The Setup

The Setup has always been one of my favorite sites on the internet. I love seeing how other people – in vastly different careers – get their work done. Though I don’t craft Chinese soliders out of cardboard or anything nearly that fascinating, I thought it would be a fun exercise to put together my own version.

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Peadar Coyle, and I’m a data scientist based in Luxembourg, until recently I was at Vodafone as a Quantitative Analyst in their Energy team.  As you might expect, there are many people out there with that title and many do quite different work. My career has been varied so far, but I’m predominately a type A (for insights) data-scientist which means I spend half of my time coding and prototyping models to provide insights for business stakeholders. I’m working hard on improving my development skills so that I can deliver robust, working code in production. My intellectual background is in Physics and Mathematics.

I enjoy talking (as all Irish people do 🙂 ) so I regularly share my knowledge at conferences such as PyData.

What hardware do you use?

I use (and adore) my Leuchterm notebook (8″, with dots) for taking notes during phone calls, meetings, and any other times when typing on a laptop feels out of place or unnecessary. It’s a fantastic thought-collector for all manner of doodles, brainstorms, projects, and data visualisations. In that notebook (and everywhere else, really), I’ll write with whatever is around, but my preference is for ultra fine gel ballpoints.

Until recently I was using Moleskines, but I found them a tad expensive for their quality.


I carry a Samsung Galaxy J everywhere for all the uses in the world (+ multi-factor auth all the things). The battery is absolutely terrible, so I always keep a portable battery in my bag. That might actually be one of the most worthwhile 25 euros I’ve ever spent.

My home machine is a MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2014) with 16GB of RAM. This is a pretty hefty machine and quite difficult to carry around, but the retina screen is awesome.

For cloud computing (that counts as hardware right?) I use EC2 and S3 on AWS. For certain problems like Kaggle or complicated problems I’ll use whatever the most powerful machine I can get my hands on 🙂

And what software?

This is where I spent most of my time. I try out lots of tools to make my work (and life) easier. For me, “easier” is always a balance between “more tools that each do one thing well” and “fewer tools that each do all sorts of things.” It’s a constant work in progress.

I’m still using OS X 10.10 (Yosemite). When it comes to my work system, I’m rarely an early adopter because new OS updates always break environments.

I probably spend 50% of my time in OS X’s Terminal. Most of that time is spent in vim. I write most things there: code (mostly Python and bash), documents (Markdown, text, and TeX), etc. The solarized (dark) theme gives nice syntax highlighting contrast, and also keeps my eyes from getting tired (this will be a recurring theme). I keep meaning to try out iTerm but haven’t gotten around to it. I spend a lot of time working on remote Linux servers, so I tend to keep it simple (and similar) on my own machine. I’ll occasionally try to learn Emacs – and then give up and go back to Vim.

I’d guess the next 45% of my time is spent in Chrome. Among all the articles I’ve opened to read (but will inevitably drop into the Pocket black hole), you’ll pretty much always find some combination of tabs open that include: all Google Apps (mail, cal, drive, and a handful of docs), StackOverflow, the Python docsGitHub, Slack, trello, twitter and often a wikipedia page or two about whatever concept or technique I’m trying to grok at the moment. I’ve recently started using Safari books which is an expensive investment but it strikes me personally as a worthwhile one.

I recommend any data geek wanting to improve their productivity learn sed, awk and also use csvkit which I couldn’t live without.

I also use a bunch of Extensions because efficiency makes me incredibly happy: JSONView & XML Tree (prettify API responses), Markdown Reader (live rendering of local .md files – usually how I write and review these posts), Pocket (save-for-later), and Tab-Snap (store giant tab list as restorable text file)..

The last 5% of my time is spent switching between a host of other apps: Wunderlust (daily note-taking and long-term reference storage), Slack (team/org communication), Gimp (for my amateur image creation needs), Slides (for important presentations, GDocs for less important ones), and Toggl (time tracking; incredibly enlightening if you’ve never tried it). I also use Jupyter a lot but recently I’ve been moving to PyCharm  since I’m trying to write less ad-hoc stuff and more python modules. Since I’m trying to learn Scala at the moment I’ve been using IntelliJ which is an awesome IDE. I honestly don’t know how anyone codes in a JVM language without a good IDE.

There are a handful of other apps that are hugely valuable and always running in the background, too:  Dropbox (for both personal syncing – Camera Uploads! – and quick file sharing), Skypef.lux(adjusts your display’s color temperature – helps reduce eye strain when working at night).

What would be your dream setup?

Although I am close to it. Some small changes would include: a not-yet-possible 13″ MacBook Air with the specs of the burly 15″ Retina MBP, a pair of those magical Bose headphones I mentioned earlier, a couple of 27″ displays, and a beautiful, automatic sit-to-stand desk would be a nice start.

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