Still Standing

My office has been a mess over the past few weeks, so I took the time this weekend to clean it up a bit, and thought it would be interesting to post an update on my standing desk setup, which now looks like this:

Yes, that is a 15" Surface Book 3, with a nearly-matching 15", 4K USB-C display beside it

And no, I still haven’t figured out a better way to permanently fasten the shelf to the LACK. I’ve had a look at several kinds of angle brackets, but I still think it’s better to get a deeper shelf altogether and haven’t had the time (or inclination) to do so.

So here’s a run-down of the notable changes:

  • I am now using a (freshly arrived) Surface Book 3, which is massive and plugged into a Surface Dock 2 where all the physical I/O goes (that’s a tidy black box, just off-shot in the left hand corner where the headset wire leads to).
  • I had a secondary monitor issued to me (a Samsung 24” SE450) and it is amazing (even if too low res for me at 1080p), but I found it dangerously unwieldy to have on top of the LACK2, so I got a 15”, 4K BlitzWolf BW-PCM4 portable “gaming” display after Pedro Melo confirmed it worked fine with his MacBook Pro. It’s not the brightest panel I’ve seen, but it works fine over USB-C via the Surface Dock 2, and the only thing I’m missing is not having touch support (but I’m not sure I’d ever pay the premium for that on a secondary display). It comes with a remote I seldom use (pictured).
  • Since I keep switching keyboard layouts between PT and US besides switching machines during the day, I realized I actually had to look at the keyboard from time to time, but in early morning or late evening the subdued lighting made it hard to make out some of the key labels. So I got another K380–this time in white, which helps a lot. I suspect I’ll be shopping for a backlit keyboard soon, but I like the K380 design and form factor, and they’re quite cheap at AliExpress.
  • The ring light is your standard Chinese job, which I removed the chintzy ball bearing joint from and screwed directly onto a GorillaPod to make it less top-heavy. And yes, I use it like that (white walls make for great diffusers), and besides using it to stow my headset, I also managed to jam the light control tidily in the cracks.

The Surface Dock 2 is the icing on the cake, and essentially means I can unplug a single cable and move to my dining table if the construction noise is too much to handle (yes, they’re still going):

Plenty of USB-C connectivity, although I've already used 50% of the USB-A ports and 25% of the USB-C ones

The only issue I had with it so far is that since the headphone jack on the Surface Book 3 is on the top-right corner of the display (which just gets in the way in this setup) I tried plugging my cheap Sennheiser headset to the Surface Dock 2‘s audio jack–but the mic input level throught the dock was extremely low and I couldn’t find a decent way to tweak it

So I just plugged it in through one of my USB audio dongles and called it a day for now. I’ll try later with another headset/mic combo.

Quick Notes on the Surface Book 3

I’ve kept to the basics so far: charged it, let it run Windows Update during an afternoon while I worked, installed Firefox3, configured OneDrive and Edge syncing, and that was it.

And since I work almost exclusively online via Edge and Teams (I don’t even use desktop Outlook anymore, although I do use other Office apps locally for longer editing sessions), it took me around 15 minutes to start becoming productive after the final update, which is pretty impressive.

Of course it’s going to take a few days to get everything else on it, and besides some work essentials, I have a shortlist of things I am going to do ASAP:

I expect to write a more complete post on it in a few months, but right now it is easily the biggest, baddest laptop I’ve ever used, and I think I get now why Pedro has always favored the 15” MacBooks–the screen real estate on this form factor is glorious, and the contrast to my original Surface Pro 4 (which is the machine it’s replacing, and my longtime favorite travel machine) is, er… massive.

Now that I don’t have to travel daily (maybe even ever, who knows), it’s certainly a great trade-off.

  1. Plus getting a compact non-RGB keyboard that doesn’t suck seems to be quite a challenge these days. Recommendations are welcome, as long as they are as close as possible to an Apple Magic keyboard. ↩︎

  2. In the meantime I’m toying with the idea of using the Samsung as a portrait monitor alongside the LACK, but need to sort out the cabling first. ↩︎

  3. I use Firefox as my “non-corp” browser since I prefer its multi-account containers extension to Edge‘s multiple profiles (which run in separate windows). Since I keep having to log in to multiple tenants (as well as the occasional personal account), it’s just saner to keep all of those in a single window with multiple color-coded tabs. ↩︎

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