February 3, 2022

Software Development And Vanlife

Part of the year I live out of my self-converted E-250 Campervan. My wife and our 2 cats are also traveling with me. That doesn’t leave a lot of space for an office to do software development. This is how I do it.

My Portable Office

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a full office with full-size keyboard, monitor, printer, and the works while living in a van? No chance.


I wish I had a desk. My lap is my desk and when sometimes a picnic table. The picnic table is a rare treat since we mostly do what is called boondocking. That is where you don’t have any hookups for electric or water. Boondocking is typically done on public lands and is free.

Sometimes I sit in the passenger seat of the van. Right now, I’m sitting in the back of the van on my couch which converts into my bed at night. My favorite is sitting in a chair outside as long as the glare isn’t too bad.


I have one of the new 16” M1 MacBook Pro’s. It compiles code fast. Like, really fast. It makes working on big projects much less painful. The battery life is unbelievable. This is really important in a van when off the grid. Electricity is at a premium. I’m usually able to charge the laptop after the van’s batteries have been topped off and don’t need any more power. The MacBook will last with me using it as much as I want until the next day.

The speakers are also something that needs to be heard to be believed. We stayed at a friend’s condo in Redondo Beach for 3 weeks over the holidays. The whole time we used my computer as a television and the incredible sound capabilities made this much nicer.


Man purse? Computer bag? I’m not sure what to call it. It was a purse that I bought at REI.

I don’t have a conventional computer bag. A conventional computer bag is too bulky to fit in my limited van space. I have a sleeve for the MacBook and this little bag to hold my cables, headphones, computer glasses, and charging brick.

It works out pretty well. If I want to work in a coffee shop, I just through the purse over my shoulder and carry the computer in its case. The rest of the time everything fits into my clothing drawer with my clothes.


I use cellular data for most everything I do. I have 1GB per month of data on a Verizon plan. I never come close to using all of it.

The real tricky part is getting data while away from civilization. Most of the time I can just tether my computer to my phone and it is fine. Sometimes if I’m just out of reach of good cellular service I use my cellular booster in the van. I have a Weboost Drive 4g-X with a marine antenna. This will boost a weak, unusable signal into one that is very serviceable.

Recent Project Developments

I’m always working on something.

NetNewsWire 6.1

We’ve released development versions of NetNewsWire 6.1 for both iOS and the Mac. The blog post for the 6.1b2 version for the Mac has good info in it. The tentpole feature for this release is Themes.

Themes are the ability change how the Article is rendered in NetNewsWire. This can be a matter of personal taste and sometimes a matter of accessibility. For example if a font is pretty, but difficult to read, you can change that font so that to one that is easier to read. You can also change Article colors, sizes, and key field placements. All this is pretty easy to do if you have basic Web development skills.

NetNewsWire 6.2

The NetNewsWire team will occasionally work on multiple releases at the same time. This time we are testing version 6.1 while developing version 6.2. For version 6.2 we plan to finally add FeedWrangler syncing for macOS and iOS.

On iOS, we’re also updating the user interface to look more at home on recent version of iOS. My NetNewsWire teammate, Stuart, and I have been hard at work on the iOS UI refresh. I’m pretty happy with the progress thus far. Stuart has also contributed a Notification manager that will make working with Notifications much easier.

Zavala 2.0 Release

I managed the second major release of Zavala while working out of the van in the desert close to Holtzville, CA. This release is a big deal to me. Thanks to Brad Ellis and some elbow grease from me, this release really feels professional. I mean, it feels like there is a real budget with several team members from a good company kind of professional.

The big deal with this release is Shortcuts support. This really makes Zavala much more customizable and powerful. I hope the users end up finding this useful. I use it all the time, from backing up my outline database, to posting to different blogging systems.

Vanlife is Often Boring

What you don’t often get from Instagram #vanlife stuff is that there are lots of times that you have nothing to do. If you are off the grid for 4 or more days at a time with nothing but scrub brush and sand, what do you do? I’m fortunate enough that my hobby, software development, is still possible even in those conditions.