Virginia Roberts

Internet Outrage Machine #1!

I was a contestant on the inaugural episode of Internet Outrage Machine, a new 5by5 podcast that’s sort of a comedic game show about current events. You know, like Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me, but rougher and raunchier and geekier.

Give it a listen, if you dare!

 

Ergonomorama

I have hardcore tennis elbow. I’ve spent a couple grand accommodating this. Maybe you can learn from my ergonomic expenditures.

My ergonomic backstory

In 2008, the job market was not so hot. I had worked my first ever tech contract, which felt kind of terrifying to me since I was basically guaranteeing future unemployment by taking a short-term (but career-advancing) role. The recession hit, my contract ended, it predictably took forever to find re-employment, and so I took an interim job in a chiropractic clinic that needed someone bilingual to help out. Big mistake!

When I started hooking patients into their traction weights, I suffered a very bad repetitive stress injury that left me with permanent chronic tendinitis (tennis elbow) in both arms. Multiple courses of physical therapy haven’t helped the issue. My RSI constantly gets flared up whenever I use keyboards, mice, touch screens, game controllers, and a whole host of other real-world objects now, and increased flare-ups have spread the pain and injury from my hands to my shoulders and back. It’s difficult to manage because of how severe and sudden the injury was, and how many regular activities (all tech usage plus brushing hair and teeth, pouring water jugs, carrying groceries, shifting gears, etc.) can flare it right back up again.

However, the upside is that the pain has given me license to spring for any ergonomic upgrades that I need to keep it manageable. I hope these annotations on my various ergonomic purchases over the years are helpful to those of you who are considering a more ergonomic workstation. Some purchases have definitely been more worthwhile than others!

Sit/stand desk

I’ve got a GeekDesk v2, which is no longer offered but is similar-ish to the v3. I got the smaller frame size with the relatively larger desktop size, which no longer seems to be an option, but was in between the small and large sizes that are currently offered. My frame is silvers and my desktop is black. I’m mostly happy with it, but I might do more research and make a different purchase today if I got a do-over.

My main complaint is the desktop surface itself. I recommend getting your own desktop, or covering their laminate one in a material that doesn’t so readily accept water and finger oil marks. I see my clients surreptitiously scrubbing to remove marks all the time, I and I feel bad! I want to tell them not to worry and that it happens all the time on my side too, but I don’t want to make them uncomfortable. This probably seems silly, but if you have even a drop of obsessive tendencies (or design snobbery) in you, I urge you to procure your own desktop. GeekDesk marks do scrub out with the right cleaner, but it’s annoying to have to do that more often than actual cleanliness concerns would dictate.

Also note that if you screw or clamp anything into your GeekDesk, you need to make sure its thickness is acceptable—it’s too thin for a lot of hardware, so I’ve had to get special screws or jury-rig a spacer in some clamps. Furthermore, GeekDesk is a little dicey when it comes to weight management and overall stability compared to some of its competitors. I’ve tightened the frame every few months (hang on to that allen wrench), but I worry about all the weight I currently have on it. I don’t think I’d be able to add a giant second external monitor, for example.

Lastly, the GeekDesk doesn’t have any memory presets for height. This isn’t wildly important if your desk is pushed against a wall where you can make a little mark or something, but my desk floats in the middle of the room so I don’t have that option. I kinda wish there were a few presets even though I mostly get by just going by what feels best. I don’t love having to press two buttons to lift and lower it, either—I get that it’s a safety mechanism, but I’d like to be able to one-hand it.

Oh, and I’m not a treadmill desk person, but if I wanted to be I don’t think the GeekDesk would be tall enough for me (I’m 5’11”). Unless you got really fancy and set your treadmill into your floor, the height of the treadmill would make the tallest possible position of the GeekDesk too short to comfortably type while maintaining a good monitor height, even with a pretty darn tall monitor arm. Granted, I haven’t actually tested this setup, but my sense from the height presets I currently use is that it wouldn’t work out. (I generally max out the desk’s height when I’m standing at it, with my keyboard tray in a low position.)

The GeekDesk was the right price point at the time I made the purchase, but I’d consider getting a different brand if I were in the market for a sit/stand desk today.  At the very least, I’d say do more research than I did; there are far more options available today as standing desks gain popularity.

Monitor arm and accessories

I’ve got my 13″ MacBook Pro and external monitor in an ESI dual monitor holder and laptop tray. I love the arm 90% of the time, but it’s just barely too short for my desired ergonomic viewing angle and FaceTime webcam height. (I’m 5’11” with a fairly long torso; a monitor with an integrated webcam at the top would help with the latter point.) Test and measure to make sure the arm you get goes as high or low as you need, especially if you’re tall and/or you use an adjustable height desk. Mine definitely doesn’t have enough flexibility for my preferences; I could also use some monitor pitch tilting which it doesn’t offer. Some brands allow for a setup that let you buy a separate “raiser” piece; even if you don’t spring for that at the beginning, it’s a nice option to have if you discover you need more flexibility.

I strongly dislike my ESI laptop tray. The knobs on the bottom are insanely difficult to adjust, and the tray only slides small enough to snugly fit a 15″ laptop. The rubberized strips don’t actually hold a smaller laptop in place, so I have to jam something in there (currently two decks of cards) to space my 13″ laptop farther up in order to get an acceptable FaceTime camera height for video chats. (Vain, but come on; that’s how I spend 80% of my client interaction time. No one needs to see me with nine chins while we talk.)

If I were to make this purchase over again, I’d find something that was better compatible with my smaller hardware, but that still used a VESA bracket. (Note that the Humanscale laptop trays use their own proprietary latching system, while ESI uses the more standard VESA bracket system. I think other brands do the proprietary connector thing too; double check the connection hardware before you purchase.) Some better cord disguising in the laptop tray also wouldn’t hurt.

When I was researching monitor arms, I found that Ergotron arms are often way cheaper, but ultimately inferior. After reading reviews and checking measurements and weight limits, I determined that they weren’t right for my needs. But I pinned a zillion of them on my ergonomics board, in case you find that data helpful. I found it very helpful to check out monitor arms in person, though, as the overall build quality becomes much more apparent with a floor model you can move and swivel.

My ESI monitor arm system works well enough with my desk thickness, but just barely. You may actually need shims or spacers if you have  a very slim desk surface, which may end up looking ugly or compromising stability. These arms add a ton of weight, which may be a problem for some hydraulic sit/stand desks. And lastly, my model doesn’t handle super-huge heavy monitors like the older 27″ iMac, or possibly the Thunderbolt Display (much to my dismay). Check the weight limits of your desk itself as well as each arm of any monitor support systems before you get too deep into designing your setup.

Keyboad tray

I modded my GeekDesk with a custom ISE brand pull-out keyboard tray wide enough for a left and right mouse as well as a keyboard. (Because it’s custom there’s no retail link for it, but I purchased it and had it further customized at Keeney’s Office Supplies.)

