Kevin Connolly's Home Office
Because two is never enough.
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By now, you're probably already starting to ask questions. Why so many monitors? Do I really use all that? Is that all one computer? Am I on some sort of crazy world domination bent? The answers to these questions, and more, lie within.
Read on, if you dare.
The General Idea
I work from home for a startup as a .NET Software Architect. That is to say, a fancy computer programmer who also plans, designs, and connects multiple softwares that work together. If you already know about all that, feel free to check out my
. In my line of work, we tend to use a lot of reference materials, do a lot of research, and be working on several projects at a time. Additionally, I'm an amateur photography hobbyist
and spend most of my free time on the computer. As a result of all that, I often have between 30 and 40 windows open. This many windows become difficult to manage, especially with a smaller screen.
Most people can relate to the differences between a small laptop and a large HD screen. This is merely an extreme reaction to that phenomenon. While there are several ways to go about solving the issue of window management across many windows,
I elected to add additional pixels. Lots and lots
of them. The main system pictured here is connected to eight
1080p screens in a 2x4 layout, measuring 7680x2160.
That's enough to watch eight Blu-Ray movies or two 2160p videos at the same time. I could watch 40 DVD-quality movies (480p) and have room to spare. To put all this in perspective, an Eyefinity 6 setup is part
of it. Yet somehow,
I still end up with windows hiding behind each other. I suppose this will have to suffice until I can get one of those cranial CNS implants from The Matrix.
As is the established paradigm, all pics are clicky. Not just link-to-an-identically-sized-image clicky, but clicky to an image which is subsequently and substantially larger
than the thumbnail. 300px images that link to the same 300px
images are annoying, silly, and pointless.
Not many people can say they grew up to be what they wanted to grow up to be; I'm one of the lucky few who can. My Dad let me play on a Radio Shack TRS-80 in 1986, programming in BASIC, and I've been hooked ever since. I've had a computer-centric
home workspace for most of my life, so when I got a chance to telecommute, it made sense to integrate it into a proper home office.
The office at my previous apartment included a full-size 42U server rack. It was large, heavy, and unweildy. Imagine a 150lb, 7' tall box made out of steel. So yeah, I wasn't about to move that thing down two flights of stairs again and back up
to the new place. As a result of this decision, I have a bunch of rackmount hardware that's not rack mounted anymore. Maybe later, if I can find a rack that's small enough not to send shivers up my spine. I'm currently in the market for a used
half-height server rack.
Home Office v27 is in a U shape circumcluding the perimeter of a square room with all exits on the same (rear) side. In other words, the perfect shape for a home office. The chair sits in one corner with the most often-used equipment, with
items of progressively less frequent use asymptotically approaching infinite distance from the central pivot, proportional to such frequency as is approximate to my estimation.
To the left of the monitor array is some open desk space. I haven't found anything suitable to put back there so far. I might move the laser printer there, but it's connected to the server so I'd need to use one of my 15' USB extension cords,
and it seems a bit kludgy. My uber-comfy leather Old Man Chairtm has a super-hard pillow to alleviate partially its low elevation off the floor, and doubles as an actual pillow when I recline. I'm considering installing casters underneath
the chair. These screens are mostly on kc1; kc2 and kclaptop are visible off in the background. |
I'd like the hardware to be further back, but the configuration of the room would cause the close to become blocked if I
were to move the desks out from the wall.
In the upper-left corner of the office, I have two posters which symbolize the two main aspects of my personality. The first represents my work ethic: Change - Change is not only inevitable, it is essential to survival. Why fear it or
fight it when you can simply embrace it? The software industry, and the larger IT industry in general, are constantly changing and improving. Adapt or die. |
The second poster represents my fun side: The art of doing nothing is really something. Sometimes you just need to unplug, sit back, and relax.
Left surround speaker, a rag to wipe the condensation off my glass and coaster, and the snack buffet. I eat a lot of snacks. Due to paranoia of starting a fire, I use a two-ashtray system: When one gets full, I dump the other one out and rotate it forward.
people always ask what the toilet paper is for: I have a constantly runny nose. It's for snot, not the other thing; you sick bastards.|
The primary work area. I used to use a Das Keyboard Ultimate, but stopped due to it dropping keystrokes and having a wonky media function key where a second Windows key really belongs. Now I use the old Logitech G15 keyboard. Also visible: Logitech
G500 mouse, iPad 2 (which has basically become an expensive eBook reader), Bamboo Pen & Touch tablet input device, Logitech desktop microphone, Allsop mousepad. Above the monitors are the main front and center speakers, my 9-guy, and my Kinect, which I use for SDK projects. I do not own an XBox. The breadboard in the upper right corner is for my work.
To the left of the keyboard is my coaster, where I always keep my iced tea.|
KC1 and KC2 sit in rackmount cases below the corner desk, where accidental kicking does not occur. KC2's console area is on the desk to the right. Behind the right column of monitors, center pic, is an Epson combination
printer/scanner. I didn't want to buy one, but I needed a scanner right away and couldn't find a scanner that didn't have a printer built in. On the corner of the desk, in front of the printer, are my right surround speaker and external DVD burner.
