Mac Setups: The Triple Display iMac Setup of a Java Developer

Feb 23, 2014 - 20 Comments

Mac Java developers desk setup

It’s time for another featured Mac setup! We’ve got the sweet triple-screened desk setup of Java developer Ben S. to share this time, let’s jump right in and learn a bit more…

Tell us a bit about the hardware in your Mac setup

Included in the setup but not pictured are an iPhone 4s, iPad 2, iHome Airplay speakers, Apple TV 3rd gen, Brookstone 85 lumen portable HDMI projector, and an Airport Extreme.

Screen resolution is critical for me.  I’ve been developing software since age 7, and still do to this day.  So I remember the first Mac Plus, SE, LCIII, PowerPC 6100, etc.  Every chance I got I went with bigger screens and use every inch of space I have on my screens to be more efficient.  The iMac had a large monitor to start with for a reasonable price, and allowed me to have another 30” powered natively as well.  The USB video adapter was my only choice for yet one more monitor as this Mac was before Thunderbolt, or else I would have two 30” screens connected.  But I did get an adapter that handles 1920×1200 so its OK as my little 28” screen.

Good audio quality and comfortable headphones are important too as sitting and coding for 8 to 10 hours and you feel the effects of a bad design on your head.  The headphones don’t have a microphone, but a rubber band attached Plantronics voyager BT headset with a boom mic takes care of my VoIP calls for meetings without suffering on audio range and quality that only Senheiser has.  The headphones are also used for movies, and you can pair up to 4 of them, and crystal clear audio for 30 meters in a building which was another reason why I chose them.

What do you use your Apple setup for?

The system is used primarily for Java development, and support.  I manage the dev team and support team with CrushFTP, LLC as well as coding myself.  We sell CrushFTP.  I have some cloth marketing material on the wall from a sport team we sponsored, I know it looks tacky there, but it helps keep me motivated.

The left monitor is used for Chrome.  I have development tickets open, test sites, forums when searching for solutions, and OSX Terminal ssh’d into different machines.

The middle monitor is reserved for coding with 160 vertical lines of code, and 212 horizontal characters visible as I work.  I don’t spend my day scrolling back and forth to look for things as I can see a whole function or class all at once a lot of times.  I laugh at coding standards that dictate a 80 character horizontal width as it looks absolutely ridiculous on a serious system.  I am not afraid to use my screen real estate, and I believe that makes me more productive and efficient than many people.

The right monitor is used for emails, music, virtual machines and occasionally realtime log files as I am testing things.  Email is done in Safari using Gmail.  Mavericks killed Mail, and Google Apps web based interface is so much faster for searching, and working with the email that I gave up Mail for almost everything, and never looked back.  Safari is a requirement because it supports auto text correction and common spelling typo fixes as you type.  Chrome doesn’t, otherwise I may have used chrome everywhere, but the separation is good at times too.  I generally respond to almost 100 emails personally every day, so a fast reliable interface is critical, and I make a lot of typos in my emails.  I hate having to go back and fix the pointless ones where there is only one possible result that it should have been. I customize the text replacement panel in the OS System preferences to fix things the default spell checking wouldn’t change.

Which apps do you use most often?

By far I use Eclipse the most since its the dev and build environment for our software, CrushFTP.

CrushFTP is our own file transfer server software, and I use it heavily.  I share files with clients, do high speed file transfers overcoming bandwidth latency issues, and testing / QA work.  I don’t need DropBox or other cloud storage providers since I can do it all myself, and under my control.

GoToMeeting for screen sharing, and sometimes TeamViewer as well.

I use VMWare Fusion to run older OSX releases, Windows, and Linux VMs.  I setup a 4 node Linux cluster on my machine to test more complicated networking server scenarios.

TextWrangler when I need some quick text editing as I don’t want text interpreters doing font styling or other alterations on text and Xml files.

Hex Fiend for seeing the raw bytes of a file as sometimes I need to really see what is going on when doing more complicated MD5 hashing and diff analysis of files for faster transfers.

Simon Free to keep a quick watch for new drivers, and tracking our business website for downtime (or my own ISP’s downtime)

OS X Terminal, and Console.  A lot of people don’t realize how powerful these apps are, but when you go and look at Windows, or Linux, there isn’t anything that compares to these built in tools.  Its ridiculous how useful they can be.

Keka for extracting rar and exotic zip formats.

AirFoil and AirFoil Speaker.  I grab Pandora audio from Chrome, and send it to 3 different speakers simultaneously in the house over Airplay.  I also use Pandora on my phone and send it to the AirFoil speaker on my machine, and then that is replicated back to all the speakers in the house.  I love having control over my audio to distribute it where I want.

iShowU for screen recording for tutorials videos I create for our software.

