The people who use our boards.

Alex Scheel

Senior Software Engineer

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

\o hey there! I’m Alex, also known as cipherboy. I’m active on GitHub and have participated in open source communities ranging from Hashicorp Vault and Dogtag PKI to ComplianceAsCode/content. My technical interest largely lies with the subset of security focusing on applied cryptography. Lately that seems to be attempting to mesh the theory and practice of TLS, SSH, and X.509 with various real-world implementations.

When not contributing to the broader technical ecosystem, I’m an avid violinist. I’m currently studying with Hong-Yi Mo, a member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and have previously studied with Boro Martinic-Jercic at ISU, Aaron Janse of the Minnesota Orchestra, the Artaria String Quartet, and DeAnn Spencer. I also do a bit of photography, though I’m often quite behind on editing.

Alex Scheel's photography
Alex finds interesting images everywhere

What hardware do you use?

A lot of different stuff!

Alex Scheel's setup
This is the only angle that gets in all the PCs

Under my desk are a 10-gigabit MikroTik switch and three desktops:

Alex Scheel's setup from the side
Desktop work space, laptop work space

On top of the desk, I keep a couple of laptops. I used to run an x1c 4th gen as my preferred laptop, but I’ve recently picked up a System76 Lemur 10 Pro, which I enjoy. A Dell XPS 15 is my daily driver at work.

Alex Scheel's ThinkPad laptop
The old reliable laptop

I’ve really liked my dual P24q-10 monitors and Thunderbolt 3 dock from Lenovo. 1440p is a good resolution for me, the integrated USB hubs are great, and everything has lots of connectivity for my various systems.

Alex Scheel's System76 laptop
The new favorite laptop

The core of my networking runs through a fourth desktop (acting as a router). It was my first piece of hardware that I purchased as a kid (a refurbished HP tower with an AMD A10 APU) that I keep around for nostalgia. It runs Pi-hole to help keep trackers at bay and make the mobile ecosystem more usable.

And what software?

Sometime in college I settled on Fedora after a particularly bad incident with Gentoo wherein /usr/bin got unintentionally removed…Having worked for Red Hat, I definitely appreciated having access to a lot of maintainers for the core software. A lot of developers there dog food Fedora before the changes land in RHEL; the widely used core projects generally have good maintainer responsiveness.

I’m an unapologetic Vim user, joking that I use my grandfather’s keyboard and my father’s text editor. I’ll use just about anything open source, though. I’ve built a frontend (p) over the zx2c4’s Pass: The Standard Unix Password Manager. I have fairly extensive dotfiles, including build, a helper to build projects so I don’t have to remember how to do so myself (relevant XKCD).

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

About those keyboards… (That’s why we’re all here, isn’t it?)

I’ve largely been using my Planck EZ with Cherry MX Blues as my daily driver for the past year or so now. Originally a gift, it came with MX Browns (too soggy) and I tried out both the MX Whites (too stiff) and MX Reds (too soft) before finally deciding on Blues. What made the biggest difference, in my mind, was doing a 2mm O-ring mod to help the bounce when bottoming out.

My keymap is a fairly standard QWERTY with only minor, incremental modifications (at least, so I think). What I’ve enjoyed most about the Planck is that it has allowed me to mesh some of the comments from my violin teachers (towards minimizing unnecessary movement of the hands) with my typing.

Alex Scheel's keyboard and mouse
Alex's Planck in its place

Also, the Planck (even with Blues) annoys my officemate less than some of my other keyboards, as I’m a fairly heavy typer… That’s a plus!

I also have three IBM Model Ms, including my late grandfather’s; the other two were a gift from a former colleague with an extensive collection. I’ve bolt-modded the Lexmark and replaced some springs on the other. My grandfather’s has been unmodified since I got it in college. I’ve considered a USB-C mod (as the blue cubes are hard to come by) but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Alex Scheel's IBM keyboard
This keyboard is almost forty years old

I recently switched to a 12.9” iPad Pro for music and have enjoyed using a PageFlip Dragonfly for turning pages. It presents to the computer as a Bluetooth keyboard despite not having a… traditional form factor. Definitely the quietest keyboard I have!

Alex Scheel's Dragonfly and instrument case
The Dragonfly lets the violin create the sounds

What would be your dream setup?

I think my white whale is either an ortholinear 40% or SSK layout Model M (yes, with those buckling springs!) running QMK with dual USB A+C connectivity (but no Bluetooth!).

Alex Scheel's violin bow
A fine bow deserves a fine instrument

I’d also love a violin by a modern maker to complement the wonderful Ole Kanestrom bow I commissioned. :-)

Alex Scheel's photography
Thanks, Alex! We hope a new violin is just down the road for you!

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