Thursday, 7 November 2013

Setting Up a New Home Office away from Home

After 7 years together, with almost as many false starts as Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, I've moved into my girlfriend's house. No don't worry, the Apple Harvest isn't turning into a relationship diary or a place to air all our dirty washing. But as a freelancer, who may need to up shop at a moment's notice, this sort of move is a bit of a challenge, particularly when it coincides with a major new OS X release. It's also different from the type of move I've encountered in the past when I've been working abroad for months at a time.

Clearly, when I'm at home, everything I need to get me through the day is on tap. A dedicated office with superfast (120Mbps) broadband, 155 TV channels, supercharged WiFi coverage, a 1.5Tb iTunes library on my 3Tb iMac hybrid drive, an apparently unlimited quality of storage, via a plethora of external drives, and a wonderful local pub which is only 5 minutes walk away.

My partner, Mel, only lives about 10 miles away but I don't want to be to-ing and fro-ing all the time (especially as a non-driver) so I had to make some careful choices about what to take and what to leave, and indeed what extra kit I might need. I also needed to take into account a much slower broadband connection, shared between two teenage boys who appear to be permanently on-line at home, their mum and myself.

Because I need to be flexible regarding work opportunities, I opted for the MacBook Air over the iMac, and decided to bring the Belkin Thunderbolt hub along for the ride. I put all my music, TV shows and most of my films on a Seagate 1Tb Thunderbolt drive, mainly because I wasn't sure how well iMatch would work over a much slower network, and because that way it can come with me if I need to work away. (In fact it isn't a problem, and using Slink networking software I can access the iMac remotely.)

Although I find the 13inch MBA display fine for short periods of time, I have really got used to the 27inch iMac screen and the second 24inch extension monitor that sits on my desk at home. To  recreate this in a scaled down way I decided to buy an AOC USB powered 21inch LCD unit which was less than £100, and plugs into  two of the Belkin's USB 3 ports. My Mobee Magic Feet device plugs into the final USB port, so I can keep the Magic Keyboard, Magic Trackpad and a pair of Magic Mice charged, without constantly messing around with batteries. It also provides an additional 4 USB 2.0 ports just in case, one of which is used to charge my iPhone.

My TwelveSouth PlugBug World Charger snaps onto the MBA MagSafe and its USB port provides enough power to charge both an iPad (3rd gen.) and iPad Mini (1st gen.).

Having gone to all the trouble of sorting out my music library which is a little short of 30,000 tracks, I needed something a bit better than the MBA speakers. Initially I was going to use my Samsung SBR51 SoundBar, but whilst this is fine as a bluetooth speaker for iOS devices, I have never got it working properly with OS X as it cuts out every few minutes. No way was I unplugging my old trusty Logitech Z3 2.1 system from the iMac - so I looked around for something at a decent price (I was thinking no more than £80 or thereabouts). The JBL Creature III and Edifier Lifestyle E1100 were at the top of the list until I finally saw the Harman/Kardon SoundSticks III in the flesh. I'd heard so many positives about these speakers and as I could pick up a new pair for under £100 I decided to splash out. No regrets - they sound as awesome as they look.

Finally, I have an Airport Express box (2012 version with the power cable) which I've used to set up a wired connection to the ethernet port on the Belkin hub. Ultimately this will get replaced with a pair of PowerLine adapters connecting directly to the router.

Currently I'm aware of a few glitches. The USB monitor is connected via DisplayLink which currently doesn't play properly with Mavericks. It works, but there are a few glitches - most significantly some of Apple's own apps don't play nicely at all. Maps and iPhoto in particular only work properly when on the laptop display; on the AOC the main window won't generally render. DisplayLink insist it is an Apple issue so we'll have to wait to see how that unfolds.

This is what it all looks like now it's all set up and running (on my lovely new Piranha desk). Not bad for a home office away from home. And big thanks to Mel for letting me have the spare room!

I'm especially pleased that my previous purchasing choices have proved to be effective and that the extra outlay has been relatively small. But I guess ultimately the real test is going to be how much work I get done...!

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