IKEA Bekant sit/stand desk…MINE, ALL MINE!

I’m a big fan of standing desks, but I’m an even bigger fan of being able to do both at the press of a button. Sitting all the time is bad for you, standing all the time is almost as bad for you, so the trick is to balance both sitting and standing. That’s kind of a pain in the ass if all you have is a fixed-height desk, since you have to commit to one or the other.

IKEA finally got the Bekant motorized sit/stand desk back in stock, and I scooped one up during a sale. Regular price is $489.99 USD, but the IKEA Family discount had it marked down by almost $80, and it was too good an opportunity to pass up. I also took lots of photos while building mine so I could share them in the review.

The Build

The desk came in 3 boxes: one box for the table surface, and two boxes for the underframe. Hilariously, it’s the smallest box that weighs the most, and it’s the one that contains the motorized legs.

Legs and crossbraces

These legs are built like a tank. They’re pretty heavy and don’t feel flimsy at all. The crossbraces are secured to the legs with 8 thick bolts. The Allen wrench included is pretty substantial and beefy.

There wasn’t any wobble or wiggle after assembling this part of the underframe, which surprised me because the lack of a lower crossbrace initially seemed sketchy to me.

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The leg bottoms are attached with equally thick bolts. The feet are threaded and allow you to level the desk by screwing/unscrewing each foot to suit. I suspect you could probably replace them with locking casters, but I haven’t checked to see if there are any locking casters that use the same diameter and threading as the feet.

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The desk surface is particleboard sandwiched between a wood veneer and a layer of what seems to be smooth cardboard, trimmed with some sort of plastic or vinyl bumper. The attachment brackets for the underframe are secured to the desk surface by comically large plastic rivets.

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I was initially skeptical because…well, plastic rivets? I was half expecting the desk surface to fall off the second the whole thing was flipped over to stand on its feet.

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Once I pounded in the first couple, it was quickly apparent that these things hold with a surprising degree of tenacity. I still found myself shaking my head and muttering “Plastic rivets? Really?” during the rest of this assembly step, but I guess if it works, it works.

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The underframe attaches to the riveted-in brackets with more of those beefy bolts. It’s all surprisingly stiff and rigid, with no wobble or play whatsoever. I also yanked up one of the legs to see if the plastic rivets would lose the will to live, but they held fast. Impressive.

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Once the underframe is assembled, the next thing to do is wire it all up for power. There’s a power brick, a cross-connection cable, and a control box with a removable locking key. The key slides into holes on either side of the box and clicks into place with authority, and the desk will not raise or lower without the key installed.

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The cross-connector cable connects one leg motor to the other. The remaining 2 sockets are for the control box and the power brick.

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The crossbraces connecting the legs form a convenient wiring tunnel that the power brick fits into nicely.

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Once wired up, all that spaghetti is hidden in a silver-gray mesh cable management net that secures to the underside of the table by means of elastic loops connected to more of those plastic rivets. The cable management net has 2 long, springy metal rails running through the long edges for structural support, and fits pretty snugly.

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The control box can be mounted anywhere along the edges of the desk surface. You just mark and set a couple holes and then use wood screws to secure it.

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I flipped it over and couldn’t resist the opportunity to see how my stuff fit on the larger surface. My old Fredrik desk didn’t have this much room on it.

Accessorizing

Of course, me being me, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and proceeded to modify it by drilling out a 2″ hole for a cable grommet and mounting stuff to the bottom of the desktop.

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I mounted a 12-outlet surge protector with industrial strength Velcro tape on the underside. The advantage of doing this is that the power cords for your monitor and PC only need to be long enough to reach the bottom of the desk rather than having to be long enough to reach a power strip on the floor. Plus, it just looks cleaner and there’s just one cord coming out of the desk to the wall.

I also mounted a 10-port active USB3 hub to the underside of the desk, which serves the same purposes for USB cables. I can plug peripherals into the desk and only worry about one USB cable going into the PC tower.

