Six months in, I still hate my work from home setup. I can’t be the only one with problems, but my inability to figure this out makes it feel like it. This is either a rant or a plea for help; I can’t decide which.
Of course what lies ahead is a collection of complaints about good problems to have: the fact that I find switching between a home/personal setup annoying is enabled by the fact that I still have a job, and I can work from home. But my wrists seemingly cannot read a room, and still want to complain. So here we are.
Here are a few things you need to know about my needs:
- I have a work laptop, and all my work related to my full-time job happens there,
- I have a personal laptop, and all my side- and personal projects should happen there,
- Game Development or playing video games (which I’ve done way more of during the pandemic) would be much more reliable with a desktop computer,
- I have a wireless mouse, keyboard, and headphones that I’d like to use with both work and personal setups,
- I need a dual monitor setup. Right now, I do that using my laptop as the second screen.
This doesn’t seem so bad, or particularly needy.
A few other facts about my current setup: I have a 27” ultra-thin Dell Series S monitor that I absolutely love, a generic set of Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones provided by work, Microsoft’s Surface Ergonomic Keyboard, and a matching mouse. I don’t have a separate room for my home office setup, so aesthetics hetic and tidiness are especially important. For example, I spent extra just to get the grey Surface keyboard than the regular Ergonomic keyboard because I thought it looked better).
Right now, I have a few problems: I can’t quickly swap my wireless devices, so I put up with using the work laptop’s keyboard and trackpad (my wrists are NOT happy). I also keep my Bluetooth headphones permanently connected to my work machine. Also: swapping between work and personal “modes” is just annoying enough. Here it is sped up 4x:
I have been overdue for a beefier personal machine for a time. My personal development needs were met by a mid-range laptop for a while, but trying to run Unreal or the Unity Editor on my laptop is sometimes a struggle. Tasks like computing global illumination with decent quality are horribly slow even in smaller scenes. So my first choice was to look into getting a desktop for gaming and personal development and have a neat and convenient way to switch between laptops.
I honestly haven’t been able to find a workable KVM switch. I only see a few dual display switches when searching1, and most of these don’t seem to support a wireless keyboard & mouse. The good folks on Reddit also point out that there aren’t really any decent Thunderbolt 3 KVMs out there. KVMSwitchesOnline seems to have some, though I couldn’t find any that supported a dual display. Some of the more reliable KVMs are also pretty steeply-priced, and reviews about them are sparse, making me nervous to just try some out.
That doesn’t even touch on the Bluetooth headphones. Switching them from one device to another is just… incredibly annoying. I’ve given up on it right now. I assume my headphones are permanently paired with my work laptop and use earbuds connected to a laptop headphone jack for when I need it. I have no idea if the KVMs that boast supporting wireless input devices actually have a generic Bluetooth that a headphone can connect to. There’s so little material that I have no idea where to check.
If I ditch the idea of a desktop, I can instead look into a USB-C Thunderbolt laptop dock. Yet the same considerations: supporting a wireless keyboard, mouse, and a Bluetooth headphone seem to be slowing me down.
I might be looking down the wrong path. Maybe there’s an easier way to switch my Bluetooth devices between a Chromebook and a Windows machine? Unfortunately, I can’t install custom software on my work device, so I can’t really use something like Mouse Without Borders.
Are any of these requirements unreasonable? Why isn’t there enough demand for a solution to be available? Did I stumble upon my own formulation of the XY problem, and the right answer was under my nose this whole time? Honestly, if you have an idea, I’m all ears, just @-me at @EyasSH on Twitter.
I’m almost certain to buy a second of the same monitor if I transition to a desktop. ↩