Archive for May 27, 2022

My Home Office Setup – The 2022 Edition

Posted in Products on May 27, 2022 by itnerd

For most of this pandemic, I’ve been working in the living room or bedroom of our condo. And my wife has been working in our den. But on the urging of my wife, I’ve changed that by spending a lot of time, as in months, getting my workspace in the den upgraded so that I can work from there. What you’ll see here is a result of that effort. And as a side effect, my wife has decided that she needed to upgrade her workspace setup as well. I’ll show you that in a later article. But for now let’s focus on my setup.

First of all, I almost completely started from scratch with this setup with the goals being that I would have a workspace that I could work from with comfort and ease, and had enough storage so that there wasn’t any clutter. As an added bonus, I had to organize my storage so that I knew where everything was. That meant a new desk, shelves, chairs and other items. Let’s start with the office chair that is part of this setup:

This is the ergoCentric tCentric Hybrid Task Chair. Now this isn’t a cheap chair as this particular one cost me $971.50 CDN. But it’s worth every penny as it is the most comfortable office chair that I have ever owned due to the broad range of adjustability that it offers. But in addition to that, I took the following steps to make sure that I had the right chair. First, on the urging of my wife who has a chair from the same company, I went down to ergoCentric’s showroom in downtown Toronto to have one of their experts walk me through the chairs that they offer and the options that they have. That’s important as I discovered that what I thought I wanted was an all mesh chair as I thought would be easier to sit in because of the increased airflow that mesh offers. But it wasn’t all that comfortable as having a mesh bottom just didn’t work for me. Thus they were able to customize this chair so that I had a foam seat and a mesh back. This was the ticket for me to getting great comfort while working at my desk. I also thought that I wanted a headrest. But after trying a chair with one, I found that this was a non-starter for me as well as that didn’t feel comfortable. Next, I discovered that my wife’s chair which I thought was fine was one size smaller than what I bought. And buying the proper size chair has a huge influence on comfort. Finally, they were able to help me to dial in the set up of the seat, arms, back, lumbar support and the height of the chair before I rolled it out of the showroom to put in the back of my SUV. In short, they did everything to ensure my comfort. Though I did later do my own minor tweaks using this video as a guide to make it perfect for my needs.

What I learned by buying this office chair is that you can’t rely on the opinions of YouTubers, or just buying a well known brand name chair in hopes that you are going to get a comfortable office chair. Nor can you just by a cheap office chair as I tried to do that and couldn’t find a chair that worked for me. It’s important that you try out a number of chairs guided by an expert who can help you find what you need. And then get ready to pay as comfort doesn’t come cheap. One other thing, you also want a substantial warranty just in case something goes wrong with your office chair. This office chair from ergoCentric has a twelve year warranty which is in line with the best office chairs on the market. The bottom line is that the cash that you put into your chair now, will help with your comfort later on.

Next is the desk, this is the FlexiSpot Electric Height Adjustable Standing Desk which has the ability to raise or lower at the push of a button. That means that I can dial in my perfect position that is ergonomically correct. Underneath the desk is a Gry Mattr Three Drawer Cabinet that I got at Staples. This holds my files and assorted stuff like external hard drives. It also can be locked which is a big plus for me. On top of the cabinet is a plastic tray from Amazon that I will go into more detail about shortly. The one thing that you will note about this desk is that there are few cables showing. Here’s how I got that result:

On the left leg of the desk I have a power bar attached to it with 3M tape that has the AC adapter for my phone along with the AC adapter for a wireless charger that I will show you later. This layout gives me four places to plug items in temporally should I need to. The cable for the power bar then follows this path:

I got a box of these cable management raceways and stuck them underneath the desk along the back. Because they are black and the desk is black, you don’t notice them. You’ll also notice some clips that help to guide the cables. I used these clips from Amazon to get that done.

I then used another cable management raceway on the right leg of the desk along with another clip to guide the cables down to the floor. Then I used these velcro cable ties to bundle the cables together and make things somewhat neat. Everything is plugged into this APC BackUPS 600. In my condo, I have UPS units all over it to protect my various electronics as a UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply will keep your gear running if there is a blackout thanks to the built in battery. Plus it will protect you from power surges (which is too much current) and sags (which is too little current) thanks to said battery. It also has a USB-A cable that connects to your computer so that if the UPS needs to shut down your computer due to a power event, it can use that cable to send that command to your computer. Though I should point out that UPS based shutdown doesn’t work on portable Macs. Which is still fine for me as it still protects my gear. The UPS along with the cables are hidden by the cabinet. The net result is that you only see a pair of cables going to the power outlet.

