What hardware runs my business?

A while ago I wrote about all my software tools but I didn’t really cover hardware at all. Well, enough people asked, so that’s the topic of today’s post.

Here is a list of my crucial hardware tools that help me do my job.

13” MacBook Air

This is easily the best computer I’ve ever had for 90% of my use. As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane and have 9 hours of battery left. I could write until I went cross-eyed and still have battery power remaining.

Oh, did I mention I’m also running a virtual server at the same time? Yup, and still over 9 hours of battery — and I’ve already written 2,000 words.

Even better is if I shut off the VM the time on the battery jumps to 11 hours. This computer is small and easy to lug around, but fast enough to handle my regular work.

The only time I find myself wishing for more speed is when I’m rendering videos out of Screenflow for clients. I’d love it to be faster, but it’s not, so I generally just set it up to render in the evenings when I’m reading so the speed isn’t an issue.

Kinesis Freestyle

I did a big review on this a few years back and it still stands. I have the V2 of the keyboard which is really just thinner and has USB 2.0 ports.

I wish they were 3.0 ports, although if they were, I’d have to find another 3.0 port on my hub to use them and right now they’re just plugged into my Dell 24” monitor.

This is the best keyboard I’ve ever owned, hands down. Everything else I’ve tried has continually come up short and had me ending up with sore wrists.

Dell Ultrasharp

I’ve had a 24” Dell UltraSharp for 3 years now and it’s a great monitor. It’s big but not crazy expensive like the comparable Apple monitor was at the time. It’s got crisp text and a number of USB 2.0 ports built in.

For the price I don’t think that there are currently better monitors than the Dell UltraSharp series.

I also have a random 22” LG monitor. I got this as an upgrade from some CRT beast so when I got it the upgrade was huge. Now it’s just a monitor that works. I’ve had it for 6 years with no issues. When I look at replacing it I’ll be thinking about another bigger UltraSharp or maybe even dive into an Apple 27” monitor.

Both of these monitors are mounted to an Ergotron DS100 stand which I purchased at the same time as the Dell monitor. While I’m using the 2 horizontal monitor configuration you can get it in many other configurations for even more screen real estate.

Wait, you say. I just told you that I have a 13” Air and 2 external non-Thunderbolt monitors. What is this magic I use?

I use a Pluggable USB 3.0 to HDMI/DVI video card to get that 3rd monitor. I use it with my 22” LG monitor and it’s plenty fast.

My only complaints are that the driver supplied breaks copy protection rules so I can’t play iTunes videos on my external monitors at the office, and that when I restart my computer the arrangement of the monitors isn’t correct so I have to open my settings to change it back.

Those are both minor annoyances compared to the space I gain with 3 screens.

Bose Speakers

My office speakers are a set of Bose Companion 2’s that I’ve had for years. They aren’t the loudest speakers on the market but I’m in an office and heavy bass or a lot of volume would bother my office mates anyway.

When I worked at home full-time it would simply wake up the kids napping. So, I don’t need loud speakers.

What I love about these is that they are some of the crispest sounding speakers you can get for the price. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that the audio elite out there don’t love everything they do, but I’m very happy with them.

One note is that Bose has an updated version called the Bose Companion 2 Series III so if you’re in the market for a set of speakers, take a look at the update instead of the older style I have. The reviews say the new ones have better bass than the set I own.

Headphones

My current daily driver headphones at the office are SteelSeries Siberia Elites. I have a pair of SteelSeries H but they’ve had serious connection issues and I’m working to return them. The Steelseries H is actually far lighter and more comfortable than the Elites.

In fact the current Elites don’t actually work fully with Yosemite. Sure, you can hear stuff but the mic doesn’t work, which leaves me with my podcasting mic instead of the really long cable I love which allows me to walk around while talking.

So really I have the Elites and they are comfortable but not as light as the Steelseries H, which don’t totally work. I’m not very happy with SteelSeries products so far. Maybe when I get the Steelseries H back on warranty they’ll turn out to be awesome. I certainly hope so.

