Uses This: Graydon Hoare

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Graydon Hoare, I'm a middle-aged socialist boring cishet white guy who lives in Vancouver, Canada. My favourite passtime is taking long walks by the ocean, which I live next to. I also enjoy napping, reading history books, hanging out with friends, and watching the same dozen bad 80s movies over and over. I have a passion for public infrastructure investment and paying maintenance and care workers adequately.

Assuming this is more about work though: I work on software professionally and often as a hobby. My work is usually developer tools -- compilers, profilers, debugging tools -- or distributed systems of some sort. I've worked for Red Hat, Mozilla, Apple, Stellar, and a few other places. Probably I'm being interviewed here because I started the Rust programming language project while at Mozilla.

What hardware do you use?

Older machines, maxed out in core count and RAM, and with NVMe storage. We haven't seen a ton of machine improvement in the past decade so I aim for reliable workhorses a ways down the cost-depreciation curve. Quite a few machines unfortunately: separate work and personal, separate Windows/Linux/Mac, plus some stockpiling of machines from good but discontinued production runs. The i7 MacBook Airs from 2013 and 2015. Some iPhone SEs. A couple Linux/Windows workstations built from refurb dual-socket 2013 Xeon server parts, each 40-way parallel with 128GB RAM, sufficient for any heavier lifting I need. I still have a couple ThinkPads kicking around -- a 32GB W530 and an older X61 -- they still work, they're nigh-indestructible.

I bought a comedically huge 42 inch LG monitor recently, because they got too cheap to refuse. Thankfully I don't play games, so no gaming hardware. I do have a QNAP NAS for local file service, movies and music, but I foolishly bought one with too little RAM so to keep it from paging I have it reboot itself every 24 hours. This is the software world we live in.

And what software?

Emacs for editing, which is about half my day. Often using one of the faster workstations remotely for building and navigation. Editing is accompanied by a lot of command-line tools and the occasional GUI tool: compilers (clang, swiftc, rustc, go, fsc, ocamlc), debuggers (lldb and gdb), profilers (perf, Instruments, heaptrack), scripting (make, Bash, Python), diagramming (Monodraw and OmniGraffle) and navigation (RTags and Sourcetrail). Many days I'll use one or more developer tools I've also contributed to at some point in the past, which has both a sort of family comfort feeling and also a worrying feeling like "oh no how can software be such a mess that this is the best option?"

I work remotely and much of my work is communicating, planning, review, discussion; so I use every chat and video conferencing program under the sun. My heart is probably in irc and trn but I regularly use Gmail, Slack, Meet, FaceTime, Skype, Signal, Keybase, Messages, etc. All this of course runs in a web browser, but I'm not religious about which. Firefox is better in a privacy and politics sense; but a lot of sites are getting to be Chrome-specific, so I use what I have to.

One ridiculous peculiarity of my software preferences is I like editing in low-res bitmap fonts with pixel-y edges, no antialiasing, visible scanlines. I guess it's a nostalgia thing: I grew up in the 80s and "it looks right". I have to fight the software a lot to get this working and it gets harder every year. Currently I'm using one called ctrld which is a derivative of Dina and my previous favourite family, Proggy. There are a few die-hards who collect and maintain these things, to whom I'm very grateful.

What would be your dream setup?

The hardware's probably already past as good as it's going to get, and is into pointless frills and planned obsolescence. See above: I literally prefer stuff that's already discontinued.

Nostalgia-wise I'd probably like to be spending my days in front of an amber VT320 -- ah, soothing text -- but I think they cause radiation sickness and are neither portable nor battery powered, and anyways we need to use the web these days. I don't especially like the web and I dream of a different world where we built a different information infrastructure.

Software-wise I really wish we'd done almost everything differently. The focus has been on eyeballs and engagement, not like "does it work" or "can it resist attack by a bad actor". Almost no modern software works well or is safe in any serious sense. It's always on fire. A sinking ship with everyone frantically bailing. Swiss cheese. Pick your metaphor. So my dream setup would involve "software that has any sort of reliability". Which probably requires rewinding time to before the personal computing era and enacting liability legislation or something.


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