Working from home means that I have to choose where to work from in my house. It could be my couch. It could be my bed. But most of the time it’s at my desk. Having a separate “work room” helps get me “in the mood” for doing work.
Here’s the setup that I have in the room at the moment.
I bought this desk from a second hand office furniture shop. I am pretty sure it used to be a door. It has lived a thousand lives, perhaps more. Someone’s bolted some extendable legs on the bottom of it, but it stays at the same height because in order to re-set the height I need to clear off the whole desk. There’s a lot of things on this desk, as you’re about to find out.
Chair - Herman Miller Mirra 2
After using IKEA chairs for a decent period of my professional career (at least, while working at home) I decided to splurge on a Herman Miller Mirra 2 chair after an especially lucrative tax return came in.
The IKEA chairs, while good when you get them, quickly go “flat” at the bottom if you spend upwards of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in them. You end up feeling the metal base of the chair through what padding remains, and that’s when you know its time to go to IKEA again and buy another chair, at least five different other things as you walk through the labyrinth and of course the meatballs on the way out. And those biscuits too. You know the ones.
Boxes and Books
On the desk sits probably the five most useful items of this entire setup.
One is a metal box with a lid. I am not sure what is in the metal box. It does not matter. The box holds up my monitor because the monitor manufacturer was too lazy to put a decent extendable range on the height of the monitor.
To the right of the metal-box-with-a-lid-and-mysterious-contents, sits a Nintendo Switch box. This then in turn holds up Design Patterns in Ruby (a book I did not write), which then in turn holds up Rails 3 in Action (a book that I did write).
You might think: Ryan uses these books as continuous sources of reference material so he can do an efficient job. No wonder why he is so good at Ruby.
You are wrong.
They are for holding up the MacBook Pro to a decent height. At 500-and-something pages, Rails 3 in Action brings the laptop up to a decent height, bringing its screen in line with the monitor. If the book was any longer then the MacBook would be too high.
That brings us to the fifth item: The MacBook Pro.
Laptop: Apple MacBook Pro (15”, 2019)
I somehow had enough money at the end of 2019 and bought a souped up MacBook pro. The Apple Tax was large. In classic Apple fashion, Apple then released a new, better laptop mere months later.
Still, this is the laptop / computer that I use most for my day-to-day work.
Into this computer I have no less than two dongles plugged in because Apple is, unbeknownst to most, foremost a dongle company. I am honestly surprised that they have not yet had a dongle keynote yet.
One of the dongles is a USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter – and at $99AUD for a piece of plastic with some wires and chips is one of the more expensive cable options on the desk.
On the other side of the MacBook Pro I have a USB-C to USB adapter cable, which then goes to a USB lightning cable that then connects to an Apple iPhone 11. I use the phone for sending hot takes to Twitter about how bad Rails is.
The dongle-and-cable situation exists because Apple did not deign to include a USB-C to Lightning cable in the MacBook Pro box, despite the same company making both the MacBook Pro and the iPhone, and the connection necessity being somewhat obvious. I guess Google hired all the smart people. (Hint: no, they didn’t.)
Monitor: Dell 27” UltraSharp
For my viewing pleasure I have a 27” Dell Monitor, which supplements the laptop’s screen. I use the monitor as a primary screen, and the laptop screen as a secondary one for Twitter memes and Slack.
Apparently you can rotate the monitor to be portrait instead of landscape but because I work from home there’s nobody really to show off my cool-factor to if I did that. So landscape it stays.
Webcam: Logitech C920
For your viewing pleasure I have a Logitech C920 webcam. It sits on top of the monitor and shows you the perpetually somehow messy bed behind me that I sleep in the nights my daughter kicks me out of my own bed, the sunlight streaming in through the window slats, but also my face. For some reason our lizard brains feel better when we can see each others’ faces. Huh.
Keyboard: Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB Split Mechanical
After using Apple Magic Keyboards for an extended period of time, I started to feel like a tool made to look good in photos but not for actual use probably wasn’t the best idea.
I eventually settled on the Kinesis Gaming Freestyle Edge RGB Split Mechanical Keyboard. I used to be a semi-pro gamer and the RGB lights on this make me relive my glory days.
The split keyboard also means that my hands are not too close together, forcing my shoulders into unnatural positions and then leading to me needing to be beaten up by a physiotherapist every 3 months for megadollarbucks. Considered it better to invest in a solution to the problem, rather than a remedy.
The split is about 30cm apart, and you can buy tilt stands for the keyboard too. I have the keyboards tilted at about a 10 degree angle, but I can do 15 if I feel like really showing off.
I also like the noise this keyboard emits just based solely on the fact that if I was to ever be forced to work in an office again I could make a good case for why I shouldn’t work in an office just by doing my work on this keyboard.
