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256 interviews since 2018

Samppa Hannikainen


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

Well, I’m Samppa. I work as an architect in a great midsized architectural firm in Tampere, Finland. Lately I’ve had mostly residential complexes on my table, but our office has a very broad spectrum of work, so we do everything from furniture design to urban planning and beyond. My expertise is BIM.

I think I’m dual-classing as a poet/machinist because while I absolutely and wholeheartedly enjoy the minute technicalities of the work, I also relish the intuitive side of it all. I’d say that my build nowadays is something like Wis, Int, Cha, Dex, Str, Con. I’ve had terrible problems integrating the build, and it has gone through much iteration, but it seems stable and sustainable nowadays. A good friend once described me as one of the most unpractical persons he has ever met, and he’s met a lot of people, so I’ve kept that remark very close to my heart. My natural state is messy, and I love being organized. I value intention over appearance. I also value appearance.

I like lightweight coding, heavyweight beer, casual gaming, Kari Peitsamo, Meshuggah, David Lynch, crows in general, Ikkyū, The Melvins, lapsang souchong, Puntala-rock, name-dropping, and cabbage rolls.

I also like sauna, but the ongoing pandemic has throttled my saunominen down quite a bit. The word saunoa does not have a proper translation, but it embodies something like actively engaging in the act of going to sauna. It is a rather loaded word in these parts so that there is a proper way to “saunoa.” IMO it generally seems that the duration and/or the vigor needs to be considered either enough or more than enough to be kunnon saunominen. If you ever have a chance to visit Tampere (when the pandemic has ceased) and you are interested in a very special Finnish sauna experience, please make absolutely sure you visit Rajaportin sauna. Then have a sauna-hat ready, cover your ears, or simply duck when the löyly hits. In Rajaportti, though, the löyly does not really “hit” per se. It just takes a gentle chokehold and then starts squeezing.

I have three of the most wonderful children one could ever hope for. Whoever you are, I don’t even know your children, but sorry, there is no competition. As anyone with children must know.

Samppa Hannikainen's kids
Samppa's excellent children

I’m currently undergoing preliminary testing phases for getting a cochlear implant, as I’ve lost practically all of my hearing from my right ear, and a substantial amount on my left ear as well. The diagnosis for now is Ménière’s disease, which is idiopathic, meaning that the reasons or possible cures are pretty much a mystery, as I understand it (IANAD, though!). Hearing loss has made work and personal stuff somewhat harder, but I’m adapting, and so far I’m doing pretty well. The cochlear implant would make things a bit easier again, though, and I’m super grateful for getting the opportunity to be a cyborg. What an age we live in, people.

Samppa Hannikainen's work setup
A giant monitor and sit-stand desk solve many problems

What hardware do you use?

Well, at work I have a Windows PC. At home I now have a Windows PC. I used to run a veteran Mac Mini mid-2010, which quite heroically held up until just a few months ago, when I gave up on it and upgraded to an HP Z2 G5 mini workstation, which has been fine so far.

Samppa Hannikainen's home setup from above
Samppa's home setup fits a lot into a small space

My monitor at home is also a relic from the past, a BenQ V2200 Eco. It has been just fine. At work, though, I have a pretty recent and super awesome Philips Brilliance 498P curved 49-inch 32:9 5120x1440 SuperWide monitor. I had some problems at the office with my shoulder/neck region, and I suspected this might stem at least for some part from this basic double-monitor setup I had. In the basic double-monitor setup, the midpoint of your view is just “dead,” and the content is always on the left or the right. The über-monitor seems to have solved the dead-in-the-middle problem, but I think I still need something to manage my application windows more efficiently and fluently in Windows. Windows and the applications I run seem to have some unexpected shortcomings related to handling app windows and the desktop in general on an ultrawide monitor. I expect 11 could solve some of this in time, but who knows.

I’m a trackball user. I made the switch around 2008, when I got problems with my right hand during my thesis work. Got a Logitech Marble mouse and learned some southpaw with that also, then moved to Logitech M570, then upgraded to Logitech MX Ergo, and then just recently upgraded again to GameBall, and I’m extremely happy with it.

