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My Ultimate Home Office

Posted by javaben on September 7, 2005 at 1:41 PM PDT

Over the past few years, I've been doing a lot of consulting out of my home office, and the trend will continue for at least the next year. Recently I decided, "Hey, if I'm going to be spending a lot of time in here, I might as well spruce up the place a bit." Over the past few weeks, I've upgraded. Let me tell you what I've got, why I like it, and in some cases, why I still haven't found nirvana yet. Please -- comment on this entry and tell me about your setup. Well, unless you're James "Dual G5! 30" Apple LCD!" Strachan. ;-)

The Chair

I spend 10-20 hours a day at a computer. Bad habits have given me the beginning symptoms of repetitive stress injuries (RSI) in my arms, hands, and back. Comfort is real important to me. Enter the Perfect Chair:

The Perfect Chair

The minute I reclined about 45 degrees, it was heaven. I work most of my day reclined that way, and, when whimsy strikes, I recline back all the way for some... brainstorming. There were some other great up-right chairs out there, but I figured, hey, if I'm at home, I may as well flaunt the freedom it affords me. Try getting your boss to approve one of these for the cube, my friend!

The Computer(s)

With the perfect chair, I've got the most important element out of the way. Next question: what computer? Since I'm lucky enough to be developing in cross-platform languages, I can choose pretty much whatever. So I went with an Apple PowerBook. Which model? The 15", of course. 12" is too cramped, and the 17" is way too large.

The PowerBook

Ahh, nice. I love working on the Mac; the aesthetics of OS X and power of Unix are just great. Everything tends to work well together. Wonderful platform. And, wicked slow. So, when I need to actually get work done for people, I use a mutt PC that I built years ago and upgrade as it breaks (last incident was an AMD chip whose heat-sink fell off, frying itself in a few seconds). I always choose middle of the road components, and it always seems to run circles around whatever Mac laptop I'm using. Right now it's got a 2.8 GHz Pentium something-or-other, Intel motherboard, 1.5 GB RAM, nVidia 6600 AGP 8x 256 MB card (cheap but sufficient), and not much else.

The Keyboard

There are millions of folks who type on keyboards all day every day. Yet, I can't find just the right keyboard. The closest thing to perfection I've found is the old Microsoft Natural Pro keyboard. It's been discontinued for years, so I buy them on eBay when I need 'em. And I have a little stockpile.

The Keyboard

I love that keyboard. Why? It has the only True Keyboard Layout I've found in an ergonomic style (2x3 special key block between the main keys and numeric keypad, 1-on-3 arrow key layout, slashes in the right places, and so forth); it isn't wireless, so no batteries or radio interference to worry about (I'm always by my desk anyway); it's got programmable macro keys galore; it's got a built-in USB bus; and its got pretty good OS X drivers.

Apparently, I'm not the only admirer of this sucker; they don't go cheap in on-line auctions.

The Monitor

In a stupider move, I bought a 20" Apple LCD. I got it at a discount when I joined the ADC, but even still, it was overpriced. Dell makes a 24" LCD that suspiciously matches the specs of the Apple 23" LCD and sells it for $400 less than Apple's 23". Should have done that. Nevertheless, it's a great LCD, and nice-looking too.

The Monitor

Once you take the recliner plunge, you've got to make accomodations for your monitor. You see, the Perfect Chair can put your feet way above the bottom of any desk I've seen, so you can't just put the chair under your desk. I put my chair parallel to my desk, and I've got an Ergotron LX monitor arm that positions the monitor over me just where I like it as I recline.

The Arm

The downside of the arm is that it only tilts down 5 degrees. I need to find something that tilts down 45 degrees or more so I can position it directly above me; that should be fun.


Two computers, one monitor -- enter the KVM (Keyboard-Video-Mouse) Switch. I've had some real bad experiences with these devices in the past, but all that's changed with my recent find: the Gefen SL Switcher.

The KVM Front

The KVM Back

It's a DVI/USB2 KVM siwtch that comes with a remote control! This sucker works like a champ with no signal quality problems. Can't recommend it enough.

The Software

Ugh, this is a whole separate blog entry. But let me tell you about my favorite two pieces of software. QuickSilver is *the* way to get around on a Mac. Check it out. I haven't used the Dock for ages. (Hint, QS does a lot more than app switching.)


And for code grinding, IntelliJ IDEA still can't be beat. Worth every penny.


What's Missing

I need to get an air mouse to get the Minority Report effect going, and frankly, there's not a good place for a conventional mouse in the reclining chair. I have a generic sound system (cheap Logitech surround sound system; cheap Logitech headphone/mic combo); I ought to upgrade to some THX-certified goodness and get a nice surround sound USB device for the PowerBook.

What else am I missing?

(Cross-posted on my personal blog, Married... with Children)

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