Roost

I backed the Roost when it was a Kickstarter project and I’m happy I did. For a while I carried the Roost to the coffee shop along with a wireless keyboard and trackpad.

Then I moved to the 13” Air as my main computer and left my Roost on my desk to hold the Air alongside my external monitors.

That is where it sits daily still. Right beside my 24” Dell with 2 cables attached to it. One for power and one for my Thunderbolt dock.

Thunderbolt Dock

One of the most awesome things about a laptop with Thunderbolt is that you only need to plug in 2 cables to get a desktop setup going.

First is the power cable so that the laptop actually stays powered on.

Second is the Thunderbolt cable, which for me ends at a Startech Thunderbolt dock. That means when I get to my office and plug in the Thunderbolt cable it hooks up my monitor, external hard drive USB hubs, and headphones for me.

Sure I’ve still got a bit of a rat’s nest of cables but I never have to see it on my desk because I only have 2 cables on my actual desk. The rest go from the dock under my desk and emerge behind my monitors where I don’t have to look at them.

Desk

No fancy desk here, I simply got a top from Ikea and put some legs on it. My sole evaluation criteria was that it was wide enough to fit my laptop and 2 monitors yet small enough for the office I have.

The coolest thing I’ve done with it is mount the power bar and all the cables under the desk so there is no nest of cables hanging down.

The cable management is courtesy of Ikea and some basic power strips. Pretty much all my power strips have screw holes. The ‘tough’ part was actually figuring out where they are for mounting purposes — unless you have my magic secret tool…paper.

Simply take a sheet of paper, lay it on the back of the power strip and poke 2 holes where the screw holes are. Then draw a line on all 4 sides so you know the approximate size of the power strip. Put the paper on the desk and put the screws in the 2 holes you poked. Tear the paper off and put the power bar on.

Done — and it only took you 5 minutes and you feel like a superhero. When you tell your friends at the pub they’ll also buy you beer as they bask in your awesomeness.

Or something like that.

My next upgrade is going to be a set of Jarvis legs to have a sit/stand desk, when they become available on Amazon again.

Chair

I have a chair it holds my butt so it doesn’t hit my floor.

It’s reasonably comfortable and has mesh.

Can you guess it’s nothing fancy?

Yup, no fancy something that is piggybacking off the popularity of an Aeron chair with its mesh and slick design.

I’d love an Aeron but if I get a sit/stand desk that may be less of a concern.

Moleskine/Notebook

Yup I have a Moleskine that I carry with me everywhere. As I write this it’s nothing fancy at all, just a standard Moleskine in the regular size. Pocket always feels too small for my writing.

I’ve looked at WhiteLines, Baron Fig, Rhodia and Lettchurm notebooks as well but most of them are pretty expensive to get in Canada. I have a Lettchurm Medium Ruled on order to ship to the US and it cost me $30 USD when I count in shipping.

If it’s that much better then I’m in for purchasing more but it had better be really, really awesome.

I frequently use my Moleskine when I’m reading with my iPad. Sure, I could pull out my laptop and write notes about what I’m reading but then I’m juggling things in my lap and that’s lame. So if I’m reading and get inspiration for a new blog post, I pull out my notebook and start writing.

I read 99% of the time on my iPad in the Kindle app so all my highlights and notes in a book stay in the Kindle app which I pull in to Evernote later using this method.

Bags

I’ve got a few bags. My day-to-day carry is a Mission Workshop Messenger. It’s waterproof, easy to carry while riding and has crazy amounts of storage space.

For travel I use a Kata 476i which holds my camera, my laptop, my iPad and all my clothes for a 4 – 6 day trip. It also still fits under the seat of an airplane so I don’t even have to fish anything out of an overhead compartment.

So that’s it — that’s all the crucial gear I use regularly to get my work done. Anything you’re using that’s awesome that I’ve missed?

photo credit: rogersview cc

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