I’ve been working long half-days since last weekend, on the road in the DC area. I’ve been gone long enough now to really, really miss my home office setup. After writing a couple of white papers, 5 blog posts, and dealing with email and surfing, I’ve identified important personal productivity elements missing here. And that, dear readers, is why this post explains important office PC setup benefits.
At least my hotel room has a desk at which I can write. I’m no fan of working in bed, either.
[Image source: Pexels]
Key Office PC Setup Benefits
There are more reasons than those I mention why I’m more productive at home than on the road. But these are the things I miss most right now about my usual day-to-day computing/working environment:
Large Dual Monitors: As a writer and researcher, I very much depend on digging into numerous resources on one screen, and taking notes or writing about them on the other screen. Sometimes, I even slave one or two laptops into my display environment, to extend my visual real estate still further (See Synergy as an example of one such tool).
Ergonomic Keyboard: I’m a long-time user of the Microsoft Comfort Curve 4000 keyboard. Working on my Lenovo T520 laptop on the road makes me miss its feel and my improved typing speed on that layout. So far, I haven’t had to write enough to bring on wrist pain, but the reason I adopted the Comfort Curve to start with was because of that very thing.
Working Mouse and Touchpad Together … or Not: I have a Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse with me, that works over Bluetooth. But I really have to disable the touchpad on the T520 to get the best use out of an external mouse. Otherwise inadvertent touchpad contact makes input far too flaky and time-consuming. At least, this is one thing I can handle on the road through Windows itself.
Fast Internet: To a surprisingly large extent, my productivity hinges on how quickly I can access stuff on the Internet. At home, I have a 940 Mbps connection that is exclusively mine during a normal working day. Here at the hotel, I’m lucky to get 60 Mbps on my wireless connection. That’s a ratio of over 15:1. Need I say more?
Test PCs: I have almost half-a-dozen additional machines at my disposal at home for trying things out on. I am unhappy using a VM on my laptop, for sandboxing experiments away from my production environment. This is vexing enough to limit my inclination to experiment. But that remains the best way to learn and/or document ANYTHING about Windows, apps, and so forth. Sigh.
Given Infinite Budget, How Much Could I Fix?
If I had to become a road warrior, I could fix some of these things. I would buy a newer and more powerful laptop, with more memory, to facilitate more and better use of VMs. My Win10.Guru business partner Kari reminded me (Doh!) that bringing an HDMI cable on the road would let me use the TV in my room as a second monitor. (My current hotel room has a 42″ LG full HD TV with an open HDMI port. With a little wrestling, I could easily move the TV onto the desk here and do just that!)
There are also portable USB and HDMI monitors available for $150-200 that I could schlep with me on the road. Likewise, there are two-piece ergonomic keyboards (like the Ovation ML) that would fit nicely into my Targus laptop bag. And finally, I could — and sometimes do — carry a second laptop with me that I could put to work as a separate test machine.
Thus, the only thing I really can’t fix is Internet speed in a hotel room. My Verizon bandwidth sucks here, too, so ganging up in-room WiFi with my 4G hotspot offers little hope of relief in my current situation. That said, my room does have an RJ-45 jack and it would probably be worth testing to see if a wired connection is any faster than a wireless one. Possible, but unlikely. But that’s just one of the productivity barriers I’m facing that I really can’t fix completely. The others can be overcome with a little ingenuity, some modest expense, and more weight to ferry between home and remote locations. I suppose I’ll have to give it a try on my next road trip. I’ll report on those results at some undetermined future date. Please: stay tuned!