My tray, while very wide, is just narrow enough that I need to get numpadless keyboard models in order to comfortably mouse both left and right. (These are a good idea anyway for proper ergonomics.) Most keyboard trays aren’t wide enough for dual mousing, but most users don’t need them to be. If you’re pro numpad; you may want to look for a model that has a separate mousing tray attached. Just be careful to minimize the distance your dominant hand has to travel to reach the mouse—I find that keyboard trays with a dedicated mouse platform often place the mouse way too far from the keyboard for my comfort.

Commence maximum type muffling!

<tray:width = 100%>

A huge advantage of the keyboard tray is greater flexibility with sit/stand setups. I opted for a tray with fairly complex swiveling and pivoting features that allow for different heights as well as depths and angles. This is better for keeping a neutral wrist position (especially when standing), as well as for compensating for the relatively low height of almost all monitor arms. You want your keyboard fairly low and your monitor fairly high (if you’re me and/or tall or slouchy), but sometimes you want a different height when you’re sitting than standing. I recommend springing for a more robust tray that gives you more options. I actually see that ISE makes a dedicated sit/stand desk version now, though I get by just fine with my less swoopy version.

If you opt for a dedicated keyboard tray, especially if you’re pairing a tray with an adjustable desk, I recommend finding a local office supply shop that can cut and/or otherwise customize things for you. You should also measure like crazy. The crossbar on GeekDesks is so far forward that it blocks a full keyboard tray brace installation. (I don’t really know the proper name for the piece I’m calling a brace, but it’s the long metal track that you screw directly into the desktop to mount the tray.) It’s really nice to test all the movements out anyway, so it’s worth the effort of finding an in-person shop.

You’ll also need to possibly use different hardware than what comes with your tray, depending on the thickness of your desk. If you cut down your brace length, I recommend finding or drilling more spots for screws to compensate for any brace length removed, just to make sure it’s very well attached to your desk. Can’t be too careful with super heavy and expensive equipment, ya know?

Oh, here’s my only real annoyance with the ISE tray: the whole thing is super high quality solid and HEAVY hardware, but then the little plastic doo-hickey that acts as a stopper is cheap and flimsy. (Not crazy about the fact that the stopper is a few millimeters taller than my GeekDesk is thick, either!) So when I adjust my tray a little too aggressively, especially when pulling it forward, a) the little ISE thing falls out, and b) sometimes the entire tray piece pops out of its track. I have to immediately stop whatever I’m doing, lift the heavy tray, and guide it carefully back into place.

The connection to hold the plastic thing also wears out with frequent removal and replacement, so the issue only becomes more pronounced over time. This is a problem I’ve been meaning to solve with creativity and possibly glue, but it’s an annoying design flaw that will probably irritate the sort of person who is interested in this blog post.

Keyboard and mouse

On that keyboard tray is an Evoluent vertical mouse, a Matias Laptop Pro keyboard, and a cheap Logitech wireless mouse on the left. Here is more detail on those, plus notes from my extensive keyboard research.

Evoluent vertical mouse

This mouse has totally sucky drivers, but good ergonomics in the hardware itself and good enough mouse functionality. It definitely takes a while to get used to, and isn’t great for activities like PC gaming where you need to have super fast response times. But it gets the job done, there are craploads of buttons if you’re a custom button person, and definitely reduces carpal tunnel type wrist strain. That isn’t my primary ergonomic concern, so it still sometimes hurts to use this mouse when my tennis elbow is flared up—which is why I keep a left hand mouse too.

I haven’t tried Evoluent’s wireless or Bluetooth vertical mice, but I’d like to upgrade to the latter eventually to free up a USB slot. However, their software is so crappy (half the button bindings don’t work at all in Windows 8.1, and they sometimes mysteriously reset themselves on any OS) that I’m reluctant to trust that the wireless models have successful Bluetooth or even proprietary wireless connectivity. If I ever bought one of these, I’d do so from a shop to which I could return easily if necessary.

Note that Evoluent does make a Mac-specific version of their mice, although I find that the PC one works fine on Mac (and actually works better on Mac than PC if you’re rocking a recent Windows OS). The company also makes right- and left-handed versions,  and  small and large sizes. I haven’t tried the left or small options in person, but I find the large to be perfect and can’t imagine that the small would be an improvement. (I mouse with my right hand dominantly, but have learned to mouse left to better manage my RSI. I don’t think I could fairly evaluate a dedicated left-handed mouse, though.)

One note of Evoluent ownership is that you should probably keep a cheap “guest mouse” available if anyone else uses your computer, like, ever. People unfamiliar with the Vertical Mouse tend to find it very intimidating. A cheap wireless Logitech that you can swap out does the job. (The Logitech I use for left-handed mousing is unremarkable and doesn’t merit elaboration here, except that I find symmetrical designs easier to manage with my non-dominant hand.)

I like that the Evoluent Vertical Mouse doesn’t need a dedicated mouse pad. It does just fine on bare surfaces, which I can’t say for Logitech or even some pricey dedicated gaming mice.

Matias Laptop Pro keyboard

The Laptop Pro was a stopgap solution for me—I needed a new keyboard FAST, ideally mechanical, ideally somewhat portable, and ideally a split ergonomic layout with some tenting options for comfort. The Laptop Pro really only checked the mechanical box; I intend to upgrade again eventually.

This thing is not as quiet as Matias advertises, so it’s just as clacky and distracting on mic as a deliberately noisy Das Keyboard. At least to my ear. Maybe you don’t mind that? Great!

The Laptop Pro is deceptively thick, heavy, and awkward to travel with. So while it has a smaller footprint than most keyboards, it isn’t actually a good portable keyboard at all (an Apple Bluetooth would be far superior, and neither offers any protection of the keys). I also sometimes have trouble with the Bluetooth connectivity even when it’s right in front of the target machine, but it’s hard to isolate the issue there.

That said, the battery life is amazing, and the fully powered charging ports are pretty darn cool too. It’s a very solid piece of hardware that feels well constructed. I’ve  had poor experiences with Matias’s customer support, but you probably won’t need it. I’ve always been able to solve wonky connectivity issues by just trying over and over again, unpairing and repairing, etc.

As I mentioned, though, I strongly prefer a split ergonomic layout, so I’ll probably pick up the Matias Ergo Pro when it finally releases. However, the ship date for this has changed four times since this spring, so if you’re desperate for ergonomic relief, you may not be able to wait. (That was the reason I sprung for the Laptop Pro even though it didn’t meet all of my needs.)

For a non-split keyboard with no tenting, I find the Laptop Pro astoundingly comfortable, and I do feel like I got my money’s worth. I can see it being a fantastic piece of hardware for people with less picky ergonomic needs than my own!

Other ergonomic keyboard options

Here are my conclusions on the other keyboards I’ve considered and rejected, in case you find those helpful:

Mechanical vs. not—I had been meaning to try a mechanical keyboard for years, and the folks at Geekhack.org finally got me to take the plunge. I’m completely sold and ruined for any membrane or rubber dome switch keyboard ever again. Not into the Apple-style ones, either, whatever those are called.

