Jerry Belich

Jerry Belich

Software/hardware engineer (Clockwork)

Posted

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am Jerry Belich, a theremin-playing coder, engineer, and storyteller. I lead mobile development at Clockwork Active Media as well as mentor for our Coder Dojo chapter. I studied computer science, theatre, and film together, which combined with a passion for game design, has generated an odd list of projects under my belt.

Lately this has meant trying to find that sweet spot between the technical and creative and build bridges between then. The latest bridge has been an interactive arcade machine called the Choosatron. Also, I'm quite fond of whiskey.

What hardware do you use?

I have a knack for getting companies to purchase my hardware for me, so I'm typing this on a mid-2012, 15" Macbook Pro w/ Retina and a 512GB SSD, and it is wonderful (and unfair I know). The large hard drive is because I refuse to have less than my entire music collection available. Pandora and Spotify just don't do it for me, call me old fashioned. It, along with whatever project I'm currently working on, are lugged around in my Saddleback Leather classic briefcase (medium, dark coffee brown). Best leather I've ever seen, and great size for a few days of travel too. For longer trips I take my medium sized waterbag from the same people. I haven't checked luggage in over ten years.

My briefcase usually has a keyboard Kindle in tow. I can't stand reading anything of length or importance on a digital, glowing screen. I send anything I actually intend to read to my Kindle. I also keep a medium format grid paper notebook, extra Space Pen (I'll get to this), and whatever the latest iPhone is (and/or occasionally a tablet) for testing and prototyping.

On my person you'll find a Galaxy Nexus running 4.2 with a cracked screen. I bought it that way from a co-worker for fifty bucks, because I use it for productivity and rarely entertainment. Well, music and audiobooks quite a bit as well, but you don't need a great screen for that. I think Android 4.2 is the first release that is ready for the public, though I don't disagree with their tactics getting where they are now. Three months ago I got a set of LG bluetooth headphones for five weeks in London, and couldn't do without them now. Brilliant battery life, can take calls, and can control the audio playing. You forget they exist while it's on you, even not listening. They are wobbly though and are awkward to stash, but seem rugged.

I have a slim wallet in my front pocket, and an all-weather Rite in the Rain memo book in my back pocket where the wallet used to live. I love these notebooks, since I can spill coffee or beer on it, and the paper is tough enough for back pocket life. I always have a Fisher Bullet Space Pen in my pocket for my notepad and general use. It lasts forever, never jams up, and writes at any angle (or under water) like a champ! No software has ever been fast or convenient enough to replace pen and paper for me. In this same vein, I use post-its as my daily todo lists. My tragedy is that my handwriting is atrocious and extremely space inefficient.

For my electronics work, I'm usually hacking away on some Arduino variant, or Raspberry Pi. They are cheap, and you can control anything your heart desires! More recently Bluetooth LE technology has started showing up in most of my projects and experiments, with the Red Bear Lab BLE modules being my current primary source. I love my Hakko Digital Soldering Station by the way.

Lastly, I always keep a wooden fidget toy with me. My girlfriend gave me a few sets, stating she used them when working with children diagnosed with autism. And yes, I laughed. She clarified stating that she found them personally helpful, and you have to understand that she and I both deal with anxiety by fidgeting, me much more so. They help reduce more damaging subconscious ticks.

And what software?

For managing Kindle books I use Calibre, and the Send to Kindle browser plugin constantly. I found myself filling my browsers with tabs of articles and sites I earnestly wanted to read, but never would. Once I started punting them to the Kindle, the problem disappeared. I use all browsers except for IE, with Chrome used the most. Google... I'm sorry but I love many of their products, truly. Gmail is THE mail (especially after I got a handle on using tags and stars intelligently), and I've been relying more and more on Google Docs (and now in turn, Google Drive). I don't use any other word processors anymore. The sharing, collaboration tools, and powerful scripting engine, especially for spreadsheets! I'm using it for all my financial tracking, personally and professionally and have saved eons of time. I wouldn't know when I was supposed to be anywhere without Google Calendar, and Google Hangouts beats Skype any day of the week.

Twitter, to my own surprise. I'm not a big fan or user of social media. I absolutely loath Facebook and LinkedIn. The former I consider nefarious, and the latter just a useless service designed to spam me, whether or not I have an account. I found a perfect place for creating and maintaining professional connections with Twitter, and it's resulted in genuine opportunities for me.

Terminal of choice is iTerm2, and Sublime as my text editor. For my iOS dev, as well as some C++ work I use Xcode which is free and really brilliant as far as IDEs go. For revision control I love Git, and SourceTree has become my primary portal outside of the command-line. When it comes to creative coding, or 'playing in the sandbox' I write Python. I do love Adobe products, but I'm really only a power user in Adobe After Effects and Premiere. Pixelmator has replaced Photoshop for me. VLC is my swiss army knife when it comes to video and audio. Oh! Almost forgot, Crashplan for my remote data backup. Great software and great people.

What would be your dream setup?

I want my Kindle to auto-sort books and materials into categories. I hate doing it and I'm too OCD to just leave it as a giant list. I wish to death that the NoteSlate was real. I would kill, or at least seriously maim for a dedicated piece of hardware for scribbles and notes that doesn't try to do anything else (other than save my work). Just a flexible e-Ink notepad in my pocket. I'm a sucker for dedicated devices that don't make me feel like I'm pushing my nose up against the glass to get to what I want.

The ability to type with a full keyboard without having to lug one around would make my phone or tablet much more worthwhile.

I want all walls near where I get my work done to be chalkboards, or some non-light producing digital variant. I need to scrawl ideas, and keep large, visible lists of all my projects, the next task for each, and their priority. I have the memory of a chunk of Swiss cheese, so lists are important. I especially want all the surfaces in my shower to allow easy writing. I solve the strangest problems in the shower, especially algorithms.

Hoarding information is a problem I have, and our digital world only makes it worse. I want information capturing tools that focus solely on capturing and sorting data. Even better, intelligently archiving data you don't seem to use or care about. For photos, I want software to help me cull all the extraneous pictures so I have worthwhile albums instead of overflowing digital shoe-boxes that never get touched.

I guess to summarize, I want brilliant ways to capture data while not getting stuck with the burden of sorting through it all.