May 8, 2006 12:07 | Confession / Travel

Bo Pack

Bo Pack

Among the many many lessons I am learning on this trip, one of the most salient, and indeed one that I pretty much knew about, is the fact that I am nowhere near as mobile as one would think, at least insofar as being able to work is concerned.

Like I said, I knew this already; it's just become very clear to what extent and much more importantly, what i can do to rectify the situation.

Outside of emailing and chatting, a 15" Powerbook screen renders me essentially useless. Trying to get any actual work done without a second monitor is near futile. I'd say that with a single 1440x960 resolution screen, I work at maybe 10-20% capacity.

My capacity increases with desktop space, measured in pixels. It's true.
(For anyone who cares to argue with or chide me: you have your needs, I have mine. I am aware of my needs, and my limitations, and I deal with them accordingly.)

Also, I need a comfortable work station. This means plenty of desk space (deep and wide) and a chair that doesn't send my butt to dream land. Pins and needles in the nether areas is not fun... at least not when yer trying to work. ;)

More than quiet, I need to isolate myself so as to really dive in. People can be around, as long as I can shut them out artificially.

So, this means, to be "work-safe", I need 3 things:
- an external monitor.
- some sort of reliable seating.
- a pair of headphones.

Check this out. (Picture above)

  • 17" TFT Samsung. Bought at Best Buy for $300. It fits into a box the size and weight of a VCR, complete with carry handle.
  • 65cm "fitness ball". $20. The box is smaller and lighter than the Powerbook.
  • Headphones. (not pictured, but I have a pair of Sony DJ's back home and Gen's pair back at the Lab.)

(Headphones not entirely needed if a reasonably quiet space is available with no language around.)

Point is, anytime I want to "temporarily relocate" as I am now doing (2 months Tokyo, 2 weeks San Francisco... where's next? Shanghai?) I can either FedEx or carry this bundle with me. Or, in worst case scenario, go out and buy what I need again...

"Boris will feed your cats AND leave you a TFT monitor!" heh...

I envy those of you who actually can work on 12" screens. I simply can't.
I also envy those of you who have only *one* job or three or four projects. I have at least 10 at any given time.

Actually no I don't envy anyone really... ;)


You forgot to add "MRE - Poutine flavor" to your kit. :p

Actually, almost everyone experiences significant productivity gains when they move to larger monitors. When I went from a 17" CRT (1024x768) to a 20.1" wide-screen LCD (toobigtocountxtoobigtocount) it was like my computer actually got FASTER.

Hi Paul,
Totally. Well not faster... in fact in some cases it actually slows you down...

For example, at home I run an external 21 inch at 1600xwhatever, with ten virtual desktops... When all those desktops are in use, with mulitple browser windows, text documents, image files, Mail, chat, iTunes etc... all resources are strained: RAM, CPU, GPU...

Back in the day, I had three large monitors, all at high rez (1600++), with 10 virtual desktops. Of course that was off a G4 tower with 3 video cards so at least the GPU load was distributed...

So people ask me why I need such a powerful machine if "all you are doing is web design"... "well... let me tell you sumfin..." ;)

I digress though. The more cyberspace I can see at any given time, the better. I can't wait till I can actually manipulate it too, instead of just type and point at it...

I think screen real estate for freakish "computer workers" is like aquariums for "poissons rouges"*, the more space you have, the more it becomes vital. Fish become bigger, we do the same. I used to be perfectly efficient with my 12" iBook, then I got used to 15" on the Pbook, then I got the 20" Dell and got used to that. Now I see a 12" iBook and it's like I'm looking at an iPod, the screen is so damned small. No way I could work with that anymore.

* What the hell is that in english? It's not "red fish"...

To answer my own question; goldfish.

I like looking at just one screen. It's like monogamy.

Boris: 10 virtual desktops x 3 screens? 30 workspaces? That didn't drive you nuts? I'm finding that any more than 4 vdesktops and I start getting very confused. And my computer slows down. And I'm working on too many things at once and thus getting less done.

Of course, we each have our own best way of working. I was doing pretty darn well with my 2 side-by-side 17" displays, but now I'm using a MBPro + a 23" Cinema Display, which doesn't work quite as well screen-wise, but works a lot better cause its a Mac.

And for your needs, perhaps a 17" MBPro at 1680x1050 would be a bit more helpful? Certainly far more luggable than an extra external display! (Or can, of course, be coupled with one.)

No, 10 workspaces. Each workspace covers a whole "desktop". Also it's less than 10 as one is used for Instant Message, one for email and calendar, one for music/media. I'll usually have 2-3 projects going in 2-3 "desktops", rarely more. In fact I never use all ten. I just like the room it gives me.

Now you of all people should know what it is like to report to multiple people at any given time. When I started liek this I reported directly to Makrketing and R&D, with full time projects for both departments (usually 2-3 at a time for each) as well as answering requests for stuff like logos and such.

Now it's the same, if not worse. 4-5 clients, some with 3-4 active projects/tasks to complete...

I'm not confused. Stretched thin, yes, but not confused. And I kinda like it like that.

Also, I am "on" all the time. My clients would never accept an answer like "a) its past the end of the work day; b) i'm working on something else more important, but i'll try to get to it"... ;)

Joel: ideology limits experience.

Patrick: exactly.