ErgoDox EZ Users

Gervasio Marchand

Developer @ Stack Overflow
Gervasio Marchand

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Gervasio and I’m a developer at Stack Overflow. There, I get to work on things that go from how to send relevant emails to our users to improving the job search performance to go from 20ms to 4ms. Luckily, I have amazing coworkers full of great ideas. I wouldn’t really know how to do those things on my own.

I live in Montevideo, Uruguay and I enjoy running very much. Last year I ran my first half marathon and this year I’d like to repeat the feat. I also work on side projects that nobody cares about but make me happy. :)

I’ve been learning a bit of data science, and using it with moderate success. Being able to back up intuitions with data is a great trick.

At Stack I work mostly with C#, but in previous lives I’ve also worked with Asterisk, Python and (yes) PHP. Still, if I love the problem I’m solving, I don’t really care about the tools.

What hardware do you use?

Setup

My personal computer is a standard MacBook Pro 15” 2017, but after fighting with virtual machines, my work computer is an XPS 9550 (compiling our site took 3 minutes on a VM and it takes 24s on my XPS). I remote-desktop into it every day of my life and honestly, it works very well for me.

This has the benefit of not carrying all the work stuff on my travels (since I connect to my VPN and RDP into it as if I was at home). A couple months into this setup something funny (well, not so funny) happened:

I traveled to Buenos Aires to speak at a conference and I brought my MBP. Whenever I worked, I’d connect via the VPN to my work computer at home. It was a great experience, I had a blast and I got to meet interesting people.

Once I got back at home, I turned on my computers and went to prepare some coffee. When I got back, I saw my mouse mysteriously move… clicking on places as if somebody were trying to figure stuff out. My initial thought was that it could be some type of Bluetooth interference (since I use a Bluetooth mouse) but as soon as I unplugged the Ethernet cable, the movement stopped.

That’s when I freaked out… The last thing I’d do if I had hacked somebody else’s machine is move the mouse. I would use a keylogger to see the passwords (in my case, I use 1Password… so I type my master password from time to time). I would do some analysis of what’s installed there and copy the interesting stuff (the 1Password vault… that when joined with my master passwords gives them access to everything I have, including my Stack Overflow developer account).

So… the fact that they moved the mouse tells me that either:

  1. No one ever hacked me or…
  2. Whoever hacked me did a lousy job
  3. Maybe they copied everything and, as a last thing to do they decided to take a risk after seeing no movement on my end?

I had to assume the worst case scenario. They have all my passwords. I couldn’t have been prouder of my setup though… because the work computer doesn’t expose its drives, it’s impossible for somebody with access to my computer to access the Stack Overflow source code, its databases or its VPN (the RDP ports are the only ones allowed on its firewall).

I changed all my important passwords (but… forgot the one of my Bitcoin wallet, at a point where those were really expensive) and notified our IT team about the potential breach.

They monitored my accounts and found no sign of suspicious behavior. I didn’t ever see anything weird either. So… did anybody ever hack me? I don’t think I’ll ever know… what I know is that I really really really like this having my personal computer separated from my work computer.

What was the question again? ah, yeah… hardware:

I have a Steelcase Airtouch standing desk and a Herman Miller Aeron chair. I use an OWC 13 Port Thunderbolt 3 Dock to connect my old Thunderbolt display to my computer.

As a remote worker, headsets are also a big part of my day… and I’m really happy with my Steelseries Siberia 840.

And what software?

The software is pretty straightforward. Lots of Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code, RStudio. Most of the magic happens on servers for me. :)

At work, all that stuff is taken care of for me. But on my personal projects, I enjoy setting up my CI/CD pipeline using drone. I’m currently working a couple projects using .NET Core. My server is an Ubuntu VPS where I have all my projects as separate docker containers. Being able to run .NET code in Linux is extremely convenient.

At work I also don’t get to choose the frontend libraries I use, but I enjoy playing with new things very much, so on my projects I use whatever’s the shiniest. I used React on my latest project, and on the next one I’m considering using Vue.js… always with Typescript to make it feel real.

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

I have a black Ergodox EZ with LEDs, blank keycaps and Cherry MX Blue switches and I LOOOVE IT! My wife doesn’t love its sound so much, so I may at some point buy a set of switches that are quieter.

Regarding the layout, after lots of playing I’ve finally settled for a custom configuration that works for me. In addition to choosing the layout, I use Karabiner to modify how certain combinations work on different programs (for instance, if I’m on Windows, I want Cmd+Q to send Alt+F4).

What would be your dream setup?

Honestly? I think I’m pretty close to it. All the things I care about are taken care of.