I finally completed my home office. I posted about many parts of it previously, but here are photos of the final setup:
I finally completed my home office. I posted about many parts of it previously, but here are photos of the final setup:
I received my treadmill on Tuesday, and immediately set it up under my desk. I spent four hours on it, at 1.5mph, which turns out to be six miles and approximately 17.5K steps. For me, that also comes to approximately 700 calories burned.
I replicated that on Wednesday. This morning I weighed in, and have lost five pounds. I have to assume most of that to be water.
Not being used to standing this long or walking this much, I’m a bit sore. I expect that to get better in time, and plan to gradually increase the amount of time I spend on the treadmill every day.
This treadmill has a 20″x50″ walking surface, which I have found to be a ton of room. I mostly use it barefoot (or in socks, now, that the soles of my feet have begun to complain) and don’t have to worry about misplacing my feet and injuring myself. It has nice aluminum guards and tight tolerances that prevent that, but the belt is large enough that I have only made contact with the guard rails once or twice. The interface is no-frills. They didn’t send the Bluetooth model, which I reached out to them about, but it still covers distance, steps, calories, and time. It seems to be designed for multi-user use, because it prompts you for your weight every time you turn it on. Fortunately it auto-populates the last weight entered. It is smooth and, contrary to some of the reviews I read, I cannot hear the motor or fans when standing on top of it. I can hear the friction of the belt and my footsteps, that is all. And I can easily hold a conversation at normal levels while on it.
I have found it to be very transparent to use. Any concerns I had about it being distracting or difficult to coordinate with working a computer are unfounded. If I have to concentrate on some complex code, I’ll stop and sit, but for the majority of my day I could probably walk without issue.
It has fixed casters on the front that allow for it to roll forward and backwards. Unfortunately, for most desks I imagine, it needs to be rolled from left to right. If I were to suggest one change to LifeSpan for the unit, I’d suggest locking casters that can go in every direction. I grabbed a stool from the garage to sit on the treadmill, and in turn, sit on, for the time being. Then I ordered a new base for my chair that I hope will work — allowing it to be set on top of the treadmill without damaging it — which I will post more on later. The idea is to have choices, and be able to conveniently select whether to stand, walk, or sit.
In short though, I’ve added four hours of walking to each day I’ve had this, burning around 700 extra calories I am sure will come with other benefits. I’m sore, but that is to be expected with any new physical activity. Even if it is just activity you are doing at your desk. It may seem gimmicky, but if it gets you up and moving it is one of the best ideas I can think of. I think this will work out well.
I spent an obnoxious amount of money on the Alpine X110-SLV system I installed in my truck about a month and a half ago. I detailed the install in my Goodbye CarPC, Hello Alpine X110-SLV post. I follow Alpine on Facebook, and on their wall today was a promotion for the X110-SLV selling for $1200 less than I spent.
I called Crutchfield, explained the situation, and they refunded the $1200 to me. Excellent customer service and an unexpected $1200 today!
I posted a while back about how I work from home, spending at least forty hours a week at my desk, and often times a hundred plus. Due to the amount of time I spend here, it is high up on the priority list as far as renovations and spending goes.
In my previous posts, I outlined my plans to redo my monitor array, add a standing desk, and a high end ergonomic task chair. As it turned out, the standing desk didn’t work out due to Amazon logistics, but I was happy with my new monitors and Steelcase LeapV2 chair, and I’m glad to report that is still the case. One of the major factors that prompted those purchases was back and leg pain and numbness, associated with excess sitting and sciatica. The chair helped a bit, but the fact is that I still spend a large portion of the day sitting, so it wasn’t really a solution. After those major purchases, though, I wasn’t ready at the time to order a new desk as I didn’t really want to budget for the ones I really wanted.
Fast forward a few months, and I decided to order another standing desk. Most of them are two legged, but my past experience with those burned me a bit, and I really wanted to find one with four legs for maximum stability. Fortunately, a local company here in Austin happens to sell four legged standing desks with custom tops, and though quite expensive, they meet all of the criteria I was using to make my decision. The company is called The Human Solution, and the specific line the Uplift 900 series. I ordered the four leg version with black frame, and a massive 80″ x 30″ x 1.5″ reclaimed Douglas Fir top. I also optioned it up a bit with the advanced memory control (that stores four different positions), casters, and a free promo kit they were offering that includes a little desk tray, USB hub, standing mat, some under-desk hooks, and a tablet stand.