Impressions

I’ve had the desk for a couple of weeks now. I love the thing to pieces–it is so nice being able to just switch from sitting to standing and back without having to break down the table and relocate the work surface to a different level.

IKEA claims the maximum weight capacity of the desk is something like 140lb/70kg. In practice, I find that the motors work a little too hard for my taste when I get within spitting range of that threshold. The workstation configuration pictured up there tops out at about 136lb/62kg, so I relocated the 70lb/32kg tower to the floor to take some of the load off the motors.

By eyeball, the motors raise and lower the desktop at a rate of approximately 0.5″/13mm per second, which is neither too slow nor too fast. The lowest position is about 22″/56cm from the floor, and the tallest position is 48″/122cm from the floor.

There’s plenty of work room on the desktop. The surface is about 63″/160cm wide and 31.5″/80cm deep.

At a MSRP of $489.99 USD, this is one of the most affordable motorized sit/stand desks on the market. If you’re looking for a sit/stand desk, don’t feel like shelling out four figures, and don’t intend to put a lot of heavy stuff on it, this desk is a pretty good buy.

Bees

It’s spring. I can tell because the bees are out.

The other day, I was sitting out back and all of a sudden…

::bzzzzzzzzz:: “Hi! I’m a bee!”

“That’s nice, could you move along a bit? You’re kinda all up in my personal space.”

“Oh! Sure, sure. Oh, hey, I like flowers! Flowers are awesome!”

“So I’ve heard. Um…about that personal space?”

“Right, right! Hey, did I mention I like flowers? Seen any around here, big fella?”

“I…think I saw some in…the next county over?”

“Oh, you! Say, you got any pollen on you?”

“What? No, I’m not a flower, I don’t have any pollen!”

“Oh, I love this game! You sure, big fella? How about in that pocket? Or that one? No, wait, it’s in your ear!”

“No! What are you…no, get away from me, I don’t have any pollen on me!”

“I know! IT’S IN YOUR PANTS!”

::skips around backyard like a little girl with arms flailing around comically:: “No, not in my pants! I DON’T HAVE ANY POLLEN!”

Dammit. My problem with bees is…they’re like the psychotic Zooey Deschanel character of the insect world. One minute, they’re all cute and fuzzy and “docile” and they’re always enthusiastically saying “Hi! I’m a bee! I like flowers! Pollen is totally the bomb!” and fly around in silly and cheerful trajectories like lovable goofs. Yet, at any minute, they could suddenly flip out and go full-on “I’M GONNA KILL YOU MOTHERFUCKER AND ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GONNA KILL YOU TOO AND I DON’T GIVE A FUCK THAT I’LL DIE IN THE PROCESS BECAUSE FUCK YOU AND YOUR FACE” ::STAB STAB STAB::

It’s kind of a complicated relationship.

Then there was today. I’m hanging out with Viceroy Puddles out back. Puddles loves to be held, so he’s in my arms getting his morning dose of Vitamin S (scritchies).

Suddenly, ::OMINOUS BZZZZZZ:: Two bees.

“Hello. We represent the Divine Hive of the Latter Day Honey.”

“What is it with you bees and personal space anyway, could you two just kind of back off a little?”

“Have you found Beesus?”

“Beewha?”

“Beesus. Have you found Beesus and opened your heart to the glory of the Hive?”

“You lost Beesus? I think I saw him in the next county over.”

“We cannot lose Beesus because Beesus is forever in our hearts, and you too may find Beesus. I see that you have brought an offering for the Divine Hive and Beesus. This is a fine start.”

“Offering? What? Whatchootalkingabout, Beelis?”

::both bees proceed to examine Puddles minutely::

“That’s not an offering! That’s my cat. Stop freaking out my cat. Come on.”

“Once an offering is made, it cannot be taken back. That is not the way of the Divine Hive of the Latter Day Honey. Fear not, Beesus will look upon you with kindness for this fine and well-considered offering.”

“Uh…look, guys, I think I see Beesus over there!” ::runs inside with now-confused cat::

Dammit. Yep. Spring’s here.

