Dean Putney, Founding Software Engineer at Glowforge


Cool Tools Show 109: Dean Putney

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Our guest this week is Dean Putney. Dean is the founding software engineer at laser cutter startup Glowforge in Seattle. Previously he wrote software for organizations like Reddit, IDEO, Boing Boing and Cool Tools.

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Show notes:

Notational Velocity
“Notational Velocity is a basic text editor for Mac meant for taking quick notes. This answers the question of “where can I write this down?” for the computer. I use it to plan my day, write down quick information if I’m on the phone, and keep important snippets of text or code right at hand. nvALT is a fork of the original Notational Velocity that appears to be more frequently worked on. You can access it via a global keyboard shortcut. Its search is quick and accurate. It doesn’t do images or files. nvALT has become the go-to place for me to drop almost all my thoughts and insecure details. You can use SimpleNote to sync your notes to your phone or elsewhere.”

“Dash is a code reference tool. Its primary purpose is to search and read the manuals for different programming languages. This alone is extremely valuable, as reading the manuals online or in a PDF can be extremely tedious. But Dash also makes adding manuals easy, stores them offline, and is accessible in a global keyboard shortcut. Dash can also manage global snippets. This is great for things you type a lot like your address or certain quick responses to things. An unexpected use for Dash is as an always-open web browser. You can search Google and Stackoverflow with it, but even power users may not know that you can add custom search for websites you use frequently. I added our internal JIRA tracker and Confluence to Dash, allowing me to keep the documentation and tickets I’m working on close at hand without having to dig through dozens of browser tabs.”

“NodeRED solves the same problems that If This Then That or Yahoo Pipes try to tackle. While IFTTT tries to hide a lot of the complexity, simplifying to very pure one-to-one connections, NodeRED lets you build a “flow” or network of connections. It handles regularly scheduling updates and checks, has a fairly large library of components and tools you can choose from, and is relatively easy to work with. While it’s originally meant to run Internet of Things devices, it’s perfectly capable of controlling more complex systems. I am using it to collect albums from Bandcamp and organize them so I can post them to my music blog. NodeRED can be set up on a Raspberry Pi fairly easily. It’s also available as a Docker container, very quick and easy to set up.”

Lacquer-Stik Paintstick, White ($7)
“These are sticks of a thick, oily paint. Their purpose is to fill in creases or engraved areas, then you can wipe away the excess leaving a crisp and bright painted space. We use these with the Glowforge a lot — it’s extremely convenient for making labels on projects. Text on colored acrylic looks especially good. I used these sticks recently to label all the bonus squares on a Scrabble board I made with the Glowforge. The Makal brand sticks are the best because they rub in very smoothly and easily. Other sticks are harder paint, making them much more difficult to rub into the crevices. You can use isopropyl alcohol to dissolve the excess for easy wiping without affecting the paint in the cracks.”

Also mentioned:

“The purpose of it is to provide music that is good for working, to kind of get you into a flow state where you can concentrate on something, you’re not being distracted by anything, so in general that means that I’m looking for albums or mix tapes, that kind of thing, that are album lengths, so they’re about half an hour to an hour and don’t have any distracting lyrics and kind of provide a smooth feeling to work to.”


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