I found this link helpful in learning about which type of switches I like (Cherry MX Brown was my conclusion, although the Matias I eventually went with has its own proprietary switch type that’s similar in feel to the Cherry MX Brown). There’s also this Lifehacker piece, if you prefer hacking life over just reading web pages. And I learned a ton from MechanicalKeyboards.com even though I ultimately wound up purchasing elsewhere. They have GREAT options if your needs aren’t quite as picky and specific as mine; I’m still bummed I couldn’t pick up one of their cool backlit options!

Truly Ergonomic Keyboard—This keyboard was intriguing, but there were too many complaints about customer service to make me trust they’d handle a return well. The lack of tenting concerned me, because a tented keyboard I had tested while working at Amazon was far more comfortable, and I found their justification for no tenting pretty weak. More importantly, the special keyboard layout just seemed like too much to demand of users. I knew I’d be switching back and forth between this and a standard keyboard layout, which slows down my otherwise awesome typing speed. I also already have several international keyboard layouts kicking around in my brain, plus Mac and PC Ctrl vs. Cmd issues. I didn’t think I wanted to take on yet another one just because this one company said I should (with no tenting). :)

Goldtouch Go! Bluetooth—For the longest time this thing was incompatible with MacBooks (WHAT?!) yet worked with other Bluetooth hardware like iPhones, PCs, and Android phones. This made no sense to me, but a number of enraged Amazon reviews convinced me it was true. So I got on their mailing list and periodically harassed them every few months for over a year waiting for the updated version, only to eventually realize that I shouldn’t be trying so hard to snag a basic membrane keyboard anyway.

Well, GoldTouch never did email me when the redesign launched as promised , but they appear to have gone live with the fully Mac-compatible version. You can check that out and let me know if you like it. Its superior portability enticed me, even though it doesn’t seem as good for everyday typing. The folded-up factor seemed like a big help for travel, and the pseudo-tenting is a better ergonomic position than most travel keyboards offer. I may eventually get one of these if I end up doing loads more travel down the road, because it seems like the easiest to slip into my purse with an iPad Mini or even an iPhone.

Kinesis Advantage—this keyboard has different models ranging from expensive and complicated to really expensive and really complicated with foot pedals and everything. I’ve met people who swear by them, and I’ve tested them out for short periods of time, but the large space in between the two hands never felt like an advantage (hey-o!) to me. The expense and immense learning burden didn’t help, either. Definitely buy, borrow, or rent one of these from a place you can return it to if you give it a solid try and it doesn’t work for you. That said, bear in mind that anything that requires this drastic a relearning should get a lengthy trial period. I don’t feel that I gave it a full try, but I’m OK with that. I don’t believe it would fit on most keyboard trays because it’s quite deep compared to even most curved/split ergonomic keyboards.

Kinesis Freestyle + Ascent—The Kinesis Freestyle is another beloved ergonomic keyboard, but I found two major problems with it. 1) It’s got rubber dome switches instead of the vastly springier mechanical which I find way more comfortable. 2) It’s only comfortable with the Ascent hardware piece, which drastically increases the price and is just SO MUCH hardware. The Ascent also doesn’t fit well in some settings, such as in the distance between a keyboard tray and the top of a desk. All in all, it was just too much futzing and money for not a comfortable enough experience, at least for me. But I do find the Ascent’s tenting mechanism to be the most comfortable and versatile I’ve ever experienced in terms of hand/arm/wrist positioning. If this existed with mechanical key switches, and I had a few hundred extra bucks to blow, I might go back to this someday.

Chair and mat

Many ergonomic office shops sell dedicated standing desk mats, but I find those to be too hard on my feet. (It probably doesn’t help that I like to work barefoot or in socks/slippers.) I prefer my cushier Wellness Mat, which I stole from our kitchen sink area. My sense is that if you stand all the time, the firmer mats from an office store are better, but if you switch it up a ton like I do, or you’re just a shoe-hating hippie, a softer mat is your friend. See if you can test it out and return it if it doesn’t work for you.

When I elect to sit, I now use a HAG Capisco. This is the best task chair I’ve ever found for my needs, but it sure is weird! It’s made by a Danish company, and the idea is to promote “active sitting” which essentially means moving your ass around a lot.

You'd think it would be annoying to have the casters right on top of the mat, but it doesn't bug me. (Much.)

You’d think it would be annoying to have the casters right on top of the mat, but it doesn’t bug me. (Much.)

The seat contains a saddle-like lump in the middle that forces you to keep your legs apart, which can be tricky in a narrow skirt but I don’t tend to wear those. It also allows you to turn it around and sit backwards, leaning your torso forward on the back and armrests. I really like this option for longer phone calls when I don’t need to do much typing, but I can finagle typing in this position too if I need it which is nice.

I do still sometimes get weird issues in this chair, as with any chair—if I get super focused on a task for too long without shifting positions, I’m prone to some weird part of me falling asleep or feeling pinched. (But I’m not at a very healthy weight for my frame, so this tends to happen in any task chair.) I do find that the lumbar support plus saddle lump help me move around quite a bit, and the various pieces adjust just enough to help me switch up my positioning for good support.

There are a few options—you can elect to get a flat seat, but that removes the primary benefit so I wouldn’t recommend that route. You can also add on a headrest, footrest, foot ring, and different heights of pneumatic lift. I got the tallest lift in case I ever want to use it as a standing desk “perch”—not something I tend to do now, but I like the option. And I got the footring because when I tested it out in the store, that was the most comfortable at any height, but I’m finding that I don’t use it at all when sitting at a normal low height, only when I “perch” at my standing height which is very rare for me. It’s also very easy to add on later so maybe skip it in your initial purchase and see if you want to upgrade later. The headrest I would skip; I find it cumbersome and it doesn’t let you stretch out backwards or sit in the seat backwards. But generally, find a local showroom that lets you test out all the components before you spend.

Oh, another great thing about this chair is that it comes with many custom upholstery options, including several leathers and wool or hemp fabrics that are SO much more attractive than your average Corporate Polyester Bullshit Fabric. I got mine done in this bright red wool, which my cat and I both adore. You can’t tell a huge difference online, but the softer fashion-derived textile makes it read as a much less office-y chair in person, in my opinion.

Microphones and telephones

When I’m recording audio for a podcast, I use the Rode Podcaster in a boom and shock mount. It mostly stays out of the way during my day-to-day work, and I can pull it over to get right up close during audio sessions. The boom and shock are integral for me, but the boom arm I got as a kit from B&H Video is inferior (the arm slips all the time on my GeekDesk, and I’d like an easy-to-rig external pop filter, as I’ve noticed I kinda need it) so I wish I’d just bought this kit instead for less money. Either way, a boom arm is super helpful for allowing me to maintain a comfortable position while I’m recording, which sometimes takes ages. Even if you don’t get a boom for sound reasons, you’ll want to get one for ergonomic reasons so you don’t crane your neck in an awkward mic-kissing position for what can easily be two hours with prep and wrap-up. This is especially true if you type and/or reference materials on the screen while you’re recording.

