Uses This - Interviews with the Happy Bear Software Team

By Najaf Ali

Esther Olatunde, Senior Developer

What hardware do you use?

I use a pretty simple and old MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2015) for my day to day programming. I also have an HP Pavillon 15-inch with Linux Ubuntu OS as my secondary laptop, 2 1TB hard drives and a Google Home device

What software do you use?

For development, I use a mix of Sublime Text, iTerm, Bash, Tmux and Vim. I recently download VS Code to check out what the hype was about, but it didn't stick (probably because I was lazy to try something new). For mobile development, I use the Android Studio and XCode IDEs.

I use Things as a personal to-do/schedule/life management tool. Spotify for music, iTunes for podcasts, Headspace for meditation, and Trello, Slack, GitHub, GSuite as work tools. Honourable mention goes to Google Calendar - almost every hour of my week is planned on my GCal synced between 3 email accounts.

I like using Postman for testing APIs and I prefer using Zeplin for receiving designs from UI designers. I have 4 browsers installed (Chrome, Firefox, Brave and Safari). Until recently, I often use Chrome as default, Firefox and Safari for testing web pages but I'm recently adopting Brave as my default browser. I'd really appreciate a simple, easy to access tool that helps you test for other browsers (Edge, IE, etc.). I recently had to make a Vue/Foundation website work on IE 13 and my experience testing on a remote platform such as BrowserStack wasn't so great.

As a remote company, we've also recently adopted Zoom for our voice and video calls as Slack breaks down with more than 3 - 4 people on a call.

I recently uninstalled Cold Turkey and started using the Focus app for keeping my Twitter addiction at bay and I'm loving the experience so far.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup would involve replacing my 2 laptops with newer models and bigger screens. I'd also like to have a noise-cancelling headset and a standalone display (for when I become less nomadic). For software, I'd love a more intuitive integration of Things and Google Calendar.

Steve Brewer, Senior Developer

What hardware do you use?

For hardware, I use a MacBook Pro 13" connected to one 27" monitor to prevent me slouching over my mac like it's a cauldron. I use one of those small Apple Bluetooth keyboards and an extremely glamorous £7.99 mouse that I gave up an Apple trackpad for after realising how wonderful it is to use. Maybe I'm getting old.

I use a standard old Kindle to give my eyes a break from screens but still minimise the amount of stuff in my home and paper consumed by books. To cut my eyes even more slack I use my iPhone X to listen to a lot of my books on Audible. There's something luxurious about being read to, especially when it's by the author of the book themselves. You can also get used to speeding it up over time and become a super reader without much of a challenge.

What software do you use?

I use Trello a lot. Anyone who has met me even briefly knows how obsessed I am with Trello to the point where I couldn't mention it at my last company without someone cracking a smile. It's just such a visual and flexible way of making plans, keeping track of them and collaborating with others on them.

My favourite text editor is Sublime 3. When I started programming, my friend Gary introduced me to this gorgeous theme by Wes Bos that I've used ever since. I like Atom but Sublime wins because there's no lag when searching, and I'm constantly using file and word search.

I use iTerm 2, mostly because it lets you add Font Awesome as a non-ascii font, so you can shove emojis into your terminal prompt because I'm addicted to visuals. I have a little lightning bolt before my name at the start for productivity, a folder icon next to the directory I'm in and a git icon next to the git branch I'm currently on. I have that in inconsolata font in case you care. It's beautiful.

I couldn't live without git (ok I couldn't function at work without git). I have Sublime plugged into it so I can write nice juicy commit messages explaining the atrocities I've just committed on your codebase for you to git blame later.

I use Bear for long, more private notes that usually turn into messages to people later or blog posts. Or a shopping list.

Najaf Ali, Founder

What software do you use?

For writing I mainly use Bear. It has a nice interface and fairly seamlessly backs all the writing I do up to iCloud, making it easy to switch between devices. I've cycled through a lot of markdown-based editors in the past though, so I could easily be convinced to switch to something better.

When I occasionally have to do programming, I'm still using bash, tmux, and vim. After using vim for more than a decade it's very difficult to consider moving to another editor that doesn't have a modal, vim-like editing experience at its core. However, I'm interested in seeing how things like Neovim and Xi might turn out as a replacement.

For everything else, I use the same suite of SaaS as the rest of the team: GitHub, Slack, Trello, and anything else we happen to be using for getting work done. A recent interesting addition to the software I use include Calca for "back of the napkin" calculations, like estimating living expenses in Japan, modelling the HBS business model, or figuring keeping an itemised ledger of all the costs incurred while buying a house.

What hardware do you use?

In my home office I have a mac mini hooked up to two 28-inch monitors. I used to carry a 2013 MacBook around everywhere, but these days I get most of my outside computing needs handled with an iPad. At times where I absolutely have to do serious typing while I'm out, I still take the MacBook out with me.

