Uses This


What do people use to get stuff done?

Sam Kottler

Sam Kottler

Site reliability engineer (GitHub)

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Sam Kottler, a systems engineer based in New York City. I work at GitHub as an engineering manager on the site reliability engineering team, focused on our data centers. Before GitHub I led platform engineering at DigitalOcean, wrote systems management software at Red Hat, and was an early engineer at Venmo.

Outside of work I enjoy traveling and spend a lot of time on airplanes.

What hardware do you use?

My main machine is (surprise!) a 13" Retina MacBook Pro. It's my second one and it's by far the best computer I've ever owned. The weight to performance is tough to beat. I use an iPhone 7 too.

A few months ago I built a desktop for the first time in a while. It's got an AMD Ryzen processor, 64GB of memory, and a ridiculously fast m.2 NVMe device.

My unexpectedly favorite piece of hardware recently is a 10.5" iPad Pro. I never thought I'd be able to be so productive on a device I perceived as so limited, but it's turned out to be super useful for writing, planning, sending emails, and talking on Slack.

I listen to music constantly and have had a few pairs of Bose noise canceling headphones over the past 10 or so years. Right now I'm using the QC35s and they're fantastic. At home I've got a few Sonos speakers in my tiny apartment, including a pair in stereo wrapping my desk.

Since 2010 I've used a Mission Workshop backpack almost exclusively. It's been to five continents with me, including a 9 month trip around the world in 2013-2014, and is still going strong. I've tried other bags, but always come back to this one. I tend to travel as light as possible so often end up going on trips for up to a week with just the backpack. When I need more room I've got an Away rolling carry on. It's a recent addition and I've been digging it so far.

And what software?

I don't customize macOS too heavily and use iTerm with bash. For text editing I use vim, listen to music on Spotify, and browse the web with Chrome. I'm a near-obsessive note taker and heavily rely on OneNote across my iPad, laptop, and desktop.

My desktop runs Windows 10 with the Linux subsystem along with most of the same apps I use on macOS.

I spend a lot of time on Slack for work, talking with friends, and collaborating with folks on open source projects. I'm increasingly unhappy with the demands it puts on my time, how it has adapted chat from a best-effort ephemeral medium into something more like email, and the lack of federation. Lots of people dislike email, but I never found it burdensome in the same way realtime chat has become.

What would be your dream setup?

I've got something pretty close to a dream setup already, but here we go.

I want an operating system with the level of device support as Windows, the simplicity of macOS, and the flexibility of Linux. And I want that operating system to run on something like a very powerful iPad Pro.

Also, software that never crashes or has problems during runtime execution would be pretty cool.

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