The Adjustable Standing Desk I Chose

I’ve wanted a height adjustable, sit / stand desk forever. Yes, literally, forever.

In 2012 I wrote an extensive survey of the sit/stand desk field of products and two years later when I still didn’t have a sit/stand desk I updated and expanded my already extensive survey.

Then I never told you about the desk I actually ended up with (thanks to my wonderful wife, Sheila). Well, I’m about to right that wrong.

I ended up purchasing a MultiTable ModTable. Yeah, that is a mouthful…and unfortunately, they don’t own the modtable domain, so go to multitable.com.

I chose to go with ModTable because

  1. Their prices are about as low as you can go for a real, true height adjustable desk.
  2. The reviews I found about the company’s desks were favorable.
  3. They offered a hand crank model.

Wait, I went with a hand crank model? Yup. I thought about going electric and while it was tempting I decided that a hand crank would probably last me many times longer.

This is my ModTable in sitting position.
This is my ModTable in sitting position. Click on the image to see a much larger image of the same.

The hand crank is a simple mechanical mechanism, unlikely to break – whereas electronic components almost always break down eventually. I have hopes that I’ll still be using this desk ten, even twenty years from now.

Because I want to be a hobo (of sorts) someday I went with a Medium top (24″ x 48″) so that it could fit into a travel trailer, etc. without too much trouble.

I splurged and bought a CPU holder ($100). I initially bought a Belkin keyboard and mouse tray through Amazon, but ran into some trouble getting it to adjust correctly (may have been a broken model or may have been my lack of mechanical skill) and returned it. I’ve planned on getting the keyboard/mouse tray from ModTable but just never got around to it.

Even if the Belkin had worked, it would have been a hack job. The metal crossbeam runs under the middle of the desk and most mouse/keyboard trays are made to have their track run vertically and the crossbeam sits firmly astride its desired path.

This is my ModTable in standing position. Note that it is still significantly lower than its maximum height [insert short joke here].
This is my ModTable in standing position. Note that it is still significantly lower than its maximum height [insert short joke here].

I did not buy the monitor arms. They were attractive but I opted instead for monitors that were height adjustable in and of themselves – which have worked out quite nicely.

I’m supremely happy with the table. The components all seem to be high quality. My only thoughts for improvement are as follows:

  1. Is the central crossbeam necessary? Could there be a model without it?
  2. The manual crank sticks out a bit and is easy to walk into. You can pull it out so that it isn’t in the way, but then you have to put it back in…which is a very minor annoyance, but if there was a way for the handle to fold under the unit, out of the way, that would be amazing.
  3. Could it go a little lower? I’m on the vertically challenged end of the spectrum and technically the height of the table top is still a little too high for me ergonomically….if I ever get around to getting the keyboard/mouse tray that will drop it to the correct height, but, still, it’d be nice to go down to say 25 in?

As far as any suggestions to those who may be considering buying a ModTable themselves, here are my thoughts:

  1. If you aren’t planning on living/working in tightly constrained quarters, splurge for the larger top size.
  2. Make sure to install the CPU holder far off to the side, otherwise you’ll be kicking it when you are sitting down.
  3. Splurge for the CPU holder and the keyboard/mouse tray off the bat.

Let me conclude by talking about expense. I’m used to owning used desks or pressed board desks – the kind you can pick up fairly inexpensively from Walmart, Target, or Ikea. ModTable is inexpensive compared to other height adjustable desks, but it is still expensive for those of us who frequent thrift stores for our furniture needs.

I heard (I think it was over at Lifehacker) that one should invest one’s money where one spends one time – which makes a lot of sense. Spend money on what you use most in life – a bed, a desk, a car, etc. For me and many like me, a desk is one of those things and the extra expense is worthwhile for our comfort as well as for our health.

WinDirStat: What is Hogging All My Hard Drive?

WinDirStat Screenshot

An older software application, but a freebie and a goodie, is WinDirStat. If you ever find yourself running low on storage space on your hard drive – this application will quickly and intuitively give you a peek into what is consuming all that space.

Before you go out buying a bigger hard drive, using WinDirStat to see if there isn’t (and there probably is) some unneeded files or applications consuming major amounts of disk space. You can delete these files/applications thus freeing up space on your hard drive and save yourself the cost of a new, bigger hard drive.

Warning: You can totally ruin your computer by deleting the wrong files – so don’t go deleting files you aren’t sure about!

WinDirStat Screenshot

Google Now Voice Commands

Jason Cross over at greenbot has written a great list of known Google Now voice commands. The commands I use or intend to use on a regular basis (and think may be most helpful to you) are:

Command Example
Define [word] Define reasonable
What is the weather? What is the weather
What is [quantity] [unit] in [unit]? What is 12 feet in centimers?
What is [mathematical equation]? What is 10 divided by 2?
What is 10 times 2?
What is 10 plus 2?
What is 10 minus 2?
Take a picture Take a picture
Turn [on/off] [Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, Flashlight] Turn on Wi-Fi
Turn off GPS
Turn on Bluetooth
Turn off Flashlight
Set an alarm for [time] Set an alarm for 50 minutes
Create a calendar event: [calendar event] Create a calendar event: Meeting with Widget Co. to discuss new website on Monday at 8 am.
Remind me to [action] Remind me to pick up milk
Make a note: [note] Make a note: Google Now is useful.
Find [name] [info.] Find Dave Mackey’s phone number.
Call [name] Call Dave.
Text [name] [message] Text Dave “What is up?”
Where is the nearest [place]? Where is the nearest McDonalds?
Directions to [address] Directions to New York City

Meeting in the Middle.

