This is my development environment

Published Mar 23, 2018
This is my development environment

A development environment is the work station of an engineer, the mechanic in his
workshop. A craftsman by trade, he will go to extreme lengths to perfect the workstation.

Here are some of my favorite tools that I take pride in working in and
developing on.

operating system: unix

Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, albeit standing on the shoulders of giants, have done so much for computing as we know it today. They've won the Turing Award and National Medal of Technology and Innovation for good reason. Unix is a fantastic system.

Due to some interesting history (see: Unix wars), Unix from Bell Labs is no longer around, but there are various systems today that inherit the Unix spirit.

See my Unix talk.


shell: bash

Bash (GNU's take on Stephen Bourne's /bin/sh program, sarcastically named "bourne again shell," inline with other GNU acronyms like GNU's Not Linux) is the default shell of macOS and most Linux distributions.

As an aside, here are some notable Unix systems with non-bash default shells:

  • FreeBSD = /bin/tcsh (the C shell)
  • OpenBSD = /bin/ksh (the Korn shell)

Additionally, here are some fantastic bash settings that make it friendlier to use:

bind 'set show-all-if-ambiguous on'
bind 'TAB:menu-complete'
bind 'set completion-ignore-case on'
bind 'set visible-stats on'
bind 'set page-completions off'

Also, as an aside, I personally enjoy the Fish shell ("Finally, a command line shell for the 90s").


text editor: vim

When I first learned coding, my mentor was using Sublime Text 2, so I emulated that for a long time. However, when I landed my first software engineering job, I thought it best to pick up a "deeper," "more programmer" text editor like emacs or vi/vim.

While vim was super confusing, I had already been forced to learn a few vi commands when SSH'ing around the various Raspberry Pi/Arduinos I bought when I first decided to pick up programming. Vi was often the only command-line text editor program installed by default on small operating systems that may not have internet connections.

Warning: a few months after you get the hang of vim, you will customize the hell out of it with your favorite plugins and keybindings. Here are some key settings:

set number
set nowrap

set tabstop=2
set shiftwidth=2
set softtabstop=2
set smarttab
set expandtab
set ruler title laststatus=2
set backspace=2

syntax on
set listchars=tab:▸\ ,eol:¬,nbsp:⋅,trail:•
set noswapfile
set nobackup
set nowb

if exists('+colorcolumn')
  set colorcolumn=80   "Show margin


" general
noremap ;             :
imap ;                 <ESC>:
let mapleader =       ","

" escape characters
inoremap <leader>~    `
inoremap …            ;
inoremap Ú            :
nnoremap <Bslash> ;

" nativation
map 1           $
map 2           ^
map 9           ^

" tabs
noremap <C-t>         :tabnew<CR>
nnoremap <C-w>        :tabclose!<CR>
noremap  <C-x>        :tabclose!<CR> " }}}

" tab navigation
nnoremap –            gT
nnoremap ≠            gt
inoremap –            <C-o>gT
inoremap ≠            <C-o>gt

" vertical split
nnoremap <leader>t    <C-W>v<C-W>l

" horizontal split
nnoremap <leader>h    :split<CR><C-W>j

" split navigation
nnoremap <C-n>        <C-W><C-W>
inoremap <C-n>        <C-w><C-w>

And plugins:

# general
NeoBundle 'vim-airline/vim-airline'
NeoBundle 'vim-airline/vim-airline-themes'
NeoBundle 'NLKNguyen/papercolor-theme', { 'rev' : '867b051d3a' }
NeoBundle 'scrooloose/nerdcommenter'    " quick toggle of comments

# clojure
NeoBundle 'tpope/vim-fireplace'         " clojure REPL in vim
NeoBundle 'tpope/vim-salve'             " clojure quasi-REPL fallback
NeoBundle 'venantius/vim-cljfmt'        " :cljfmt in vim
NeoBundle 'venantius/vim-eastwood'      " clojure linter


terminal multiplexer: tmux

In the beginning, there was screen. And it was okay. But over time, people wanted
features like vertical splits, not just horizontal splits. There was talk of adding a radical new feature — vertical splits.

A developer even implemented the feature in a branch. There was talk that this feature would be merged "soon." This was 2007, when GNU screen was on version 4.0.1. Ten years later, we are on GNU screen version 4.6.2, with still no vertical split. GNU's source
code is a fantastic example of a dead project, filled with spaghetti code.

Along came tmux.

Side note: tmux is included in OpenBSD by default. The OpenBSD benevolent dictator, Theo de Raadt, was notablely frustrated (in a good way) by his inability to find security flaws or bugs in tmux.


programming language: Clojure


Clojure is a breath of fresh air with mystical roots. Here are examples of
technology stacks a business might use from various eras in the history of

  • Pre-1940s: accountants, actuaries
  • 1943-1949: vacuum tubes
  • 1949-1972: assembly (various dialects, dependant on the vendors processor API)

Also: 1958: invention of the integrated circuit
Also: 1958: the invention of the LISP programming language!

  • 1972-1993: the C programming language (meant original to generate various assembly dialects from one source code)
  • 1995-2007: Java programming language (the preferred enterprise language!)
  • 2007: Ruby on Rails (sarcastically!)

Also: 2007 initial public release of Clojure

  • 2008-2015: Python (first invented: 1991, before Java!)
  • 2015-modern era: Clojure!

Clojure is phenomenal. The ability for it to target multiple runtimes is phenomenal. Its primary platform is the Java Virtual Machine, but other target implementations exist, the most popular is Clojurescript ( can run in the browser or with Node.js). There is also ClojureCLR that interoperates with .NET.

There are also variant implementations such as:

-clojure-py: Clojure to run on Python
-rouge: Clojure atop Ruby
-CljPerl: Clojure atop Perl

See my (learn (LISP)) talk here.


database: PostgresSQL

Relational databases are specialized systems to store data on disks in complex structures that make it easy to run set theory queries on. Databases are incredibly interesting to me as a data engineer.

There are many databases to choose from. As a Unix guy, I like free and open source software, so let's scratch off SQL Server and Oracle.

That leaves MySQL and PostgresSQL. MySQL, while open source, is owned by Oracle. I have worked with both (and SQL Server!) and prefer PostgresSQL. Personally, it seems a more mature product, with lots of well thought out features and implmentations.

That said, SQL Server implements transact-SQL which is a pleasure to write, especially with the PIVOT feature — you can write SQL that writes its own SQL.

Here is an (old) write up of some of the feature differences.

(Side note, SQLlite is an option, as it's actually the database used for your text messages if you have an iPhone, but I'd consider PostgresSQL far more seriously).

Postgres originated in Berkeley from the Ingres project in the mid 80s. Similar to the origin story of Unix (from Multics), Postgres means Post Ingres.


cloud environment: aws

(full disclosure: I hold some Amazon stock. Not much, but I'm a believer in AWS).

Some of my favorite AWS blog posts / links:


  • version control: git/GitHub
  • hardware setup: macOS laptop, wireless Mac keyboard, Mac Magic Mouse, Mac trackpad, 1/2 large screens
  • chat: Slack
  • infrastructure tools: Kafka
Discover and read more posts from John Skilbeck
get started