The Verge lives on news, and Jay Peters is one of the news writers who keeps it going — searching out the latest info about what’s going on in technology, entertainment, and culture, and writing it up for the site. As with the rest of us, Jay has been doing most of his work from home over the last year — here’s how he manages it.
Tell me a little about yourself. What is your background, and what do you do at The Verge?
I’m a news writer here at The Verge, and I’m fortunate to get to cover all sorts of things in tech, gaming, entertainment, and more. On any given day, I might write about things like the iPhone 13, Pokémon gadgets, Marvel movie titles, Fortnite skins, or even the Monopoly Longest Game Ever edition.
I had a bit of a roundabout path to this job. Out of college, I worked in technology PR, got my start writing about tech at Techmeme, and joined The Verge in August 2019.
How did you decide where and how to set up your workspace?
Getting the setup to where it is now has taken years. I’ve experimented with different desks, mice, keyboards, laptop stands, monitor arms, and even at one point attached the Nintendo Switch dock to one of the legs of the desk using velcro. And I’m always tinkering with my setup, so anything I have set up now could change down the road.
As for where the desk is, it was a happy coincidence that my current apartment has a corner that’s the perfect size for this desk and the dresser (which holds things like game controllers and my notebook).
What adjustments have you had to make for working at home and how do you deal with distractions?
My wife and I have been working from home since 2017, so our physical work environments haven’t changed much due to the pandemic. Because we live in a studio, though, we have to communicate every day about our schedules and meetings so that we can avoid both being on the phone at the same time.
To keep out distractions, I usually just put in my AirPods Pro, without sound. That’s often enough to block things so I can stay focused. But if I need a little white noise, I turn on this extended YouTube video consisting entirely of ambient engine noise from the USS Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s been my go-to for years. And when I feel like working to some music, I have been turning to lo-fi remixes of video game music as of late.
Tell me a little about the desk itself, which I see is a sitting / standing desk. How did you choose it?
It’s a Fully Jarvis standing desk. I used a sitting / standing desk at my PR job and got used to being able to switch back and forth, and standing makes me feel less lazy about being parked in front of a computer all day. I also find switching between sitting and standing relieves back pain and helps with a repetitive strain injury (RSI) in my wrists that first flared up a few years ago.
One of the best add-ons I got for the desk was the programmable memory unit, which lets me tap a button to adjust the desk to my preferred sitting and standing positions. I also got the casters (wheels) so that I could wheel it over to my and my wife’s lounge chairs, which are right behind the desk. I can bring the desk over, adjust the monitor a bit lower, and then use it to watch movies and play video games.
It looks like you have less desktop space than most of the desks we’ve seen from your colleagues.
Space is at a premium in my studio, so a smaller desk works better for me right now. I’m also fortunate that I can technically do my entire job with just a laptop, so I don’t need a bigger desk — though a keyboard, mouse, and monitor make it much easier!
That’s a really interesting-looking desk chair.
It’s the Capisco Chair by HÅG, and I thought so, too, when I first saw it on Fully’s online store. I had no plans to buy it because of the price, which starts at $829. But I tried it out at the Fully showroom in Portland and it was my favorite chair there, so I sprung for it. Every single day, I’m glad that I did, since I can comfortably sit in it for hours and it helps a lot with my posture.
Okay, now it’s time to talk about your tech. Let’s start with your computer.
I’ve got a new 13-inch MacBook Air with Apple’s custom M1 chip inside. It’s a fantastic machine. The only upgrade I added was 16GB of RAM. I didn’t add any onboard storage because the majority of my digital life is stored online.
The monitor is an Asus VS228H-P with a 21.5-inch screen. My Amazon account tells me I bought this all the way back in 2015, but even though it’s old, I remain very happy with it. (I will admit that I thought this was a 24-inch screen for, uh, years.)
It’s attached to a monitor mount from Huanuo, and I bought it because it was the tallest one I could find.
The late-2020 MacBook Air, powered by Apple’s M1 processor, is the best laptop you can buy. The base model, which includes 8GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, starts at $999.
Appearance-wise, this laptop has a lot in common with the Intel-powered MacBook Air that Apple released earlier in 2020, including the same 2560 x 1600 screen, Touch ID, 720p webcam, fingerprint sensor, and scissor-switch keyboard.
