My home office – the chair

Last week, I wrote about the sturdy SmartDesk 2. This week, I review the comfortable new chair I’m sitting on while typing this. Oh, spoiler alert, the chair is living up to it’s expectations.

Disclaimer: I’ve bought all my gear myself with my own, hard earned, money. So no sponsorship here! Which is why I can give you the good and the bad.

The ErgoChair 2

The two ErgoChair 2 chairs were next to arrive, about one and a half month after ordering them. Before, I had a very comfortable Markus chair from Ikea (not the exact model as I bought mine about 8 years ago). It was a very comfortable chair, but I have to say that the ErgoChair 2 is an upgrade all around.

It started when I assembled the ErgoChair. The instructions are very clear and a lot of thought has gone into the assembly process. In a little over half an hour, I was done with one chair. The star of the show is the superb tool that is supplied. It makes tightening the bolts a breeze. No need to awkwardly grip the little metal tool that is normally supplied, with this tool the bolts are tightened in a flash.

The supplied tool

During assembly, I did make a silly mistake: I put the arm rests on backwards on the first chair. Luckily I saw my mistake as I put the cushion (with the armrests) down. Besides my little derp moment, assembly went as smooth as it could have.

Now that I’ve used the chair for the past 2 months, I can say it’s very pleasant to sit on. Almost everything can be adjusted. From the height of the chair, the headrest and the incline of the back, to the tilt of the cushion and back tilt tension. I’m not sure what that last one does, but it’s impressive. They even have a very good instruction video on what you can adjust and how to do it, because I didn’t even mention all the settings you can tinker with.

There is one minor point: the armrests. Like the rest of the chair, it’s very customisable. I can adjust the height and move the armrest itself horizontally in all directions. Here is my biggest annoyance so far: the armrests just slide around. Most adjustments such as moving the armrest or the headrest up and own, happen in stages. I can feel the clicks and stands as I move them. Not so when horizontally positioning the armrests. This is most distracting when I move my arm from my keyboard to my mouse or the other way. Then the armrest can change positions without intending to do it.

The top of the armrest is made of a soft kind of plastic which is nice to the touch, but some fabric or fake leather with a cushion would have been more comfortable. Especially when sitting in the chair for hours during a workday. I think it’s strange they did not use the same material of the cushion to make the armrest more comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, the armrest is still comfortable and I love the chair. There’s a lot of thought put into this to make it as comfortable as possible. If the good folks at Autonomous add some cushion to the armrest, they’ll have the perfect chair.

Up next week: the monitor arm, again from the good folks over at Autonomous.

My home office – the desk

Since I’ve moved into a new house about a few months ago, I’ve upgraded my office quite a bit. Since writing about your office setup is such a big hit ever since Covid-19, I decided to add mine as well. I know I’m a bit late to the party, but then again, I only recently got all the parts in. So lets start with the standing desk.

Disclaimer: I’ve bought all my gear myself with my own, hard earned, money. So no sponsorship here! Which is why I can give you the good and the bad. I’m going to start with the new desk setup: a standing desk, ergonomic chair and monitor stand, all ordered from Autonomous. I ordered these parts 11th of June 2020.

My standing desk

The first item to arrive is the SmartDesk 2 Premium. Actually, that’s not true, the cable trays arrived after 2 weeks or so, but without the table, they are pretty much useless. Combined with the table though, they are really convenient. The tables arrived about a month after I ordered them.

A SmartDesk arrives in two packages. One is the table top, the other are the legs, the electronic buttons and all the screws. Putting it all together is very easy. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. Except a Philips head screwdriver, all tools are supplied.

Assembly is almost a one man job. It starts with attaching the mechanical legs to an iron frame. Then comes a bit tricky part of attaching the frame to the table top. It’s a bit trial and error to get it aligned with the pre-drilled holes, but it’s not that hard. Then comes the part where I needed help: flipping the table. Because the legs are mechanical, they weigh quite a bit and the large surface of the table makes it unruly to grab. I think I could manage to do this on my own, but it was so much easier when my wife gave me a hand.

The cable trays can very easily be attached when the table is still upside down. I’m very happy that I ordered them as they are a great place to store excess cables, power strips and laptop chargers that don’t need to move every week.

For even more cable management, there are some zip ties with a sticky edge so I can attach the cables from the buttons to the underside of the table without them hanging in the way or taking up space in the cable trays. The only downside is that after about a month, the glue on my wife’s desk gave out. It’s easily fixed with some super glue, but it’s annoying to do after the table is in the upright position.

