ErgoDox EZ Users

Nicolas Cavigneaux

Senior Software Engineer @ Synbioz
Nicolas Cavigneaux

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Nicolas Cavigneaux, but I’m known online as Bounga. I work for a French company called Synbioz where I used to be tech lead, mentored other developers, led workshops, and did code review. Now my job is more focused on R&D.

I’ve mostly written Ruby for the last 15 years. As a web developer, Ruby on Rails is the framework I use the most, but I also got on the Hanami train. I also use Vue.js, a JavaScript framework, to create web components and SPAs.

I modestly contribute to open-source projects such as Rails, Hanami and some other projects not directly related to Ruby.

Lately, I’m more into writing some Elixir, which reminds me of the fun of the first years of using Ruby.

I try to maintain a technical blog, but I’m not really good at it. It’s hard to focus on writing blog posts when there are so many fun things to read and try out. Yes, I’m looking at you, Raspberry Pi.

What hardware do you use?

Setup
Nicolas's hardware setup

I use a 2017 13” MacBook Pro that is hooked up with a Henge tethered dock which allows me to plug in all my stuff, power my MacBook, and use my external monitor. I also plugged in an Apogee One audio interface / microphone, which I use for recording screencasts and conference calls and to record my guitar sessions through instrument input or by hooking up a Shure SM57 to the XLR input to capture my amp sound.

Studio
Studio
Guitars
Guitars
Pedals
Pedals
Amp
Amp

I listen to music using PreSonus Eris E8 speakers, but sometimes when my daughter is sleeping I do use my Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones. With those, you get awesome realistic sound and you can’t be disturbed by the world around you.

As you may have guessed, when it comes to typing, I use an ErgoDox EZ. It’s a central part of my work since I’m typing most of the time when I’m in front of my computer.

Keyboard
Nicolas's ErgoDox EZ Shine

And what software?

I mostly use my computer for programming, organizing my life, surfing the web, and chat. As I’m using a MacBook, I do use Mac OS and tend to stick with built-in software.

The tool in which I spend most of the day is my text editor, Emacs. In Emacs, I use a bunch of plugins, but the most well-known ones are Org mode that I use to take notes, handle my to-do list, plan things, etc. I also use the awesome Magit plugin to version my code through Git. There’s also ERC, which I use to chat on IRC.

Hardcore Emacs users wouldn’t leave it to use a shell, but I’m used to Terminal.app, so I stick with it for now as it provides everything I need.

All developers know that searching through documentation is one of the tasks we do the most. To centralize, search, and read all the documentation I need, I use Dash.

To chat, I use Slack and iMessage in addition to ERC. The social networking site I use the most is Twitter, and I like to use Tweetbot to read my feed and post some tweets.

I use Safari to surf the web. A lot of my workmates make fun of me because of that but, hey, it just works. It does everything I need and syncs across all my devices.

I listen to a lot of music. Once again, you’ll laugh, but Apple provides software that works for me: iTunes.

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

Keyboard
Nicolas's ErgoDox EZ Shine

My main keyboard is an ErgoDox EZ with blank caps and Cherry MX Brown switches. I bought it with the tilt/tent kit, Wing wrist rest, and Shine option so I can think I’m in a club when I’m coding at night while listening to music.

As a French speaker, keyboards are usually laid out using AZERTY, but I switched to BÉPO years ago, and I like it more since my hands barely move from the home row.

When I got my ErgoDox EZ, the first thing I did was to flash it with a homemade layout. There’s a community-driven BÉPO layout for the ErgoDox that you can use to flash your keyboard without modifying anything, but I wanted to have my own specific layout. I was a bit afraid of that because it is written in C and uses QMK firmware that I didn’t know anything about. But, in fact, it was easy as pie. I had a working and satisfying firmware in about an hour. Now, I can incrementally modify my own firmware easily in a matter of minutes.

What I like the most, except for the incredible feeling of a mechanical keyboard and the split layout, is that you can customize it in any way you want. As an Emacs user, I have some pretty complicated shortcuts. Thanks to the ErgoDox, I have mapped my modifier keys in a way that avoids any weird hand or finger positions. I also added some macros.

One of the things that makes a huge difference is the alternate layouts that I can activate on the fly, so I can type anything without leaving the home row. Whether it is text, special characters for programming, numbers, arrow keys, or even the mouse, I can use it all while keeping my hands in the same position.

What would be your dream setup?

I think I’m really close to the best I can think of, and even if I change my mind someday, I can change everything from the layout to the switches, which can easily be swapped to something else. The split setup feels great and encourages you to have good typing habits.

I really think it’s an awesome keyboard, advocate for it, and have already converted my boss.

Soon after ordering it, I really badly broke my left hand. After months of rehabilitation without being able to type on any keyboard, I quickly felt comfortable on the ErgoDox EZ. I have to use my old keyboard from time to time, a TypeMatrix. It’s pretty good, but it hurts really quickly since remapping is pretty limited, and switches that are not mechanical are harder to activate.

If you’re asking yourself if the ErgoDox EZ is worth the money, the answer is yes, without any doubt. Just go ahead.