While Sheila and I were dating we lived fairly far apart. I found a really nifty site that helped with this dilemma – its called MeetWays.

All one does is enter the starting address for both parties and then the type of meeting place you are looking for – e.g., a restaurant, library, movie theater, or park.

MeetWays then finds options for you that are close to equidistant between the two addresses.

Meetways Results Screenshot

Height-Adjustable Desks (aka Site/Stand Desks) – 2014 Update.

Introduction

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.Image of Height-Adjustable Desk.

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.

The Options

Multi Table

  • Features: hand crank, 27.5″ to 47″ height adjustment, 30 day return guarantee, 1 year warranty against defects, 5 years on steel.
  • ModTable  – $599 –  Available in various sizes, uses crank.
  • Mini Mod – $599 – A smaller version of the ModTable, but since pricing is the same, not sure why you would ever buy one…unless you had a very small workspace.
  • Mod-E –  $649 – An electric model instead of hand crank.
  • Also offers treadmill desks.

UpDesk

  • Features: electric lift mechanism, 26.5″ to 42.5″, 1.25″ high pressure laminate desktop, 300 lb. weight capacity, each leg has own motor, 20 min. setup, 5 yr. warranty.
    • PowerUp Small – 48″ x 30″ – $949
    • PowerUp Medium – 60″ x 30″ – $999
    • PowerUp Large – 72″ x 30″ – $1049
  • Features: manual lift mechanism, 26.5″ to 42.5″, 1.25″ high pressure laminate desktop, 225 lb. weight capacity, 5 turns per inch (precision), 20 min. setup, 5 yr. warranty.
    • CrankUp Small – 48″ x 30″ – $699
    • CrankUp Medium – 60″ x 30″ – $799
  • Also offers the SquaredUp line of desks (corner), UpWrite (surface can be written on with dry erase markers).
  • Offers a number of nice accessories as well.
  • S&H is $129 on electric, $99 on crank.

GeekDesk

  • Features: 335 lb. weight capacity, 4 programmable presets, each leg has own motor, 1.1″/sec. lift speed, 23″ to 48.75″, 2 yr (motor) / 5 yr (frame) warranty.
    • Max Large – 78.75″ x 31.5″ or 63″ x 31.5″ – $985
    • Max Small – 47.25″ x 31.5″ – $949
  • Features:28-35mm/sec. lift speed, 275 lb. weight capacity, 23″ to 48.75″, 2 yr (motor) / 5 yr (frame) warranty, each leg has own motor.
    • GeekDesk v3 Large – 78.75″ x 31.5″ or 63″ x 31.5″ – $799
    • GeekDesk v3 Small – 47.25″ x 31.5″ – $749

NextDesk

  • These guys are expensive. I think they are going for the “Apple” of height adjustable tables.
  • Features: 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee, 3 Year Warranty (depends on model, some come with 2 Year and the Fit with a limited lifetime).
  • Terra – 63″ x 31.5″ – $1497
  • Air – 63″ x 31.5″ – $2178
  • Solo – 30″ x 24″ – $897
  • Offers a number of other options including the Terra Pro, Air Pro, L Series (l-shaped desks), U Series (u shaped desks), solo (and plus), Up, Fit (w/treadmill), custom, and conference.
  • Suggests Bill Me Later, which allows for financing, brings costs down to around $50/mo. for the Terra.

LifeDesk

  • Features: 22″-48″,  275 lb. weight capacity, 1.1″/sec. lift speed.
  • Two-Leg Short Base – $1450.
  • One-Leg Electric Base – $988+.
  • Three-Leg Electric Frame – $2890.
  • A number of options, prices appear to have increased significantly since last time I updated this article, but so has the variety of options available.

VersaTables

  • Features: Lifetime warranty (on material defects), 30 day full refund return period, free shipping.
  • Deluxe Height Adjustable Computer Table – $359 – Height begins at 24″, a number of variations available. Appears to be a little difficult to adjust – not crank or electronic.
  • Edison Electric Table – $1199 – Electric height adjustment, up to 50″ tall, available in 36″, 48″, 60″, and 72″ widths.
  • Split Level Adjustable Computer Table – $499 – Available in various sizes, uses grommets for adjusting height.
  • Versa Center – $300 – Available in various sizes, doesn’t appear to use crank or electronic adjustment for height.
  • Adjustable Wall Mount Computer Station – $280 – This looks very interesting, but it concerns me that it appears to support only one monitor.
  • Deluxe Electric Life Wall Mount Computer – $700 – The name is a bit of a misnomer – it is a station, not the computer itself. Again, appears to only support one monitor.
  • Prices have increased significantly on a number of models (Edison from $899 to the present $1199). Not all prices have been updated (here); their hand adjustable crank model has been discontinued.