The keyboard is wired to the USB dongle on the computer because I do not want to have to keep a stash of AA batteries around the house for my keyboard. But nevertheless, I do keep a stash of AA batteries around because I have a small child who has small battery-powered toys.
Mouse - Razer DeathAdder Essential Right Handed Gaming
You might think that I would use an Apple Magic Mouse. No, I do not. Not only is this also another Apple product designed to look good in photo shoots, but it also has a ridiculous method of charging – the charging port is under the mouse. So really, this product should be called the Apple Tragic Mouse.
I have used an Apple Magic Trackpad 2 for a while, and enjoyed its similarity to the Trackpad on the MacBook Pro. It even has a charging port in a reasonable location! But I would get a stiff hand if I used it too much.
Yet again riffing on the fact that I used to be a semi-pro gamer, I have a Razer DeathAdder mouse. The mouse has more buttons than my favourite shirt. 7 buttons. Why do you need so many buttons on this mouse? There’s probably another button somewhere on it that’s like in a secret hidden compartment or something.
Another benefit is that has a cable which plugs into the USB dongle.
It’s a mouse. It moves the cursor around. I can left AND right click (take that, Tragic Mouse). It sits in between the keyboards (see above) so that I move my hand “inwards” to get to it, which feels like a more natural motion than moving it outwards. Or maybe I’m just used to it now.
Desk Mat - Respawn Ninja Black Gaming Mouse Pad
It turns out that mice do not like white, veneer surfaces that well and it really effects my kill-death ratio in gaming. Just kidding. I’m awesome all the time.
To counter any sort of impinging effect my shiny-white desk might have on the mouse, and to stop the keyboard from potentially slipping from the ultimate positions they’re in, I have a Respawn Ninja Black Gaming Mouse Pad.
Not only does it decrease mouse issues, but it also makes the mouse quieter on the desk. It is also incredibly good at catching and keeping cat hair. For the cat hair, I have a Kiwi Horsehair Shoe Polish Brush nearby at all times (only $9.29 at Woolworths).
Microphone - Blue Yeti
I had an urge to do some screencasting about a decade ago and did some research and found one of the most affordable mics at the time was the Blue Yeti microphone.
This microphone’s quality is excellent. So much so that people get disturbed when I talk to them over Zoom because, they say, it sounds like I’m “whispering in their ear”.
The microphone is mounted to the desk with a Rode PSA1 Professional Studio Boom Arm almost directly above the right hand keyboard, so you can hear the mechanical switches very clearly and also my voice. Mounting it this way means I can swing it out of the way when I’m not using it.
It’s a computer that has some games installed. With roughly these parts in it. I forget exactly, and I’m too lazy to look them up right now.
One other advantage of having this computer here is that when I inevitably have to test on IE6-11 I don’t have to install Microsoft products on my Mac, I can instead install them over there on that computer.
USB Switcher - UGreen USB Switcher
In order to change USB inputs in between my laptop and my gaming computer, I have a UGreen USB Switcher. At the press of a button, my keyboard, mouse, microphone and webcam are all switched to the other computer.
If I did not have this wonderful, wonderful device then I would need to unplug (what feels like forty-five but is probably only four) cables from the MacBook and plug them into the PC.
The downside of this device is remembering to push the tiny button to switch the inputs back and wondering why your keyboard and mouse aren’t working. It needs a light or something.
WiFi - Ubiquiti AP
They say “Home is where the WiFi” is. I used to live in an L-Shaped house and it turns out that some rooms of that house were not, in fact, my home, because they did not have WiFi.
Apple’s single best product they ever brought out was the Apple Airport Express. No dialogue will be entered into at this time.
At one point, I had two of these badboys providing WiFi over a townhouse and at least to most parts of the two houses either side. They are, as some say, the good shit.
When I moved into the L-Shaped house, two Apple Airport Expresses were not enough. I contemplated and sought out a third, but apparently they now only come in “Collectors Editions” because Apple has decided in their infinite wisdom to stop selling new ones.
So I did some research (asked some people on a Slack group and Twitter) and it turns out some people get very excited about radio-wave-emitting little plastic boxes, and those people were excited about the Unifi Lite Access Point.
I then became one of those people too.
These are powered with network cables and probably pixie dust because the setup process is magical.
I bought 3 of these for the L-Shaped house because I was incredibly fucked off with the WiFi issues and there’s no better way to solve WiFi issues than to solve the problem with more, better WiFi.
Now (in this new house) we have incredible coverage across the entire house, even with thick sandstone walls in the way. I get to the street corner and try to load Twitter on my phone and it refuses because the damn thing’s still connected to the WiFi.
These APs are great.