Oh, and if you spend a long time on land line phone calls like it’s 1997 (I sure do), get a decent hands-free headset. I got this AT&T headset which works fine with my Panasonic cordless phone even though Panasonic claims it won’t. LIES. This thing works with Skype and Microsoft Lync too, although not FaceTime I don’t think (haven’t tried). Don’t be the idiot who gets a neck crick because you cradle the phone between your ear and shoulder!

And of course, for you old-school phone people, remember to put your phone close enough to your arms to minimize ergonomic strain. If you’re like me, you use the thing more than your brain admits, so be realistic about your phone frequency to distance calculations. :)

My weird office constraints

I use my home office for writing, recording, remote video conferencing, and in-person meetings with clients. While the bulk of my clientele is now remote, I see enough folks on site that I feel the need to keep my space attractive, professional, and functional for that purpose.

Because of this, and also because of the general layout of my office, my GeekDesk floats in the middle of the room, facing the door to my office. That can make cable management and disguising much more difficult than if I had a wall to help hide things. It’s still better for me this way, but it means that cords and cables can be kind of nightmarish.

So pretty, but for all those cords!

Pretty enough office, but for all those cords!

It also means that I have to kind of awkwardly swivel my monitors in order to see what I need while keeping a chunk of my desk clear to have line of sight with my in-person clients. (Not that I’m, like, casting ranged spells or anything, haha. But I want to be able to actually look at them instead of having a giant display blocking eye contact.)

I have to balance these client-friendly setup factors with my own ability to write and record comfortably the rest of the time. This is not a common set of constraints, but I’m listing my needs in case it helps anyone else figure out the right setup for their own office. For the most part, I spend enough energy beautifying the other elements in my office (cool wall color/art, nice rug, pretty objects displayed in bookshelves) that I think my on-site clients are forgiving of my existing cable and monitor ugliness. But it’s still something I’m always seeking to improve. Let me know if you’ve successfully solved these sorts of problems in a similar setup!

See? I'm distracting you with pretty-ish bookshelves.

See? I’m distracting you with pretty-ish bookshelves and of course cat pictures.

Where to buy ergonomic stuff

Whenever possible, I order my stuff from Ergo Depot, which has showrooms in Portland and San Francisco. I can’t recommend them enough—shockingly great prices, no tax, free shipping, helpful employees who give great customer service, well stocked showrooms where you can play and test, and good return policies on non-custom stuff. They don’t give me a cent to shill for them, but it’s rare that I recommend a company this enthusiastically. Go give them your money.

ErgoDepot has the most complete upholstery options I’ve seen for the HAG Capisco, too. They’ll also send you swatches for free, though be warned those can take a while. Wherever you are, definitely find a place like this to try out the bigger-ticket items like desks and chairs, and possibly monitor arms too. Those you really don’t want to purchase sight unseen.

As for keyboard trays, as I mentioned, you’ll likely have to mod them out to fit your desk so you should buy them from a shop you can visit in person. Keeney’s was that shop for me, but if you’re not in my area, don’t be afraid to call around the more corporate-driven office supply operations to find a place with the right selection and ability to customize. It can be hard to find what you need in a consumer-facing office supply store, but you can even call tech companies in your area and ask them who does ergonomic assessments and/or provides office furniture, and go from there.

Keyboards and mice I’ve bought online, but I’m often torn between sites like Amazon and Newegg that have better pricing and shipping, and original manufacturer sites that are guaranteed to have the correct version of a product. When possible, I check the SKU and the critical reviews and their dates on Amazon/Newegg to see how likely it is that I’ll get burned by being sent the wrong product. But usually, if it’s the site or seller’s fault, you can get a return processed with no shipping fee, it just might slow you down a bit.

For this level of ergonomic wizardry, don’t even bother with normal office supply stores like Staples, Office Depot/Max, etc. They don’t stock a high enough quality level or a large enough selection with deep enough customization to be worth your time. Find the dedicated, nerdy shop nearest you that sells sit/stand desks, and ask them for resources if they don’t stock everything you need.

I think that about covers everything I have to weigh in about ergonomic equipment. What did I miss? Got any questions I can answer? I wish you all comfortable and healthy tech usage!

Quit lying about cords and cables

Something has really been bugging me lately. As I’ve become increasingly obsessed with fancy shelter magazines and blogs in my quest to beautify our home, I’ve come to realize that those publications totally bullshit their readers.

The glossing over of cables and heaters and vents is as maddeningly deceptive to me as celebrities Photoshopping out their imperfections. I feel like all these helpful make-your-home-nice guides are presenting a completely unrealistic standard by hiding every cord and cable in their perfectly uninhabitable but elegant spaces.

Emily Henderson offered a helpful peek into that world in her recent post. I’m OK with some tweaks to sell a pretty magazine—like Photoshopping out how that one console thing totally bowed in the middle (I guess). I’m also fine with contrived styling for a perfect shot—I mean, I like when Emily posts realistic shots side by side to give a dose of reality, but I accept that a stylist and designer is mainly going to post designed and styled images.

Right = truth, left = LIES. (All images via Emily Henderson’s blog.)

But I dislike LIES (which were clearly at Domino’s behest, not Emily’s. I don’t fault her, I fault the industry!) Little beautifications I get. But removing unsightly but NECESSARY elements like heaters and cords pisses me off on principle; it’s like pretending we don’t have electricity or indoor plumbing. These innovations have an aesthetic tax. Admit it, embrace it, and show me how to work around it, dammit!

Anyway, in my reality, heaters and cords exist and it sucks. Heaters can be hard to work around, for sure. I’m glad we now live in a home with forced air vents instead of baseboard heaters—those are both ugly and a major fire hazard! We just have to get stuff that sits up on legs and allows heaters to flow air underneath.

But oh, the cords. THE CORDS! Cord management is my single biggest annoyance in the two rooms I care most about, appearances-wise—our living room and my office.

Here, for example, is my new media console solution, complete with the consoles that mainly belong to my video game designer of a husband:

Trust me that this is the Extremely Pretty version.

Looks busy but decent enough, right? (Try to ignore the giant white cable on the right; I refuse to/have no idea how to Photoshop it out. It’ll be gone once we rewire the outlet because blah blah 1947 house.)

And here it is in relation to our TV, in case that helps explain the context of the entire space and its constraints:

Bonus points for noticing the crooked Wii sensor bar!

But here’s my secret efforts to make it look even this okay:

Don't even get me STARTED about how no blogs ever show rooms with honeycomb blinds like these.

