The people who use our boards.256 interviews since 2018
The people who use our boards.
Simon ZengSoftware Engineer
Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Simon. I’m a software engineer.
What hardware do you use?
Too much. To give you a sense of perspective, everything on my desk is plugged into a 24-outlet power strip, and most of the outlets are in use.
My two computers are a desktop running Windows and a MacBook Pro. I’m a Mac person, but a powerful Windows desktop is much better at running certain games so I’ve learned to deal with both.
My monitor is a bit unorthodox. I switched to using a 43-inch behemoth, the LG 43UD79-B, after playing with multi-monitor setups for several years and deciding that I wanted the option to use all of my screen real estate as one huge screen, for example when watching movies or playing video games.
For sound, I have a pair of JBL LSR305 studio monitors and a JBL LSR310S subwoofer hooked up to a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, and I have a Shure SM-57 as my mic. You might be able to guess that I intend to record music, and that was indeed the intention, but I don’t record much anymore.
As for input peripherals, I recently switched from a Logitech G600 loaded with productivity macros to an Evoluent VM4R in an attempt to combat carpal tunnel syndrome. And of course, my keyboard is an ErgoDox EZ.
And what software?
I don’t care about the browser wars or the text editor wars or the terminal shell wars, so I won’t put my stake in that mess. What I do care about is productivity, window management, and keyboard shortcuts.
For productivity, I’ve found that I love the way BusyCal integrates my iCloud Reminders and Google Calendar into a unified calendar view. I’m really sad that there’s nothing comparable on Windows.
For window management, I have a few Hammerspoon scripts that allow me to make efficient use of my 43” monitor. Two taps on the keyboard will let me select any window on the screen, and two to seven strokes let me throw the focused window onto any grid I want, up to 10x10. Here’s a demo showing how it works:
I’ve replicated the tiling script on Windows using AutoHotKey, but the AHK scripting language is so atrocious (see: the fact that pseudo-arrays even exist) that I’ve never gotten to the window selection script.
For keyboard shortcuts, I use Karabiner Elements to map my Caps Lock to Backspace and switch my keyboard layout between QWERTY and Dvorak only on the built-in MacBook keyboard without affecting other input devices such as my ErgoDox EZ. I use BetterTouchTool for a couple of custom system-level keyboard shortcuts that utilize the F13–F24 function keys, although this has become a bit less relevant after switching away from my G600 since the Evoluent mouse has fewer macro functions to program (down from 25 to eight by my count).
What’s your keyboard setup like? Do you use a custom layout or custom keycaps?
My keyboard setup is very unorthodox for three reasons. First, it’s a split ortholinear keyboard with thumb clusters. But you already knew that from the website you’re on.
Second, I don’t use QWERTY. Heck, I don’t use Dvorak either on my EZ. I developed a completely custom keyboard layout specifically for split ergonomic keyboards that I call RSTHD, pronounced “rusted.” It seeks to minimize movements that cause a typist to slow down, such as using the same finger twice in a row, and in the process also optimizes for comfort. I haven’t scientifically measured any gains in typing speed (it’s difficult to devise a suitable experiment), but I will say that I feel 5 to 10 percent faster on RSTHD. Plus, I like the way RSTHD feels more than any other keyboard layout I’ve used.
Third, I tent my ErgoDox EZ up at a pretty extreme angle to match the vertical alignment of my mouse. This is also to combat carpal tunnel syndrome. The proper way to do this is probably to 3D-print a stand, but since I happen to have several hundred Legos lying around, I use that as my keyboard stand now. For what it’s worth, it works fairly well, and if I ever want to adjust the angles or scrap the idea altogether, it’s just a matter of moving some Legos around. No need for single-purpose plastic parts
What would be your dream setup?
Honestly, I’m pretty close to having my dream setup. The only things I can think of that would make my setup better for me right now simply don’t exist yet.
First, I’m envious of the finger wells on the Kinesis Advantage. I want that but with a split keyboard form factor that I can tent up to the near-vertical orientation I have my ErgoDox EZ at right now. I’m aware that designs for the Dactyl exist, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my center column, which I use for modifier keys, and I’m not confident in my (lack of) 3D modeling and electrical engineering skills to modify the designs to suit my needs. I’m a software person, which means I’m only good with immaterial things.
Second, I have half a mind to get an even bigger monitor. Sometimes I have so many windows open that not even a 4k monitor can fit all of them comfortably. I think the next “reasonable” step up would be a curved 5k 55” monitor. Unfortunately, no such thing exists as far as I know. Fingers crossed that someone decides to make one in the coming years.