ErgoDox EZ Users

Adam Vermeer

Heating Systems/Industrial Designer
Adam Vermeer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am Adam Vermeer (I sometimes go by ‘Rusty’ as well) and I work as a heating systems / industrial designer for a greenhouse manufacturing company in Canada. My current career goals are to become a Professional Engineer, and things are moving along nicely in that respect.

Outside of work I spend a lot of time learning programming and have even done some streams on Twitch, focused on using code to create 3D models. I enjoyed that quite a bit and am planning to make a more polished stream soon, once I get my schedule refined. 

I also enjoy designing and building all kinds of projects, as I have access to a manufacturing shop, scrap materials, welding machines, and CNC lasers. It’s a unique privilege, to say the least. :) Some of these projects end in failure, while others work out rather nicely. Regardless of the outcome, I always find it worthwhile to have an idea, design an implementation, build it with your own hands, and see what you can learn from it.

What hardware do you use?

Setup

At work I have a custom machine running Windows 10 with two 27” BenQ monitors. I spend a lot of time in CAD programs, so I get great use out of 3DConnexion’s SpaceMouse Pro Wireless 3D mouse. My keyboard is, naturally, an ErgoDox EZ and my regular mouse is just one of Logitech’s many wireless mice offerings. It serves its purpose just fine at work. I always have my iPad Pro with me, and I like putting it right between my ErgoDox halves, ready to go with its smart cover keyboard. I use it to show reference materials and take notes as I work.

Setup

My home setup is a bit more… eclectic. I have a Dell XPS 13 inch (2015) with Windows 10. I no longer use it on the go, so it acts as a desktop and is connected to an old 24” monitor (on the left). This is the machine I use to stream from, record video and audio, and just kind of muck about with.

I have an old Sony Vaio laptop which I have heavily modified (on the right). I essentially flipped the screen around on its hinges such that closing the laptop leaves the screen visible, and then built a stainless-steel frame around it to act as a new case. With a Linux operating system, the machine runs very well, and so I use it as another desktop to tinker with. I have another old laptop ready for similar treatment, so I’m really looking forward to that project! 

My center screen is yet another 27” BenQ monitor that I use for whatever device I happen to be working with; in this setup, I am using the HDMI adapter to display my iPad while I work. 

I like to listen to calm, instrumental music while I work, and I typically do this through a Bose Soundlink Revolve, connected to my Nexus 6p. It’s sitting on the far right of my desk, and has some nice sound to it. I like that I can move it around if I feel like working somewhere else too. I really love everything about Chillhop Music. They have some great Spotify playlists listed on the site, which I use at work. I’ll also occasionally find one of their livestreams on Youtube and listen that way. It makes me happy, gets me focused, and doesn’t distract me!

And what software?

Work software is the typical Microsoft Office Suite. Additionally, I use SolidWorks for my typical design work. Occasionally I use open-source Python libraries to build scripts, convert files, and do other little experiments. I’m particularly fond of a script-based CAD library called CadQuery, and I use it both at work and at home whenever I can. If I find myself programming at work, I will typically hop into VS Code.

At home I use a few different pieces of software for various hobbies. I love Inkscape for vector-based illustrations, and even the occasional 2D CAD drawing (it can export to dxf format). When I stream, I use OBS Studio. I use Cmder as my main command prompt window and will often use it to access the Linux subsystem for Windows. I also use AutoHotkey from time to time.

On my iPad I use various built-in apps like Notes, Mail, and Safari. I use Google Play Books and Kindle to read. Yet, the majority of my time on my iPad is spent using Blink to access my VPS using ssh and mosh. On my VPS I use tmux and Vim primarily. It’s a powerful combination and I can do essentially all of my work directly in each. I use a terminal image viewer called timg to view images in the terminal directly, which is mostly just fun to do. If I’m in a pinch and need more visual feedback, I can launch a Web server and use Safari to view what I need. This is how I do script-based 3D modeling with CadQuery (you can try it in a Jupyter notebook here) and OpenSCAD.

If I want something a little more interactive and visual than a terminal, I can launch a Jupyter Notebook server and access my notebooks with a wonderful app called Juno.

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

When I first got my ErgoDox EZ, I was nervous to really change anything, as the split, ortholinear design was already a drastic change from keyboards I have used before. I took a few weeks to grow truly comfortable with the default setup of the board and have left it that way ever since. This is the same reason why I opted to go with the printed keycap set and have left that alone as well. I may soon venture into really tweaking my layout, but I honestly find the default setup to be quite comfortable already. Since I work in a semi-open office space, I opted for Cherry MX Brown switches, so as not to disturb my colleagues, and I enjoy the typing experience they provide.  All in all, I am extremely happy with the out-of-the-box setup that the ErgoDox EZ offers as is.

What would be your dream setup?

If I could snap my fingers and have exactly what I wanted, it would probably look something like this:

  • A powerful local server for more computationally heavy work, such as rendering large 3D scenes or calculating a complex engineering simulations. This server would be headless and set up out of the way so as not to be too loud. I would access it via ssh from any of my devices.

  • A desktop machine, monitor, microphone, and set of cameras all built into a desk that can be compactly folded away and stored when not in use. This would keep the clutter of a streaming setup out of the way when I need to do focused work. I have no idea what this would look like, but I imagine it as a compact box that unfolds into a work station with everything built right in as I like it (perhaps I’ll have to get building…).

  • My iPad as my main interface to my remote server(s), where all of my work is done. The flaw with this setup is of course that I need an Internet connection to access my work. This makes my setup only semi-portable, as I won’t truly be able to work from anywhere. My solution would be to have a battery-powered computer in my backpack that creates a local access point, which I’d then be able to connect to. This isn’t just a pipe dream, either. I have tested a setup using an Intel compute stick running Ubuntu.

portable computestick  
It is possible! The next steps here are to build a nice case that can sit comfortably in the bottom of my backpack and then make some scripts that will somehow let the computer connect to the Internet when available and synchronize itself with my main work server. 

The ‘hacked together’ nature of my current setup is quite a bit of fun, but it can really be refined. The goal of my dream setup is modularity, portability, and reduction of distraction, clutter, and waste. I’ve got some work to do between my dream and my reality, but I feel that it’s achievable 😉.