Because I work for CNET, you might think
that I write my column on the coolest work tools known to humankind, all perfectly arranged in my corporate office. Not so. When I want to work at peak effectiveness, I head home and hole up in my home office, where the technology suite is custom-made by me, for me--and paid for by me, too.
There are many reasons my home office is an easy place to work. Curious? Read on for my office exposé, where I share what's in my lair and offer a few tips on how to create your own top-notch office. And if you want to share what's in your home office, jump to the end.
My home office: custom PC, two monitors, and more. It beats the stuffing out of my corporate gear.
That black featureless tower on the floor is my PC, which I built a few months ago. The case is the gorgeous and absurdly expensive Lian-Li V1100b (link is to the silver model). The drives are hidden behind a solid aluminum door, which is both a blessing and a curse. The system looks great, and the door muffles noise a little bit, but I have to swing the door open to access the drives or even turn on the PC. And speaking of drives, here's a tip: If you're building a PC, get a floppy drive/memory card combo unit, such as the Mitsumi number I installed. It's a really compact way to add a memory-card reader to your system. I thought about skipping the floppy drive altogether, but there are still some people who transfer files on floppies, and you often need a floppy drive for BIOS updates.
It was important to me that this computer was quieter than the Gateway it replaced, which sounded like an idling 747. So I went with an AMD CPU, which runs cooler than its Intel competitor. In a PC, heat equals noise (from cooling fans). I also did some tinkering with the graphics card: I replaced the stock heat sink and fan on the card with an Arctic VGA cooler. Considering the high cost of the graphics card, I think it's criminal that I needed to spend more money to get the noise down to a tolerable level. But the expense was small, the installation was easy, and the graphics card is now nearly inaudible. When I'm writing or editing, the silence makes it easier to concentrate. And when it's time to quit work and play some games, this machine kicks butt.
On the floor to the right of the computer is a Maxtor OneTouch drive, which backs up my PC once a day (while I'm at work) using the included Dantz Retrospect software. If I'm home and there's a fire, I'm grabbing this drive as I bolt for the door--it has my entire life stored on it. I also use an online backup system in case the house burns down when I'm not in it, but it doesn't store photos or music.
Under the desk is a Belkin UPS (uninterruptible power supply). It can power my PC and the monitors for a few minutes--not long, but long enough to let me save the documents I'm working on if I lose power via the wall outlet. Here in San Francisco, I need the UPS maybe only two or three times a year, but I've never lost any data because of a power glitch.
On the desk, you'll see two monitors. I love to spread my onscreen work across two screens. The monitor on the left is a 20-inch ViewSonic VP201b, which displays a 1,600x1,200 screen in crystalline sharpness. The one on the right is an old, relatively cheap 15-inch KDS that I got a few years ago. The graphics card has two outputs (standard these days), and Windows XP handles the two monitors, with their different resolutions, just fine.
There's a Logitech camera perched on top of the KDS monitor. I use it only occasionally, mostly to videoconference with my wife when she's on a business trip.
Three Logitech Z-5300 speakers (left, right, and center) hide behind the ViewSonic monitor, and another two are on the back wall. I use this setup for games and occasional movies, and these babies really make the experience come alive.
The keyboard and mouse comprise Microsoft's Wireless Desktop Elite combo. The keyboard is considered a luxury model, but I consider any keyboard and mouse set that costs less than $100 a bargain. This is the part of the computer I touch, after all--I want it to feel good.
Speaking of feeling good, that's an Aeron chair in front of the desk. Once the status symbol of dot-com success, they look much cooler than they are comfortable, but I got mine at a bargain price, so I don't complain. Much.
The phone on the left is the cordless handset from the Siemens 8825 system. Avoid this phone. It has great features and supports two lines and up to eight handsets, but Wi-Fi radios and microwaves interfere with its 2.4GHz signal, leading to awful clicks and pops on the line. I have a Plantronics headset attached to the phone so that I can talk and still have both hands free to work on the computer.
The printer, on the left, is an old LaserJet 1100A with a scanner attachment. It's black-and-white only, but it's fast and reliable, and the printouts look great. This is only my second printer ever, but I've found HP printers to be so reliable that they generally last me through three computers each. I don't have much need for a color printer, although my wife does, so this will probably get swapped out for a multifunction inkjet someday soon (we're considering the HP OfficeJet 7410).
Not shown is the networking equipment or the office's best features: the window that opens to a relaxing garden and a stocked refrigerator just down the hall.
So that's my home office rig. Like most home offices, it's a hodgepodge of new technology and some older stuff.
Would you like to share the lessons you learned building your home office setup? We're putting together a home office edition of our Show Us Yours feature, and you can participate. Send your setup to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are the guidelines:
SHOW US YOURS--HOME OFFICE EDITION
Please provide the following information about yourself:
→ Where you live and work
Please attach up to nine digital photographs of your home office setup, along with one photo of yourself.
→ At least three photos should be wide shots of the full room, and four shots should be close-ups of the four most important products in your system (for example, computer, laptop, monitor, keyboard, PDA).
→ Photos must be submitted in the following format: JPEG or BMP; color; 800(W)x600(H) or larger (horizontal format); 72dpi resolution. Total file size (per e-mail) cannot exceed 5MB, but feel free to send multiple messages.
Provide a caption for each photo you're submitting, keeping the following questions in mind:
→ What's special about your setup?
→ What do you like most about it?
→ How did you choose the products found in this setup?
Please provide the following information about each product in your setup:
→ Company name
→ Model name
→ A brief description of why you chose it (saves you money/saves you time/makes you more efficient/you just like it/and so on)
→ Any tips you have for getting the most out of it
Are you willing to have your profile surfaced online?
E-mail your info to email@example.com
Please note that responses may be edited.
Discuss home office tips in TalkBack! (And if you have any tips on how I could make my home office better, I'd love to hear them.)