See? There’s a huge mass of cables I’ve only somewhat concealed. You can see them if you look at the whole console at a fully level height, but it’s so low that mostly you can only see the tangle back there when you’re sitting on the couch and deliberately looking for cords. Possible, but not super likely.

Oh, and here’s my other sneaky trick: be careful with those curtains!

HUZZAH!

Yeah, these lightweight silk curtains are kind of puffed out from the wall because they’re basically concealing an entire R2D2 chassis width of just cable knots back there.

If I lived my life in the Domino Universe, I could just magically wish away these sorts of mortal tech-loving concerns. Instead, I spent hundreds on curtains plus hardware for the entire space in part to disguise this sort of cordage. I obsessively measured and fretted for months and pinned media storage solutions that were low-profile and kept that space feeling light and airy enough but still offered enough storage to fit all our consoles, somehow, yet breathed enough to let them all vent sufficiently (a real problem that glass-doored media consoles fail to address, FYI) and allowed our heater to heat. I stacked books and arranged lamps and pretty baskets filled with DVDs to conceal the worst of the cords. And it’s still nowhere near as schmancy as a magazine would tolerate. Which I’m OK with, but I wish they were, too!

I would MUCH rather buy a magazine that showed me expensive but insanely clever tricks for, say, building cord-management conduits directly into your walls, than faking that they just didn’t exist. Hell, I have this entire board of TV and media console disguises. I ought to start a board just for managing cord concealment options. Domino sure as hell isn’t going to do it for me!

I was on some podcasts

Hey folks, I was on a couple podcasts. I forgot to blog about them (or maybe I just skipped it because it felt redundant). Want to give them a listen? OK then!

Systematic #117 with Brett Terpstra—Brett is a rad nerd and we talked about a number of nerdy and non-nerdy things, including pets, kids, fertility treatment, image,  identity, selfies, selfishness, teenagers apps, development, speaking, Myers-Briggs whatnot, and more. I forget the rest. It was fun. Really fun. Oh, and mind-mapping. And working. And time. And productivity. Nerd stuff. Fun!

Less than or Equal #13 with Aleen Simms—Aleen is a fantastic advocate for diversity within geekdom and we talked about feminists, feminism, sexism, horrible employers, horrible workplaces, horrible comments, horrible experiences, and why you shouldn’t discredit anonymous stories you hear from women who have experienced insane levels of sexism and harassment and other bullshit. It was fun even though we both sighed in disgust a lot! Sometimes sighing is necessary!

Oh, and I was on some other even less recent podcasts. Want me to link to them too? OK then!

Better Know a Jackal #9 with Mike Beasterfeld—we talked about podcasts and TV and movies and games and linguistics and productivity and App Camp 4 Girls and ergonomics and some other stuff. Apparently I talked quite fast, even for me, which we both knew might happen, or at least I did. The only feedback I got on the episode was that I talked fast or that it was utterly fascinating, so I guess that’s a net positive, so maybe you should listen if you like fascinating things discussed at breakneck pace I guess? I am horribly biased here so don’t trust my input. Look at the show notes to get a sense of just how fast the talking was.

Tech Douchebags #8 with Jordan Cooper—I was on this a WHILE back and I think I forgot to ever blog-link it or maybe I decided not to because it was pretty profane but then again I write profane things here occasionally and am known to say them even more often so maybe that’s silly and anyway here is a snarkier show I was on with the hilarious Jordan back in May. It was snarky and fun! Jordan is both of those things! Not everyone needs an online dating coach!

Happy listening! Blame yourself if you think an episode is going to upset you based on the contents or opinions I’ve alluded to and then you listen to it and it does! You were kind of warned! OK then!

Help me make a closet look cool

Recently, all our closet shelving came crashing down in the middle of the night. It sucked. But I’m taking the opportunity to install a way better system than the cheap janky poorly-installed one that the previous owners had put in. And I need help!

After some useful Facebook input, I opted for The Container Store’s Elfa system. Even though it’s kind of expensive compared to some other systems, it’s worth it to us to buy the system that can be installed by someone else, since the main blunders we’ve made in home ownership involve attempting to mount things in the wall and failing. Boo. So we’re doing Elfa in platinum. Here’s an example closet that’s hilariously perfect looking!

Hey, but it sort of matches my blog, right?

I’m sort of tempted to take the opportunity to turn our closet into some weird glam corner of seductive mystery (probably in part because I’ve been looking at pictures like this one; it doesn’t help that half their stock photos have like an overstuffed armchair and a lamp and a fucking birdcage inside the closet). After all, this may be the only time since we moved in that I’ll completely remove everything in it, leaving the walls open for some sort of design revamp, you know? And a walk-in closet feels like a safe fun space to go a little design crazy, since it’s not as prominent as any other area in the house. And who doesn’t want a little fun when they get ready in the morning?

Daydream in Red by Hygge & WestMy first thoughts leaned towards wallpaper. I love the idea of wallpaper *right now* somewhere in our home, but I’m sure that my desire to trend-proof will mean that I’m regretful of it down the road. A closet seems like a less regret-prone space than, say, a bathroom or hallway. So I was thinking this Hygge and West pattern, that’s super cheery and fun and bright and on clearance! Great, right?

But then I asked Grant about it and he summed it up well that this is something that looks like a very specific era (i.e. like 2008, my guess not his) and that we’d be sick of it in ten years. Which is totally true, and while not tragic, it’s kind of annoying, right? I mean, I’m not going to want to strip and redo it then. And it DOES read as something incredibly au courant as of like four years before we even bought the house. Already dated; move on.

I don't know the source for this. :(My next inspiration was Nina Campbell’s Perroquet wallpaper, which while stunning is probably insanely expensive and way too girly for Grant’s taste. I mean, he’d let me steamroller him into putting this up, but I’d always feel a TINY bit guilty about it.

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 6.18.27 PMA close runner-up in the “vaguely avian Chinoiserie” category included this Anthropologie paper (one of their less expensive) which I love but has similar girliness and timelessness concerns, plus I dunno about the yellow.

For some reason it looks way better in this image (which I got from bossy color).And then there’s something super Asian and saturated, like Schumacher’s Chiang Mai (inspired by bossy color). But then this is ALSO probably ungodly expensive, and I don’t like the knockoff nearly as much. Even though it is more masculine feeling (at least to me, dragons over birds) I still suspect Grant will find it a) too Asian, b) too busy, and c) too bright.

sheila bridgesIf I had all the money in the world, I would get some Sheila Bridges stripey wallpaper in this orange color and install it everywhere, walls AND ceiling, and be done with it, because our master bedroom is already orange and black and white and JUST LOOK AT THIS AWESOMENESS. (Sheila Bridges is, like, Domino fancy—I first learned of her via her Harlem Toile de Jouy design in their magazine/book/somewhere, and some silly part of me loves having a *recognizable designer something* in our home even though I logically know that’s ridiculous for non-rich people.)

