ErgoDox EZ Users

Chris Chung

Software Engineer /Maker

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

I am Chris Chung, a developer who mostly builds single-page web apps, though I do plenty of server coding too. I am self-employed and do consulting work, particularly on product prototypes and UI-heavy applications.

In my time outside of work, I’m a dabbler. I do a good deal of coding on personal projects. I do a lot of reading (my preferred medium is the audiobook). I really like reading history, psychology, and STEM books that tread the intersection of design and engineering. One title in this department that I’m currently reading is a hot-of-the-presses account of the creation of the original Prince of Persia computer game in 1989 by inspiring all-rounder Jordan Mechner. He had a hand in every possible facet of the game, anything from scrounging extra bits from his program to code a few more frames into his signature fluid animations, to sketching out the box art. What a guy!

I consume fiction in the form of movies, which I find to provide more enjoyment than reading stories on paper (a controversial viewpoint, I know). I like the imagery and music prepackaged for my effortless digestion.

Also, my partner and I do lots of hiking and walking around sometimes, foraging for mushrooms if they are available. I’ve learned that I’m not very good at this. I once thought I was snagging the mother lode of “special” mushrooms in some cow droppings while we were walking. I gleefully stuffed these in our backpack by the bushelful, chuckling at my extraordinary luck, only to discover later from reading my identification books that these mushrooms were “special” only in the sense that they grow in cow poop.

Chris Chung's Original Prusa i3 MK3S 3D printer
Beepbooping equipment

We play lots of board games with friends, too. I also like tinkering with electronics, an activity my partner calls “beepbooping.” This sometimes involves using my 3D printer for manufacturing custom parts. I also am learning to sail, and am itching to take up archery. In other words, where leisure activities are concerned, I’m spread a tad thin.

Chris Chung's setup
Welcome to Screen Town, Population: 1

What hardware do you use?

2017 MacBook Pro 15” with a Dell external monitor. For a while I was working in my own glorious Screen City with the aid of an additional Mac Thunderbolt Display (for a sinfully indulgent total of three large screens), but since COVID-19 hit, Screen City has been downsized so partner and I can each have a more modest Screen Town. Screen Town works for me. I might not have as much real estate, but then again I’m not watching a constant tennis match with my neck pivoting as my focus moves from screen to screen.

I use a standing desk, too, in an effort to combat some emerging RSI symptoms. I sit in an ergonomic chair (at least it looks ergonomic). I use a small whiteboard to collect my thoughts when I’m working on cracking the tough nuts. I have a Moleskine notebook that I use for writing down thoughts when away from the computer. I also use the ErgoDox EZ. It’s been an amazing experience recovering from some terrible typing habits and watching my words per minute steadily climb. I’ve been clicking and clacking away on it with glee. I even brought the keyboard with me on vacation to Hawaii for typing practice, much to the annoyance of my travel companions.

Chris Chung's full setup
Ergonomic keyboard, standing desk, theoretically ergonomic chair

(Bobby pins make handy reset probes for that little hidden button on the keyboard.)

Bent bobby pin
A homemade tool that didn't require the 3D printer

And what software?

For coding I use Atom with Vim mode, Iterm2, occasionally real Vim, tmux (I create presets/templates with a delightfully-named package called Teamocil), Postico, and Robomongo for looking at data. Chrome is my browser of choice for editing.

In terms of productivity software, I use a custom program that I built myself to collect and organize my todos, estimate how long they will take to complete, and race against my estimates.

Chris Chung's custom-built productivity program
MacGyver would need at least three bobby pins to make a program like this

The central idea was to design a program to use for organizing my work that employs as many psychological nudges as possible. It’s been very helpful for keeping me in the zone.

I also use Contexts for tabbing between apps, Moom for moving and positioning windows on screen, HazeOver to focus attention, and Cold Turkey to avoid draining my personal energy on distractions. I also use Evernote and Anki to collect little notes that I want to remember.

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

I use a very custom layout, which I’ve spent a good deal of time on. My goal with the layout has been to avoid having my fingers leaving the home row as much as possible. To this end I’ve layered access to arrow keys, punctuation, and even numbers in the keys close to the home row. I’ve gone entirely mouseless too, and have gotten used to the ErgoDox’s mouse mode. In terms of pizazz, I’ve got no custom keycaps but I’d love to get some. I’ve seen some pretty impressive colored ones.

What would be your dream setup?

Picture this: My work office/library is in a small building detached from the main house, and my morning walk between the two sets my mind for a day of pensive focus. Inside this room are shelves of books (I’ll probably have to bulk-buy some books by the pound to achieve this bit). They have a faintly cheesy/scholarly odor. At one end of the room is my current desk setup with computer and monitors. At the other end is a table for tinkering and cabinets containing neatly organized components. There’s also a fireplace flanked by two comfortable armchairs positioned for some heavy-duty pondering. Outside the office would be a raked pebble garden for sage-like contemplation, and an archery range with a single target to take moments away from work to hone my focus. That’s the dream.

My coding setup would be the same, but the Ergodox would have a Thinkpad-style TrackPoint.