The desk was delivered yesterday in a marked van; so even though they ship all over I guess I happen to be in their delivery area. The guy was really helpful and carried all of the components into the office, and snapped a photo of the desk for what I assume are liability purposes before he left. The frame for the desk shipped in one large, probably 70# box, while the desk top was unboxed but also undamaged. The accessories all came in their own small boxes. Assembly was simple, but would have been lengthy and tedious with the included tools, so I found the appropriate bits for my small impact driver on the lowest setting and made quick work of the forty or so screws used to hold everything together.
Cabling is left up to you; they give a couple suggestions which I disregarded and mounted the control box in a far corner instead of the center. They include some nifty cable clamps that you stick onto the underside of the desk and zip over the cables to hold them right. In addition to the components used for the desk, I also mounted a power strip and ran some of the computer cables under there. In the end, I have five cables that go straight down from the desk to the sub (two balanced inputs, two balanced outputs, and a power cable), and two additional cables that go from the desk to the wall (power distribution strip and Ethernet, which both go into a Powerline Ethernet adapter), and each of those sets of cables is bundled together. That should make moving the desk fairly easy in the future, as almost everything is self contained.
In addition to the new desk, I ordered a treadmill. Yes, a treadmill for the desk.
We have all sorts of fancy exercise equipment here, including a nice home gym and a BowFlex TreadClimber. While I have every intention to use them regularly, it is Kelly who uses them the most, and I find myself using the equipment on an erratic basis, at best. I have many projects between things I’m doing at my desk, in my workshop, and the garden, and am horrible about finding time to get a workout in. There is a fairly new trend for walking desks, and while I was skeptical at first (in fact, I considered the whole idea a gimmick when I first heard of it a few years ago), I have warmed to it. It isn’t supposed to be a replacement for a proper workout, but the treadmills are designed to run at low speeds (1.5mph is often recommended for walking while working; about half the average walking pace) and for long periods of time: meaning a 1.5mph walk that you maintain throughout an eight hour workday equates to twelve miles. Most people seem to start with a couple hours a day, and build up to a point where they spend the entire day on it. Walking an additional sixty miles a week would be great for my fitness, I’m sure. There are not very many dedicated desk treadmills out there, but the one I ended up ordering is the LifeSpan TR5000-TD3. It looks more or less like a normal treadmill, but is recommended for people who walk up to ten hours a day. It is lower than a standard treadmill, at only 4.5″ off the ground, has no incline or handles, and the control panel is disconnected and just a box that sits on your desk. It tracks steps and calories burned, and has a fairly maintenance free design that only requires periodic lubrication and the occasional belt replacement. It is marketed to be much quieter than a standard treadmill, but I’ve read mixed reviews about noise and figure it’s highly subjective. It has not shipped yet, but supposed to by Friday.
There is no guarantee that this will get much more use than the workout equipment we already have, except that I will be able to use it while working, reading, or browsing the web, and it will be in my way if I don’t.
Finally, I decided to demo a new keyboard and mouse. I have been using a Das Keyboard Ultimate Silent for about six years now. It has lasted far longer than any keyboard I have ever owned, as I tend to wear them out, and has turned out to be worth the initial expense. It has a lot of life left, but does have some things to be desired in the ergonomics department. It uses key switches made by Cherry, called the Cherry MX Brown. Not only do they last seemingly forever, but they are mechanical/ sprung and can help to prevent repetitive stress injuries such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Other than those switches, though, it does little for your posture, which I figure will be significantly worse if I’m using it while walking. So, I set out to find a split keyboard similar in shape to the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite, which aside from the Das has been my favorite keyboard to date. Unfortunately, the one I had wore out fairly quickly with the space and enter keys becoming especially troublesome, if I remember correctly, and mechanical keys like the Cherry ones are a must.
