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Aurynn Shaw

DevOps evangelist, giver of talks, writer of software, conference junkie, professional disaster.

in developer, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi! I'm Aurynn Shaw, a software developer turned into person who cares a lot about systemic forces, which it turns out has a lot in common with DevOps. You may be familiar with my occasionally bombastic Twitter presence, or the industry-changing blog post on Contempt Culture that I wrote.

I live in Wellington, New Zealand, and moved here from Canada in 2011. It's a nice little city. You'd like it here!

The last few years I've been really interested in and excited about federated social networking, thinking about how we can avoid using giant American advertising companies like Twitter and Facebook as our community connective tissue. As part of living the dream of that better world, I launched my own Mastodon instance named Cloud Island, which has been a brilliant success. I couldn't be happier.

In my work life, I'm currently self-employed at Eiara, a DevOps consulting company I started in 2015. I strive to help companies with both the technical aspects of DevOps - continuous integration, deployment automation, automated recovery - as well as the cultural demands that a DevOps workflow and worldview imposes on an organisation. Being introduced to DevOps taught me to both be aware of and care about sociology, and I love bringing that to new organisations and communities.

But work isn't the only place I share what I'm learning, as I'm also a conference junkie at heart and I love presenting at conferences. I'm most thrilled to have keynoted PyCon AU 2019, as well as co-chairing the DevOops track at PyConline AU 2020. In these scandalous times conferences are somewhat unavailable, but I'm looking forward to a return to somewhat more travel-accessible times.

Is it the future when you are? Consider inviting me!

In my copious free time I play videogames, and recently have started occasionally painting miniatures. Destiny 2 is probably the game I, as of this writing, spend the most time in. It's exactly the sort of junkfood gaming that feels great and is enjoyable, while letting me chew on more complicated mental stuff in the background. I'm also known to indulge in Fallout 76 (it's better than you think!) for my online persistent loot-oriented gaming needs.

I'm known to take photographs, but of late I've been procrastinating on the recreational sysadmin required to have my the majority of my work available on the internet. But you can check out my two books, Linear A and Fly, if you're so inclined. Or my collaboration with poet Matthew Read, Distinctly: Coromandel. You can also see some of my work on my 500px, or my selection of interesting urban images at That's Wellington.

In recent times I've taken to calling myself a professional disaster as I try to figure out how to successfully live with long-term chronic mental health issues. I don't recommend being a disaster, it's both boring and extremely distracting.

I like occasional walks on the beach, cold and bitter IPAs, and sandwiches.

What hardware do you use?

At this stage in my career, I am deeply welded to the Apple ecosystem. My core machine is a 13" Intel MacBook Pro with 32GB of memory and a penchant for crashing when I unplug it from my StarTech Thunderbolt 3 dock. It's a problem with the Apple machine, not the dock, and debugging it is more frustrating than you could possibly imagine. Is it hardware? Is it buggy firmware? Is it macOS? Who knows!

It's plugged in to a Dell P2715Q 4K display, and just let me say, once you've committed to high-DPI screens it's impossible to go back.

For my typing pleasure I use a Microsoft Sculpt wireless ergonomic keyboard, and I alternate between a Logitech MX Ergo trackball and a Logitech MX Master 2S wireless mouse.

For headphones at work, I will move between my Powerbeats Pro and my Bose NC700 noise-cancelling headphones, depending on how loud the surrounding environment is, and how charged my Bose headphones are. For videogaming, I use a pair of Steelseries Arctis-7 headphones, which sound perfectly nice and have great audio pickup. And RGB LEDs, which is integral to great sound.

For srs music lznz I use a pair of Grado SR225 open-backed headphones. They sound really great, though they are extraordinarily uncomfortable after a few hours.

For out and about listening and audio environment management, I have a pair of Nuheara IQBuds Boost, which are extremely extremely great at making loud and difficult-to-hear-in environments manageable. I can't recommend these highly enough.

For recording audio, I have a R0DE NT-USB cardioid mic on a boom arm, with a pair of Plantronics BackBeat PRO headphones wired in. They're pretty good. Sound quality is decent, when I'm using Bluetooth the connectivity is generally pretty strong, and they fit nicely.

For video, when I am occasionally found streaming, I use a Logitech C922 webcam, which is also fine. It does what it sets out to do, and has minimal fuss associated with doing it. What more can you ask for?

As I sit for a living, I have recently invested in a Secretlab TITAN XL chair. I bought this chair after looking at numerous pure-mesh options because I have three non-overlapping social circles talked about them positively, which seemed like a reasonable and totally unbiased sample size.

Having been sitting on it for close to a week at the time of this writing, I agree with them: It's a good, solid, comfortable chair that works great for long-duration sitting.

