There once was a company called AdventNet that created IT software – network monitoring, help desk ticketing, etc. Eventually they started this fledgling division called Zoho which seemed to me (at the time) like a distraction from their IT business. But Zoho grew and grew and eventually AdventNet changed its name to Zoho. Zoho still makes a line of IT software, but it is their Zoho Suite that more people are familiar with.
I’ve always liked their software, though sometimes it has been a bit rough around the edges. Part of this is because they usually offer free versions with a fairly robust featureset for those who only need a few users or to monitor a few systems.
In general I haven’t found these limitations to be too much of a nuisance, but I recently started using Zoho Mail and have been frustrated by the number of features which are only available in their paid version. Granted, the paid version isn’t bad – $28/yr. per user – but it isn’t what I’ve come to expect from Zoho.
I figured it would be helpful for others who are considering Zoho Mail as a solution for their needs to have a concise list of some of the more notable of these limitations…as the 25 free users offer is quite attractive at first glance. Without further ado, here is my list of functionality not available in the free version:
Mail Forwarding – Want to setup an email address [email protected] and forward it to [email protected]? You can’t on a free account. (Granted, you can create an email alias for an account).
POP/IMAP/ActiveSync – These are all methods of retrieving mail from Zoho’s server and are used by email client software like Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, or Mailbird. (Zoho does have a robust web interface, similar in functionality to Gmail’s, so this is only a deal breaker if you use a software email client).
Email Routing – Want to have emails sent to [email protected] routed to a third party helpdesk like Zendesk or Freshdesk? You can’t, it’s a premium feature. (That said, you can probably setup these and other services to access the account automatically and pull the emails).
Besides these limitations, Zoho Mail seems full-featured, the user interface is quite nice, and one can customize things with one’s custom domain rather than having @zohomail.com emails.
What alternatives do you have? At the price of free I’m not aware of many with any robust implementation. I’m luckily enough to be grandfathered into a G Suite account from back in the day when Google was still handing them out for free. 🙂
The only other completely free solution I’m aware of (at least for a few users) that offers similar functionality to Zoho Mail (e.g., custom domain email rather than @provider.com email) is Bitrix24, but I’ve never personally used them (interestingly, they also have a decent suite of applications and offer a free phone number as well – though it doesn’t appear to come with any minutes, but per minute pricing is cheap). Do you have suggestions for alternatives?
If we look at paid alternatives things begin to open up a bit for us we can add Google Suite, Microsoft Office 365, Rackspace, and so on to the list. Yet Zoho Mail’s prices still seem to be among the best.
Its also worth noting that most web hosts I’ve used (e.g. Bluehost, SiteGround) offer free email hosting as well. These services tend to be fairly full-featured but really lacking in the UI department.
I wrote this primarily for myself – sometimes I don’t remember everything I do when setting up a workstation for development purposes…it may be of interest to others.
You’ll note that there are several areas missing from this arena – no build automation, task runners, etc. Maybe I’ll get around to adding them once I settle on some…but in the meantime, this still works for me.
[See bottom of this document for a list of revisions to this document]
Install Git for Windows for version control, ensure that Windows PATH is selected during the install so that you can use git from the command-line without needing to use Git’s special CLI.
I’d recommend also getting yourself a GUI to manage Git. Personally, I prefer that the editor I’m working in provide Git integration, but sometimes this isn’t available – in which case Atlassian’s SourceTree seems to do a good job.
Editor / IDE
IDE stands for Integrated Development Environment. This software offers numerous tools to expedite code development.
Editors on the other hand are much simpler, yet some people prefer them. We’ll look at a few of each of these.
NotePad++ – This is my base editor. The User Interface isn’t amazing, but it works beautifully. Especially awesome when it comes to working with large files.
Brackets – An open source project by Adobe, has a number of useful extensions. UI is attractive, I use this one over NotePad++ usually, except for note files (NotePad++ remembers the text you enter even if you don’t save the file) and large files.
If you are wondering where your xdebug.so file lives: /usr/lib/php/20151012/xdebug.so
And Code Sniffer:
And www folders:
Microsoft’s Visual Studio – An IDE with a long and venerable history, more recently integrating a number of Xamarin cross-development features into the IDE. The Community Edition is free.
WARNING: Depending upon options selected, this installs Hyper-V; if you are running another virtualization technology (Virtual Box) expect to experience BSoD errors. Unfortunately, I know this from personal experience and I am not alone.
You’ll want something that provides a handy way for interacting with databases, in which case I recommend HeidiSQL.
If you don’t have a database server currently, you’ll need one. A couple options include MySQL, MariaDB, Microsoft SQL Server, and PostgreSQL.