Safco

  • Offers a number of models, many are standing desks of fixed height. I like lots of leg room and these don’t have it, but some might like them – they have extra shelving.
  • Muv 28″ Adjustable Height Workstation – $448 – 29″ – 34″ height.
  • Muv 35″ Adjustable Height Workstation – $479 – 29″ – 34″ height.
  • Muv Stand-up Adjustable Height Workstation – $505 – 35″ – 49″ height.

ConSet

  • 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.

Workrite

  • 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.

Anthro Technology Furniture

  • Elevate II – 28″ – 47″, electric, $1300.
  • Elevate Adjusta – 27″ – 53″, electric, $2850.
  • Elevate Corner – 27″ – 53″, electric, $4930.
  • Elevate Wrap – 27″ – 53″, electric, $3100.
  • Elevate Single – 27″ – 53″, electric, $2380.
  • Fit Adjusta – Pricing starts at $829, only goes up to 31.25″.
  • Fit Console – Pricing starts at $1179, only goes up to 31.25″.
  • They’s also added a new line “Steve’s Station” with prices starting at $3249.

Evodesk

  • Features: has an expandable frame (can become wider as needed), can have a programmable controller (save height settings), electronic up/down.
  • Starts at $599 with a number of accessories available to customize the unit.

VariDesk

  • Offers units which fit on top of one’s existing desk. The Single (supports one monitor) starts at $275, at the higher end is the Pro Plus at $350 which supports dual monitors and has a keyboard lift.

Rebel Desk

  • Hand crank models for $599.

iMovR

  • ThermoDesk Elemental – $549 – hand crank.
  • ThermoDesk Ellure – $619 – hand crank.
  • ThermoDesk Electra – $829 – electronic.
  • Thermodesk Elite – $1099.

StandDesk

  • 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.

Comparison Table

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.

(This is not an exhaustive comparison table)

Table Price Min Max Method
Safco Height-Adjustable Split Level $448 26″ 37.25″ Bolts
Stand Desk $509 28″ 45″ Electric
iMovr ThermoDesk Elemental $549 27.5″ 47″ Crank
MultiTable ModTable $549 27.5″ 47″ Crank
Evodesk $599 49.5″
Rebel Desk $599 28″ 48″ Crank
VertDesk $689 28″ 46.5″ Electric
ergodepot Jarvis $695 25.5″ 51″ Electric
Updesk CrankUp $699 26.5″ 42.5″ Crank
Uplift 900 $699 26.5″ 42.5″ Crank
ErgoTron $737 30.6 50.6″ Brake
GeekDesk v3 $749 23″ 48.75″ Electric
PowerUp $1049 25.5″ 50.5″ Electric
Edison Electric Table $1199 24″ 50″ Electric
Elevate II $1300 28″ 47″ Electric
Conset $1400 25″ 47″ Electric
LifeDesk $1450 22″ 48″ Electric
NextDesk Terra $1497  24″ 50.5″ Electric

Others

  • AFC Industries Inc. – Offers what looks like professional office furniture that is height adjustable.
  • Alvin Professional Table – Looks to be a drafting table, available via Walmart, it ranges from 29″ – 45″. May be a bit of a pain to adjust, but the price starts at $199.
  • Biomorph – Sells several different models beginning at $995.
  • Cotytech – Sells several adjustable height desks, including a laptop desk that can go up to 41.9″ and costs $264.
  • Dania Furniture – Offers a desk for $1100, adjusts up to 52″.
  • ergodepot – $695 is the current sale price, offers free S&H.
  • ErgoTron – Offers desk mounts, full desks, and mobile carts. The full desks start at $737.
  • Focal Upright.
  • Gilbraltar – Sells bases for adjustable height desks. Pricing appears reasonable ($400+/-) but only go up to 39.5″. Can be purchased through Kitchensource.
  • Haworth – Available through Crate and Barrel for $299. Very inexpensive, but see reviews on Crate and Barrel site for downsides. Also sells an electric table for $1390 available from Sit4Less.
  • Humanscale – Starts at around $1800 for their “Float” desk.
  • idealworkspace – Based out of Singapore.
  • ISE Group – Sells several different height adjustable tables, both crank and electric, but one has to order through VARs, thus no pricing.
  • Jesper Office – Their “value” desk starts at $1450.
  • KareProducts.
  • Maverick – Sells through VARs.
  • Mayline – Starts at $3000 for most height adjustable desks. The Soho Adjustable Mobile Computer Table is available from Walmart for $350 and goes from 14″ – 48″.
  • Pressfit Furniture – These are fixed height, cost around $399.
  • Right Angle Products – A variety of options, not clear on pricing.
  • Relax the Back – Offers the Sit to Stand Desk starting at $1600+.
  • Reo-Smart – Makes several height adjustable workstations, unfortunately they only go up to 37.8″ but the prices start around $570.
  • RightAngle – Has height adjustable desks, but fairly expensive.
  • SiS – Sells several adjustable height desks, unfortunately they are pretty expensive ($1500+).
  • Soma Ergonomics – Start at $1000+ and go up from there.
  • Steelcase – Sells the Airtouch, which is priced around $1500.
  • UpLift – Available via The Human Solution. Numerous different models available, the Uplift 445 starting at $749.
  • Beyond the Office Door – Seels the VertDesk, base is $549, once a top is added the price jumps to $689.
  • Wood Craft of Michigan.

