What I Use – July 2014

I’m not sure why, but recently I’ve had a number of questions around where i work, and what equipment I use day to day.

The Office
Like many of us that work from home, my office was once a second bedroom. However, this is no longer the case as now I’ve filled it with all my kit, there’s no room for a bed any more.

I live in a rented cottage, so don’t really have the opportunity to build fitted furniture, but have instead turned to Ikea to provide most of the furniture in the office (and indeed the house).


As this is somewhere i spend most of my working days (and evening’s) i decided to try and make it feel as much like an office as possible, which is why its painted in a dull office like colour. As a home worker, I find i need to have a dedicated space to work which feels different from the rest of the house. I’ve tried to work from the dining table and the sofa, but I struggle to keep any concentration if I’m not somewhere that feels like an office.

Equipment – Hardware

Main PC
This is a custom built workstation. Currently it is running:
Dual Xeon X5560 CPU’s
96GB Ram
1x 256 SSD
4x 1TB HDD’s in Raid 10 and a 2TB HDD
ATI Radeon HD 7800 (driving 3 monitors)

Currently, I use 24″ Monitors on my deskop, of 3 different makes and ages, all running at 1920 x 1080.

Various Peripherals
Headset – Sennheiser PC-7 USB
Speakers – Creative T10
Microphone – Samson C01U
Skype Phone – RTX4088

My primary laptop is currently a Dell Precision M4600, running an i7, 256GB SSD and 8GB of Ram.

I also use a Surface Pro (1st edition) as my tablet

My Phone is currently a Nokia Lumia 920 running Windows Phone 8.1 Dev Preview

I use a multiple of software, but here I’ve listed the things I most commonly use, and couldn’t work without day to day.

Desktop OS – Windows Pro 8.1
I use Windows Pro 8.1 as my OS of choice on all of my machines (including my Surface Pro)

On my desktop I use 8.1 as my primary OS, but then have a VM built specifically for work purposes (also 8.1), which is hosted in VMWare Workstation.

Virtual Machines
I use Virtual Machines quite heavily in my work day to day. I’ve been using VMWare Workstation for a number of years now and still do on my Desktop. I’m looking into Hyper-V though and am quite liking it on my laptop.

Day to Day software
Every day I use a very similar set of software to do my work…

Notepad ++
I have used Notepad ++ for a number of years now and have always been a big fan of what it can do. It’s one of the pieces of software I would struggle to work without.

Office 2013
Apart from the obvious uses of Office, as a business we communicate via Lync quite a bit, so I use that. I also use OneNote exclusively now as my note taking software, and have almost completely eradicated the humble pen and paper.

File Management and Backup
I use SugarSync as my software of choice currently for managing and maintaining all my files across my computers and VM’s. I love the way that I can sync only the folders I need onto each machine, and also they way I can dictate where the folders should go on each machine (as this varies)

Remote Working
As I do most of my ‘site’ work remotely, I need to be able to access servers all over the world with ease. To do this, I will generally try to use RDP or TeamViewer.

I use Royal TS to manage my RDP connections. Highly recommended.

Worth a mention:
CyberDuck – Free and Easy FTP
Visual Studio 2013 Premium
SQL Management Studio
Windows Snipping Tool – Great for the odd screenshot that I need.
Skype with a Skype Number

Lego Mindstorms

Since I moved house, I’ve been meaning to get my Lego Mindstorms set out for a bit of a play, but have only just got round to it.

The set I have is the NXT 2.0 Education Base Set and it’s really quite good. Its old hat now with the EV3 systems, but I can’t bring myself to lay down the cash for that.

The NXT 2.0 Base set though still have enough stuff to get started with a decent robot. You get an 3 motors, an ultrasonic sensor, 2 touch sensors, 1 light sensor and a sound sensor (which my kit is sadly missing), so the opportunities for playing are actually quite good.

Building my first bot
I’ve decided to keep it simple for now and have just built the basic kit as per the destructions. Quite quickly I found my self with a working bot, which was good. Now I just needed to get a couple of sensors hooked up and get it programmed to do some stuff.


Once I’d got my bot built, I needed to get it programmed and set-up. I put the software on my desktop and had a bit of a play. Within a few minutes, I had it whirring round the office, and responding to light input.

So far, so good…

What’s Next?
Now I just need to find the time to have a play with it properly, and see how much I can get it to do. I’m yet to find a design that will allow it to wake me up with a fresh cup of tea in the morning, but i’ll figure something out.