Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Ultimate Chair (Partial Resolution)

A while back, I wrote a series of posts of creating a chair that would allow me to sit outside and soak up some rays.  Programmers are white and nerdy because they sit inside.  There are several benefits you can get from going outside:

  • Fresh air
  • The sounds of nature
  • Sunlight
  • Knowing what time of day it is
  • Not looking like a pasty-white programmer/office worker
Anyway, this post was an itch I've been meaning to scratch for a while to provide some closure and someone finally commented on it, so here goes...

I used the chair for a few months.  (Feel free to take that sentence out of context.)  And it sort of worked.  It got me outside but I had several problems that I could never resolve to my satisfaction:

1)  The chair itself wasn't comfortable to sit in for an extended period of time.  I hate anything that provides so-called "back support".  As an intelligent alien lifeform on Earth (that's a joke, BTW), back "support" is more like back "torture" to me.

2)  Glare from the sun made it impossible to sit outside in direct sunlight.  I know you aren't supposed to sit in the sun for long periods of time, but 15 to 30 minutes gives you the Vitamin D you need to stay healthy.  But I wasn't able to read the laptop screen due to glare.  I researched the issue back then and came up empty-handed but walked away from the experiment around the time e-ink hit the market and decided to watch from the sidelines as e-ink displays might supposedly breathe new life into this project.  So far, they haven't.

3)  It took a while to set up and tear down.  Whereas my computer inside was all ready to go.  I couldn't leave it outside because of possible weather issues.  Nobody likes waking up to soggy chairs and wet digital equipment.  That, and electronics have this habit of not working when wet.  Go figure.

The digital egg timer eventually died and some of the custom parts of the setup actually melted one summer.  That latter aspect was an interesting mess to clean up:  Goo everywhere.

Overall, it was worth the effort for a DIY project.  The ability to get outside to write software is still in me.  I may try again if e-ink ever gets good enough that laptop/tablet manufacturers start implementing them.  I'll probably just use a regular outdoor table and chair though.  Comfortable chairs, outdoor or otherwise, are hard to come by.  I like chairs that I can lean back into and rest my head on when I just want to relax.

However, I still use one component extensively:  The ultra-sturdy mousepad.  That thing is built like a rock, works on any surface, and doesn't go anywhere.  My only complaint is its thickness.  1/8" Plexiglass would probably be plenty and, if anyone wanted to be really cheap, a slice of cardboard or thin wood might also work.  The only issue with alternate materials is getting enough grip to take place between the surfaces and the contact cement so that they stay put or finding a different glue to use.  There is room for improvement here and I'd like to think that there is even a market for it.

Ran a few Google searches on e-ink again.  Qualcomm's got something called 'Mirasol' that is prototype-ish looking and claims to solve the problems of e-ink - namely color and performance.  Nearly impossible to find videos of it in action though and was just debuted at CES in product format (Kyobo reader), so it'll be another year before it gets to be solid enough tech. to be worth trying again.

So, as it stands, I'm still kind of waiting for the technology to improve a bit before trying again.

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