ErgoDox EZ Users

Vegar Ottesen

Postdoctoral Researcher
Vegar Ottesen

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Vegar. I am a bit of a globetrotter who has—for now—settled down in Trondheim, Norway. I work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, specifically the Department of Chemical Engineering, where I am a bit of an all-rounder nanotechnologist…and the department’s budding podcaster. These days, all my time is spent on producing novel COVID-19 reagents. I am one of the seven inventors of this system, which we are now mass-producing for the Norwegian healthcare service. We are also working alongside other actors to get this technology out to the rest of the world.

When not engaged in mass-production of nanomaterials, most of my work is in microscopy, primarily AFM, SEM, and FIB/SEM. These are more than traditional microscopes, beyond structure, nanomechanical properties, composition, or chemistry. It is not all that hard to make things using them. For example, this 20-nanometer-thick reproduction of the ErgoDox logo is in platinum on silisium, made using ion beam-induced deposition on a FEI 2 generation dual-beam FIB/SEM.

Ergodox logo made platium on silisium
The scale bar on this is 5 micrometers long.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I have always loved traveling, and some of my more memorable experiences range from alpaca wrangling in the Andes, backpacking through the Balkans, and roaming the streets of Tokyo. Seeing the diverse nature of human experience and meeting radically different people has always appealed to me, and I never feel as much at home as when I am traveling with my wife—especially off the beaten path. When at home I like to make things in my basement workshop, from small furniture modifications to electronic gadgets to beer.

An Albert Einstein statue watches over Vegar's work setup
Work setup before adding the MacBook Pro.

What hardware do you use?

At work I recently upgraded to a 16-inch 2019 MacBook Pro sporting an eight-core i9 and 32 GB RAM, hooked up to a Dell U3419W, with my Ergodox EZ Glow and a Logitech G502 mouse. Screen real estate is very important for my work, which involves a lot of microscopy and subsequent image processing and related coding. I am particular about the efficiency of that real estate, so I have a layer on my Ergodox EZ primarily dedicated to Divvy.

For podcasting I use Neumann BCM 104 condenser mics and a RØDECaster Pro. When I need portable audio, I use a Sony PCM-D100/1.

At home I have a self-built i7 system sporting an RTX 2080, a 27” monitor and now, during the corona outbreak, my Ergodox in a new environment. At my workshop I use a Raspberry Pi 4 with my Planck EZ—no mouse. The size and mouse keys make it ideal for that use.

Gaming setup with colorful lights
Home setup. I have recently tried the Ergodox EZ in gaming, and I love the result.

And what software?

Most of my work I do in Sublime Text, which I use mainly for LaTeX and R, as well as the occasional Matlab and some Java. I use Divvy to organize my windows, 1Password to organize my mundane passwords, Mendeley to keep track of my bibliographies, and OmniFocus to organize my life. I do a lot of work in ImageJ and Gwyddion, which is open source software for analysis of microscopy data. For audio editing I use Adobe Audition 2020. If that is not running, I have something, usually this playlist, playing on Spotify.

What’s your keyboard setup like?

I have two boards I use these days: the Ergodox EZ, which is my daily driver, and a Planck EZ, which I use in my workshop or on the go. Both are Glow, and I use the RGB LEDs to indicate what layer I’m on. I use Cherry MX Browns on my Ergodox and Box Browns on the Planck, but miss the clicky wonder of Blues. For the sake of co-workers and my wife, I have opted for the middle ground.

A tiny keyboard leaves room for workshop tools
Workshop setup with Planck EZ.

Do you use a custom layout or custom keycaps?

One of the main reasons I love the Ergodox EZ is the customizability! I have special setups for both the Ergodox and Planck which both constantly evolve. My Planck is fairly new, so the layout is far from mature. Even the Ergodox layout, which is far more familiar to me, gets constantly tweaked.

Some features are really useful though. Autoshift has become one of my favorite features, as has the modifier+keypress ability. In OS X, Nordic characters can be produced this way, hence I can produce Nordic characters without having to change the locale! This is a lifesaver for me, as I almost exclusively code and write in English, but upon occasion have to write in Norwegian. If I do change locale, this means a lot of keys, such as tilde and hyphen, will change position and function. I dislike this, so I have hard-coded Nordic characters to a layer. I change layer, do my writing, and change back. No need to change locale, and thus most keys remain unchanged. Such a simple little thing, but for me a real cherry on top of an otherwise excellent experience.

I am not (yet) using any custom keycaps, but I keep my eyes open for something a little more personal. I do like the ones that come with the board, so while I fully expect to exchange them at some point, I am in no rush to do so.

What would be your dream setup?

For my main work station, my current work setup is nearly my endgame as is. I love the wide monitor, the standing desk, and—now that my old Mac (pictured) is replaced—the absence of cable spaghetti. I would only improve the view (a plain white wall is boring) and the aesthetics of the desk, and ideally replace the mouse with a more ergonomic device. Down the line, maybe replace the Ergodox case with a wooden or milled aluminum alternative for extra heft and to match the aesthetic of my dream work environment. Add a walking treadmill as well, and I’d be very satisfied indeed.

Profile photo credit: Julie Gloppe Solem, NTNU