Modify Existing Desk

  • Desktop Elevator – Fits onto existing desk, starts at $829.
  • AdjustDesk – These fit on an existing desk, starting at $499. Known as the “Kangaroo.”
  • Health Postures – Offers units that are placed on top of existing desk.
  • 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).

Considerations

  • 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.

My Finalists

  • 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!

Conclusion

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.

Appendix B. Random

Appendix C. My Setup Notes

  • 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.
Manufacturer Model Min Max Width Depth Price Warranty
MultiTable ModTable Manual 27.5″ 47″ 48″ 24″ $539 1 yr. (2)
UpDesk CrankUp Small 26.5″ 42.5″ 48″ 30″ $798 5 yr.
GeekDesk v3 23″ 48.75″ 47.25″ 31.5″ $874 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).
  • It looks like a 3M Knob Adjustable Keyboard Tray would be ideal, it has high reviews on Amazon and clocks in at around $100.

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  53. Lloyd Alter. “Are Standing Desks Healthier Than Sitting?” Treehugger. 2/25/10.
  54. M Neuhaus, GN Healy, DW Dunstan, N Owen, EG Eakin. “Workplace Sitting and Height-Adjustable Workstations: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” American Journal of Preventative Medicine, January 2014, 46(1), pp. 30-40.
  55. Matt Linderman. “Bootstrapped, Profitable, & Proud: GeekDesk.” 37Signals. 6/15/11.
  56. Mark Lukach. “Besting Standing Desks.” The Wirecutter.  5/29/12. (The article from Wired found here is a copy of this article.)
  57. Matthias Wandel. “Height Adjustable Computer Desk (my wheely desk).”
  58. Mikael Cho. “Why I Killed My Standing Desk.” Crew.
  59. Michael Desmond. “Five Questions with GeekDesk Founder Donovan McNutt on Standing Desks.” About.com.
  60. North Krimsly. “The Latest Height Stand-Up Desks.” High Integrity Design. 12/2/13.
  61. Peter Koch. “Stand-Up Guy: 5 Best Standing Desks.” Gear Patrol. 7/11/14.
  62. Phaedra Riley. “Standing Desk Shootout: Haworth Planes Height-Adjustable Table.” Core77. 8/16/11.
  63. Rain Noe. “‘Living With’ Product Review: The GeekDesk Truly Transforms the Way You Work.” Core77. 6/21/11.
  64. Ray Hu. “Standing Desk Shootout: Steelcase Airtouch Height-Adjustable Table.” Core77. 8/30/11.
  65. Simona Ganea. “10 IKEA Standing Desk Hacks With Ergonomic Appeal.” homedit. 8/5/14.
  66. Stephanie M. Lee. “Companies Take a Stand Against Sitting.” SFGate. 8/8/12.
  67. Stephen Searer. “7 Height-Adjustable Desks That Won’t Murder You.” Office Snapshots. 8/24/12.
  68. Steven Salzberg. “Does a Standing Desk Lengthen Your Lifespan?” Field of Science (Genomics). 9/28/14.
  69. Thorin Klosowski. “How Sitting All Day is Damaging Your Body and How You Can Counteract It.” Lifehacker. 1/26/12.
  70. Todd Wasserman. “Are You Sitting Down? Why a Stand-Up Desk Might Save Your Life.” Mashable. 4/22/11.
  71. Vicky Hallett. “Standing Desks Sit Well With More Employees.” The Washington Post. 5/20/14.

Toshiba, Kingston, and the Case of Useless RAM.

I’m an IT geek. IT flows through my veins – I couldn’t get rid of it if I wanted. I’m too old to be a digital native, but I’d like to think I’m pretty close.

I’m used to replacing my laptop every two years or so but I’ve been using the same laptop now since 2010. A Toshiba Tecra A11-S3540. It is a good machine boasting a powerful Intel Core i7 CPU, a dedicated 512 MB NVIDIA graphics adapter, 4 GB DDR3 RAM, gigabit ethernet, and 802.11n wireless. A while back I replaced the standard 7200 SATA hard drive with a 128 GB SSD – which made an incredible difference in system speed…but now, things are starting to drag again.

I’ve looked at purchasing a new system, but to get something just equivalent with what I currently have is fairly pricey, so I’m holding off as long as I can. There is really only one other upgrade I can make to stretch the life of this laptop – adding more RAM.

I’ve held off on buying the RAM for over a year – but finally decided that the decrease in productivity was costing me more than upgrading the RAM would cost.

I went on Toshiba’s site and looked up their memory recommendations. For this specific laptop model they recommended Kingston’s 4 GB DDR3 1333Mhz memory modules at $50 each.

Screenshot of Toshiba Direct Search Result Page

I shopped around a bit – seeing if I could find anyone else who was selling the memory for cheaper and double and triple checking whether it would work with this system. I supposed since it was the recommendation on Toshiba’s site it would, but I wanted to be sure.

I stumbled across a Kingston page which indicated what I was looking for was actually the KTT1066D3/4G but that it had been “replaced by” the KTT-S3B/4G.

Screenshot of Kingston Memory Page

To their credit, if I went through the System-Specific Memory portion of Kingston’s site and attempted to find my system, it wouldn’t appear as an option.

