Setups - Pimping Your Installation
The term “Setups” refers to elaborate and carefully designed computer, office and entertainment setups usually put together by enthusiasts who want to go a cut above your standard plug-in-and-go configuration. It can just be how a PC is set up on a desk or can extend to an entire room with furniture, lighting, colour and design. Often it was referred to as “my man-cave” but women are in on it too – though if you start writing about “woman cave” you might get yourself into trouble somehow.
Some people spend thousands on very powerful PCs with huge screens, extreme keyboards, joysticks, etc. then end up using them at an awful, old tatty desk and worn out chair – that’s all changing now with as much pride being shown in the setup as the machine itself. Does this sound indulgent? Perhaps – but most users spend a lot of time at their desks be it coding, gaming, writing, watching video of even just burning their lives away on Facebook. Setups are about using careful planning and a bit of design effort to really make the environment better; it’s even now a sub-culture with Youtube channels and competitions where people submit their setups for others to review and critique.
There a few key things to think of with a good setup:
Carefully placed cabling, power boards and power leads are essential. Ideally they are contained and invisible in normal use – hiding cabling behind a conduit or bound to the underside of a desk can make a huge difference. Not only does it look better and is neater but it can be significantly safer; animals, dust, errant feet and children can interfere with poorly placed cabling but a good setup doesn’t really have these problems.
You can find such innovations as cable ties, suspension bridges that suspend cables under desks (e.g. Ikea Signum). One of the cleverest methods is to use the metal ring binders from a ring-binder folder for this – you remove the binder from the folder and bolt it to a desk using the rings as management clamp. Simple, cheap, effective and very cool.
The advent of LED lighting with light strips, spot lights and other effects has completely changed what you can do with your setup. Most people use their systems at night so this is of most value – many “proper” geeks avoid sunlight anyway so tend to have their curtains drawn to avoid glare on their screens.
If you’re really keen - LED lighting can also be bought that can be set to change colours – either manually or in response to events (if you’re really keen and know what you’re doing); some even change the colours of each LED light to make patterns on the wall that match what is being displayed on screen, a process pioneered by Philips with their “Ambilight” feature on their TVs. Today you can obtain kits that do the same thing, many build their own with “Boblight” arrays.
Elaborate desks and chairs are also part and parcel of the setup phenomenon. It’s not unusual for some to spend thousands on their desk and chair combination – if you’re spending a lot of time at it then it’s potentially money well spent. Remember a programmer working 18 hours a day in a bad chair can do more damage to their back than a furniture removalist – so watch out for bad chairs.
Gaming rigs, consoles and lounge rooms
Some users set up different installations for different systems - a well heeled geek may have a special rig set up for racing games (with wheel, pedals, special screens, console, etc.) and they may have a completely different setup for their other systems. Some have couches and lounge chairs in the room as well; bar fridges, big screen TVs and other luxuries also abound.
Superior sound systems
These can range from small surround sound systems for PCs all the way up to high end audiophile equipment. Some setups even have soundproofing and acoustic matting to reduce sound transfer both in and out of the room.
Stands, arms and screens
LCD screens are huge, thin and light – and monitor arms that hold them up from a pole at the edge of the desk can allow much better movement, height and give you much more desk space back. Done properly they can look very elegant too – a good thing now that you can find monitor arms for as little as 1/20th of what they once cost when they were only bought by banks and businesses.
Does it go into the systems themselves?
It can – but that’s not necessarily what it’s all about. The keys are innovation, smart use of your cash and fitness for purpose; no use in making a huge gaming setup if it’s for an office environment. If you’re strapped for cash but are still careful with your cable management and set things up and place them well – you will receive accolades from the setup community.
The Setup community
There are Youtube channels like “Pimp My Setup” which show and rate people’s setups that they have submitted for critical review; there are groups such as Setup Addicts where members share ideas and comment on each other’s setups. This is still all very new – the idea has been around for decades but now a great setup is not only a wonderful thing to use and be in, it’s also something to be proud of if you’ve done it well.