I just can’t spend $175 a roll right now; sorry Sheila. It’s a stretch to even do the Elfa system given that in the space of one month, our car broke down, our closet shelves crashed, our washer leaked so we need a new one AND we need to spend money repairing the damage we can’t DIY from that, AND we took two trips to see two friends get married which involved paying for two hotel stays. Sigh. No badass bold stripes for moi, nor any other designer elements. Those Hygge & West and Anthropologie wallpapers are probably my only viable options price-wise, which made me start leaning away from paper since those are my least favorites.

PLUS, the walls and ceiling in our closet are full of crazy cuts and angles, which make it insane to wallpaper, AND I realized that I’d be covering up most of the walls with clothes, which sort of makes wallpaper cost and effort pointless, unless I only did the ceiling, which is an option since it’s huge and sloped and prominent, but is still maybe more work than it’s worth and maybe more expense too since it’s hard to get smaller quantities of nice wallpaper.

SO. Now I’m thinking painting. But not, like, painting the whole room, because a) I’m lazy (I can rope my mom into helping with wallpaper but not necessarily paint although I haven’t tried that hard yet, see “lazy” above) and b) I can’t think of a single specific color that I would want to do. BUT I saw this weeks ago in my RSS reader, and I kind of love it.

hallway

It’s this super organic pattern that Shauna from Beautiful Matters did by hand, and I think it has a cool bold organic yet modern vibe and would be some work, sure, but actually seems less annoying than actually painting the room—I could leave the blah contractors’ beige in there and even do the stripes in a metallic that would play well with the platinum shelving.

But I showed this to Grant and this is what he said:

I think that idea is much better than the execution.

Like, I don’t think it looks bad, but if I went through that much work I would want it to look much better.

This room is by Mary McDonald but I have no idea where the pinner got the source image.I totally get what he’s saying, but I’m not sure I … care. I pressed him and I think it mostly means that his taste gravitates towards a more regimented, taped-off intentional stripe look. But, like, Shauna’s project seems WAY easier than taping and painting bold stripes. But then maybe I’m crazy! Maybe tape WOULD make doing stripes super duper easy! And I’ve always loved this one green stripey room by Mary McDonald; maybe I should try to paint THAT!?

Should I paint weird hand-done vertical stripe thingies like this in the closet? Should I tape and paint (or free-hand) a more graphic stripe like that Sheila paper I love so much or this Mary room I love so much? Should I just leave it blah beige since it’s JUST A CLOSET? NO I can’t do that, not when I roped my mom into assisting me in transforming it.

Please assist me in making a decision so I can make my closet punchy and fun, people! I welcome your ideas. :)

Notes to self about buying tech

Always spring for the biggest hard drive possible. On any device. Yes, even if it costs several hundred dollars more than the option you think is big enough. It’s not.

Always get AppleCare now that it covers screen breakage and water damage (at least sometimes; non-binding; consult your local annoying Genius for details; not a Genius).

Always get the most RAM possible.

Always get the best processor possible.

Always check the MacRumors Buyers’ Guide in case they’re about to release an update to whatever you’re about to buy.

Always set up as a new machine instead of importing old machine stuff, even though it’s 2014 and this probably shouldn’t have to be on your list at this point.

Always get at least one extra charger/charging cable. Always buy them first-party. Quit wasting time with the Amazon Basics cables whose heads are too big to fit elegantly into any port ever. Also quit wasting time with the cheap no-brand ones for a dollar that wear out in 1/10th the time of the expensive first-party cables (which do eventually wear out right around when your normal warranty expires).

Always set a calendar reminder to check your hardware including cables before your warranty/AppleCare plan expires, leaving enough time to schedule an appointment via the proper Genius channels to demonstrate your frayed cable.

Always be careful when unplugging stuff from cables (hahaha yeah right).

Always follow up on said calendar reminder, even though we all know it should have been an OmniFocus task with a due date instead.

Always buy all software via the developer site instead of the Mac App Store version that then can’t be upgraded except for an insane fee. (Even if the blog post you’re typing is peppered with affiliate links for the Mac App Store version of software.)

Always turn off the thing that automatically adds apps across multiple devices.

Always leave on that annoying “launch iPhoto upon plugin” setting because otherwise you will forget forever and run out of space because of pictures you took of your cat.

Always actually plug in your iPhone whenever you sit at your computer because you need to remember to offload those cat pics so you can take more cat pics unencumbered even though you have very little space left because of all those apps you accidentally synced to your phone.

Always remember not to plug your iPhone in during any important conversation or process because the launching of iPhoto will crash whatever task you’re currently urgently doing.

Always put off sorting your photos until the collection has taken up so much hard drive space as to become untenable.

Always pay for the pro plan of Dropbox and don’t think about it again, just use the shit out of it because you cheaped out on hard drive space so now you’re beholden to the Cloud Gods to store all your shit for recurring monthly fees because there’s no way you’re going to be able to safely upgrade your hard drive now.

Always pay for the recurring monthly fees of reputable online backup services like Backblaze even if it seems hypocritical given how much you resent paying for Dropbox.

Always be nice to customer service people because you feel bad about that time you bitched the Dropbox CSA out because he wouldn’t give you a refund after you misunderstood that it wasn’t compatible with Time Machine* and you ended up needing a different service on top of the service you got from Dropbox but then it turned out to be really useful to have a giant paid Dropbox account after all.

Always read the specs before you pay for software assuming specific and critical functionality exists when in fact it doesn’t.

Always pay attention when Backblaze and Dropbox start to yell at you that they can’t fully update your shit because you have too little hard drive space left. Pay more attention when Mac OS starts yelling about it too. Pay even more attention when every single podcast suddenly simultaneously has CleanMyMac as a sponsor as if the entire technosphere is yelling at you. Always listen and buy the goddamn software you clearly need at this point.

Always pay for the full version up front.

Always run it immediately.

Always delete what it says.

Always explore deeper ways you can leverage it to free up more hard drive space so you don’t run into this problem again next week.

Always spring for the biggest hard drive possible.

 

 

*Always wonder why Apple puts a space between Time and Machine but not between Apple and Care. But mostly just get bigger hard drives, dummy.

Pinterest iOS bookmarklet workaround

Ages ago, I was annoyed by how irritatingly hard it was to pin images to Pinterest on my iPhone. I was essentially pissed that iOS 8 extensions didn’t yet exist. I hacked together my own bookmark link that was a combo of Marco Arment’s Instapaper bookmarklet-adding instructions of yore (something like this), plus whatever code the native “Pin It” bookmarklet generated.

The URL code for my mobile bookmarklet is:

javascript:void((function(d)%7Be=d.createElement('script');e.setAttribute('type','text/javascript');e.setAttribute('charset','UTF-8');e.setAttribute('src','//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinmarklet.js?r='+Math.random()*99999999);d.body.appendChild(e);%7D(document)));

This code works better than most native “Pin It” buttons on most retailer websites, in my experience. It lets you pick any image on the page instead of forcing just one. I never did bother trying to figure out how to strip stupid retailer default text, but my hope/expectation was that retailers would get less shitty about this over time with increased Pinterest fluency. Ha ha.