Oracle’s VirtualBox will provide you with a free and reliable method for creating virtual machines. More importantly, it integrates tightly with software such as Vagrant and Docker, whereas Hyper-V integration is still an unpolished creation.
You’ll also want a copy of Vagrant, which eases the management of Virtual Machines tremendously. You could use Docker, but in my experience, the Vagrant experience is much smoother.
To easily access one’s Vagrant box you’ll want a copy of OpenSSH. This is available in several different ways – the easiest being as part of the Git install. However, in order to use it, you’ll need to add ssh.exe to your Windows PATH.
You’ll need something to create/edit images with, I recommend paint.net. Despite its connection to a very basic predecessor (Windows Paint), this software can work miracles.
JPEGmini – Usually I wouldn’t recommend using lossy means of reducing image data footprint, but JPEGmini manages to offer significant lossy compression without any visible deterioration to the image, unfortunately it only works on jpeg files.
FileOptimizer – Offers compression for numerous different file formats in a lossless manner.
However, FTP is a plain-text protocol, so I’d look at using something SSH based like SFTP. In this case I’d recommend WinSCP or built-in functionality in your IDE (phpStorm for example).
You’ll also want a copy of ConEmu or another command line interface (CLI). This software is so much better than the default Windows console.
A good archive/compression application will make life much easier, and 7-Zip is the perfect application.
Hosts File Editor – While it hasn’t been updated since 2011, I find this software extremely handy when I want to make edits to the hosts file. It offers a nice GUI front-end for the hosts file and enables a number of different nifty features not built into the file itself.
Revisions To Document
Added location of www pages on Vagrant.
Moved VVV under Vagrant.
Added link to Louie R.’s article on using Vagrant/VVV.
Changed Basics for Developers to Version Control.
Added link to VVV Wiki Article about Connecting to MySQL.
Added section on database servers.
Added link to article on integrating with PhpStorm, location of xdebug.so.
Added location of Code Sniffer; PHPUnit, Composer.
What do these two scenarios have in common? My interest was sparked by the stories – stories which, to many, cause fear or aversion.
I have theories as to why I am this way (attracted to, rather than repelled by), but I’ll leave those for another time…
The cultural knowledge of sensory deprivation chambers / isolation tanks is generally sourced in their portrayal on the recent TV show Fringe, a pseudo-X-Files. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an image or a clip which does justice to the horrifying nature of the lead character’s (Olivia) experience in the chamber.
Luckily, the 1980 classic Altered States‘ trailer is quite adequate in portraying the horror common in media depictions:
But what is it like to actually be in a sensory deprivation chamber?
I went to a stand-alone (no other services like massage, facials, etc. offered) in Kearny (northern) NJ called Serene Dreams. It wasn’t a big building and (I think) there were two entrance doors. I tried the first, I have no idea what the second led to. This brought me into their waiting/reception area. It was cramped – a single couch and two bar chairs provided the seating. I was handed a small stack of papers to read and sign. The papers were the usual disclaimers regarding liability for bodily harm but they also included the somewhat unusual disclaimer for psychological injury.
After a few minutes I was led through a door into a long, wide hallway. There were two rooms on my left along the hallway, but these were both occupied, so I was led around the corner into their third (and last) room. The room looks like a high-end bathroom. There is a beautiful large shower with a gazillion different settings, a sink, and then a large white pod with water inside and a lid that closes.
Unfortunately these rooms do not include a toilet, which would seem ideal seeing one is about to spend an extended period of time floating in water and having a full bladder would be most unpleasant.
The door was shut and I was left alone. The procedure indicates that one first shower so as not to bring anything into the pod with you (the water is purified between each consumer), one can use provided vaseline to cover over any cuts, and there are ear plugs – which you’ll really want to use.
Once the shower is over you can enter the pod. Inside the pod you have a few items. First there is a large button that allows you to control the lighting. These pods aren’t strictly for sensory deprivation, apparently many use them with the lights on. Secondly there is a help call button that you can press if you are in need of assistance. Finally, there is a bottle of fresh water to use if you get the pod’s water in your eyes.
Why would one need regular water while laying in a body of water? Because the water in the pod is loaded with epsom salt – so much that it causes your body to float. Get that into your eyes and it will sting (yes, I know from firsthand experience).
I climbed into the pod and closed the lid on top of me. I laid down and began to float in the water and then I turned off the lights. It was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything, I knew I was inside a pod, resting in a body of water – but there was nothing to feel, nothing to see.
As I laid there I became aware of some of my bodily problem spots. My right knee was aching, one of my fingers on my right hand as well. The lack of external sensory input was causing me to feel more intensely my aches and pains. Over time these pains faded away and I floated.
