Workstation 2020

Workstation 2020

Since my workstation setup has become rather unusual, it may be worth writing a bit about. As of writing, I move between three places so I’ll focus on one of them and add comparisons.

In short, this is a story of Přemysl Eric Janouch trying to use money to get something nice, and failing horribly half the time.

Agitator Display Headphones Stereo Keyboard Tablet Lighting Desk Printer UPS Chair Computer

Desk

I bought an electrically adjustable desk so that I could try working while standing. After half a year of having it, I can’t say I do that a lot but the adjustability is certainly convenient. I have ended up programming three positions into the desk: sitting, standing, and eating while sitting.

The particular desk is an AlzaErgo Table ET1. Sadly the construction is not that solid, as the upper part somewhat pivots on two stupid screws that you have to tighten a lot, or it will move when you sit on it. Trying to center the top board on the frame also sucks, you don’t get any holes pre-drilled and it doesn’t seem to join to be entirely straight. The electronics is alright.

Chair

The mostly white chair, Antares Dream, is mostly for show. It satisfies my requirement of lacking a headrest, but the armrests are rather annoying as they can be neither adjusted nor removed completely. Originally it came with hard wheels but I wanted to avoid scratching anything and replaced them with softer ones. Though I’ve also bought a floor protection mat and can’t say how effective the two measures were by themselves.

At work we have Antares Enjoy which is fairly similar, yet different in details: a sparser mesh, lots of plastics (which is good as it’s softer than metal), detachable adjustable armrests, and a stupid irremovable headrest.

Overall, so long as it’s soft, I’ll sit on anything. My third chair is super cheap and basic.

Lighting

Even if I didn’t work during random hours, I highly prefer bright D65 light to whatever shade of piss people call ‘normal’, if only because my displays are calibrated to sRGB. Somewhat unfortunately, it’s rather hard to obtain a high-CRI high-power 6500K LED, though I’ve been fine enough with everything I could get my hands on so far, the bigger issue sadly being noise, if anything.

It gets a bit tricky to position light sources so that there’s no glare or undesired shadows. I ended up putting a tall lamp on the desk, which may be suboptimal but gives very good results. In general it’s better to make the light scatter against walls, even if it requires more power.

Computer

I only really use my Intel Skull Canyon NUC for a computer, if I don’t count my server (or my phone). I carry it around everywhere as if it was a laptop, even ordering a second power brick from Intel’s crappy e-shop so that I could keep one at work. It’s a wonderful, small but rather fast device, packed with features and lots of RAM and flash memory, and I hope it will last me at least as long as its desktop predecessor.

The only upgrade I’ve had to do, so to speak, was replacing the thermal paste on the CPU, since it started overheating like crazy after about 2 years of owning it, filling my dmesg with warnings and sounding as if it wanted to take off during heavier tasks such as compilation. I went for Conductonaut, which is a somewhat tricky substance that shouldn’t see temperatures lower than 9 degrees Celsius because it freezes up near that point, though it did its job wonderfully. It seems that it has degraded a bit since I put it there but that is to be expected as part of it apparently gets absorbed into the copper heatsink, and I can’t be bothered to reapply it, risking accidental damage in doing so.

Anyway, that might be the biggest practical downside: it’s rather noisy under load, which I don’t mind much. I also need a dedicated keyboard, pointing device and display everywhere I go with it.

Display

Sigh. That’s a BenQ PD3220U right there, 4K on 31.5", and while it looks awesome and all, of course it has to have a defect: you can’t see the bottom ~two rows of pixels in their entirety when viewed from a normal angle.

At least it has DDC/CI, unlike my other main display, EIZO ColorEdge CS2730, 2K on 27". EIZO, what the fuck? Literally everyone else supports it, is it too much to ask for something as basic as brightness to be controlled from the computer, on a high-end display no less?

Of course, both of them are leagues above the Dell U2718Q that I have at work, 4K on 27", in at least one important thing: backlight uniformity. LCDs suck.

Keyboard

Keyboards are a trap. Ever since I spilt Kofola on my old laptop and had to use a shitty Genius KB-120e, I keep desiring something else every once in a while. At the beginning of my mechanical journey, I got myself a Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition, however I could barely type on the (loud) Cherry MX Blue switches for some reason. So I changed to Cherry MX Brown and ran through several other ‘tenkeyless’ keyboards, and I finally felt content again, but I still longed for something shallower. Cherry G84-4100 was sadly not an answer to that itch, I hated it through and through.

