I finally completed my home office. I posted about many parts of it previously, but here are photos of the final setup:
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.
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:
- Chenbro RM41300-FS81 chassis
- Corsair HX1200 power supply
- MSI Z170A XPOWER Titanium motherboard
- Celeron G3930 processor
- 2x 4GB Crucial DDR4-2133 ram
- Samsung 32GB M.2 SATA ssd
- 4x EVGA GeForce GTX 1080TI SC2 video cards
- Lots of velcro straps to keep cables out of the way
I abandoned open frames for my deployment (more on that later) but did end up building my open frame design for Larkin. I have the parts to build three more, so they might be published on Ebay soon. I think it turned out rather decent, though there are a few things I’d change the next time around.
We’re still waiting on parts to come in, and disappointingly, twelve of the cards we ordered (six for Larkin, six for me) from Dell are backordered until August. We’re currently trying to decide whether to cancel the orders or hold out, since we can’t seem to find any alternatives.
I was able to put a small rig together with three GPUs to perform testing on, and have created a github repo to manage the configuration scripts I’m using.
We’re seeing 30MH/s from each card with ETH and 400 Sol/s with ZEC, while drawing around 348 from the wall, and squeeze out another 25 Sol/s from each card for ZEC if we let the system pull 435w.
The machine itself is just put together on a test bench, but seems to be stable and has facilitated all the software tested necessary to streamline the operation.
I posted the other day that I ordered 2x 27″ 4K monitors, new mounts/stands, a (new to me) Steelcase Leap V2 desk chair, and a standing desk. Most of the items came in, but the standing desk was lost by UPS, and Amazon wouldn’t replace it for the same price (it was an “open box warehouse deal”). I ended up deciding not to go with the standing desk, since that will save near a thousand dollars, and I’ve already spent enough money with the recent investment in cryptocurrency.
The new monitor array – dual 4K 27″s right in front of me, and a 40″ 4K above, is a little overwhelming, even for someone who has been using a 40″ flanked by 21″ 1080P monitors for the past couple years. One of my complaints about using the 40″ as a primary was that it was too large to use as a primary work area: moving from one corner of the screen to another, when working on the same task (imagine, for instance, working with a single maximized window) is a problem. The 27″ is a much better size as for this, but requires display scaling for comfort which wasn’t required on the 40″. Fortunately, with the stands that bring the monitors to me, I’m comfortably using them at only 110%.
The stands are by far the most impressive component of my new setup. I’m able to move my monitors around to how I want to sit, and primarily find myself leaning back into my chair, for once, which has never been the case with my prior configurations. I use DisplayFusion to split my left and top 4K monitors into four areas, and use my left monitor exclusively for email (two email clients), HipChat, and Spotify; the top monitor currently keeps an eye on the security cameras and has a browser open to GDAX for following the coin markets. I also sent my XMPP and Skype buddy lists up there, which still leaves space free for another couple windows to remain visible all the time. The last monitor, the lower right, is not split and is what I bring close to myself using the stands. I use it for actual “work”, while the others serve the purpose of monitoring various things as described above, and a place to throw the odd video or piece of documentation from time to time.
The new chair is also fantastic so far. It came in near perfect condition, and certainly doesn’t look as if it is four years old. I doubt it has been used much, or if it has, it has worn extremely well. There are a few ripples in the back of the seat, as is the nature of leather, but aside from that everything looks brand new. The adjustability is tremendous, comfort is great, and an odd thing that stuck out to me was the ease and smoothness in witch it rotates, rolls, and generally moves in comparison to my old chair. The jury is still out on whether it will alleviate my back pain, as my back actually hurts more since using it. I currently attribute that to having better posture in this chair, which I’m not used to.
Overall, I’m a little disappointed in not having a standing desk, but not enough to shell out $1,000 for one (especially with my recent investment into cryptocurrency). But the monitors and monitor stands are great, the chair seems like a big step up, and I’m so far very impressed with the setup I was able to put together with the items Amazon/UPS actually delivered.
I found a good deal on some more cards, and moving to 20 cards in the current market breaks into the $3k/mo category. I amended my setup to have a second rackmount chassis, and found two MSI Z170A XPower Titanium boards at reasonable prices (both open box) to replace the ECS Z170-Claymore I ordered (I couldn’t find another ECS, and wanted them to be as consistent as possible).
I’m selling the ECS Z170-Claymore to Larkin, who is now adding a four card rig. I’ve updated the spreadsheet that tracks all of the parts and costs.