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 Timo Tijhof
Image by Sage Ross.

Timo Tijhof

Principal Engineer (Wikimedia Foundation)

Posted in developer, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Timo Tijhof. I work as a principal engineer for Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit behind Wikipedia and its sister projects. I help build, design, and maintain the MediaWiki software, currently focusing on web performance.

What hardware do you use?

My computer is a 15-inch MacBook Pro (2015 model) with 16 GB of RAM and a 500 GB drive. My work desk - I work at home - is an IKEA BEKANT, where I place the laptop on an old wooden tea chest. There, the laptop connects with a Logitech MX Master 2S mouse, and a Matias Ergo Pro keyboard.

I use Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones for meetings, and for when I need a quiet zone. They provide great sound quality, and cancel noise well even without batteries. This might be obvious, but it took me a while to get out of the habit of always powering them on - instead coming to see the headphones themselves as my zone.

My phone is an iPhone SE I've had since 2016, and yes, I suppose that portrays me as one of those stubborn folk who refuse to let go of the iPhone 5 form factor. In truth I'm not that bound to it. It works as well as it did then, and I've got no complaints. The newer models neither attract nor repulse me. I replaced its battery last year for a few bucks, and expect to use it for at least two more years.

Beyond the above; I have an AirPods case nearby for podcast listening, and a paper notebook to negotiate with my past and future self. I use WD Elements Portable drives for backups and offline storage.

And what software?

I code in Atom or Sublime Text. For projects that I work on most, I have everything configured just right in Atom. For everything else, including commit messages and ad-hoc projects, Sublime is right there. I started using Atom since it caught up to Sublime's feature set, is open-source, and enjoys a larger ecosystem. But, as it's still a slow-starting Electron app, Sublime remains my go-to editor to instantly open any file or directory from the command-line.

I rely on NetNewsWire and Feedly to keep up with blogs, news sites, and other feeds. For organic discovery of articles outside my circles I rely on social media, which I interact with through the Pinafore web app.

I take notes with Simplenote. I particularly like its version history and syncing. Most of my long-term projects are in here, with new data prepended as I go. I have a pinned note that serves as my inbox for low-friction entering of impromptu ideas wherever I go. These are later triaged into my todo system, a mixture of OmniFocus and Apple Reminders. I use KeeWeb for offline sensitive data.

I take regular breaks with the help of Time Out. This app has been the single-most impactful addition to my workflow. I found it distracting at first but, after some tuning, it's become a trusted companion. I use micro breaks to check my posture, and to check if I should continue what I'm doing if I've been at it for a while. The macro breaks are for exercise, nutrition, and remembering what else I set out to do today.

On desktop I currently browse with Firefox. But, I do make a point of changing desktop browsers once every year.

On mobile I use Firefox Focus as my main browser. For the handful of sites where I want to be logged-in, I have a folder of Safari shortcuts. My homescreen is minimal, featuring only Focus, NetNewsWire, Simplenote, Podcasts, and Telegram.

What would be your dream setup?

I've tuned my setup a lot and am quite happy with it.

In the past, I tried a large monitor, but, didn't use it much. I found I generally prefer apps in narrower windows, and no more than two or three apps on-screen. I'm a big fan of Spaces and the retention of vision it allows for. (Although you have to turn off the "Automatically rearrange" system preference.)

I prefer keeping the spatial composition of windows in my mind, rather than on-screen. I use ctrl-arrow to pop over to the virtual desktop where I know a given window resides. Before I switch, I know exactly where I'm going and which single or double keystroke gets me there. Previously, switches became a moment. I didn't like that. Instead of Overview-Find-Go, with Spaces you just "Go".

I do see the appeal of a monitor when working with photos or videos, allowing for more content and controls on-screen. I studied to be a graphic designer and sometimes miss the iMac I worked with then, but, I can't justify it now.

The one part of my setup I'm dissatisfied with is the keyboard. I've had the Matias Ergo Pro for a year, and still get unwanted or missed key presses at times. I'd like to try out the Logitech Ergo keyboard.

Uses This is supported by ZSA, makers of the Moonlander, ErgoDox EZ and Planck EZ keyboards. They also publish an awesome newsletter.