Benefits of Standing Desks

One of the perks of working from home is that I have total control over my work environment: chair, desk, computer, climate, light, etc*.  However, like many professionals, I sit for a lot of the day; 45+ hours a week, 48+ weeks a year for the past 12 years.  This isn’t healthy or natural.  I’ve been pretty good about getting exercise regularly, but since 45, or more, of my 120 waking hours during a week are spent working, there is a great opportunity to lead a healthier lifestyle with simple changes during work; small, simple sustained improvements can have a huge overall impact on your lifestyle and goals.

Many non-cycling fans may not be aware of Great Britain’s total dominance in track cycling during the 2012 olympics.  They won 7 out of 10 gold metals along with an additional silver and bronze; an incredible performance.  One of the ways that Great Britain dominated the track was taking by taking total control over their cycling ecosystem and finding lots of little improvements that, when added together, make a big difference.

Dave Brailsford, the performance director for Great Britain cycling and general manager of the top tier cycling team, Team Sky, sums up this philosophy as “The Aggregation of Marginal Gains”.  Any one gain in particular isn’t significant, but when added together, they are.  Along those lines, earlier, I mentioned that I use a crontab + growl to purposefully and gently interrupt my day with pushups or sit-ups.  Another way that I’ve found to make a small improvement in my daily life is with a standing desk.

Here are some of the benefits I perceive of a standing desk:

  1. Standing instead of sitting burns about 38% more calories.  The 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities lists sitting at a desk working and typing (code 09040) as 1.3 METS and standing working (codes 07041, 09070, 09055) as 1.8 METS.  MET is the ratio of the work metabolic rate to the resting metabolic rate and 1.0 MET is roughly equivalent to the energy cost of sitting quietly.
  2. It changes up the work day.  For me, working from home, sitting in one place and not seeing anybody in person all day gets boring.  I go to coffee shops sometimes and move around the house a little bit, but a standing desk gives me another place to work.  My standing desk also looks out a window which encourages me to shift my focus off my screen occasionally which is good for my eyesight.
  3. I move around more.  I pace while I’m on the phone, I shift my weight back and forth and overall, I don’t have sore muscles at the end of the day from being in the same position.  I do have sore muscles sometimes, but because a standing desk is hard work, not from bad posture. 
A standing desk can be cheap and easy to hack together.  Mine is setup with an extra wire shelving unit.  This made it easy for me to get the height adjustments correct.  I have the bottom weighted down for stability and simply move my laptop from my sitting desk to the top of the unit whenever I want to use the standing desk.  A bluetooth keyboard and mouse go on the second shelf to make the ergonomics work.  
I don’t use my standing desk all the time, right now, I used it for 2 to 4 hours a day. Its a nice change of pace and burns a few extra calories, and who knows, maybe it will add a few years to my lifetime.  Maybe someday I’ll add a treadmill for a walking desk.
How do you stay healthy at work?  Have you tried a standing desk? What do you like about it?


* One downside is that there is no dedicated cleaning staff.  Another is few noise barriers with three children downstairs.

Expanding multiple sections of a JQuery Accordion

I’ve loved using jQuery and jQuery UI on my current project.  They work, on all browsers, and they make things simple.  They are powerful and extensible – great tools. However, one thing that has really annoyed me is the jQuery UI accordion.  They have this snippet in their documentation:

NOTE: If you want multiple sections open at once, don’t use an accordion

This drives me nuts!  If you have to write a note about something that the control doesn’t do, bolded and in a larger font size in the documentation, because lots of people want to do that, or are asking for it, the control should probably perform that function.

This is exactly what I wanted to try out for one of our UI prototypes.  Usually, we wanted one section open at a time (the accordion behavior), but sometimes we want to see all 5 sections (say for printing or so you don’t have to remember the first section when looking at the last section.

I found this excellent example of how to hack the jQuery UI accordion to allow multiple sections to be expanded at the same time:

I then added this bit of JavaScript to expand and collapse all the sections.  These are hooked up as click handlers for a couple of icons on the page.

Expand/Collapse All

function accordion_expand_all()
  var sections = $(‘.accordion’).find(“h3”);
  sections.each(function(index, section){
    if ($(section).hasClass(‘ui-state-default’)) {

function accordion_collapse_all()
  var sections = $(‘.accordion’).find(“h3”);
  sections.each(function(index, section){
    if ($(section).hasClass(‘ui-state-active’)) {
This improved the jQuery accordion significantly and I hope we see all this behavior native to the control sometime in the future.

How I backup my photos

As my wife will quickly let you know, we lost some important photos of a trip we took due to a hard drive crash.  Since then, I’ve become very paranoid about how I store and back up our photos and videos.  Here is how I now back my photos and videos.

I’ve got all our photos and videos on a desktop machine with three hard drives.  The primary hard drive is a smallish SSD that has the operating system and not much else.  The other two drives are 1.5 TB spinning disks in a software-based raid 1 (mirroring) configuration.  At the end of each month I:

  • Download all my photos and videos to the desktop
  • Use robocopy to backup the spinning disks and important files from the SSD to a 1.5TB external HD
  • Swap the external HD I just backed up with an offsite external HD that has last month’s backup
This gives me good confidence that I’ve got my important documents backed up reliably.  At anytime, a document is on at least 3 hard drives (one of which is in a different physical location) and I’ve got last month’s backup in case I delete something or need an older version.  
There are still some problems with this scheme:
  1. Its not automatic
  2. I have to realize I deleted something before I make the next backup
However, its relatively cheap (you need 4x the hard-drives you might otherwise need) and it works. I’ve had to upgrade from 300 GB disks to 1.5 TB and had no problems restoring my backups.
How do you backup your important documents?  What am I missing that I should be doing?