Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Christmas Present to Myself: My New Office  

I've moved my home office from one room of the basement to another.

I know, how boring, but this has given me a much-appreciated chance to completely rip out everything and get rid of the mess and abandoned stuff that I don't really use any more. (Heck, back when I moved into my former office, I was still working for Apple.)

As part of the move, I'm making an effort to make everything as wireless and high-speed as I can.

Upgrades include:

  • Tons of electrical outlets. Spent several days with an electrician to get this all done. 3 drops, each three feet apart, and each drop has 4 outlets above the desk and 4 outlets below the desk. Plus we put a bonus 4-outlet drop on the side. Grand total: 28. Yes, twenty-eight! I'm incredibly happy with the result... you have no idea how much I hate power strips. :-)
  • Clean wired network. I still had some older Cat-5 cables which kept me from getting maximum throughput. Now all hubs are 1Gb Ethernet and cables are Cat-6 or Cat-5e. This should scale up to 10Gb Ethernet when the time comes.
  • Wireless speakers. Specifically, Harman-Kardon SoundSticks II attached to an AirPort Express, driven with iTunes and Airfoil. Yes, I poked fun at AirTunes when it first came out, but it's become surprisingly useful. I do virtually all of my work on a laptop these days, and when I'm in my office I want good sound without having a cable plugged in.
  • AirPort Base Station with simultaneous dual-band. I'm getting a little tired of upgrading base stations, honestly. But since I have a ton of devices on my wireless network, and use it to access other machines on my local net, having 802.11n actually run at 802.11n speed is worth it.
  • WiEx zBoost YX510-PCS-CEL cellular booster. Properly installed with an antenna on the roof, this has given me 5 bars — in the basement, with AT&T. Infinity percent better than what I could get before! Love it!
  • Hawking HBB1 broadband booster. OK, this provides almost no feedback so I'm not actually sure how I'm supposed to measure its effectiveness. But it's cheap, dead simple to set up, and the network feels more responsive with it enabled. With so many wireless devices and no QoS in Apple's AirPort, I figured that having some traffic shaping was better than none.
  • Wall-mounted shelf to hold all the networking gear (DSL modem, base station, cell booster, broadband booster). I prefer to keep things off the desk since (ideally) there should be no need to touch this stuff once it's running. Individual wall mounts are out since the walls are concrete. A simple black shelf from Home Depot did the trick nicely — now everything is elevated and out of the way.

I'm also asking Santa for these extras:

  • Atomic wall clock, because I enjoy having an analog clock around. And once you've had a clock that automatically sets itself from the WWVB atomic time broadcast, you can't go back.
  • Indoor/outdoor thermometer. My new desk is right next to a window, so this is easy. I want one with a wired probe, not wireless, because I prefer it to be reliable and low-maintenance.

(FYI, some of the above are affiliate links. I only ever do that for products that I use myself and that I'm very happy with.)

Removed, and recycled or craigslisted:

  • Several 40' runs of cable that are no longer needed, since my desk is now much closer to where the services come into the house.
  • Three power strips and two extension cords. Yay!
  • Quite a few mystery DC power adapters. Often something like a FireWire hub or USB DVD burner that I used to use and now don't, or a charger for something. I'm not a big gadget freak, but after five years in one place these definitely accumulate. (Seriously, wireless power can't get here fast enough.)
  • Last year's AirPort 802.11n base station. Sigh.
  • An old 32-bit Gateway PC that doesn't meet my needs any more.
  • PowerMac G5 that I no longer use.
  • 2 Cinema Displays with ADC connections. These were really a great investment and they lasted an incredibly long time. But sorry ADC, you're dead, and converting you to DVI is an expensive pain in the ass.
  • Apple DVI to ADC adapter with broken plastic. Huge by modern standards - about the size of a Mac mini.
  • Ancient software and unread books that had piled up on my bookshelf. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that copy of DiskWarrior from 2002 isn't going to do me any good any more.
  • My home server. I used to maintain a web and file server at home. (It was a PowerMac G4, nearly ten years old now.) I didn't derive a huge benefit from it, but most of the time the cost was minimal too — just a constant-but-small amount of maintenance. But over time, I found that periodically it created an enormous amount of trouble and expense when a hard drive failed or I needed to upgrade something. I've realized that there's just no value in my messing around with that stuff any more, so I've switched to offsite hosting and online backup.

I've also ordered some new iMacs for work - to use both as a local distributed build cluster, and for local testing. I'm going to put Windows 7 x64 on one, and the other will have OSX 10.6 running a couple of Linux VMs.

One of the nice side benefits is that moving has really given me a chance to clean up the cabling. Every single cable I've installed so far is neat and tidy, either cut to length or neatly bundled with a cable tie — so everything is tangle-free. I'm sure this will only last right up until I need to reconfigure everything in a hurry for some new task, but it's pretty sweet for now. :-)

Done anything nice for your office lately?


  • Unknown said...

    Absolutely love Airfoil and Airfoil Speakers; nothing is better than streaming music out to other parts of the house and it being in-sync.

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