Desk and Desktop Overview

Sit/Stand/Walk/Flowerpot Desk

Computers should be safe, moral, sane, usable, and productive. From advertising to crashes to privacy problems to slave-made ingredients, they mostly aren’t.

It’s very hard to do much about the hardware, but the Free and Open Source communities have made it possible to have a fairly good computer desktop.

Screen capture with one window of corgi pictures, one window of an editor for this blog post, one window with a picture of an earlier version of my desk, and some screen background showing a star chart of Orion in black on red.

This is what my desktop looks like. With side-by-side 4K monitors, four generous, roughly square pages fit side by side.

While updating how I configure a desktop or laptop computer, I thought about why this configuration is important to me. I came up Yet Another Computer User Bill of Rights1:

  • Safe
    • Using the computer does not harm the user.
    • The user never loses any data.
    • The user’s data, and any data they are entrusted with, is reasonably secure2.
    • The user’s privacy is reasonably protected.
  • Sane
    • The user never sees advertisements.
    • The user’s computer computer never crashes or ignores them.
    • Nothing ever blinks, blips, beeps, or bobble, or bustles.
    • Computer interfaces place the user in a padded room, not a cliff top.
  • Usable
    • Text is legible.
    • Screen colors don’t hurt the user’s eyes or ruin their sleep
    • The user never sees individual pixels
    • The user’s tools fit on screen, without cruft, chrome, or craze to distract.

Other requirements are perhaps less universal:

  • Moral3
    • I use only free and open source software.
    • I have only freely licensed, fair use, or purchased media.
    • I don’t benefit from slavery or cruelty4.
  • Productive
    • Nothing is skeumorphic
    • I do almost everything with my keyboard.
    • I work on Python code in an Emacs IDE.
    • I work on Docbook XML in an Emacs IDE.

Given the traffic my ergonomic sit-stand desk posts still get, somebody will want to read how I’ve tackled these other requirements. I’m starting by publishing my instructions, and hope to follow up with more by topic. These followups will be helpful if you

  • share some of these requirements
  • are overwhelmed by choices and just want to know what to do5
  • are an iconoclast, an unconventional eccentric who marches to the beat of a different drummer.6

Many of these things are doable on Mac, Windows, and other closed platforms, so don’t despair if you haven’t yet taken advantage of the Year of Linux on the Desktop.