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 Jesse Sheidlower

Jesse Sheidlower

Lexicographer, writer

in bsd, developer, linux, writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Jesse Sheidlower, and I am a lexicographer and language writer. My most recent project is the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction, a quotation-based reference to SF language. I spent fourteen years as an editor the Oxford English Dictionary. I work as a software developer for my day job, and have various other side gigs, often focusing on alcohol, including co-running the Threesome Tollbooth, the world's smallest cocktail bar (currently on hiatus during the pandemic).

What hardware do you use?

My desktop is homebuilt, using an InWin 901 Mini-ITX case, and including an ASRock AB350 motherboard, an AMD Ryzen 5 2600 CPU, three different random SSDs, 32GB RAM, and an EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card (that I mainly got for fooling around with ML stuff; I don't game). I have two Dell U2718Q 27" 4K monitors, which I love for the amount of screen real-estate they give me.

The desktop audio is running off several different Schiit devices, running a pair of Genelec G One desktop speakers, with a Genelec F One subwoofer under my desk. (I also have some more dedicated and higher-end audio stuff which is beyond the scope of this.) Before the pandemic, I didn't bother with dedicated audio input, but now I've repurposed a RĂ˜DE NT1-A condenser mic, plugged into a Scarlett 2i2 audio interface.

But far and away my favorite accessory is a custom keyboard from Datamancer, one of the last ones Richard Nagy built before he died. It's a stunning Art Deco design, with a fantastic feel, and a bunch of nice touches, like a Tux (the Linux penguin) "Windows" key, and a space bar with "space" in Morse code. I spend my entire working life on this keyboard, and it makes me incredibly happy, and everyone who comes to my place comments on it.

I have a few other machines. I have a FreeNAS box that I built from a SilverStone DS380B case, ASRock C236 WSI motherboard, an Intel i3-6100 CPU, and a bunch of WD Red drives. There's a generic mini-PC running FreeBSD as a dedicated router for a Tor bridge node, and a bunch of Raspberry Pi's scattered around, mainly to run music-related stuff. On the network side, I have a Netgate SG-5100 pfSense firewall router, and then several different switches and wireless devices from Ubiquiti.

And what software?

I don't use anything too elaborate on the software side. My desktop is running Debian Bullseye. I probably spend 95% of my time in Emacs, Mutt, xfce4-terminal, and the Vivaldi browser, though I usually do also have Firefox and Opera browsers running. I use the older but still great gmusicbrowser to play music on my desktop, though I also have an elaborate setup with Mopidy and Snapcast for the rest of the apartment.

What would be your dream setup?

I actually think I'm pretty much there. I always do want to play around with things, and I'd love to have an excuse to build a new machine, upgrade what I have, and so forth. But as I don't game or do video editing, and don't do any real ML work, the reality is that my desktop is already ten times more powerful than I need.

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