Over the past few years, I’ve been doing a lot of consulting out of my home office, and the trend will continue for at least the next year. Recently I decided, “Hey, if I’m going to be spending a lot of time in here, I might as well spruce up the place a bit.” Over the past few weeks, I’ve upgraded. Let me tell you what I’ve got, why I like it, and in some cases, why I still haven’t found nirvana yet. Please — comment on this entry and tell me about your setup. Well, unless you’re James “Dual G5! 30″ Apple LCD!” Strachan. 😉

The Chair

I spend 10-20 hours a day at a computer. Bad habits have given me the beginning symptoms of repetitive stress injuries (RSI) in my arms, hands, and back. Comfort is real important to me. Enter the Perfect Chair:

The Perfect Chair

The minute I reclined about 45 degrees, it was heaven. I work most of my day reclined that way, and, when whimsy strikes, I recline back all the way for some… brainstorming. There were some other great up-right chairs out there, but I figured, hey, if I’m at home, I may as well flaunt the freedom it affords me. Try getting your boss to approve one of these for the cube, my friend!

The Computer(s)

With the perfect chair, I’ve got the most important element out of the way. Next question: what computer? Since I’m lucky enough to be developing in cross-platform languages, I can choose pretty much whatever. So I went with an Apple PowerBook. Which model? The 15″, of course. 12″ is too cramped, and the 17″ is way too large.

The PowerBook

Ahh, nice. I love working on the Mac; the aesthetics of OS X and power of Unix are just great. Everything tends to work well together. Wonderful platform. And, wicked slow. So, when I need to actually get work done for people, I use a mutt PC that I built years ago and upgrade as it breaks (last incident was an AMD chip whose heat-sink fell off, frying itself in a few seconds). I always choose middle of the road components, and it always seems to run circles around whatever Mac laptop I’m using. Right now it’s got a 2.8 GHz Pentium something-or-other, Intel motherboard, 1.5 GB RAM, nVidia 6600 AGP 8x 256 MB card (cheap but sufficient), and not much else.

The Keyboard

There are millions of folks who type on keyboards all day every day. Yet, I can’t find just the right keyboard. The closest thing to perfection I’ve found is the old Microsoft Natural Pro keyboard. It’s been discontinued for years, so I buy them on eBay when I need ’em. And I have a little stockpile.

The Keyboard

I love that keyboard. Why? It has the only True Keyboard Layout I’ve found in an ergonomic style (2×3 special key block between the main keys and numeric keypad, 1-on-3 arrow key layout, slashes in the right places, and so forth); it isn’t wireless, so no batteries or radio interference to worry about (I’m always by my desk anyway); it’s got programmable macro keys galore; it’s got a built-in USB bus; and its got pretty good OS X drivers.

Apparently, I’m not the only admirer of this sucker; they don’t go cheap in on-line auctions.

The Monitor

In a stupider move, I bought a 20″ Apple LCD. I got it at a discount when I joined the ADC, but even still, it was overpriced. Dell makes a 24″ LCD that suspiciously matches the specs of the Apple 23″ LCD and sells it for $400 less than Apple’s 23″. Should have done that. Nevertheless, it’s a great LCD, and nice-looking too.

The Monitor

Once you take the recliner plunge, you’ve got to make accomodations for your monitor. You see, the Perfect Chair can put your feet way above the bottom of any desk I’ve seen, so you can’t just put the chair under your desk. I put my chair parallel to my desk, and I’ve got an Ergotron LX monitor arm that positions the monitor over me just where I like it as I recline.

The Arm

The downside of the arm is that it only tilts down 5 degrees. I need to find something that tilts down 45 degrees or more so I can position it directly above me; that should be fun.


Two computers, one monitor — enter the KVM (Keyboard-Video-Mouse) Switch. I’ve had some real bad experiences with these devices in the past, but all that’s changed with my recent find: the Gefen SL Switcher.

The KVM Front

The KVM Back

It’s a DVI/USB2 KVM siwtch that comes with a remote control! This sucker works like a champ with no signal quality problems. Can’t recommend it enough.

The Software

Ugh, this is a whole separate blog entry. But let me tell you about my favorite two pieces of software. QuickSilver is *the* way to get around on a Mac. Check it out. I haven’t used the Dock for ages. (Hint, QS does a lot more than app switching.)


And for code grinding, IntelliJ IDEA still can’t be beat. Worth every penny.