Samppa Hannikainen's home setup
The trackball is an essential part of Samppa's setup

At work I have an electric desk for sitting and standing and a recent addition, Håg Capisco 8106 office chair, which I have strong, almost overpowering, feelings towards. It’s got some of the charm ErgoDox EZ has for me, in chair form. Both I think are versatile beyond what could be considered fine. And both are somewhat hard. And cute.

Then there’s a Wacom Cintiq 16 at my work desk. I was somewhat skeptical about its usefulness at work, but it’s been pretty great. It’s made quick sketching of ideas loads more manageable. I hate scraps of paper on my desk. It works pretty great with the standard Windows whiteboard app and screen caps also.

Some time ago, I tried 3Dconnexion’s entry level 3D-mouse, which I guess corresponds to SpaceMouse Compact from the current product line, but found it didn’t really make things more fluent for my work at the time. I still have it, though, and I think it’s a pretty cool device. Maybe I’ll pick that up again when I delve into Rhino.

I also have my Phonak hearing aid (just one for now) and use the Phonak Roger Pen to enhance my hearing possibilities. That’s a very nice device. I’m currently waiting to get my hearing aids upgraded to something called “cross-system,” which I think just means that since I don’t hear at all from my right ear anymore, there would still be a device there, but the audio input from my right would also be directed to my left. Mono sound is the new sound, I guess.

I use Shure SRH440 headphones. They’re super nice.

Samppa Hannikainen's desktop
Cushy headphones are a must

And what software?

Before even going into actual software (yes, I am aware), I have to mention rawaccel. Having used this for maybe a couple of months now, I feel like an idiot for using trackballs before without any proper acceleration. I played Quake Live with the Logitech Marble in my time and fiddled with those acceleration settings back then, but I had not realized there exists an advanced solution for Windows pointer acceleration. I did always tick the “enhance pointer precision” box, but having customizable acceleration is very, very nice. I understand that people will feel differently about pointer acceleration, but for me it has been an absolute delight, especially since the number of pixels I have to travel per day has grown exponentially at work.

And, again, before I get to actual software, I have to mention AutoHotkey too. Using that stems back to using my trusty Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000 at work (an excellent keyboard, by the way) and setting up work-related stuff to make things more fluent. AutoHotkey is pretty damn cool. And you all should know that I’m a complete novice and I don’t know what I’m doing with it, and I love it.

Then we get to my actual work software. The main workhorse is Archicad by Graphisoft. It is a mighty formidable BIM application. Having used it from version 6.5 until now (v24, might be switching to v25 soon), I know I am biased. I don’t mind being biased for now, though.

Archicad is extremely flexible UI-wise. It has work environment profiles that include keyboard shortcuts. I can assign practically any keyboard shortcut to practically any function, and even have several profiles for these settings so that the shortcuts can change whenever I feel like it. So Archicad in itself provides a very robust level of keyboard shortcut customization. When you add AutoHotkey and ErgoDox EZ with Oryx on top of that, the setup is basically just dependent on your imagination and the amount of time you are willing to invest.

The other main work-related software I use is Solibri, which I use for collision checking between BIM models of different fields. More generally it is a very flexible application for checking just about anything regarding IFC models and their relations. It has a great modular-type UI, but in the current version there’s some room for improvement in keyboard accessibility. I suspect most of my woes can be remedied at least to a degree with my setup.

I have peeked at Rhino, and especially Grasshopper. I haven’t yet invested in it seriously, but I am very intrigued by it.

And then Excel will get a separate, special mention. I have conquered Excel many times. Many times Excel has conquered me. We continue to exist and rival one another. Word is fine. Access is a distant utopia. Outlook is mundane. Excel is Excel.

My coding editor of choice is Vim. I’m not a proper hardcore Vimian, but I’ve had my bouts of “setting things up just right.” Language-wise I’m mostly into Lua, because of Renoise. I also program ARCHICAD objects in GDL. So I mainly dabble in lightweight scripting-type languages.

If I hadn’t lost my hearing, I’d probably still be using Renoise and making music. Renoise is a very, very awesome project. I still have a license up to version 3.6.

