Category Archives: productivity

WinDirStat: What is Hogging All My Hard Drive?

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 peak 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.

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.

Bibliography

  1. A Week with a Sit-Stand Desk.” Pandawhale. 1/28/12.
  2. Build an Adjustable Desk with Pipe and Klee Klamp.” Simplified Building Concepts.
  3. GeekDesk Max Review.” Gear Live. 8/31/12.
  4. How Can I Build a Wall Mounted Adjustable Height Desk?” DIY.StackExchange.
  5. How Do I Make a Height Adjustable Desk?” DIY.StackExchange.
  6. How Do I Make My Own Height Adjustable Desk?” Lifehacker. 1/26/12.
  7. How to Build an Adjustable Height Computer Desk for Under $100.” Tutorial Save. 11/21/10.
  8. Refold Cardboard Standing Desk Changes the Way You Work.” designboom. 10/7/14.
  9. Standing Desk.” Lowes Creative Ideas for Home and Garden.
  10. Aaron Couch. “10 Accessories Every Standing Desk Owner Should Have.” MakeUseOf. 12/30/13.
  11. Adam Dachis. “Build a DIY Wide, Adjustable Height IKEA Standing Desk on the Cheap.” Lifehacker. 1/21/11.
  12. Adam Epstein. “IKEA Has Created a Desk That Converts From Sitting to Standing Via a Simple Button.” Quartz, 11/24/14.
  13. Adam Clark Estes. “IKEA Sit/Stand Desk Review: I Can’t Believe How Much I Like This.” Gizmodo. 10/30/14.
  14. Alan Henry. “Five Best Standing Desks.” Lifehacker. 2/23/14.
  15. Alex E. Weaver. “My Week with a Standing Desk.” BostInno. 9/26/14.
  16. Alice Robb. “Yet Another Reason Why We Should All Stand At Work.” New Republic. 6/30/14.
  17. Ashlee Vance. “Stand Stand: A Portable Standing Desk for the People.” Businessweek. 10/1/14.
  18. Ben Brooks. “Jarvis Standing Desk.” The Brooks Review. 2/27/14.
  19. Ben Schiller. “We Took Ikea’s New Automatic, Adjustable Standing Desk For A Spin.” Fast Company, Coexist. 11/3/14.
  20. Brett & Kate McKay. “Becoming a Stand-Up Guy: The History, Benefits, and Use of Standing Desks.” The Art of Manliness. 7/5/11.
  21. Chris Gardner. “How to Make a DIY Adjustable Drafting Table from Any Desktop.” Curbly. 1/18/11.
  22. Chris Murphy. “Standing Desks: What I’ve Learned.” InformationWeek. 6/20/14.
  23. Cia Bernales. “My Year at a Standing Desk and Why I’ll Never Go Back.” Fast Company.  4/11/14.
  24. Core Jr. “Standing Desk Shootout: Humanscale Float Table.” Core77. 8/24/11.
  25. Dan Kois. “Sitting Is Bad for You. So I Stopped. For a Whole Month.” New York Magazine. 6/9/14.
  26. Daniel Engber. “Who Made That Standing Desk?” New York Times. 3/20/14.
  27. Darrell Etherington. “Press Fit Standing Desk Review: An Affordable Option with U.S. Manufacturing and Materials.” TechCrunch. 9/1/14.
  28. Dominic Smith. “The Literature of the Standing Desk.” The Millions. 5/15/14.
  29. Drake Bennett. “Kill Your Desk Chair – and Start Standing.” BusinessWeek. 6/28/12.
  30. Elizabeth Narins. “6 Ridiculously Simple Standing Desk Hacks.” Cosmopolitan. 8/13/14.
  31. Emily Oster. “I Stand Corrected About the Best Kind of Desk.” FiveThirtyEight. 5/21/14.
  32. Gina Trapini. “Why and How I Switched to a Standing Desk.” Smarterware. 1/16/11.
  33. Gregory Ferenstein. “Work Like Churchill-Ditch Your Office Chair and Embrace the Standing Desk.” The Daily Beast. 6/2/14.
  34. Gwynn Guilford. “There’s a Huge Hidden Downside to Standing Desks That No One Told Me About.” Quartz. 9/29/14.
  35. Heather Moore. “How to Use a Standing Desk.” Philly. 4/22/14.
  36. Holly Korbey. “How Standing Desks Can Help Students Focus in the Classroom.” KQED (Mind/Shift). 10/21/14.
  37. Jared Alexrod. “7 Standing Desks That Won’t Break the Bank.” Paste Magazine. 10/17/14.
  38. Jennifer Gosse. “Why An Adjustable Height Desk is Our #1 Health-Related Workhack for 2014.” Tracky. 1/15/14.
  39. Jessica Stillman. “What’s Healthier Than a Standing Desk?” Inc. 9/16/14.
  40. Jim Carlton. “Standing Desks Are on the Rise.” WSJ. 8/31/11.
  41. John Biggs. “Gift Guide: The UpDesk Standing Desk Video Review.” TechCrunch. 11/13/12.
  42. Joseph Stromberg. “Five Health Benefits of Standing Desks.” Smithsonian Magazine. 3/26/14.
  43. Josh Smith. “Standing Desk Guide: Measurements, Examples, and Benefits.” Notebooks.com. 5/3/11.
  44. Julie Carlson. “5 Favorites: Longevity-Promoting Standing Desks.” Remodelista. 5/15/14.
  45. Karyne Levy. “I Tried Out a Standing Desk For All of the Benefits – Here’s Why I Quit.” 6/22/14.
  46. Kate Taylor. “Get Up, Stand Up, For Your Life: Can Standing Desks Fight Sitting Disease?” Forbes. 8/2/12.
  47. Kathleen Pierce. “Many Employees Abandon Sitting While Working.” Boston Globe. 3/26/12.
  48. Kerry Butters. “A Standing Desk Might Not (Necessarily) Save Your Life.” sitepoint. 10/20/14.
  49. Kerry Flynn. “How to Make a Standing Desk for Under $200: MIT Grads Go Digital.” Forbes. 7/31/14.
  50. Kevin Michaluk. “Standing Desks – Why I Use One; Why You Should Too.” Crackberry. 2/28/12.
  51. Kristin Hohenadel. “A Mobile Standing Desk for Laptop Users on a Budget.” Slate (The Eye). 10/2/14.
  52. Lecia Bushak. “Standing Desks, Friend or Foe? What Happened When I Stood At Work For the Last 4 Months.” Medical Daily. 9/18/14.
  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.

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.

Soylent: A Viable Meal Alternative?

The Journey to Soylent

On June 27th, 2013 I began anticipating Soylent, talking about Soylent, impatiently waiting for Soylent to become available. I signed up for a week’s supply of Soylent on June 10th and it arrived on July 22nd.

A picture of my box of soylent...and of course, my feet, b/c I'm talented with cameras like that.
A picture of my box of soylent…and of course, my feet, b/c I’m talented with cameras like that.

Inside was a long sheet with instructions…I’m not a fan of the big sheet…What am I supposed to do with this? Unless I hang it on my way there is no easy way to store it.

The awkwardly long Soylent instructions.
The awkwardly long Soylent instructions.

You can click on the above image to see how long the instructions really where, but it would have consumed too much space on the page for me to embed the image here.

Next we had the bags of Soylent and the bottles of oil. You can see a picture below.

What came in the first Soylent box I received - instructions, oils, and soylent.
What came in the first Soylent box I received – instructions, oils, and soylent.

Theoretically, I should have received a package before this one with my welcome pack – which was to include a stainless steel measuring cup and an airtight pitcher as pictured below:

Stainless steel measuring cup from Soylent.
Stainless steel measuring cup from Soylent.

 

The Soylent pitcher - yes, it is BPA free.
The Soylent pitcher – yes, it is BPA free. Ohh, and mine doesn’t look like this, the main body is clear, the handle and lid are green, and it is entirely unbranded by Soylent…I think there is a name of some other company on top…

But I hadn’t and I didn’t for quite some time. I attempted using some of my own implements to make Soylent but had mixed successes. If this was what Soylent tasted like, I wasn’t going to stick with it. After a few tries I decided I would just wait until my welcome package came.

Ohh, and yes, I sent an email reporting the missing welcome package on the 23rd and of course received the usual automated reply the same day. It would be August 9th before I would receive a reply from Soylent and then to be informed that “I have forwarded your concern to our shipping department…” Then silence. Finally, on August 18th I received an email informing me that my starter kit was on its way.

Okay, that is a pretty ridiculous wait…the organizational side of Soylent has been extremely underwhelming…I’m not sure all of what happened behind the scenes, but, honestly, I don’t care that much if Soylent is good and works and if they learn from their mistakes – which, it seems (I hope), they are doing.

On a side note, the disorganization worked out to my advantage as I received a second shipment of Soylent by accident and when I asked what I should do with it they told me to keep it. I was pretty happy about that (though I feel bad for folks who ordered far before me and way more and still have not received their Soylent).

But How About It, Is It Good?

Now that you have heard about the nightmare of procuring my Soylent, lets talk about Soylent itself. It is a very fine mix and comes in bags that each contain three meals. I found trying to make Soylent in smaller portions to be a hassle – not only because of measurements and so on but because the powder is so fine that it puffs up into the air and lands everywhere while scooping.[1]

In any case, I moved to making a whole packet at a time and it was so much easier. Okay, I know for those of you who cook, you are rolling your eyes – and yes, in the distant past I did sometimes cook – but the whole point of Soylent is to save time and improve nutrition.

Making Soylent was now simple – pour in the powder, add a bottle of oil, and then fill the rest of the pitcher with water. Screw on the air-tight cap[2] and shake for around sixty seconds. Place in the refrigerator, remove when ready to consume, shake for five to ten seconds, then pour yourself a glass and enjoy.

Soylent tastes a bit like a milk shake. It has a pleasant flavor, though one I can’t place. Compared to any other powdered drink (Shakeology, RAW Meal), the “graininess” is almost non-existent.

It tastes good, the texture is good, and its easy to make – sweet! Another surprising and positive note is that it uses water not milk or a milk substitute and yet tastes better than Shakeology with (in my case) almond milk! Seriously, if you didn’t see the batch mixed, you’d swear it had to have a dairy base.

So, I like my Soylent and I intend on continuing to consume it. Right now I average two meals a day of Soylent and one meal elsewise. I allow myself to eat whatever I desire for that third meal – but my cravings for unhealthy foods seem to have lessened somewhat (not completely).

Should you get Soylent? Sure. Just be prepared to wait a bit. I think organizationally they are getting there, but with the delays initially as well as the huge demand, and then the ongoing demand for resupplies, it is going to be a while before Soylent is working smoothly.

A Few Importantish Notes

It Goes Bad

One of the great things about Soylent is that it lasts forever (hyperbole) in powder form. Something I didn’t realize until I received my Soylent is that once it has been mixed with water it needs to be consumed within two days. Apparently due to the nutrient richness of the drink, even while being refrigerated bacteria multiply quickly. I would like to know more about the health implications of this.

I oftentimes eat food far past its expiration date – especially dairy alternatives (almond milk, soy milk) and don’t have any problem…so I’d probably ignore this warning except after posting on the forums I learned that the bacteria make the taste go bad quickly – so its not just filled with bacteria, it tastes nasty too.

Still, I’ve been consuming Soylent over a two to may three day period and haven’t experienced issues thus far…and making it in this size batch saves me from measuring, etc.

Don’t Forget The Oils!

Each time you use a bag of Soylent you are supposed to add the oils as well – which provide some important aspects of Soylent’s nutrition. Being ADD, I have on occasion forgotten to put the bottles into the Soylent. This doesn’t bother me, but it is a dilemma – what am I supposed to do with these bottles of oil?

Flatulence

There was a lot of discussion of increased flatulence when using Soylent which, it is hypothesized, is caused by the bacteria in our stomachs not knowing how to handle nutritional food and the replacement of some of these bacteria with better bacteria that do consume this food.

I had no intention of mentioning flatulence, b/c I really don’t like talking about it. I was never a fart guy joker…but I must mention it, b/c it radically increases flatulence and it smells horrific.

This goes away after a few days – but my recommendation – start Soylent when you aren’t spending a lot of time with people…and please, give your spouse a break and sleep on the couch…or at least let them sleep on the couch.

What Now?

My plan at this juncture is to continue Soylent 2x daily long-term. We’ll see if I grow sick of the taste…which is very possible.

I haven’t noticed any huge changes in my health, but that may come with time. I also am hoping to get my blood drawn and analyzed every quarter by WellnessFX so I can monitor my health, especially vitamin levels, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Wrapping It Up

Soylent is great – I’m exceptionally pleased with the product itself. The company has some work to do – and seems to be doing it. I haven’t noticed any amazing positive health effects, but I’m hoping over time it works positively. I’ll provide future updates as I’ve been on it longer and can analyze how I respond to the taste with continued consumption and whether I see any health changes positive or negative.

  1. [1]The reason I wanted to do smaller servings was b/c Soylent goes bad after it is made and I wasn’t sure I could consume an entire package of Soylent quickly enough.
  2. [2]I discovered it isn’t really, really, really air-tight. I didn’t have room to put the pitcher standing up in my refrigerator (it is a mini) so I put it on its side – this worked a few times, but eventually it began to leak.

A Primer on Financial Fitness (Infographic)

Received an invitation to post this nifty infographic on Dave Enjoys. It is from Intuit and covers some basic financial statistics as well as tips for maintaining one’s financial fitness or getting into financial shape…Hope you find it as interesting as I did.

[If you have an infographic you think would be of interest to Dave Enjoys readers, feel free to send it over to me…I’m not going to publish just any infographic, but if you’ve got something good, I’m happy to share it.]

An infographic from Intuit  on financial fitness.
An infographic from Intuit on financial fitness.

Source: Intuit Quicken.

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.

What You Didn’t Know About Your Local Library.

Growing up I went to a tiny local library. Its hours were sporadic and it sprawled over the first floor of an 1800’s residential home that had been retrofitted for that use. It was a very, very small library – but I loved it.

© Icyimage | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
© Icyimage | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

We’d make forays into Greenville to visit what became their much bigger library after they added a beautiful new addition and which also offered computers – which we could use to play games, etc. (I’m not sure the internet was an option for the first few years). Once in a while we’d even travel all the way down to Bethlehem to the monster library (which actually is decent sized, but not all that large).

Libraries where a second home for me. My mom would drop me off at one and I would stay for hours and hours. The library was a source of almost infinite knowledge – especially in those pre-internet days…and I loved knowledge.

I don’t go to libraries nearly as much these days – mainly because most of the information is now at my fingertips (and I don’t read fiction much)…but libraries aren’t relegated to irrelevance. They still house numerous books that provide deeper insights into a topic, they can get their hands on almost any book you could want (but don’t want to buy), and they offer a number of programs for children and adults – usually with an educational twist.

My local library is now the Langhorne branch. They’ve really done a beautiful job refurbishing the library – giving it a more coffeehouse/relaxing aesthetic. They have 10-20 computers that are available for public use and meeting rooms for special activities. Its a nice library – and if you want to make a trip out of the house – the library is an enjoyable (and free) place to go.

Ohh, and don’t forget about wireless internet access. Most libraries now offer free wireless internet access…and as the “Resources” page on the Bucks County Libraries’ website informs me – you can get access 24/7 by being just outside the library. Haha, this was kind of surprising – it sounds like they are inviting folks to come sit in the parking lot at all hours of the night? My guess is that in practicality, you might have a police officer visiting you one or more times during the night to see what you were up to…

In any case, what I really want to talk about is the digital resources that libraries make available. I can’t tell you exactly what resources are available at your library – but I will share with you some of the resources available through my library and I’d suggest that many (most?) libraries have similar offerings available…and they can be accessed directly from the comfort of your home (usually).

Magazines

Via Zinio my library offers access to a vast array of magazines in digital format. Here is a list of a few representative titles (but there are many, many more): AppleMagazine, Astronomy, Backpacker, Country Home, Bicycling, Billboard Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, Car and Driver, Consumer Reports, Cosmopolitan, Discover, Elle, Esquire, Field & Stream, Forbes, Fortean Times, Harvard’s Business Review, Ladies Home Journal, Men’s Health, National Geographic, Newsweek, O, PC Gamer, PC Magazine, PCWorld, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Redbook, Rolling Stone, The Economist, Us Weekly…oh boy, excuse me while I go lose myself permanently in the vast amount of quality reading material available!

Auto Repair

The libraries offer a number of resources called the “POWER Library” – this is probably available at most Pennsylvania libraries. One of these resources is an “Auto Repair Reference Center.” This is a treasure trove of information. Look up your specific vehicle’s model and see detailed instructions with images of how to perform various repairs and maintenance on your vehicle – or watch videos that explain how different components of vehicles work! Need to get an idea of what a repair is going to cost you? This can help on that front as well.

eBooks and Audio Books

The selection is much more limited than is available in the physical library – but that doesn’t keep there from being some excellent options available – you can’t argue with the convenience of never having to leave your home, wait in a line, or worry about late fees.

You’ll find books by Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code), John Grisham (the all-star of legal thrillers), Lee Child, George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones), J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), Mitch Albom (The Five People You Meet in Heaven), J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame), and Ted Dekker (Christian thriller author) amongst the many fiction titles available.

And what about for us non-fiction buffs? How about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, David Perlmutter’s Grain Brain, Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson, Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live (I recommend), Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Body,  and so on.

Tutoring

Need help with a school subject? There is plenty of free tutoring available – including through Brainfuse – for K through College covering Science, English, Math, Social Studies, and Writing. Instead of guessing at your homework – or your child’s homework – here is a chance to improve your understanding and grades.

So Much More…

And there are all sorts of other resources as well as you can see here. Legal, research, film, continuing education. So go check out your local library’s website and see what vast resources have been sitting untapped at your fingertips!