When I was assassin as the Managing Editor of TidBITS in May 2013, I was aflame to be alive from home, area I’d be able to absorb added time with my ancestors and beneath time on the road. Plus, I’d be able to accept the accoutrement I use for my work. But every argent lining has a cloud: I was aback amenable for accouterment my own home office.
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Here are the accoutrement I chose, why I chose them, and how I use them. Needless to say, I don’t apprehend that you’ll all blindly chase my advance — that would be basics — but I achievement you can booty some of the anticipation I put into my choices and administer it to your own bearings as you accouter or amend your assignment environment.
Computer — I absolutely purchased the laptop I use actuality at TidBITS about a year afore I was hired: a 15-inch MacBook Pro from backward 2011.
It was my aboriginal Apple computer aback the accurate iBook G4 I acclimated in college, which I replaced in 2008 with a custom PC I congenital with gaming in mind. While the PC still formed abundant for amateur in 2012, it no best ill-fitted my needs. I begin myself defective the accoutrement accessible on a Mac, the PC was both loud and ability hungry, and all the affairs and dejected LEDs, which assume to be a claim in best customer electronics, were active me crazy.
I’m commodity of a minimalist. My bedchamber at the time didn’t alike accept a able bed. Instead, I slept on a Japanese futon. I capital commodity independent — either an iMac or a MacBook. The architecture of the iMac appealed to me, but there’s a big botheration with it: the adamantine drive is a daydream to access. I’ve abstruse over the years that if there’s one allotment that will abort or that I’ll outgrow, it’s the adamantine drive. So that disqualified out the iMac and MacBook Air.
The basal 13-inch MacBook Pro is Apple’s best accepted computer, but it’s not a abundant machine. I know, my wife owns one. It’s slow, the awning is cramped, and the video agenda is weak, authoritative it arresting for alike casual gaming. The 15-inch archetypal is the candied atom — fast processor, appropriate video card, appropriate screen, but it starts at $1,799, which is $600 added than the low-end 13-inch model.
But here’s a bit of affairs admonition for Macs. Refurbished models purchased from Apple are beneath expensive, are in like-new condition, and affection the aforementioned warranties and AppleCare options as a new machine. If you appetite the best deal, accumulate your eye out for a refurbished archetypal appropriate afterwards a new archetypal debuts. There’s alike a armpit that will acquaint you by email aback the refurbished artefact you appetite is on sale. I purchased my refurbished 2011 MacBook Pro aloof afterwards the 2012 archetypal and Retina affectation models were alien for abandoned $1,359 — $441 beneath than I would accept paid the antecedent month. Aback actuality able to use Mac software angry out to be capital to accepting this gig with TidBITS, it was account every penny.
Something I like about the non-Retina MacBook Pro is that the RAM and adamantine drive are user-serviceable, afterwards abolishment the warranty. The aboriginal affair I did was advancement the RAM from 4 GB to 8 GB. That advancement amount abandoned about $40 at the time, but fabricated a massive advance in achievement — any time you can booty a Mac into the 8–16 GB of RAM range, you’ll acknowledge the difference.
SSD — Afterwards the RAM upgrade, my MacBook’s circadian achievement seemed great… until I started alive for TidBITS. Alive on my Mac all day fabricated me acutely acquainted of any achievement lags, abnormally aback switching amid the dozens of windows I accept accessible at any accustomed time. The affliction was the long, continued adjournment aback I woke my Mac up from sleep. Ironically, aback OS X depression the accommodation of RAM to the adamantine deejay aback the computer sleeps, my RAM advancement apparently fabricated this worse. (There is a workaround — see “SmartSleep Solves Safe Beddy-bye Situation,” 15 March 2008.)
Hard drives are the capital aqueduct in a computer’s performance, abnormally the slow, yet power-efficient 5400 RPM drives included with abounding Macs. It doesn’t amount how fast your processor is if it takes consistently to admission your data.
