Don’t even ask.

Yes, I had made the firm decision that I do not need a desk, I do not use a desk, and even if I did this would not be the desk I need. I’ve been utterly at peace using this piece of furniture as a dressing-table in my bedroom for the past few months, a role that it has slotted into comfortably. I therefore really don’t know why I’ve felt compelled to have yet another stab at setting it up as a desk (other than the sheer boredom of sitting on my settee) but there it is: my Sunday was spent moving my furniture again. It’s early days. Am I likely to use it much? Who can tell?

I have made the happy discovery that the screen of the 15″ MacBook Pro is exactly the right size for a small desk surface like this. I don’t really buy into the drive towards larger and larger screens, not only for computers but also televisions. They are too domineering for my taste, especially in rooms of modest proportions. A laptop which can be folded down out of sight when not in use has long been my ideal.

I understand the reasons why larger screens and their evil corporate twin, multiple screens, have become popular for computer users, but I also think they cause as many issues as they resolve. The general presumption within the IT world seems to be that everyone will keep lots of applications open at the same time, thus needing to view multiple windows simultaneously. As this push towards multiple views across one or more screens has gained momentum so, too, has the idea that it is in the users’ best interests to narrow their focus, to be present in their current task and to shut out distractions. We refract your computer experience and then tell you off for your lack of concentration. My preference is definitely for a smaller screen which only has room for one or occasionally two windows to be viewed at any given time. I’ve worked in jobs where I had to have two screens at my desk and found it very oppressive, and the constant changing between e-mails and note apps and databases just causes confusion. Maybe it’s my age; then again maybe it’s just not a sensible way to work.

Since we’ve apparently wandered down the tech path today, I want to touch upon something that’s been getting my goat recently. I’ve been trying to find some different podcasts, and since I do like to keep abreast of what’s going on in the world of stationery I’ve been sampling a few podcasts which claim to cover that topic. One of them, it turns out, is more about computers than stationery, but never mind. Well, never mind except that what the hosts really talk about (pontificate upon) is the world of work and how everyone else is doing it wrong. They are great proponents of the ideals of flexible working, remote work, working shorter hours to accomplish the most important items only, and generally espousing the work ethics of entrepreneurs. Which would be fine, but they think this can be applied to the majority of workers and that is rubbish. Most people don’t work in the kind of jobs where it would make any sense at all to instigate that kind of culture, but these people cannot seem to see the broader picture – they think because their experience is in a certain type of industry that all industries are the same. Crazy!

I was fuming quietly away to this podcast yesterday then my mood lightened as I suddenly realised that these are the people Douglas Adams would place in the Golgafrincham ‘B’ Ark. All of them: all the entrepreneurs and the influencers, the people with beauty channels on YouTube. The correct way to deal with them is to tell them the giant star goat is coming to eat the planet. Short of that, simply not spending any more of my time on them will be a good start (short break to unfollow the podcast).

My desk is still in the throes of the set-up process and I have practicalities to address (cable management is a big one). There is one thing which I’m very enthusiastic about and that is having ready access to my external CD drive and hard drive. These are so much easier to use on a desk and if they’re easy to use then I’m more inclined to use them. The 8″ cable on my external CD drive makes it quite difficult to attach to a computer when you’re sitting on the settee. Cables are never the best length: either they are too short to be practical, or they’re so long you could easily wrap them twice around the circumference of your room! Yes, I know that wireless is the way to go, but some things just don’t have a wireless alternative and, anyway, I’m all about using the old stuff until it stops functioning. In fact, there’s a little part of me that regrets ever disposing of my Zip Drive. You don’t get to see that part very often because it’s hiding behind the bigger part that regrets getting rid of all my cassette tapes!

To balance out all this tech talk, I’ll leave you with some greenery. I thought in the dark days of February that I had killed my African Violet, but I’m pleased to say that it is thriving again after some major surgery. I’m looking forward to seeing if it will bloom this summer, although I doubt it will reach the heady heights it was at when I bought it last year.

6 thoughts on “Merry-go-round

  1. A most entertaining read thank you.
    On the subject of large pc screens, I managed at home with a 15″ laptop for a decade until it became painfully slow. I replaced it with an HP all-in-one with 27″ screen which I am delighted with. It’s not actually that dominating as it is very thin and has hardly any border. It gives a good area if you do wish to open two windows side by side…which I love doing. I think for people who work paperless a twin screen set up is a benefit to have one side for reading and the other for drafting.
    But as you are happy with your set up, and it meets your needs that is the main thing.

    1. When I had a dual-screen setup at work, I struggled a lot and I think it was because there was no naturally dominant window. I used several applications equally, so it was really important to have e-mails front and centre as that was how we were communicating with the majority of our customers, but it was really important to have our database front and centre as that was where the customer details were located, and it was really important to have Google Maps front and centre as we were constantly checking locations to route our service engineers, and I really needed a task list front and centre so I could keep on top of the juggling act. Just impossible. I know a lot of CAD technicians and they would happily have AutoCAD set up so that the drawing was on one screen and menus on the other screen which worked brilliantly. My home setup can be very simple as I’m just playing with words and doing some very basic photography.
      Don’t you go mentioning all-in-ones which are very thin and have hardly any border when Apple have just reinvented the iMac!

  2. Ok this was a very interesting read! I had two screens at work AND also used the laptop monitor as a 3rd screen for IMs. While being at home, I have a wide screen that I use as the main screen and can split screen as needed. I went back to the office with the two square screens and it took a bit of adjustment! There are times when split screen is important for me, I need to reference or take screenshots of something and enter/paste that data, but you’re right, I don’t mind focus.
    And (even as a younger person with no kids or family) I’m totally with you on needing structure in working hours/ expectations! Yes, some flexibility is nice (if I have to leave early I can stay later the next) but I don’t want to work from 12-9 on Thursdays and 2 hours on Saturdays or anything like that! Let’s have work time and home time please 🙂

    1. I think in the office workspace a dual screen setup is pretty much the norm nowadays. I just found when I worked with two screens it didn’t matter how I arranged things, I always seemed to be jiffling the windows around to get the one I most needed at that moment into the optimum position. Whenever I decided that one particular window was the one I was predominantly using, I’d suddenly realise that I was using the others every bit as much!
      I’m not sure how this idea came about that working set hours in a fixed location was some kind of tyranny. There might be better ways for a particular type of person, or a particular type of career, but I’m convinced for the vast majority of people the established system is the one that works best.

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