I couldn’t find a single keyboard that was anything like what I was looking for, but found a keyboard design from the early 90s called the Kinesis Contour (or now, the Kinesis Advantage). It is an odd shaped thing that happens to use the same Cherry MX brown switches, but has a completely unconventional shape that is as interesting as it is baffling. They offer a sixty day return if you don’t like it, so I decided to get one to demo and see what I think. This thing looked futuristic enough to find its way into the Men in Black movie produced back in 1997. It has been through a few variations over the years, but remains physically pretty close to its introduction. The current model is the Kinesis Advantage2, which has a few variants, including one called the QD, which has both QWERTY and DVORAK inscriptions on the key caps. As far as how it compares to a standard keyboard, the keys are all vertically aligned as well as horizontally, something referred to as a columnar layout. This has the advantage of not requiring you to move your fingers sideways to meet most keys – the motions simply become forward and backwards. Additionally, the keys are sunk into two deep wells that are placed approximately 7″ apart, and several of the modifier keys have been clumped together in thumb clusters, so you use your most powerful and nimble finger instead of your weakest. It’s a novel concept; but how does it work?
According to reviews, people either love or hate it. That’s for sure. Very few people seem placed in the middle, but that may just be the nature of online reviews. Myself? About five hours ago I wanted to put it back in the box and return it, and now I’m writing this entire post on it. It is still a little unusual, and my normal 90+ WPM has been cut in half while I get used to this. But so far I really like it, but it isn’t without a learning curve.
The first thing I noticed is that I simply couldn’t find the keys. The deep wells seem to hide the keys in the bottom – the d and k in particular, I consistently missed for the first half hour. I simply grazed over them without enough pressure to activate them, even though they’re on the home row. I struggled to q and p, which are positioned so that you are almost forced to use your pinkie on them, which I apparently do not; I often confused, and still do, the o and the p, and comma and period. And I also had the hardest time finding c, which I guess I hit with my index instead of my middle finger on a normal keyboard. Those problems have generally been solved with practice.
There is no left space key. In fact, there isn’t a space bar at all, just a smallish key on the right thumb cluster. Enter has been moved over there as well, so where I’d normally contact the enter key with my right pinkie I kept hitting ‘. But after a short while, that became normal as well. Opposite the space, is the backspace key. Again, instead of hitting it with your pinkie, you hit it with your thumb. As much as I had to use it, this became second nature very quickly.
I absolutely love the hand wells now. You never have to move your wrists, everything is reachable with your palms perched right behind the wells and your thumbs resting on the thumb clusters. It seems like a gimmicky concept, but upon actually using it, I’ve come to think of it more as an ingenious idea.
Aside from the layout being strange, there are some other useful concepts at play here. First, the number pad. At first glance, it appears to be missing, but the columnar layout lends itself perfectly for numpad use. Under the right hand, you have a perfectly replicated ten key (and they are labeled if you look closely). To activate it, you switch to another keyboard “layer” by activating one of the keys in the function row at the top. In addition to using the numpad in that layer, you can code all the other keys to their own macros. In either layer, you can move keys around. You can reprogram them. You can make macros that turn two or three keystrokes into hundreds. There is 2MB of on-board memory and the keyboard can present the configuration as .txt files to the computer as a USB storage device for editing. That will be incredibly useful for me.
The jury might still be a little out on this keyboard, but I’m leaning towards keeping it at the moment.
As for the mouse, I’ve been a fan of trackballs for years. My favorite would have been the Microsoft Trackball Explorer, which has long been discontinued. I’ve recently been using a Logitech M570, but the ergonomics on it don’t work for me. Where they intend for you to rest your pointer finger on the left click and your middle finger on the right, my hand falls differently where I’m left clicking with my middle finger and right clicking with my ring finger. It is tolerable but not ideal, and when I saw Elecom just released a new trackball in Japan called the Huge, which is very similar to the Microsoft Trackball Explorer in size and shape, but with wireless and multiple additional buttons, I ordered it. It wasn’t supposed to be here until October, but it came in early, today. So far, I’ve found it to be far superior to the Logitech but still not perfectly designed for my hands. It has two buttons to the right of the ball that are programmable, but one is reserved and labeled for right click. In my case, I tend to overreach and hit the programmable button instead half the time, so I just mapped them both to right click. I have enough to deal with re-learning the muscle memory for typing.
