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Setting Up a New Home Office

With all of the talk of people leaving their laptop behind in favor of their iPad, I seem to be going the other way. My reliance on my Macbook Air has been increasing steadily over the past few months due to the tools that prove integral to my workflow.

I carry the MacBook Air with me all day at work and have it loaded with tons of applications that I use to make it really useful. Ideally, I wanted to use it during the day and then arrive home, plug it in and have essentially the same setup, except bigger with a full keyboard and larger trackpad.

Knowing how the new Apple 27” Thunderbolt display works, I got to thinking about ways I could use it as the optimal docking station/monitor and set about doing research.

Around the same time, Shawn Blanc was talking about “clicky keyboards” on his podcast with Ben Brooks, the B&B Podcast on 5by5. I have always been enamoured of clicky keyboards since my friend Scott has been talking about them for years. He spoke about the DAS and the Filco but I could never see spending that much on a keyboard. I saw it as something merely utilitiarian like a blender or coffee maker.

Now, as chefs and fussy coffee-makers know, blenders and coffee makers are a big deal. For people who don’t cook or make fussy coffee, it never rises to the top of the list of stuff I need to care about but I’ll be the first to prattle on about how important it is to have the best iPad display available.

Slowly, Shawn’s and Scott’s point dawned on me. Here is something I spend 6-12 hours a day doing and I don’t think it warrants enough attention to spend a few extra dollars on? Hm.

So the DAS keyboard was purchased.

I’ve written elsewhere about how I hate mice and I suppose I’ll write an eventual post about it, but for now it suffices to say that having a Magic Trackpad was high on my list.

The touchpad on the MacBook Air is one of the finest I’ve ever used due to its size and responsiveness (with the HP laptop being the absolute worst touchpad on a modern laptop, by far). Adding a bluetooth trackpad to my setup that is not only bigger than my current MacBook Air touchpad but also bluetooth was a slam-dunk.

So the Apple Magic Trackpad was purchased.

As I mentioned above, one of the main reasons for getting into this whole home setup idea was the Apple Thunderbolt 27” display. The research showed that the display itself was very high quality and the Thunderbolt allowed it to function as a docking station. I would be able to add in the DAS keyboard, thumbdrives or any of my multimedia detached hard drives with no effort and allow for any new Thunderbolt devices that may eventually come out, assuming they were actually affordable.

The way the display works is that you just plug in the Thunderbolt plug and the attached Magsafe connector (no more taking the power adaptor out of my bag after work!) and it wakes up the MacBook Air and your windows return to your previously saved positions. Add in an app like Moom and you’re on your way to an amazingly effective setup.

So yeah, obviously the Apple 27” Thunderbolt display was purchased.

To round off the setup, I bought the BookArc to hold my MacBook Air upright and hidden behind the display. It looks like it will be ideal because it wrangles the few wires lurking behind the display and also because it will keep the laptop out of the way for the inevitable pile of papers and notes (or iPad) that will inhabit that critical spot on my desk.

I know some have mentioned a few additional benefits of using the iPad as the ultimate portable computer was the nightly backup and the long battery life.

Using my Time Capsule has pretty much eliminated my worry about a backup. The method is seamless and I’ve used it to restore machines (and single files) before and I know it works.

The battery life of the iPad is inarguably prodigious but I can use my MacBook Air all day without worry. Because throughout the day, I have a mixture of time in meetings and in the office, I am usually still in great shape by day’s end as far as battery power goes. If I was stuck in meetings for seven or eight hours, I’d surely have to reach for the power adaptor but, so far, that hasn’t been a concern.

The iPad’s LTE connection, or at the very least an always-on 3G connection, is definitely better than being reliant on WiFi. Thankfully, I have tethering on my iPhone so, in a pinch, I can get online when I really need to.

Since I just got this setup working tonight, I haven’t had much time to explore the subtleties of it. I imagine I’ll be learning things here and there over the coming weeks and I fully expect to get a new table or desk and a decent chair at some point to complete the home office setup. For now, however, I’m in heaven. I hope this doesn’t encourage me to work too much, but working from home will definitely be more manageable.