Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Ludovic Chabant

Ludovic Chabant

Software developer (Epic)

Posted in developer, game, linux, mac, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hello! My name is Ludovic (pronounced with a hard "c" at the end), but most people just say "Ludo" (yes, like that guy). I'm French and Canadian (but not French-Canadian!), half-black, left-handed, and blessed with an uncommon-enough last name that I've been able to own the matching domain name for more than 15 years. This makes me very easy to get in contact with.

I'm a software engineer, with a day job as a video game engine programmer. After several years at Electronic Arts on the Frostbite team, I very recently joined Epic Games' Unreal Engine team. I also work on a whole bunch of personal open-source projects, and contribute to a few other ones (lately, sourcehut and Mercurial).

When I don't write code I generally play music, play role-playing games (the old kind, in a basement with dice and junk food), draw, write, watch horror movies, or bike/hike/kayak around beautiful Vancouver, BC, Canada. When I'm lucky, my wife and/or kids do some of that with me, too.

What hardware do you use?

My main computer is a mid-2014 MacBook Pro -- the last good prosumer laptop Apple designed, in my opinion. The newer ones have the horrible (and unreliable) keyboard, along with the useless Touch Bar. As a result, I bought this mid-2014 laptop last year, used. Thankfully, given that my previous Apple laptop was a 2008 MacBook Pro and that, 10 years later, it's still usable (after a couple internal upgrades/fixes), I have high hopes for the longevity of this second one (although the ability to fix your own computer has been going downhill hard these past few years... my next laptop might not be a Mac). My wife also has a MacBook of the exact same model.

My secondary computer, sitting under a desk in the basement, is a custom-built PC connected to 2 screens and an old wall-mounted Sony Bravia TV above it all. It runs Windows most of the time. There's no need to give out specs since it's always changing year after year (that's the joy of PCs!), but one constant with my desktop computers is the keyboard/mouse combo:

  • A black, full-size Topre Realforce with variable weights (to give my pinky fingers a rest), dark labels, and a red Escape key.
  • A left-handed Razer DeathAdder mouse, which is pretty much the only existing left-handed ergnomically shaped mouse on the market today (if you know of another, please ping me!).

I have the exact same keyboard/mouse at work, plus some AKG headphones that didn't age well and need replacing. They're plugged into some Schiit DAC and amp that I really like, although these days you can get both in a combo.

Anyway, back to my home desktop, it's worth pointing out what's around the room (most items won't have links because they're long discontinued products):

  • A Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 document scanner, which I'm using to try and replace 15 years of paper crap with the sweet release of free space and digital searchability. It's super fast and the built-in OCR is solid.
  • An old Epson scanner for capturing drawings.
  • An old small M-Audio USB piano keyboard for adding quick MIDI tracks to my musical compositions.
  • An old Avid MBox USB audio interface for recording my instruments.
  • A Behringer XENYX 802 mixer that lets me control how sound goes in the Mbox.
  • A couple of Yorkville YX10P speakers for sound.
  • Some super old Sony MDR-CD380 headphones plugged into the Mbox. The longevity on those is amazing, and the sound is pretty good as far as I can tell.

My third computer is a 5-years-old ASUS Zenbook running whatever flavour of Linux I want to play with at any given time. It was running the user-friendly Linux Mint until recently, and now I'm trying to figure out how Arch Linux and i3 work.

Then, there's another custom-built PC housed in an Antec ISK mini-ATX case. It acts as a general purpose home-theatre/entertainment device, with things like Plex and a bunch of game-console emulators. It is of course connected to the big TV in the living room (a 60" Samsung plasma TV, one of the last models before plasma was discontinued). Most of the entertainment around the house, however, is delivered via a variety of Roku devices, or our beloved Nintendo Switch. The living-room sound plays on some Energy Take Classic 5.1 speaker set after going through an Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver. I find it very funny that the things that run video games or stream high-resolution video are 10 times smaller than the thing that I use as a volume knob.

