The Setup


What do people use to get stuff done?

Zach Holman

Zach Holman

Web developer (GitHub)

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Zach Holman. I'm a web developer and product person who can sometimes be found living in San Francisco.

I've worked at GitHub for the last four years, helping with everything from to GitHub Enterprise to our culture to our in-office music server.

I like writing. I write about startups and product and emoji on my blog. I write poorly-crafted, crude jokes on Twitter.

I like speaking. I've given a bunch of talks over the years, and I enjoy the process of public talks so much that I created, a site to help you get better at public speaking.

What hardware do you use?

I'm currently on a 15" Retina MacBook Pro. I've found myself simplifying my setup more and more over time. Previously I had an iMac, another display, and a MacBook, but realized that it's just simpler to toss everything on one machine and one screen.

I'm on a black iPhone 5S and a black Retina iPad Mini. The iPad I usually only use while traveling (albeit I travel a ton). It's got most of what I need in it now, so I'm not sure I'm going to upgrade for a year or three. The iPhone, on the other hand, always gets upgraded once a year. I get dinged on the extra out-of-contract pricing, but I use it more than any other object that I own, every single day. The incremental improvement ends up making sense to gun for, particularly since I'm in the industry. Just sort of decided it's a vice I'll deal with until the hardware improvements slow dramatically (which may very well happen in coming years).

I like shooting photos. I used to bring my Nikon D5100 everywhere, but switched this year to the excellent Fujifilm X100S primarily because a lot of my photos happen casually, on the road, where the smaller size is a big plus.

I like playing with music. For live music, I play on a Native Instruments Traktor S4 at either our office or at home. I'm still very new to creating music, but for that I use a Native Instruments Maschine Mikro 2.0. I use a pair of white Pioneer HDJ-2000s for headphones.

It's possibly strange to include this as hardware, but the last few years I've flown 100k-200k miles each year, so airplanes are basically another set of hardware for me in some sense. I tend to fly Delta and stay at SPG hotels, in large part because I think both of them don't have completely maddening UI in their product (be it technical or customer service or the service itself). Also yes I realize I'm a goddamn nerd for putting this in here but I've made my peace with it.

And what software?

I run OS X Mavericks

I tend to build things with Ruby, and I'm pretty in love with that language even after all these years. If it's on the web, I'm usually using Rails to build it, with the exception of some smaller apps where I'll still drop down to Sinatra from time to time.

My development environment is managed by Boxen, Homebrew, and my dotfiles. I'm feeling good about all of that, which wasn't always the case if you were a Ruby developer five years ago.

I write code in Atom, the text editor we've been working on for six years at GitHub. It's based on Chromium, so to customize it you can inspect it just like any other web element.

For photos, I use Aperture to manage things locally, and Exposure to share them with people. (You can take a peek at my own photos, too. Stalker.)

For music, I use Traktor and Maschine. For regular daily listening, I use iTunes. I'm wary of cloud-based music offerings ever since iTunes Match inserted a country song in the middle of Dre's 2001. Besides, I have really odd bootlegs of jazz artists from the 50's that I'd never be able to listen to online.

What would be your dream setup?

I really wish I could go iPad-only. Unfortunately, as a programmer, I'm not super confident that that would ever be an option. This might be a reason why I should grow up to be a board member who only uses their computer for email and PowerPoint and Excel spreadsheets. Then I'd be golden.

In the real world though, man, we're actually getting close. I have the 15" MacBook Pro, but only because that was the only Retina screen when it came out. I think ideally I'd like to drop down to a 13" Retina Air (preferably even thinner and with a smaller bezel), with battery life of a billion hours.

Seriously, my main goal in everything in life is battery life. I bumped up to the iPhone 5S, which has a faster processor, fully 64 bit architecture, and fully like half of the battery life of the 5. Man, I don't give a fuck about speed anymore. I haven't cared about speed in years. We're getting held back by battery tech at this point.

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