Bifocal Safety Glasses

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I happened upon these while on vacation in a hardware store (yes, I go to hardware stores while on vacation). These safety glasses provide great eye protection and the bifocal lens allows me to perform closeup tasks without resorting to pulling them off for my reading glasses. Essentially a perfect solution for those who work in a shop with ‘older’ active eyes.

-- Mark Ramirez  

Dewalt Bifocal Protective Safety Glasses
1x, 1.5x, 2x, 2.5x, 3x magnification
$12

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Dewalt



 

Levenger Pocket Briefcase

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From day planners to PDAs to smartphones to the hipster PDA, I’ve tried many different systems for organizing my life. It has taken a couple of decades, but smartphones are finally to the point where they can do almost everything I want.

However with phones, data entry is slow and strict, and retrieval can sometimes be a pain. For the past several years now I have been using the Pocket Briefcase, and it’s the perfect complement to my phone and computer. The skinny is that it’s a wallet with a writing surface for a 3×5 card, and a slot for a pencil or pen. Simple as that.

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Now, when I want to jot down an idea (including an illustration or sketch), an appointment, or some detail (e.g., a phone number), all I have to do is open my wallet. Start-up time is nil, it never runs out of battery, input is loose, and I can can pass cards to others.

At the end of the day I go over my notes and transfer those I want to keep to my phone or computer. Entering everything at once is much faster than entering things throughout the day.

Finally, the Pocket Briefcase has a few different slots to store cards in, so I can store things like travel details, grocery lists, and driving directions. I was carrying a wallet anyway; this one is just so much more useful than any other.

-- Justin Russell  

Bomber Jacket International Pocket Briefcase
$69

Available from and manufactured by Levenger



Ott-Lite LED Task Lamp

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I have been looking for a desk/task light, but couldn’t find one that wouldn’t get in my way. I impulsively picked up this lamp at an office supply store and really liked that it was compact when folded, and that it turns on when opened. Then my husband pointed out that it was cordless. Sold.

Since then, I have fallen in love with this thing. It’s great for throwing a lot of light onto small creative projects. The LEDs are nice and bright (and don’t get hot), and I can position the light exactly where I want it. Once I’m done, I snap it shut and stow it out of the way.

The task lamp takes three AAA batteries, but can also be used with an AC adapter (not included).

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-- Camille O.  

Ott-Lite LED Task Lamp
$26

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by OttLite



GeekDesk

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The GeekDesk is the best and most versatile desk I have found for my home office. It uses an electric motor to switch from sitting to standing position, and after nearly a year of using other standing desks I can say that it is one of the best investments anyone can make if they are interested in an adjustable desk.

My foray into standing desks began when I started working from home more often. I found that when I was sitting at work I would easily become distracted and more often than not lethargic. After reading several articles about the perils of sitting around all day I decided it was probably in my best interest to get a standing desk.

My first standing desk was a lectern I found on craigslist for $10. It was not adjustable, had an angled surface, and wasn’t the best solution. But for the cost, it served me well. I learned how to stand all day, and the small footprint of the podium meant that I could keep my regular desk without sacrificing too much space. The difference between sitting and standing was immediately noticeable. I was much more likely to walk away from my desk and do something that needed to get done, I found that I didn’t tire as much, and that my back no longer hurt from long days in a soft cushy chair. I was a standing desk convert.

Given the limitations of the lectern I then decided to replace it with a used AnthroCart desk: a solid American-made adjustable desk with an amazing life-time warranty. Seeing how it was adjustable I was able to fine-tune the height so that it made for easy typing. The desk was composed of three aluminum poles that have slots that range from 24″ to 30″ (and up to 48″ with extensions) in height where you could screw the work surface in. It had a large 3′x3′ flat surface that allowed me to add an external monitor and a printer to my setup. However, it also meant that I had to say goodbye to my chair and sitting desk. My conversion to full-time standing desk was pleasant, but there were times when I wished I could sit down to write longer pieces.