They played soft music for the first ten minutes, so I knew when ten minutes had passed – but after that all was silence – there was no way to know the time. So, I laid there, and laid there, and laid there some more.
My brain wasn’t busy – somewhat surprisingly. Nor did I feel tired, I just floated. The water was body temperature, but half my body was above the surface and every once in a while it would feel a little chilly. As time passed the air became stuffy. It hadn’t occurred to me beforehand, but I realized in order not to cause sensation, they wouldn’t be able to pump fresh air into the pod (or if they did, it wasn’t at a speed that could replace the old air with new). I wondered how long one could stay in the pod before suffocating – obviously much longer than the hour I was scheduled for.
Sometimes it felt like time was dragging on. “How much longer?” I would wonder. At the end of the hour the music started again, informing me that there was only ten minutes remaining. I was surprised – could that much time have passed already? It is a weird feeling to be in the absolute dark with no reference to time – one feels almost simultaneously that a dreadfully long period of time is passing and at the same time that it has been only a few brief moments.
When the music stopped I turned on the light, opened the pod, and took another shower. The second shower is to wash all the epsom salt off your body. If you didn’t take a shower you’d look like you were covered with chalk dust after drying for a minute or two…not to mention that if you got the water in your ears there is the small possibility that they could form into crystals and cause ear pain.
I made my way down the long hallway back to the waiting area. Plunked down my credit card and had a nice chat with the receptionist who informed me about how Mugwort’s Tea before bed has helped her to remember her dreams. Hmmm, I might have to try that.
Not That Scary?
No, it wasn’t that scary. So are the portrayals in film completely unreal? Not exactly. In the film portrayals the individuals are almost always dosed with psychoactive drugs such as LSD or mescaline. In addition the individuals tend to spend a much more extended period of time within the sensory deprivation tank.
Was I Happy?
Sure, I was happy. I had done something I’d wanted to do for some years now and I hadn’t panicked or grown so bored I quit. I had spent an hour alone with my own brain and hadn’t gone crazy – which is something of an achievement.
I’ll admit, I hoped for more. I hoped I would fall asleep and have a vivid dream I could process. I didn’t think I had fallen asleep, but when I got home I had a pain in my tongue and it was a little bloody. I have bruxism, which means I grind my teeth in my sleep. Unfortunately, this also means I bite my tongue in my sleep so it seems I may have fallen asleep at least briefly. Still, the sleep wasn’t what I was after – it was the dream.
That said, if I want more out of it I will have to do it for a more extended period of time. Will I do it again for a more extended period? I’m unsure. I’m ADD and laying still for an hour is a challenge for me, laying still for longer seems at the least extremely boring and perhaps edging into torture…but I might.
I have only a few minor criticisms of the location I utilized (Serene Dreams in Kearny NJ).
It would have been really great to have a toilet in the room.
The pod wasn’t quite big enough for me. I would occasionally drift into the walls. This wasn’t a major issue, but it did decrease the sensory deprivation experience.
I think I may have gone into the pod backwards (feet where my head should have been). This is probably a me problem…
Flotation therapy isn’t scary at all. Sensory Deprivation is a bit more testing – the pitch blackness and silence may get to some – probably would get to me over a longer period of time. To experience a more interesting psychological experience once would probably have to increase the length of the session significantly or, as the forefathers of this technology did (see Dr. John C. Lilly for example), utilize psychoactive drugs…ummm, okay, scratch that second idea.
I was a salmon set-net commercial deckhand in Ninilchik. This is not nearly as dangerous as the scenarios portrayed in The Perfect Storm or Deadliest Catch.↩
I had hoped Fringe would be a satisfactory replacement to theX-Files (also Amazon) and at the get-go it appeared to be…but once it became evident that the story arc was becoming one dimensional by focusing on a mega-arc of parallel dimensions, I became disappointed and stopped watching. Monsters of the week episodes had always been my favorite part of the X-Files – which managed to keep an overarching myth without succumbing to it.↩
The depiction in Fringe was at least in part inspired by Altered States portrayal.↩
If you are claustrophobic, this may not be for you – luckily, if you aren’t going for sensory deprivation, you would just leave the lid open.↩
After some further research, I’m fairly certain that the pod was circulating air, it just wasn’t enough to prevent the staleness.↩
The lights were dampened and it was a somewhat more foreboding environment, if I had been coming in instead of going out, I might have felt a spooked.↩
I’m not a fan of DREAM INTERPRETATION but I am a fan of dream interpretation. I mean, I believe that sometimes there are overarching themes which spread across dreams which can be insightful to us, but I’m not a fan of attempting to deconstruct every portion of the dream and assign it meaning. I assume that if my brain really wants to tell me something, it will say it repeatedly (and this has been my experience).↩
I wear a bruxism guard most nights to prevent this↩
ADD not ADHD. I don’t have the hyperactive component.↩
I believe it was August when Fluidstance first reached out to me about reviewing their product, The Level. Of course, I was amenable and eagerly awaited its arrival. It wasn’t until October that I realized the packaging containing The Level had been stolen off my front step before I ever saw it. I wrote a post about this theft and The Level generally and Fluidstance generously sent me another one!
