Two Laptops, One Desk

I have been working 100% remotely for almost a year now. During this time my Thinkpad, a barely-operational work laptop, became inherent part of my desk. It means that there’s no room for my Dell, a home laptop, which I use for everything else: writing, managing my server, my side-projects, watching movies, playing games etc. Fortunately, thanks to my master-woodworker skills, I was able to fit them together vertically in a nice wooden stand.

It’s made of 3 pieces of the cheapest pine wood, 6 screws and 6 small felt pads. I already had all of the necessary pieces in the garage, so it was basically free, which is its biggest advantage. If I were to buy a similar stand, I’d either had to pay outrageous price (200 zł - over 50 USD) or settle with the cheapest plastic I’ve ever seen (but for 30 zł - 8 USD). On top of that, being custom made, I could fit it exactly to the width of both of my laptops. Besides, the “rustic” feeling is strong. ;)

Fitting laptops on the desk is just one problem. Constantly switching my favourite keyboard and trackball is another one. I thought about buying USB-C docking station, which should work with both laptops, but they’re too expensive. I settled with USB KVM switch, which connects to both laptops and allows selecting one with press of a button. It cost me 69 zł (18 USD), but there are more cost-effective mechanical solutions for half of that price. Even making one myself shouldn’t be too hard, but despite the soldering station, I don’t have necessary parts at home.

Bad news is that this particular KVM terminates USB connection when switching devices, which prevents waking up from suspend with a keyboard press and forces me to open laptop lids. I still haven’t figured out a solution to this.

Regarding the screen, I allow it to automatically detect signal on one of its HDMI ports. No manual switching involved, everything just works.

The only remaining problem is turning these devices on without opening their lids. The solution is a little hacky: there are BIOS options in both laptops to do so once they’re connected to the external power source. It’s not the sexiest thing, but now to boot them I brierfly disconnect and reconnect their AC adapters. Maybe one day I’ll connect them to separate power strips to turn them on with my feet.

Despite waking from suspend state, this hacky setup has been quite comfortable so far and, more importantly, it allowed me to retrieve some precious space on my way too small desk. However, due to the cable mess, I’m thinking about moving the stand outside of the desk: either by placing it on the floor or mounting laptops under the table top.

Two laptops in a wooden stand

Stand zoom

UGreen USB switch