I’m Patrick Norton, Host of TekThing, and This Is How I Work

For many years, Patrick Norton was familiar to computer nerds all over the world, providing hilarious commentary and advice on the latest tech news and equipment. Perhaps you know him best from his time at Texilla ; I personally first saw Patrick as the host of Screensavers back in the good old days of TechTV .

Currently, Patrick is as busy as ever, hosting and producing his new show TekThing , as well as a dozen other projects in which he is involved. How does he do all this? We got in touch with Patrick to find out a little about how he works.

Location: NorCal. Mostly Alameda and Richmond, California. Current Job : Host / Producer for TekThing , TWiCH (This Week in Computer Hardware) and possibly insecure . And, as of this morning, the threatening telegram Hak5. I am also honored to write for Tested.com . One word that best describes the way you work: Feral. Current mobile device: iPhone 6. I did this for the camera. Otherwise, I would still ride my Moto G 4G. (Camera sucks, but this phone is a bargain!) Current Computer: Um, how much space do we have? My main machine is a Dell XPS 13 laptop (2013 model, although the new 2015 models are great!) For the past 24 hours, I’ve written, rendered videos, or tested products on my home Pentium G3220 ($ 400 gaming PC). , Vizio All-in-One (with Core i7), MacBook Air, and an overclocked Core i5 desktop with 16GB of RAM. Should I count the Raspberry Pi 2 while I’m on it?

What apps, software and tools can’t you live without?

It’s rare to see me without my phone and without the Kershaw Blur jackknife stuffed into my pocket. My package always has an Anker 2nd Gen Astro3 12,800mAh power bank , as well as a Leatherman Skeletool , an external HD, a small pile of SanDisk flash drives and MicroSD cards, and a small pile of cables for everything.

Patreon.com was awesome. Not just for Shannon and me on TekThing, but Tom Merritt on DTNS , Brian Brushwood and Justin Robert Young NightAttack and Anthony Carboni and Jeff Cannata’s we have problems . The whole team behind Comedy Button . “Do you like what we do? You can pay us and we can actually do it for you! »Sounds like a tip jar, but that’s not all.

Google owns most of my professional life … Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Sheets, it handles most of my collaborative work on scripts, scheduling and damn mail. Ashamed to admit, I still write most of my work in WordPad until I move it to Docs. (It’s a terrible tool; old habits are hard to break.) I’m starting to use LibreOffice again because, to be honest, I don’t like editing spreadsheets in Google Sheets.

All my professional life plus everything I need when I’m in Full Dad Mode (diapers, wipes, spare clothes, soothing) stuffs into a GORUCK bag that I bought cheap at one of their War Stories and Free Beer parties . I suspect the pack will outlive me …

How is your workplace arranged?

The real work is done in the studio at the Hak5 warehouse. (Team Hak5 makes it available for Shannon and me for Tekthing. Thanks !!!) This is your classic TV mess with lights, cameras, microphones and chaos. And cables. So many cables.

However, for every hour of television it takes several hours to get ready, mostly composing, which doesn’t happen in the studio.

I’d like to tell you about my elaborate work environment … a top-level standing desk centered in the center of an incredibly green array of lighting in my home office … but Darren (aka Hak5) just found me sitting on the floor in the middle of a warehouse and typing on my laptop because I needed a break from my desk.

I am a writer “anywhere, anytime”. If I can open my laptop I will probably get some work done. My wife thinks I have an unnatural attraction to work at our kitchen table. Over the past month, I’ve been writing scripts and speakers in the front seat of my car (when I’m parked), the folding table that I haul to the warehouse entrance, coffee shops, eateries, on the Amtrak, and at our kitchen table – at least after of how the children fall asleep.

Personal preference: Google hangouts for TekThing attendees, who come from the passenger seat of the car driving to the iFixit headquarters.

I do have a desk on which I spend most of my days with a Dell U2713H WQHD UltraSharp monitor (I would have a 4K UltraSharp if my pockets were deeper) typing on an IBM Model M. The desk is sort of a reworked Ikea thing sandwiched between a MORN MT3050D laser engraving machine and a studio table where Hak5 takes product photos against a tiny MyStudio infinity backdrop .

What’s your best time-saver or life hack?

Single-tasking. Much of what I am doing now, whether it is testing products or communicating with potential advertisers, cannot really be automated. Identifying the most important thing I need to do next and finishing it … is the key for me.

Oh, I almost forgot! LastPass is my new best friend. No need to enter passwords anymore! I have partnered with half a dozen people and a password manager makes my life much easier and safer. (Unless, of course, he is compromised .)

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

I am making a serial to-do list … one of the most productive people I have ever known is still making a daily to-do list on a yellow pad. They are not Luddites, they just find it more efficient. I am migrating all my project lists to Wunderlist. Harder to lose than this notebook!

What device, besides a phone and a computer, can you not live without and why?

Headphones ( Bowers & Wilkins P7 and Sennheiser Momentum are in my bag now) and an insulated Klean Kanteen for my coffee. I use an HRT i-dSp DAC with my iPhone for audio playback. My penknife stays with me even when I leave my phone.

What are some of the things you do best in everyday life?

My wife is surprised at the stains I can remove after washing. I am also a good mechanic, especially when things are not going well in Bach.

What do you listen to while you work?

I’ve been mildly obsessed with Spotify for the past couple of months, in part because playlists like Intense Studying and Bluegrass have introduced me to some new artists … they’re both in active rotation. Like the 100 Greatest Punk Songs of All Time . I also keep my collection of punk, reggae and motown disassembled all the time … at last count I think there were about 700 CDs in my collection, ripped to no loss.

What are you reading now?

There are too many magazines to list! I can’t wait for the latest edition of the Saga , I’ve just completely immersed myself in this comic. The two books at the top of the stack I’m reading (that’s the big stack) are The American Bison: In Search of the Lost Icon and The Free Woman , a collection of poems by Sandra Cisneros. I live online. I check Techmeme all the time . As a misguided literary scholar, I keep returning to Poetryfoundation.org . And hey, not to suck up, but I spend a lot of time on Lifehacker!

[I also] just re-read half of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods this weekend, and picked up Water-Wise Home , the big book on dirty disposal by Laura Allen (co-founder of Greywater Action) and the 2nd edition of Brad Lancaster from Rainwater Harvesting for drylands and beyond .

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Both are possible.

For those who make a living on camera, I spend a lot of time watching people from the sidelines. However, my father made sure that I knew how to approach strangers and ask questions. It was a sales survival thing.

How do you replenish?

A big trip through some kind of Big Nature, preferably off the beaten path in Utah or Nevada, is killer, but a couple of hours to watch a movie without a break is just amazing! And I read all the time.

What is your sleep pattern?

I was quite nocturnal until my first child was born. Now I am so far behind sleep that I am ready to take a nap all the time. There is no alarm clock in the world better than a 30-pound toddler.

Fill in the blank: I would like _________ to answer these same questions.

Henry Rollins .

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“You have a chance. Just. To tell. Something. “” Limiting the risk of loss “was my dad’s big assignment. That, and” be a simple idiot. “Mom is always good at” if you’re going to be dumb, you better be cool. “

What else would you like to add that might be of interest to readers and fans?


Above: The latest release of TekThing.


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