In the basement I also have 2 NASes:

  • A 4-bay Synology DS415+ which contains all our family photos, movies, and documents, our digital purchases, my software repositories, etc. It also runs a bunch of services like our Plex server, and has our printer (an OfficeJet Pro 8100) connected to it so we can print stuff from anywhere.
  • My previous NAS, a 4-bay ReadyNAS NV+, serves as a backup of the Synology one.

On the portable front, I have a boring iPhone 6S that needs upgrading, a Kindle Paperwhite that does exactly what it's supposed to do and does it well, and my favourite tablet of all times, the 12.9" iPad Pro (1st generation). I use it mostly for reading role playing games PDFs and comic books -- it's perfect since the screen size more-or-less matches the physical size of these books. I use it also occasionally for general purpose computing, and a bit for drawing but I still vastly prefer pen and paper for that.

I tried a half dozen models of headphones from the usual, well-known audio manufacturers, but, for my "on-the-go" headphones, I was surprised to find happiness with the Sony WH-1000XM3: it's comfy, light, foldable, has non-stupid controls, good Bluetooth, and decent sound. All the other ones I tried failed in one or more of those categories.

For music I have a couple of electric and acoustic instruments:

  • A Takamine G-Series acoustic guitar and an Ibanez AEB10E electro-acoustic bass that I'm pretty happy with.
  • A cheap no-name stratocaster replica, and an old Cort C4 bass that I really ought to upgrade to a more "pro" bass like a Fender Jazz Bass or something. But I still get good mileage from it, and I recently switched to flatwound strings which turned it into a whole new instrument.
  • An old TD-8 Roland V-Drums electric drum kit, with a couple of part upgrades.

For my electric bass, I have a custom made pedal board with a SansAmp driver, Big Muff, BOSS Bass Overdrive and BOSS Chromatic Tuner.

I like doing a bit of photography with my Canon EOS-70D and the few lenses and filters I own. My favourite lens is probably the "pancake" 40mm lens.

As I'm growing older I find drawing and writing by hand increasingly pleasing, so over time I settled on a couple pens and pencils that I really like. The Rotring 600 (for fine pencilling), and Lamy 2000 fountain pen and rollerball (for fine writing and rapid note taking) are all part of my everyday carry, and their timeless design is absolutely breathtaking -- remember that they were designed in 1989 and 1966 respectively, and they still look awesome! For the rest, I frequently use a bunch of Pigma Micron for inking. I'm always trying out new brands and models of pencils and brushes, though, so a big chunk of my drawing gear varies with time. I write notes most of the time on some Leuchtturm 1917, but I love visiting stationary shops and getting weird notebooks and sketchbooks from other brands too, so whatever I have with me could frankly be anything.

A lot of all this stuff is always with me on the go -- that includes a notebook and a sketchbook, a bundle of pens, pencils and brushes, my headphones, Kindle, and iPad Pro. You could say I didn't quite get the memo about the minimalist aspect of the Everyday Carry movement. This means I'm always on the hunt for a good backpack that's comfortable, solid, water (rain!) resistant, and lets me organize and protect my stuff effectively. My favourite backpack for the past 8 years has been the GORUCK Echo but the Aer Day Pack is now sharing the spotlight. You will almost never see me without a backpack, to the extent that "why do you need to take a backpack for this?" is a common question I get.

I also love cooking - should I list some of my kitchenware? Am I going to end up describing every single item in my house? Is anybody even still reading at this point? Okay, let's stop here :)

And what software?

