One of the things that’s changed in the new working environment is the increased usage of the home office. Previously, all that was needed was something that could do the job after hours. So I would work on the laptop while on the couch, or if I needed extra screen real estate, I could use the desktop that is hooked up to the giant 38″ screen. Not perfect but good enough for usage at home.
But now I’ve gone and changed jobs to one that is fully remote for the foreseeable future, some changes are needed so that working day in and day otu from the location is possible. To do this, I wanted to consolidate things and rearrange things vertically so that floor space is maximized. And it sure would be nice to have a standing desk. But the pandemic created a shortage of standing desks and other office furniture. And although I certainly could get some of the nicer models that are in stock, $600+ is quite a bit for some furniture that may or may not survive the next move from this residence. Sadly, I don’t see this place being the forever home.
So in the meantime, I decided to address the first item and consolidate things. It turns out that IKEA’s IVAR system was the perfect size to consolidate electronics in the corner and off of my current desk. What kind of electronics are we talking about? It includes the main desktop PC (home-built i5-4570 in a Silverstone small form factor case), the home server (home-built i3 in a Fractal Design Node 804), a laser printer (Brother HL-2270DW), a flatbed scanner (Epson V600), the router and cable modem, a second generation AirPort Express, a HDHomeRun Extend, an Electronic Objects E01, and a Spyder4Pro colorimeter. These and more were previously split between the corner of the room and the shelves of the sideboard. Now, all of these and more are placed on various levels of the IVAR shelf, clearing my desk and reducing the used floor space.
One of the major improvements from this new arrangement is the ability to use components of my old sound system as my computer speakers. My NAD C350 integrated amplifier powers two Klipsch bookshelf speakers that are placed beside my 38″ monitor. The amplifier gets audio from either my desktop or my trusty AirPlay Express that supports Airplay 2 (thanks for this update Apple!).
Shockingly, the onboard sound card in my desktop is serviceable for now. Sound quality just doesn’t matter as much when it is largely system sounds. For some of the games I still do play (Cities: Skylines, Hitman), the new sound system is already considerable improvement over some small Logitech speakers I previously used. At some point I may get a USB DAC to connect the desktop to the amplifier. But the majority of my computer’s sounds just don’t need that kind of improved sound quality. And more importantly, my music collection doesn’t live on my computer anymore. That has moved to my iPhone. The result is that most days, the speakers are playing audio streamed to the AirPort Express. Either one of my iDevices is streaming to the device or forked-daapd is streaming an Internet radio station. I still value ambient music, particularly when I’m working. The only difference is that the music does not come from the desktop computer anymore.
It has been a few days now, and this rearranged home office is a good thing. In addition to using space more efficiently, all my geek gadgets are located on the shelves now. The physical proximity of the gadgets may result in more things being hardwired into the network. Not that doing so would dramatically improve performance but I do have enough cables and the usage of wires still appeals to me. And it has been great to be in the prime listening spot for speakers being driven by the NAD amplifier.
More importantly, I may also be able to improve functionality in some of these old devices. Although Apple upgraded the AirPort Express to allow for Airplay 2, the upgrade did not give the device the ability to AirPrint to printers connected to the USB port. The printer itself has WiFi and Ethernet and can therefore function as a network printer, but the printer is too old to have natively supported the feature. But I have read that CUPS can bring AirPrint functionality to older printers.
Another little project for another time, but this project would rank well in the wife-friendliness category.