Skype for VoIP calls, and office calls as we have one of our support lines through Skype.

Switchboard from Connectify which allows me to aggregate my ISP connections into a larger pipe.  I take my DSL ISP, and direct ethernet ISP, plus a 3G modem ISP and make it one connection as far as my machine is concerned. If I have a really big download I need to transfer, I can get it done quickly.  I keep multiple unrelated ISPs so that if one goes down, it doesn’t really bother me much, and with switchboard, I don’t even notice.

Hue on my iPhone for controlling lights in the house and behind the computer monitors to give atmospheric effects and mood lighting.

Do you have any general tips or productivity tricks to share?

Contrary to a recent post on OSXDaily, only update to Mavericks if you don’t use Mail.  Its bad, really bad.  If you are someone who uses Mail for anything besides a few casual emails a day, it is unusable.  Apple pretends its not so bad, but its far worse than they admit to.  Besides just not delivering email unless you restart it frequently, it doesn’t always open emails either, just flickering a window.  I would recommend if you are going to go to Mavericks, and need Mail, jump ship and switch to Sparrow, Mail Pilot, etc.  Mavericks also silently changed text replacement services and disallows fixing “space” typos in words the same way 10.8 allowed.  Subtle minor things that add up, I don’t recommend it to friends.

Airplay speakers require very strong wi-fi signals, and have a couple seconds of delay to them.  They can’t be used for gaming as such, and with a somewhat weak signal, they won’t operate.  Perfect example is playing a rented movie from the iMac over wifi to the Apple TV, which cannot also play to an Airplay speaker at the same time, as the Wifi network is too saturated by the movie buffering on the Apple TV.  Once the movie buffers, then the Airplay speaker can be chosen and work fine, but doing so before the movie has finished buffering will silently fail 99% of the time.  I’ve also had horrible experiences with other vendors expensive routers besides the Airport extreme in reliability for Airplay.  So stick with the Apple router if you don’t need exotic router configurations in order to keep AirPlay stable.

I really like the Brookstone LED projector.  Great for movies in the evening, or a darker room.  On trips I take it with me, my iPhone, and some headphones and we have a portable theatre.  The projector runs for about 1.5 hours on its internal battery before it needs to be plugged in to continue on.

Do you have an interesting Apple or Mac setup you want featured on OSXDaily? Answer some questions and send us a few images!


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  1. Reschool says:

    I just updated to 10.9.2 and now my palette monitor has:

    1) Lost the ability to rotate
    2) Forgotten my background image
    3) Changed resolution

    It is a LG Flatron E2351.

    I have found others having similar problems and one person has solved it using ‘sudo’ commands in the command window (something I’m not up to doing) and that scares me a bit… especially since the problem seems to recur after a second reboot.

    This is a MASSIVE oversight by Apple and i’m quite upset that they would not allow 3RD party monitors or displays!

    I use mine (as mentioned) as a palette for video and graphics purposes… and because I cannot fit 2x landscape monitors.

    This needs to be ammended ASAP by Apple. I expect public outcry… I’m hopeful for it… Just like the removal of “mail merge” from Numbers… I’m starting to scratch my head at Apples [P.J.] decisions “post Jobs”.

    • Pa says:

      Hold down the OPTION key when opening the Display preference panel to rotate any monitor. It’s software based, it’s not monitor specific. Yes, it works to rotate a screen in OS X 10.9.2

  2. Ed says:

    Sweet setup.

    However, am I seriously the only person that is not having problems with Mail? I use it everyday and have been since I first got a Mac in 07. I’m surprised to see people having problems.

    • Ben says:

      Who is your email provider? (mine is gmail/google apps.)
      How many emails do you get a day? (hundreds non spam)
      Do you have multiple email accounts open in Mail? (I have 4 open)
      Do you have more than say 10Gb in email in the Mail DBs? (20+GB of mail data in mail)

      Maybe one or more of those are requirements to make it break…but I have to restart it multiple times a day when i notice my phone has emails my desktop doesn’t.

      • Ed says:

        Who is your email provider?
        2 Google accounts (one for school and a personal one)
        Outllook (for spam)
        and my iCloud

        How many emails do you get a day?
        Between school and personal (since I do a lot of freelance work) quite a bit. Files are shared between emails too.

        Do you have multiple email accounts open in Mail?
        Yes, all 5 are open.

        Do you have more than say 10Gb in email in the Mail DBs?
        Approx 30 GB.

        I’ve had Mavericks on my 07 MBP and obviously on the rMBP I just bought it December. When you got Mavericks, did you perform a clean install?

        • Ben says:

          No clean installs. 10.4 to 10.8 was perfect, 10.9 broke Mail.