Dell Venue 8 Pro 5000 Review

I started shopping around for a small and inexpensive travel tablet a couple months ago, since the fourth quarter of the year tends to be when we do most of our traveling. I wanted something small and light with a physical keyboard and long battery life, and I didn’t want to spend more than $200-300 on it. I went for the 64GB version of the Dell Venue 8 Pro 5000, an 8″ Windows 8.1 tablet.

To take it for a spin, I decided to use it to compose and post a review of it and its accessories here.

Initial Impressions

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It has a 1280×800 screen, which initially sounds a bit coarse compared other tablets that have 2K or Retina screens, but it’s actually a rather nice screen. Text is pleasingly sharp, images look really good, and the color is vibrant.

When running desktop programs, I find that I sometimes hunch over and squint a little bit more than I should when trying to make out small text, but the Metro-style apps work very well on smaller screens.

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The tablet’s size is almost perfect. It’s not too big and not too small for me. It’s about 5 inches tall and about 8.5 inches wide, and a bit less than half an inch thick.

The tablet’s processor is an Intel Atom 3740. Before the current Bay Trail architecture, Atom chipsets were pretty underpowered, and I wouldn’t have gone near an Atom powered Windows RT device with a 10 foot pole. The Venue 8 Pro 5000 runs Windows 8.1.

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I’m surprised by how zippy and responsive the tablet is. I was expecting it to struggle a bit, but it’s pretty fluid and responsive. This is even more true after it’s been updated with the latest drivers and software updates from Dell.

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Fit and finish is pretty good. It doesn’t feel cheap or cheesy. The back is a textured, rubbery surface that feels satisfyingly grippy, and it doesn’t look chintzy.

Accessories

To get the most out of it, I also got the keyboard folio case and Dell Active Stylus. The keyboard folio is interesting–it’s a rigid plastic case with a semi-rigid cover that the keyboard attaches to magnetically.

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The tablet clicks into the case, the cover folds over the screen, and the keyboard sticks to the cover. There’s a loop on the back that serves two purposes–it holds a stylus and serves as a tuck point for the cover when you fold it up into a stand.

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The magnetic attachment for the keyboard is one of those things that sounds great on paper, but falls a little bit short in practice. The magnets hold fine for the most part, but I can see the keyboard coming off fairly easily if the tablet is carried in a bag without a built in sleeve or tablet pocket of some sort.2014-11-16 14.07.30

The semi-rigid cover is jointed so that it can be bent into a triangular stand, and tucks into the stylus loop. There are two viewing angles to choose from: upright like a laptop screen, or on its back and slightly inclined. There isn’t a mechanism to keep the cover closed, however–no strap, latch, or magnetic closure.

The keyboard feels pretty nice and doesn’t look or feel cheap. It does, however, have a number of weirdly placed keys. Several punctuation marks like single and double quotes, underscore, pipe, plus and equal signs, backslash, and hyphen are function keys in the QWERTY row. The function keys are literally function keys themselves rather than separate, standalone keys.

The sizing and placement of a few keys are also a little bit off compared to a normal keyboard. If you’re a touch typist, you might find it frustrating to get used to. I find that my typing speed is about 60% to 75% of my normal speed when using this keyboard.

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I’m also using a Dell WM524 wireless travel mouse, which works beautifully with the Venue 8 Pro 5000 and the keyboard folio. In this configuration, it feels like a tiny version of my XPS 18 all-in-one.

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The Dell Active Stylus got off to a rocky start before the A02 hardware revision and tablet driver updates. The one I received was an A02 and I’d updated all of the drivers and firmware practically first thing after unboxing it, so I had a better first experience with it than the early adopters did. It won’t put Wacom out of business tomorrow, but it’s plenty good enough for my own needs. It’s also markedly better than the stylus that came with the Gateway CX2720 convertible notebook that I carried around in the mid-2000s.

The stylus loop on the keyboard folio holds it snugly. I think I would have preferred the loop to be on the top edge of the folio rather than on the back, however.

