Battlestations in 2023

It's been some time since we have chatted about battlestations. So long actually that, the old 27' Cinema Display, has been long retired.

For quite some time through COVID, there was a MacBook Pro on a floating arm on the right, a Cinema Display in the center, and horizontal 21 inch ASUS ProArt on the far right. Ergodox, HHKB, and all other peripherals driven from a single Caldigit Dock. While this setup was by far the longest running station that I used, it was far from ergonomic.

For starters (and this is more apparent than ever now), a wide field of vision or 'many horizontally wide screens', cause me a lot of eye strain. Because my entire field of vision was filled by monitors, it was hard to find a space to practice the now classic: 20-20-20 rule. As with most individual contributors, I spend most of my day steeped in code. Either writing it but, mostly digging through it. This setup afforded a lot of horizontal space but, is that a need when most files are 80 characters in width?

Recently, within the last six months, I have moved on to a single 3:2 monitor (on an arm) and a laptop mount attached to another monitor arm. 3:2 or 'square' monitors are pretty tricky to find these days. Luckily, LG took a gamble on building one early last year. At its' core it is two 21.5 inch monitors stacked directly on top of one another. The result? A somewhat-expensive but, truly epic monitor for writing and reading source code.

This monitor sits slightly off to the right of the main computer sitting on the arm. Because of the nature of security in engineering these days, many organizations have a smaller 'allow list' of usable applications. Because I continue to run Omnifocus for productivity and recently Arc for browsing, there's a further need to run a secondary laptop that sits under the one plugged into the Dual Up. Previously this setup would have required the use of a KVM switch. However, since both laptops are Macs, there's Universal Control.

This gives the user an idea of three monitors (LG Dual Up, computer one on top, and computer two on the bottom) but, in reality it is a single computer and monitor with a sidecar like experience. Not only is this great for security focused organizations, it's a win for segmenting application focus between computers and screens.

For input, I am still relying heavily on the Ergodox and a custom HHKB. There will always be a flurry of new and more 'interesting' keybs in the market. However, I have spent a large amount of time focusing on Topre in the past few years. I don't foresee this changing in the next three to four. Beyond the keyboard, I use a conventional Apple Trackpad while home and an Apple Mouse when traveling. Apple Airpods (non pros) and Airpod Maxes for audio.

Individual Contributors tend towards a sea of curved, ultra-wide monitors. All sitting on desks filled with Funko dolls, fidget toys, and a sea of input mechanisms. The longer that I spend as an IC, the more and more simple my setup becomes. This has helped me remain focused when needed and affordable when repairs inevitably come up.

This focused mainly on the hardware that's supporting my battlestation. In a future post, I will tackle the software that's making me a productive engineer.