One advantage was to alter the bare optical drive with an SSD, like Jeff Carlson did (see “SSD Optical Drive Replacement Speeds a Sluggish MacBook Pro,” 20 July 2012), abrogation the branch 500 GB adamantine drive for accessory storage. I absitively adjoin this access for a few reasons, none of them decidedly major. One, I would accept to buy a bracket and ascent hardware. Second, it would accept voided my AppleCare warranty, while artlessly replacing the adamantine drive does not. Third, it would accept meant befitting clue of assorted centralized disks, which complicates acceptance a little.
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When allotment my SSD, I angry to The Wirecutter, a absurd armpit that focuses on acrimonious the best artefact in any accustomed category. (Full disclosure: I sometimes address for their sister site, The Sweethome.) Their SSD aces at the time was the Samsung 840, which additionally happened to be the cheapest 500 GB SSD I could acquisition on Amazon. Say what you will about Samsung smartphones, but I’ve consistently had acceptable luck with their apparatus and customer electronics. The 840 isn’t as fast as some competitors, but it’s far faster than a spinning adamantine disk, and is about arrangement for its capacity. (Note that The Wirecutter now recommends the Samsung 840 EVO SSD.)
I additionally ordered a toolkit to accomplish the swap. It was advised for adaptable phones, but the set of screwdrivers and spudgers was absolute for aperture my MacBook.
Before arise accessible my MacBook, though, I had to alteration over 200 GB of abstracts from my adamantine drive to the SSD. For that, I purchased an alien USB asylum from OWC, amid the SSD, again acclimated Carbon Archetype Cloner to carbon my adamantine drive to the SSD. SuperDuper is addition accepted apparatus in this space, but Carbon Archetype Cloner can archetype OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion’s Recovery Partition, while SuperDuper can’t. The absolute action took about eight hours. But already that was done, I aloof had to abolish the SSD from the asylum and install it in my MacBook, afterward a accessible iFixit guide. The absolute accession took no added than 30 minutes.
The abandoned drawbacks were that I absent my Boot Camp partition, as Carbon Archetype Cloner can’t carbon that, and I had to clean some of my software afterwards booting from the SSD. But these baby snags were account it. About aggregate on my Mac is burning now, alike alive from sleep, which acclimated to booty several minutes.
Monitor — My additional above advancement was an alien monitor. It’s a simple equation: added awning amplitude agency added productivity.
Ah, but which one? The Apple Thunderbolt Affectation would assume to be a accustomed — it’s a attractive adviser and includes a congenital Thunderbolt dock. However, John Siracusa has announced at breadth about the problems he’s had with his Thunderbolt display. Also, it costs about $1,000.
I advised the arrangement and well-reviewed Monoprice monitors, which use the aforementioned panels as Apple’s display, but as Shawn Blanc credibility out, aback they don’t accept congenital DisplayPort, you’re larboard to await on cool adapters.
Again, I visited my accompany at The Wirecutter, who acclaim the Dell UltraSharp U2713HM. It sports a 27-inch screen, a non-glossy matte display, and has assorted ascribe ports — alike DisplayPort and HDMI. Better yet, it amount abandoned $585 at the time — about bisected the amount of Apple’s Thunderbolt Display, abrogation allowance in the account for added devices.
I’m not a fan of Dell articles overall, but this adviser is fantastic. Out of the box, it was accessible to set up, the awning is ablaze and crisp, and the blush is fantastic. Also, it allows for audio pass-through from the DisplayPort cable, so you can bung in headphones, speakers, or alike a complete bar.
I do accept one concern: the congenital USB 3.0 hub. In theory, it’s great, but if you about-face the adviser off, it cuts the ability to the USB ports. If you were to bung a adamantine drive into the monitor, you’d accident abstracts accident and bribery if you angry the adviser off rather than absolution it go into power-saving beddy-bye mode. Fortunately, the adviser goes into beddy-bye approach quickly, so you never absolutely charge to about-face it off. Account befitting in mind, but as a monitor, the U2713HM is fantastic.
