Friday, June 26, 2015

Evolving Desk

I previously wrote about my slightly unusual computer desk setup. I still use the same keyboard/mouse setup: a trackball mouse on the right, a regular mouse on the left (with a sticky note covering the laser so it doesn't move - it's used for scrolling and clicking), and the keyboard in the middle. I don't use the extra bluetooth mouse as much, since I've gotten used to being precise with the trackball mouse. (All the mice are still the same Logitech mice.) The USB extension cord is still there, too.

I have, however, upgraded quite a few other aspects of the desk. I upgraded the keyboard to a "tenkeyless tactile touch" keyboard from EliteKeyboards. It is missing the numeric pad (thus "tenkeyless") and it has special keys -- called tactile keys because they provide more feedback to the user when struck. It really feels so much different than the cheap keyboards people usually use.

The advantages of this keyboard include a smaller size, so I'm reaching less for the mice, and a better typing experience. The only disadvantages are that the keyboard was quite expensive (about $100) and I still need a numeric keypad - just not right on the same keyboard. So I also purchased a keypad that sits on the right side of the monitor table within reaching distance when it's needed.

I own the same monitor as before, but my new employer provided a monitor with a wider screen, so I use that one. It's nice having the wide screen for videos, but most of the time I don't use that much screen real estate. In fact, I have gotten use to keeping application non-maximized so I can see other applications at the same time or hiding in the background.

I built my own standing desk out of the old corner computer desk, which worked great for a while, until I got the new job working from home. At that point, I needed to re-evaluate the space requirements. I needed to be able to sit and write on occasion. I did some research and found an article suggesting a very cheap Ikea standing desk. I didn't have a desk, though (since I ripped it up to make the first standing desk), so I decided to buy a table to place it all on. I ended up getting a table with adjustable A-frame legs. I figured the A-frame would provide greater stability, especially given that I planned on getting a treadmill.

A few final adjustments to the desk: I used a dowel to lift up the front of the keyboard shelf to allow for a more natural resting place for the hands, I put some old textbooks under the monitor to raise it up to the correct height, and I recovered the old keyboard tray for the sitting position. Now the desk is good for sitting and standing at my work computer. The sitting option only has one mouse, mostly because I didn't want to spring for another $100 keyboard. You want the nice keyboard, you have to work for it by standing or walking.

You may have noticed the odd device just below the monitor, with a string coming down from it: It's the control for a treadmill by LifeSpan, along with the safety cord that stops it when pulled. I decided I wasn't working out enough, and I thought it would be great if I could use a treadmill while working. That arrived about 3 months ago, and I had to raise up the desk to accommodate its height. Here's the complete setup:

The work laptop is over on the left side of the table, and when it is flipped open, it can be used while sitting. I usually do this when I'm tired or I have a meeting to attend (standing or walking at the treadmill is too distracting for all parties while on a call). My home computer (the tower behind the laptop) is only connected to the standing desk monitor, so I don't have a choice but to stand at that one. I suppose I could use my old monitor to figure out a sitting situation, but I haven't really needed to sit at my home computer. I have a KVM switch to toggle the computers, and the switch is just under the monitor.

I'm still getting used to standing and/or walking while working, mostly the impact on my body. I have not found it difficult to many tasks while standing or walking. The only exception is, as I mentioned above, phone calls or meetings. Usually I want to take notes, so that's easier while sitting. I'm not used to standing or walking for hours on end, so when I get tired, I sit.

One of my colleagues asked how I was able to walk and work at the same time. It's not too difficult. As proof, here's a short and incredibly dull video of me walking while working:

In the video, I did the following tasks, not exactly in this order:
  • Wrote some code
  • Ran a command on the Linux command line
  • Reviewed the output from the above process
  • Reviewed a file of health-care-related records
  • Read some code
  • Thought about it for a bit
  • Figured out why a file had duplicates
  • Wrote an email
  • Drank some water
I was going 2 miles per hour (the treadmill ranges from 0.1 to 4 miles per hour, in 1-tenth of a mile increments). I find it is nice to back up a step while reading or thinking in order to walk more naturally. I would also recommend using a sports bottle. I made the mistake of using an open-topped cup, which could be spilled quite easily on any of the computer components or the treadmill.

I would highly recommend this arrangement and all of these products. The mice from Logitech, keyboard from EliteKeyboards, assorted desk stuff from Ikea, and the treadmill from LifeSpan. It makes for a good way to work and get a bit of exercise.