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.

Scammers used my email as a spam address

On the 7th of November 2019, I received an email from AliExpress that told me that I created an account with them. Seeing as I didn’t do this, at first I thought it was a scam. My email address contains a dot between my first and last name and that was missing. So I did what I do with all spam, I ignored it.

A few weeks later, on November 25th, I received a notification that I had a shopping cart with items in it. I decided to go to the AliExpress website and do a password reset on “my” account. Surprisingly, I had not received spam and a few moments later, I was the proud owner of an AliExpress account.

The first thing I did was check out my shopping cart. I did not take a precise inventory at the time, I just deleted the few items that were in it. It did prompt me to look into my already purchased items. There was a range of strange choices from plastic apples for table decoration to knockoff Disney dolls. The one thing they all had in common was that they cost under 20 euros, thus skipping most customs controls. So the buyers evade sales tax, limit checks on the knockoff goods and get a higher chance the goods will get delivered.

When I looked at the account details, I saw a fake name with Bonny as the first name and a bogus shipping address in France. It was entered half a dozen times, so I concluded I was dealing with a master criminal that knew how to efficiently navigate the site.

I looked the address up on Google Maps and it turned out to be a corn field. I’ve always wondered how they deliver to such places. The delivery guy shows up in a truck with the stuff in the back and then what? Is there a shady guy with a nondescript white van ready to take the goods? I guess I’ll never know.

Back to the order history. All in all, there were 28 items bought on “my” account. When I saw that, I blamed AliExpress for not verifying the account before accepting orders. I received a welcome mail, but I never had to verify that my account is controlled by me. So there are probably countless unverified accounts that are used by scammers to buy counterfeit goods. That means that AliExpress is profiting from, what are in my opinion, fraudsters.

Until I checked the orders more closely. Apparently 20 out of the 28 orders haven’t been paid yet. That means that over 70% of the orders haven’t been paid 18 days after they were shipped. Somehow, I doubt that they will ever be paid, even if I did not take back the account. Which means that both AliExpress and the third party sellers are missing out on revenue.

All this scammer needs to do is create another fake account and buy as much goods as he can before the account is suspended. They can keep doing this as long as accounts are not verified as there is a treasure trove of emails out there for anybody who knows where to look. And it’s not exactly hard to find even if you don’t know where to look.

So I don’t know why AliExpress is not verifying accounts. It’s costing them money. It’s costing their subcontractors money. It’s costing European countries taxes. They are basically enabling scammers. The only thing they’d need to do to stop these thieves, is verify an account before that account can be used to buy goods.

At no point was my email compromised. They just used my email address to sign up. Thanks to a combination of a password manager (shameless plug for 1Password) and a strong second factor (shameless plug for YubiKey security keys), scammers will be hard pressed to get into my most valuable accounts. For full transparancy, I’m not sponsored by either vendor, I bought these products myself. I’m a big fan of them.

And as a last item, just to be thorough: I did not report this to the police. I do not feel that the information I have to share will make a compelling case against anybody. So instead of adding more white noise to the pile of noise the police already has to deal with, I’m going to ignore this.

What I do want to shine a light on, is that we cannot let scammers just use our emails for their fake accounts. So if I receive an email that I created an account somewhere, especially online shops, will get a closer look to see if it’s an actual welcome mail or a scam in itself.

Asking for a raise

My wife is getting more and more responsibility at work. She handles a number of high profile cases, she’s following a course to become the company’s Data Protection Officer for the upcoming GDPR legislation¬†and is the all around go-to-girl for any problem around the office. This leads her to think about asking for a raise. Unfortunately, she has no clue how to go about this as she’s never asked for a raise before.

Continue reading “Asking for a raise”