I’m only posting this now because I’ve found that so far, Pinterest’s new iOS 8 extension is a bunch of janky bullshit. Here’s hoping that changes soon, but blogging it out there just in case! Let’s all cross our extra 6 Plus long fingers that Pinterest cleans things up before you actually wind up getting frustrated enough to implement this solution. :)

ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ Unicode madness

*Disclaimer* Unicode is not well supported in some browsers, especially on mobile. This is tricky since this entire post is about Unicode. I’m sorry your eyes might have to see ugly unsupported squares or blank spaces instead of the proper pretty entities I intended. If you’re interested in reading, soldier on; the characters in the actual list at the end are better supported than the letters that spell out the Apple Watch in the first paragraph. You can do it! Harass your favorite web dev about this today; they’ll *love* it!

Hey nerds! The recent iPhone and ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ announcement has most people in my Twitter feed geeking out over how to write “ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ” all fancy like Apple did. (In fact, my live tweet during the event explaining how to make the  character is my most popular tweet yet. Crazy, eh?)

For years I’ve been rocking an increasingly lengthy Special Characters note, which syncs across all my ᴅᴇᴠɪᴄᴇs. A few of these can be accessed via native keyboards like the Japanese one, but with iOS 8’s new keyboard capabilities I find it much easier to just stick the useful characters (mainly just the empty and full stars for fake review snark) here and delete the Japanese keyboard I never use for actual kana anyway.

Note that these Unicode characters aren’t the same thing as Emoji (that’s a whole separate ranty post) so I find they’re usually more annoying to obtain via typical channels such as an emoji app or keyboard. Copying and pasting from the note has been a pretty good solution for me so far.

The second most recent (penultimecent?) Overtired episode  made reference to writing ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ out all fancy-like, so I thought Christina and Brett might appreciate my little list. (Heck, maybe Brett will decide to make a cool tool for it.) But then I was like, wait a minute… I send this list to tweeps and coworkers and clients about three times a year. I finally realized that maybe I should just blog it (duh).

Here are my favorites with my use case annotations, followed by my semi-exhaustive list and a Unicode smallcaps converter link I stumbled upon. I’ve added and removed things over the years to try to keep it mostly useful; I keep paring down different styles of arrows.

What characters am I missing? What would you add, or what do you constantly use and hate fiddling around to find? I’d love to know!

My frequently used Unicode characters

‽ = Interrobang
Marco Arment used this in a tweet at me once (I forget what about) and it inspired me to start up this doc. I also have a keyboard shortcut turning ?! and !? into ‽, so I don’t have to keep track of which one is valid, haha. (Nerds who are nerdy enough to know the difference but not nerdy enough to implement the Unicode shortcut surely exist and might set me straight.) This character is great for expressing baffled wonderment and the like, but I really wish Apple knew how to enforce an initial capital letter following it. Anyone know a hack for THAT?*

∞ = Infinity
I use this all the time as character-saving hyperbole. Like this tweet about my first babysitting experience in about a decade, to estimate the number of diapers changed. (Better than a smiling poo pile emoji, right?)

® ™ © = Legalese
I like using these for snarky fake product, company, and slogan jokes. Maybe you like using them to actually respect trademark guidelines, or ironically imply deferential respect to a brand you hate (or genuinely imply it to one you actually like but if that’s the case I’m not 100% clear as to why you enjoy reading my blog tbh).

∴ ≠ ≤ ≥ = Logic and Math Stuff
I like these (therefore, not equal to, less than or equal to, and greater than or equal to) for character-saving shorthand when making a point on Twitter. Remember, kids, don’t actually argue on the Internet if you enjoy your life. Jokey arguments only.

I just thought of this one

♯ = Sharp
I’ve never actually done this, but I just realized you might be able to use this instead of a hash character if you want to shorthand numbers or ironic hashtags or something without it converting to actual hashtag syntax in social media environments. So I’m adding that here in case it solves some weird problem you sort of had. I can’t believe I gave it a <h3> section either.

The list

Just copy from “Special Characters” through the URL, omitting the snarky footnote inelegantly implemented at the end of this post. I’m sorry/you’re welcome.

Special characters


®

©

ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ

°




·




¢


























α
β
Ξ
ξ
Γ
γ
Δ
δ
Π
π
ε
ζ
Σ
σ
ς
η
τ
Θ
θ
ι
Φ
φ
κ
χ
Λ
λ
Ψ
ψ
Μ
μ
Ω
ω
































http://fsymbols.com/generators/smallcaps/

 

*If the answer is 26 individual keyboard shortcut hacks for each instance of it plus a letter, or 52 for each instance of !? and ?! plus each letter if you can’t stack two shortcuts together, then congrats! You are officially nerdier/more patient than I am. Come type them in on my giant 6 Plus that I hope to obtain soon and I’ll give you some free online dating advice in exchange. Look, I don’t mean to profile, but it’s possible you need it if this is how you spend your time. Single 20s Me can totally relate.

Initial iPhone 6 Plus impressions

Make no mistake; I don’t actually have my 6 Plus yet. But I went out of my way to try and get one early in line Friday morning. When I found out for sure that the store wouldn’t have the stock to accommodate my order, it was only half an hour before they opened their doors. I decided to stick around and get my hands on the demo 6 Plus as a sanity check.

The manager was kind enough to take this pic of the phone (and my ass and my ill-conceived skinny jeans, but let’s stay focused). He also let me put the demo model in my purse so I could make sure it fit in the internal pockets. Even with the annoying security dongle thingy, it was very helpful to get to do this. And I decided there’s nothing to worry about, size-wise.

My use case

I have super severe tennis elbow in both arms. This means that I’ve gotten used to mostly typing two-handed since halfway through my usage of the very first iPhone, when my RSI injury occurred. It’s annoying, but I’m way faster and more accurate when I use two hands anyway. Yes, I do occasionally poke around one-handed, but that’s totally when I drop my phone or introduce typos or what have you. For me, “significant” one-handed use (like furious text entry) has long been a bad habit I needed to quit.

As for storing the device, I’m a lady who usually carries a purse. Even if the purse pockets that seem to be dedicated for cell phones are too small to accommodate a 6 Plus (not as problematic in recent purses), there’s usually this other larger zippered pocket opposite the “cell phone and pens” side. The 6 Plus fits (always in portrait, sometimes in landscape) in this zippered pocket in all my existing bags. My main concern is actually minor scratching/screen damage from touching said zipper, since I’m not sure any reputable screen protectors have shipped yet. In past years I’ve been inconsistent about screen protector usage, but I’d plan on using one specifically because the 6 Plus’s size means it’s more likely to knock into internal purse hardware.

