I’m not a hustler, but I do have a restless mind.
So when I go on an extended vacation, my 13” 2015 MacBook Pro travels with me.
Despite my doctors claims that my neck/shoulder/spine/hip is in perfect condition (for any age, they say1), I’ve started to experience the side-effects of any computer-bound profession, and have been trying to correct my posture for the past couple of months. This is easier to do when you have ergonomic chairs and adjustable desks and pivoting 4K displays at your home office (or your real office, if you are lucky), but may not be so easy to do so while on the move2.
Here is how I’ve done just that.
The Stand for the Display
Getting the Mac’s display to eye level is the first order of business. Finding optimal elevation is hard, but IKEA has a very affordable solution called Isberget.
This $2.99 plastic stand helps get the built-in display about 10cm off the desk, which is good enough, especially if you want some flexibility with your display angle.
You don’t want to sacrifice your wrists while saving your back, and the stand puts the keyboard at such an awkward angle that you’ll be doing just that. So, an external keyboard becomes a necessity.
I use 87/88-key mechanical keyboards at my desk. They are smaller than regular keyboards, but they are still not very easy to carry. So I went even smaller and got an Anne Pro II, which is a battery-powered mechanical keyboard that fits in a backpack with room to spare for the computer itself.
The keyboard uses Gateron Brown switches, which is quiet yet clacky enough to keep me typing even when I get bored of what I’m trying to say. As can be read on this sentence.
The Second Display
When you have the space, you expand. Working on large 4K monitors with high resolutions, one inevitably develops a workflow that uses all the available space, and going back to a single small display strips away all the efficiency that’s been gained.
The trackpad essentially becomes unusable with the stand-and-keyboard setup. Which means you need4 a mouse.
At my desk, I prefer the Logitech G300s budget gaming mouse. It’s ergonomic and it’s practical, but it’s got a cable so it’s not really portable. That’s where the Logitech M720 comes in—it has at least 3 buttons (4 if you’re willing to use the crappy app), and it can be used either via Bluetooth or its USB dongle on up to 3 devices.
Depending on the desk you’ll be using the mouse on, you might want a mousepad. I’m using a DesignX cloth bag that contained swag given away at one of their events. It also doubles as a pouch for all the loose bits and pieces you might want to carry, like the charger and the cables and the mouse.
Other Tips and Tricks
- The old MacBook Pro has the same display brightness as the new MacBook Air, which is not so good. The iPad will be fine to read out in the sun, but the MacBook’s display really makes things difficult. So, do not use the dark mode and switch to light mode to save your eye from straining.
- Newer MacBook’s sound good, but if you have an older device, get a Bluetooth speaker or headphone. Sound is objective, so I won’t recommend one. Just, make sure it’s a good one.
- I use Display Menu app to change the resolution of both the iPad and the built-in display. I prefer higher-than-available resolutions, which don’t support @2x Retina output, but is still sharp enough due to the quality of the displays. This also results in less CPU usage and a smoother Duet Display experience, which is a nice bonus.
- Be sure to enjoy your view and vacation, don’t work all the time. Spend time with your family. Take a walk. Enjoy the sun and the sea.
- Don’t do this kind of setup if you are going for a long-weekend getaway or something shorter than a week. For short vacations, don’t even take your computer with you. Life is too short to work on short vacations.
When you get back…
…do this. It’s the least you can do for your body. It’ll thank you for it.
- The technician thought my age was entered wrong in the form. I’m not gonna lie, made me feel good for a second. ↑
- If you’re Marco Arment, please ignore. You’re good. ↑
- macOS Catalina and iPadOS will provide a solution called Sidecar, but 2015 MacBook Pro’s won’t support it. ↑
- Hell, if you’re probably reading this, you are probably a designer and you definitely need a mouse. Go get one. No, not that Apple one. Another one. ↑