I’ve been using it for the past few months few years. I didn’t want to write a review too quickly as products like this can be so bright and shiny and fascinating when they first come out but as time passes they fall into disuse – just another item to stuff in the closet/garage/ attic.
It Is All About Me
Before I review The Level I need to give you a little bit of context about me. If you already know me, you can skip this section, if you don’t, I think a minute or two of your time will really inform your understanding of my review.
I have a number and diversity of ailments oftentimes not seen in someone twice my age. Most of them don’t connect with my review of The Level but a few do. Namely, I have chronic leg pain. These days it is usually low intensity though occasionally it will flare up with a vengeance. Combine this with some knee and lower back pain and I’m a bit of a disaster.
Why does this matter? Because my review comes from the place of someone with chronic health issues and will tend to be informed from that perspective. I hope it will be of use to everyone, but I think it will be especially useful to anyone suffering from chronic pain.
Fluidstance is an Apple-esque company. They don’t make a lot of products but what they do make is top notch in quality and you know this from the moment the box arrives at your door. It is a bit like unpacking an iPhone back in the day before everyone else caught on to how presentation could really affect consumer’s buying decisions.
Inside is a nice sack into which one can insert The Level (I suppose to keep it from getting scuffed, wet when raining, etc.). Then there is The Level itself. It is beautiful with a nicely finished bamboo top and a sturdy aluminum base (I know, sturdy is not the first word that comes to mind when someone mentions aluminum, but this is not your soda can’s aluminum!).
Fluidstance positions itself as an eco-friendly company, something which is especially popular these days, but they aren’t just saying a popular slogan to gain customers. Check their website and you’ll see that the use of bamboo for the wood was chosen because of it’s abundance and renewable nature. The base is recycled aluminum made in a solar-powered facility. Even the finish was chosen due to its low emissions.
I like the company culture this seems to express. Fluidstance’s serious commitment to the environment makes me feel that they are concerned about more than making money (not that there is anything wrong with making money, we all gotta eat, sleep, and play) and makes me optimistic that they will steward well in other areas – e.g., genuinely helpful customer support, pride in the quality of the product, and actually caring for their employees.
The Level is a solid product. There is no planned obsolescence built in! Seriously, I believe this product will last years – assuming you don’t light it on fire, allow your dog to repeatedly chew on it, submit it to a world’s strongest man crushing objects competition, etc.
You’d think that a product like this, which has a decent amount of weight placed on it day in and day out and which has someone standing on and scuffing around it would begin to deteriorate. Other than a few cosmetic scratches on the bottom of the aluminum base (which is wobbling around while you stand on it and which may have come via other means – e.g., me not being the best at occasionally moving through doorways or hallways without bumping into them) it looks as good as the day I received it (several years ago!).
Does It Work?
We know its beautiful and responsibly manufactured, but does it work? The short answer is yes, the longer answer is yes, and especially for me (and you?) with chronic pain.
I bought a sit/stand desk because in addition to being healthier than sitting and burning more calories I experience significant flare-ups in my chronic pain if I remain in any one position too long. It worked, but not as well as I had hoped. I couldn’t stand for prolonged periods of time without the pain flaring, so I had to spend more time going back and forth between sitting and standing than I wanted to.
Then came The Level. I was worried at first it was just a placebo effect, but it has been lasting. I can stand for much more extended periods without causing significant flareups in my legs (primary pain point), knees (secondary), or lower back.
These days I’m likely to do 2.5 to 3 hrs. standing before I need a break. Previously there were times where the pain began to flare almost instantaneously and it was certainly significant within 1.5 to 2 hrs. These days I might even go 4 or 6 hours standing at one time.
The Level keeps my legs moving a little bit all the time and, if I begin to feel some tension (or for the fun of it), I can increase the amount of movement significantly, all while still working productively.
