Tools of the Job

Mark Gingrass


Breaking into the tech world takes time! Forget about coding in C++ or Python or learning Ruby on Rails. Just figuring out which tools or Integrated Environments (IDE), or even which Operating System (OS) to use can be overwhelming.

In this post, I am going to break down some of the tools I am currently using and why. I’m also going to try and break down my thought process of how I even found out which tools to use. Nobody wants to waste time using tools that are not helpful.

I’ve been working on computers with Microsoft Windows since the early 90’s and I am very familiar with ‘using’ them. Yes, I know how to navigate them better than your average user. I have never been a system administrator or built my own server so… I will say I am an expert at typical ‘home’ usage only. I digress. I bought my first MacBook and I am not an Apple fanboy.


I’m not sure if it’s because it’s brand new, or because the MacOS and hardware are just bad ass. I’ve quickly navigated most of computer time on this MacBook Pro 2017 edition. The learning curve is still there but the more you use it, the easier it gets. It’s frustrating when there are simple things I am used to but have to Google. Such simple things as, “How do I see these hidden files,” or “How do I mirror the display on the project?” Those things are simple, so simple for me on a PC. The short cuts are all new as well. Frustrating but worth it. I’m also biased because I didn’t use these tools I am about to discuss on a PC before using them on my MacBook Pro.

I’ve learned to love Open Source. I’m going to start by giving a list of things I have installed and I am using now. All free.

Open Source Software

– Python 3.6 - A must have for me as I feel like I might just have a chance to get away with not having to learn version 2.7 any time soon. I feel that by the time I learn how to use Python well enough, 3.6 will be the defacto standard (pure speculation). Also, if I learn Python 3.6, switching back to learn 2.7 shouldn’t ben an issue.

Atom - I stumbled across Atom when I was wondering what the heck text editing software are these guys using on YouTube? I later found out the people who created GitHub also created Atom. I’ve only been using Atom for making this site for a couple of weeks now sparingly. However, I am very interested in using it for Python IDE as well. I’m loving it so far.

PyCharm - Before PyCharm I tried a few other IDE’s and really didn’t like them. I came from Microsoft Visual Studio background and wanted something familiar. PyCharm fills that void for me for my Pyhton needs. Although I am still learning the features and get frustrated at times. The intellisense is great.

Jupyter Notebook - I havea love hate relationship witht his one so far. I like it for it’s visualization and the ability to quickly publish to the web. However, I am still not conviced it’s worth anything for long term projects. I think for quick research or a quick explanation it’s fine. I’m using this mostly beause most of the Udacity Self Driving Car Engineer nano-degree program templates are already in the .ipynb format. I’m not writing this one off yet!

Latex - Although I haven’t used it lately, I am excited to have this installed. It allows you to quickly create math symbols and add references to any type of research paper. I feel like once anyone get’s used to this software, they would never go back to Microsoft Word again.

GitHub - Everyone is using it, and so shouldn’t you. Open source is where it’s at apparently. I have been stacking some GitHub projects to help with my professional portfolio. I haven’t used it for collaboration yet but it’s sure handy for backing up files and configuration control. Again, I am using the bare minimum so far but know it’s capable of a lot more. I’m basically doing git add -A, git commit -m and git push. It’s a start though!

Slack - Finally found a chatroom like app for the nerds. I’m getting used to this program fast. It’s great for collaboration on projects and for a general purpose forum. You can find people in all kinds of workspaces and channels for whatever your heart desires. It’s like the replacement for the old mIRC that Wayne Change told me about back in 97’.

R Studio - For all of your R needs. It’s a pretty good IDE and I have no issues with it. I also use Jupyter for R programming here and there.

– XCode - For when I finally get back to that C++ project.

OBS - Online Broadcaster Software is the best for video recording tutorials or reviews. I love this free software program. It has the ability to have multiple video inputs, mic inputs, backgrounds, and more. I use the chromakey features with a green screen to make most of my videos. I don’t edit the videos so whatever I end up recording is what you get. You can also live stream with OBS. I highly recommend this for anyone interested in recording cheap.

– Terminal - The dreaded terminal has become my friend. I am finding it easier and easier to do routine tasks with terminal rather than a GUI equivalent. I can’t stand Finder! Terminal is growing on me.

Overcast - Download all the Machine Learning, Python, Changelog, or whatever your favorate nerd poscast are and play them with Overcast. Be sure to truely be a nerd and skip silent sections and put it on 1.75x to 2.5x speed and soak up that knowledge!

YouTube - This is where I learn how to use a of the tools I use. It’s also where I post tutorials about the tools I know how to use.

I learned which tools to use mostly by finding successful people out there and mimicking them. Find someone in the business you want to be in and figure out which tools they are using. Follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter.

What are some of the tools you can’t live without? Shoot me a message so I can check them out.

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