I can type on anything but given the choice I prefer to type on buckling-spring key switches. These are much chunkier and clicky-er than even the heaviest MX colour switches and I haven't been able to replicate the same feeling on any of them. The primary benefit for me of buckling spring is that I very quickly get pain in my wrists if I type at full-speed on any other type of keyboard. This could be more to do with my typing technique than anything else. The particular keyboard I buy is the Unicomp Customizer.

Dorothy Wingrove, Senior Developer

What hardware do you use?

I use a MacBook Pro. At the moment I am provided one by the client I'm working for. I have some nice AKG headphones I use occasionally to listen to music. I sit at my dining table to work, which has benches for seats. I often, though, move onto the sofa as I find it more comfortable.

I have a notebook I use to jot any thoughts down on, keep short-term lists (e.g. just for this current small task) and doodle on. I also have a 'passion planner' diary which I'm trying to use to organise my time and goals.

I have a coffee machine for making my morning coffee - which I have with foamed Oat milk because Oat milk is amazing.

What software do you use?

Trello/GitHub/Heroku - I use Sublime for text editing. I tried Atom, but I found no benefit to it over Sublime. Whilst at the same time it was just a tiny bit different in a few ways which were very irritating.

I use Google Calendar for all my meetings and events - both personal and work. I currently have a personal calendar, a Happy Bear calendar and a FreeAgent calendar. I use Todoist for keeping to-do lists. Surprise surprise. I really like it and I now use it for personal to-dos, long term goals, work tasks and every day tasks.

I use mac 'Notes' to paste in crap I don't want to lose and need short-term. I use Slack to communicate with work and other tech related groups. Browser-wise I prefer Firefox, but currently I'm using Chrome as that's the browser of choice by my current client.

I am also currently using the 'Duo' app on my mobile phone for two factor authentication. I'm also currently using LastPass for managing passwords, it's part of the client's setup. Lastly, and most importantly, I have that Tabby Cat chrome app which displays a drawn cat with some kind of accessory when you open a new tab. I like it cos it's cute.

What would be your dream setup?

I'd love a good view from my work space, somewhere to stare out to whilst I think. I'm also keen to get a standing desk for maximum comfort. I find most desk/chair combinations drive me mad. Also, I know sofa isn't good long term.

I also think a separate keyboard would be part of my ideal setup, along with a separate trackpad. I'd also love lots of natural light flooding in. And various green plants around me. A fairly minimal and comfortable room that is pleasing to the eye.

Also, a beanbag or armchair for sitting in when I want to get squishy comfy. OK I may be getting carried away now. It's hard to imagine exactly the ideal software setup other than less stuff. I'd like to use vim and have a great vim setup for myself. But that takes time.

Kriszta Matyi, Senior Developer

What hardware do you use?

For both work and personal purposes, I use a 12" MacBook from early 2015. I do not use an external keyboard or mouse, I use the built-in keyboard and trackpad. To listen to music, I use the default Apple headphones that come with iPhones. My phone is an iPhone 8 from late 2017. I use a Moleskine notebook and a Carran D'Ache 849 Ballpoint pen in fluorescent yellow to take notes. Currently I do my work sitting at a kitchen table on generic kitchen table chairs. My hot beverage of choice is coffee which I make with a Keurig machine.

What software do you use?

For code editing purposes I use Atom. My terminal is iTerm2 with a zsh install. At work I use GitHub for version control, Trello as a project management tool (and GitHub Projects sometimes) and Slack to communicate with the rest of the team. Recently I started using Postico as a GUI client for Postgres databases. The latest Chrome is my browser of choice (although sometimes I will use Firefox for testing purposes). My calendar is that syncs nicely across my devices (and numerous Gmail accounts). For digital note taking I mostly use, this again syncs across all my devices. I listen to music on Spotify all day. From time to time I will use Sketch to create wireframes. In my personal life I use Wunderlist quite a bit to make lists. I manage all my passwords with 1Password. Just like Dorothy I also have the Tabby Cats Chrome extension installed because it's cute and I like cats.

What would be your dream setup?

I would ideally like a bigger MacBook Pro (15") for work and keep my small 12" MacBook for personal use. I'm not too hot and bothered by external monitors, I don't need that much screen space. I really need to buy a better headphone, I like over the ear noise cancelling headphones, I'm currently looking at the Sony Over-Ear Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones (WH1000XM2). Because I have a bad back I'd like to be able to sit on a better chair but since I'm travelling full time I work where I can. I'm looking into buying a back support for chairs to improve upon the situation.

Kaitlyn Tierney, Senior Developer

What hardware do you use?

