My Minimalistic Home Office

For weeks, I’ve been meaning to post something about my minimalistic home office. Today, jkOnTheRun’s James Kendrick posted on his “clean minimalistic office,” which got me off my procrastinating butt.

I’ve worked out of a home office for more than a decade. People don’t ask as much about it as they did in 1999, when many fewer people worked remotely. But when there are questions, the first usually is: “How do you keep from getting distracted? You know, watching TV and stuff?”

My response is usually laughter. Distraction to work isn’t the problem. Distraction from work is. It’s difficult to extricate myself from the workday. There is always one more e-mail, IM, phone call or Tweet. I work a longer day at home than I ever would in an office. Ask any successful home office worker, and they’ll admit to the same problem.

The full-time work-at-home fun started in May 1999, when I joined CNET as a staff writer. Days before my start, Bell Atlantic (later to be called Verizon) swapped out ISDN for DSL. I was among the first people in the Washington, DC area to get real broadband. While at, I worked in a sunny front room of our house that soaked up heat during steamy Washington summers.

In May 2003, I left to become an analyst for JupiterResearch (now merged with Forrester). About the same time, my growing daughter took over that front room, and I moved down into the dusty, cricket-infested basement. But there were sliding doors leading into the basement. For most of my basement tenure, I shared space with floppy-eared bunny Daisy. When work got too hectic, or unbearable, I let her run around the backyard.

My family relocated to San Diego in October 2007. Our two-bedroom apartment is beautiful, but it’s one bedroom short for an office. So I work from a fold-up desk in the living room. It’s a hectic area and should be distracting, but I just tune out everything. I’m focused when working, and I kind of like being at the center room of household activity.

In early April, just weeks before my layoff as editor of eWEEK Apple Watch and Microsoft Watch, I downsized my desk. I eyed and pined for the hideaway desk more than six months earlier. Pier 1 Imports calls it the Casabelle Mail Center. I call it home. A little table folds out, where I work.

If you click the link to James’ office (see first paragraph), you’ll see that he uses a MacBook. So did I, before switching to the Sony VAIO VGN-Z590 in January. I chose the laptop for its better hardware than the MacBook and Windows 7 delivers. The Z590 comes with 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 13.1-inch LED backlit display with 1,600-by-900 resolution, 256MB nVidia GeForce 9300M GS graphics, 3GB of DDR3 memory, 320GB hard drive (5400 rpm), dual-layer DVD burner, fingerprint reader, WiFi and Sprint 3G modem. I fault Apple for not shipping light notebooks with higher-resolution displays.

I write most of my blog posts from the Casabelle Mail Center, which is delightfully compact. I like the closeness it brings to the laptop and Bose speakers. Occasionally I work out of the office, either using WiFi or the Sprint modem.

I print to an Epson Artisan 700. I highly recommend the 700 over the bulky 800. Most people won’t need the fax. The 700’s copying and scanning capabilities are excellent, and the photo printing is stupendous. It’s a WiFi printer that easily sets up on the home network.

Sony VAIO VGN-Z590
Sony VAIO VGN-Z590 (Taken with Nokia N85)

AT&T provides 18Mbit DSL. We are AT&T U-verse subscribers. The IPTV service uses Microsoft Mediaroom software. The Internet is fast and reliable and the IPTV packs simply the best user guide and DVR I’ve used anywhere. As a U-verse subscriber, I get free AT&T WiFi at Starbucks and other places where the service is offered.

My mobile office and vocal communicator is the Nokia N97, which I just started using June 12. The N97 ends several months using no smartphone. I sold my beloved N96 to help finance the cost of buying the N97. My last smartphone was the iPhone 3G. I love Apple’s App Store, but not the iPhone. There are too many dropped calls where I live, too many people complain about audio fidelity (“What did you say?”) and the battery life is insufficient to support the device’s capabilities.

That’s a brief introduction to my work space. What’s in your office?