How I set up my Home Office Hardware

This is an introduction to how I have set up and organised the principal elements of my home office.  

While I am fortunate to have an office in London for my Corporate Advisory work as a partner of IAF Capital Limited, I try to spend several days a week working from my home office and this is therefore a very important part of my work/life balance.

Disclaimer: Please note this article contains affiliate links and I may be paid a commission if you click through on them and make a purchase.  In the article I am explaining what I like and what I use and this has nothing to do with the affiliate relationship.  I will not promote items I do not believe offer good value or good quality.  If you do click through, please allow me to thank you and ask you to email (jbdcolley[at]aol[dot]com or tweet me (@jbdcolley) me to let me know so I can thank you personally.  I really appreciate the support.

Making a Start…

The first element you will need is a suitable room, preferable somewhat cutoff or separate from your main house.  This needs to be yours – all yours and not shared with your life partner.  Its not that I am not into the sharing thing but you need the space to be able to concentrate and focus on your work.

I would then make sure that, however you furnish it, you have a good desk and a comfortable office chair.  In addition, sufficient drawers, bookshelves and cupboards for putting everything away in makes it much easier to remain organised.  I have to admit that I am not always the tidiest person in the room and my desk can sometimes look like a tornado has hit it.

That then is the basics.  Lets get down to the real meat of this article, the technology!

Computers and LapTops

My overriding objective is to remain as portable as possible.  This enables me to work from anywhere, whether I am in the UK or not.

I am essentially Apple-fan-centric.  I have two MacBook Pros.  This works well as I can often follow social media on one while working on the other but the second one works well as a back up machine if anything went wrong with my new MacBook.  Being Mac, they work seamlessly as a shared resource and I can find and open files on either machine, even if there is a bit of a lag if I rely on the wireless network to benefit from this.

Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro (Intel Quad Core i7 2.3GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, HD Graphics 4000, 512MB GeForce GT 650M, OS X Lion)

I do have an older PC which I have retained.  This has a desk mounted screen and again gives me the option of running a third computer.  I do find there are still one or two programmes which I use which are not available on the Apple OS and it therefore justifies retaining.  I expect at some point this won’t be the case and it will go to the old computer heaven in the sky.

iPad2

Keeping the Apple theme running for a while, I have an iPad2 which I find really useful when I am out of the office for reading, dealing with emails and drafting documents.  My iPad has 3G and wireless so that I am not limited to finding a wireless network.  It also has a wide range of Apps on board which largely mirror those on my iPhone.  I find it excellent for watching videos, particularly video podcasts.  You can select different memory configurations (16GB, 32GB or 64GB).

The iPad3 has the new retina display and an improved rear facing camera.

iPad 3 32GB (3rd Generation) Wifi Black
I am not making an “Apple is the only way to go” argument here.  I am sure that the Android tablets are good too and it really depends on whether you have a Mac at the heart of your computing system – in which it makes sense to completely Apple centric – or if you have a PC you can mix and match much more.  You can find my Ultra Laptop review which included 5 Windows Laptops here.

iPhone 4S

I really like my iPhone although I am not enjoying a great relationship with Siri my digital assistant.  I expect that to improve in time as the software learns and Apple updates it.  Apart from the telephone, my iPhone also seamlessly integrates and synchronises with my Mac and my iPad so my diary and contacts are always up to date.  I am also constantly amazed by the free and paid Apps that are available in the Apple App Store.   Now with iCloud I can work with documents, photos and other media on all three of my main devices as long as they get a chance to synchronise over a wireless network.

The phone comes in three memory configurations as well 16GB, 32GB and 64GB.  You need to decide how much media, particularly video, you expect to have on your phone.

I previously had an iPhone 3GS which in its day was good too.  It struggled to cope when I uploaded the iOS 5 operating system update, so I would advise you not to do this and keep it on iOS 4.