Most interesting for me is that it's the first time I've sat in a chair that's meant for tall people, and having a chair that fits me is really nice.

My gaming/photo editing PC is a fairly standard affair, with an Intel i7-9700KF, a Sapphire NITRO+ AMD Radeon RX 590, 32GB of DDR4-3200 memory, and some fast disks. The case is a... something. It's white? It has LEDs in it? For the PC keyboard I use a Logitech G PRO mechanical keyboard. Again, it also RGB LEDs, which is how I am able to type so better.

For gaming, I will often use a Razer Raiju Ultimate and a Razer Wolverine Ultimate. They're both generally great pads and I highly recommend them, with a bias towards the Raiju Ultimate as it has better placement on the back paddles, even though the configuration software is much worse, and the face buttons are much squishier than the extremely satisfying clickyness of the Wolverine.

While photo editing I use a Wacom Intuos 5 tablet. It's super great.

As we live in scandalous times, I've been working from home a lot, so I have a desk with some drawers and a shelf. They are a flatpak particleboard situation that we've all endured, and are not worthy of note. However, they are my Shelf of Interesting Things, which is of some interest.

Arrayed upon the shelf one may find:

  • A boxed copy of Sundered, a Metroidvania-y game by Thunder Lotus,
  • The Ikora Rey and Commander Zavala models from McFarlane Toys,
  • The collectors' box... book... thing... from Destiny 2 at launch,
  • Numerous Destiny vinyl figures, such as the Vex Goblin and a Ghost,
  • Corvo's Mask from the Dishonored 2 collectors' edition, complete with custom glowing cyberpunk shades,
  • A T-51b statuette from Fallout,
  • A posable Samus Aran model, in the Gravity Suit,
  • A talking Sadness, from the Pixar movie Inside Out,
  • Four collectible pin... badge... things, related to in-game seals from Destiny 2, and
  • A photo print speakers' gift that I received from DevOps Days Newcastle.

Yes, it's important that you know of these things I have.

My phone is the last truly great iPhone, the iPhone XS. Why was it the last great iPhone, you might ask? Because subsequent flagship iPhones removed the most important feature, 3D Touch, and its loss is a serious blow to usability. All subsequent iPhones are good, don't get me wrong, but true greatness has been lost. I'm going to be extremely sad when this phone dies.

My smartwatch is an Apple Watch Series 4. It's extremely good at being a watch for at least a day at a time, which is generally fine for my needs. It also can tell me my heartrate, and can perform a limited ECG, which is interesting data to have.

For more ultraportable computing, I use an older iPad Pro 10.5", with the Apple Smart Keyboard and a first-generation Apple Pencil. For a screen protector, I use a Paperlike, which, if you use your iPad for writing or sketching of any sort, I highly recommend. It's a great surface and I love it. This is a great device for "fits in my handbag" and "I can meaningfully write on it on a plane" and "I'd like to damage my sleep cycle by watching television in bed".

Gosh, planes. Remember planes? Since it's the future when you are, you probably do, but you can imagine remembering them for me.

But really, why talk about computer and gaming technology when we can talk about the truly interesting hardware - stationery.

My daily driver pen is a Pilot Knight fountain pen, using a converter loaded with blue-black Parker Quink. The Knight is an extremely solid pen, boasting a surprisingly fine point for a medium, solid metal body construction, and great overall grip feel. I'm such a big fan of this pen that I have three, each with a different ink.

My alternate daily driver is a Pilot Metropolitan in turquoise, loaded with Pilot iroshizuku syo-ro, a dark teal that is exceptionally on point.

My absolute favourite fountain pen is a Parker 51, with mine being manufactured some time in the 1940s. It is a beautiful pen that is absolutely stunning to write with - there's nothing quite like the feeling of how someone else's writing has altered a nib, and how that changed nib now alters your own writing. It's like being connected to history in a tangible, meaningful way. I keep this one loaded with Pilot iroshizuku kiri-same, a beautiful warm, soft grey tone. It's always such a pleasure to use this ink and this pen.

Other joyful inks in my collection are Robert Oster Hippo Purple and J. Herbin 1670 Emerald of Chivor. The Hippo Purple is more of a common-day writing ink, while the Emerald of Chivor is a special occasions, deeply saturated, truly beautiful ink.

I use these pens to write in Moleskine notebooks, because I am a hipster.

And what software?

As I'm welded to the Apple ecosystem, the majority of software I use is Apple-centric.

For short and medium writing, I use the text editor Ulysses. It's great for Markdown-esque markup of documents, easy to build larger documents out of smaller pieces, allows notes and attachments on a per-document basis, and includes integrated version tracking and reasonably useful export options. This interview was written in Ulysses! It's also available on iPad and syncs via iCloud, so all my notes and writing is available anywhere that I need it to be.