I have a Mac mini, which makes me feel nice because it's the most energy-efficient Mac you can buy. It takes a special kind of mental gymnastics to feel good about that while trying not to feel bad about consumer culture and the fact that I have so many computing devices in general, the production of which is terribly harmful to the environment and the local economies of the places where their components are mined and assembled.

The Mac mini is just a tiny cuboid thing, so it requires some accessories. Mine is connected to a Bluetooth Mac keyboard and a Bluetooth Mac trackpad thing. It's wired up to a Logitech webcam of some sort, because as soon as I got the dang thing I realised I wouldn't be able to do any video or audio calls without getting one. It needs a display too, but luckily my 2009 iMac—which is held together with galaxy-printed gaffer tape and has some formidable dents in the corner—is still fit to purpose for use as a monitor. And, occasionally, a CD-burner! It's the only device I have that still reads and writes CDs. Old school.

Computing-wise, those are my primary hardware tools. I have an iPhone 6s, which I use mostly for reading books and emails, and checking Slack or Twitter. I upgraded from the iPhone 5 because this one has a better camera, but I still strongly prefer to use one of my camera-cameras, so I don't use it for photography all that much beyond the occasional travel-Instagram.

I read a lot of books. I tend to read a different book on each device, so right now I'm reading My Brilliant Friend on my Kindle, Effective Testing with RSpec 3 on my iPad, and Feral on my iPhone.

The major drawback of the Mac mini is that it's not portable. Recently I've experimented with going on holiday without a computer. It was kind of liberating! But then when I got back I found myself binging on all The Content I missed while I was away, reading emails and essays online until my eyes glazed over and my ass fell asleep in my chair.

Sometimes I combine work + travel, and for those times there's a 2015 MacBook Pro owned by Happy Bear Software that I bring along with me.

What software do you use?

I spend most of my workday in iTerm2. I've been using Vim for text editing for a while now, but still haven't really taken the time to learn many of the useful shortcuts, so I'm extremely inefficient and bad at it. I knew many keyboard shortcuts for Sublime Text and was always one of the fastest typists/coders in my bootcamp. But gradually, I've realised that speed is actually not really something I should be aiming for. I'm sure it's good for some people, but I find it's better for me to go a bit more slowly when I'm coding, paying careful attention to what I'm doing. Being bad at using my text editor has kind of forced me to be a more careful developer. I make mistakes way less often now that I'm not relying on a linter or the editor to catch them out for me. I learn faster too—since I don't have any autocomplete plug-ins or anything installed, I have to either recall syntax from memory or pause to look it up, which means I remember it better over the longer term.

We use Trello for project management at Happy Bear, and the client I'm working with uses Asana, so I use that now too. I don't really like either of them. I keep my own notes in because I like how easily it syncs with my other devices and that notes are available offline by default, but I don't like many other things about it. I use Fantastical to aggregate all of my calendars and to-dos. I couldn't live without that, to be honest, it is an extremely good and useful app and one of the few things I use that I actually think is worth using. Mostly I'm just tied up in the Apple ecosystem and trying to figure out ways to decrease my reliance on it as Apple doubles down on making shitty hardware and getting worse at making functional software.

What would be your dream setup?

I desperately need some sort of indexed, searchable, archivable, offline-compatible personal information manager to store articles I've read, notes, inspiration, past work, emails, event details, photos, recipes. I just want everything in one place, but I want complete control over all of my data and I don't want anyone to have access to it unless I publish it or give them permission. But I also want it to sync across all my devices and be available to me at any time, online or offline. As far as I know, this doesn't exist and probably never will. The struggle continues.

Hannah Dwan, Apprentice Developer

What hardware do you use?

For most of my work, I'm on a 13" MacBook Pro. I have a mouse that I bought years ago for a mini Raspberry Pi project that I sometimes use, but otherwise it's all-natural trackpad scrolling. I also have a Chromebook that I often use off to the side - if I'm working on something where I constantly need the documentation up, it's super useful.

I've also got a beefy Windows PC separately, but I don't typically use that for work, that's for when I'm doing something for fun in the evenings or weekends. It's far too high-end for the purpose, but I had to have it for my old job!

What software do you use?

For writing and editing code, I'm a Sublime user. Once upon a time I used Atom, but I like the simplicity of Sublime nowadays. Otherwise: Trello, Slack, GitHub, as the rest of Happy Bear Software do! I've also always got Spotify and/or iTunes open in the background somewhere. At time of writing, I have Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens playing.

For anything requiring the terminal, I go to iTerm, and for browsing, it depends. I use Safari the most, and then have Chrome as my 'clean' browser, regularly wiping it and using Incognito Windows for testing sites we're working on.

What would be your dream setup?

I'd love a giant monitor, to be honest, but I like being able to work from anywhere, and I don't particularly want to carry 30 inches of screen around. So, if someone can invent a foldable, light, high-quality monitor that I could carry around, that'd be great.