I had no trouble fitting the 6 Plus poorly into my back pocket. I don’t tend to deliberately carry my iPhone in most pants pockets; front pockets are annoying for me (and often too small in lady pants, sigh) and back pockets have always looked weird and felt like a potential security risk (from pickpocketing to accidental toilet dropping). Back pocketing my iPhone has always felt like something ill advised, like a bad habit I wanted to quit. A larger form factor will force me to quit being lazy about securing my giant, expensive, blingy mini computer, you know?

The phone itself

The camera bulge is barely noticeable. I mean, sure, it’s more obvious than before, but it’s no big deal. Quit whining, tech Twitter. :) It’s NOTHING like the giant bulge on, say, a Nokia Lumia, and the pics do seem stellar. (Didn’t get to test the OIS in a low light setting, but it seemed even better than my 5s, as was expected.)

The screen is lovely. Didn’t notice anything janky with older apps, but everything on the phone appeared to be a special demo version so I doubt they had them loaded with shitty scaled-up apps. (Fun note; there was a copy of Threes on the demo phones! Nice plug, right? Pardon my terrible surreptitious pic.)

IMG_9299

The body style may be reminiscent of the original iPhone, but the 6 Plus’s external build quality feels nowhere near as nice as the first iPhone. The glass has a weird curved edge where it meets the body (can you kinda see its reflection in this awkwardly snapped shot?) and it actually seems to cheapen the whole look; it makes the screen seem like it’s made of plastic to me. The metal on the back isn’t as great as that first gen iPhone; again, it feels oddly plasticky, like when they try to trick you into thinking an appliance is stainless steel with a shitty layer of bullshit that inevitably peels within weeks. The buttons don’t have the same feel of incredibly sturdy and expensive materials. This phone feels great, don’t get me wrong, but I’m clearly super nostalgic for v1 of this thing, and the 6 Plus doesn’t really scratch that itch in person.

Oh, and Gruber is totally right! It’s super, duper weird to have that sleep-wake button on the side. That’s seriously going to mess with me, haha. I’ll fail to silence calls speedily for at least a month after I get it. I’m annoyed I didn’t also test the stronger vibrate motor that Gruber mentioned, but I forgot in my hurry to not block other customers who were actually going to buy something that day.

The gold is surprisingly tacky looking. Specifically, the whitish plastic accents on the back of the 6 Plus look terrible with that champagney gold. I had no space gray (also known as “gray”) model against which to compare, but I feel like black plastic accents will be subtler. It was like the white ones were sort of transluscent, which felt like a mismatch with the design vibe the rest of the device was going for. And of course, with black I’ll get the better contrast to make the screen look even better. (I still wish that the gold and black model Siracusa once theorized about existed; I’d totes get that.)

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 2.57.38 PMEdited to add: this helpful view on Target’s website actually shows me that the back of the Space Gray model still has ugly whitish translucent plastic on the back. I still think I’m going with this model, though, which I definitely wouldn’t have decided sight unseen.

The ordering process

I was at an out of town wedding during the night preorders went live, so I wasn’t timely about it. When I got home later that night, I tried placing a pre-order (at maybe 12:30 PM) and it was a train wreck via every Apple channel.

After some dogged research, I determined that the issue seemed to be that AT&T had a rule that they would only let me preorder and have it shipped to the address associated with my wireless account. An AT&T rep later confirmed this; they don’t permit ANY in-store pickup preorders. This seems insane to me since their competition clearly does permit in-store pickup preordering—and their shipping estimates even half an hour after launch were several weeks out. Such a crappy customer experience, and that seemingly random rule    is so poorly communicated to both customers and AT&T/Apple employees. (It took three escalations to get a clear answer.)

Anyway, I decided to try my luck at waiting in line, partly because I thought it might be kind of entertaining. (I’ve been an iPhoner on alternating years since the first gen, and I’ve never once waited in line.) So I got up at 4 and drove to my local Apple Store… where some 300 folks were already camping out. A confusing awkward encounter with an ex Apple retail employee (he thought he knew me, I thought I knew him, we were both wrong) convinced me to try my luck waiting in the nearby AT&T line instead. I did, and it  wound up being much more friendly and low volume. (Didn’t actually get me a phone though; d’oh!)

As we waited, I wound up explaining a bunch of AT&T features and options to many people in line, as well as loaning out pens for these stupid survey checklist things the employees handed out. It was a little hilarious. Their “Next” gimmick to get you to pay buttloads was very poorly understood. I also hadn’t realized that they would let you pay full retail price to avoid a two-year contract lock-in; I think that option is new for them. Us old time iPhoners theorized that AT&T would eventually cut the unlimited data plan into which many of us were grandfathered; if/when they do, I will probably jump ship since I find them to be an unpleasant carrier in so many ways.

I had actually looked into switching our household to another carrier  last year for my 5s purchase. I was deterred from T-Mobile by many reports of lesser network coverage in rural areas where friends and family live; I was reluctant to consider Verizon because they didn’t used to allow voice and data usage at the same time. (I haaaate talking on the phone without being able to multitask in email or with navigation on.) Verizon now seems to have solved that, but I’m not sure it’s worth bothering since they’re another “expensive” carrier. Still, if I do get kicked out of AT&T’s remaining $30/person unlimited data tier, I fully expect to jump ship somewhere.

After all this kerfluffle, I think we plan to order my 6 Plus at the same time as a new MacBook for Grant sometime next week, so we can finance it interest free. By the way, if you’ve never considered Apple’s financing option via Barclay, I highly recommend taking a look at it—most laptop purchases by people with decent credit will yield either 12 or 18 months of no interest, which is ample time to pay it off via reasonable monthly payments with no extra expense (unless you’re buying the $10k Mac Pro. And actually, I kinda wonder how this will work with gold ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ models, ya know? Hm.)

Obviously, don’t be cavalier about opening up lines of credit, especially if you’re trying to qualify for something bigger like a home loan—but I love this option and I’m glad to use it every couple years or so. The Barclay reps will even help you figure out the exact payment amount necessary to perfectly zero out at the end of the term.

So I won’t actually *get* my 6 Plus for several weeks, unless I manage to snag one at a store and decide to just pony up for it. Which I might. We’ll see. I’ll be in NYC soon; maybe I’ll buy one at the 5th Ave flagship store and then immediately get mugged before I’ve set up Touch ID.

Oh, and that reminds me: when I was chatting with a guy at Target after failing to buy one there, he said the 6 Plus is even bigger than [insert name of giant Android phone whose name I forget] and that that Android thing was his most commonly returned item because “it’s just way too big.” To him and his whiny customers, I say this: suck it up and get a purse! <3

Jackal Interview

Hey y’all! Fans of the podcasting network 5by5 have been mostly lovingly coined “Jackals” for their sometimes helpful and sometimes heckling input in the network’s live IRC chatroom. One motivated jackal, Mike Beasterfeld, has been conducting a series of interviews with other jackals.

My episode aired today, should you care to listen! And you can subscribe to the show if you want to get to know the rest of the geeks who form Jackal Nation. :)

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