What’s Missing

I need to get an air mouse to get the Minority Report effect going, and frankly, there’s not a good place for a conventional mouse in the reclining chair. I have a generic sound system (cheap Logitech surround sound system; cheap Logitech headphone/mic combo); I ought to upgrade to some THX-certified goodness and get a nice surround sound USB device for the PowerBook.

What else am I missing?

17 thoughts on “Building My Ultimate Home Office

  1. Champ – you should try out the kinesis keyboard:


    I have one of the contoured ones, but given your chair positioning, you may want to look at the evolution keyboard.

    There are a number of people that I know with the kinesis keyboard, and everyone that I know loves them. I occasionally used to have RSI problems in my hands, but these have almost entirely gone now.

    They take a bit of time to get used to, but are well worth the investment.

  2. Scott: Hey, nice. I wonder if I could just sit the entire Countour model on my lap while on the recliner. One thing I am noticing is that having my arms 45 degrees inclined from ground is working out some new muscles. Hmm… hope this doesn’t cause problems.

  3. damn, I had that idea for a two-piece keyboard back in 1995! Just never got around to doing anything about it. Looks like I need to get started on that lightup keyboard…*SON OF A…*
    Anyway, that’s one HELL of a setup. Sure beats my folding lawn chair, two monitor, two keyboard two mouse — for three computers setup I got goin on… 😉
    but 1500 bucks for a friggin chair?!?

  4. Yea, but I don’t make enough coding all day to buy $1500 chair! (Of course I never said I was any “good” at programming. Being completely self taught, (spent most of my career in the networking world), I think i’ve missed alot of the core concepts that would make me an elite programmer…for now, I just have to brace myself for the mediocre…
    The $1500 chair will have to wait

  5. I have used my microfiber reclining-love-seat as my comfy workplace at home for over 2 years. However, now, it needs some fiber-filling to get it back to its comfy level :). Ofcourse, this is not as nice as your setup.

    Our bodies are not built for long hours of inactivity, but, inactivity is a side-effect of our otherwise great profession. I have spent long hours over the last 4 years and am begining to feel it. Fortunately, over the last several months, I have discoverd and practised a specific sequence “Yoga” that has worked wonders for me. Not only has it alleviated my occasional lower back pain, but it has reduced stress, and helps in refurbishing 🙂 the body completely inside-out. The benefits are just too many to enumerate here. The best part is it only takes me 20-25 mins a day.

    Ben: If possible, could you post a picture of your setup to see how you everythings setup wrt each other.

  6. I’m told that LaunchBar is oh-so-much better than Quiksilver, FWIW. I’ve been too lazy to investigate, as Quiksilver met my needs nearly perfectly, but, you know, FYI.

  7. I also work from home – has it’s ups and downs. I went through 3 chairs, and a bit of money. I have back problems. I have my laptop raised about 6 inches up, and use it’s screen as my monitor (not enough $$ for a nice one!). I also use the old microsoft keyboards – didn’t know they weren’t made anymore – I may fight you on ebay! I finally found the high end Aeron chair. I really love it. I’m kind of thin, and the others were really hard on my butt! This one isn’t, and it keeps me at a great angle for neck, arms, etc. I keep it low so my arms are right at the level of the desk, with no strain.

    Just my little setup.

    Fwiw, my accountant told me not to claim it on taxes, it’s all of 45 sq feet! Not worth bothering over. 🙂

  8. Valeri: I thought about the Aeron. It was a tough choice to do the recliner vs. more conventional office chair. I finally decided — if I’m at home, I’m going all out on a work style that could *only* be done at home. 😉

    Still, I miss having a desk, and I’ve found the reclined position has its own drawbacks. Oh well. It’s not perfect, but I have back problems too — and those have completely disappeared.

  9. I’m working on a home-made version of the stance angle chair. I do a lot of website work from home and have gone through numerous chairs. My lower back and hips bother me from all the sitting. Right now I’m standing with my latest invention. I’m too afraid to spend $1500 on a chair only to find out it won’t work for me. The problem I see for me with the chair you have shown is I would fall asleep (it looks too comfortable :-))

    I have found for my needs it’s not so much the perfect chair as it is variety in sitting positions. I’m experimenting with a standing / semi-standing and will let you know how it goes.

  10. Try the mircosoft explorer trackball (wired), duck tape it to the right side on your armrest on the perfect chair, and you’ve got a great ergonomic pointer.

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