The Setup

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

Peter Bourgon

Peter Bourgon

Distributed systems developer (Fastly)

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm a programmer, working mostly on backend and distributed systems, and mostly in the Go programming language. I've worked for Bloomberg, SoundCloud, and Weaveworks in a variety of backend roles; I'm currently working for Fastly, on the data infrastructure team. I'm also reasonably prolific in the world of open-source. My current projects include Go kit, a toolkit for microservices; and OK Log, a distributed and coördination-free log management system.

What hardware do you use?

I mostly use a 3-year-old MacBook Air 13". I use it about equally in cafés and restaurants around Berlin, and connected to a monitor at home or in a coworking space. It strikes the right balance of low weight, usable screen size, great battery life, and sufficient horsepower. I also have a corporate-issued MacBook Pro 13" that's permanently attached to my monitor at home: a sort of pseudo-desktop, with its own trackpad and keyboard. To be honest, I can't tell the difference.

I've got an iPhone 6, which I think is a bit too large and fragile; at the next opportunity, I'd like to switch to an SE. At home in my rather spartan flat in Mitte, I've got a Time Capsule and Airport Express driving my wi-fi network; I appreciate how low-maintenance and high-performance they both have been. That's basically the extent of my technology. I've spent enough time configuring and troubleshooting to deeply appreciate not needing to do it anymore.

And what software?

I use a pretty bone-stock Mac OS. For the vast majority of my day-to-day work, I use iTerm, Visual Studio Code, and Chrome. I also use Homebrew and Homebrew Cask to manage my applications; Dropbox to manage some of my files; f.lux to let me sleep at night; SizeUp to move my windows around; and Spotify and SoundCloud to listen to music. Finally, I owe DigitalOcean and Terraform a debt of gratitude: they're my one-two punch when I need more compute power for testing, benchmarking, or demos.

What would be your dream setup?

I suppose I think of "my setup" very broadly. Not only the specific tools I'm using to do my work, but also the context in which I do it: the state of my mind, my emotions, the city in which I live, and the people surrounding me. I'm very happy with where I am, now. With technology that never really feels burdensome to use; with friends and colleagues who complement me and challenge me to be a better person; and in a city that is at once accessible and transcendental, humane and larger-than-life, full of cafés where I can spend half a day hacking without guilt, full of people who are inspiring, earnest, and engaged in the shared social contract of humanity.

So I don't have a dream setup, really. I just want to keep interrogating, adjusting, and re-assessing all of these things, in a constant introspective conversation.

With that said, I'd love to have a laptop that was a little lighter and thinner than my Air, with a better, higher-resolution screen. Am I just describing the new MacBook? Maybe. Shame about the single USB-C port, though.

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