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My name is Mehrdad Mizani, and I live in Edinburgh, Scotland. I work as a Newton International Fellow (of the Academy of Medical Sciences and Newton Fund) at the Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh. In my current research, I analyze the effects of anonymization and cyberattacks on the results of health data science studies. My background is computer engineering, software development, and network administration, with further academic work in medical informatics, health data science, cybersecurity, and cloud computing.
A typical day in my working life consists of reading journal articles, drafting and trying to finalize papers, coding, data analysis, training machine learning models, and jumping from one open application/tab to another. When I try to follow this routine at home, I also need to handle at least one cat on my lap along with my laptop!
My primary machine both at home and work is a MacBook Pro laptop. I use this laptop to access my physical and virtual servers. It is a 13-inch, 3.1 GHz Intel Core i5 with 16 GB of RAM. I also have a 27” iMac at home and a Windows machine at work. I rarely use either of them as I use several PKI key pairs and I prefer to have them on a single machine. At the office, I use two 4k 27” HP S270n monitors. The VESA mounts on these monitors are weirdly off-centered, which makes them unstable on a monitor arm. So when it comes to monitors, my setting is quite vintage with books and a computer case elevating the monitors. At home, I use my laptop, or laptop+cat, on my lap.
At the office, I use a white ErgoDox EZ Shine with blank keycaps, tilt/tent kit, and black ErgoDox EZ Wing wrist rests. (UK customs charges an amount for import taxes. Luckily, the process was swift: I received a message from UPS, paid the fee online, and the keyboard was released by customs shortly after.)
The base keys are Cherry MX Brown while the modifiers are Cherry MX Speed Silver with O-rings.
The first time I tried my ErgoDox EZ, my fingers fell in love with the simplicity and the natural feel of the ortholinear layout. I wondered why all keyboards are still staggered for an outdated reason. After a couple of days, the keyboard on my laptop felt unnatural — so I decided to try the Planck EZ.
The Planck EZ was the most elegant keyboard I have ever used. I disabled all my laptop keys with Karabiner and positioned my Planck EZ on the laptop keyboard. A 90-degree USB-C adapter hides the cable between the Planck EZ and the lower part of the laptop screen. The idea of Lower and Raise keys next to the spacebar was so appealing that I defined a similar layout on my ErgoDox EZ as well (more on this later).
Depending on the topic, I use a range of software, applications, and extensions that require lots of shortcuts, characters, and typing numbers. Here is a list of what I use:
|) on the home row is a lifesaver, and this is where the ErgoDox EZ and Planck EZ make the job smooth and fun.
I use a custom layout both on my ErgoDox EZ and Planck EZ. I have lost count of the times I re-defined the layout until I settled with the most recent one. The layouts on both keyboards are very similar, and the Planck EZ leads the way in defining it. On my ErgoDox EZ, I assigned the innermost keys of the lowest row as Raise and Lower switches, and replaced the keycaps on these keys with the low-profile keycaps of the thumb cluster. The layout consists of the following:
|) on the left-hand side of the home row.
With auto-shift and with “J” defined as an LT switcher, my fingers rarely leave the home row, and my pinkies feel extremely happy. The thumb cluster on the ErgoDox EZ is a great way to save pinkies and heal CTS symptoms. However, I found it difficult to reach the outer keys of the thumb cluster with my relatively short and lazy thumbs. As a temporary solution, I fixed some old TrackPoint caps with Blu Tack on some of the thumb cluster keys. Now, my thumbs reach these keys without reaching out and pushing down too hard. After finding the best position of these modifications, a 3D printer can produce better-looking keycaps than my Blu Tack sculptures!
My dream setup is far from fancy, colorful, all-digital, highest resolution, futuristic, hologram-based setups. I mostly use text and command line, so I would love to have paper-like e-ink screens with higher refresh rates. This is similar to missing the smell of printed books after using an e-reader, or to using a mechanical keyboard after years of typing on shallow and virtual keyboards.