But the new processor is the star of the show here; it’s fast. In our testing, it handled intense photo- and video-editing workloads better than almost any Intel-powered laptop we’ve tried this year. It was also able to run Shadow of the Tomb Raider at close-to-playable frame rates, which is quite a feat for integrated graphics. At launch, these apps hadn’t yet been optimized for the M1 processor and were running through Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation layer — but they still worked fine.
And the processing power didn’t even weigh down the battery life: we got between eight and 10 hours of sustained work.
Another benefit of the M1 processor is that it enables the MacBook Air to run iPhone and iPad apps natively on macOS. As of this writing, there still isn’t a huge selection of mobile apps available, and some that have been released aren’t quite optimized for the laptop screen. Still, it’s a benefit we can look forward to as time goes on.
Overall, there’s no reason that a general-use customer shouldn’t consider the MacBook Air. It’s a reliable device with excellent performance, as well as the excellence in build quality for which Apple is known. Power users who need a MacBook Pro probably know who they are; the Air should be fine for everyone else.
That’s a really interesting display setup. How did you decide on it? Does it work well for you?
I use a single monitor because I get distracted too easily if I have more than one. I’d like to upgrade to something bigger or maybe even an ultrawide someday, though (especially now that I know I have a 21.5-inch monitor instead of a 24-inch one).
The extremely tall monitor mount serves two purposes: it helps a lot with my posture and is highly adjustable, which means I can bring it to a lower height when I’m sitting in the chairs behind the desk.
Tell us a little about the mouse you have to the right of your keyboard.
It’s the Contour Unimouse. My wrists can hurt if I use a “flat” mouse for too long, so I spent a lot of time and money trying out different vertical mice to see which one was the best fit for me. I like the Unimouse a lot because of just how high it angles — the company’s website says it’s 70 degrees.
The mouse pad is the VictSing Ergonomic Mouse Pad. I don’t remember why I picked it over others, but it works great for me and it’s cheap.
You’re the second person I’ve seen who uses a split keyboard. Do you find it better than a traditional keyboard?
I do! It’s the Kinesis Freestyle Pro with the additional tenting accessories and wrist pads. I happily used the Microsoft Sculpt ergonomic keyboard for years, and also tried other ergonomic keyboards like the Kinesis Advantage2 QD and the ErgoDox EZ. But the Freestyle Pro just feels the best to me.
I also like that I can program specific keys to macros. On the left side of my keyboard, you can see that I have crudely taped scraps of Post-It notes over some of the keys — those scraps are reminders of what I have programmed the keys to do, like Command + L to quickly highlight the link in the URL bar of my browser.
How about your other tech (headphones, speakers, etc.)?
During the workday, my AirPods Pro hardly ever leave my ears — they’re comfortable, sound fine, and work really well with my Mac and iPhone. I have just one criticism: unlike the original AirPods, the AirPods Pro tend to fall out when I’m talking on calls or eating. Hopefully Apple tweaks the fit of the AirPods Pro a little for the next model.
My webcam is the Logitech C920 HD Pro. It’s great and much better than my MacBook Air’s webcam.
My USB-C hub is the Totu 13-in-1. It’s honestly overkill for my needs, but it works fine. Sometimes, though, it emits a dog whistle-pitched squeal that is really annoying. And the charging pad is a Choetech charging pad. It works well enough, though it charges my iPhone very slowly and sometimes requires me to shift my devices around a bit until their charging indicators turn on.
To the left of my desk are my PlayStation 5 Digital Edition, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch. I have mostly only owned Nintendo consoles until recently, so I’ve been spending a lot of my pandemic free time catching up on older PlayStation and Xbox games on the PS5 and Series X. (I’m currently tearing my way through 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim.) They’re all sitting on an IKEA Malm two-drawer chest.
When you sent in the photos, you apologized for the cat hair on some of your devices. Tell us about the cat!
Meet Gouda! He’s an eight-year old exotic shorthair and his tongue never goes all the way inside his mouth. But don’t be fooled by his cuteness, he’s full of trouble. He enjoys knocking small objects off counters and waking my wife and me up thirty minutes before the alarm goes off. But we love him dearly anyway.