Found Out the Hard Way
When I first received The Level it didn’t move much and I was surprised. It isn’t meant to be an aerobic experience, but I did expect a bit more movement. Ends up this was entirely my fault. I had one of those rubber mats one stands on to relieve foot/leg/knee pressure incurred standing on a hard floor. I knew The Level wasn’t supposed to be used on smooth floors (too slippery) but I figured that a rubber mat would serve the same purpose on my hard floors as a throw rug/carpet. I was WRONG. Once I started using The Level on carpet I experienced a significant (though not unpleasant) increase in motion.
Unless you only want The Level to move only when you move (e.g. it will move when you shift body weight) and not a sort of constant, fluid motion – use carpet!
The Level isn’t an inexpensive product. The American-Made Level (Bamboo) I was sent retails for $389. Not the sort of money one drops without consideration (at least, not that I do). There are lower priced models available – The American Made Level (Maple with Walnut Finish) for $339 and the American-Made Level (Natural Maple) for $289, but these are still not your bargain-value prices. More recently they’ve released The Plane Cloud which comes at $189 but even this isn’t a spur of the moment purchase.
Is It Worth the Price?
As you consider whether this is something you should invest your money in, let me provide a few questions for consideration:
Why would I buy this product? Is it because it is new and cool looking or because I’d actually use it?
How much of my life is spent at a desk? Lifehacker once recommended spending your money where your time is spent – and I think this is spectacular advice. Most of us spend a lot of time at our desk most days!
Could this help with any ongoing health issues I have?
Would this help me significantly increase the amount of time I spend standing rather than sitting?
What About Inexpensive Competitor Products?
If you decide to buy something like The Level the next question is whether you should actually buy The Level or should go with a less-expensive competitor. A few questions for consideration on that front:
What is the difference in price between The Level and the competitive product I’m looking at?
What is the quality of the two products? Am I getting more product quality for the extra price of The Level?
What is the reputation of the company? Do they care about their customers? Do they care about this product? Will they be around next year?
Use the Middle of the Road Approach
Personally, I’m a fan of the middle-of-the-road approach. I don’t need luxury, but I also know that buying cheap oftentimes means buying multiple over time. I’d rather spend a bit more upfront to get a quality product that is going to last than one that will soon need replacement or repairs.
For me, time is my most valuable asset, not money. If the competitive product will last five years but need to be repaired twice and this takes me 1 hour each time to call the manufacturer, secure an RMA, go to the post office, etc. – how much is that time worth? This is not necessarily what you are paid, but what you believe inherently is the value of your time. Is your time worth $10, $30, $50, $100, $250, an hour? Factor in the time you are likely to spend maintaining the lower quality product. Is the price once you include your time still lower for the competitive product? If not, you know what to do!
I’m still using the Fluidstance most days, sometimes for the entire day, sometimes swapping back and forth between sitting and standing every few hours and I still love it. The only change I’d love to see at some point is an (optional) increased angle to require more effort balancing and increase movement overall. Using it for a few years I’ve mastered my balance at the current Level angle but would love to up the ante a bit to keep my body moving/working throughout the day.
I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, The Level is a worthwhile investment. Yes, it makes me cringe a bit to think of buying something so simple for so much but if I divide the cost by the number of days I’ll use it this year it becomes much more reasonable. How many days do we work in a year? Lets say 240. Now we are talking about paying $1.20 per working day for this convenience if we purchase the lower end Level. If we purchase the highest? $1.62/day. Pretty reasonable for a product that will probably last years.
The Level does what it promises – helps one maintain motion even while standing at a desk and thus relieving pressure on the body. For me, personally, I see reduced pain in my legs, knees, and back from using The Level.
What do you think? I’m eager to hear from everyone but would be especially interested to hear from anyone else who is using The Level and has chronic health issues and whether it helps with these. Am I unique in experiencing some relief?
In the past the pain would get bad after as little as ten or fifteen minutes. Doing extended work while seated could be debilitating. Thankfully these days it isn’t nearly as severe.↩
I generally don’t notice back pain, unless my leg and knee pain is really low. Its sort of that, “Your head hurts? Let me smash your foot with a hammer and your head will feel much better” gag.↩
Sometimes this still occurs, but I find myself going through cyclical patterns where sometimes I can stand exclusively for multiple days and other times I just want to sit (not because of pain, more my legs feel tired.↩
Is there a difference, I don’t feel like asking Master Google at the moment.↩
Besides the placebo effect, this was another reason I’ve taken a while to write this review. Once I realized I was sabotaging The Level I wanted to spend some time using it correctly before reviewing.↩
Okay, if you haven’t caught on to this yet, I grew up quite poor.↩
I’ve written about and regularly consume Ensure, I don’t care that I’m not the target audience.
When Soylent started out (and when I first began consuming it) it was a powder which one mixed with water and then added some bottled oils to. It only took two or three minutes to make a days worth and I thought it tasted decent – much less grainy than either RAW Meal or Shakeology – but much more grainy than Ensure.