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I can’t get over how cool it is to run something like Photoshop CC 2014 on such a tiny computer and actually be able to do useful work on it. I don’t think I would want to open any massive texture atlases or have too many print resolution documents open at the same time, but it’s totally usable otherwise.

Most of my papercraft software installed and worked fine. Metasequoia, Silo, and Pepakura Designer work just fine. Ultimate Papercraft 3D has some issues with the Intel graphics on both the Venue 8 Pro and my XPS 18 all-in-one, so it doesn’t see much use these days.

2 Months Later…

I’ve had the tablet for roughly 2 months now. I took it on a 4 day Thanksgiving road trip, and upon our return, I decided to use it as my sole computer for a week to see how it held up. I really like the little booger. It’s more than enough computer for my travel needs and is nowhere nearly as large and heavy as my old XPS 15 laptop.

I also recently replaced the original Dell keyboard folio with a Microsoft Wedge keyboard and a Poetic faux leather folio case. The Wedge has a much better keyboard layout and has a rigid protective cover that lets me toss it in the bag without worrying about it, and the Poetic folio case is a significant improvement over the Dell folio case in a number of areas. It has an elastic strap that keeps it closed, like the one on a Moleskine notebook, and is more comfortable to hold when using the tablet as a touch device.

More Silo stuff

I’ve been on a kind of weird retro-SF kick lately, with the steam car from the previous blog post and also having worked on a Tesla-themed VR interaction demo for some folks from Valve Software last week. That was fun–I’d come up with an all-new motion-based interaction system for first person VR for the game we were working on, and I had a little experimental scene with various bits and bobs in it that I was using to develop the interactions further. When we heard that a couple guys from Valve were coming to visit the Cloudhead office the following week, we cleaned up my test scene and I prototyped a new set of interactions based around some models that Matt Lyon and I whipped up with a sort of mad scientist laboratory theme in mind.

I revisited the steam car model this weekend with the intention of modeling the feedwater condenser on the front, but I’d forgotten how to do coils in Silo and had to look it up. I got a little carried away while messing around with the Path Extrusion and Arc tools, and ended up with the beginnings of some kind of Tesla-ish rifle. 😆

Tesla Rifle

I figured that while I was at it, I might as well practice working on different shapes and see how far I got over the weekend. It still needs more detail work, but I’ll revisit that later. Once it’s done, I’m gonna stick it on the steam car somewhere like a shotgun in a pickup truck.

Now that I’ve refreshed my memory on how to do coiled structures in Silo, I’m hoping to be able to resume work on the steam car’s feedwater condenser system and the plumbing that connects it to the feedwater tanks next weekend.

Stepping outside of my comfort zone

I wanted to put into practice some of the subdivision modeling tips that I’d picked up here and there recently. I picked a completely fictional steam car because that’s well outside of my genre comfort zone, and that sort of subject would have a lot of little details and gnarly bits and bobs that are well-suited to giving my somewhat-atrophied-from-too-much-coding modeling muscles a workout.

I didn’t get as much done over the weekend because of the amount of research I had to do first, but here’s the start:

Pegasus1

I did the wheels, underframe, boiler, firebox, wheels, feedwater tanks, coal bunkers, and roughed in the floorboard before running out of time. Next weekend, I’m going to tackle the steam condenser, suspension components, and a number of other parts like the firebox doors and coal bunker covers, and hopefully get a start on the steam piping and the motor.

Pegasus2

I want it to look like some kind of ridiculous, thoroughly impractical, dangerous, mechanically unreliable, over-the-top prototype put together by some wacky inventor/tinkerer type. The gonzo size of the boiler makes me giggle, and I want to add a little afterthought-like 2 wheeled covered trailer for luggage and stuff because the absent-minded inventor didn’t even think about it beforehand.

It’s been pretty fun so far. Steam powered vehicles and their history make for some fascinating reading, and is an interesting change of pace from the more futuristic stuff I normally do.