James Ridgway - Software Engineer

My Home Office Setup

Productivity comes down to what you use and how you use it. In this post I want to share with you the fundamentals of my home office setup which has been responsible for a lot of productivity over the years.

The Principles

Over the past eight years I've moved through University and into the working world and whilst the tech I use has changed these core principles remain the same:

  1. A comfortable desk and chair that you can adjust
  2. A descent amount of space, your desk shouldn't be cramped
  3. A clutter and cable free desk
  4. A good amount of screen real estate
  5. Space for a laptop (assuming you need to work on the move)

My Setup

Desk

My current desk isn't anything overly special. But it does boast a lot of space.

If you're like we you'll spend hours at a time sat at your desk, so make sure both the desk and chair are adjustable. It's quite easy these days to get a desk that will allow you to adjust the height of it.

Make sure you get a desk with an open back, this will help with cable management and with fitting VESA mounts for monitors. I've mounted two gang extension leads underneath the back of the desk so that I can keep wires tided away and off the floor.

Monitors

I use three Dell U2715H 27" QHD HDMI monitors.

I also happen to use window snapping a lot, so having a high resolution of 2560x1440 really helps with this as you can snap a window to the left or right side of the screen and still keep it usable at a width of 1280 pixels.

On my previous 1920x1080 22" monitors side-by-side code diffs required horizontal scrollng. On 27" at QHD I can diff code side-by-side without scrolling.

All three of these monitors are mounted using on two VESA Mount Stands. One dual arm and one single arm stand. VESA mounts allows me to minimise the clutter on my desk. I also find a VESA mount can help keep cables tidied out of the way as you can run cables along the arms and down the central stem.

I'd tell you which VESA mounts I use but these are the oldest part of my setup and I don't think these specific ones are made anymore.

Having plenty of good quality screen real estate is an absolute must for being able to increase your productivity.

Desktop

My desktop is a custom build. As it currently stands I think the extended ATX case and motherboard is a bit overkill. For my next desktop I'll go for a smaller form factor.

  • Coolermaster HAF X case
  • Asus P8H67 motherboard
  • MSI NVIDIA GTX 960 2GB PCI-E Graphics Card
  • Intel Core i5 2500 3.3GHz Socket 1155 6MB Cache
  • 32GB RAM
  • SanDisk Ultra II SSD 960 GB SATA III 2.5 inch
  • WD 6TB Desktop Hard Drive - Blue

My desktop dual boots between Ubuntu and Windows. Ubuntu is used for day-to-day work. I dust off the Windows install from time to time. Typically if I need to use photoshop.

Peripherals:

  • Logitech MX800 Keyboard and Mouse
  • Anker USB 3.0 9-Port Hub + 5V 2.1A Smart Charging Port

The Anker USB hub is mounted on top of my desk for easy access. The dedicated charging port is often used when I use my tablet to watch videos while working.

Server

Hidden out of sight behind the desktop is a microserver, specifically:

  • HP ProLiant G7 MicroServer Turion II Neo (N54L) 2.2GHz
  • 16GB RAM
  • Samsung 256GB SSD
  • WD Red 4TB for NAS 3.5-inch

The microserver is typically responsible for serving up photos, file storage, DNS, DHCP, OpenVPN and a few other tools that I host on it.

Laptop - ThinkPad T450s (2015 Model)

I purchased my ThinkPad in late 2015. I wanted something thin, lightweight, powerful and durable. If I'm travelling, this is what I'll be working with:

  • Intel Core i5-5200U Processor (3MB Cache, up to 2.70GHz)
  • 14"HD+ (1600 x 900) LED Backlit Display (w/WWAN)
  • 12GB DDR3L - SDRAM 1600MHz Base
  • 512 GB Solid State Drive, Serial ATA3 OPAL2.0 - Capable
  • ThinkPad Battery 3 cell Li-Polymer (23.2Whr) Front
  • ThinkPad Battery 3 cell Li-Polymer (23.2Whr) Rear
  • Intel 7265 AC/B/G/N Dual Band Wireless + Bluetooth Version 4.0

ThinkPads aren't the most aesthetically pleasing machines. But for someone like me they have two major productivity pluses:

  • They're designed to be taken apart. Upgrading the RAM and hard disk is really easy.
  • It has a built in 3-cell battery and a slot for a second (rear) battery.

The T450s is a 14-inch laptop. When I picked this I knew my desktop would be my main machine while I'm at home - which is true, I find the multi-monitor setup and use of a full sized keyboard indispensable most of the time. For me, the 14-inch lightweight form factor provides a good trade-off in being compact, mobile and usable without being hunched over a laptop that's too small and cramped.

Shortly after purchasing the machine I also bought an extended 68+ (6 cell) battery - giving me even more power on the move.

The End Result

This setup is the result of several years of tuning and evolution. I continue to replace old equipment and add to the setup as needs dictate. Each decision is carefully considered so that I don't comprise the quality of the setup.

My home office is the one place where I can be completely productive.

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