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 Samantha Vilkins

Samantha Vilkins

Communications and Engagement Officer (ANU), PhD candidate

Who are you, and what do you do?

I wear a lot of hats. That's an idiom, not my job. I'm a PhD candidate in science communication and also the Communications and Engagement Officer at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at The Australian National University, where I also tutor, write, et cetera. I also do freelance photography/design/writing where I can. I just finished up working at Trove at the National Library of Australia and I've got the mug to prove it.

What hardware do you use?

I exclusively use Pilot G2 0.38 pens. They are a great solution between "using shit pens" and "caring way too much about pens". I use the pens in notebooks from Octaevo. I'd prefer to type notes into my phone but I end up in meetings with people much older than me a lot and the youngest person in the room constantly tapping at their phone isn't a great look. I also think better on paper.

My laptop is a late 2013 MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM. I'm the sort of monster who cracks open Photoshop to resize a screenshot on the bus, so I'm not sure what I'd do without it.

I've got a fancy Rain Design mStand alongside a fuzzy Acer monitor at home, and a glorious Dell UltraSharp alongside a pile of old books as a stand at work, because I'm all about balance.

I own two WASD mechanical keyboards, the same model. One's Cherry MX clears all-white with mint legends and a mint Enter key that reads 'GO!', and the other is Cherry MX browns, greyscale with bright yellow keys spelling out my name. I adore them.

My camera's a Canon 60D and my go-to lenses are my 24mm / 50mm / 85mm primes.

I bought a second-hand rose gold "women's" Moto360 v2 and wear it every day. It can do almost nothing --- it's as if I tore out the notification light of my Pixel 2 and strung it round my wrist --- but it looks good, starts conversations, alerts me to things while it's rude to look at my phone or it's not on my person, and most importantly, I can set the background to my favourite green and set the text to spell out the time in letters which takes me longer to process than a digital face and thus entertains me to no end.

I care so little about audio quality that a few years ago I bought 4 packs of LG G2 headphones off eBay and keep a pair in various bags and desks. I also just bought a pair of white BlueAnt wireless headphones because my new phone lacks a headphone jack and I hate how much I love them.

I've got a Blue Yeti USB microphone for when I inevitably start a podcast.

I was recently fitted for new multifocal glasses, because we all have to face our ageing mortal bodies in our own ways.

I use one ModernCoup bag for every occasion. I love it to death even as it's destroying my back.

I've got Aglaonema commutatum, Spathiphyllum petite and Parlour palm plants from Plants in a Box and a Pothos plant from The Name Is Planted at my desk in a long con I've got to make me want to come to work each day to check on them.

I've got a plush office chair I stole (okay, they were giving it away) from my university, wheeled a quarter-way across campus in the rain, and had to re-construct my desk around as my room is too small to fit it otherwise. It was worth it.

And what software?

I am constantly gaining and shedding bits of software, either for specific research kicks or life admin --- the latest were gensim, sndpeek and 1Password.

As a baseline, my vital organs are hooked into the Google ecosystem --- 16 separate Calendars, Maps multiple times a day, autobackup Photos, Sheets abound, Keep for every thought. Quick thoughts from Keep get regularly sorted out to: reminders/events in Calendar, saved/tagged links in Pocket, or drafts/ideas in a folder in iA Writer. The iA Writer folder is in my Google Drive so it's on my phone, as well.

I use Papers for research and references, but only because it actively frustrates me the least out of the options.

I use the macOS Mail app to deal with my 4+ regular email addresses and I would love to upgrade to something nicer but absolutely everything else has failed me, so here we still are.

I use Tweetbot because TweetDeck crossed me one too many times.

I use Spotify lazily and Pocket Casts earnestly. I keep a Shazam widget on my phone homepage so I can use it inconspicuously when around cool youth. My other widgets are my Outlook calendar, Google calendar, and Google Keep. The BOM Weather app is crucial.

I was gifted a copy of Adobe Photoshop CS2 when I was eleven years old and doubt I've closed it since then. I use Lightroom/Premiere/Illustrator/InDesign when it comes to it, all on a CC subscription.

Any and all programming I do is extremely amateur hour and usually in Notepad++ or TextWrangler. I'll dip into R when I have to but I use Excel to within an inch of its life.

I have a rotating new-font/new-colour-palette new tab page, and I'd recommend it.

What would be your dream setup?

Always more light and less carpet.