What Change Have You Made Since Working From Home

I worked as a developer in a Windows environment. At my prior company I worked from home by myself and on a Windows PC. Several years ago I changed jobs and the new company didn’t allow working from home. I swapped out my PC for a 27" iMac at home. Now my wife is also working from home and my son is home from college doing online classes from home.

Now working from my iMac with others at home, I have made some hardware and software changes. I was thinking some of the software that I found helpful, might be helpful to others.

Hardware changes:

I hooked up a smaller second monitor (that I thought I would never need with the 27" screen) that is dedicated to running Outlook and Slack for work email and messaging. That way it is always available at a glance. Due to my office layout, the monitor sits to the left of my iMac, so I moved my Dock from the left side to back to the bottom to accommodate this layout.

I replaced my mechanical keyboard with the magic keyboard that came with my iMac as my wife found the keyboard too loud, working in the same office space as me at times.

As most of the light in my office comes from behind me, I found my face too dark on video conferences. I added a TaoTronics LED desk lamp that was recommended in the forums here to my desk.

Software Changes

Since I had a lot of time at home, I finally bit the bullet and upgraded to Catalina on both my laptop and desktop. The 64 bit version of my Cisco VPN client doesn’t seem to resolve internal DNS addresses so I dusted off Gas Mask to easily edit my host file from the menu bar. I used to use it a long time ago when I was doing some web projects and was glad to see it still works.

I found myself having to temporarily lower the resolution on the iMac when I’m sharing my screen over web meeting. Using Display Menu to quickly do that from the menu bar.

My best two new finds that came from the forums here are Automounter and SoundSource. Automounter mounts all of the shares I need on Windows servers when I connect my VPN and unmounts when I disconnect from the VPN automatically. That one app has eliminated so much friction. I purchased it to support the developer even though the free version did all I needed. I also struggled at times with both my sound and microphone connections when doing web meetings and using my multi connection Sennheiser bluetooth headphones. SoundSource has been a life saver in managing that. I would recommend everyone try these apps out. The free version of Automounter is pretty full featured and SoundSouce has a free trial.

Most of the time when I’m working with files I use Forklift. It displays all of my shares and makes it easy to open a terminal window. But sometimes I find myself in Finder and I haven’t been able to get the New Terminal at Folder to display in my services menu even though it is setup in my preferences. If I assign it a shortcut it works but I find using the cd to Finder Toolbar app easier.

I switched a few years ago from Caffine to Amphetamine. A feature I find myself using now is the While App is running… and selecting the Microsoft RDP client. So the iMac doesn’t sleep while I have an RDP connection open.


There is also a substantially cheaper alternative for SoundSource that hardly gets mentioned anywhere but more or less offers the same functionality: Sound Control.


I have created a new Windows VM using VirtualBox on my iMac. I need that for the software that allows me to connect to my company’s VPN using a proprietary USB token/a smart card solution. The software is Windows-only. :wink:


Not exactly Mac-related: I bought a new landline phone, a Fritzfon C6, which integrates nicely with my Fritzbox which is a very popular router here in Germany. I needed that phone especially when dealing with clients. I have several numbers available, so that I was able to dedicate one of them for my job. When I am off, the phone automatically switches to a voicebox that sends messages to my work email account. It rings differently for work calls than for calls that are not work-related. I did not want to use my iPhone because I do not like our clients to know my cell number. There is also a FritzFON app on the AppStore, but it does not work reliable enough.

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I think this might be U.S.-only, but for people who need to use their personal iPhone for work, consider getting a Google Voice number. When you make calls through the app, it will show your Google Voice Caller-ID. You can also send/receive text messages through your GV number, as well as get texts and voicemail via email, which can be handy too.

It’s free. Usual disclaimers about it being Google, etc but I don’t think they care enough about GV to do anything nefarious with it.

The regular Google Voice iPhone app does not support Shortcuts, but GV Connect does have x-callback-url support.


Yes, Google Voice is U.S.-only, but it sure sounds like an interesting option for this use case. :blush:

Actually, Google Voice very recently became available in Canada, eh. :canada:


Google has focused so little on this service in the last few years I always expect it to be sent to the dumpster they put Buzz, Orkut and Knol. I’ve been using GV since it before Google bought it (when it was known as Grand Central). A surprisingly good, free service, and the phone number I use when I have to fill out a form and don’t want to give my real number.

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I have also used it for years and it is good for not putting one’s actual number in a “required” field, as well as doing a decent job with transcriptions.

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Yes. I also have a Google number that I use for a “junk” number when I don’t want to give people my actual number. But as @Timo said, more and more that number will not be accepted when plugging it into online forms. I bit the bullet and upgraded my iPhone 7 to an 11 so I could have a dual SIM card. It costs about $10 a month more than I was paying for my previous VOP service with Line 2. The quality with Line 2 was not acceptable and the dual SIM solves all my issues seamlessly. That and a Pro Zoom account is pretty much the only change I’ve needed to make.

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I’ve never had that happen. However, the number does NOT work for receiving texts from some services like USPS delivery.

I’ve had a few places recently tell me that my Google Voice number isn’t a valid mobile phone, including Target, which will send me a text message there, but then when I try to add that number to my account, they say it isn’t a valid mobile phone.

eye roll

I was so convince that Google was going to kill GV back in 2014 that I wrote an entire How to port your Google Voice number to your iPhone for TUAW, because more people had my GV number than my actual cell phone number, and I decided that if they were going to kill it, I wanted to make sure I got my number out first.

