The people who use our boards.

Lorne Ashley

Songwriter/Musician/Developer

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

I am Lorne Ashley. I’m a recovering musician, currently a front-end app developer and native-level engineer in training. Outside of work I’m still writing and recording for my artist projects Lornæ, Venice Drone, & Son of Kong. I’m also an avid PC Master Race gamer, mainly in RPG and FPS games. Valheim and Elden Ring are pretty much where every minute of spare time goes.

Lorne Ashley singing
Lorne sings on his Lornæ project

What hardware do you use?

I’m such a fan of the Thunderbolt ecosystem. Everything is hubbed and has a one-cable setup. I have a few machines I switch between: a MacBook Pro 16” for work, a MacBook Pro 15” for music on the road, Mac Mini M1 for home studio, and a custom PC for gaming. Everything gets the one-Thunderbolt-cable treatment on my home desk. There isn’t much space in Copenhagen apartments…so optimising on hardware is essential.

Lorne Ashley's setup
Lorne's home setup makes professional music

At home the CalDigit TS3 powers my UAD Apollo Twin, HDDs, DisplayPort daisy-chained dual monitors, Ethernet connection, etc…I just swap out the machine. My work desk is similar, of course, but without the HDD and music equipment. I usually take my Moonlander between both stations every day, which has become SO much easier now thanks to taking the wings off and the Zip Kit in general. It’s a much better solution than dragging the Keychron K2 around, and the Planck is HIGH on my list for home desk.

Lorne Ashley's work setup
Lorne's work setup is as space-efficient as his home one

Other than productivity stuff, I have my various musical boxes around. I’ve been really into Elektron for a long time, so currently my desk has an Octatrack MKII, a Digitakt, and a Digitone sitting on there, all synced and patched (offline) for instant jamming.

And what software?

I imagine it comes as no surprise that VSCode dominates my development world and Ableton Live dominates my music world. I recently started using Warp for my terminal, which has proved to be way more efficient than iTerm. I’m excited to see how it matures.

Software in general seems to have merged into a weird place at the moment. It seems to have moved from unique to utility. Where do we start with software these days… “I use this to do this…”? I do have some rules with software, though, since we are now living in a time of digital affluence: If that software demands a monthly payment, I will spend every waking moment looking for an alternative that is one-time payment. The move to SAAS is poison to the consumer. Admittedly, it’s better than paying with your privacy and data like we did in the freeware era and most of Web 2.0, but I’d rather pay once for a stable, well-supported build. Things, by CulturedCode, for example, is a great instance of this. I use it every day, on all platforms. Paid once. Supported and updated for nearly ten years. Always works.

Open Source, however, is clearly the future. My hope is that Open Source projects will help all of us move into a fluent conversation with consumers, where the mysteries and the conspiracies behind tech, such as your phone “spying” on you, can be dispersed.

Lorne Ashley at a gallery
Lorne enjoys installations at the Copenhagen Contemporary art center

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

The keyboard! Now we’re talking. The input mechanism… the main point of information transferral between human and machine. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I haven’t overthought the role of the keyboard. I’ll be using one (or some form of one) for the rest of my life… So why not take it really seriously? Our hands and fingers are how we interact with the world too, plus, I spent the last fifteen years as a professional guitarist… this shit is important, man!

Ergonomic design, good posture, and all the rest that goes with it is so important. When I moved to focus on studying development, I noticed quickly that the way I was using my hands was causing strain in so many ways. Without playing guitar every day, or the constant breaks of being in a studio, the strain on my wrists and the fatigue of my fingers was hitting the breaking point quicker and quicker. I thought I had my technique down, but I had never sat in front a computer and typed for a solid eight hours a day…and so the Googling began.

Lorne Ashley with a guitar
Ergonomics inform every part of life

I can’t remember who came first, whether Ben Vallack was an algorithmic suggestion on YouTube (searching for new keyboard layouts), or ZSA came up from my searching for ortholinear split keyboards…either way, I quickly realised I had found my tribe! The QWERTY layout had never made much sense to me, and the staggered key pattern in modern keyboards had never made any sense to me, either. I obviously don’t need to go into that here—preaching to the choir is wasted breath—but it is worth saying, to anyone reading who is still thinking about making the plunge into either world: IT IS WORTH IT. I promise.

Lorne Ashley's keyboard
Lorne's computer keyboard makes sense to both body and brain

Think about it; this is it now…there will NEVER be a moment in your lifetime where you are not going to be using a keyboard/input device. Make sure you are doing it right or you can waste a LOT of time, or worse, cause a LOT of damage to yourself.

It’s been over six months for me and I am still learning, but my results from my daily Monkeytype test remind me every day that I’m getting better and better.

I use Colemak Mod-DH on my Moonlander…it’s a joy.

Since the introduction of the Zip Kit (Thanks, Ben, for giving Erez the nudge here!), my Moonlander now has the edge I’ve always wanted it to have. The extra keycaps and the wing gap fill pieces are wicked. I’ve yet to start losing keys, but I think I know what I need to start losing for efficiency and optimisation next. I sometimes keep the wings on when I’m using my desk in standing mode, but most days I take them off to stop myself from relying on them too much.

Layout-wise, I’m using a modified version of a template I found called Mac Coders and Beginners or something like that. I can’t find it again, annoyingly, but it was GREAT. It has macros for programmes, a mouse layer, a keypad layer. I added a QWERTY layer for when my tech leads are showing me things, for example. It’s quite modified from the original now, but I think it’s still a good jumping-off point.

Custom keycaps is a tricky one, I desperately want to get some, but trying to navigate that world is hard. Especially factoring in delivery to Copenhagen.

What would be your dream setup?

I’m pretty close. But a Planck at home with outrageously clicky switches is my top priority. After that is a 120Hz screen for gaming. Other than that, my life is really content tech-wise. Maybe I can convince work to upgrade our machines to the M1 systems… but other than that, my life is fucking tech-sexy! Oh, and getting the new Electron Syntakt box too…This, of course, all goes without needing to mention the dream studio in the dream mansion, right?

Lorne Ashley's photo of a cat LAZER
Dream big, Lorne! You have cool dreams!

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