For medium to longer writing, I use the ever- and exceptionally-capable Scrivener. What can I say about it that hasn't been said by many others? It's a great tool. If you turn stimulants into words for a living, I highly recommend checking it out.

For turning stimulants into software, I've spent most of the past decade and a half plugged into the venerable and much-loved TextMate. Unfortunately Visual Studio Code picked up all of the post-Sublime Text-or-Atom mindshare, and any new attention given to TextMate is from die-hards like me.

Since TextMate is on that slow fade to niche obscurity, I'm in the process of picking up my tools and moving to Panic Nova, a fully-native macOS code editor that has very agreeable performance characteristics.

In terms of writing software, much of what I develop is either in Python or Hashicorp's Terraform, the best infrastructure-as-code language around. I'm such a huge fan of Terraform that I'm the maintainer on both the TextMate and Nova editor extensions.

Do you use either of these editors? and Terraform? And want to help? Please do!

As I spend most of my time in the terminal, iTerm 2 has been an absolute must. Complementing iTerm is the superlative and must-have oh-my-zsh, rocking a (somewhat) customised theme. Homebrew is, of course, a must on macOS.

When I'm developing Python code, I rely heavily on pyenv and pyenv-virtualenv - absolutely must-have tools for Python development.

For Git diff management, I use Kaleidoscope, a beautiful visual merge tool that integrates wonderfully with the shell.

For IRC, the only real macOS option is the still-excellent Textual.

As I run my own business, customer relationship management is hugely important to me, and as such I'm so thankful to have stumbled across the Mac-native, Mail.app-integrated Daylite by Marketcircle. It's extremely well-thought-out, feature-rich, and beautifully integrated. This one tool is perhaps the most important part of my business, bringing together contacts, information, and allowing for easy and quick cross-linking. I can't speak highly enough of it.

To round out the productivity-ware side of things, I also rely on BusyCal and BusyContacts - both are great replacements for the extremely barebones native apps.

For photo editing, I use Adobe Lightroom Classic, having switched to it from Apple Aperture when it was discontinued. I don't love Lightroom Classic, editing for more than a half an hour leaves the application dreadfully slow, and Adobe Lightroom CC, the successor to Lightroom Classic, is still missing a few features I use, especially around tagging and organisation.

In spite of Google's attempt to kill RSS, I am still a huge proponent of the standard, and I use Reeder on both my iPhone and Mac. It's a truly great app, well thought-out and delightfully minimal.

I write my talks in Keynote, but I recently learned of Deckset from VM Brasseur's interview, and I'm extremely excited by it and will be checking it out.

Todo apps are an endless point of contention for me, and I've gotten the most value, for most of my non-CRM todo needs, out of some physical notebooks and the Bullet Journal method. It's easy to come back to when I am forced to ignore it for long stretches, works well for both reviewing things and keeping things in focus, and doesn't fill me with that overwhelmed feeling of never being able to achieve anything and disappointing myself and everyone around me. Trying to use digital todo apps always seem to end in that pit of overwhelm and despair and abandonment, so I'm thankful for Bullet Journal providing a workable, flexible, non-judgemental workflow. And an excuse to buy more journals.

What would be your dream setup?

How do you even answer this?

I think my ideal digital setup would be something like an LG 5K Ultrawide or two, for that truly immersive sea of pixels effect. I'd add in a Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB keyboard with mechanical switches for an improved ergonomic experience, and a Razer Core X eGPU and an AMD RX 6000-series card to drive those chonky, beautiful displays.

Until more comprehensive multi-machine support comes to macOS, or Apple's M1 chipset starts to enable my phone to be the axis of continuity, à la Razer's Project Linda, I think a laptop like my MacBook Pro and an eGPU is the best that I can get for enabling my conference junkie life goals, while also providing a sound business machine for onsite meetings.

I'd probably invest in some kind of electric standing desk as well, since fixed-height desks rather miserable, aren't they?

For my PC, I'd add an AMD RX 6800XT GPU, but otherwise she's a good machine and I'm happy with her.

I'd like to replace my iPad with one of the newer iPad Pro models, as the Magic Keyboard looks like an exceptional ultraportable writing experience, as well as providing a great secondary on-the-go display for my laptop.

If we're really dreaming, I'd talk Logitech into adding the dynamic scroll wheel technology from their MX Master series to the MX Ergo. A trackball with an amazing scroll wheel? Come on, Logitech! Greatness is right there! Reach for it!

I'd love to see Serif, the makers of Affinity Photo, release a Lightroom competitor. I'd almost certainly drop Lightroom immediately to use that software.

Beyond that? More pens, probably. There's always room for more pens.

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