Top Tip: If you do any sort of cable management on a standing desk, do it while the desk is at the maximum height so that you can not only figure out if you need longer cables to make your setup work, but you can make sure that your cables don’t get pinched or stretch excessively. Speaking of longer cables, I needed two to make my setup work. Specifically a longer power cable for my monitor, and this USB-C cable from Anker which provides power to a Kensington USB-C hub that I will talk about shortly.

Let’s move on to the plastic tray. I got this one from Amazon and most of my every day carry stays in here when it’s not in my pockets. I can push it out of sight, but still have easy access to it. And as a bonus, none of these items occupy any desk space which reduces clutter on my desk. It had a tendency to slide around way too much, but I fixed that by using some cork with an adhesive backing to create some traction on the bottom of the tray.

Now let’s move on to the desk. The problem with having a black desk is that it picks up fingerprints and dust is an issue. To mitigate some of that, I got this desk mat from a Toronto company called Uncrowned Kings. It’s made of vegan leather, it doesn’t move around on the desk, feels very upscale, and best of all only cost me $21 CDN on Amazon.

To the left I have my VTech cordless desk phone which is 20 plus years old and which will likely be replaced in the next year or so. But more importantly there’s this Kensington USB-C Hub which connects my UPS and my monitor to my computer along with having 85W power delivery to charge my MacBook Pro from a Kensington 100W GaN power adapter that is plugged into my UPS. The power adapter required the Anker USB-C cable that I referred to earlier due to the fact that the cable that came with the adapter was too short when the desk was at its full height.

The dock gives me two USB-A ports along with a SD card slot and MicroSD card slot. In short, it’s a one cable solution to not only increase my productivity, but to reduce clutter on my desk. For bonus points, I’ve used 3M tape to attach the USB hub to the desk. That way it not only doesn’t slide about, but it allows me an easier way to connect and disconnect cables.

Attached to this phone I have this Panasonic headset that allows me to talk to people hands free. It’s hanging from a 3M Command hook that’s attached to the shelf that’s next to my desk.

Moving to the right, you see both my 16″ 2021 MacBook Pro which is attached to a  Acer Nitro XV271 Z 27″ Gaming Monitor. This setup works well for me as It gives me two screens while taking up minimal desk space. I only had to add a longer power cable to the monitor to get that to work when the desk was at its full height. Now you’re likely wondering where are the speakers in this setup. The thing is that the built in speakers in the MacBook Pro are so good I decided not to get any. Which in turn saves desk space. Ditto for an external keyboard as the built in keyboard is that good.

The monitor is attached to this Vivo Monitor Mount that takes up a minimal amount of space my desk and is designed for standing desks like this one.

On the right of my desk is a Kensington SureTrack wireless mouse along with a DeltaHub Carpio 2.0 wrist rest which I simply cannot live without as it makes using my mouse way more comfortable.

Moving right I have an Apple Watch charger that’s mounted to this Spigen stand that sticks to my desk without using adhesive. Beside that is an Uncrowned Kings metal tray that holds the wireless earbuds that I typically use. Namely the AirPods Pro, the Taotronics SoundLiberty 79, and the Creative Outlier Air V3 earbuds. This tray was another thing that slid around my desk too much for my liking. But that problem was easily solved with some cork with an adhesive backing on the bottom of the tray.

To the right of that I have my Ember Mug 2 for coffee. Because nothing good happens in my universe without a cup of coffee that tastes great and it is at the perfect temperature. You’ll note that I have a stainless steel charging coaster for it. I got that because I accidentally broke the charging coaster that came with it, and silver was the only colour that I liked out of the ones that were available for replacements that were on offer.

Zooming out, you can see that I have a holder for my pens, a red stapler which is a bit of a shoutout to The Office, a stress release ball, and some coasters to hopefully keep my desk clean when I have a drink on my desk.