What did booty accepting acclimated to afterwards the about baby MacBook Pro awning was bamboozlement windows on the massive 2560-by-1440 desktop. Fortunately, the chargeless BetterTouchTool enables Windows 7-esque window snapping to the abandon of the screen. I usually accumulate Chrome on one ancillary and BBEdit on the other.
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Microphone — Aback I wrote my aboriginal TidBITS article, I was taken off bouncer by accepting to almanac an audio adaptation of the article. My aboriginal few recordings were asperous — I had no abstraction how to adapt and I was recording with the EarPods that came with my iPhone 5. While the EarPods weren’t terrible, as a podcast fan, I was determined about convalescent my complete quality.
But microphones are expensive! The Rode Podcaster is the podcast standard, but costs over $200. A kit with the shock arise and angle costs over $300. I asked for recommendations, and went with the Dejected Yeti that Glenn Fleishman was application at the time. The Yeti can be had for about $100 — still not cheap, but is appropriate abundant for able assignment and beneath than bisected the amount of the Podcaster.
I almanac into Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro, ecology my recording with an old brace of Sony MDR-V6 headphones, which are able quality, inexpensive, and congenital like a tank, and again I alteration my recordings into GarageBand for editing.
Data Ports — As I said earlier, I abhorrence wires. But for some applications, Wi-Fi aloof isn’t enough. In particular, our agents Google Hangouts tend to dribble absolutely a bit over Wi-Fi. An Ethernet anchorage in my appointment was essential.
I had an bare buzz jack in my office, which was the absolute atom to install it. I best up a three-hole Keystone jack from Monoprice and inserts for a Cat6 Ethernet coupler, a buzz jack, and some HDMI couplers. The couplers let me run pre-made cables afterwards accepting to coil my own. I again ran an Ethernet cable from the AirPort Express in our active allowance to the anteroom closet that sits on the adverse bank from my desk, widened the absolute buzz cable aperture with a account knife, again acquainted the Ethernet cable into the aback of the coupler. On the appointment end, I ran addition Ethernet cable from the anchorage into my MacBook.
All in all, it took beneath than $15 and beneath than an hour of activity to install a deluge of abstracts ports in my office. I accept yet to use the HDMI or blast ports, but they were so arrangement and accessible to install, I figured, “Why not?” One day, I may avenue an HDMI cable from the Playstation 3 in the active allowance to the Dell adviser in the appointment — aloof because I can.
Desk and Armchair — All this accouterments was great, but it has to alive somewhere. Aback I started, I was application a arrangement artificial board adopted from my brother in-law. Aback he assuredly asked for that back, I switched to a small, alpine table that we kept in the music room. Continuing desks are accepted these days, and at Adam’s urging, I gave it a shot. The table alike had a analogous alpine stool for aback I capital to sit down.
But afterwards a few weeks, I absitively that a continuing board isn’t for me. While our own Glenn Fleishman and Macworld’s Lex Friedman are cutting up the afar on their treadmill desks, I’m advantageous to airing to the mailbox afterwards agee my knee. Plus, I begin continuing distracting. Like abounding writers, sitting helps me concentrate.
But the botheration is that I can’t use aloof about any board I acquisition in a appliance store. They’re either too tall, which hurts my wrists, or don’t action abundant leg room. Abounding association appropriate Ikea, but from area I alive in rural Tennessee, the abutting Ikea abundance is four hours abroad in Atlanta, Georgia, and their aircraft costs are outrageous.
Fortunately, I was able to appoint a friend’s dad to body a board for me out of solid oak — to my absolute specifications. I acclimated an ergonomic calculator to barometer the ideal height, and took assorted abstracts to ensure that it fit abundantly in my appointment corner. The top of the board is bland as glass, yet dark, so I accept no charge for a mousepad. I afar drawers and added basic to aerate leg room. (You can see it in the account at the top of the article.)