I Try 2.0
Recently Soylent announced and then began shipping Soylent 2.0 – which comes bottled similar to Ensure. Now there is no prep time, just take a bottle out of the fridge. I purchased my first twelve pack and have consumed them all. I’ve now upped my order to 24 monthly, which will cover almost one meal a day. I expect, if I continue to like it, I will up my order to perhaps 48 bottles/mo., which would make almost two a day.
While I didn’t have a problem with the old Soylent’s taste, the new Soylent is significantly better. It tastes and has the texture of almond milk.
At first I thought I would need to mix something with it to drink it with great consistency and I tried some chocolate syrup as well as some V8 juice – the latter worked rather well. But as I have continued to drink it I find my taste buds developing more and more of a liking for it and I don’t see myself needing to mix anything else into it.
Why Else I Like Soylent
Besides Soylent providing me an alternative to meals there are a number of other techie reasons I like them.
First, their recipe is open source and this has resulted in a cottage industry producing similar products. I’m a huge fan of open source.
Second, they provide release notes with each version as well as providing detailed blog posts about why they do what they do and when problems arise. I am especially fond of the latter.
Third, they are constantly iterating on Soylent. 2.0 is great, but I’m sure 2.1 will be better!
“But Dave, this can’t be as good for you as eating real, organic food for meals.”
You are absolutely correct – thing is, I don’t eat real, organic food for meals. Soylent is a healthier alternative to a lot of the standard American diet / standard Dave diet. So, while not perfection, it is a step in the right direction…
And I won’t stop eating real food altogether. In fact, I may eat healthier the rest of the time b/c I am drinking Soylent. I always feel so time constricted – so much more I want to accomplish in a day than I can – if I feel a little less time constricted I may be more willing to invest in a meal (no promises, but hey, it’s possible!).
[Update: 10/28/16 – Some international users of SugarSync have reported issues using the link I included in this post. Thanks to Bill & JN for an updated link that appears to work internationally as well: https://www.sugarsync.com/account/cancel]
I started with SugarSync many hears ago and I’ve been a paying customer since October 2009 and have been a fairlyavidsupporter of them.
Over the last year or so I’ve found myself moving away from SugarSync and towards Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox. I decided to cancel SugarSync and assumed I’d be able to login to my account and quickly cancel…if only I were that fortunate!
One can upgrade one’s account via the website, but you can’t cancel it.
Okay, slightly annoying. So how do I cancel? There is no contact info. I can find on the main site but there is a “Contact Us” link in the footer of the support page – that seems hopeful…
Nope, just a mailing address and instructions to use the support site from which I found the Contact Us link.
Fine, lets try searching the help desk (okay, I actually did this before looking at the contact info., not sure why I record this out of order). Entering cancel into the search area returns a link to this article: “Canceling a Paid Account.”
Here is where things get really frustrating. Take a look at the screenshot below:
Notice anything? Let me highlight three items:
The cancellation department is only open from 10 am to 2 pm (4 hrs.) Monday – Friday. What?!
In step 2 one is directed to “Open this article” and provided with a link, this link leads back to the article you were already viewing.
The screenshot with “Chat with Cancellation Department” button is really great, except for the fact that it doesn’t exist outside of those 4 hours each day! It isn’t greyed out, it simply doesn’t exist.
(Okay, let me rephrase that, there is a chat button down at the bottom but clicking on it outside of hours makes it disappear (and nothing else) AND the button is in a different location than where it is shown in their screenshot)
Great. I’ve now let several months go by, I am no longer using SugarSync but every time I remember to cancel it it is outside of the specified hours or I’m busy. Finally, today, I decided to give it another go.
I happened to notice when I was logged out of the site a phone number for sales questions (1-877-442-1693, there appear to be multiple versions of the homepage, the phone number only sometimes displays). The automated menu had an option for billing so I selected it and was soon speaking with a nice man who assured me he would help me. He put me on hold and then sent me an email which he asked me to check. I opened it and to my surprise saw that he was not going to cancel my account, instead he was just directing me back to the same window:
I reached a real person who was responding to billing questions but apparently couldn’t cancel my account.
I’ve typed out this email while waiting for SugarSync’s cancellation department to open for its very limited hours.
I finally got into a chat with a cancellation department representative. After all that they gave me a URL to visit to cancel my account: https://davidshq.sugarsync.com/account/cancel. My guess is that this URL will work for anyone just by changing the davidshq to whatever your SugarSync username is.
I’m also guessing that one can use this link 24/7/365 to cancel an account…but you might still want to go through their cancellation department as they could claim that it wasn’t properly cancelled, etc. and you might end up still being billed.
