Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get the job done?

Ramsey Nasser

Ramsey Nasser

Computer scientist, game designer

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Ramsey Nasser. I am a computer scientist, game designer, and educator from Lebanon living in New York. I was an Eyebeam Fellow and currently teach at a variety of Universities around the city and develop software as a freelancer while working on my own projects. I am particularly interested in code education and the design of programming languages and programming tools.

What hardware do you use?

A 15" MacBook Pro from 2011 serves as my sole computer. It has 16GB of RAM (which is more than every computer I've ever owned combined), so it's snappy. At home, my 27" Cinema Display, wireless keyboard and trackpad turn my laptop into a desktop.

I don't like being plugged in at all times, so I abandoned smart phones a few years ago in favor of the Motofone F3. It calls, texts, and gets out of my way. I love it to death! They haven't made them in a few years, so finding chargers or good batteries is a bit of a challenge, but it really comes close to the perfect phone as far as I'm concerned.

Instead of wired internet at home, I have a 4G hot spot from Clear. It works great as domestic WiFi, but it also lets me pick up and work outside when the weather's nice.

In my back pocket I always keep a Moleskine Kraft Brown Cahier Journal and a ballpoint pen. I like always having something to jot down notes on or brainstorm visually. The experience of writing on paper with a pen still trumps every note taking app I've tried.

I shoot pictures on two cameras: a Canon EOS 500D with a 50mm f1.8 lens, and a Canon A-1 with a variety of non-autofocus lenses, a 50mm f1.4 being my favorite. The A1 was my father's camera in the 80s and my entire childhood was recorded through its lenses. My digital photos turn out a lot better, but shooting on my A1 is so much more of a challenge and has a lot more sentimental value.

When it's not raining, a motorcycle is my preferred way of getting around. I ride a stock '95 Honda Nighthawk 750 that I love to pieces. It doesn't excel in any category, but does everything well and is damn near indestructible. My first bike, which I still own, is a gorgeous but perpetually-in-need-of-work '76 Honda CB360.

I still have my TI-83 graphing calculator on my desk, and it gets used constantly.

And what software?

I'm on Mac OS, having been a Linux user for a long time. OS X is fine, it works well as a POSIX system and works well as an OS that normal people (which I like to be from time to time) can use. Homebrew is a must if you're a hacker using OS X on a daily basis.

I browse the web using Chrome. The combined search/address bar is a great idea, and the V8 JavaScript engine is noticeably better than other browsers' scripting support.

I drift between text editors over time. I was a long time TextMate user, and even maintain a popular Arduino bundle for it, but I'm on Sublime Text now. I love the multiple cursor idiom and the command bar, but still Sublime Text does a lot of things that annoy me. I'm trying to get into Vim, but the keyboard commands still seem arbitrary and non-intuitive. -20 hacker points, I know.

The most effective tool I've ever picked up is Notational Velocity, hands down. I use this to record ideas, take notes, manage my todo lists, and almost everything else. It is one of the few things I use daily and have no complaints about. They nailed it.

Alfred serves as my application launcher, although I am not a power user by any stretch.

I use Sparrow as my mail client, and I don't host my mail on GMail. I've tried a lot of alternatives, and everything is either GMail-only or not that good. Let me go on record saying I will never forgive Google for killing Sparrow.

I prototype a lot of my web-based projects on Heroku and usually migrate them over to my Linode box when they need a more nuanced deployment.

A lot of my game development happens in Unity 3D. It is quick and easy to get something up and running, and Unity's Component system is quite powerful when used correctly.

For long-form writing, I love Byword. It turns my laptop into a typewriter and gets out of my way – perfect.

What would be your dream setup?

Well, I tend to feel that everything is profoundly broken, so my actual dream setup involves rewriting operating systems and applications as we know them from scratch.

Short of that, I wouldn't mind a laptop with a retina display and SSD storage. Longer battery life would also be welcome. I almost never carry a charger with me because of how bulky they are, but I can't go more than 4 hours without being that guy who bugs you to borrow your power. A good set of speakers or headphones would be awesome, although I couldn't tell you which ones.

Oh, and a black '60s-era BMW R75/5 in mint condition, please.