Tools of the Trade

Tools? Why dear god, why?

As an avid fan of the enactive approach to cognitive science, I deeply agree with Gregory Bateson’s idea that the blind person’s stick is part of their body and general sensorimotor apparatus (I’m not alone in this).

The same goes for one’s everyday work tool, and in my case that’s the personal computer. One can go a long way with that principle, and prime examples are Bret Victor’s talks The Humane Representation of Thought and Seeing Spaces, setting out wonderful visions of how computerised tools could (will?) empower us in thought and creativity, turning e.g. the reflexive craft of programming into dynamic performance (also watch The Future of Programming if you’re into this).

There’s also more modest achievements in modelling one’s everyday interactions, of course. One of those, I think, is proper everyday tooling. So since I have wondered many times about ways to transform my everyday thinking, with various attempts at practices to grow the fleeting ideas and wonderful imaginative feelings one can have throughout the course of a day; since I have been asking myself what stuff people develop to cope with the ephemerality of thought, here is my current list of tools and tricks.

Hopefully I can come across something similar in the future published by other people, or even spark some conversation! (In some slightly more developed form than a dotfiles repository.)

The list

Now, rather bluntly:

Desktop

ArchLinux, with i3 as window manager, and Gnome Terminal with fish shell.

Apps/programs

Neovim for file editing, Firefox with the Tab Tree and VimFx extensions (and Zotero and other standard stuff) for browsing, Pelican for blogging.

Work

Jupyter with Python’s scientific ecosystem, Elm, and git. Occasionally Julia. Hopefully a lot more of, soon, Rust.

Tracking

Gnote for permanent notes and scratchpads, RedNotebook for all dated notes, and Hamster to track time spent on tasks and keep a good overview of work hours.

Interface and incentives

The Dvorak keyboard layout. Workrave to push me to take regular breaks so I don’t go blind because of too much screen, and RedShift so that said screen stays comfortable at all hours of the day and night.

There should be an up-to-date version of this list in the Tools page from now on!