Work inspiration with Boris Smus

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Boris Smus

UX prototyper & software engineer at Google

Yo, I'm a UX prototyper at Google, currently part of a research-oriented team that works on emerging user interfaces. Basically, there's now a bunch of sensor and multimedia data that computers can extract in real time. We try to make sense of it and use it to create something compelling for end users. At the end of the day I specialize in building user interfaces using the web platform (including Chrome Apps and Extensions) and Android. I also use Python for scientific computing and C++ for performance-heavy applications using NDK and NaCl.

In the past, I was involved in making the web platform better by writing articles on, JavaScript libraries and samples, and a book on the Web Audio API.


I use a decked out 15" Mac Book Pro with a nice Retina display. I have a bunch of Android phones and tablets for testing, and random pieces of hardware for tinkering. I use a Moto X as my main phone, and an iPad Mini as my rarely used tablet. I'm still torn between iOS and Android, mostly because I'm married to my iTunes library.

I always have a small sketch book with me, and also keep a large one at work, and whiteboards. So many whiteboards.


For web development, I use MacVim with a mostly stock Janus configuration. Chrome DevTools are the bee's knees. For work-based task management and notes, I use VimOutliner, which gives nice multi-level indentation with folding, and shortcuts for creating [_]'s (text-based checkboxes). For my personal tasks I still use Google Tasks.

For Android development, I recently switched to Android Studio, which is still in early stages of development, but is improving quickly. 

I also use Acorn for basic image manipulation and Audacity for audio mucking. 

At work I'm often plugged into headphones, listening to music. My streaming music platform du jour is Spotify.

Dream setup

I'm very happy with my current setup. As a high school student/undergrad, I loved fiddling with my configuration to get it just right (yes indeed, a former Linux head), but now I'm more interested in spending that time on building something new.

That said, this year I asked Santa for a large, high density display to plug my laptop into when I'm at work. Also I asked for a nice pair of bluetooth headphones with good battery life that don't make me look like Princess Leia. But all I got was this lousy t-shirt.


Frequent travels (usually to Vancouver) keep me sane and help me regain lost perspective. Leaving the Bay Area really helps me think about the bigger picture and flush out the Hacker Newsy groupthink. Whenever I return from a trip, I am excited to get back to work and full of new ideas.

I also subscribe to some nice podcasts (Planet Money, All Songs Considered, ATP), a whole lot of RSS feeds (I use Feedly) and sometimes listen to Teaching Company lectures.

I find it helpful to intersperse work sessions with exercising and playing musical instruments.