Clinton Boys

Australian software engineer and mathematician, living in London.

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The Setup

In this post I answer the interview questions from The Setup. This is an updated version of this post which I wrote in 2016, which is itself an updated version of a post which I wrote in 2015.

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m an Australian data scientist and engineer living in Tel Aviv. I’m currently working at Via, an Israeli mobility startup, on the Predictive Optimization team in the Algorithms group. Personally, I’m particularly interested in elections and electoral systems and the mathematics and data behind them. I’m also a keen runner, amateur photographer, and I love to listen and make music, read and write, and travel the world.

What hardware do you use?

At home, I use a 15” Macbook Pro, the 2017 edition with the now-infamous “butterfly mechanism” keyboard. I like to think I need a high-powered personal computer for my music-making, but that is happening less and less these days, and I spend most of my computer time just editing text files, which is a little bit of a waste of the computer’s power. I’m also honestly not that impressed by the machine, which has the ever-present issues that Apple somehow has never managed to completely solve when plugging in and removing external monitors, the Touch Bar is buggy, and the keyboard temperamental and uncomfortable for long typing sessions. I have an iPhone X, resisted upgrading in 2019 because I have high hopes for the 2020 iPhones. Still a great phone. I use my phone to take all my photos these days. An iPod Pro 12.9” gets used when I’m making and recording music, or for reading articles in bed. I listen to music through AirPods Pro, which have replaced my over-ear Sony noise-cancelling headphones, and seem set to destroy the over-ear wireless headphone industry entirely. Great product. My home stereo which gets a lot of use is a half-decent Sonyo receiver hooked up to some Wharfedale speakers.

To record music, I use Shure SM58 and 57 microphones, a Yamaha P45 digital piano, a Behringer UR-22 audio interface and some cheap but decent Samson BT3 studio monitors. It’s a basic setup but it works for the basic stuff I do.

I also have an Apple Watch.

And what software?

I have transitioned in the past year to using emacs to edit almost all of my text files, which as I mentioned above is pretty much all I do with my computer. I use org mode and org agenda to manage all my tasks, to dos and notes, with the excellent Beorg app on iOS to handle everything through my phone. All my files and photos are backed up twice, through iCloud Drive and Dropbox. Need a proper local backup solution as well.

For data analysis I use Python, usually the fantastic pandas and numpy packages, as well as scikit-learn. At work I’ve been using a lot of serverless infrastructure like AWS Lambda to deploy and serve models.

I browse the web in Safari. Listen to music in Apple Music, where I have a huge amount of custom playlists I’ve put a lot of work into and am very happy with.

I also use a bunch of utilities to keep my computer sane: f.lux so my eyes don’t get burnt out, Alfred to launch applications, Divvy to move windows around using keyboard commands, mclock to keep two time zones in my menu bar, and Bartender so my menu bar doesn’t get clogged up with all those ugly icons. iTerm 2 replaces the default terminal.

On my phone, apart from the obvious stuff like Messages, Whatsapp, Mail, Photos, Telegram and Phone, my homescreen consists of Calendar, Music, Books, a bunch of navigation apps like Google Maps, Bird, Uber and Moovit, Carrot weather, Safari, Files, Podcasts, a bunch of apps for managing finances and accounts, Reeder for RSS aggregation, Darkroom and Halide for photography, ESPNCricinfo (to keep up to date with cricket scores in a country where no one has any idea what it is), beorg for my todo lists and tasks, Kindle, and Textastic, a fantastic iOS text editor. I’ve removed all social media from my phone, deleted my Facebook account.

What would be your dream setup?

An infinitely fast and thin laptop computer, with infinite battery, with the same keyboard as the previous generation MacBook Pro (or maybe the 2019 one is good enough?), running MacOS with the final bugs ironed out. Perfectly comfortable headphones I can wear all day, and a completely lossless music collection. Apart from that I’m pretty happy with how things are at the moment: slowly but surely getting better, just like me.