6+ years later, it still enjoys benign neglect from the Googlelords.

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My main changes have been new hardware for videoconference (external mic and video camera) and a Blackmagic eGPU Pro for rendering video files and speeding up my productivity apps. I also bought a Panasonic 4K video camera for preparing some parts of my classes, and doing demos.

In terms of software, I took MacSparky’s Keyboard Maestro Field Guide and I have lots of really useful automations set up. I ditched Alfred because I now have keyboard shortcuts for all the commands I used to type. I’ve also got all the keys set up for moving windows around, organising my desktop and closing apps, and couldn’t live without it now.

I had my first return to work this week and did a coding workshop, and I have to say it was marvellous to be back teaching in person. I found working from home incredibly boring, because I am a really social person. Being back around colleagues and students was a huge relief. I found teaching online too much like talking to myself for hours and I will never want to be stuck in my home office for so long ever again!


This morning I tried the suggested Sound Control App.

Spotify refuses to play music if I configure it (via Sound Control) to use my AirPlay speakers… :cry:

It does however play music to those same speakers if I configure Spotify to use the system default sound device and set that one to these AirPlay speakers…

Guess I should just try SoundSource as well.

Still, the fact that I don’t have to switch manually for audio calls (Slack/Teams) anymore is great, so thanks for mentioning this kind of App, @rlamarch!

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Sorry to hear that. I don’t use the app myself, nor do I use Spotify nor AirPlay speakers. So can’t help you with that.

The reason I mentioned Sound Control was that it seemed to me there was nothing else but SoundSource. And I was somewhat surprised to see there are actually quite a few apps that offer the same functionality. Some being around for quite some time (like Sound Control).

And I was somewhat surprised to see there are actually quite a few apps that offer the same functionality.

SoundControl is still on my “short list” (currently on sale for $15).

Which other similar Apps did you find? (I might want to try those as well)

I found one or two open source ones. As they didn’t offer the EQ part, but basically just the routing I didn’t pay more attention to them.

Background Music (what’s in a name) is one of them.

B.T.W. you can get a 20% discount if you share a Tweet about Sound Control. See the bottom of their webpage.

I’m still sorting out what works best here at home now that I know I’ll be here until at least January.

I bought over-the-ear AKG bluetooth headphones for my endless Zoom calls. They have a built-in mike which seems to work OK.

We use Zoom for our phones at work and I have the app on my iPhone - so between that and Slack, I made sure that I had my notifications set right so that I could walk away from my desk for a while and still be in contact. I had them all off when I was physically in the office, but it just doesn’t feel the same at home.

I have that TaoTronics recommended lamp at work. I need to go get at as occasionally I need extra light for Zoom calls here at home.

This is not the best solution, but I bought an extra long USB-C cord so that I can easily switch between my work MBP and my personal new MBP with this James Donkey USB-C hub in the middle. I could use a switch, I just haven’t sorted that out yet. I use a wired Apple extended keyboard and I just gave in and bought a wireless mouse that uses one of those usb dongles that plugs into the hub. Switching between computers with my bluetooth Magic Mouse always took 5 minutes and I couldn’t stand it.

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Not positive I remember the timing on this correctly but I recall Google was sending multiple emails trying to entice GV users to move their phone numbers to Google Hangouts (which was then a part of Google+) as part of a way to build up Google+. When that failed, they split Hangouts off from G+ as a standalone that also incorporated Google Talk, and I think I got offers to migrate again. Not long after I think you wrote your piece.

GV has quietly stumbled on, for no apparent reason, but it’s a great service nevertheless, and when I was using it more frequently years ago I relied on the browser extension for sending/receiving texts on my Mac.

After Google bought Grand Central and renamed it Google Voice they offered the ability to port a phone number to GV for a flat $20 charge. I took advantage of that with a number I’d already had for 2-3 years and have had used that number on GV since 2009 probably. Google ever folded GV I’m not sure where I’d go with that number.

If I cast iTunes/AppleMusic playing my Mac to my HomePods via iTunes’s built-in AirPlay2 casting SoundSource stops EQiing the music on my Mac.

I contacted them about this earlier this year and they directed me to this support article of theirs which notes quirkiness issues with AirPlay:

The way MacOS handles AirPlay devices as audio outputs is unfortunately quite clunky. As a result, selecting AirPlay devices in SoundSource may work differently than you expect.

If an AirPlay device is not currently set as the Mac’s output, it will not appear as an available audio output device to the rest of the Mac at all. This includes SoundSource.

When an AirPlay device is set as your system’s output device, MacOS dictates that all of your audio be sent to it. It is not possible for SoundSource to send only some audio, such as a specific application’s audio, to an AirPlay device. As a result, SoundSource does not list AirPlay devices in the per-application output selectors.

To send the audio from one specific application to your AirPlay devices, we recommend using Airfoil. Airfoil is designed to send a specific application’s audio to AirPlay-compatible devices.

Although I own Airfoil using it to quickly stream to my HomePods is unnecessarily clunky - when I’m casting it’s usually because I’ll be away from the Mac in my office and want to hear it on HomePods in other rooms. So it usually doesn’t matter at that point if SoundSource turns off on the Mac (and the music sounds great regardless on the HomePods). But it’s an issue I noticed.

That was indeed the third option I want to try.

Hope I have time for some experiments this weekend.