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07 April 2007

Nerd Factor X Personal



Welcome To My Cave

If you're anything like me, you have a voyeuristic fascination with other people's work spaces. And since you're probably at least a little bit like me, you might enjoy seeing my work space. Or at least my work space when I'm at home. And not always working.

As an added bonus, this post doubles as a collection of mini-reviews and updates for hardware I've bought recently! It's two posts for the price of one!


Welcome to my Cave.

Here's what you'll see if you look carefully at the picture above.

  • A Dell 2407WFP 24" LCD Monitor. Got this baby last last year and ohh boy am I loving it every single one of its 1920x1200 pixels. You never can get enough screen real estate, and it certainly feels like a productivity win. Despite being possibly flawed I'm sympathetic to the Apple study that tried to quantify this. Just being able to put stuff side-by-side is a massive win.

  • An Apple iSight. This is the nifty firewire webcam that I got bundled with my first PowerBook a few years ago. Unfortunately I don't know that many other iSight owners to do the video conference thing with, but it looks cool perched up there.

  • My 80GB Video iPod sitting in a Apple Dock. Seriously, I could not manage my horrendous daily commute without the iPod. Audiobooks and podcasts get me to work and back without committing acts of automotive homicide.

  • A Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro. I've grown used to Microsoft's curvy keyboards, although I'm on the lookout for an alternative, as this one is getting a bit long in the tooth. Also it has a fairly flimsy plasticy feel to it which has gotten progressively more annoying over the years.

  • A Razer Pro|Click™ 1.6 mouse. Yes that really is a vertical bar in the product name, but it could have been worse. Had this for a few days and so far I'm very impressed. The increased resolution really is noticeable, it is comfortable for my big hands, and the Mac OS drivers aren't too intrusive. Unlike its blue LEDs. Recommended anyway.

  • My trusty PowerBook G4. Probably due for an upgrade to a MacBook Pro, but still going strong.

  • A Canon LIDE 600F scanner. Stored, and sometimes used, in its upright position. I use this far more than I had anticipated, most likely because of the fact it can be kept within easy reach without taking up too much precious desk space. Also the scans look great. And although the software is fairly sluggish, it does at least OCR the contents, which makes it the key piece of my document filing system.

  • A Konica-Minolta Magicolor 2430DL colour laser printer. After about 1300 mostly colour pages, I've just finished the black starter cartridge. I replaced it with a high-capacity (nominal 4500 page) cartridge for about $120. I consider this pretty good value, but talk to me again when the three colour cartridges run out.

  • A Griffin iCurve laptop stand. This is basically a pretty, but horrendously expensive, piece of clear plastic. The cost is nevertheless justified, in order to be able to get effective use of the laptop screen. The second screen is a great place to dump IM clients, iTunes, file transfer windows, and other background monitoring stuff. The iCurve is no longer available, having been replaced by the Elevator which at least offers a moderate amount of adjustability for the same extortionate price.

  • Some Altec Lansing MX5021 speakers. They sound OK, about what you would expect from a set of $200 speakers. I don't think they sound as good as the Klipsch Promedia 2.1 speakers I used to have. I just can't justify spending any more than $200 on speakers and even that was pushing it. For serious listening I break out the Audio Technica A-900 headphones (not visible). The controller and remote are nice though, and also bedazzled with blue LEDs.

  • A Uniclass DVI USB KVM. This is a really ugly box which may be a re-badged, or OEM, Avocent SwitchView. Compared to the Avocent it is a comparative bargain, at $160 versus about $400-odd. Nevertheless, it switches the keyboard, monitor and mouse between my laptop and the Ubuntu desktop box. Does a great job too, the 1920x1200 images are crystal clear, just as good as the monitor directly connected.

  • A Netgear GS608 Gigabit Ethernet Switch. 8 ports, $100, what's not to like? Performance is definitely noticeable over 100MBit/s. Let's just say my PowerBook's PCI bus cannot keep up.

  • A Billion ADSL Modem. Configured in half-bridged mode to avoid double NAT with my OpenWRT router. Seems to just work.

  • A Linksys WRT54GS. Running OpenWRT firmware, I could not be happier with this. Very stable, great performance, very flexible.

  • My Nokia N70. Recently upgraded to the latest firmware thanks to a downloadable Nokia utility!

  • My Athlon XP-based PC. For some reason the Ubuntu installation feels really sluggish on this box, at least in comparison to the (admittedly faster) Fedora Core box I use at work. This is, as they say, all the justification I need for a hardware upgrade.

  • A totally cheap-ass office chair. If I remember correctly, mail ordered from Staples for maybe $60. Absolutely awful, especially in comparison to the Aeron I have at work. Unfortunately I can't justify a $900 Aeron at home, but there must be a sweet spot for office chairs somewhere around the $200-300 mark?

  • A cheap-ass folding table from Bunnings. Getting an affordable desk to fit the space is surprisingly hard. Ikea, for example, don't seem to make one in the 180cm range. Any ideas? Although it's mostly the right size, I am forever banging my knees on this thing.

  • A Kambrook 12-outlet Power Board. Yes, 12 outlets! They've even designed it for wall-warts. Unfortunately I must have freakishly big wall warts because I still have trouble getting all of the outlets used. The problem is not enough space between the two rows of outlets, and the wall warts on one row prevent plugging even regular power plugs into the opposite outlets. Damn wall warts! Death to them all!

  • Reading Matter. Amongst the many books that I am currently reading, the ones that happened to be on my desk for this photo are: Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth, Harbison & Steele's C: A Reference Manual, and Tufte's Beautiful Evidence. No, I don't regard them as an odd combination at all.

  • Some Bamboo. I am so lucky to have a window which looks out onto a two-story atrium. This room is on the first floor (that would be the second floor for the Americans in the audience), and hence the bamboo is quite tall obviously. I like it. It looks nice and makes pleasant rustling noises. That is, until we seal up the windows, flood it, and fill it with sharks (suggestion courtesy of Chris, who has a bright future ahead of him in interior design).

In the picture above you won't see too much in the way of artwork, toys, trinkets and other adornments. Not because I don't like or value such things; on the contrary. I am very envious of Jeff Atwood's work space, with its many decorative touches. I believe these add immensely to the comfort level of an environment, making it more than just a desk with a computer.

To cut a long story short, I have some pictures and such, but they are out of frame of the above photo. I also have some tchotchkes but they are at work, where I spend more time and need them more. Regardless, I'd like to do more here.

Hope you enjoyed your stay and found it informative. Please feel free to browse the gift shop on your way out.


Posted by
Garth Kidd
2007-04-07 04:21:00 -0500

Top bargain on the KVM! I'm still hurting from buying the Avocent. Ow. Ow. Ow.

So, I'm installing a pair of 500GB drives in my Mac Pro to soothe the pain. :)

Posted by
2007-04-07 04:21:00 -0500

I don't have as nice a view but I've responded in kind here:

Incidentally, on low cost but reasonable chairs, I recommend checking out OfficeWorks.