Time for another Office Setup Update

Hey folks,

I’ve been tinkering with a setup that incorporates a MPB, iMac, and iPad for a few months, and I think I’ve finally figured out something that works:

I’m using a couple of products from Twelve South (the HiRise and the HoverBar Duo) along with a Matias keyboard and a Swopper chair (not pictured).

My desk is very small. It’s a sewing cabinet with a table extension I made. It’s only about 17" deep, so it’s a trick to make all these things screens available. After trying standing and a treadmill desk, the Swopper has helped the hip issues I was experiencing from sitting alllll day, which is a necessity with my current work.

I keep Slack and ChatGPT on the iPad, my main work on my laptop (which is my work computer), and I use the iMac for Focusmate and/or as reference screen for my work (docs, pdfs, lately for playing with Heptabase). When I have a Zoom call, I use continuity cam and the laptop and look over to the iMac for notes/reference docs. Universal Control has been working great lately (though it gets buggy from time to time requiring a reboot).

It’s been a lot of trial and error to get this right, but I think I’ll be sticking with this setup for a while to come. :crossed_fingers:


Looks great. What’s the “wall” behind the desk? I really like the texture. :grinning:

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It’s a strawbale home. The wall is bales of straw covered in lime plaster.


I just read up about Focusmate and it sounds really interesting. How well does it work for you?

Are you running multiple OSes or is the iMac set up as an external screen? I couldn’t really live with the former – way to much friction remember to swap over the keyboards etc.

Your workspace is gorgeous – it looks extremely conducive to good thinking. I remember you being a huge Tinderbox advocate. Have you jumped ship to Heptabase? Asking out of interest as someone who often thinks he should invest more into visual / outlaying / linking / mindmapping software, but nothing I used ever stuck. I am content with my textual outlining, but always get envious of the truly visual thinkers.

Actually, Universal Control works between macOS and iPad OS devices allowing fot the same mouse and keyboard to control all devices. I guess that’s what @beck is using to control all those devices.

That said, this looks awesome, @beck! I wonder why you end up preferring to keep the MacBook as the center display instead of the larger iMac. Why would that be?


Lovely update, as always! Though I hate dotmocracy :laughing:

Fighting words!

This is, I think, a kind of cool use of them. You ask a group of teens to do a values sort and then you vote twice. First vote, “values tech makes harder to live.” Second vote, “values tech helps you live.” And then you get a visual display of the complexity tech plays in our lives. Where it helps, where it hurts, and where it does both at the same time. We do a thinking routine with the posters after the vote: what do you notice, what questions do you have, what connections are you making. More here.

Still a hater, @ryanjamurphy?

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Focusmate is the best $5 I spend a month, it’s probably worth 50x that in the amount of work I get done that I’d otherwise struggle to do. You meet people from all over the world and I’ve even made a few friends and we regularly meet to work together. I’ve done over 800 sessions so far and I’ve never had any experience that wasn’t friendly and focused.

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@ldebritto has it. Universal control allows me to use the same keyboard and mouse across all three screens. I can also copy and paste and even drag files between screens. It’s not flawless, but it works probably 90% of the time exactly as I would expect.

I tried SideCar, but it reduced the quality of the display and was sluggish. I considered Duet, but worried it would be the same way. Can anyone confirm?

Oh I definitely do not prefer it this way by a mile! But the laptop is my work computer. I work at a university with IRB-protected data and so I have to keep those files on the university issued machine. I have the iMac and it’s display is so gorgeous and so I use it alongside for PDFs and meeting docs and the like.

I think one of the successes of this setup for me is that I can have the laptop in the center and not feel upset about it. LOL

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I am still a huge Tinderbox advocate! And I’m only playing with Heptabase so far, but if I end up liking it a lot (and I am really impressed so far), I could see incorporating it into my PIM (personal info management). Tinderbox is a masterful thinking and analysis tool, it’s far more powerful than Heptabase. But a lot of its power goes unused in my typical usage, and try as it might it’s terribly ugly.

I do a lot to fix the ugliness, which matters to me (I know I’m not alone here!). But Heptabase’s design aesthetic really aligns with what I find calming and focused and attractive in note management.

I have only begun to tap the surface of playing with the tool, so I can’t say I’d prefer it over Tinderbox, and for thinking/analysis I can’t imagine Tinderbox ever not being in my toolbox. As a sort of “daily driver” of note-taking, though, it’s overpowered and unattractive, hence my playing with Heptabase.

Time will tell!

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Your use sounds like a fine technique, especially since there are no immediate consequences for the successful/popular options.

My main qualm with dotmocracy is that it leads to immediate bias when it’s used to govern a decision. No one “wastes” votes in dotmocracy because it’s obvious which choices are not popular and how many votes are left to be cast, so the results are rarely as representative as if people could vote privately.

E.g., If you do a dotmocracy for “where to go to lunch?”, the first movers will have one kind of advantage by pushing an early leader, whereas the last movers end up with control over the decision because they can split votes.

Focusmate looks wild to me, but I actually might give it a try. Could totally see it being valuable from an accountability perspective.

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While the tech aspect of this is excellent, that straw bale wall is the star of the show! I’ve always loved the curves and texture of cob and straw bale. And with your lighting set towards the wall, the whole space just feels calm, solid and comforting. Beautiful!


Considering Duet vs Sidecar, in my opinion Duet works flawlessly. I use it all the time on the road with my gen 1 big ipad pro as a 2nd screen.

@ryanjamurphy I’m sure you know this but the benefit of others, the way around your comment around DotVoting as it is often called, get everyone to vote blind. FWIW Both Mural and Miro build anonymous dot voting in as a first class citizen in their platforms.

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