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The evolution of my budget standing desk



The evolution of my budget standing desk

It took me over two years to recognize that I needed a standing desk.

When I started working here at The Verge, one of the first tech toys I got to play with was a desk that you could raise and lower to a standing or sitting position. It was the first time I’d actually tried one, and until then, I had always been a little skeptical about the idea of standing desks. How could you do your work while you’re standing there shifting from foot to foot?

However, I soon lost my skepticism. I found that spending some time on my feet kept me from getting restless and helped keep me alert in the later hours of the afternoon. I not only got used to it but also truly liked having it.

Then, of course, came the pandemic. And I was back in my home office.

At first, at least for me, it wasn’t a big deal. I had spent several years working from the small second bedroom in our house; I could do it again. But slowly, I realized that I had become used to having that standing desk available. I missed it.

I briefly considered purchasing a new desk for the office. But the one that several people at The Verge recommended, the Fully Jarvis Bamboo Standing Desk, usually runs around $600 or so, and I had other expenses to deal with. Also, those desks tend to be rather large, and my office is already overcrowded with shelves, filing cabinets, and a variety of miscellaneous furniture and tech that would take several months to go through. Finally, I like my little wooden desk — it has family history — and I didn’t want to either discard it or condemn it to a lonely storage existence. So I began to see if I could come up with a kludge that would give me what amounted to a standing desk.

Here’s what I’ve tried, what didn’t work, and what eventually did.

A pile of books

A laptop sitting on books

My first attempt: sitting my laptop on a pile of books.

For the most part, I work just using my laptop; it’s not hooked into a larger monitor or a keyboard. My first thought was to simply have available a pile of large books that I could move on or off the desk as I needed them.

I piled up several of my larger books and put my laptop on top of them. At first, I thought I’d resolved the issue; the books were large enough to hold the laptop reasonably steady. But the pile of books was also, well, heavy, and every time I wanted to stand and work, I had to move them — which may have been a good upper body exercise but wasn’t exactly an encouragement to switch from sitting at my desk. And since I have my phone on a stand next to my laptop and do tend to refer to it occasionally, it was an inconvenience to have to stare down from the pile of books to where it sat on my desk.

So the pile of books didn’t work.

A bookcase shelf

Laptop sitting on a metal shelf

The shelf was the perfect height to type on — but it still wasn’t a comfortable space.

One inspiration for creating a do-it-yourself standing desk came from Verge co-worker Kaitlin Hatton, who, back in April of 2020, converted a bookcase into a standing desk. I thought that was a really nice idea, and although I don’t have the nifty Target bookcase that she had used, I do have a rather ugly but very serviceable metal shelving unit that stands near my desk and usually holds a printer, a load of old hard drives, a bag of unused greeting cards, a bunch of out-of-date laptops that I haven’t yet been able to get around to recycling, and a variety of other odds and ends that have accumulated over the years.

So I cleared off a shelf, moved the trash and recycling baskets that were on the floor next to it, and gave it a try as a standing desk.

This was a better experience than my pile of books. There was plenty of space on the shelf for my phone and a notebook and pen (in case I needed to take any notes). It was the perfect height for me to stand and type. And since it was an open bookcase, I could even arrange for a separate cable to plug my notebook in.

However, it was not very convenient to have to move my notebook / phone / other materials back and forth from the shelf to the desk. To really work for me, I would have had to move the entire six-foot-high shelf so that it was next to my desk, and the current setup of my office didn’t really allow for that.

And I had no idea what to do with the things I’d cleared off that shelf to make a workspace. (Although anyone looking at the amount of stuff I’ve accumulated would justifiably wonder if having to get rid of a lot of what was there might not be a good thing.)

So while this was a possibility, it wasn’t an ideal solution. I was going to have to bite the bullet and either buy a new desk or find another alternative.

Standing desk converter

Laptop on desk converter on desk.

I couldn’t sit and type at this height.

I finally decided to try a standing desk converter. There are a variety of these devices out there; they basically sit on top of your current desk and create an additional work surface that can be raised or lowered.

These devices vary widely, from extremely simple ones that will raise to a single height to surfaces that can be manually moved up and down to your desired height and motorized converters that just need the push of a button.

I weighed my needs, the size of my desk, and my budget; scoured the internet for reviews; and settled on a manual desk converter from a company called Vivo that uses a side handle to move the surface up or down. Like all the converters I found (except the simplest ones), it added about four inches to the height of the desk at its lowest level, but it also had a keyboard tray that would hang to the level of the desk. I didn’t need the keyboard tray (because I currently don’t use a separate keyboard), but the tray was a separate piece that could be added or removed as needed. So I ordered the Vivo.

When it came, the desk converter worked like a charm. Since I wasn’t going to bother with the keyboard tray, I simply attached four rubber feet to the four corners of the converter’s support, cleared my desk, and put it on top. The handle at the top let me smoothly raise the surface to exactly the right height, and while I needed to push down slightly to lower it, it worked exactly as I needed it to. Except for one thing.

