The people who use our boards.

Alec Wong

Data Analyst

Who are you, and what do you do? What do you like to do outside of work?

I am Alec Wong, a quantitative ecologist turned auto insurance data analyst at Progressive Insurance in Cleveland, Ohio. Formerly, I worked to quantify the moose population of the Adirondack Park in upstate New York, and now I work to optimize staffing for our claims organization across the country.

My go-to leisure activity is PC gaming, which I have long enjoyed—but especially in the past year, it has contributed variety to my days and social contact with my friends. I’m currently playing a mix of GTFO, Deep Rock Galactic, and Risk of Rain 2 with friends; Hades and Far Cry 5 have been the most notable single-player games I’ve played this year, and I’m currently revisiting Portal 2. I’ve also gotten a Nintendo Switch recently, which I play with my girlfriend.

Alec Wong's setup
Two widescreen monitors help Alec get the most out of gaming

Grilling and smoking meats, as well as wood-chopping, have become my main pandemic hobbies. I’ve also found a bit more time to spend contributing to the R statistical software community, giving presentations at local R meetups or contributing to package development either through PR’s (r-lib/keyring) or issues in several others. My pre-pandemic hobby was mainly photography, but staying home all the time provided a little less inspiration this year.

What hardware do you use?

I use a custom-built PC as my personal computer, put together just before the pandemic began, luckily. It has an AMD chipset, Ryzen 9 3900X, GTX 2070 Super, and 32 GB of DDR-4 RAM. I have a work-issued laptop for daily work.

For keyboards, I have a Moonlander ZSA with Kailh Silver switches, which I use for a mix of games and work, but still have not fully discharged my old Logitech G413 keyboard. I use a simple Logitech G203 mouse on an XL full-width Corsair gaming mouse pad.

Alec Wong's keyboard
Keyboard and mouse ready for work or play

I have two ASUS VG248QEZ monitors for gaming @ 144hz refresh rate, and a 1:1 ratio Eizo EV2730Q for work—one of my favorite additions thus far.

Alec Wong's setup
This monitor's 1:1 ratio helps Alec keep an eye on his work

I have Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X open-ear headphones with a ModMic by Antlion Audio for voice chat. For work I use Sony Bluetooth headphones with a Blue Snowball microphone.

A small but pleasant addition to my home office setup is a USB hub switch box, so I can change my devices from my personal computer to my work computer with the press of a button. It’s a great way to signal the end of the day while working from home.

I have a CyberPower 1500VA battery backup. This item is indispensable, as it can power my work setup + internet for a couple of hours should the power go out while the internet is still accessible. It also keeps the internet up during brownouts. I can’t recommend this item enough.

For photography, I use a Nikon D750, with lenses including a Sigma 18-35mm, 50mm, and 105mm macro, and a Nikon 70-200mm. I’m still using the same webcam from high school, a Microsoft LifeCam. Webcam technology hasn’t really progressed very far.

And what software?

As a data analyst, my favorite tooling comes from the R community, with RStudio as my primary IDE for R-related things, and Visual Studio Code for everything else. For me, R is just enjoyable—so much so that I elect to do stuff with it outside of work and I am passionate about teaching and supporting our analysts at work to make the best possible use of the software.

I’ve begun using Python more at work as well, having most recently built a utility for my team to issue MDX queries from SSAS Cubes programmatically. RStudio’s {reticulate} package is an incredible way to seamlessly integrate R and Python workflows together. You’ll find no animosity from me toward Python or Python users! That is reserved for SAS.

I’ve been learning D3, which I’ve integrated into a few reveal.js presentations to good effect—this arrangement provides plenty of ‘wow’ factor due to the unorthodox presentation format (HTML) as well as the interaction that D3 and JS in general provide. There are packages that allow you produce these from R, so you can go from analysis code to presentation in one go; nevertheless, most often I enjoy producing the reveal.js and D3 with straight HTML.

For terminals I use bash (haven’t tried any other shells), and Vim is my go-to in-terminal editor. I really like unix tools such as AWK and bash scripting; they are vaguely reminiscent of R in their syntax.

I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to edit my photos.

What’s your keyboard setup like? Do you use a custom layout or custom keycaps?

I use a custom layout that I’ve been refining to be not too far off from an ordinary keyboard setup, with some conveniences like a layer to move common symbols to the home row. A game layer makes it possible to have common right hand–side buttons like M, L, P, I, and O on the left side. WASD is remapped to ESDF to even out the space on the board.

My Moonlander configuration is still iterating towards something that can improve my coding productivity in particular—my typing speed for ordinary text is slightly higher on the Moonlander, but I still feel a little held back when programming without having all the symbols and arrow keys accessible from the main layer as opposed to on a full 108-key keyboard. I’m still trying to iron out the redundancies I find myself getting into; for instance, I have three different ways to access arrow keys, which certainly doesn’t help my brain get used to the alternative layout.

Alec Wong's keyboard, side view
Double-shot Pudding keycaps look great from the side

I swapped out the keycaps for sculpted OEM HyperX Pudding keycaps—I like having the sculpting to help my fingers differentiate the rows and avoid mistyping. The Kailh Silvers are extremely sensitive, and I found myself hitting two keys at a time with the flat-profile keys; “T” when I wanted to hit “5”, for example. These keycaps also accentuate the RGB lighting, which is a nice plus. I’d like to find keycaps with ABS material, as I find that my fingers have less grip on textured keycaps.

I bought a sample switch pack from ZSA, and tried out all sorts of Cherry and Kailh switches — I have since put in clicky Kailh Box Whites into the Moonlander and typing is very engaging (not to mention fewer accidental presses!). Swapping out all of the keycaps and switches was so easy, it’s hard to even consider a keyboard that doesn’t have hot-swappable switches any longer.

What would be your dream setup?

I’m a high refresh–rate type of person versus high resolution, so I would love a main (>=) 144hz monitor at 1440p, and two high refresh–rate 1:1 aspect ratio monitors on each side – how fantastic would that be? I’ve fallen in love with the space a 1:1 aspect ratio monitor affords, but only one company (Eizo) produces them, and the connections aren’t the best, providing 60hz only through DisplayPort or dual-link DVI (the latter of which I don’t have as an output on my GTX 2070 SUPER), an unacceptable 30Hz on HDMI. If we’re talking super far-fetched dream setup, I would love an augmented reality situation with as many virtual monitors as I wanted.

Gigabit download and upload would be very welcome.

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