Left: the loose cables – Right: the fixed cables
Drag to see more of the pictures

Attaching the power cable for the legs and cables for the buttons is just plug and play. They look like pc power cable plugs, so they only attach one way. The console has up and down buttons, 4 numeric buttons (1 through 4) and an M button. After plugging in the table for the first time, I have to press the up and down button at the same time to reset the height. If there is ever a problem, this is how the table resets. Setting the table at the right height, is very easy. I just press the up and down buttons until it has the right height.

Programming the height is a bit strange and I did have to look it up. I first tried to press the number for a few seconds, but that did nothing. The correct way is to press the M button for several seconds until the height on the display starts blinking. Then I press the number I want to program. So I set the table at sitting height, pressed the M button until the display starts blinking and then pressed 1. Now button 1 is set to my sitting height. I did the same, but for standing height, for button 2. Now that these 2 heights have been programmed, it’s a breeze to operate.

The materials of the table are sturdy and have a high quality feel to it. I think this table will serve me well in the years to come. There are a lot of small, really nice touches. The two that stand out for me are the two holes drilled into the table for cable management and rounded edges that are really comfortable when resting my arms.

Next week I’ll write about my thoughts on the ergonomic chair that I ordered.

Splitting IMediator interface

For a past project, I used the awesome MediatR package to send messages throughout the system. Because I used the pipeline for some compute heavy checks, it was not wise to send a request from a request handler. That is why I split the functionality for sending requests and notifications or events.

When a message entered the system, mostly via a REST endpoint, it got dispatched through MediatR to the corresponding handler. The message travels through the pipeline where some logging was done, some validity checks were performed and sometimes, there were even some security checks (e.g. “can this user access this data”). In this application, the pipeline is not the most lightweight part.

For some actions, I wanted to reuse logic from other handlers. Each handler has a single responsibility and I’d be reusing code, good decision in my opinion. Unfortunately, this triggered the pipeline each time which was not necessary at that point. I quickly saw that this significantly slowed the application. That is why the team and I decided to never send requests from within request handlers.

All said and done, we refactored this pattern of sending requests within handlers to simple service calls. That way, the reused request handler was nothing more than a facade in front of the service being called.

Notifications were also being used throughout the system to notify other parts when certain events happened. This would mean that the IMediator interface was passed into a significant number of handlers so they could publish these notifications (or events if you like that term better).

This also meant, that the team has easy access to the send request functionality. Now being the diligent programmers that we all are, I (and other team members, especially the newer ones) never succumbed to the temptation of cutting corners. So we always refactored the second handler into a service and called the functionality via the service. Or maybe not always…

Because that send request is just so easy to (mis)use, it still happened more than I would’ve liked. We all knew that not refactoring would just come to bite us later. From time to time, for whatever reason (pressure, tired, deadlines, new team member,…), it happened again.

That’s when I created a specific interface for sending events through the system. I created an implementation that used the MediatR library. This allowed us to use the MediatR publishing mechanism, without exposing the send request functionality.

public interface IPublisher
  Task Publish<TNotification>(TNotification notification, CancellationToken cancellationToken = default)
    where TNotification : INotification;

public class MediatrPublisher : IPublisher
  private IMediator _mediator;
  public MediatrPublisher(IMediator mediator) => _mediator = mediator;
  public Task Publish<TNotification>(TNotification notification, CancellationToken token = default) => _mediator.Publish(notification, token);

Because I really like what Jimmy Bogard (@jbogard, the creator of the MediatR package) does, I’ve recently submitted a PR to get this into the MediatR package. We all know it’s much better to rely on somebody else’s interface than to create our own (who noticed the sarcasm dripping from this sentence?).

In all seriousness, I think it will benefit the MediatR package to separate these concerns. That is why I’ve created two new interfaces: IPublisher and ISender. These contain the Send and Publish methods that resided in the IMediator interface. Because not everybody wants to switch to these specialised interfaces, I left the IMediator interface in place and have that inherit from the new ones.

public interface IPublisher
  Task Publish(object notification, CancellationToken cancellationToken = default);
  Task Publish<TNotification>(TNotification notification, CancellationToken cancellationToken = default)
    where TNotification : INotification;

public interface ISender
  Task<TResponse> Send<TResponse>(IRequest<TResponse> request, CancellationToken cancellationToken = default);
  Task<object?> Send(object request, CancellationToken cancellationToken = default);

public interface IMediator : ISender, IPublisher { }

I’m a big fan of Jimmy’s work and I hope that with this change, I’ve helped improve the quality of life for a number of programmers, including mine. I’m not sure when this will be available in the MediatR package, but I hope soon.