You can probably guess where this is going. I ordered the RAM from a seller off eBay. Damage was a little less than $110.

I (im)patiently waited for the memory to arrive and when it did I eagerly pulled the old 2 GB RAM chips and replaced them with the new 4 GB RAM chips. I powered it on, BIOS post went fine, but then Windows started to load. A message about a fatal error flashed on the screen and the system shut off…a few seconds later it powered itself back on and repeated the same steps…and so on.

I did some troubleshooting to make sure it wasn’t a bad RAM chip and eventually called Kingston, who informed me that the RAM wouldn’t work with my system. I’m not sure what “replaced by” means, but apparently it doesn’t mean “can be used instead of.”

The eBay seller offers a thirty day return policy, so I could return the chips, but over $10 was for S&H, I’d have to pay $10 for S&H, and then take a 15% hit for the restocking fee. In the end I’d get back around $75 out of the almost $110 I’d shelled out.

Moral of the story? I suppose there are two: (1) don’t rely too heavily on what Toshiba suggests are replacement parts for your system and (2) “replaced by” don’t mean what you think it mean, at least when it comes to Kingston…I’m not entirely sure what it does mean.

When is Good: Taking the Stress Out of Scheduling

Once upon a long time ago[1] I thought about[2] writing a review of Doodle, an online scheduling tool for simplifying the process of creating meets in which all participants can actually participate.

Recently I had the need to schedule another meeting with a group of individuals who have incredibly conflicting and variable schedules, so I decided to utilize such a scheduling tool again…and, of course, I went to Doodle first…

But I love to explore and curate and find the best way to do x and so I went through my semi-regular routine when evaluating something new I want to utilize[3]:

  1. Google relevant terms like “Doodle competitor,” “Doodle alternative,” “online scheduling tool,” “online meeting app,” and so on.
  2. Go to AlternativeTo and see what alternatives they had to Doodle.
  3. Visit a bunch of these options and review them in a hasty manner.[4]

I visited a number of options like Dudle, DO’ZZ, SelectTheDate, ScheduleOnce, and so on. For various reasons I didn’t settle on any of these…but then I returned to one of the sites I’d written off for aesthetic reasons (it ain’t very pretty): WhenIsGood. After playing around with it a bit I was quite happy and have been using it since.

Let me walk you through its pages and you’ll see how simple and fairly intuitive it is. First we have our dashboard (“your account”).

When is Good Dashboard Screenshot
When is Good Dashboard Screenshot

Its very simply – essentially you see a list of events you have created and you can view, edit, or delete the events. I assume that detach allows one to remove the event from your account (you can use this service w/out creating an account).

Somewhat hidden at the top right you see a link to create a new event. The enter results code is for those who create events w/out accounts – its a unique string that identifies their event and allows them to access it.

I’ve blacked out a few small areas – mainly b/c they had my email address…which is floating around the internet, but I decided not to make any more available than it already is. There are a billion and one ways to get in contact w/me.

Under the events I blacked out the actual links to the events, they are clickable and allow you to view the event.

Now lets say we decide to create a new event, here is what we will see:

When Is Good New Event Screenshot.
When Is Good New Event Screenshot.

It isn’t the most intuitive interface, but if you mess around for five minutes you can figure it out. Note that you can set the length of the meeting, give the event a name like, “My Super Awesome Surprise Birthday Party For Myself.” There is that strange little slider bar above the calendar, use this to make the size of the calendar (not how many days, just its dimensions on the screen) larger or smaller.

But there are really a few more options we need if we are going to create a helpful scheduling event, so we click on Show Options which shows us this:

When Is Good Show Options Screenshot
When Is Good Show Options Screenshot

That is better. Now we can select the days we want to have displayed on our calendar. In my case I was scheduling a recurring event, which When Is Good doesn’t seem to inherently have any options for, so I just chose a week in the future and let people pick off those days, knowing that the event would then recur on a weekly basis.

Now click Create Event and you are all set….Right? Nope. You’ll get an error message, you need to “paint” some time slots. You are the first visitor to your event even before it is created and you get to determine what days/times will even be an option to folks when they view the event. Once you’ve selected your desired days/times you can successfully create the event. You’ll be given a unique URL you can share with anyone else via  any method you choose (email, Facebook, Twitter, hand-written note, whatever). When someone visits this unique URL they will see this:

When Is Good Visitors Screenshot
When Is Good Visitors Screenshot

We could have customized the directions, as to me “painting” times is not very intuitive, I’d suggest something like, “Please click on each day/time slot you are available to attend.”

The individual wouldn’t see all the options I have at the top right, since in this screenshot I’m logged into my account, but at the bottom right they’d have a spot to enter their name and email and send the response.

Now we get to our last screen, the results screen:

When Is Good Results Screenshot
When Is Good Results Screenshot

Now I see the calendar I created with info. filled out by the individuals I invited to the event. The green highlighted spaces are the slots where all respondents are available (I told you, crazy schedules).

Next to each of the remaining time slots are little dots, the dots indicate how many individuals cannot attend at that day/time. If I put my mouse over a time slot it will show me who can/can’t come and if I put my mouse over a name (under responses on the left-hand side) it will show me all the slots they selected as available highlighted in green.

