Skip to main content

2021 Desk Setup

A closer look at my remote work configuration

I’m not a gamer or designer, but I love browsing the battlestations and macsetups subreddits. I’m always fascinated by the variety, the range of personalities, and the creativity that goes into these setups. I’m a Mac guy (not a fanboy, but I do love the ecosystem), but I’ve never talked about my workspace at home. Like many working from home during the pandemic, my setup has evolved over the last 18 months. Shifting from working from home periodically to full time felt like a good time to make updates and invest in the space where I spend most of my time during the week.

Guiding Principles #

I've realized over the years that I try to make technology purchases while looking through the same criteria. This works as a check to make sure I’m investing in things that I will actually use and avoid a pile of electronics that are collecting dust on a shelf. Yes, there’s the occasional splurge, but I try to keep things simple.

Here's the lens I'll look through before making tech purchases:

  1. Affordable - I’ve never purchased a new computer. I’m not against it, but the work that I do rarely requires lots of compute power and there’s always someone getting rid of a gently used system and upgrading to the latest and greatest. So far I’ve purchased from a local university upgrading their computer lab, a freshman art school drop-out, refurbished from Apple directly, and a refurbished Apple reseller. I'm typically looking for perfectly working hardware in excellent condition, but at a deep discount.
  2. Useful - This one is simple. I ask myself if this is cool or something I’ll actually use. There have been a number of almost purchases that end up in the cool column (I’m looking at you, Kickstarter). The exception to this rule is I will invest in things that will help me learn. If there's an opportunity to learn something new or form an opinion on something relevant to my field, I'll move forward.
  3. Easy - I try to optimize for ease of use. If there's friction to using a product or I need to jump through a bunch of hoops to get something working, it's not for me. As a technologist, I do love to tinker, but I also need to surround myself with the tools that will allow me to work efficiently and let me focus on the work instead of troubleshooting the tech.
  4. Practical - Assuming all the other boxes are checked, this last step is simply asking myself if this purchase makes sense. For example, at the time of this writing, Apple is rumored to be announcing new Apple Silicone hardware soon. Unless I absolutely need to upgrade now, it'd make sense to wait before making a computer purchase.

The Setup #

Picture of two computers on a standing desk from the front

Picture of two computers on a standing desk with the desk raised

  • Computer: My home computer is the 27-inch i7 iMac 5k with 64GB of memory and 1TB of storage. I purchased it refurbished for almost 50% off original retail from Other World Computing. For work, I use a 16-inch MacBook pro i7 with 16GB of memory and 500GB of storage.
  • Desk: Autonomous SmartDesk 2 Premium. I work sitting and take all meetings standing. Stand for meetings helps me focus and ensures I’m not sitting all day. I bought this desk direct from Autonomous during a Black Friday sale at 34% off.
  • Monitor Stands: I have three Amazon basic monitor stands and an extra Griffin Elevator Stand for my laptop. Simple and helps me keep good posture when I’m sitting.
  • Audio Interface: Focusrite Clarett 2 Pre USB. Small, rugged USB interface. And yes, AIR mode sounds amazing (IYKYK).
  • Backup: 2x Western Digital 1TB drives. One is for Time Machine and the other is a backup of photos and old home movies. I also back up to iCloud and most of my files don't live on the computer (Google, Bitbucket, Github, etc).
  • Mouse: Magic Trackpad and the Kensington Expert Mouse Trackball. I've owned the trackball for over 10 years, but lately have been only using the trackpad.
  • Lighting: Neewer RL-12 LED Ring Light For Zoom, Teams, and Slack calls. I was using the 20-inch Neewer light, but it stopped working after a couple months. Buyer beware! I also have a cheap Ikea USB light I'll use on occasion.
  • Chair: Global Accord Leather High Back chair. I bought this second-hand for $50.
  • Webcam: I was using an old iPhone 6s with EpoCam, but lately have switched back to the built-in Mac camera due to reliability issues. K.I.S.S.
  • Headphones: Skullcandy Hesh headphones that were a gift a few years back. They're just ok, but they were free and the cable is replaceable. I'll upgrade at some point. For video calls, I'm using the stock Apple headphones. I also have the the Mackie HM-4 headphone amp to split one audio source to four headphone outs.
  • Microphones: Rode NT1KIT Cardioid Condenser for recording and voiceover work. Again, I'm using the stock Apple headphones with the built-in mic for video calls. I've got a handful of these, they sound good enough, and there's no chance my battery will die mid-call because they're wired. However, I'm closely watching solutions like Logi Dock.
  • Display: LG 32MA70HY-P 32-Inch. It's big, but not great. I'll upgrade it at some point. I also run it through a 5-in-1 HDMI switcher to toggle between my work laptop and home computer.
  • WiFi: We use the Orbi mesh Wifi system. It works great though the house and outside, and we've had no reliability issues. However, my work laptop and iMac stay hardwired.
  • Power: I run everything through a couple of APC Surge Protectors. I regularly use the USB ports for charging my phone, trackpad, or keyboard.
  • Misc: I have the Gimars keyboard and mouse wrist rests and the KTRIO Large Gaming Mouse pad to protect the desk.