All of this explains why I am so happy to have discovered the GeekDesk. Simply put, it is a traditional two-legged desk frame that uses an electric motor to raise or lower the working surface from 26″ to 46.5″ and anywhere in-between. It can lift up to 175 pounds, and it rises and falls at 1″ per second.

The desk itself is made up of two steel legs connected by a cross bar that contains the electric motor and rack-and-pinion lift mechanism. The top of the desk is screwed on to the legs. GeekDesk sells the legs separately for those interested in attaching their own surface.

I have the slightly smaller GeekDesk Mini. It is identical to the GeekDesk except that it comes with a shorter crossbar that is 37.75″ wide compared to the standard 61.42″ model. It is more than enough space for me as I have a fairly compact setup including a 15″ laptop, and a 24″ external monitor.

To raise or lower the desk there are controls attached to the underside of the working surface. They remain out of the way, and are very easy to use. Simply push the button to activate, and click up or down on the toggle. It is a smooth movement and you can do it with everything on your desk without a fear of spills, or toppling monitors.

While my AnthroCart desk served me well, I realized that having the versatility of being able to sit and stand at the same workspace was really valuable to me. The biggest downside of this flexibility is that the temptation to sit is ever present. Since adopting the GeekDesk I do find myself sitting down more often than I would if I didn’t have the option. I am undecided about whether this is a good or bad thing, but if you find that you have low self control then it is possible this desk isn’t for you.

I love being able to sit and stand at my workspace, and I believe it has improved my general well being and happiness while working from home. A word of warning: anybody interested in switching to standing all day should, as with anything bio-mechanical, take it slow and make sure not to cause too much strain. I have had friends who have made the switch too quickly complain about back strain, foot pain, and tired legs. This goes away, but can easily be avoided by slowly easing into standing all day. And I strongly believe the GeekDesk represents one of the absolute best ways to do so.

-- Oliver Hulland  

[Note: GeekDesks ship by freight, only to the U.S. and Canada.-- OH]

GeekDesk Mini
Frame dimensions: 37.75″ wide x 22″ deep
Desk Surface: 47.25″ wide x 31.5″ deep
$525 for the frame (plus $85-$180 for shipping)
$749 for the frame and top (plus $110-$310 for shipping)

GeekDesk
Frame dimensions: 61.42″ wide x 22″ deep
Desk surface is 78.75″ wide x 31.5″ deep
$799 for the frame and top (plus $110-$310 for shipping)

Available from and manufactured by GeekDesk



Business Card Composer 5

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The name of this little Mac-only software program might sound cheesy, but it does exactly what it says, and a lot better than you might expect. It helps you create professional business cards really quickly and easily. And it has been around for a few years/versions, so the UI is mature, stable, and elegant. And EASY.

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You just drag stuff into the card area and they just work. Guide lines appear right when and where you’d expect them without having to work with extra commands. When you’re done, you simply click Export and a PDF appears – with cut marks for the printers, if you want – and you can then hand the PDF file directly to a professional printer to work off of.

I’ve used this any time I’ve needed to make business cards and it works flawlessly. They have some links within the program to help you find printers, but I don’t bother with that feature- I just hand the PDF to the printer that I know and trust. The whole process is so much easier than working with InDesign or some other design tool not made for business cards.

-- Mark Hurst  

[Requires Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later. I have edited the first sentence to reflect this fact. -- OH]

Business Card Composer 5
$35 for a standard version, or $45 for a version with a more expansive catalog of images, designs, and fonts
30-day free trial (projects will bear a watermark until registered)

Available from and produced by BeLight Software



Aeron

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I’ve been testing an Aeron Chair since 2001 and I’m ready to say, “Go for it.” Why now? Because I just realized that it is the cheapest chair I’ve ever owned. I’m 6′ 2″, 200-plus pounds, and put a lot of daily wear-and-tear on my chair. So I wasn’t surprised when, after eight years of use the seat cracked: I was sitting there and it gave way by about two inches. Except for an early problem with a slight wiggle in the base (which Herman Miller paid to have fixed) the chair has worked flawlessly.