I had wondered whether the four extra inches that the converter (at its lowest) added to the height of my desk might make it difficult to use when I was seated. Unfortunately, I was right — I had trouble using my laptop in a seated position. And at a weight of about 20 or so pounds, I wasn’t going to be moving the Vivo on and off the desktop every time I needed it.

I began to wonder whether there was any real answer short of investing in a new desk.

Desk converter plus TV table

Luckily, I found a solution.

I happen to have an old TV table that, for the last couple of years, has been just holding books and an out-of-date, no-longer-used monitor and whose surface is a few inches lower than that of my desk. I removed the monitor, replaced it with the desk converter, and moved the table so it was positioned at a right angle to my desk. (You can see the results in the top photo in this article.)

Success! Now, whenever I want to spend some time standing rather than sitting, I just shift my computer over to the Vivo on the TV table, adjust the height (if I need to), and work away. I want to sit again? Just move my laptop back to the desk. I can even adjust the Vivo so that the laptop camera is a better height for Zoom sessions.

It’s probable that this arrangement could change — I may decide to get a display and keyboard and rearrange the workspace to accommodate them — but for now, I can sit or stand while I work with comfort and confidence.

Photography by Barbara Krasnoff / The Verge

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Microsoft Teams is finally fixing this ear-splitting annoyance




Microsoft Teams is finally fixing this ear-splitting annoyance
Four people in a meeting room video conferencing with four remote participants.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

One of the most irritating (and slightly painful) parts of joining a Microsoft Teams call could soon be fixed by a new update.

The video conferencing service is a popular choice for many companies, meaning calls with large numbers of participants joining at the same time, and from the same location (such as a meeting room) are a common occurrence. 

However, often when multiple people join a meeting in the same room, a feedback loop is created, which causes echo, which in most cases quickly escalates to howling – with Microsoft likening the noise to when a musician holds the mic too close to a loudspeaker.

Teams’ howling

Fortunately, a new fix is coming for Microsoft Teams users. In its entry in the official Microsoft 365 roadmap (opens in new tab), the new “Ultrasound Howling Detection” describes how it aims to prevent this noise for users on Windows and Mac across the world.

Microsoft says that the update should mean if multiple users on laptops join from the same location, it will share with the user that another Teams Device is detected in their vicinity and is already joined with audio to the current meeting. 

If a user has already joined with their audio on, Microsoft Teams will automatically mute the mic and speakers of any new the person who then joins the call, hopefully putting an end to the howling and screeching feedback.

Thankfully, the update is already listed as being in development, with an expected general availability date of March 2023, so users shouldn’t have to wait too long to enjoy.

The news follows a number of recent updates largely aimed around improving the audio quality on Microsoft Teams calls using AI and machine learning.

The new updates are the result of using a machine learning model trained on 30,000 hours of speech samples, and include echo cancellation, better adjusting audio in poor acoustic environments, and allowing users to speak and hear at the same time without interruptions.

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Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK’s leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he’s not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.

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Shazam! Fury of the Gods trailer breakdown: 6 thing you might have missed




Shazam! Fury of the Gods trailer breakdown: 6 thing you might have missed
Shazam points at someone off camera in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Shazam! Fury of the Gods lands in theaters on March 17.
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The final trailer for Shazam! Fury of the Gods has debuted online – and it looks even more charming, funnier, frenetic, and darker than its predecessor.

Shazam’s sequel flick arrives in theaters worldwide on March 17, so it’s about time we were given another look at the forthcoming DC Extended Universe movie (read our DC movies in order guide to find out where it’ll fit in that timeline). Luckily, Warner Bros. has duly obliged. Check it out below:

Okay, there’s some messy CGI and a slightly corny vibe about Shazam 2. But hey, the first problem can be ironed out before the superhero film takes flight, while the latter is part of what makes this movie series spellbinding (see what we did there?).

But we digress – you’re here because you want to find out what you missed from Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ new trailer. Below, we’ve pointed out six things you might have overlooked. So, what are you waiting for? Shout “Shazam!” and let’s dive in.

1. Who are the Daughters of Atlas?

Kalypso hands Hespera the wizard's staff in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

New movie, new villains. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

For a film centered around Shazam, we don’t actually see the titular superhero appear in the official trailer for the first 20 seconds.

Instead, we get another glimpse at Fury of the Gods‘ villains, aka the Daughters of Atlas. The powerful trio comprises the power-hungry Hespera (Helen Millen), dragon-riding Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Athena (Rachel Zegler), the latter of whom seems particularly torn about how the sisters are going about their business.

So, why are they gunning for Shazam and his superpowered foster siblings? Essentially, when Billy Batson was gifted his abilities by Djimon Hounsou’s wizard in the film film (available now on HBO Max), one of those powers was the Stamina of Atlas. The Daughters of Atlas aren’t too happy about their father’s ability being passed down to a child, so they want to take back what is theirs – and they’ll do it so by any means necessary.

2. Mythological monsters

A dragon prepares to breathe fire at one of Shazam's fellow heroes in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Shazam isn’t the only person taking flight in Fury of the Gods. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Shazam’s first DCEU outing featured some horror-imbued creatures in the form of the Seven Deadly Sins. How, then, do you go about topping (or, at the very least) matching what came before? Throw in a bunch of myth-based monsters, of course.

