25 June 2008

Saving desk space

Space is tight around here in Tokyo. The high population density is reflected on the public transportation system, land price, cultural traditions, house sizes, and ultimately on my desk size. However my daily work implies to interact with multiple hardware. This is what I do to save desk space.

Buy small boxes.
Obviously, the smaller the boxes are the more you can fit under your desk. However beware that too small and exchanging the parts becomes as delicate and time-consuming as clock making.
Use a KVM switch.
Using 4-way USB+VGA KVM not only eliminates the need of having a keyboard, mouse, and monitor for each box, but also saves on cabling. Decent KVM switchs allow you to switch machine directly from the keyboard, so it saves you time too.
Use synergy
The KVM switch is nice, but for debugging/testing it is actually more useful to have a separate monitor for the test machine. synergy fits nicely here, as it allows to share the mouse and keyboard between multiple computers across the network, each with its own display. You switch between machines by moving the mouse off the edge of your screen. It also shares the clipboard and works seemingly across Windows and other OSes.
Use remote access
Often you don't even need a physically connected display, and remote access via protocals such as SSH, Remote X, Remote Desktop Protocol, and VNC are sufficient for development.
Use virtualization/emulation
You can't beat the space taken by a virtual machine like VMWare or VirtualBox. Unfortunately, rarely can this be used in practice. My current use of it consists in running Windows development tools inside Linux.

I hope you find these tips useful. Please share any other desk space saving tips you have.