As you can see, it is a functional although not aesthetically pleasing tool. It isn’t entirely intuitive, but its simplicity makes it easiest enough to figure out with a few minutes stumbling around.

Why Not Doodle?

I decided not to use Doodle b/c of the pricing essentially. If you are a business or an organization that will frequently utilize online scheduling – go with Doodle, it has more features, the pricing is reasonable, and it is more aesthetically pleasing…but if this is just an occasional thing, When Is Good will do just fine.

Feedback for When Is Good

Here are a few unsolicited suggestions to the folks over at When Is Good to take their application to the next level:

  • Include dates on your What’s New page so we can tell if you have been working on the app recently.
  • Redesign the aesthetic layout, center the main screen elements, make new event stand out from the rest of the menu options.

Premium with When Is Good

When is Good does offer a premium version at $20/yr. which is around half of Doodle’s lowest paid plan. It adds a few more options, but nearly as many as Doodle. If I was you and willing to pay, I’d go with Doodle.

  1. [1]Okay…more like a few months or years.
  2. [2]But did not actually.
  3. [3]This isn’t normal for items I’ll be using once-off, but I plan on using the scheduling tool more frequently, and imho, it is a lot easier to get people using the tool you want from the get-go than to change to something new half-way…since it oftentimes takes dragging kicking and screaming individuals long distances to get them to use any such tool in the first place.
  4. [4]If I spent a decent amount of time on each site I’d spend my entire life reviewing these sorts of sites…which I don’t have time for…this means, that on occasion, I don’t always, always get the best tool…b/c a tool that I write-off early ends up being the best…Still, I like to think I usually find the best and almost always find a tool that is more than sufficient for my needs.

Light Therapy Lamps / Boxes.

I Blabber

I’ve had issues with sleep at least since I’ve been in high school. I wake up groggy,[1] feel tired throughout the day, experience overwhelming sleepiness at times throughout the day, and then have insomnia at night. Yes, it is as much fun as it sounds! 😛

Someone is struggling with insomnia. The image is thanks to the generosity of Jacob Stewart who placed the image under a Creative Commons license.
Someone is struggling with insomnia. The image is thanks to the generosity of Jacob Stewart who placed the image under a Creative Commons license.

In 2011-2012 I tried to get things figured out, went in for a sleep study, all that sort of good stuff, but came away with nothing conclusive – other than that I didn’t have sleep apnea (I didn’t think I did).

For the last two years I’ve lived with it – especially since numerous other health issues took precedence…but this year I’ve experienced significant relief from my other health issues[2] and sleep remains my greatest remaining obstacle…and probably a contributor to my other remaining health issues.

I saw a sleep specialist yesterday (Monday, 4/2). It went well. She did a thorough job and I felt like the office was run professionally. It did set me back $100 for the co-pay, which was painful…but I survived.

They scheduled me for a sleep study tonight which would then be continued tomorrow with a six hour daytime nap study…but this morning I was informed that they had spoken with my insurance company and the co-pay would be $1200. Not exactly what I was looking for, so we canceled the study for the time being.

Getting Down to Business

NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp
NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp

Honestly, if I could sleep at night and be wakeful during the day, $1200 would be a no-brainer…but there isn’t a guarantee that the sleep study will demonstrate anything…and it seems to me that the treatments for a number of sleep disorders are fairly similar – namely (a) stimulant medications, (b) light therapy, (c) melatonin supplementation, and/or (d) behavioral changes.

I’m already on (a) and this exacerbates my OCD symptoms…so I don’t really want to increase the dosage.

I’ve already been told about (d) innumerable times and have made significant modifications to my sleep hygiene…I don’t see room for much more improvement on this front.

Philips BLU Light Therapy Device
Philips BLU Light Therapy Device

Which leaves (b) and (c). I’ve used (c) at various times without significant positive effect, though my more recent research has raised some new elements regarding timing of dosing which I may try…but (b) has always fascinated me, so I’m going to pursue that first.

I searched Amazon for light therapy “lamps” or “boxes” and I eliminated all that lacked a four star or greater rating. There were several different companies represented in these results which had a fair slew of reviews: Verilux, Philips, NatureBright, Omega, and Sphere Gadget Technologies.

I eliminated Omega and Sphere Gadget Technologies b/c I refuse to buy products from companies that don’t have websites – especially companies selling products of this sort. Sorry folks.

Making a Decision

This left Verilux, Philips, and NatureBright. You can see a comparison chart I made of the various models offered by these companies here.

HappyLight Liberty Natural Spectrum Lamp
HappyLight Liberty Natural Spectrum Lamp

NatureBright had one unit that ranked high (4.5 stars) and Verilux had two, whereas all the Philips units where rated well (4 stars) but not high.

The most popular product out of those mentioned was the NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp which had 1,819 ratings – no one else came close, one of Philips trailing fare behind at 747 ratings.

The NatureBright products, in spite being so highly rated where also the lowest priced – so I bought (and am awaiting delivery of) the above mentioned unit.

As one can see on the comparison chart there are a few features this unit may lack (I won’t be sure until I get my hands on it) that some of the other units included – a rechargeable battery (this isn’t important to me), a dimmer (this is important), an alarm clock (not important). But with a 30 day return policy – I figure I can give it a try and always return it and replace it with another unit if I’m not happy…

My second choice at this point is probably the Verilux HappyLight Liberty Natural Spectrum lamp – the price is in the middle of the range across manufacturers, it has the 4.5 rating, and most importantly in comparison to the Philips products – the lamp is replaceable. Granted, the lamps should last for twenty-five or fifty years, but I still prefer to have the option to replace them.