Atop the computer cases is a PS/2 backup keyboard because my BIOS doesn't detect USB keyboards reliably during POST. |
This is my Epson Scanner. It just happens to have a printer built in. I hate printers, especially non-lasers. |
KC2 main console area. Vizio 26" HDTV, bluetooth headset and docking station, Brother laser printer (the only kind worth buying), Microsoft Sidewinder X6 keyboard, Logitech G5 mouse. An ashtray for those rare times when I use KC2. To the left
of the keyboard is my USB docking and charging area, where my cameras, Android phone, and iPad 2 go to copy files. |
KCLaptop, hardly ever used. This area is primarily used for temporary files and filing. Below you can see the server, KCWS. KCWS has no keyboard, mouse, or video attached and is administered remotely.|
The network stack. Cable gateway, switch, wireless access point, and my Asus Eee tablet PC. The Eee PC is so utterly useless that its only useful purpose is monitoring the network connection to diagnose outages. Being that I don't get outages,
that should indicate the total uselessness of the Asus tablet. Below is my optical disc collection. |
Work and testing bench. Currently configured for an Arduino project I was using to learn my way around electronics. Desk fan, lava lamp, whiteboard supplies. |
This is how I store my cables and parts. Watch the home office tour video below for more detail.|
A screenshot of my desktop while working on this website. This is why I have so many monitors. Just look, I hardly have any space left over! It may be time to upgrade :)
Under the desks is another story. Cables seem to run rampant, despite being tightly bound and fairly well organized. Surge protectors and other power strips form an array along the walls, affixed with nails, staples, and twist ties. This
system maximizes footroom at the expense of cable accessibility. The cables are affixed to the desk frames with double-sided Velcro strips. To the right is the snack buffet table. |
I nail the power strips to the wall,and staple a twist tie to the wall behind the power strip. I then twist the twist tie therearound, and they stay up regardless of cable weight and tension. It seeems to work pretty well. I have 9 total
power strips in use; 8 on the walls, and one on the floor behind KCWS.|
I have 12 cold cathode tubes, in three bundles of four, affixed together with velcro strips. The bundles are then affixed to the desk frames with more velcro strips. The tubes are wired into their included power inverters, which then go into
a computer power supply, which is then subsequently plugged into a remote control receiver on a power strip. |
More of the same. This power strip is mostly connected to monitors. |
My two Satechi 12 Port USB Hubs are mounted to the rear corner of this desk using double-sided mounting tape. Above the computers are
the backup keyboard, joystick, and gamepad. I needed the power squid for the wonky USB hub power bricks.|
USB cords from the hubs to the device docking area, and cables from kc2 to its console area. |
KC1 (bottom) and KC2 (top) up close. Behold the myriad DisplayPort and DVI adapters coming out the back of KC1. |
Additional detail of the DVI and DisplayPort adapters. The Eyefinity card has six DisplayPort Mini adapters. From there it goes to four DisplayPort Mini to DisplayPort Mega and two DVI adapters. The four DisplayPort Mega (as I call them) adapters
then go to four DisplayPort Mega to DVI adapters. The cords all then go into the left six monitors. The remaining two on the right are directly wired into the motherboard's onboard HDMI and VGA ports, because the motherboard won't let me use
both digital outputs at the same time.|
Network stack. KCWS has dual gigabit; everything else is on single gigabit.
Home Office Media
Browse hundreds of my videos on my YouTube channel
Why not switch Operating Systems?
See also my rants on switching Operating Systems
the Ongoing Simplification of Operating System and Other Software
Why not run Linux?
I write Windows software, and the Linux distros I've tried don't like my homogeneous multi-adapter display setup with a lot of ATI tech. Also, it's nice to run programs I've actually heard of
See also my Adventures in Ubuntu
blog post in which I explain the problems that kept me away from the Dark Side.
I switched to Ubuntu for two days, actually; but only because it took two days to give up on getting it to work. Even with help from forums and what they laughingly refer to as the community. While it's nice to be able to edit your settings/configs
manually via text files and command lines, the user should never be forced to do so. Even if that user has many monitors on multiple video adapters which are a mix of ATI and nVidia. Personally, I blame the hardware vendors; but merely
blaming them does not make the problem go away. Ubuntu worked pretty well in a virtual machine; albiet completely useless. Why waste my time working in a VM when I have a physical machine right there? Linux has a long way to go
when it comes to User Experience.
Further, I write .NET software for a living, so putting Linux on my main system would be counterintuitive. I'd have to run Windows in a Virtual Machine or try coding with Mono; both of which would make it harder to do my job.
Why not use a Mac?
In order to switch to MacOS, I would be legally obligated to purchase an entire Apple computer. If I wanted the best user experience (running 10.7 or whatever's out now), I'd need pretty good hardware. That means shelling out some decent money.
Apple's return policy is two weeks, and buying it used basically means all sales are final. I doubt I could get the full picture of the Mac experience in that two week time. Therefore I would inevitably end up wasting money if I decided I didn't
like it. If I could just buy a copy of OSX and stick it on my beastly rig, knowing all my hardware and drivers would work, I'd try it in a heartbeat. If only I could legally install it on my completely compatible hardware.
Furthermore, Mac gives me two options: I can run my Windows software in BootCamp or Parallels. In BootCamp, I'd basically have a full-fledged, fully supported, fully operational Windows PC, and I could reboot and go into OSX any time I want.
The problem is that I'd end up switching back to Windows any time I want to get something done, so I'd end up spending most of my time on Windows anyway. May as well cut to the chase and run a Windows PC in its native environment.
Why not use Virtual Desktops?
Because they're clumsy to use, unintuitive to keep track of which desktop my programs are on, and they don't solve the problem of windows hiding where I can't see them. Also, just one more program I have to run, sucking up my resources.
What projects do you do?
Most of what I do is for work, which is all covered under NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreements), but I do some projects in my free time as well. Here are some of the ones I can talk about:
If all that wasn't enough to keep you entertained, here's a list of all my websites
and a compulsory Email Me
Home Office page created 03 Apr 2010; updated 05 Feb 2012.
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Copyright © 2013 Kevin Connolly