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

Overall, I’m more enthusiastic about the software side of things. I did however change my switches of my home unit from the original Kailh Coppers (felt weird to me) to Cherry Silent Reds, and then from Cherry Silent Reds to Gateron Silent Inks, and then spring-swapped those because they felt pretty stiff. My work EZ unit has Cherry Silent Reds, and they feel maybe a tad stiff compared to the spring-swapped Silent Inks I have at home. I might at some point maybe look into some other lightish silent linears for the work unit. I might get super obsessed about keycaps later, but for now I’m just using the stock option. They’re great. Since I use a Fin/Swe layout, the keycaps don’t really match what is being output on every key, and I don’t care. I touch type, but I still like seeing the main alphabet for homing purposes.

Samppa Hannikainen's keyboard
Like life, Samppa's keyboard is a work in progress

As for the software side, well, as I noted above, ARCHICAD allows a lot of customization. AutoHotkey adds a lot of customization on top of that. QMK (through Oryx, so far) allows another complete layer of customization on top of all that. So while I have done a fair amount of customizing, I probably I am not using even 10% of the possibilities so far.

When I got my first ErgoDox EZ, the basic idea was that I’d just start from scratch and feel out what would be the most sensible keyboard layout for me and build that with Oryx.

It seems I’ve just opened the book. Seeing what is possible, though, encouraged me enough to invest in a work unit on top of my home unit. On the work side of things, it’s very much WIP, but it’s getting there. I like home row modifiers, and I’m heavily invested in layers. Recently I’ve been putting my money in Tap Dance. I have smallish hands, so I’ve tried to leave the outer thumb-cluster keys for more special stuff. It’s been absolutely great thus far.

My strategy right now is just putting stuff together, feeling if it’s right, and then when I once again run into some speed bumps or whatever, revising and adding stuff on the fly. I don’t aim for the perfect layout. I don’t want to solve any problems I don’t have. I just fix stuff incessantly, with varying interest. This is my general approach to life and the layout. It is just modeling clay. A “clayout.”

I’m a pact-sworn numpad guy, and right now I think the coolest thing about my layout is the reverse numpad. It’s not quite perfect yet, and I’m far from being fluent with it, but when I am, it will up my CAD game a lot.

Realistically, what I need is a brain-max amount of ARCHICAD shortcuts, a numpad, a QWERTY keyboard for writing, and… that’s about it. What I have is near-infinite possibilities for anything keyboard related. So I’m not just all good for now. I’m too good.

What would be your dream setup?

I don’t think my current setup is that far from it, really. It’s already too much, I know. I could manage with so much less. But if I were allowed to delve into daydreams and fantasies, well then…

I just recently noticed an Indiegogo project called Audio Radar. It seems to be a device that would attach around your monitor and “show sound” in a 7.1 speaker setup transformed into visual cues. Being practically deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other makes gaming a bit harder, but I know in the grand scale of things it’s really not a problem at all. +1 for games with subtitles, though!

I’ve had some hand/arm/upper back problems at times, and to combat that on one front I’ve used my trackball with left hand sometimes. The GameBall is perfect for this. But swapping my mouse hand makes me want to be able to swap my keyboard half too. The form is there, it’s just about getting the QMK “swap hands” feature into Oryx. I know it would be possible to just download the QMK source for my layout and force this feature in through my precious sweat and tears, and I know it would probably even be possible to implement all that (or just a basic subset of that) with layers in Oryx, but since we’re dreaming here… swap hands, just in a basic “swap the halves” format in Oryx would be quite nice.

I’m looking into 3D-printing some stuff from Thingiverse for advanced tenting and ergonomic possibilities. The stock tilt/tent kit is nice, but for extreme tilting and more creative setup possibilities I’ll have to explore the scene a bit. Something like this and this could be a nice starting point for modding. Also, I’d like to explore tilting the GameBall; a well-tuned forward tilt wedge would be nice for some working positions.

I think I will see working live computer-generated subtitling for Finnish too in some years to come. This would make life easier for me. Some apps, like Google Live Transcribe, also do Finnish, but availability and connectivity is not that good yet, IMO. Can’t get Finnish subtitles in Microsoft Teams currently, for instance. I might even get a glimpse of live subtitling projected on my glasses during my lifetime, who knows.

And speaking of the future, I’m very eagerly waiting for the VR/AR wave to hit big in my field around these parts. We’ve taken the step into the VR age already, but I see huge possibilities in AR and construction in particular. I think I’ll get to see at least the start of that revolution too. In dreams. In dreams.

Samppa Hannikainen's view at midsummer
Midsummer in Finland already looks like a dream

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