I haven’t tried the previously reviewed Russel Executive Mesh Chair, but I’ve tried plenty of inexpensive office chairs that were not worth their initial low purchase prices. What makes this pricey chair so inexpensive to own is Herman Miller’s extraordinary warranty. Buy it from an authorized dealer and treat it with reasonable care and Herman Miller pays for parts, labor and shipping to have it fixed (for the original owner) for 12 years. You tell me where you can buy a product of this quality and style that is guaranteed to be good as new for 12 years? Additionally, the company makes having repairs performed pain-free. One of their authorized repair locations sent me a shipping box for my damaged Aeron, so that I could send it in. It was repaired and returned to me within two weeks. And I still have almost three more years on my warranty.

-- Chuck Green  

Herman Miller Aeron Chair, Posture Fit Medium Size (B)
$870

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Herman Miller



PaperFix

During a trip to Germany almost 20 years ago, I came across one of those slap-of-the-head clever items in an office supply store that I use to this day. When I bought this I was so enamored with it that I actually picked up a second one, thinking that eventually it would wear out and that it would be difficult to find a replacement. Turns out that I was happily wrong on both counts; the extra one that I bought is still in its original plastic display box and a slightly different version (photo below) is widely available. The PaperFix that I’ve owned for all these years is silent in use, completely ecological, and the ongoing cost is zero. I reach for it at least a few times a day and with one firm press of the top can bind about 6 to 8 pages (depending on paper thickness) together.

I find magazines too bulky to carry around when there are only a few articles in them that I actually want to read. Through years of traveling and learning to eliminate weight and waste, I now tear out articles I’m interested in and put them all in a folder labeled “Reading” that goes everywhere with me, and use my Paperfix to bind each individual article.

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I prefer the PaperFix over paper clips or binder clips for a number of reasons, the first of which is space saving. If you have ever had 15 paper-clipped articles in a folder and seen how they expand the girth of that folder, you’ll know what I mean. Paper clips and binders have to be put somewhere when they’re removed. Clips of all varieties fall off and have a nasty habit of inserting themselves into every conceivable crack in cars, briefcases and desk drawers.

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Once a page is removed from the bound bundle (unlike with a paper clip) it can’t be reinserted, nor can you pull out sheets from the midst of the bundle without disrupting the binding of the bundle. While the PaperFix doesn’t do everything a stapler can (particularly with thicker stacks of paper), for the vast majority of quick binding jobs it’s as good as a stapler, and takes up about a third the room on a desktop or in a drawer. It’s less expensive and uses nothing other than a press on the top to get its job done.

-- Scott Goldman  

Eco Staple Free Stapler
$9

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Made By Humans



Belkin Concealed Surge Protector

Despite all the wireless, Bluetooth and battery-operated electronics in my life, almost every room in our home still feels overrun with cords, AC adapters, wires, plugs, cables, and more cords. This surge protector with a simple hinged plastic cover has done aesthetic and functional wonders for the living room. Our media cabinet already obscures the electrical mess from the Tivo, Apple TV, receiver, PlayStation, et al. But our Roomba lives under a vintage breakfront that houses, among other devices, a delicate glass lamp. Not only does this plastic white box keep the cables and plugs hidden from view, but it’s big and heavy enough Roomba doesn’t mess with it — no more inadvertent cord snags from said vacuum bot! Some users report that cramming an assortment of particularly-hefty or odd-shaped wall-warts and thicker wires is problematic. Fair enough. I couldn’t get mine closed trying to plug in an Apple AirPort Express. Nevertheless, with 11 three-prong outlets — as well as Ethernet and phone ports — this protector can manage a lot of everyday e-stuff.

