Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Phil Gyford

Phil Gyford

Web developer, actor

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Phil Gyford and I mostly make stuff on the web, often for paying clients. Over the years I've developed several personal projects of which I'm probably best known for The Diary of Samuel Pepys and maybe Today's Guardian.

Sometimes I do a bit of acting, which makes for a great change from sitting alone at a computer.

What hardware do you use?

I use a MacBook Pro. "Retina, 13-inch, Early 2015", it tells me. I tend to max out a new laptop in terms of processor, memory and storage in the hope it will last as long as possible. My previous MacBook was a "Late 2008" so hopefully this one will see me well into the 2020s, although it's already had a new screen and "top case"...

I usually work with the laptop plugged into a 24" Dell display that's nearly a decade old but is still fine. I don't use an external keyboard, mouse or trackpad because I've never had any RSI symptoms from using laptops directly (so far) and this makes for less desktop clutter.

When at my desk I usually have music playing through a pair of Audioengine A2+ speakers which seem pretty good and aren't too big. I'm not an obsessive audiophile but they do lack bass, being smallish, so I added a Gemini II subwoofer, made in Southend-on-Sea, which squats, throbbing, in the limited space under the desk. Sometimes I'll listen on headphones and have a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50s which I've used enough that I had to repair the headband a while back.

I also have an iPhone SE, an iPad Air 2, and a recently-purchased Apple Watch 4, which is easily the most dispensible of the three. At the gym I use a second-generation iPod Shuffle and wired earphones, like a man from the long-forgotten early 21st century.

In the lounge I have a PlayStation 4, and that old "Late 2008" MacBook is now in use as our TV set-top box, recording broadcast TV through an eyetv USB stick.

Our home doesn't have any voice-activated devices, and no "smart" or Internet Of Things things, unless you count a ten-year-old Pure Evoke Flow radio, which can play internet-based audio streams and has a frustrating interface.

And what software?

I do most of my work in the Atom text editor with the vim-mode-plus package. I used MacVim for a few years, going through the lengthy process of learning enough arcane key combinations to make vim useful and I've stuck with them after switching to Atom, which was because I wanted something a little more modern. I doubt the limited vim-ness I use makes me any more efficient but it's now hard-wired into my typing bones.

I inevitably use the Terminal app a fair bit in my work and usually manage to stay within the small field of command-line things that don't scare me too much.

There are probably other apps and tools I should be using for development but I tend to stay with what I know; it takes me a while to learn new ways of doing things and for them to stick.

When I need to fiddle with images I usually use Acorn, which is entirely fine, although last year I had to subscribe to Photoshop for a project so I currently have that as an alternative tool to incredibly under-use.

I read a lot of RSS feeds and some email newsletters, all of which live in Feedbin, which I love. That syncs with Reeder, which I use on the iPad.

What would be your dream setup?

A slightly bigger, better display would be quite nice but I don't have enough room on my desk, so everything's fine for the moment.