 

  1. [1]Used to be depressed, which would dissipate 10 minutes into a shower…but that has gone away, now it is just groggy.
  2. [2]When you operate normally at say 40% health and you experience a boost to say 75% health, you still aren’t ‘healthy’ but it sure feels a heck of a lot better. :) Better enough that I can ‘live’ with the nuisances of the remaining 25%…

Disarming My Smartphone.

The Backstory

(Probably more than you need or want to know…but hey, I’m writing and you are reading – you can skip this section and I’ll never know)

I have a rough time sleeping (I go to see a sleep specialist on Monday and have been through a sleep study previously). I oftentimes can’t sleep through the night (waking up at 2 or 3 in the morning and unable to fall asleep till 5 or 6) and oftentimes struggle with excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).

I’m in pretty good physical shape at this point – which is pretty amazing, especially considering all that I went through over the last few years with my health…sure there are still aches and pains and various nuisances…but I can live with them – the only one that really still frustrates me is this sleep issue – particularly the EDS.

I use my smartphone as my alarm clock – and I use Sleepbot to monitor my sleep – so I want to have my smartphone near me while I sleep…but this can sometimes be counterproductive. If someone sends me a SMS or FB message in the middle of the night I may hear it. If some stupid app I’ve recently installed and haven’t turned off notifications on (b/c I didn’t think they would have any!) decides the best time to notify me of something is at 2  or 3 am I may be woken.

The Recommendations

So I began searching for an application that would allow me to selectively mute my phone while still maintaining my availability. This would be simple enough if I didn’t need to be available for emergencies pretty much 24/7 (being in the pastorate and IT, where work oftentimes occurs off-schedule and with some urgency).

I did a little search around but didn’t come up with anything great. I find Google’s app store abysmal in its search functionality…even more inferior than its web search (which I use but loathe).[1] So, where does one turn when a google doesn’t turn up the answer? No, not Bing (sorry Microsoft!), Quora. You can see the question and answers here.

The main options offered where (a) CynagoenMOD’s ROM (but this would require placing the stock ROM – essentially the OS of the phone), (b) IFTTT (the programmability is nice, but it lacks, at least easily, all the features I need), (c) Locale (but it is fairly expensive for an app), (d) Tasker (but involves more programming than I was interested in), (e) Agent, (f) Do Not Disturb, and (g) Dindy (this is the app I’ve settled on).

My Choice: Dindy

An Android, open source application that can block phone calls and text messages at night.
An Android, open source application that can block phone calls and text messages at night.

I chose Dindy first because I’m a sucker for open source. If I have to choose between two products with the same featureset and one is open source and the other closed – I’ll go with the open source app almost every time.[2]

The killer feature I was looking for is the ability to let calls through if it is an emergency. In essence, if a phone call is made repeatedly (over a short period of time), it will be allowed through even if the app is set to reject calls. This way if someone really needs to get a hold of me, they can.

A secondary crucial feature is its ability to send text message responses to calls and texts I receive informing the person that I am unavailable and what they should do if it is an absolute emergency (e.g. call several times in a short span of time).

The one bummer is if the phone call comes from a land line you can’t send back a text message – so the person doesn’t know they need to keep calling…but honestly, whenever folks have an emergency (and oftentimes when they don’t :P) they blow up my phone with repeated calls…so I don’t think this will be a huge issue.

There are other features like the ability to whitelist and the ability to create different contexts with different messages – like if I am “away” from the phone, in a meeting, driving, or so on.

But there were two other apps that were close contenders with Dindy, lets talk about what I liked about them (that Dindy doesn’t have ::cough:: hint to developer 😉 ::cough::) and what they lacked that led me to utilize Dindy instead.

Do Not Disturb

An Android app which can selectively block calls, available in free and premium editions.
An Android app which can selectively block calls, available in free and premium editions.

This application comes at a free level, but really you’ll want the premium level. The cost is reasonable for an app. – $2.50. You can try the premium features in the free edition for two weeks for free.

Do Not Disturb lost a few points for not being open source (I don’t hold this against closed source projects, I have no beef with folks making closed source apps…but I trust that open source apps will be around longer, b/c someone else can pick up development if the original developer drops out…whereas closed source projects oftentimes are acquihired or simply shuttered)…

where DND really took a hit was in its lack of multiple modes besides day and night. Dindy provides me with the ability to create an infinite number of contexts – each with their own settings – with DND I’m restricted to two.

That said, DND does offer the ability to disable WiFi and data at night (saves battery) and to automatically (if desired) go mute during meetings (based on my calendar). Pretty sweet features.

Agent

Agent offers several automated "agents" that perform different functions - one being selective call blocking. It is closed source but free.
Agent offers several automated “agents” that perform different functions – one being selective call blocking. It is closed source but free.

The other application – which is quite the slick operator – is called Agent. It does quite a bit more than muting – it also takes action when your battery gets low, automatically remembers where you parked, and automatically goes into mute mode when you are driving (and, of course, all of these are configurable).

