My New Computer’s Neat Trick

Here’s me doing something that I forgot I could do with the new computer. The screen tilts back about sixty degrees and because it has a touchscreen it also has an onscreen keyboard that you can call up. So right now I’m standing at my desk with the screen tilted, typing on the screen. The onscreen keyboard is not an optimal typing experience by any means, but it’s doable for short bursts. Inasmuch as I am constantly being told that sitting at my desk hastens my inevitable death, this might be a way to get some occasional standing time. If nothing else, it reminds me that my new computer is kind of cool, and that I live in the future.

33 Comments on “My New Computer’s Neat Trick”

  1. Have you ever considered a treadmill desk? I’d like to try one, but my day job requires me to get away from my desk often anyway. I thought about using one when I workout so I could get more writing time in, but you can’t really type when you’re doing a cardio workout.

  2. I worked with a guy a few years ago who (as a programmer) needed two desks – he’d work sitting down for an hour, then take his laptop over to another desk which was a lot higher and stand there working for an hour. Whilst I probably wouldn’t like it myself, I can understand that kind of ergonomic requirement would be amazingly beneficial to ones spinal health…

    … he says, typing as he’s hunched over his desk not sitting on his chair properly. :/

  3. Inasmuch as I am constantly being told that sitting at my desk hastens my inevitable death

    That’s a correlation not a causative relationship. If you’re otherwise healthy (not necessarily thin as we’re finding out that being a little overweight decreases your mortality risk) and active you could sit all your workday at the desk.

  4. Scorpius:

    I suspect that’s probably correct, and I get up and walk around a lot in any event because I’m jittery. But if nothing else a little standing couldn’t hurt.

    Dave Branson:

    You’re the second person today to ask me about treadmill desks, an my answer is the same as earlier: I have no interest in one at all.

  5. You can also set up a desk using a recumbent bicycle and pedal while you type. I would like a treadmill desk, too. I would just walk causally rather than trying to push for mileage.

  6. I’d search on ” treadmill desk ” desk to find out what such a torture device is
    except? Like?
    NO. Don’t Wanna Know!
    ?Treadmill desk?
    So not banjo. (I’m not making fun of anyone: I like the expression, it’s about
    as good as “that’s ughy.*”)

    As I vaguely recall sitting down (and standing still) puts pressure on blood
    blood vessels which messes up blood flow and in some manner not stated
    increases the chances of a blood clot.
    -Apparently, us humans do best if we spend all our time walking around
    looking for high fiber low sodium food.
    Scorpions and crickets may be our ideal diet.

    I bet that you can put something on the bottom portion of that screen that
    will keep a real keyboard what you put on that something from causing

    *Say “Ughy” with a shudder of horror.

  7. After I had my patella glued back together a few years ago, I got one of those sets of pedals that sits on the floor in front of a chair. I could keep my knee moving while working.

    My goal was regaining knee flexibility and not a cardio workout. However it could be useful for those wanting to burn a few calories, or at least keep their blood flowing, while working.

  8. Or, you can attach a goose quill to a stylus and stand over the thing, and pretend you are Bob Cratchit or some other Dickensian wage slave, and live in the past.

  9. Shava Nerad:
    Bartleby the Scrivener (H Melville (Not C Mieville)) might have had something to say
    about that.

  10. Push the chair aside and sit on an exercise ball instead. Or stand. I find it hard to type, mouse, … with a treadmill desk; maybe with more practice I’d like it more.

  11. If you find yourself wanting to try a standing desk on the cheap, you can buy a narrow tabletop from IKEA and then purchasing the tallest set of table legs you can find from the same establishment. One of my co-workers uses such a setup combined with a taller-than-average office chair for those times when he’s decided that standing is too much effort.

  12. You could use it conduct a symphony from an electronic score or use it to prop up a ebook cookbook. Otherwise it looks to me like Dante’s torture for spammers.

  13. Wasn’t Douglas Adams who wrote a review for a little PDA-like thing from said device’s chicklet keyboard? At least John’s post was only a paragraph.

  14. On the topic of standing desks: I’ve found that having a standing-height desk (made out of reclaimed 2x4s and a free reclaimed door, as a mockup of the “real” one I intend to make someday) and a drafting stool seems to work well for me. The thing about it is that it means that standing up and sitting down don’t interrupt my train of thought or make me take my hands off the keyboard, so I find myself switching around and moving about a lot more than I do when sitting.

    On the other hand, I also do a lot of work on the couch with my laptop (bad!) because the desk and the pathway to it are covered in clutter….

  15. I suspect that’s probably correct, and I get up and walk around a lot in any event because I’m jittery.

    I like to pace while I work, and I have a home-built digital projector mirroring my main workstation’s desktop to a wall I surfaced in the same material as goes into high-end projector screens. In the last few years, voice-to-text has reached the point where I can dictate provided I turn off my music. An acoustic engineer friend of mine is working on a program that cancels out the interference from other sounds by subtracting the unwanted waveform from what the mic picks up, but variations due to environmental acoustics make the dev process more involved than it sounds (hehe). Anyway, when I’m feeling restless, I just synch up my bluetooth headset and pace around my attic study. This works best for dictating notes since those don’t need to be immaculately edited for other eyes. Just something to think about.

