When quarantine kicked in, for some reason I had the vague notion we’d be back on the streets by August. I had no idea how terribly I’d underestimated the virus, and how confidently I’d overestimated my government’s willingness to address it. Now we’re well into August, and things still don’t bode well for us.
Right around June, with the light at the end of the tunnel pretty much nonexistent, I finally resigned myself to the idea that I might be stuck working from home for quite a while. I figured I might as well make the experience more enjoyable. So, taking inspiration from posts on the r/workspaces and r/macsetups subreddits, I set out to build my own work from home setup.
It should be noted that this was around the same time I’d decided to buy a MacBook to replace my dying laptop. So I knew I couldn’t really afford building too fancy a setup. No 6K displays, no double or ultra-wide monitors, tempting as they were. Buying the MacBook pro was already too close to breaking the bank, especially at a time when I really should be saving up for a rainy day. That meant I had to be creative with finding bargains on Lazada, Shoppee, and Facebook’s Marketplace.
Another consideration was that I was essentially building two setups: one to accommodate my official work, for which the centerpiece was my company-issued HP ProBook 440 G6. While building the setup, I had only this laptop to work with, since by then Caecilia had pretty much breathed her last, and the last time I’d ever force her to turn on again was to take out the remaining files I hadn’t yet synched to my cloud storage. At the time I hadn’t yet purchased Rosalind, since the 2020 13 inch MacBook Pro models still hadn’t been made available in the Philippines, and like hell was I going to settle for a pre-owned butterfly keyboard model. So the setup had to work well with my HP, but in time it also had to be able to accommodate the coming MacBook.
The first thing I purchased was the monitor. While digging through postings online, I came across a seller located just a biking distance from my house offering a secondhand Dell U2410F 24” UltraSharp LCD for PHP 3,000. I had no idea how much the thing retailed (and up to now I honestly still don’t), but when I met up with the seller (social distancing properly observed, worry not) I was taken aback at how such a large screen with decent quality could sell so low. Not to mention the unit looked pristine – sans the box and the bundled upstream USB-A, DisplayPort, HDMI cables (all the seller gave me was the VGA cable, also in good condition) it was almost good as new. Before agreeing to the sale, I even tested out the stand and hinge – both also in fine condition.
Though not an ultra-wide, the monitor affords so much real-estate that I usually never feel like maximizing open windows unless I’m coding split-screen. Not to mention for doing web development it’s just wide enough for me to tile an IDE comfortably beside the web browser. Though I’m aiming for a dual-monitor setup someday, I honestly have no reason to ditch this one quite yet.
The keyboard actually came before the monitor, but I’d bought it before I had any notion of building a WFH setup. I had purchased it randomly at a hardware store way before quarantine when Caecilia’s keyboard failed and I didn’t want to buy a replacement part for a discontinued laptop I knew would be replaced within the year. So I bought the cheapest wired keyboard and mouse (Caecilia’s touchpad had stopped working too) off some hardware store in SM Megamall and called it a day. For that reason the keyboard isn’t exactly the most comfortable for typing, but it works for now. Eventually I’m looking forward to replacing it with a bluetooth keyboard, to get a step closer towards a wireless setup. The mouse, meanwhile, has been replaced by a bluetooth mouse, but even that I’m looking to getting replaced by a Logitech MX Master — all things in due time.
The long mousepad and laptop dock I got off Lazada. Both came quite cheap and yet the dock’s metal body (I’m not quite sure it’s aluminum, though it does feel close) is heavy and sturdy enough to hold both the 13.3 inch MacBook and the 14.0 inch HP ProBook. Though right now I am still torn if I should have gone for a riser instead so I can keep the laptop open as a secondary screen (quite helpful for separating the Zoom/MS Teams monitor from the work applications) – not to mention both the ProBook and the MacBook have speaker grills around the keyboard, so audio playing while the laptops are held closed and upright on the dock end up getting muffled. Right now I don’t have the funds to buy a separate speaker, and I feel like keeping the MacBook on the dock is a waste of both its stunning retina display and excellent speakers. It does look really sexy, however:
With the HP ProBook, the setup is on “Light Mode”, since it’s the laptop docked through most of the weekdays as I go through my work. But when my last deliverable for the day is complete, Rosalind steps in for “Night Mode,” when I switch over to my thesis, personal projects, and some light gaming. And no, “Night Mode” isn’t just a name, as I’ve sequestered my sister’s ASTRO lightstick, which apparently doubles as a night light, as a permanent fixture on my work desk.
Overall, my purchases to build this WFH setup (not counting the table, which was pretty much something we had lying around the house, the keyboard and mouse, and of course the MacBook):
- Dell U2410f 24″ UltraSharp LCD Monitor: PHP 3,000
- Black World Map Mouse Pad: PHP 148.00 (Purchased through Lazada)
- Universal Aluminum Vertical Laptop Stand: PHP 588.00 (Lazada)
- HDMI 2.0 Cable: PHP 449.00 (Lazada)
- USB 3.0 Hub, for managing USB connections to the HP ProBook: PHP 388.00 (Lazada)
- HDMI/USB3.0 to Thunderbolt Hub, for monitor and other USB-A connections to the MacBook: PHP 1,177.05 (Lazada)
For a grand total of PHP 5,750.05. Not too bad for a budget work from home setup, but again that is discounting the MacBook.