We finally made it out to McKinney Falls State Park this week – arriving last Sunday and staying until this morning. It’s consistently booked well in advance, probably due to the proximity to Austin, and we’ve never been able to arrange a trip there at a time that worked for us. We decided to spend a week there, arriving the day most people leave and leaving the day most people arrive, in order to work around the booking issues. Still, the park was surprisingly busy for a Sunday-Friday stay.
I didn’t get a great photo of our site, but snapped this one of the rig in place. When we arrived they wanted to put is in a pull through site due to the size of the rig (most check-in people seem to ask the length, and upon hearing 40′, assume I won’t be able to back it), but they gave us a couple alternate sites to choose from if it wasn’t free yet (we arrived slightly before checkout times were over). We ended up skipping over the pull through site because someone was parked in it (we found someone wasn’t even in it, just using it for parking their DRW truck (rude!)) and it worked out great, because the first alternate was a back in site that was easy enough to get into and was much more private. We didn’t have any neighbors on the door side of the trailer, and for the majority of the stay, the site on the street side was empty. There were no neighbors behind us, instead, there was a trail through the brush that led to the Onion Creek trail. When we go again, we’re going to ask for this site, which was #17. We were able to book another stay for Kelly and her friend, Mandy, in September for a girl’s trip.
The trip turned out great and, being only a half hour away, McKinney Falls State Park is definitely a place we’ll frequently return to.
This is unfortunately an example of “chasing good money after bad”. I’ve had CarPCs before, and they really work great in the right vehicle. Those vehicles, I now realize, are older ones that don’t rely on the head unit for the level of integration today’s cars do. In addition to losing things like HVAC visibility (not a huge deal), some of the steering wheel controls (Joycon wouldn’t recognize them), and various other small features, the biggest problem I ran into was the $249 Axxess GMOS-MOST-01 harness you have to use with any aftermarket head unit on these trucks kept dying. I was on my second one (first one replaced under warranty), and the third has began having issues with not coming on (have to cycle the ignition a few times) or spontaneously not producing sound. It’s out of warranty now, and needed replacement. To replace it means pulling apart and reassembling part of the dash. Some of the other issues I had were with Windows itself, like poor bluetooth reliability for hands-free calling even with BlueSoleil, the slow and/or non-existent development of applications like Centrafuse or CoPilot (and no support to lower music volume when NAV speaks). CarPCs have their place, but this truck isn’t one of them.
To install the CarPC, I had to cut away some of the interior of the dashboard; portions of it that were used to mount the factory radio components. Also I had sold off some of the factory components to make some of my money back on the CarPC install. Whatever I ended up replacing it with, I knew I’d have to deal with that mess during the install. And there aren’t really any options out there, all rely on the Axxess harness I’ve been having so many issues with. That is except for the Alpine Restyle series. They make highly integrated vehicle-specific factory replacement aftermarket units, but charge an arm and a leg for them.
I’ve had my eye on the Alpine X110-SRV for a while now, but they’re asking way too much at the retail asking price of $4,000. Even their special offer pricing of $2,499 seems extremely steep for what it is, but with the recent overheating issues and the inability to easily return to stock (I’d have to find components, go to a dealer, have them do the install because it would need to be programmed to the vehicle and I don’t have the equipment, etc) I finally broke down and bought it at the special offer price from Crutchfield. Note: I suspect they’ve permanently dropped the price to this, because it wasn’t selling at full MSRP. Or if not, they should consider it.
Anyway, I spent several hours today removing the CarPC and all the cables I ran all over for it, cleaning up some of the ham radio and dashcam cables, and installing the Alpine system. I love it so far, and the NAV has a commercial truck routing mode that I believe will work well for us with the RV. It comes with free HERE map updates, (it better for that price), and I updated the maps to Q1 2017 after the install was done. Both the install and the upgrade process was fairly painless. Of course, that’s partially attributable to the extensive experience gained from messing with the CarPC so much, and the ham installs. I can pull apart the interior pretty quickly now.
Due to the massive 10″ screen, and the controls it adds, I lost the mounting location for my Kenwood TM-D710G head, so I used some tape used for attaching molding to vehicles to stick it to the top of the new head unit. I also used that tape to keep a few components in place during the install, but I was surprisingly impressed with how well everything fit in the dash even after the modifications I had done.
