My Battle Station

I have been working from home for almost 8 weeks since the Coronavirus outbreak. The situation slowly turns better, but there seems no clear sign when our lives will go back to normal, — and for some families, their lives may never go back to normal. I am lucky to have the choice to work from home, and here are some tips to maintain my productivity in affordable budgets.

My Battle station

One BIG screen

I used to have two monitors, one 24’ Dell P2415D with 2560x1440 resolution, and one 19’ Dell E207WFPc with 1680x1050 resolution. Due to the resolution disparity, dragging a window across the screen boundaries never works smoothly. In 2019 Black Friday, I pulled the trigger and upgraded to one relatively BIG screen, the 34’ ultrawide LG 34UM88C-P:

  • it supports 3440x1440@60Hz resolutions.
  • 2 HDMI 2.0, 1 DisplayPort 1.2 ports
  • 2 USB 3.0 downstream ports, and 1 USB 3.0 upstream port.

The lack of Thunderbolt 3 turns out not a deal breaker, and essentially works quite well for my bespoke use case.

Three Computers

I have three computers to share the keyboard, monitor, mouse:

  1. One MacBook Pro 15 with Thunderbolt 3 from my employer
  2. One HP Envy 13 with USB Type-C with PowerDelivery
  3. One Windows desktop with DisplayPort and HDMI.

Here are how they connected:

G cluster_1 cluster_2 cluster_3 laptop Laptop hub USB-C hub laptop->hub USB Type-C desktop Desktop switch USB switch desktop->switch ether Acess Point desktop->ether lg LG monitor desktop->lg HDMI 2 Keyboard Keyboard switch->Keyboard Mouse Mouse switch->Mouse hub->switch hub->ether hub->lg HDMI 1

The laptop connects to this dirty-cheap USB Type-C hub from Amazon, via single USB Type-C cable. The USB Type-C hub extends the display to the LG monitor via 4K HDMI output1; charges with PowerDelivery capability; and connects to the access point via gigabit ethernet2. Its USB port is connected to a 2-in, 4-out USB 3.0 switch to share the keyboard and mouse. As the external screen is big enough, I usually leave the laptops in the vertical stand with lip closed3.

The other upstream port of USB switch is connected to the desktop, which is then connects to the LG monitor via HDMI 2.

When switching between laptops, I just plug the USB Type-C hub’s cable to the target laptop. When switching between laptop and desktop, I need to select the input source in the LG monitor’s OSD menu manually, the USB switch generally switch to the new input source automatically.

Ergonomic setup

I found the standup desk really helps to maintain good postures. But in 2016, the motor-powered solution is a little bit out of reach, so I bought the hand-cracked IKEA SKARSTA standup desk. It is clearly more affordable, low- maintenance; but you need extra will power to overcome the friction of switching positions.

I switched to trackball 4 years ago after being diagnosed of RSI in my right wrist. I currently use the Logitech M570, and consider to give Elecom Deft Pro a try.

Recently, I also took advantage of Airbnb’s work from home expensing policy, and upgrade to the Keychron K2 wireless keyboard. K2 is a bluetooth 75% keyboard, capable of paring up to 3 devices. I am personally not aware the any lagging of bluetooth, but the keyboard will not be recognized in wireless mode when the MacBook Pro is rebooted, just fyi.

What’s Next

Since I spent almost 10 – 12 hours at the desk everyday, I continue improve the working environment to make it more comfortable, and convenient.

  • Add another screen vertically mounted on the monitor arm for slack and email.
  • Add under-desk storage for various cables, USB drives.
  • Replace the lamp with BenQ’s ScreenBar4 or alternative.

  1. @30fps unfortunately, but playing games in laptop is never a desired use case anyway

  2. The wired connection makes huge difference in the video conference, just fyi.

  3. I did not suffer significant MacBook Pro overheating problems yet. If you do, consider to charge on the right and not on the left.

  4. The $99 price tag is too steep for a desk light, but the alternative Baseus screenbar does not support asymmetrical optical design.