Among my favourite software that I use literally every-day, you can find (in no particular order):

  • 1Password: just get it (or at least another password manager, but that one is good!). We have a family plan.
  • Firefox: it's great again! It had some rough years but it's fast and awesome now.
  • GoodReader: my favourite PDF reader on the iPad, especially since it can sync PDFs with my NAS.
  • Inoreader: I'm a big RSS feed consumer, and my current service of choice is this one. I generally use Fiery Feed to read it on iOS, but I also sometimes use other ones like the venerable Reeder.
  • Pocket: my ever-growing list of potentially interesting stuff to read and watch.
  • Overcast: for listening to a handful of podcasts.
  • A variety of comic-book reader apps and services on iOS, of which Comixology is used pretty much every day.
  • Plex: I already mentioned it. It's especially awesome if you watch TV series during your bus/subway commute because it can auto-download the next unwatched episodes to your device every night!
  • IRCCloud: lots of open-source software discussions happen on IRC, and this is the one company that makes IRC feel modern and easy.
  • Fastmail: email is still super important, and Fastmail provides a solid service that doesn't use your data for anything else than it's supposed to. Remember when you just paid for something, and that's what you got? Fastmail does that, and also (like IRCCloud) tries to push open standards forward.
  • Path Finder: make the macOS Finder not suck.
  • Alfred (on macOS) and Wox (on Windows): do things quicker, without touching the mouse.
  • Vim: the editor I'm writing code with. Makes me look like a cool hacker. I even maintain some plugins of my own. Of course since I'm a video-game programmer by day, I also use a whole bunch of other software like Visual Studio and Clang and Python and C# and video-game console SDKs that we don't need to get into.
  • Fish shell: my fancy, colourful shell.
  • Mercurial and Git: where the code goes. The repositories on my NAS are generally mirrored to Sourcehut (which I contribute to), Bitbucket, and/or GitHub.
  • Backblaze B2: my first level of backup is on my 2nd NAS, and my second level of backup is to upload all the important stuff to Backblaze in an encrypted format. This is the "but what if my house burns down?" fallback plan, since I can recover from any "ooops I deleted something!" scenario from my local snapshots.

Now for software I use regularly but not every day:

  • Lightroom: for my photo libraries and for making it look better.
  • Reaper: the DAW I use for my musical compositions. It's a very good piece of software, sold at a ridiculously low price. I also have a bunch of VST plugins, of course.
  • Transit: how to get from here to there using public transit.
  •, Amaroq, and Tweetbot for whenever I feel like going on social media. I feel like it less and less. I uninstalled Facebook years ago.
  • Slack and Discord: because a lot of communities I'm part of are on there too.
  • Apple Music: for discovering music or listening to stuff I haven't bought and put in Plex yet.
  • FileBrowser: get around iOS' stupid sandboxing so I can work with the files on my NAS.
  • Being a Vim user, I frequently use Qutebrowser for a bit but it never sticks and I end up back with Firefox.
  • For writing fiction or RPG adventures, I don't usually use Vim, prefering instead things like Byword (in which I'm writing this!) and Ulysses on macOS, and iA Writer on Windows.

Of course, I also use my own software on a regular basis, especially PieCrust and Wikked.

What would be your dream setup?

Hardware-wise I think I'm pretty happy with what I have. Of course I have a lot of old outdated stuff but, by and large, it still works well and I don't actually need to upgrade (although it's always nice to get new toys). The only things I'd love to solve are more practical: cable management is always a mess, dust accumulates everywhere fast, etc. I'd love to have a minimalist, clean desk, but I also need a whole bunch of gear for my various hobbies, so that's hard to reconcile. I would also love to setup some good, atmospheric, indirect lighting in my basement, with LED strips and stuff.

On the software front, I'm also mostly OK, with the exception of iOS which always seems to get in the way of doing things, especially on the iPad. For example, I would love for it to be easier to draw and ink something on paper, scan it, and add colour using the iPad Pro, but that requires jumping through several hoops right now (I did own a Cintiq for that kind of stuff at one point, but I didn't like it and sold it). Or even just edit files in-place directly from my NAS, without having to copy it back and forth between app sandboxes and network shares! I hope that the newly announced iPadOS will move things forward a bit there.