Apple iPhone 4S 64GB on O2 [White, All New SiRi, 8MP 1080HD Camera, Dual Core A5 CPU]
Morphy Juice Pack

I have bought the Morphy Juice Pack for use with both my iPhones – you need which ever fits your current phone.  They provide a protective case, the iPhone 4 version being better than the iPhone 3 version in my view.  However they are critically an extra battery and enable me to make sure if I am out all day and using my iPhone intensely that I will not run out of power.  In my view an essential investment.

Juice Pack Air Case and Rechargable Battery for iPhone 4/4S – Black
Printer/Scanner/Fax

I have an HP combined printer/scanner/fax machine, (HP Shop on Amazon) although the fax is not connected.  I principally use it for scanning and for printing.  Printing technology moves along a pace and so machines are dated normally within a year or 18 months.  My experience suggests that it is worth buying a middle of the range printer and hanging on to it until it dies and then replacing it.  Playing technology catch up with printers is not worth the additional performance you get for your money.

The ink is always the expensive bit here.  This machine takes 5 separate colour cartridges and a black ink cartridge.  This means it gives fairly good colour rendition and on the whole I am reasonably pleased with it.

Key Tip: I try to do most of my normal printing on fast/draft as it uses less ink

I have a wax based colour printer which is a bit of a monster (size-wise) but this gives me the ability to print to a much higher quality standard if I wish.  I bought it as my main printer and then replaced it with something smaller and now that I have space for it I have brought it back out of the shed.  One word of warning – these wax printers keep the wax warm all the time when they are on and tend to make quite a bit of noise.  For that reason, I would not recommend them.  If you need a one off high quality job doing, find an online printer or someone in your high street.  It will work out much cheaper than buying and running another printer.

Backing Up

If you have a home office, it probably means that you do not have access to a server back up system.  I have not yet found a cloud solution that works for me but I will keep looking.   My suggestion is to get a standalone hard drive and regularly back up your files to this.  Many of these drives come with back up software which enable you to automate and to only back up files that have changed.

I use the Apple Time Capsule which works fine but is some what processor hungry and tends to slow down my whole machine.  What I do is to back up every few days rather than allow it to back up hourly as this is too disruptive.  I would also suggest that you stand the Time Capsule on a stand which allows the air to circulate underneath it as this stops it overheating and potentially, eventually, burning out which can happen.

Apple 2TB Time Capsule 4th Generation

Video

I have three options for video.  I use video as part of the media mix for the Six Minute Strategist and having experimented for a few months I have launched the Six Minute Strategist Video Channel on YouTube in earnest in January 2012.

My MacBook Pro’s have a built in camera at the top of the screen and I can use these for video conferences as well as recording on to iMovie.

I have a Sony HandyCam which records digitally onto recordable DVDs.  This works well and I have recently bought a mic accessory for it off eBay for £12.50.  I have yet to really start using this although I am sure its zoom capabilities and the audio quality mean that it will have a role in my media creation strategy.

My favourite video creating gadget is…..my iPhone 4S which is just so easy to use.  The audio quality is OK and my Samson mic does not work with it.  For ease and speed of use it is brilliant.  My objective is to produce great content and spend my time and effort doing that rather than in post production.  Personal rather than glitzy is my approach.

Microphones

I have a number of ways of capturing audio.  My MacBook Pros have built in mics which is fine and works reasonably well.  For everyday audio on Skype they are fine.

I have two USB headsets with boom miss which give excellent quality.  I have two because I went abroad last summer, forgot my headset and had to replace it at the airport when I realised my mistake.  The problem with these is only that if you are recording video, I don’t think they look great and can be very distracting for the viewer. My favourite of the two for sound quality is the Logitech headset which I use when recording Skype calls for my Podcast interviews

Logitech H530 USB Headset

My Christmas present was a lovely and very compact mic from Samson – the Go Mic.  These cost a round £40 in the UK and come with a reasonably long USB cable.  They have the ability to capture sound directly, close up (which eliminates background noise to an extent) and all round, which is handy if you are doing an interview.  I am very happy with the quality and understand from a YouTube video that they work with an iPad when connected with the USB camera attachment.  I have yet to prove this.