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-- Steven Leckart  

Belkin Concealed Surge Protector
$29
Manufactured by Belkin

Available from Amazon



Elance

Elance is a global marketplace for freelancers. You post a job you want done, and freelancers around the world will bid on it in a matter of hours. Once the price and deadline are agreed upon, the work will be delivered to you very rapidly. Because of its global nature, your costs may be very low.

Elance has a pool of 135,000 pros expert in programming, design, writing, and legal matters. People use them to design a logo, create marketing materials, tweak a database, code a website, create an iPhone app. I’ve used Elance three times now and have had fantastic results. For instance recently I had to move 3,000 images from Cool Tools’ old Moveable Type database to a new one in a very hairy non-trivial manner. Estimates from US shops for writing the necessary script went as high $6,000 and would take months from specs to testing. We went on Elance, got a bid for $250 to do it manually (without scripts) and it was done perfectly in a week. You could start a company with them. In fact Kevin Rose hired an Elancer to code the first version of the now-popular website Digg.

Elance’s escrow service holds the payment and protects both the work provider and you the employer. The site provides status updates on work done, and plenty of communication between the parties. Workers must pass a competency test to qualify to be listed. Some freelancers can also pass expertise tests in a mild form of certification, say for working on java or ajax, etc. Elance freelancers did about $60 million of work last year and less than 1% of the jobs had any kind of dispute, and most of those were self-resolved by the fact that the entire transaction correspondence is logged.

While I went to Elance for cheap labor, others go to it to get jobs done in a hurry, or to find expertise that they can’t find locally. (Fifty percent of Elancers live in North America.) If you have work, and you know what you want, this is a great service.

The real trick in using Elance, or its competitors RentACoder, GetAFreelancer and oDesk (which I have not used) and Guru (which I have used with satisfaction) is in being able to specify the deliverable you want without spending more time that it would take to do the project itself. This kind of outsourcing is best for bite-sized chunks of work. The more precise you can detail your job the better that Elance or the others will work for you. It’s not good for consulting, hand-holding, or mind-changing assignments. But it can be cheap enough that you can try lots of things. It costs you nothing to post a job on Elance. (The winning provider will pay a 5-10% fee to Elance.) You can pay with PayPal.

And it is not just for coders. I hired a guy to run ethernet cable in our home, and others have found a videographer for their wedding, or a translator for their manual, etc. Like any remote relationship, you get what you put into it. Elance, Guru and GetaFreelancer use escrows, which protect you (and the worker). Elance has open bidding, GetAFreelancer has the option of closed bidding. To date, Elance is the marketplace that seems to have the most action so that is why I use them.

It’s a great tool when you need to hire expertise.

-- KK  



StikkiCLIPS

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I recently read about a product whereby a computer beams the digital image of a recipe onto some type of eye-level display in your kitchen. Here’s the low-tech way, which I’ve used for the last two years: take your printed recipe and use StikkiCLIPS to temporarily place the recipe up on the cupboard door right in your line of sight. When I’ve finished cooking, I easily remove the clip from the cupboard. The recipe isn’t covered in stains. And the door doesn’t have any permanent marks from the clip. Rather than traditional adhesive, the back of the clip has a bit of wax-like substance on it. This substance does get used up as you use the clip (I’ve used one clip as much as two dozen times). However, the clips don’t mar the surface you’ve clipped it to — in my case, the kitchen cupboard door looks good as new. I’ve also used the clips for other projects to keep whatever paper I’m using off my work space, but still in my line of sight. Another use: I put a clip in the driver’s side corner of my windshield, where it holds parking stubs, so the Parking Control Officer can spot them easily and so the stub doesn’t get blown out of the dashboard when I close the car door. The package cover says “the best way to hang papers anywhere.” I think they’re right.

-- Helen Hegedus  

StikkiCLIPS
$6 (pack of 20)
Manufactured by StikkiWorks

Available from Amazon