Standing Desks

I’ve been thinking about standing desks and my ideal workspace for, well, a few years now. My interest has been spurred in part by people I know who, like me, write for a living, having positive experiences with standing desks. And of course there are the articles, like this one from early this month in The Wall Street Journal, touting the popularity of standing desks in Silicon Valley. Then there was this report from the American Cancer Society that stated:

women who sit for more than six hours a day were about 40% more likely to die during the course of the study than those who sat fewer than three hours per day. Men were about 20% more likely to die.

Then I started hearing from friends who worked in large Silicon Valley complexes that their employers had gone beyond offering standing desks to standing-desks-with-treadmills. Marko Kloos, writer and VP alum was a standing desk convert, first with a trial setup, and then via a local Borders Bookstore closing, a more permanent pair of standing desks.

I’ve had a lot of different tables and desks for writing on a computer. When I worked in media production at a software content company, my desk was a solid door; it had plenty of rooms for a task light, a keyboard, a mousepad and two 20” Apple monitors. In a lot of ways, that was my ideal set up. I have a good task chair and a lovely adjustable computer desk made by the now defunct ScanCo company in storage, and no room at all in the apartment for a large desk. Mostly these days, I sit in a comfortable easy chair and use a piece of fiber board as a lapdesk under my Mac Book.

I know a lot of canonized writers—most notably Hemingway—favored standing while writing. Thomas Mann used to write while standing and using the top of his refrigerator as his desk. At over six feet, he has certain advantages that at 5′ 3”.5 I lack. I’m not writing anything like the books they wrote, or keeping their hours, but on a long day, especially one that’s deadline-driven, even with frequent breaks and moving around and actually leaving the apartment to take a walk, I notice my back and shoulders hurt, and there’s sometimes noticeable eye strain. I’ve been reading about standing desks for a long time, looking at other people’s standing desks and investigating the various possibilities. As an experiment about six months ago on a whim, I moved my laptop to the top of a half-height bookcase. It wasn’t quite the right height for me, so I put the hard cover unabridged American Heritage Dictionary under the laptop. That’s actually worked pretty well for me. I can easily move back to the easy chair when I get tired, and there’s enough space that I can even shift easily on my feet if my legs or back get tired. Plus, the cat has claimed the bottom shelf of the bookcase as Hers, which means when she gets bored she attacks my feet.

The experiment has worked better than I expected. All the same, I keep looking at adjustable standing desks, like this one from IKEA, the Fredrik:

Ikea Fredrik computer desk imageI know several people who use the IKEA Fredrik as a standing desk and are quite happy with it, and with it’s $149.00 cost.

Or there’s this one available from Amazon, the Safco 1929CY Adjustable Height Stand-Up Workstation, 29w x 19-3/4d x 49h, Cherry PVC Top for $290.07. It comes in cherry or oak finish for the PVC top. Image of the Safco standing workstation I’ve two friends whose employers at different companies offered them this Safco standing workstation. The top shelf and the keyboard tray are both adjustable, and the keyboard tray slides in or out.

Still, both are really designed for desktops, not laptops, and neither really offers the kind of space I’d like for a work area, so I think I’ll stick to my experimental bookcase for the time being. I note that oddly my feet hurt; less so than they did the first few months, but I’m contemplating clogs and possibly one of these “Anti-Fatigue” mats.

Sublime Imprint Anti-Fatigue Nantucket Series 20-Inch by 36-Inch Comfort Mat, Espresso

Crown Comfort King Antifatigue Mat, Zedlan, 24 x 36, Royal Blue (CK0023BL)

Anyone tried either of them? What are your suggestions for new adopters of standing desks? Did you purchase a desk or build one?

Turn Off that Bluetooth Keyboard Before Packing It

Dan Frakes notes if you’re traveling with your iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard, and you use the iPad Passcode Lock:

Make sure you turn off the Bluetooth keyboard before sticking it in your bag if you want to be able to use your iPad when you reach your destination.

Otherwise, as Frakes notes here:

If you forget to turn off your Bluetooth keyboard, or to disable the iPad’s Bluetooth, before tossing your gear in your bag, chances are you’ll arrive at your destination with an iPad in lockout mode. The keyboard’s keys will get pressed in transit, those key presses will be interpreted by the iPad as attempts to enter your passcode, and unless your luck is very good, those attempts will all be wrong.

MacBook Pro

I confess, I’m intrigued, but not enough to let Apple or you pry my new 15″ Powerbook from my hands. Here are a few reasons why I’m not panting to get one of the new Intel inside MacBook Pros:

  • It only has FireWire 400
  • There’s no modem
  • I have to use a modem when I visit my mom, or I can’t get work done. Rural Maine isn’t the only place where broadband isn’t available—nor am I the only person who has to support users with modem access. I need to see what it’s like for them to use software or sites I create.

  • No PCMCIA slot.
  • So I can’t use a Cellular modem card. There’s an Express Card/34 slot but to save my life I can’t find anyone who makes anything to put in it.

On the other hand, I am dying of curiosity about whether or not Windows XP will work on the MacBook Pro and the new Intel iMacs. I know that VirtualPC won’t work—that’s a given—but given that both machines use Intel Core Duo, I wonder about the utility of having both Mac OS X and XP on the same box.

If Windows XP works natively, I’m in. I’m so in.

UPDATE: According to Beta News, the Intel Macs won’t boot under the current version of XP because the Intel Macs use EFI rather than the current Open Firmware used on current PowerPC chips, or the BIOS that’s standard on Windows. It sounds like it’s possible that a release of Vista later this year might work, but no one seems sure.

Hardware Lust Satisfied: Airport Express

Because The Spouse is writing this, we’ve purchased an Apple Airport Express. I’ve been interested in the Airport Express right from the start, and I have to say, it’s even better than I’d expected.

The first one we bought was a dud; it just wasn’t working, so I took it back to the Apple Store, who exchanged it without a problem, and I walked home with a new one ten minutes after I arrived at the store. Once we had a working model, the setup was less than ten minutes. It’s connected to the stereo receiver in our living room, using a standard RCA to Miniplug cable (the jack supports an optical connection as well). We took the option in the Airport Setup to have the Express dedicated to broadcasting music through the stereo— we could have also used it to expand the range of our Airport Base Station, but in a two bed room apartment, that seemed a little foolish. There’s also a USB port, so you could use the Keyspan Express Remote Control, or share a USB printer, and a standard 10/100 Base-T Ethernet port.

Why do I like it? For the past couple of years, I’ve done most of my writing on my iBook, on the couch. With the Express, I can wirelessly play my iTunes music, both my purchased songs and songs I’ve ripped from CDs, through the stereo. That’s pretty nifty, but what’s even cooler, is that since my computer is authorized on my spouse’s iTunes account, I can also play his iTunes songs, remotely or locally. And we can stream music from any of our computers to the living rooms speakers.

Plus, since the Express is tiny, it’s exceedingly portable— we can take it with us on our next trip, and share an Ethernet connection wirelessly, with up to ten computers.

I can see myself borrowing the Airport Express to take to campus and plug in to the classroom, to be able to play through the built-in classroom AV system without having to arrange for an AV person to bring special equipment and string long annoying cables.

I bet Airport Expresses are going to be very, very popular in the dorms this fall.