Samson Go Mic Clip On USB Microphone

Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones

When travelling, I often use headphones to make calls and listen to podcasts and occasionally sound tracks or music. If you are making a call, these are no help as there is no microphone.  However, for noise cancelling and comfort I am delighted with them.  They are not cheap and were a present but I really love them.  The other advantage is that if you are working on a train, a plane or some other place in public, you can use them just to cancel out much of the background noise.

Bose® QuietComfort® 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

My NutKase iPad Case

I am very lucky to have a NutKase iPad case for my iPad.  I was given this and am absolutely thrilled with it.  The NutKase has all the advantages of Apple’s front cover for the iPad but also provides all round protection in a smart and beautifully finished faux(?) leather case.  With the cover lock enables (in Settings, General), the iPad goes to sleep when you close the cover.  There is also an excellent X shaped handle at the back which allows you to hold the iPad one handed either in Landscape or Portrait orientation.

Oliver, the founder of NutKase is based in Italy and you can find his site here.  At the time of writing the site is under construction but his Facebook page is here and that provides some helpful information as well as the ability to contact him to place an order if you wish to.  If you visit, please tell Oliver I sent you and I know he will look after you really well.

I did a blog post about them in October 2011 which you can find here.  I would love to arrange an affiliate relationship with Oliver and will be speaking to him

Livescribe Pen

I have a Livescribe Pen which I think is brilliant.  Well, actually I have two (one a back up) as I got a great deal when I bought the pen.  It is essentially a little computer in a pen.  It can record sound and has a camera in the tip just behind the nib.  Using microdot paper (you have to buy the books and notepads specially although they cost less than the equivalent Moleskine books), the pen records what you write.

When you connect the pen to your computer (PC or Mac) it down loads the information.  You can then save it as a pdf and file it.  Additional software also allows you to use Optical Character recognition to move your notes into word documents.

Another clever aspect of the pens is that you can record “Pencasts” – see here for an example I have made – which are essentially flash files which capture a movie as you write or draw and can include an audio sound track.  This audio function also allows you to write notes during a lecture or presentation and capture the sound track.  If you go back to a place in your notes and press play, the pen plays the sound track from that point.  So if like me you often cannot read your own writing, you can at least hear what was said a second time.  Pure Genius in my opinion.

The Pens come in different memory sizes; mine are 1 GB, 2GB and 8GB although I have never found either of them to have capacity limitation problems.

Livescribe 8 GB Echo Smartpen Pro Pack

Wacom Tablet and Pen

This desk tablet is a clever little gadget which allows me to write and to use a pen on my screen when used with the right software.  I find it most useful when creating screencasts using which you can do using Quicktime on the Mac.  There are also two good professional programmes for this Camtasia (for Mac or PC) or Screenflow (for Mac).  By using the Omnidazzle software (which is free) I can use my Wacom tablet and pen as a pointer or to achieve a series of pen-generated applications.

For an excellent demonstration of this, please go and visit my online friend (well we have never met but his site is great and I regard him as a friend) Pat Flynn who has an excellent video here of how to use Screencasting, Omnidazzle and the Wacom Tablet and Pen

Wacom Bamboo Pen Graphics Tablet
Please Note: this is a good example of my philosophy on this site.  If I can share the expertise or resources created by another Blogger which I believe you will find useful I will guide you to him.  While I will use affiliate links, if you conclude that the person I send you to has given you great value and you want to make a purchase, please reward him or her for their content creation and hard work by using their affiliate links.

A word on Brief Cases

I have two TUMI brief cases which are both on wheels and pull along.  The smaller one meets the airline size restrictions so I use it principally when I travel abroad.  The larger one just seems to take everything I throw in it and is marvellous.  The quality of Tumi means that they take all the bashing I give them and just soldier on.  I am sure that there are other good bags out there but I would strongly advise getting some with wheels that you can pull along as it really made a difference to my back.

So thats it for a quick over view of my home office equipment.  I hope you found this introduction helpful.  I will put a lot more detail in the membership site and share with you some of the tips, tricks, tools and resources I use to improve my productivity when it launches.

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