ErgoDox EZ Users

Andy Sawyer

Head of Consulting

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

My name is Andy, and I work as head of consulting for a small data and analytics company in Sydney, Australia. I’m also studying at university, completing a grad cert in data science. For the past four months, I’ve been working from home—and while things in Sydney are starting to reopen now, our office days will become far more flexible, and we’ll only need to be back in the City one day a week, or if we’re meeting clients. My partner and I have taken that as an opportunity to move out of our rental property in the City and move out to the country. Time will tell whether we’ll manage with the extra commute times when we do go into the City, but so far (one week in) we’re enjoying the relaxed lifestyle that comes with living in a small fishing village.

Outside of work, I’m (slowly) developing a web app that I hope one day might help enterprise architects. I started off with lots of enthusiasm; however, life seems to have gotten in the way recently, so I’ve made far less progress that I would have liked to. It is as much a project to help me learn new skills—React and APIs—as it is to deliver a solution, so I feel that while the solution is still some way off, I’ve learnt a lot so far, and it’s been fun. I also love snowboarding, mountain biking, and canyoning (or canyoneering as it’s called in the U.S.). Generally I enjoy getting out into the mountains and generating a bit of adrenaline.

Andy Sawyer's setup
Uncluttered and open workspace

What hardware do you use?

I’ve got a MacBook Pro 16GB i7 with a 1TB SSD that is dual boot: Mac for home and uni, Win10 Pro for work. I’ve got a Samsung 34” Thunderbolt 21:9 display, my ErgoDox EZ keyboard, and I use a Swiftpoint GT mouse. All of that sits on a Zen Space Desks sit/stand desk that I bought when COVID hit, and I have to say it has been worth the investment. I’ve also got four Raspberry Pi4s linked up together as a headless cluster running Ubuntu with Spark, Python, and JupyterLab, which I’ve been playing with when I get time, and a Synology NAS drive that has both a Windows and Ubuntu VM, as well as a number of Docker apps. I use that as my home server and my partner and I store all our important data before it gets backed up to cloud storage.

Andy Sawyer's desk
A big screen and natural light

And what software?

For uni, I spend most of my time in RStudio or JupyterLab and playing in my Raspberry cluster in Linux. Work, however, is a Microsoft shop, so my days are spent in the Win10 boot using Teams for collaboration, Power BI for dashboard development, and VS Code for Python. I also have SQL Server Development Edition installed, and find myself in SQL Server Management Studio most days connecting into various databases. We also use Azure DevOps fairly extensively, both for managing client projects with the Boards and also for the Git repos. I usually end up bouncing in and out of various client VPNs throughout the day; however, I use Nord VPN if a client doesn’t have anything or if I’m doing anything for myself.

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

I didn’t learn to touch type until my early 30s. When I did, I had heard about different layouts and wanted to be as efficient as possible. At the time I settled on Dvorak, and that’s what I learned. I’ve never touch typed QWERTY, so the first thing I did after getting the keyboard in the mail was to switch it to a Dvorak layout that I found, and then change around some of the keys on the thumb cluster and layers to a layout that I was happier with. So far, I’ve made a number of small revisions, however I think I’ve now settled on something that I’m comfortable with. I’ve not yet looked at adding a layer specifically for development work. That may come in the future, so watch this space. Other than the layout though, the keyboard is standard. It’s a black board with the tilt kit and wing rest, along with blank keys and Cherry MX Blue switches. I didn’t see the point in getting keys with labels, as I’m comfortable with my touch typing now and didn’t want to get into bad habits as part of the move to ortholinear.

Andy Sawyer's keyboard
A true test of touch typing skill: No key labels

What would be your dream setup?

Honestly, I’m not sure that I’d change much on my system. My partner has the same screen as me in her home office (we converted two spare bedrooms). If she needs to go back to work full time in the future, I might be tempted to sneak into her office one day and borrow her screen. Two 21x9 screens would be pretty awesome I think, but I may have trouble fitting them on my desk! Other than that, I’ve been contemplating getting a mount for my screen with a second arm with a stand for my laptop so I can raise it up a little. Finding one that will accommodate the screen size, however, is proving to be troublesome. Oh, and at some point I want to get an external GPU for the data science work, but I’m not doing enough to justify it at the moment.