The Setup

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

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Chad Whitacre

Chad Whitacre

Hacker, Founder (Gittip)

Posted

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Chad Whitacre, and I like to mess with stuff. I'm currently trying to change the economy with a project called Gittip. It's Kickstarter for people. I'm drinking my own kool-aid by trying to make a living on the site itself.

What hardware do you use?

For years I've been waiting to show off this totally sweet IKEA standing desk (discontinued) with a Kango 930 perching stool and three Dell monitors (the middle 23" one in portrait, and the left one mounted on a Tyke monitor mount) connected to a Radeon HD 5450 inside an OptiPlex GX620 (Dell's business line, much better long-term support) running Windows, plus FreeBSD under VMWare ("poor man's mac"), with a spot under the Tyke-mounted monitor for a laptop connected via Synergy to a refurbished Kinesis Essential with custom brass legs and a Kensington Expert Mouse mounted in the middle, and with all the cables stored in an old metal milk box. But then my day job bought me a 15-inch MacBook Pro and now I just use that by itself, even if I'm standing at the desk. Kinda sad, I rarely turn on the Dell anymore. I guess I don't need the real estate after all. I still use my HP 1320tn, though.

Speaking of which, I like paper. I use unlined 8.5" by 11" in landscape orientation for note-taking and paper prototyping, ideally on a clipboard.

I used to use an iPhone 3G but I dropped it and broke the glass. I fixed it myself (yay!) but then the home button stopped working (boo!). So I bought a two dollar red button at Radio Shack and scabbed it on with Gorilla Glue and electric tape. That was fun while it lasted, which was five months. I took it into the Apple Store in Palo Alto to ask if they would be willing to push the button for me. Then later I dropped it again. Now I roll with a $20 Verizon pre-paid Samsung clamshell from Dollar General.

I inherited this really nice leather brief case from my wife's grandfather that fits the MacBook perfectly. He worked for IBM. I inherited another nice leather bag from my dad, which I use for cords and books (I like books). I work in coffee shops a lot and it's really impractical to carry around two bags without straps but they're so classy I can't help it. One time I got stuck in a thunderstorm walking across Washington, D.C. with these bags and a box of Tufte's books and I ended up taking my belt off and strapping it all together like some school boy from 1876. Man, was I soaked!

Can I also tell you about our waffle iron? It's a Wagner double twin, patented in 1910, probably used in a hotel. It's 35 pounds of cast iron and has nice wooden handles on the four paddles. You heat it over a gas range. I believe that the waffles I make on it are really, really good.

And what software?

I spend most of my time between Vim and Chrome. I run Vim under screen and bash. My favorite bash aliases are l="clear && pwd && ls -FGl" and u="cd .. && l". I just use Terminal. I tried iTerm2 but it didn't stick. PyFlakes definitely did stick. I get a lot of mileage out of Python, and I wrote a web framework called Aspen, which I love. I use the Google search engine to search the World Wide Web. I have an old VPS with John Companies, with newer projects going up on Heroku. I love Postgres almost as much as Python and greatly appreciate Heroku's Postgres service. I'm also a fan of Git, GitHub, Gmail, Google Real-time Analytics, Pandora, IWantMyName, Stripe, and Tumblr. There are some ridiculously good tools out there these days.

I have a rather old version (7) of Photoshop on the Dell along with a newer version (X) of Acrobat. I've done some print book publishing with PrinceXML and I use Acrobat for final production. I have a cheaper image editor called Acorn on the MacBook. I've used MovieMaker or iMovie when I've wanted to put together videos.

I use a stripped down file format to track my time, and Joe's Goals to track some other things.

Okay, so I discovered that pâte à choux makes really killer waffles. It's the same batter you use for éclairs, cream puffs, and french cruller doughnuts. It was given to me in a dream to use it for waffles. The way the paddles are on our waffle iron you end up with twelve little four-bite poppers. Sometimes I'll fry an egg in the waffle iron and make an egg sandwich with a waffle cut in half. For classic sweet waffles my favorite is fresh berries and whipped cream from fresh raw milk. Mmm.

What would be your dream setup?

My family and I would be Amish (we used to subscribe to the national edition of The Budget, which is basically the Amish blogosphere).