I’m Mat and I’m a contract software developer. I mainly work with web stuff, using React/Vue on the front-end, writing microservices in Node, and orchestrating everything with Kubernetes. This tends to be the core stack with databases, testing frameworks, cloud providers, and CI/CD solutions changing from one project to the next.
Given how much time I spend in front of a screen, most of my hobbies tend to be outdoorsy, camping and hiking probably being my favorite.
I go bouldering every now and then and I cycle a fair bit (although it’s still too cold for me in March).
Unfortunately, going outside is not advised lately since we’re having a wee virus outbreak in the UK (and the rest of the world) and I had to find some indoor activities. As a result, I’m a pretty competent darts player now.
I do some occasional gaming, mostly crashing repeatedly in DiRT Rally. I’ve pretty much given up on other games as this one provides me with enough frustration.
I’m also a bit of a coffee and whiskey nerd. Love them single pots and single origins!
I use a ThinkPad X1 Carbon for lightweight stuff and while on the go. For anything more demanding than emails or simple university assignments, I use my Alienware M15 R2. I wanted to get a ThinkPad X1 Extreme, but the waiting time was much longer than I needed it to be. Ultimately, I’m happy with the Alienware and I wouldn’t trade it for an X1 Extreme, even though the white finish is horrible and it gets dirty no matter how hard you try and is then impossible to clean. If you’re thinking of getting one, make sure it’s black.
My desk is an IKEA tabletop on top of two IKEA drawers. The tabletop has a hole drilled through it to help with ‘cable management’. I’m putting cable management in quote marks because there’s a very good reason there isn’t a single picture of under the desk included here.
The monitor is a Dell U4919DW which is pretty much like two 27” QHD displays merged together. It was a massive upgrade from a dual-monitor setup, in terms of aesthetics, anyway — not sure if it makes me any more productive but I definitely love it. The software Dell includes to help arrange windows in a bunch of different ways is great, too.
I work from home a lot and I like good audio, so a lot of time has been spent perfecting the setup. At the moment, I’m very happy with my Topping D10 DAC (under the desk) connected to a JDS Labs Atom amp. It has got enough power to drive my Sennheiser HD 6xx, and when they’re unplugged, it redirects unamplified signal to my Edifier S350DB speakers. The speakers do sound a little bit better when they’re upright; unfortunately, they don’t fit under the display that way so they have to be on their sides, but at least they look cooler that way
I’ve also got a pair of IEMs for when I’m traveling or when I want a bit more punch that the HD 6xx can’t always deliver due to their open-back nature. These are Massdrop Plus and they’re probably my favorite IEMs apart from the discontinued Yamaha EPH-100.
Since my phone doesn’t have a 3.5mm jack, I use a FiiO BTR5 as a Bluetooth receiver, and the sound quality (and power) is incredible for a device of that size and at that price point; it manages to outclass a lot of very premium DAPs from a few years ago.
Speaking of DAPs from a few years ago (fair few), I’m still rocking a Zune HD when I leave my phone at home or simply don’t want to fiddle with Bluetooth connections and Spotify playlists and just want to listen to an album.
My pointing device is a Logitech MX Master 3. It’s the best work mouse I’ve ever used, no close second.
I use Kubuntu on my ThinkPad and Windows 10 with WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) on the Alienware. I like that Windows JustWorks™ and that I can use Linux as a component that I can wipe or change for a different distro without affecting my ‘base’ OS. WSL keeps getting better and better with time and is now at a point where I can use it for my everyday development.
VSCode is my editor of choice as it’s very simple, it’s got a large community behind it, it supports WSL, and everything else I need can be added as a plugin.
I ordered my ErgoDox EZ with Cherry MX Clears and sculpted keycaps. I’ve since swapped the Clears for Gateron Browns as I found the Clears a bit too heavy, but I wouldn’t trade sculpted keycaps for anything. They’re amazing.
I use a custom layout that suits me really well for coding. It’s simple and I only add additional keys/layers when I need them. There’s little that I dislike about the traditional layouts, but that little bit that the ErgoDox EZ allows me to remap is really important to me. Here’s a link to the latest iteration of the layout if anyone is interested.
There’s very little I’d change about my setup, but if I could turn back time I’d order the Alienware in black.
I’d like to experiment with switches a little more. 67g-Zealios V2 are probably the ones that I’d like to try the most, but I’m happy with Gateron Browns for the time being.
I know I probably shouldn’t complain about the display, but this is a dream setup we’re talking about, so I’d love that tiny bit more vertical space, say 1600 instead of 1440 pixels. Also, 120Hz would make my crashes in DiRT Rally look a little smoother. Sadly, a 5120x1600 display doesn’t exist yet.
One software thing that I’d like to get better (still) is WSL. Permissions conflicts still happen occasionally despite not interacting with the same folders from Windows, and there is still no way to list open ports or access some lower-level bits the same way you’d be able to in a bare metal installation. Despite these small drawbacks, it’s still an amazing tool and I’m impressed by the team of devs behind it. I’m sure they will figure all of this out sooner or later.
And last but not least — I love touchpads. Sadly, there isn’t a good one for Windows. I’d love an Apple Magic Trackpad between my ErgoDox EZ halves. That was the comfiest setup I had when I was using a Mac, but there just isn’t a good alternative out there for Windows.