          Maybe having an iCloud account make Mail operate correctly… I already did Apple’s fix of take accounts offline, and then back online. No effect. Only a restart of mail fixes it, and after a restart it sometimes still takes 10 minutes before it gets back to “normal”. There are a lot of people having this same issue, and 10.9.1 was supposed to address it, and so was the Mail update they released, and now 10.9.2 betas are supposed to fix it, so clearly Apple isn’t really sure what they messed up.

          The other super annoying thing is it doesn’t matter what I do in other email clients, my 10.9 machine is its own version. Even though its imap, it acts like pop3. I can archive email in gmail, or on my 10.8 laptop, or on Mailbox on my iPhone, and the email stays in ym inbox on my desktop until I remove it there. So cross your fingers and hope you stay working. :) Its terrible now for a lot of us.

  3. Janusz says:

    “Safari is a requirement because it supports auto text correction and common spelling typo fixes as you type. Chrome doesn’t, otherwise I may have used chrome everywhere, but the separation is good at times too”.

    Chrome is supporting spell checking even not so moch popular languages like polish.
    Not only spell checki in polish, but also voice recognition, opposite to Mac OSX system voice, where for polish language I have to use Chrome or Android Nexus tablet to speach, dictate documents in my own language.

    When I hahe to work fully in my language I’m using Chrome, because only Chrome fully supprts non english languages.

    • Ben says:

      Chrome has right click spell check, but its not using the OS system services on things. It doesn’t auto correct spelling typos as you go like other OSX apps will do. And it doesn’t do text replacement from the OS text services stuff like other apps will do. I don’t have time to right click on all my typos…at least not when another browser doesn’t make me do that. Safari also gives me a drop down on the typo word with suggestions if its unsure. Chrome requires the mouse, its ridiculous in that one regard. But I use it for everything else besides my main email entry.

  4. Perhaps the developer of Java could explain why my pogo game will not load unless I click on Java in my system requirements, and in the dock, and several other places before it will load. Otherwise pogo tells me that “Oops, your browser failed to load” really fed up with Java, but pogo no longer uses Firefox so I am stuck with Safari and Java’s poor performance am open to suggestions for better performance

    • tim says:

      Christine, I believe you are mistaken, and allow me to explain why:

      Java is also a programming language, as in this example, and not only the software platform or runtime, which is what you have trouble with with applications or with Safari.

      In other words, this guy writes code in the Java language, and this guy is not *the* developer of Java the runtime. Java, as a platform, is owned and operated by Oracle, an American corporation with a $170 billion market capitalization.

    • Ben says:

      I can’t give a legitimate answer on this, but really its the Pogo companies fault. Apple has forced Java changes that not everyone likes in the interest of security. Hackers were exploiting browser vulnerabilities, so they had to. Chrome hasn’t bothered updating to 64bit, so you can’t even use Java in it…so that leaves FF and Safari.

      But that has nothing to do with my line of work though, I just get lumped into it since its “Java”.

      The Pogo developers could work within the security constraints that have been imposed, and take advantage of other methods of utilizing java versus having an applet embedded in a web page.

      For CrushFTP we had to make various changes to stay compatible and integrated nicely with 10.8 and 10.9, and our little optional applet in the browser has had to do work too to stay integrated as well.

  5. Ben says:

    The one and only reason I don’t use sparrow is because OSX mail can move an email from one account to another. So when someone emails me a business email to my personal email, I can move it to the support inbox directly, no forwarding. Only Mail supports this, otherwise I like other products that aren’t so heavy feeling like Mail is.

  6. Ben says:

    Probably all monitors can be turned, I believe there is a trick about holding the option key as you load the displays control panel to get some options you may not have. Some monitors may not handle the heat dissipation though, but most may be OK…not sure. The Dell 30 has vents that work either direction. This one has been sitting vertically for about 5 years i think now…forget exactly. I tried turning the iMac sideways, and well it lasted about 60 seconds before it overheated. So let me save you that trouble. It worked sideways, but it overheated things so quickly its not a possible solution without continuous fans.

    • Ann says:

      I think that the screen rotation may be enabled by the external monitor (and accessed through a menu in the external monitor Display Window, but I can’t find a key combination that allows one screen in portrait and another in landscape. Note, the iMac Display window does not show a Rotation Menu Option but both my screens (iMac and external) rotate to portrait when I enable that in the external Display Window. Clearly it can be done as the picture shows. Does anyone know how?

  7. J. Kabuki says:

    How do you get the monitor to know to display properly when it’s on it’s side like that?

  8. Omer says:

    Just upgrade to Mavericks and use Sparrow. Far better than mail, anyway.

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