Getting “Work At Home” working for me

I’ve never been a big fan of working at home.  This has evolved over time though.

The Early Years (Kinda)

Early is relative as I’ve only been with Microsoft for about 6 years.  But when I first started, we were able to VPN into the office using our Smart Card.  This was kinda clunky and slow but allowed us access.  From my point of view, my only real option was to RDP into my Desktop machine at the office to actually work and use the tools I had to use from a Support Perspective.  This was done from my desktop at home as I didn’t have a laptop.

While usable, I didn’t really care for it as it restricted me to a single monitor.  I love multi-monitor and am really way more productive with more screens.  I’ve found that 4 is my sweet spot.  I had 5 at one point, but never really used the 5th.  Probably just because of where it was located.

Not so long ago…

Since then, I’m on my second work laptop.  And this laptop is powerful enough that I replaced my main desktop with it.  My current laptop is my main work console.  Which begins to make working at home more appealing as I have everything I use in a consistent spot whether I’m at the office or at home.  Although this still had the problem of a single monitor. 

I worked around that a little bit by plugging a second monitor into the video port on the back of the laptop.  However, now I had a weird issue of one screen that was normal, and one that was smaller (the laptop).  While usable, it still wasn’t ideal.

I’d say about two years ago, I got onto the DirectAccess project with my work laptop.  I will just say that DirectAccess is really awesome.  No more VPN or Smart Card.  I just boot my laptop and I have access to corporate resources regardless of where I am, as long as I have network access.  This has worked out really well for me, especially when I go to conferences such as SQL PASS.

So, this setup is usable.  It is better then where I started from, but I still didn’t really like it and enjoyed being at the office more as the setup was more ideal with 3-4 monitors.

Today!

I recently built a new gaming box and we did some rearranging of our office space at home.  We also did some network drops and got things wired for 1gb.  Really fast.  I only have two monitors at home though.

So, I decided to try out the RDP session using all monitors and full user experience.  WOW!  With the faster network, this really pops.  Occasionally there is a little lag, but overall, it is very nice and looks great.  I get to work on my laptop, but on my gaming box.  This makes it feel like I’m working on a desktop with two monitors.  A normal setup.  But there is still one problem – Audio and calls.

I’m using Enterprise Voice through Microsoft Lync.  This is basically VoIP on my laptop.  When I first started looking at this, if I got a call or wanted to make a call, I either had to setup my headset directly on my laptop and get out of the RDP session, or use the Lync Client directly on my desktop outside of the RDP session.  Not ideal.

I then found that you can do recording through the RDP session as well.  Although, by default, Windows 7 Client doesn’t support it out of the gate.  I had to enable the following registry key on my laptop:

HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server\WinStations\RDP-Tcp
fDisableAudioCapture REG_DWORD 0 | 1

This got my headset to work when plugged into my desktop and use the microphone through the RDP session.  So, now I can do Calls through the RDP session.  NICE!

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Working from home is now very usable for me.  I don’t feel cramped and I feel like I can work at 80% steam.  Would need another monitor to feel at 100%. 

Obviously, another way to go would be to get a docking station at home for the laptop like I do at the office, but that would cost more money and what I have now is pretty darn good.

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