It also provides reporting capabilities which tell you what agent has been up to – when it has turned on and off certain functionality. Pretty sweet.

In addition it allows (unlike either DND or Dindy) disabling of auto-sync and of bluetooth (to save battery life).

Where it lost out to Dindy was in its lack of full customizability. It is limited to three contexts (meeting, driving, sleeping) and doesn’t allow for customizing how many calls the individual has to make before they are let through (I have it setup to allow through on the second call – which is what Agent has as the default, but Dindy’s customizability is really nice…and I like having options).

Dear Dindy

So, to recap, here is what I’m hoping Dindy might add in the near future:

  • Integrate with my calendar to allow automatic muting for meetings (bonus points for allowing keyword based filtering of which meetings like DND offers).
  • Include the ability to turn off wifi, data, bluetooth, and data sync as part of “going silent.”
  • Auto detect when I am driving and go silent.
  • Allow me to schedule the days/times I want Dindy to go silent at night (I forgot to mention that Dindy lacks and both DND and Agent offer this feature), so I don’t need to remember to start Dindy’s mute mode manually each night.

Dear DND and Agent

You both have great projects. Should you implement the features I mention that Dindy is currently missing, let me know. 😉

PS Google, Microsoft & WordPress

  • Google: I know you want to move to the new WebP project, but it makes my life difficult when you have your images in WebP format.
  • Microsoft: I am pretty unhappy you aren’t integrating WebP into IE.
  • WordPress: Please add WebP as a default allowed file format for uploading.
  1. [1]I’ve written several times on the past on alternative search engines as well as on my belief that social search engines could provide a way to give much better results.
  2. [2]Though if it is not under active development and the closed source app is, I’ll go with closed source…I’m interested not only in what the app can offer today but also what it will offer in the future.

How Some Famous Creatives Worked.

This is a fascinating infographic from Info We Trust regarding the daily habits of some famous creative individuals. I’ve included my own observations based on the data below the image. You can click on the image to see it full-size.

The routines of some famous creative individuals.
The routines of some famous creative individuals.
  • Length of Work: Gustave Flaubert (5.5), Ludwig Beethoven (8), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (12), Thomas Mann (8), Sigmund Freud (12.5), Immanuel Kant (11), Maya Angelou (9), John Milton (8), Honore de Balzac (13.5), Victor Hugo (2), Charles Dickens (5), W.H. Auden (11.5), Charles Darwin (10), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (6), Le Corbusier (8.5), Benjamin Franklin (8).
    • Note that several individuals (4) worked relatively short days – Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert, Dickens, and Tchaikovsky.
    • Others (6) worked exceptionally long days – Mozart, Freud, Kant, Balzac, Auden, Darwin.
      • Note that Mozart and Kant both spent four hours working at their ‘real work’ – the rest was their ‘desired work.’
      • Freud may have utilized an addiction to cigars to power through the days.[1] Similarly, Balzac used up to fifty cups of coffee a day to power through his lengthy work hours. Auden meanwhile utilize a stimulant (benzedrine, similar to amphetamines) to work long hours, crashed hard afterwards with vodka, and slept only with the use of a barbiturate (seconal). Finally, Darwin utilized snuff during the work day, reading makes up two hours of his work day, and solving problems while awake at night in bed consumes another two.
      • Overall, this indicates to me that the individuals in general either required addictive substances to retain focus and allow for the longer creative hours or that they worked in the sense we would consider work less hours, but then were productive in other areas for numerous other hours.
    • Some (6) worked average days – Beethoven, Mann, Angelou, Milton, Le Corbusier, Franklin.
  • Sleep: Flaubert (7), Beethoven (8), Mozart (5), Mann (9), Freud (6), Kant (7), Angelou (7.5), Milton (7), Balzac (8.5), Hugo (8), Dickens (7), Auden (7), Darwin (8), Tchaikovsky (8), Le Corbusier (7), Franklin (7).
    • None of these individuals slept less than 5 hours nightly. Only Mozart and Freud sleep significantly less than 8 hrs.
    • Seven hours per night appears to have been the average (8), though a decent number slept 8 (5).
    • Only two slept more than 8 hrs.
    • Only three napped during the day – none for longer than an 1.5 hours.
  • Exercise: Flaubert (1), Beethoven (2), Mozart (0), Mann (.5), Freud (1), Kant (1), Angelou (0), Milton (4), Balzac (.5), Hugo (2), Dickens (3), Auden (0), Darwin (1.5), Tchaikovsky (2), Le Corbusier (.75), Franklin (0).
    • A significant number did not exercise at all (4).
    • Most seemed to prefer walks (9).
    • A few emphasized strenuous exercise (4).

I hope someone will work on further expanding this data set. This infographic is fascinating – but far too limited to derive significant conclusions about the type of schedule that creatives have utilized historically. For example, I feel that Winston Churchill and JFK would need to be included (both of whom took lengthy afternoon naps), it would be interesting to see more religious individuals (e.g. Calvin, Luther, Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa), and also an analysis of the existence (or non-existence) of social relationships (this shows that they ate meals, but not necessarily how much time was spent interacting with family/friends). 

  1. [1]Also, 2.5 hrs. were spent reading – most likely a leisurely activity for Freud in some senses.