Corner Office with a … Basement Light!

I’ve been working on moving into the new corner office with a view.  So far I have a chair, my laptop, a second monitor, keyboard, mouse, power strip, etc…

From the middle of the room, standing.

From the middle of the room, standing.

I must say — I love it.  It is indeed a unique experience to be working with your head about 7 feet off the floor.  It feels like and “office” but still a part of “home.

Tonight my 2 older sons and I went to Lowes to pick up some parts for a sub project.  We wanted to add some nice bright lighting underneath the platform, so they could host more activites down there.  They like puzzles and reading, so you need a good bit of light for that.

Our requirements were:

  • Low profile
  • Bright
  • Break-proof
  • A switch

I really didn’t want glass shattered all over the place, so good sturdy cover was required.  At the same time, sharp metal parts were out for safety reasons.

Purchased Light

We picked up satin nickel finish 48″ low profile fluorescent light fixture.  It has smooth edges, a sturdy plastic cover, and lies very flat.  But alas, it did not have a switch.  So we picked up some good sturdy wire nuts, a heavy duty toggle switch, and a grounded extension cord (soon to be light cord).

After we brought the light home and unpacked it, I started evaluating how I was going to mount it.  It was setup so the wires would go directly out the back, presumably into a junction box in the wall.  But we were  mounting it to solid wood, so that was a no-go.

So I did what any other red-blooded male would do in his workshop — dissembled the entire light.  Here we found that each side of the light is hollow aluminum, about 1.5×2.0″, and all of “their” wiring was in the one side.

craftsman-drill-pressFirst, we took the one aluminum piece and clamped it in my drill press.  Then using a 3/8″ end mill, I milled a slot about 1/2″ by 1″ – just large enough to slip a wire nut through.  (I know the drill press is not especially suited for that, but my milling machine was just too small).

Secondly, we drilled ~1/2″ holes in all four end caps.  Why four?  Because there were “functional” end caps, and “pretty” covers. That was a bit tricky, because the end caps were die-cast aluminum – not exactly the kind of material you want to clamp really hard.  And it was elliptical, so there was no convenient place to clamp it.  We ended up fabricating a custom hold-down setup using a 2×6, piece of scrap aluminum, and 2 wood screws.

Toggle Switch.  Custom made.

Toggle Switch. Custom installed.

Thirdly, we connected all the wires.  The extra wires were heavy gauge stranded wire normally used for house wiring.  On the one end, I mounted the toggle switch, and on the other end, I ran the cut end of the extension cord into the light fixture.  Each of the 8 connections were very carefully twisted and wire nutted, and then covered with 3M electrical tape, just for added security.

Lastly, we installed it. Using 3 normal wood screws, we attached it to the “ceiling” of the space under the platform – right up against the padded steel beam.

It really fits in, and is amazingly bright.  The really narrow florescent tubes perform quite well.  The boys love it, and it is quite safe (as far as banging heads off of it, etc…).

Here is a picture of the two boys under the platform in their PJ’s shortly after installation:

Two happy boys in their new play area, under my office.

Two happy boys in their new play area, under my office.

Update [1] on Fedora vs Redhat Enterprise Linux

This is in reference to

After the excellent comment by Sergio Olivo, I did some heavy looking into the Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux project (EPEL for short).  On a brand-spanking-new RHEL 5 box, I installed the YUM repository for EPEL, and quite immediately had access to tons of extra packages.  Erlang is there.  Git is there.  Memcached is there.  Sweet!

However, EPEL does not update or replace the version of any packages provided by RHEL.

So the problem of having out of date versions of PHP and Python still remain.  Next I looked into using a third party RPM repository (provided by RackSpace).  They provide updated versions of PHP and a number of PHP modules.  But alas, this created incompatibilities with the EPEL packages for PHP.  This is because EPEL packages are targeted for RHEL versions. Bla…

So here is what I decided to do (haven’t done it yet, but will soon).  We will build and package our own custom set of RPMs for RHEL 5, and publish them in an RPM repository.  Then we will simply point each server to that repository in addition to the main RHEL repository, and poof, problem solved.  We may also use EPEL for things like Erlang and git.  Or we may compile from source.  Not sure.

For those of you who are not familiar with YUM RPM repositories, they can be as simple as a specail directory structure served by a webserver.

There are a few items remaining to be concluded, but they should fall into place fairly quickly.

My new corner office with a view

Finally!  It’s (structurally) done!

This is most likely something you have never seen before, but…  We recently had our 4th child, a little girl named Anna.  So I need to clear my office out of the one bedroom that will soon be hers (yes, a bit late).  Needing somewhere to setup, I decided on the living room.  I really like being around the family in the evening/weekend when I am working on various projects.

So my boys and I undertook making an office in the corner of the living room.  Not a “normal” office, but a “floating” office.  In this way, we achieve several benefits:

  • The kids will play under the platform.
  • They love it
  • I will work on top of it.
  • I get a good perspective of the house.
  • Gained square footage
  • A “cool” factor for the kids.
  • The living room still feels “open”

The structure

This platform was made by creating a doubled 2″x6″ box about 6’x6′.  It was built one board at a time, each glued and screwed together.  It is attached directly to the studs with (16) 3/8 x 4 hex lag screws, and (12) tapcons into the fireplace.

The single floor support consists of an 80 pound steel beam (3×5″ tube), wrapped in an anti-fatigue mat (head bang protection).  This was chosen for its low profile and stiffness, providing the kids with more headroom.

The flooring is made of jointed 2×10 boards, all glued and screwed down.

The platform was encased in additional 2×10 boards, creating a rim both for apperance and to prevent things from rolling off the platform.

The single leg is a length of galvanized steel pipe threaded into a custom-made maple leg.

Hardwood laminate (pergo) was laid down on top of the 2×10 flooring.

The desk top is a custom mounted “Bullet Table” provided by Ellis Office Supply.

The Photos

From across living room, seated.

From across living room, seated.

From the middle of the room, standing.

From the middle of the room, standing.




Perhaps a bit strange?  Sure. Functional?  Completely. Fun?  Totally...

Now, what kind of computer deserves to be placed on that nice platform?  I’d love to hear comments on this one.