    PS: I wouldn’t want a treadmill desk either. I hate walking or riding in place.

    @ disperser

    I’m pretty sure you live in the present . . . It just looks like the future because you remember the past.

    The trouble with writing intelligent SF is that you begin to be irritated that you live in the past because you feel like you work in the future. Then the future starts to arrive and you feel dated.

    An example is that PDAs were all the rage of nerds for years. Then the market for them collapsed and we had to wait for phones and tablets to get their act together. What the technology can accomplish and what the market can economize are sadly disconnected categories.

  16. I totally agree with Mike’s Dantesque comment @9.51.

    To preserve my back health in a field where painkillers are a frequent discussion topic in the department common room, I bought a Varier Balans for my office when I was made full professor ten years ago, and one for my home office when I turned 40. They’re outrageously priced, but so far the “move while you sit” strategy seems to work. YMMV.

  17. This feature kinda makes me wish I had Windows 8 with a touch screen at work. I’d love to be able to stand at my cube for 20-30 minutes a day while I work.

  18. I play games on a laptop placed on top of a treadmill. Keyboard and mouse are on piece of shelving laid on the treadmill’s arms. At around 3mph I can walk and be reasonably effective with the mouse and hotkeys, though typing text would be beyond me. Just finished Skyrim at 180+ hours and most all of them were walking.

    I also switched to a standing desk at work a few months ago. Look for the cheap Ikea small tables, I put three on my regular desk and added a shelf for ~$50. Maybe coincidence, but when I did that I went from a stable weight to dropping about 1 lb/month since. If I’m in the office all week my heels kill me by the end, still trying some things to address that.

  19. That’s pretty cool!

    Several months ago I bought myself one of these (link below) and I love it! I don’t want to stand up all day or for all tasks, but sometimes it’s really nice to be able to. I wouldn’t want a dedicated standing desk, but I enjoy having the ability to switch back and forth between them.

  20. I just set up a standing desk in my home office. Not because I wanted the health benefits, but because the chair was taking up too much room, and I figured it would increase my desk surface area (i.e., give me another thing to shove stuff under).

    It’s only been a few days and I can only manage a few hours before my legs say “whoa there, son. Time to sit for a while.” But it really does give me more room.

    Hemmingway had a standing desk. Of course, novels were shorter back then. CORRELATION!

  21. I was watching Tron Legacy last night and was thinking about exactly this. The Futures ™ promised us such things; yes they did. Now that they are here, I find myself missing the old click-ity keybaord I had on my 486 :(

    Either way, you are F&**(&^ awesome John Scalzi and we don’t want you to die (too) early from sitting too much. Please stand up more, eat right and get some darn-gads exercise from time to time (preferably every day).

    Another lazy chair-bound type.

  22. If I remember my history of physics correctly, Hermann von Helmholtz did his writing while standing. Probably something to do with his Prussian heritage.

    The Mayo clinic has a number of studies about standing desks, treadmill desks and walking meetings. My big fear is that when you start putting treadmill desks in offices, spontaneous OK Go videos are liable to breakout.

  23. I have an Ikea-hacked standing desk and a sitting work table in my home office. The standing desk is for web-surfing, light research, and emails, while the sitting one is for quality time with Excel, writing long reports, and trying to figure out my Raspberry Pi, as well as sewing etc. My neck/back are definitely fans of the standing desk, and since I got a $20 anti fatigue mat the legs don’t complain too much either. I don’t find myself reaching for the stool until mid-afternoon. Then again, if your legs don’t fall asleep after 2 hours of sitting like mine do, the chair + pacing probably won’t hurt you much.

  24. Both Hemingway and Sir Richard Burton wrote standing up. Burton had a room with several chest-high tables, so he could have multiple projects under way at the same time, and stroll back and forth.

  25. I just bought this for myself

    I wanted to keep my desktops matching but wanted to raise my desk for the majority of each day. It took a bit of work to wire the desk so everything reaches when its up or down, so I bought new cables, and used velcro straps, and a bungee cord.

    If I get everything cleaned up enough to post pictures I will. But the ability to raise and lower the desk at will means I am not stuck standing all day.

  26. Wait, treadmill desks? That’s a thing!? I am boggled. I’d always figured i was pretty unusual in my desire to rig up my computer over a treadmill and now I find there’s an actual product that could make it possible? Too bad I can’t afford one, as this is a product that could have been invented specifically for me. At least I have something to save up for now. :)

  27. Shipboard types use a lot of standing work areas (Guess why that’s why it’s called standing a watch). Heh, everyone thinks it’s de-riguer for starship bridge personnel to sit (for whatever reason) but a midnight – 4am watch arguably affects the graviton field around eyelids. A seat just makes staying awake so much easier.
    Practically speaking, standing uses much less floor space and it makes overhead controls easier to access as well as manipulate (Try smashing the big red button while seated. If you stand your calves will let you dramatically crush that control and then some). Creatively speaking, standing also allows a director to pack way more into the frame. YMMV.

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