Heavily ‘ARM’ed In Mission Control

I’ve been a bit obsessed lately with trying to make my office into a more habitable environment.  I spend from eight to ten hours per day in here, so it seems to be in my best interest to eliminate any annoying or inefficient elements.

The first, and most annoying problem, was that the slide out keyboard tray that was built into the desk was too low.  I prefer to have my keyboard up higher, and it was also blocking me from getting close enough to the monitors (which are already pulled out to the very edge of the desk).  So I bought the Waterloo Sit Or Stand Capable Arm, Keyboard Tray & Mouse Tray Package to replace the existing tray.  Only after I got it did I realize that there were three cross-braces under the desktop that would be in the way.  I spent a considerable amount of time on my back under the desk cursing and getting sawdust in my eyes hacking those cross-braces out (I suppose they were there for heavy monitors or something, but I’m not putting a lot of load on the desk and removing them hasn’t caused a problem).  But once in place, the new tray has been much better to work with than the old fixed tray. 

The other issue is that while I have a primary PC I also have a laptop that I have to use from time to time.  It’s mainly for travel, but when I do need to use it I need to be able to do so while also using the primary.  I’d tried using the slide-out writing platforms on either side of the desk, but those quickly caused eye-strain, aggravated my latent carpal tunnel issues, or gave me a backache.  Almost by accident I stumbled upon the Ergotron LX Desk Mount Notebook Arm somewhere while I was looking for something else.  It was bit pricey, so I stewed on it for a while, but eventually found one for a bit less than retail and decided to give it a go.  Mounting was pretty simple (just one hole) and now I can have the laptop up where I can see it while using the PC.

Finally, I also have my server here in the office.  For a while I was using a KVM switch with my primary PC’s keyboard and one of its monitors to access the console of the server.  But that left me unable to use the primary PC while on the server’s console.  I came across a fairly inexpensive SpaceArm on eBay ($40 shipped vs the usual $200) and decided I couldn’t resist at that price.  It was a bit more of an involved installation, as I forgot to take into account the space used by the slide-out writing platform on the right side of the desk.  But a little ‘adjustment’ with a hacksaw took care of that problem (i.e. I notched the end of the platform to fit around the nut that holds the arm in from underneath). 

So now if I have everything in use it looks like the bridge of the Enterprise in here:

But when I’m just using the primary PC, I still have some desk space available on that side:

I also bought a small keyboard (SolidTek USB Mini Keyboard with Track Ball) for the server’s console that includes a trackball so I don’t have to have room for a separate mouse.  And that little vertical black box on the right edge of the desk is an LCD-monitor TV tuner device.  It lets me watch over-the-air TV on the LCD monitor.  I’m not in the habit of watching TV while working, but sometimes it’s useful to be able to tune into local TV if there’s a storm watch.  The audio is fed into a little manual switcher (seen underneath and between the dual monitors in the top picture).  The switcher sends audio either from my Squeezebox or from the server into an “aux” input on the main PC’s speakers (the main PC’s output is always active, so it can make for some interesting audio if you forget what you’ve got switched on).

Also, that huge UPS powers the server, the main PC, all the monitors, the phone, the VoIP TA, and the network switch (hidden behind the monitors), so that the whole thing stays up if the power takes a hit (although my internet connection will die within a few minutes it at least lets me tell you why I’m going offline).  The UPS’s USB cable is connected to the server which is running apcupsd.  The PC is running the Windows version of apcupsd in network mode to monitor the main server.  If the power fails, the PC will shut down based on being signaled by the server.


  1. Jay says:

    The UPS part made me think it’s too bad you can’t supply your own monster UPS to keep FiOS internet going longer.  That’d be hard for me even if possible, given that it plugs in in the cellar of the apartment building, but hey.

    I’m setting up to work more intensively from the home office, and you’ve given me food for thought.

  2. What I’ve found is that while the FiOS ONT stays powered, it seems to ditch the Internet side of things and only allow POTS to keep working when it’s on battery.  I suppose one could put a big UPS inline with the FiOS power connection, so that FiOS never knows that the power has gone off until the UPS dies.  I don’t know whether this would keep the Internet working, though, and power failures are infrequent enough that I can usually get by without Internet.

  3. If you’re interested in getting one of those SpaceArms, here’s a link on eBay:

    It’s the same arm I got, but from a different seller (although the price isn’t bad—$31.98 shipped).  I don’t know where they were taken from, but while mine was used, I couldn’t tell.  The only issue is that there were no instructions, but it turns out that the link provided by the seller takes you to SpaceCo’s site, which has a PDF of the instructions (which turned out to be needed, as you have to take the arm off of the base to mount the base to the desk).