To save space on my desk, I have an InvisQi wireless charger which is placed under the desk so that I can charge my iPhone 12 Pro or AirPods Pro as you see here.

To the left of my desk, I have a pair of Ikea Kallax shelves with drawer inserts. I store all of my tools, cables, peripherals, and the like in the drawers. On the shelves, I store things like my accessories from my laptop bag and other random items.

I’ll zoom in on the top where besides having “Darth Tater” which is a funny Mr. Potatohead figure that my wife gave me, a culturally correct Raggedy Ann Doll which is another item that my wife gave me, and a transformable fighter jet from the Japanese animated movie Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? which is a throwback to my teenage years which were in the 1980’s, I have a node from my ASUS ZenWiFi AX XT8 setup along with an Apple HomePod mini. You’ll also notice that the HomePod mini is sitting on a stand which is from Spigen and makes a marginal difference in terms of how any music that the HomePod is playing music as it minimizes vibrations which could introduce distortions into the music that I am listening to. I have these on all my HomePods which now total four in the home.

Beside the shelves is a metal utility rack that I use for a variety of purposes.

The bottom shelf has my Brother HL-L2390 DW Laser Printer/Scanner, as well as my QNAP TS-431 NAS which I am looking to replace because of QNAP’s string of security issues. You can also see another UPS, which is made by CyberPower, which is connected to the NAS so that it can shut down gracefully in the event of a power outage, and power back up the NAS when power comes back. Underneath that shelf is space for my toolboxes. The black one is for my bike tools, the other one is for general purpose tools. There’s some other crap that I’ve shoved under there as well.

The next two shelves are largely storage for pens, paper, blank DVD’s, and other random items. But you’ll notice that I have also set up a charging station on the right side.

Here is a closer look at that charging station. I am using a Topvork 60W PD 6-Port USB Charging Hub which allows charge any device I need to as it supports fast charging as well as “normal” charging. You’ll also notice a bunch of power banks in the corner. This is where I store them so that if I need one, I can grab one and go as they are all charged, and every once in a while I check on them to make sure that they are charged and top them off as required.

On the left side of this until shelf I installed a pair of Ikea SKÅDIS pegboards with some accessories for said pegboard to store random items. Such as pens, cables, USB sticks, and one of my wife’s spare bicycle wheels.

Lighting is taken care of via the Sylvania Smart+ A19 Full Colour LED Bulb which I covered in my HomeKit setup. While these bulbs were not the most stable when I first got them, I haven’t had any issues with them since. Touch wood. I have them set up like this:

This creates a brightness level that achieves three things. One it creates a brightness level that works well for Zoom or Teams calls. Second, it isn’t harsh on the eyes. Third, it works well with the natural light that comes into the den. As long as these bulbs continue to work, I’ll be very happy to use them.

So that’s my home office setup. All of this has really helped me to have a much more functional workspace that I want to use and spend time in. But I’m not done yet. As mentioned earlier, I am working on getting my wife’s setup in order. That’s taking a bit more time. But when it’s done, you can expect a post on it so that you to see what the result looks like. But in the meantime, i’m open to suggestions as to how that I can make my setup even better. If you’ve got suggestions, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

HelpSystems Cybersecurity Week 2022 – A Vehicle To Up Your Cybersecurity Game

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 27, 2022 by itnerd

HelpSystems held their annual Cybersecurity week on May 17-19

May 17-19), the company will hold “Cybersecurity Week 2022”, a 3-day event covering:

  • Expert insights on the cybersecurity and the threat landscape  
  • Today’s most pressing cybersecurity threats  
  • Up-to-date cybersecurity trends and best practices  
  • Data compliance regulations  
  • Education on HelpSystems’ modular cybersecurity solutions 

And what’s even better is that if you missed this, HelpSystems has made the session recordings freely available for anyone to check out. You can see them here, and I have to applaud HelpSystems for making them available. When it comes to improving your cybersecurity game, knowledge is power. And these videos which are between 20 and 40 minutes in length are really good at increasing your knowledge. The speakers are engaging and knowledgeable. I guarantee that you will get something out of these sessions. I viewed a couple of these last night and I’ll be going through the rest over the weekend. If you’re responsible for cybersecurity in your organization, you should set aside some time and have a look at these videos as well.