Eventually I learnt about ortholinear keyboards and decided to order a Hi-Pro Preonic. When it arrived, I almost gave up on it immediately as the layout change was fairly substantial and I found it really difficult to type. But I persisted, and even went as far as to get rid of another row of keys and buy a Planck EZ. I may have mixed feelings about the materials used there (shitty rubber feet staining the desk) and the firmware (upstream QMK won’t work), though I’ve found my ideal format. Both also use Cherry MX Clear, which I think is the ideal typist’s switch.

Finally, since I immediately started hating the Preonic for its unreasonable excess of material and didn’t want to carry the one good keyboard with me everywhere, I ordered a Lo-Pro Planck from Drop, and that’s what you can see in the picture. Regrettably, it came with Halo True switches, and those are loud and their tactile response feels too stiff. Otherwise I’m happy--it’s comfortably small, programmable, and pretty.

I’d still like to try shallower switches such as Kailh Choc Burnt Orange but it’s much harder to get or build such a keyboard, and I have other priorities.

Tablet

I used to be very fond of SteelSeries Sensai RAW mice, however these tend to not survive too long, as the rubber surface will soon rub off (hah), and all switches like to die. It also squals when you move it (it’s a mouse, duh), likely because of some capacitors exhibiting a piezoelectric effect.

After buying a Wacom Intuos Pro M for some spare cryptomoney I suddenly had two pointing devices connected to my computer, and seeing as the graphical tablet could also function as a touchpad, I wondered if I could abandon the mouse. Indeed I could, despite minor issues.

At work I have the smaller S version of the tablet, which is much more appropriate for this use, and good enough for my basic drawing needs as well.

Printer

That one’s also for show, an HP Neverstop Laser 1200w. This is how I learnt you could fuck up a laser printer. It’s still more practical than an inkjet in that it doesn’t clog up, and it prints fairly fast. If only the printouts weren’t curled up and shades of gray didn’t display horizontal stripes.

My other printer is an Epson WorkForce WF-7610DWF. I’ve made a few A3 pictures with it and then I basically never needed either the large paper format, which makes the printer huge and hard to move, or the photo printing abilities. I should have just bought something simple and visited a print shop instead.

Headphones

It’s pretty hard to find decent headphones. For a long time, I was rather happy with Koss Porta Pro, except that they tended to attract various issues, such as: broken cable, hair stuck near both sides of the membrane requiring disassembly and careful extraction, worn out headband foam, disintegrating pads.

Partly as I felt it was a bit anti-social to use Porta Pro at work, I eventually got Audio-Technica ATH-M40x. Those aren’t bad per se, though at least the default ear pads start to get uncomfortable after a while, with your ears stuck inside and no ventilation. I don’t particularly like how they sound either.

At some point I got interested in some nicer open-back headphones again for home listening, and I’ve ended up with the Sennheiser HD 558 in the picture, which required getting used to but now it’s the gold standard for me. The only issue I have with them is the headband cushion getting unglued, nothing severe.

What does it say about other Sennheiser headphones? Nothing! The HD 280 PRO were a complete failure that I promptly returned, and the phone-friendly HD 569 lack any bass for some reason, so I’m discouraged from using them.

Thus my second pair of headphones now, mainly for work, is Bose QuietComfort 25. Even though the sound cancellation is fairly weak and only works in the lower range of the frequency spectrum, they start getting uncomfortable after a while because of the isolation, making it a bit of a disappointment, as I had higher expectations. Still, they’re very portable and sound okay.

Stereo

I don’t actually use headphones at home much. The Pioneer A-40AE, just like my older A-30K in another place, is an absolute overkill, however I failed to find anything more appropriate on the market. I currently have it connected via an optical cable as the wonderful NUC has optical output. This way there’s no space for electrical interference, though the approach also has a slight downside: I cannot control the volume from the computer.

As for speakers, I stay loyal to Denon bookshelf ones, with pairs of SC-M41 and SC-M39. I’ve also tried Magnat Monitor Supreme 202 but those positively sucked and again, there’s not much of a choice on the market.

UPS

Electricity tends to be unstable, no matter where you are. If you don’t want to lose your work, you need to have a battery somewhere. I’ve been doing fine with the nicely looking Eaton 3S 850FR as well as the older Eaton 3S 700FR, which still seems to run fine on its original battery. No complaints here, for once. It can even report status over the stardard USB HID protocol.

Another UPS I’ve tried is CyberPower BR1200ELCD-FR, which is much uglier and whines during charging. I only keep it because of unfortunate timing when shopping.