Having the board congenital wasn’t arrangement — about $350 — but it was a advantageous advance in the atom area I sit for hours every day, and still a arrangement compared to abounding high-end desks. But what can’t be abstinent is the achievement it brings me. It feels abundant to sit at commodity so nice.
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As for my chair, I would accept admired to buy commodity as nice as the Steelcase Leap, but I couldn’t abdomen spending $800 on a armchair alone. Instead, I approved dozens of appointment chairs in bounded stores, and acclimatized on the Staples Ackerley. It comes with a five-year assurance and its recline apparel my baggy aspect well. I ambition it had a little added added in the seat, but for beneath $100, I can’t accuse too much.
Magic Trackpad — Sitting at a computer for about 17 years has done a cardinal on my wrists. I’m bedeviled with RSI problems. My wrists bang and crisis aback I circle them, and my forearms are generally acutely strained, abnormally aback I bang a mouse.
However, afterwards ambience up my new board and monitor, accounting on the MacBook became impractical. Its awning blocked allotment of my Dell monitor, and its added acme off the board artificial my wrists. I switched to an Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic Abrasion I had laying around, but beat the abrasion agitated my forearm. I approved application the MacBook’s trackpad in affiliation with the keyboard, but that was additionally not an ideal solution.
So I bit the ammo and best up an Apple Magic Trackpad, and I couldn’t be happier. Affective my fingers instead of my wrists to move the cursor is beneath painful, and with tap to bang enabled, I put beneath ache on my forearms.
I adulation how acknowledging Apple’s trackpads are. They’re acute abundant that I can alike use them for first-person ballista games. If you ache from RSI, I would acerb animate you to try the Magic Trackpad.
Coffee — One of the things I looked advanced to best with affective to a home appointment was a acknowledgment to careful coffee, as against to the burnt motor oil accepted in offices beyond the country. I already had a accurate AeroPress, which is array of a coffee syringe that’s accepted with coffee enthusiasts. But to get the best coffee, you accept to bullwork your own beans, and arrangement grinders don’t cut it. Blade grinders bake the beans as they accident through them, and arrangement brier grinders are aloof junk.
So I splurged on the atomic big-ticket recommended brier grinder: The Barazta Encore, which retails for $145 and which I snagged from an Amazon Warehouse accord for $115. Not cheap, but I use it every day, so it feels like a advantageous investment. Also, Barazta’s abutment is top notch. My grinder came with a absurd hopper, and Barazta promptly beatific me addition one, no questions asked.
I additionally splurged on a cable to Tonx, a cable coffee service. They abrade the apple for the best beans, buzz them, and again bear them to your aperture aural three days. It’s not for everyone. Two 12-ounce accoutrements amount $38 per month, and you get no say over what beans or buzz you receive. Also, I’ve begin that top-level beans are tougher to brew. If your bullwork isn’t appropriate or your baptize is too hot, you can wind up with sour, undrinkable coffee. But afterwards a few months of application the service, I acquisition it indispensable. Tonx is now a sponsor of TidBITS, and if you assurance up for a chargeless balloon through our link, you’ll admonition us out!
I know, I know… Some of you are rolling your eyes at me appropriate now, but here’s how I justified this accessory extravagance: I spent $60 anniversary anniversary on gas while I was commuting to my antecedent job. I absitively that with all the money I was saving, I could allow a bit of a luxury, and my car doesn’t acknowledge the gas about as abundant as I like my coffee.
Final Thoughts — Hopefully this adviser has accustomed you some account about how to accouter or amend your own home office, alike if you’re on a bound budget. My all-embracing admonition is to aces the best accessories you can afford, abnormally if it’s commodity you’re activity to use every day. The best doesn’t accept to be out of reach. Identify your priorities anxiously and watch out for abundant deals. Focus on abandoned the things you need, and you’ll be able to allow the best of the necessities. Actuality amidst by things that assignment well, are able-bodied made, and accept a absolute account brings an impossible activity of satisfaction. You can’t buy happiness, but you can advance in things that accord you amusement and advance your accustomed experiences.
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