone 6 (space gray, 128 GB, with a newly-acquired Killspencer veil to give the back some texture) and sometimes an iPad mini 2 (also in space gray, 32 GB). I also have a Canon Rebel T1i DSLR, but it's been losing out to the iPhone for pictures, especially as our son has grown up and thus less likely to stay put while I get the big camera.

And what software?

Nearly all of my coding is done in BBEdit, with the occasional switch to Xcode for iOS development. I use Terminal for all my command-line needs. For visual-related work I usually end up in Photoshop and often reach for xScope to make sure things are all lined up. I'm a heavy user of OS X's Spaces virtual desktop feature, especially when running the laptop without an external display. TotalSpaces2 makes Spaces more power-user friendly, adding more features and allowing more control over transition times. MagicPrefs is also in that vein, giving me more customization options over the gestures that can be done with the Magic Mouse. For files that I need access to from everywhere I use Dropbox. I'm becoming more and more of a 1Password convert. I have a few gauges in my menu bar courtesy of iStat Menus. For off-site backups I use SuperDuper to fortnightly mirror data onto a removable drive (in a Macally enclosure) that otherwise lives at an undisclosed location.

Chrome is my primary web browser on both Mac OS X and iOS. The tabs that I have open most often are those for Quip (for both personal and work communication and documents), Gmail (personal and work) and Newsblur (just personal, sadly I can no longer justify time in a feed reader as "dogfooding").

On my mobile devices, besides the iOS variants of many of the above apps, I use Google Maps, Tweetbot, Overcast for podcasts, and Kindle for books (primarily on the iPad, unless the line at Costco is particularly long).

What would be your dream setup?

I've gone back and forth between having a single (portable) machine with everything on it and having two (or more), such that I could use the maximum amount of computing power while stationary. If physics is still a constraint, I have a hard time seeing the power and heat constraints ever allowing a laptop to rival the core count or performance of a high-end desktop. Since my compile times are only ever going up, I think my dream setup would therefore be my current laptop/desktop split, just with fewer compromises. I would love a 30" Retina display that could be driven by either machine. An all-SSD setup for both would be ideal, as well as 10 Gigabit Ethernet to connect them when needed.

To make the dual machine life more palatable, the syncing situation would have to be improved. Using web services helps, and some applications (like BBEdit) can store their preferences in Dropbox. But it still takes me several hours to set up a new machine to my liking, even when considering that my penchant for customization has significantly diminished since my Kaleidoscope years. Similarly, I find that before vacation I spend more and more time shuffling (media) bits between my laptop, my wife's laptop, and our respective iPads. Whether it's through better connectivity back to a centralized server, or improved peer-to-peer communication, or even just an iTunes sync that works, I would like to no longer care what specific device a particular file is on, regardless of its size or vintage.

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