And thus ends the story of my travails canceling SugarSync (I hope).
I’ve been talking about self-driving cars for years, even posted about it on this site. I can’t wait for cars to drive themselves, for personal and selfish reasons, but there are several really good reasons for cars to drive themselves.
What would you have energy to do if you weren’t spending all that energy driving? What could you accomplish during your commute if you didn’t have to focus on driving?
Reduce Infrastructure Costs, Improve Roads
Want to see the roads better maintained? The driverless car could be the solution. We create roads to handle more than average traffic so that there won’t be as many traffic jams. Imagine if that four lane road could be two or three lanes instead. Driverless cars would allow this to occur as they would drastically reduce congestion and thus eliminate the need in many cases for expansion projects. This money could be redirected to existing infrastructure maintenance – eliminating those potholes and fixing those collapsing bridges.
When we held services after dark we lost a good portion of our church congregation. Why? Because many of our elderly couldn’t see well after dark and so would remain home.
How many elderly individuals are isolated due to an inability to drive? How many handicapped individuals are dependent on others for transportation? With driverless cars these individuals could be free to travel again!
And I Haven’t Even Mentioned…
And we’ve barely scratched the surface of the benefits of driverless cars. What about:
Reductions in insurance premiums.
Increased life of automotive parts due to gentler usage.
Decreased parking congestion due to fewer cars.
Decreased stress among humans due to driving.
In my article title I claimed this was a way to easily save many lives…but is it really so easy? The answer is yes. There are already driverless cars out there, it is a matter of moving ahead in a more determined manner to get these vehicles into the hands of consumers and to revamp them into models that everyone can and wants to use.
I’m really excited about driverless cars and I hope you will be too. Yes, it is kind of scary to think about computers driving our cars – but, really, the computer will be much more capable than we are of maintaining awareness and responding quickly. Yes, there will be some bugs and bad things may happen – but my guess is that we’ll see at least a 90% decrease in accidents once driverless cars become the norm.
Me: A development environment is the way one configures one’s computer to run the various applications used in programming (writing an application).
You: And this is so great because?
Me: Because setting up a development environment can be time consuming. There are usually a number of different applications you need to install and configuration changes that need to be made before the development environment is ready to use. For example, if you want to develop a PHP application (Wikipedia and WordPress are built on this) you’ll need an application to write code in as well as a web server to run the application. Most likely you’ll also need a database server to store all the data your PHP application works with.
In addition, programming can be messy and you may mess up your development environment and want to reinstall your Operating System (e.g. Windows, Mac OS X, Linux) – in which case you’ll have to do a bunch of work all over again to setup your development environment.
Personally, I like to have separate “workspaces” (aka development environments) for different projects. I may be writing a WordPress plugin in one development environment, experimenting with Node.js (currently one of the “hot” technologies), and have another project or two floating around. It helps me to keep things organized when my “workspace” only has the files related to the project I’m working on currently – and if I make any changes to configurations (e.g. to the web server) they will only effect this one project and not any other projects I am working on.
If you are looking to try out programming I’d recommend codeacademy and once you’ve got the swing of things, use Cloud9.
For the Geeky
Cloud9 provides a dockerized instance of Ubuntu preconfigured for development and a web-based IDE. It has prebuilt configurations for Node.js, LAMP, Python/Django, Ruby, C++, WordPress, Meteor, and HTML5.
For free you can create multiple workspaces, each workspace having 1 CPU, 512 MB of RAM, and 1 GB of HDD.
The IDE includes code completion, a JS/Node.js debugger, and a number of other features you can read about on their site.
It integrates seamlessly with Github and Bitbucket, allows you to share workspaces with others, provides a publicly accessible URL (if desired) so you can show off your application, and so on.
Looking to do a little WordPress development? You can have a workspace setup in under five minutes!
Ohh, and did I mention that the Code9 IDE is available via GitHub?
In November 2012 – two years ago – I wrote an article on height adjustable desks. It consisted of my research on the subject – what options were available, useful articles on the topic, etc. For the last two years I have used a standing desk – essentially a drafting table – for work. It is adjustable, but it requires loosening bolts and is fairly involved – so I rarely change its height. I’m still looking at height adjustable tables (of the crank or electric variety) and decided to update my original article.
I know from personal experience and from reading various articles (cited in the bibliography at the end of this page) that standing all the time isn’t an option for most people (including myself). A standing desk may be better for my health, but it certainly doesn’t feel better for my knees.
If you are aware of additional adjustable height desks I have not included in this article, please let me know. I’m also always interested in reading any articles of real substance on the subject.
