My Remote Office Setup - March 2020

A lot of remote web people like to show off their neat and tidy desks that look like no one actually sits there and works for 8 hours a day. Let's have some real talk: no desk is ever that clean except for a photo shoot. Here is what an actual in use remote web developer's desk looks like, annotations below:

Scott's Desk in March 2020
  1. Work-provided 2019 13" MacBook Pro
  2. 27" LG HDR 4k Display. Best monitor for the value besides a full on iMac.
  3. JBL Speakers that I've had since college. There is a sub-woofer on the floor. They work fine. I am not an audiophile, so I've never felt a need to replace them.
  4. Random collection of pens. Probably only need one or two of them tbh.
  5. Mentos gum (also noted: Hi Chew Candy)
  6. Free notebook swag from An Event Apart Denver 2017
  7. The desk is from someone in Texas that I bought on Etsy. I'll probably want a bigger desk someday though.
  8. Logitech MX Anywhere 2 mouse. It's fine, not my favorite mouse.
  9. Apple Magic Keyboard
  10. Chapstick because it gets dry living in the mountains
  11. Apple AirPods
  12. Moleskin notebook
  13. Mondaine Swiss Railway watch that I need to get a new battery for
  14. Granola bar wrapper I need to throw out
  15. A pen
  16. Griffin Laptop Stand (are they still in business?)
  17. My collection of National Park pins
  18. Cheatsheet for our front-end framework and brand colors (because who can memorize every color hex value?)

6 Months Working Remote

This month of March marks my six months of working remote. Last year, my wife took a new job that required us to move to a new location in the mountains of Southern California. This was far enough away from our old home that comuting to my place of work was out of the question. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity given to me to continue my work from remote.

Getting to place in my career where I could work remotely outside of a traditional office has been a goal of mine for a long time, even before we thought of my wife's new job. I've really liked having control over my work environment, where I can play music loud when I want or take a quick break to get some fresh mountain air in the backyard. Our new house has enough rooms to allow me to have my own office space, and I have slowly over time been making changes to make my ideal office.

The only downside so far has been the feeling of not being apart of the everyday conversations with my colleages in the real office. While I don't think it has impacted my ability to do my work, I do think that is a side effect of being in a place where you are the one person working remotely. The positive trade off is having control over my workspace, not needing to commute, and thus being able to spend more time around my family.

How Myst Almost Couldn't Run on CD-ROM

Loved hearing the stories about how Myst was able to run on early 90s CD-ROMs. The games from the Miller Brothers and Cyan were really formative to my upbringing into using computers as a child. Rand mentions at one point about people he has met saying they remember watching their mom or dad playing Myst. That was totally me watching my dad play.

Read This Link

The Books I Read in 2019

One of my personal goals for 2019 was to try and read more books again. Here's a run down on what I read this year:

Born a Crime

By Trevor Noah

Autobiography by the Daily Show host about his upbringing in South Africa. I don't really watch his show much anymore, but he's such a fantastic comedic storyteller and does a great service to explain the life of a black South African during apartheid.

Digital Minimalism

By Cal Newport

This book started a theme for me this year in my reading. This topic of how devices and social media pull on our time and attention has been a big interest to me, especially becoming a new dad recently. Digital Minimalism was at times a little too philosophical and too "That's fine for Cal Newport" in it's approach to this stuff.

The Calculating Stars & The Fated Sky

By Mary Robinette Kowal

I don't really read much fiction these days, but I am always a sucker for a good space drama. This is alternate history-based story set in the 1950s where a giant meteor has destroyed the east coast of the United States and has prompted the nations of the world to begin the colonization of space. I've only read these two from this series, but I understand that there are more to come. This is such a great premise and could make a really good TV series.

Bored and Brilliant

By Manoush Zomorodi

In this topic of tech usage, I think this was probably the best one I read this year. Zomorodi's approach was a lot more practical and less about throwing everything away.

Make Time

By Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky

Another in this tech usage series, but based a lot more in types of actions you can try to cut back device use. My favorite take away from this was the term "infinity pool apps", which can be described as apps that seemingly have an infinite amount of content to browse. This could be social media, Netflix, Amazon, or even a mobile web browser. The idea is that a smartphone is an incredible tool with a lot of utility, like maps or photos, but these "infinity pool apps" are the biggest culprits with time and attention.

Natural Rivals

By John Clayton

A nuanced historical perspective on the contributions John Muir and Gifford Pinchot (the first to lead the National Forest Service under Teddy Roosevelt) gave to environmentalism and conservation. These two have usually been pitted as rivals where Muir and Pinchot's philosophy on land use were in conflict with each other. The deeper story is that they were two sides to the same coin and that history has not been kind to Pinchot.

From WordPress to Eleventy

I've developed for WordPress for a long time, nearly as long as I have been a web developer. As a CMS, it has grown into something a lot more powerful beyond it's blogging roots. Between Gutenberg, the Rest API, and plugins like Advanced Custom Fields, there's a lot of flexibility for a developer to work with.

That being said, WordPress also feels like overkill for a small site like this. My portfolio site doesn't really need a lot: a few pages and a set of chronologically ordered posts.

I think like a lot of web developers with personal sites, there is a desire to use your site to tinker with different design and development approaches that your employer may not be using. It's part curiosity and part self-education. This has led me to check out what's going on in the JAMstack world.

I looked into a few different static site frameworks: VuePress, Gridsome, Gatsby, and Eleventy. Everyone of these are based in the same idea of taking a folder of markdown files and processing it using templates into static HTML files. The first two are based on Vue, which is my preferred Javascript reactive framework. Gatsby has been gaining in popularity for JAMstack sites as the go-to for React developers. These first three are all very useful, but again feel like more than I need for this site. This brings us to Eleventy.

Eleventy, developed by Zach Leatherman, takes this concept even simpler. There are a variety of templating languages to choose from, which gives developers complete control over how the HTML pages are being generated. There's no extra javascript added to the built product: just plain, flat, boring HTML files.

After a several periods of working on and off on building the Eleventy version of this site, I've moved everything over without changing anything visual on the site. It is now hosted on Netlify and managed through the Netlify CMS.