The people who use our boards.
The people who use our boards.
Jenna KenshinAmbassador of Algorithms
Who are you, and what do you do? What do you like to do outside of work?
I am 賢進ジェンナ「Jenna Kenshin」(she/her/女). I am a Christian, programmer, swimmer, cook, night-owl, minimalist, audiophile, netizen, gamer, and master of systems. I get paid as a “Knowledge Administrator” at SAIC. I wanted to be the “Algorithm Angel,” or something to that effect, but that wasn’t an option. The vast majority of what I do outside of work is learn. I have an insatiable curiosity that causes me to pursue knowledge across a wide variety of fields. Most recently, I did a deep-dive on the inscriptions found on medications in the United States.
On the weekends, and sometimes, during the week, I like to swim at the local Y. I’ve taught myself how to swim in the last five years and have become fairly proficient, despite the fact that I don’t really know how to breathe well, even on dry land.
I’m an enthusiastic cook…I immerse myself in it. I tend to cook mostly Asian food, but I have recently branched out and started making pasta. Wait. Let me clarify: flour, water, eggs, knead, pass out, repeat… pasta. I have several knives that I brought over to the United States from Japan, when I came here, and a nice skillet or two. I watch far too much French Guy Cooking, Binging with Babish, You Suck At Cooking, and Emojoie Cuisine for my own good.
I’m in the early stages of preparing to build a tiny house. When it is completed, the modular design of it will allow me to put all of the interior and exterior elements inside of the shipping container it will be built around and ship it overseas to Japan, where I hope to live out the rest of my days.
What hardware do you use?
Personally, I use a ThinkPad T430 (extended battery, 16GB Ram, i7 processor, 2TB of storage). I have used ThinkPads as my primary computer for years. For work, I have two Dell Inspiron laptops, but that is not by choice. Connected to both computers is a cheap USB 3.0 switcher, and connected to that is an Anker USB 3.0 hub. The hub has my ATR-2500x microphone, Kensington SlimBlade, and, of course, my ErgoDox EZ plugged into it.
I have a pair of Sony MDR-1RBT headphones that I plug into the microphone for work meetings. When I am not in meetings, or not at work, they are connected via Bluetooth to an Anker Soundsync A3341, which is connected to my Sony 32” TV, which stays plugged into my T430. If I happen to be away from my computer, they are tethered to my phone. They get roughly 12–14 hours of use most days, and many people have asked me if I have a sensory disorder since I wear them about as much as I wear my glasses—which, by the way, are Gunnar Optiks Anime frames with Carl Zeiss prescription lenses.
My phone, which I mention because it is responsible for all of my pictures and because I actually use my ErgoDox EZ with it, is a Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact. The phone actually fits in my hand and it is waterproof (I take it with me to the pool). I have always hated typing on flip phones and smartphones, so I am the weirdo with a USB-C to Mini-USB cable typing on a full size keyboard when I text. It’s also really good at taking pictures in the dark, which I find invaluable, as that is my natural habitat. I also use it when power or ISP outages occur so that I can continue working in any situation.
My desk is a Fully Cooper convertible standing desk, which I use both working from home and in the office, when my boss forces me to come in.
And what software?
My personal laptop currently runs Fedora Workstation 33, and I typically install the latest version of the OS on release day. I’ve been running Fedora since the first version and ran Red Hat 7 and Red Hat 9 before that. I use Google Chrome as my default browser. I often install The GIMP for image editing, but I am not a professional as you will, likely, be able to tell when you look at the images of the work laptops, which have had their ID tags masked. For coding, I am an Emacs/nano girl. I play with VS Code on occasion, but have yet to commit to it like I have with Emacs. I am relatively familiar with HTML5, CSS3, Java, and C++. I play games on Steam and Stadia.
My work laptops both run Windows 10. I dislike Windows, but Windows 10 is, at this point, the best version of the operating system (I have interacted with every version of Windows since 3.1) I have used. One of my work laptops runs Chromium Edge, Outlook, Skype, and Interaction Desktop. The other, which I do the most work on, runs Google Chrome, Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Word, and Excel.
What’s your keyboard setup like? Do you use a custom layout or custom keycaps?
Now for the good stuff—My ErgoDox EZ layout:
I am a huge fan of keyboard shortcuts, if my usage of Emacs didn’t give that away. That love of shortcuts is front and center, as I have the Ctrl, Alt, and Super (Windows key) on the home row for both hands. Furthermore, just beneath that, I have the same keys with the Shift key added to each. On both my work and home laptops, I typically launch applications by having them in my quick launch bar and pressing Super+[1-9] to launch the application I want to use. I have them standardized across all of my computers where Super+1 is the file explorer, Super+2 is the browser, and on my work computers, 3 is Outlook, and 4 is the chat application. I know all of the keyboard shortcuts I need to navigate in Chromium-based browsers, Outlook, Excel, Emacs, VS Code, and Microsoft Teams. I removed most of the keys from the bottom row, as I kept hitting them accidentally and I really didn’t have much of a use for them.
