My Gear

So recently the Syntax.fm podcast did an episode on their office setups where they talked about their gear. Part of that was Scott & Wes sharing the fact that they have pages on their sites where they list the gear they use for work (Scott's, Wes's).

I thought it'd be funny to throw together something similar for myself, since I'm very much a thrifty "use bare bones super cheap old junk" guy. 😄

July 2019 Update - This article was originally written in Aug 2018, I've gotten some new toys since then, so I've updated as appropriate. Still all very much tongue-in-cheek.

My Office Setup

When I work at home (either on CDC or working from home for my day job), I have a room set up in my house that I work out of.

Desk

My Desk

I currently use the "broken-ass giant desk that was a hand-me-down from someone in my building when I was a teenager" desk. It weighs a metric ton, is ugly, the keyboard tray broke years ago, but works. 😄

My monitor stand is the Rubbermaid 12"x72" White Essentials Shelf augmented with classic fiction novels (some Douglas Adams, George Orwell, J.R.R Tolkien) holding it up.

Kidding aside, I actually prefer having the shelf over monitor arms as it allows me to have a spot for my Xboxen below the shelf, and some room for various items on top of the shelf.

Screens

For monitors I have the following:

The W2243T was a leftover from an organization trying to get rid of old hardware. It's effectively my "primary" monitor, and is used for both work and for gaming. The other two are more for secondary screen real estate.

The silly bit is that the LG W2442 is definitely a superior monitor, only reason it's not my primary is I've been too lazy to rewire the Xbox from the W2243T. 😕

Typically on the left screen (the Samsung) I have Slack open, on the right screen (the W2442PA) I have a browser or my password manager open, and I use the middle LG for writing code on. This very much varies depending on what I'm doing though.

It's worth noting that I use Spectacle for hotkeys that allow me to very quickly move apps around between monitors (this is why I actually prefer a larger number of poor quality monitors over one large high quality monitor).

Additionally, all Macbooks I use are older models that can't natively drive more than two external displays. As such, one of the screens is connected by the Diamond DMMBVU3500H USB 3.0/2.0 to HDMI/DVI Adapter This actually does work better than you'd think, I've watched Youtube videos on monitors connected to it.

Speaking of USB, I have a handful of things that plug in by USB, so have the ICZI Portable USB 3.0 to 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub for connecting stuff (including that display adapter)

Microphone/Audio

Occasionally I record videos to put on Youtube, and while at first I just used the built-in mic on the Macbook, it became very clear very quickly that I'd want to upgrade a little. As such I use the Blue Yeti Blackout which is a surprisingly good mic for a pretty cheap price (I got mine for ~$90CAD & that included a copy of Assassin's Creed Origins).

To support that mic I got a cheap foam windscreen, and a Neewer Scissor Arm. It's worth noting that while the product page for the Neewer says it doesn't work with the Yeti it in fact does.

All in, I think the total for those items was ~$130 CAD, and that's about the most extravagant part of my setup to date. If I really get into recording, this will likely be the place where I won't really be able to scrimp & will have to invest some real money.

Storage

I also have a WD Elements 1TB drive for my time machine backup. It's not great as I do have to remember to plug the drive into the computer to back it up (which I definitely don't do as often as I should). There's another old (like probably 7+ years old) external WD drive on my desk that has some old files on it I occasionally need. Pretty much everything on that drive is also sitting in Amazon S3 or Glacier for "in case of natural disaster" emergencies.

There's also an old 750GB Toshiba portable drive that I use as external storage for my Xbox One.

Chair

Currently I'm using a Serta Smart Layers AIR Arlington Executive Chair It's decent, I have a herniated disc in my lower back, so I probably should invest in a better chair, but this one's a decent compromise between quality and price (it was under $200 and has some decent lumbar support).

Smart Stuff

I also have a Loonfree Wifi Smart Power Strip. The 3 monitors are plugged into this, which is convenient as it allows me to turn all 3 on/off with a press of a button in an app. It's also nice too as I have a schedule set up to cut the power on them at 11PM every night (so no phantom power drain overnight).

Side note: don't buy the Loonfree, instead get the Meross Power Strip. The Meross Android app is way better than the weird third party app for controlling the Loonfree. I recently picked up the Meross strip and will likely at some point swap out the Loonfree for the Meross (I'm just too lazy to dig behind my desk to get it out 😛 ).

