You and Your Computer 3

16 July 2008, by A. Cedilla
Part 3 of a series

Sorehand is “an online community dedicated to sharing information about repetitive stress injuries and related topics for people with repetitive strain injuries (RSI’s). Sorehand members range from those severely injured to those who think they may be developing symptoms of an RSI, to the friends and families of those injured. Common topics include dealing with workers’ compensation and legal issues, suggestions on ergonomic equipment to use, and emotional/psychological/spiritual issues as they relate to RSI.”

The passage above was copied directly from Sorehand’s website (copied in 3 moves within 5 seconds. Neat,yes? )

  • Shift+Ctrl + Right Arrow to highlight,
  • Ctrl+C to copy
  • Then Ctrl+V to paste.

For those old enough to remember the time before photocopying machines existed, the only choice was manual copying or buying the book. With the advent of the Internet, now it’s usually a question of saving, bookmarking, scanning and/or converting. In any case, you generally use your hands to press the buttons or keys that set your chosen process in motion.

When it comes to computing, we use our eyes and hands the most. And it’s our hands and eyes that we strain the most. What follows are some tips, shortcuts and suggestions to keep your hands in optimal condition.

Keyboard mastery

  • Do you really know what your function keys are for? Check out Computerhope.com‘s short description here and more on the F1 – F12 keys here.
  • Go here for basic keyboard shortcuts on Linux, MAC and Windows, as well as Internet Explorer, Firefox and other applications.
  • Also check out Safecomputingtips.com if you haven”t yet. Their section on mouse ergonomics may surprise you.

“What for?” you may ask. “I’ve got my mouse.”

Mice can fail at the most inopportune moments. Or maybe you suddenly develop a problem with the ports. You see: things happen. It’s best to be prepared for whatever can pop up.

And I didn’t use the word “ergonomics” a few sentences above this one for no reason.

RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome aren’t just medical conditions you read about. People get hurt forcing themselves to go beyond the limits of their bodies. Think of it, thousands of repetitive keystrokes, drag-hold-and-clicking, clutching the mouse in a frozen, tense claw. From your fingertips to your shoulders, you hold yourself in unconscious tension. This results not just in muscles spasms and soreness in these areas, but has a ripple effect on the rest of you.

Damage can accumulate even more quickly as a result of improper typing technique and slouched body positions that place unnecessary stress on the tendons and nerves in your hands, wrists, arms, up the shoulders and your neck, down to your lower back. Lack of adequate rest and breaks and using excessive force almost guarantee trouble.

If you’ve reached the point where you really need to save your hands, there are speech recognition software available on the market, as well as free/open-source versions. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is available at Nuance.com.

For freeware, Voxforge works for Linux, Windows and Mac, but it’s more on saving audio-files for free-use. Simon was designed for handicapped children who aren’t able to fully use the keyboard. Do the research, see what’s out there and find out what’s best for you, your needs, workstation set up, budget and household (especially if you share your computer with kids, which will be the focus of the next article).

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