One site you’ll definitely want to visit during your purchasing process is Comfortable Computing. Be sure to check out their interactive tool “Workspace Planner” – it will help you decide what height you need your adjustable desk to be able to rise to. You might also want to visit JustStand which has a nifty calculator for determining how many calories per day you would burn from standing rather than sitting.
Starts around $1400 for a complete table, though you can also purchase just the bases for around $700. Has a decent variety of options including some wall-mount options. Site could use some improvement in navigability.
This used to be listed under Idea at Work and linked to The Human Solution. I’ve updated to point directly to the Workrite site and have eliminated the previous entry due to Workrite discontinuing the Proliftix line.
Features: 28″ to 45″ adjustable height; supports up to 225 lbs; top size is between 23.5″-40″ width and 49.5″-70″ length; choose between standard and deluxe memory control.
They have one base model, which costs $399 for the frame. Then one adds the top, laminate 30″x60″x1″ runs $110 while bamboo runs $180 for the same size, thus price for minimum configuration including top is $509.
This is an apples-to-oranges comparison table, it demonstrates price ranges of the products and min/max heights, but doesn’t account for most other features.
iSkelter – Upgrades for existing desks to become standing desks.
StorkStand – Mounts onto chair, single monitor, $199.
Upstanding – Mounts on a normal desk, is height adjustable, costs $200 for standard (one monitor) or $250 for double-wide (two monitor).
Is electric better than crank? In my opinion, it may be better to get a crank unit (which is cheaper) as mechanical parts tend to last longer than electronic components. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dead electronic table five years down the road, but I’d hope the manufacturing quality would allow a crank table to be usable twenty years later.
How high and how low does my desk need to go? Comfortable Computing has a great calculator that uses your height to determine how high your desk should be when sitting and when standing.
ModTable – There are cheaper options available, but this appears to be the lowest priced high-end height adjustable desk I could find. I’m interested in their $549 crank unit. The one downside I see to these units is their minimum height of 27.5″. According to Comfortable Computing when sitting I should be using a keyboard at 25″ – so in sitting, I won’t be ergonomically correct. I could fix this by affixing a keyboard try underneath the desk which would probably bring the level down 1-2″.
UpDesk – Another attractive option which offers a lower minimum height (26.5″, but still too high for me) and on the negative a lower maximum height (42.5″, which is enough for me). The unit is around $100 more expensive than the ModTable.
GeekDesk – I must admit a certain attraction to GeekDesk due to their popularity and their cool name…but the product is also solid. The cost is around $800, but the unit is electrically powered and it goes as low as 23 in. and as high as 49 in. – that seems about perfect to me for height minimum and maximum. On the downside, expect to pay $125 for S&H!
At this juncture I’m divided. I’d really like a hand-crank table (more reliability) but also think the min. and max. heights on the GeekDesk are the best. I’m leaning slightly towards ModTable b/c of the lower price and the hand-crank, but I’m still up in the air. What do you think? Are there other options I should be consulting? Other factors I should be considering?
Appendix A. Sore Feet/Legs
I’ve transitioned into the full-time pastorate and stand at my desk as often as possible (I have a no-name drafting table right now) and sometimes my feet hurt from doing so. Here are a few articles I found that address this issue that others may find helpful as well.
For standing I currently use a height adjustable drafting table I picked up at a garage sale. It goes up to approximately 39″ in height (3.25′). It is 36″ wide (3′) and 24″ (2′) deep. It allows for adjusting the angle of the desk up or down, something most height adjustable desks do not.
On my standing desks I have two Fellows monitor mounts which add another 4″ to the height.
For sitting I currently use a small desk, it is approximately 29″ tall (2.4′). It is 45″ wide (3.75′) and 20″ deep (1.7′).
I’m apparently shrinking, I’m pretty sure I was once 5’8″, but remeasuring, I’m clocking in at 5’6″.
According to Computing Comfort’s calculations I should have my standing keyboard at a height of 40.5″ and the top of my screens at a height of 61.5″ – in other words, my keyboard is 1.5″ too low and my monitors are 2.5″ too low (after calculating in the height of my monitors at 17″).
According to Computing Comfort’s calculations I should have my sitting keyboard at a height of 25″ and the screens at a height of 46″ – in other words, my keyboard is 4″ too high and the monitors are exactly right.
Below I’ve compared my three finalists – the first two are crank, the third electric. Only the third goes low enough for me, but I can mount a keyboard under the first two to correct this issue. The prices below include S&H.
1 yr. (2)
2 yr. (5)
The number in parentheses includes the longer warranty which covers only part of the desk (e.g. in GeekDesk, it does not cover the motor past two years).