Kalypso’s imposing dragon is the most notable inclusion. It feature prominently throughout the trailer, and we even get an amusing Game of Thrones reference from Shazam – “Hey, Khaleesi!” – in the movie. Hey, Warner Bros. loves to mention its suite of IPs in as many of its films as possible.

But Kalypso’s wyvern isn’t the only fairy-tale-based beast we see. Minotaurs, griffons, and demonic unicorns are just three of the other monsters who’ll turn up in Fury of the Gods. Basically, don’t expect this to be an easy fight for Shazam and company to save the world.

3. You can’t get the staff these days

Hespera uses the wizard's staff as Kalypso looks on in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

“So I just point it and then what?” (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Saving earth from a new titanic threat will be even harder when Shazam’s adoptive family are stripped of their powers, too. And it seems that the staff, which was wielded by Hounsou’s wizard in the first movie, is the key to giving and taking those abilities away.

In 2019’s Shazam!, the titular hero gave powers to his foster siblings to help him combat the Seven Deadly Sins and Doctor Sivana. They’ve still got those power in Fury of the Gods, too, but they won’t have them for long, based by what the trailer suggests.

The footage shows Freddy Freeman and Mary Bromfield being drained of their abilities by the Daughters of Atlas at various points. The trio are using the wizard’s staff to rob the teens of their powers, so it’s clearly of major importance to the movie’s main players. 

Later, we see Shazam wielding it – not before he asks the wizard to take his powers back, mind you, when he becomes convinced he can’t defeat the Daughters of Atlas. Anyway, Shazam’s brandishing of the staff suggests he needs it to boost his own abilities if he’s going to defeat the movie’s antagonists and give his siblings their powers back. Expect the staff to play a vital role in Fury of the Gods‘ plot, then.

4. Prison break

Djimon Hounsou's wizard blows som magic dust out of a prison window in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Time to break out, Mr. Wizard. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

In order to get the wizard’s staff, it seems the Daughters of Atlas go after Hounsou’s magic wielder to obtain it.

We see Hounsou’s character imprisoned at various points, including a shot of Hespera chastising him for giving the power of the gods to Billy, Freddy, and company. “You ripped it from our father’s core,” she tells him, which implies Hounsou’s wizard might not be as mighty and heroic as we were led to believe.

Anyway, Hounsou’s wizard interacts with Shazam later in the trailer, so he clearly escapes captivity. Whether he does so alone, or he enlists Shazam’s help – does that magic-infused dust, which he sends through his prison cell window, have something to do with it? – is unclear. Regardless, we’ll see Hounsou’s character break out at some stage.

5. Is that you, Doctor Strange?

Shazam flies past some rotating buildings in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Where have we seen this kind of aesthetic before? (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Remember when we said Zegler’s Athena doesn’t seem as keen to destroy earth as her sisters? That’s because, at the 1: 14 mark, we see her use her powers with a uncertain look on her face. You wouldn’t look like that if you were convinced you were doing the right thing, would you? 

Based on the fact she’s pushed away by Kalypso (using the staff no less), seconds later, it seems she’ll be swapping sides at some stage.

Interestingly, it seems the wizard’s staff can do more than give or take a person’s powers away. One perceived ability certainly has an air of the Doctor Strange/Marvel-based mystic arts about them. Just look at the Escher-style nature of how the scenery bends and folds in on itself when Athena is pushed back, and when Shazam evades numerous buildings at the 1: 44 mark. We’d be very surprised if DC and Warner Bros. didn’t take a leaf out of the MCU’s book with such an aesthetic.

6. Light the way

Shazam prepares to fight Kalypso and her dragon in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

A yellow bolt out of the blue. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Shazam and his fellow superheroes get a costume upgrade in Fury of the Gods. The group’s threads are more streamlined and less plastic-looking this time around, which is pleasing to see.

Fans had been worried, though, that these suits wouldn’t feature one of the first movie’s most underrated (if somewhat tacky) aspects: the glowing lightning bolt on Shazam’s chest. Shazam’s costume in the 2019 movie was manufactured in a way that allowed the bolt to physically light up, avoiding the problem of having to add awkward lighting effects during the post-production phase.

Thankfully, Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ official trailer confirms that Shazam’s lightning bolt will glow. However, given the sleeker look of the costumes this time around, it appears that the illumination effect has been added in post. Regardless of how it’s been implemented, we’re just glad it’s a feature that’s been retained.

For more DCEU-based coverage, find out where we placed 2019’s Shazam! in our DC movies ranked article. Additionally, read up on the best superhero films of all-time or check out how to watch the Batman movies in order.

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As TechRadar’s entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You’ll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot (opens in new tab).

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.

Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.

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You can lock Chrome incognito tabs on Android now. Bring it to the PC!




You can lock Chrome incognito tabs on Android now. Bring it to the PC!

Chrome logo on a phone with a lock image over it

Image: Deepanker Verma / Pexels

Author: Alaina Yee
, Senior Editor

Alaina Yee is PCWorld’s resident bargain hunter—when she’s not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she’s scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.

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