The people who use our boards.

Saxon Zerbino

Software Engineer

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

My name is Saxon. I try to do a lot of things; I consider myself to be a maker in the broadest sense! In my work life, I’m a software engineer at OVO Energy, a green energy supplier in the UK. Outside of work, I really love to make things. Linocut printing and watercolour painting are some of my favourites, but I also dip my toes into electronics, embroidery, creative coding, or anything else that catches my eye.

What hardware do you use?

For work, I use a 16” MacBook Pro. In my personal life, I have just rebuilt my desktop, now running on a new AMD Ryzen 5600X and RX 6800, which I am loving; on that I run either Windows or Manjaro Linux, depending on the task at hand.

Saxon Zerbino's setup
A simple setup and Saxon's own art

For peripherals, both of these utilise my ErgoDox EZ featuring Kailh Box Browns, with a Samsung SR750 monitor and Logitech G502 mouse. I find this really gives me the best versatility no matter what I’m doing, as the monitor is large enough at 27” that I don’t feel the need to tack on a second, but when I’m working I’ll use my Mac for notifications and Slack so I can focus on the task at hand.

My desk is nothing special; it’s from IKEA. The biggest deciding factor for me was that I could swap out the legs in the future for one of their sit/stand models, and ergonomics is obviously a massive deal for me because of how much time I spend at my desk.

Saxon Zerbino's art
Saxon's own art is part of his workspace

And what software?

I know I’ve already touched on this a little bit, but I’m really a generalist. As well as having no real strong stance on OS, I also jump around a lot in my tools. I use VS Code and IntelliJ a lot for work, but for my personal projects I like to play around with new languages like Nim and Idris—so I stick with Vim, as I find less is more. I also try to use Vim extensions for other editors wherever possible so I don’t need to constantly relearn every hotkey.

For everything else, I love FOSS. I’ve been using GIMP for digital art and photo manipulation for over ten years at this point, and it’s never steered me wrong. For 3D rendering, I use Blender and MagicaVoxel. I’ve recently been playing around with Audacity, and it seems great for my needs.

Saxon Zerbino's art
The Alchemist's House shows 3D rendering skills

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

I do use a custom layout! It’s not hugely customized. It’s mostly focused around UK ISO because that’s what I’ve always used until now, though I should probably revisit it now that I’m spending so much of my time on a Mac. I find having all my brackets easily available either on my pinkies or under my left thumb makes it much more natural for me to code, and I didn’t want to lose the arrow keys, so having them laid out as in Vim was a no-brainer for me.

The biggest boon for me has actually been the backlights. By setting up my columns, I’ve been able to really reinforce what finger should be on what key when I get the urge to peek.

Saxon Zerbino's keyboard
Backlit columns make it less tempting to read the keycaps

What would be your dream setup?

I’m really looking forward to customising my ErgoDox more! As soon as the paracord arrives, I’m going to be making my own custom cables for the first time and I can’t wait.

I’ve also been wanting to upgrade my switches and keycaps for a while. In terms of switches, I’ve had my eye on the Zealio 65g, and for keycaps I’ve been scouring GeekHack waiting for the right group buy so I can move to something with less of a flat profile. Thanks to my ErgoDox, I’ve actually sat down and taught myself real touch typing, instead of my previous terrible habits I’d learned with no direction but a lot of hours spent in front of a keyboard, so could even move to blank keycaps.

Saxon Zerbino's art
A linocut gouger creates the image that is then printed

Now that my PC is built, it won’t be long until I’ve set aside the cash to start really making the most of the customizability at hand.

The real driving force behind getting the ErgoDox for me was ergonomics, so I’ve also been thinking about getting a vertical mouse or trackpad, but I’m less set on what I want there. Only time will tell.

Saxon Zerbino's art
Dare we hope that better ergonomics will mean more linocut art?

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