I lose the ability to use CHRIP for programming my ham radios, and to use APRSISCE/32 to visualize APRS locations, but that’s about it. It even has OBDII and can provide additional gauges, engine codes, and such.
I wrote custom Nagios NRPE checks that output perfdata, which I then graph with PNP4Nagios. These allowed me to track changes over time and see what actually worked and what did not.
After all of the testing, I found that Delta AFC1212DE case fans over the 1070 cards, and Delta TFC1212DE case fans over the 1080TI cards, give the above results. You can see when I finalized the changes in the graphs – the temps went down and power draw (performance) went up. I am not running any AC or swamp cooler in the garage (returning both), and using only four each of the two aforementioned fans is keeping things well under dangerous temperatures. It’s loud, but out in the garage, that isn’t an issue.
I also added this fan and door vents that seem to do far more than either the AC or swamp cooler, and make the garage considerably more comfortable. They’re sending insulation to put on the inside of the door that should arrive this week, as well.
This is another graph I made to show the trends:
And after some more time for things to stabilize:
We’ve been struggling with cooling issues for the last week. The two rigs with the GTX 1070 cards are running warm, close to their thermal caps, but are stable and happy working that way. The GTX 1080TI cards, however, were throttling themselves and even turning themselves off because they were simply running too hot out there. I tried adding case fans in all the locations allowed by the case, as well as using the Tripplite SRCOOL7KRM air conditioner, a swamp cooler to cool the room, running without lids, and various other things. Now I am going to return the $750 air conditioner and $600 swamp cooler, since neither made any difference.
I was having so much trouble getting temperatures under control, I stood up a Nagios instance on my VMware Environment and made custom NRPE checks with PNP4Nagios graphs to visualize temperatures as I made changes. Eventually, I found that sitting Delta 120MM 200CFM case fans directly on top of the cards, blowing air down between them, seems to work effectively, for a total of $20 per fan and two fans per machine:
The fans won’t fit inside the case, and there was no good way to mount them, so I took out a section of each case lid with an angle grinder and a cutting disc.
The rest of the rack has now found its place on the back wall of the garage, near the entrance door to our house.
Anyway, now that the machines are running cool, they’ve been put to work mining and we’re receiving ETH, ZEC, and LBRY deposits daily.
Edit – ReRacked
I reracked everything with 4U of spacing between nodes, and the switch on the back of the rack. That provides space for one more miner, which is probably about the safe limit with cooling and electricity here, assuming I upgrade to all 1080TIs (which I’ll do before I add a fifth node).
In the interest of a quiet and cool environment inside the house, I ended up ditching the open frame chassis and moving to rackmount servers in the garage. The progress on those has been slow, because of parts issues and dealing with the heat in there.
I ordered a low end Tripp-Lite SR2000 rack off Ebay, it was “open box, but in perfect condition”, but arrived missing a side panel. I saved about $400 on it, so for now I’m living with out. I threw a large piece of wood over the side that faces the wall, leaving the side with the panel exposed. I also ordered a rackmount AC unit by TrippLite, but it was damaged during shipping (arrived with a loose faceplate) and isn’t cooling well (possibly my fault, as I didn’t wait long enough for the coolant to settle after it being shipped on its side, despite plenty of “This Side Up!” labels plastered on the box). It does blow cold air, but even just the back pressure of the optional exhaust vent is enough to cause it to overheat and shut the compressor off. TrippLite service is awesome, though, as they’re sending a new one immediately and it will be here next week. I found a old monitored TrippLite vertical 208/240v 30A PDU on Ebay and that completes the rack.
As for the machines, I’ve opted to do four machines, two with 4x GTX 1070 cards and two with 4x GTX 1080TI cards. The systems with the 1070s have been going strong for a few days, making about $30 a day between the two of them. The 1080TI machines should make a good bit more, and hopefully the market will improve to get the numbers where I really want them. Still, I’m looking at $60-$80 day, depending on the market, at this point with all these systems in place, and that makes for a ROI in five months or so (not including the rack), which is considerably shorter than most investments.
I’ve bought and returned several components over the past few weeks, and have finally come to a conclusion as to which parts are best for one of these rigs. If I were to do it all over again, I’d standardize on: