Rise up! Rise up!

Rise up! Rise up! Take your head from your hands! The streets will be a better place when we start making demands.

This lyric is from a great ska song and while it could be referring to how we all need to demand action against a climate breakdown, I like to think that it could also mean adjusting the height of your desk at just the touch of a button. If only activism was that easy.

At a couple of previous workplaces I’ve had use of a motorised standing desk and found it great, not only for posture but also for easy collaboration when a colleague comes over. I even automated the control system with a Raspberry Pi at a hackathon.

We’d also had some builders in who had damaged my old desk (builders aren’t great really are they). I started looking for a replacement and investigated standing options.

My previous desk came from IKEA (about ten years ago) and they also do a range of standing desks with motorised options. However, these desks lack built-in preset heights, which are only supported on some models via an app. I read some reviews that said the app wasn’t great and that the Bluetooth was unreliable. We visited a store (for another reason) and the staff couldn’t get the pairing to work well in a demonstration.

There is an open-source controller available but I wanted something ready to go. I found a desk with four preset heights at Costco and it was also about half the price (even with the Costco membership)! It has built-in USB charging, which is handy since I managed to snap the earth pin off my phone charger. UK sockets have a safety feature that requires an earth pin to open the socket but I got over five years of use out of it and it still technically works.

The new desk is made of glass and steel so is very heavy. There are three main parts and it’s a simple assembly with a few bolts using an allen key. There is a central low bar that can get in the way of your feet when seated but this is just an added incentive to stand up.

The working area isn’t huge but it’s fine for three screens. There is a drawer for storing stationary etc. and it is pre-installed (but could easily be removed if it interferes with your chair when seated). It increases the thickness of the desk by a few centimetres.

The motor is operated with touch controls on the glass surface. There is a physical lock button on the side to disable them that works well at preventing unexpected movements.

The USB charger has three ports (2.4 A) but turns off during any desk movement. This isn’t a big deal and potentially provides an opportunity for sensing or automation. There is no USB-C unfortunately but you can use an adaptor.

There is a seven-segment display to indicate the height (in either inches or centimetres) that shows through the glass. It also shows ‘top’ or ‘bot’ at the extremes. You can change between the imperial and metric options by holding the lock button but unfortunately it loses the setting when the power is lost. However, the four presets are thankfully preserved.

The glass is translucent over the whole surface, which opens the opportunity for some interesting lighting. Unfortunately a standard optical mouse doesn’t work on the glass surface so you will need to use a mouse mat or a sheet of paper.

Overall, I’m very happy with the new desk (for the price) and hope to get a great many years of use out of it, as it seems pretty rugged and well made. Most of the materials are highly recyclable too (glass/metal) and there is not much plastic to it.

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