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 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 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.
It seems every couple years I change up my desk. My needs change over time, and the changes can be tax deductible since I have a dedicated home office (with the one caveat being that it is used as a guest room maybe a week out of the year with the pull-out sofa sleeper).
In 2011, my setup was a mediocre desktop and a set of triple 1080p monitors. They weren’t very easy on the eyes, but gave me lots of screen estate. The desk was Ikea, and I bought my Das keyboard shortly after this photo. The speakers were terrible Logitech ones, but I wasn’t investing in good sound at the time and they have little to do with ergonomics, the subject of this post.
In 2013, my setup was a huge laptop and triple Dell Ultrasharp (huge upgrade over the above Acer(?)s) 1080p monitors. It worked great, but I hated the giant laptop and have since replaced it with a Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga X1 Gen1. I used a buggy docking station that didn’t like to be reconnected much, and had a second setup with my Das Keyboard (not pictured) at work, when I still went into an office. I built the desk to fit an alcove in our old house, and when we moved it didn’t blend nearly as well into the surroundings.
When 4K monitors came out, came down in price enough to afford, and went up in size enough to really be usable at 4k, I traded the old out for a new 1080p-4K-1080p setup. I also decided to build a dedicated workstation to drive it, which included a Xeon E3-1231v3 CPU, 32GB RAM, 512GB SSD + magnetic data drives, and 2x NVIDIA GeForce 980TI graphics cards in SLI. Even by today’s standards, it’s still an extremely powerful machine and will handle anything I ask of it. I have changed the monitor orientation for the flank monitors a few times, but with the introduction of the JBL LSR305 speakers, they have to go vertical. The setup is 56″ wide, sitting on a 72″ desk. Everything barely fits.
I was going to keep that setup for a while longer, but have had some severe back and leg pain in recent months. I went to the doctor and they took X-rays of my spine to ensure nothing obvious was wrong, and dismissed me. I believe it’s most likely Sciatica, and have decided to do a few things to address it:
- Employ a strict workout regimen. We have a really nice home gym, but Kelly uses it far more than I do. I am going to put together a written plan, and stick to it.
- Get up more. I spend between eight and twenty hours a day at my desk. Usually I can keep it between eight and ten, but those times can double when workload is high.
- Convert my desk to a more ergonomic setup. I generally dismiss ergonomics as faddish, but am going to give them an honest try.
When it comes to my current monitors, I’m constantly leaning forward and bending at all angles to reach the far edges of my screens. They’re fixed near the back of the desk, nearly 30″ from the front edge, and are simply massive. I decided to remedy that. I’m getting rid of the two 1080p monitors and fixed triple monitor stand. I’m replacing them with two 27″ 4K monitors in a traditional dual monitor configuration on an Ergotron LX mount. The mount is designed so that you move your monitor to you, rather than move to your monitor, as you reposition yourself throughout the day. It looks like this:
I’m putting two LG 27MU58-B monitors on it, which I found on sale at NewEgg for $359 each. For those of you unfamiliar with what is special about a 4K monitor, you can fit 4x as much “stuff” on it as a standard monitor. Instead of minimizing programs and tabbing through them, you can keep several of them open and fully visible at the same time. They are excellent for productivity, but do come at a premium over the more common 1080p monitors. The pair, sitting perfectly flat side by side, will be just under 50″ wide.
Now, I really love my 40″ 4K monitor but think the sheer size of it is an issue. I decided to buy an articulating TV mount that has the same type of adjustability as the Ergotron, and I’ll fabricate a raised mounting bracket for it using the pole from my current mount and some reinforcement materials to keep the monitor positioned above my others. It’ll basically be a triangle of monitors, similar to this:
Moving to the desk, I’m replacing the desk with an electronic sit/stand model. Amazon sells the one I ordered for $867, but they had a “Warehouse Deal” with “No cosmetic or mechanical defects” for $419.20. It’s not the color I would have chosen, but for the discount I’ll take it. It’s the same brand and series as my current desk, but has a motorized base that allows you to adjust the height from 23″ to 49″. The open area under the desk instead of solid sides will help to make my crowded office feel a little less claustrophobic, as well.
I ordered a PC (“CPU”) holder (so it raises and lowers with the desk), cable management trays, a power strip, and LED light strips to replace my current desk lamps and to keep things uncluttered. As for my keyboard, I’m replacing the green keys with the original blank black keys, and bought a inexpensive trackball to replace my traditional gaming mouse. I’ve used it for two years, but really don’t care for it. As inexpensive as they are, I should have replaced it a long time ago. Speaking of keyboards, I bought a Das Keyboard Ultimate Silent five or six years ago and still use it daily. They have come out with a new version, which adds some neat features, but not enough to justify the high price to upgrade. The keyboard is one of the best PC related purchases I’ve ever made.
Last, I decided to replace my chair. I’ve been sitting in a moderately priced Office Depot special, which I thought was a good chair based on reviews and such at the time. I don’t recall it being comfortable once we left the store, but I’ve been using it without knowing what else is out there. After doing a ton of research, I almost decided to buy a Steelcase Gesture chair, fully upgraded, to the tune of $1,600. It’s a high end ergonomic chair designed for intensive use and comes with a twelve year warranty. But alas, I can’t justify spending that kind of money on a chair. I’ve been watching Ebay, and found one that is closely optioned to the one I want (It’s actually a 2013 Leap V2 instead of a Gesture), except in the wrong color (black frame with navy blue leather), and without the headrest. But I can overlook those features for the $375 I paid for the four year old chair in supposedly brand new condition. The seller had several, and other buyers had bought them and left positive reviews and feedback, giving me some confidence in the decision. As configured, it would cost $1,442.00 + tax if I were to buy it today.
While it is costly to redo all of this, a total expenditure of $2108.27 with tax and shipping, I’m looking forward to hopefully less back and leg pain due to the new setup. I should have most of the parts in Thursday, I believe.