Thursday, May 10, 2012

productivity level up

Today I spent some time clearing all the stuff off my desks, dusting everything off with a bit of rubbing alcohol and paper towels and screen wipes, and re-setting up my main development machine on what used to be my main desk with my former dual monitor setup.

I had been using a single monitor setup for a while on the notion that the restricted screen space would allow me to focus on one thing at a time more, and discourage me from multitasking too much. I suppose it did, to some extent, but I also found myself having to work with restricted-sized windows when I would be doing things that necessarily involve having more than one app open at a time, like, say, debugging a Unity app, or working with a 3D model to be imported into Unity.

Lately, I've been reading through The Productive Programmer, which I got a few years ago, way back when I was still working for Microsoft, and had started to read through it, but must have gotten distracted by all the things going on at work at the time. And, also because maybe I was working on this thing called Windows 7 which wasn't entirely 100% compatible with everything the book was talking about, and in some cases, may have been working toward superceding in some respect. Since Windows 7 is now definitely out there and has had plenty of time in the open air to bake with the development community, I thought I'd give the book another go, and in the cases where the information is a little outdated, I'd just do my own homework via Google. I suppose if I were still working at Microsoft, I'd use Bing, but whatevs.

One of the things recommended early on in the book, in the chapter on Focus, which I would say is a pretty key element to being more productive, is to maximize one's screen real estate. Two things to do this are to 1) use multiple monitors, and 2) use a virtual desktop manager.

The first part, the multiple monitors, was a fairly straightforward (albeit messy) process of rearranging my office so that I would have enough room on the desk that I'm using for my dev machine to have a second monitor running. I have two desks in my room: one has one large deskspace, with a smaller-but-equally-long shelf space up top; the other has a smaller main desk space, with three 1 sq ft shelves off to the side. I had my single monitor setup on the latter desk, with the first desk having my iMac and a smaller TV with a NES on it, along with various piles of things. All of this stuff got cleared off. Much of it is now on my bed. The basic essentials –  my dev machine, printer, TV, NES, and iMac –  are either set up or at least placed where I'd like them to be. The remaining 10% of stuff is in piles on the floor. I'll have to spend some time cleaning the rest of this up so that I can actually go to bed later. My desk, though, is refreshingly clear of distractions.

I also brought back my old executive office chair that I had put aside for a while. I had forgotten how nice the extra height and lumbar support of this thing is. I had brief fleeting thoughts of some day splurging on an Aeron. This will do for the time being.

Part deux, the virtual desktop manager, is something that might take a couple of days to ensure everything is working properly. I first tried the SysInternals Desktops tool, but found the Explorer process separation between the virtual desktops to be problematic, particularly with web browsers, which would try to re-open the user profile on each different desktop, causing a permission failure. Next, I tried VirtuaWin, an open-source virtual desktop manager, and am so far finding it a bit easier to use. The jury is still out, though, on how well this works with the automated screen capture tools that I use to record my daily work progress.

My iMac is over on the second desk, now, where it seems a bit more at home. The keyboard and mouse even all fit into the little pull-out keyboard tray. The TV is on the middle sq-ft shelf of that desk, with the NES and a Sega Genesis arranged side-by-side up top, leaving the lower sq-ft shelf for storing games and a single pile of books that I plan to definitely read.



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