Hi! Tell us about who you are and what you do.

I’m Peter Cooper, a programmer and newsletter publisher from the UK. I’m best known for publishing newsletters like JavaScript Weekly, Ruby Weekly, plus several others which can be found here. I also spend a lot of time researching, playing around with developer tools, and generally trying to keep the saw sharp!

I previously worked in a nearby office with my employees but since COVID we’ve all ended up working from home and quite like it. We’ve kept the office as it’s still full of stuff, but I now mostly work from a spare room that I’ve commandeered and turned into an “office” of sorts. It it still pretty junked up though and remains a “work in progress” after two years.

I am not one for tidiness at the best of times though, so it suits me just fine, and may provide some nice balance given how everyone else has such tidy, attractive workspaces!

What is your hardware setup?

Currently I plug my 14" M1-based MacBook Pro into a LG Ultrafine 27" 5K monitor and a secondary Acer 4K monitor.

I used to use an iMac Pro but this is streets ahead. I previously had a 15" M1 MacBook Pro but kept running out of memory. With 64GB in the 14" one, it’s a lot faster still and doesn’t sweat at all. So now I can use the same machine whether I’m at my desk or sat on the couch which is nice.

At my desk I use the wireless Apple Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad and actually prefer these to every fancier keyboard or pointer I have tried. These are absolutely perfect for me.

I also have the typical array of secondary devices: Android tablets, iPads, backup MacBook Pros, even a Thinkpad which I’m playing around with.

I also have a Microsoft Surface Book 3 which I hated for years until I discovered its “presentation” or “canvas” mode where it basically acts like a back to front notebook or a semi-tablet. It’s fantastic for large screen browsing, simple gaming, watching YouTube, showing dashboards or spreadsheets, and the like.

And what are the favorite items in your workspace?

When I’m actually at my desk, I quite like having a vinyl record player (Audio Technica AT-LP120), CD player (Arcam something), and some reasonably good speakers (Q Acoustics something) at my disposal. I do like good sound!

Beyond that I am not very sentimental or anything so I can pretty much work anywhere if I have to.

What is your software setup?

On my MacBook Pro I run macOS and spend most of my life in either a browser (Chrome, usually), Photoshop, Screenflow, Inkdrop, Telegram, iTerm 2, or Visual Studio Code. That makes up about 99% of my workday.

InkDrop is well worth checking out as it’s probably the least well known program I use. The developer does some absolutely fantastic screencasts about how to use it. It’s a Markdown-based information organization and note taking app.

What are your favorite programming or scripting languages?

I experiment and play with a lot of things, but I’ve primarily been a Rubyist for 18 years now. Prior to that I was into Perl for several years, and before that I was programming on DOS in Pascal, C, and originally BASIC.

I now spend most of my time with Ruby, shell scripting or, increasingly, Python. JavaScript creeps in all over the place as well, given my work, and I still keep a hand in with C, though mostly by reading it rather than writing.

Is there anything you are missing in your setup?

Probably time! Which isn’t my setup’s fault ;-)

I don’t spend as much time at my desk as I would like as I have other responsibilities around the house, etc. But maybe one day I can focus more on it.

I would like more space and something a bit more dedicated than a spare room, but sometimes practicalities get in the way. I don’t want to upgrade my entire house to suit my work environment, so it’s probably better that I continue to adapt by using smaller and more flexible tools. The M1 MacBook Pro has helped a lot with that by cramming so much power into such a tiny unit.

What book comes to your mind that you would like others to read?

The older I’ve gotten, the less I’ve realized universal recommendations make any sense. So I don’t have anything I would specifically request others to read.

But I am a particular fan of medical memoirs. “Do No Harm” by Henry Marsh is a fantastic look behind the scenes at how a brain surgeon operates (literally and figuratively), the emotional impact of the work, and how systemic factors impinge upon surgeons’ ability to deliver good results.

Although medicine is significantly more important to the individual, there are surprisingly a lot of systems-level parallels with software development - surgeons and software developers deal with a lot of similar bureaucracy, decisions, and problematic interactions with stakeholders, even if a programmer isn’t usually dealing with life or death!