The desk lamp on my desk has a Phillips Hue A19 bulb in it, which is nice as I can control it from my Macbook, the Hue app on my phone, or the Echo Dot that's in my living room ("Why would you want to turn the light in your office on from your living room?" is a question that my wife asked as well 😜 ).

As mentioned I have an Echo Dot for the sweet, sweet Alexa assistance in our house's kitchen/family area. I don't yet have one in my office, but instead have a Google Home Mini that I got for free with a Spotify promo that sits on my desk. So far I very much like the Google Assistant better than Alexa, though both are handy.

Gaming

Aside from the monitor, there's an old Xbox 360 and an Xbox One S that sit on my desk.

Technically I have 3 Xbox 360's (two slim's & 1 original) in my house and two Xbox One's (the S and and original).

Tangentially related: When gaming I often just use headphones plugged into the Xbox controller. Which headphones? Well, there's two pairs:

The Sennheiser's are the ones I use when I care about sound quality, the JVC's are more just for convenience (I often leave the Sennhiser's in other rooms in my house so the JVC's are when I'm feeling too lazy to get up out of my office and look for the Sennheisers). The 598's are great headphones (not sure they're worth the price they're currently going for, I got mine for half-price during a Black Friday sale).

I do also have a cheap pair of Dell Speakers (A425, 2.1) which I bought for $10 off a dude on either https://varagesale.com or https://usedvictoria.com. Honestly they're surprisingly good. Nothing that will knock your socks off, but for $10 I definitely cannot complain.

Networking

My router/WAP is the Asus AC1900. It's ok, previously I used a Cisco Linksys E3000. The Asus was definitely a step up, but I still find a lot of spots in my house where coverage is sub-par. It's good enough for the most part, but I definitely wouldn't particularly recommend it.

Misc

I have an old Nexus 4 (my old primary phone) that sits on my desk plugged in. I use this for when I forget my real phone in a different room & want to switch on my monitors.

Misc Gear

Phone

I recently (writing this in Aug 2018) retired my old Nexus 4 after using it for ~5-6 years. It ended up getting replaced by a Moto G5 Plus which I've been really happy with so far (TBF: my phone needs are very modest).

Tablet

I have a couple tablets: a first generation Nexus 7 which is capable of little more than being an e-book reader, and a 2nd generation iPad. The iPad is largely used as a portable Netflix player when I travel (which isn't very often).

Fitness Tracker

I run quite a bit, and started off on my fitness journey wearing a Xiaomi Mi Band, which I wore for a couple of months. The Mi Band is super good value, but it is extremely bare-bones. It's a step counter and pretty much nothing else.

In August of 2017 I upgraded to a Fitbit Charge 2 which I used extensively for almost 2 years. The gamification aspects of the Fitbit platform really pulled me in. Eventually though, the horrible battery life, extremely weak feature set, and lack of GPS wasn't meeting my needs, so in July 2019 I upgraded again.

This time I went with the Garmin Forerunner 645. Super awesome device, I seriously recommend one if you're a serious runner. If all you want is something to count steps it's overkill, but if you're fitness orientated you'll find that the Forerunner is pretty stellar. I managed to get one for 25% off because of a promo through my work's health plan, which made getting one a no-brainer.

Software

Editor

I'm a big-time Visual Studio Code user. I started with VS Code around October of 2017 and it's now replaced pretty much everything else I've ever used (prior to VS Code I used PyCharm for Python dev, and prior to PyCharm I used Eclipse with the PyDev extension, and prior to that I used Vim).

I've heavily tweaked VS Code, have a ton of extensions & keyboard shortcuts & tweaks set up.

I still have Sublime Text installed on any machine I use, and use it for jotting "quick notes". It's a little lighter weight than VS Code, and unlike VS Code doesn't feel like it wants to be used to edit projects rather than just individual files.

Terminal

I use iTerm2 as my terminal, and have been (happily) using it for years. Bash is my shell (side note: I have tried Fish & Zsh but found I've invested so much in Bash that I'm not really interested in switching).

Recording

For the videos I have on Youtube, I recorded them all using just Quicktime & iMovie (ie the free stuff that comes with OSX). Sometimes I've had to edit some audio, and for that Audacity is tough to beat.

I definitely feel like iMovie is cumbersome, so may very well invest in something better for editing later.

Dev'in on the Cheap

Ok, so this was a bit playful, but honestly, I take a bit of pride in not spending a fortune on the gear I use. Often people in tech can be caught up with the latest & greatest (and most expensive), but you can do a lot with not a ton of money.

In any case, there you have it, some of the gear I use. Did I miss anything? Lemme know