I type nearly everything on my personal computer in Japanese, and my ThinkPad has a Japanese keyboard, so my default layout is a kind of ErgoDoxified JIS layout. On my work computer, I type almost exclusively in English, but since I am used to the JIS placement of the punctuation, I override the ANSI layout on my work computer.
The second layer (1) was set up to provide me with some of the settings I had become familiar with on the Anne Pro 2 I used to have. Arrow Keys and volume controls in the right hand, along with display brightness for the laptops. I also use it to “shift” the Backspace key to get a Delete key there, but I don’t really like the key combo for some situations, so I will probably move it when I decide where I want it.
Layer 2 gives me mouse controls in my right hand, along with some additional nav controls that I might want.
Layer 3, ユニコード「Unicode」, gives me access to special character entry. I overcame the limitations on the macro function that used to be present by creating a ユニコードを始める「Begin Unicode, Unicode start, etc.」key that consisted of the Ctrl+Shift+U command to start the unicode entry. After that, I had various keys set to 203d(‽) and others to generate some of the special characters I use the most. This had largely left me unable to enter special characters in Windows, as the key sequences were not the same, but I recently added the Right Alt key and the numbers from the numpad to this layer so that I could enter Alt codes on Windows machines.
I also put an “Admin” layer, number 5, that is only accessible from 3. I put a lot of keys there that I do not want to hit by accident, as it is highly unlikely that I will activate both outer keys, then hit the appropriate inner keys to reboot the computer, or flash the keyboard firmware. I had those on Layer 1, initially, but I kept activating them by accident.
Layer 4, ゲーム「Game」, corrects what, for me, has been one of the primary issues with gaming via keyboard and mouse: the position of the WASD keys. By shifting them over by one column, I am able to keep my hands in the correct location on home row and have since found gaming via keyboard and mouse to be much more enjoyable.
For the physical keyboard itself, I have the most aggressive tenting that I can in use. My main keycaps are from the TEX ADA keycap set. They are much thicker than the keycaps that come with the ErgoDox and sound better, in my opinion. I have a few amusing keycaps that represent elements of Japanese culture to remind me of home. They don’t really have a lot of meaning on their own, and it doesn’t really matter, as I never look at the board for feedback. I also have an artisan keycap that is shaped like an animal’s face. It comes in handy for the Escape key and ensures that I do not accidentally hit it. I have also replaced the switches in my ErgoDox EZ. I originally got it with Kailh Gold switches, if I recall correctly, but have switched those out for Kailh Box Jades and Kailh Box Pale Blues.
What would be your dream setup?
On the hardware side, I want to have an IOGear KVM switch with HDMI and USB 3.0 connections connected to a 34” 4K display. I’d like to do a processor upgrade on my T430 and upgrade the internal display to a 1080p display. I then want to get an eGPU set up so that, when I have the laptop at home, I can use a powerful graphics card to do some gaming.
I would also prefer that my ErgoDox EZ had a wood case with either a brass or steel backplate. I’d also prefer to have an entire set of thick, blank, ADA keycaps, SA keycaps, and MT3 keycaps in different colors. Also, if I am really going all pipe-dreamy, I’d like to see different options for the thumb bit like what is available on the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard, mainly because I’d love a TrackPoint® pointing device on my keyboard, but a trackball would be good, too! Had the UHK come with a staggered columnar layout like the ErgoDox, I probably would have tried it already.
On the firmware side, I’d like to see the tap-dance feature be a little more robust, where it supports the entry of modifiers as well. The same goes for the new LM keys—having the ability to add the modifiers in the same way that they are added in the macros would be a significant improvement to that feature. While it is superfluous, being able to have my Win key be my Super(Sup) key would be nice (it was done for the macOS peeps).
On another note, I also fancy the idea of moving to the Dvorak or Colemak layouts. I haven’t given either a go because I do not believe that, in a job where I type in English all day, I could be very productive doing a total retraining of my mind.
I do also look forward to having a better desk situation. The tiny home I build will be designed with that in mind. I have a few preliminary ideas in my head that I’ve been working with, but they will likely be revised because I just don’t love everything about them yet. That’s important. I don’t know why I didn’t mention it earlier—I love good design. My dream desk will be made with quality materials, designed where just using it sparks joy, and will be a functional bit of art that I hope to show off here, one day in the future.