Solutions At Hand

Handhelds, smartphones, mobile technology and the digital lifestyle.

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    Michael is a trainer and consultant specializing in making mobility technology work in people's everyday lives.
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Archive for the ‘Ergonomic’ Category

Avoid RSI, gain productivity and increase your IQ.

Posted by Michael Brown on September 27, 2007

I ran across a story at LifeHacker which echoes something I’ve been doing for a while. For right handed people who use a computer, mousing with the right hand can lead to Repetitive Strain Injuries or RSI. It’s also not that ergonomic, when you really think about it. Most keyboards have the numeric keypad on the right hand side, which would mean your mouse is even farther out from the centerline of your body when you use the mouse on the right. If you were to move it to the left, it would be pretty much in the same place on the left as the numeric pad on the right, meaning that your arms would lay more naturally when it comes to positioning. You can see below what I mean…

My Keyboard/mouse set-up

In the above picture, you can see that I have a mouse on the left side of the keyboard, and a mouse/tablet stylus on the right. When you sit at the keyboard, the center of your body should be centered between the ‘G’ and ‘H’ keys (or where the grey area is on the Palm rest).The mouse on the left is roughly where the numeric pad on the right is sitting with respect to how your arms will usually lay. The mouse on the right is out far enough that it will cause you to need to hold your arm out further from your body than is normal for a “resting” position, which can lead to RSI’s in the shoulder.

I primarily mouse on the left side now (even though I’m right handed), and I will use the tablet stylus or other mouse on the right occasionally or for a change of pace. With the Wacom Tablets, you can use the stylus as a mouse, which is another way to avoid RSI’s (by switching between the mouse and the stylus). The neat thing is, you can use two mice in Windows by using two different types of mice with their controls managed by their own drivers. So, my MS Laser 5000 is managed by the MS Intellipoint driver and is configured for left hand use, and the Wacom Graphire is managed by it’s driver, and is configured for right hand use. That makes it handy for my wife, as she can just use the Wacom mouse on that computer, as she’s right handed (and prefers to mouse with the right). The same setup works in Linux(Ubuntu), using the Gnome control panel; the mouse is configured as a left-handed, and the Wacom is configured through the X-org.conf file as right-handed.

This LifeHacker article is a good read for those thinking of switching their mouse to the other side. As for increasing you IQ, this article by the DumbLittleMan blog indicates that regular use of your non-dominate hand builds better ties between the two hemispheres of your brain, strengthening it’s development.


Posted in Ergonomic, PC, Productivity | 2 Comments »

DIY Monitor Riser

Posted by Michael Brown on October 20, 2005

Ergonomics are really important in computer usage. Using a computer is not a task our bodies were designed to do naturally, so we have to ensure that our set-up is one that our bodies can handle. A few short months ago I changed office furniture, moving from an adjustable “shelf-style” system (IKEA’s IVAR line of unfinished pine) to a desk-oriented system (IKEA’s EFFEKTIV line). In doing so, I could no longer put my computer monitor on a shelf at a height that is comfortable for me (I’m 6’4″, so I need my monitor higher than most). So began a quest for a monitor riser that would a) raise my monitor to a comfortable height; and b) look good with my new furniture. I looked at Staples and Grand & Toy, at computer stores and on-line. I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. The really adjustable ones weren’t able to support the weight of my 19″ monitor. Others were sturdy enough, but either not high enough or were the wrong colour (I’m getting away from black desk accessories, my wife finds it too industrial!). The perfect one for height and colour wasn’t wide enough… and so on…

So, what do you do when you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for? You make it, of course! And so I did. I went down to Home Depot and got a half-inch thick piece of 24″ x 48″ birch plywood and some ABS plastic drain pipe (1 1/2″ diameter), and some plastic spray paint. I cut the wood into two pieces of 12″ x 32″, and two pieces of 12″ x 16″. I then glued and screwed each of the two same-size pieces of wood together, so I had a 1″ thick piece of 12×32″ and a 1″ thick 12×16″. FYI, I’m making two monitor risers; one for my main monitor, and a second one for an auxillary monitor I use for rehearsing my Palm-based presentations. I then proceeded to sand the edges flush using a random-orbital sander and some 80 grit sandpaper. After a finishing sanding with 220 grit, the boards themselves were finished.

Using a mitre box and hand saw, I cut the ABS pipe down into (4) 6″ pieces, and (4) 3″ pieces. A small knife and file took off any stray plastic or rough edges. I put the pipe pieces on some cardboard and spray painted them a nice blue that matches the wall colour. While those were drying, I took my electric drill and a 1 1/4″ hole saw to a scrap piece of 2″ w MDF from a previous home-improvement project. I drilled out 8 circles. Those circles would eventually be the mounts for the legs of the monitor riser. Since the inner diameter of the ABS pipe is slightly less than 1 1/4″, I had to take a file and sand paper to slightly reduce the diameter of the MDF circles so they would fit into the ABS pipe. After a fair bit of sanding, all the circles were capable of fitting into the ABS plastic pipe.

I marked the locations of where I was going to put the legs on the bottom of the board, and pre-drilled a small hole for the screw. I glued the bottom of each circle, and then affixed it to the plywood using a single screw through the hole where the hole saw pilot had run through. Four circles later I was ready to install the pipes. I fit each pipe leg over top of the MDF circle and pressed down firmly. They’re such a tight fit that no other form of fastening is required. The picture above shows one of the MDF circles, and one of the affixed ABS pipe segments. I finished installing the rest of the legs, then applied a few coats of clear Varathane, and the DIY monitor riser is complete! A tip for you; to avoid brush strokes and get a really smooth finish with Varathane, sand lightly with 400 grit sandpaper between coats and wipe with a damp paper towel. To get the legs attached and fully seated, I kneeled on the riser; if it can hold my nearly 200 lb frame, I don’t need to worry about my monitor! 4 felt circles needed to go on the bottom of the legs, and now the riser is ready to go onto the desk. The picture below shows the finished monitor riser, with speakers flanking the monitor. As you can see, there is lots of room on either side, and underneath. It’s been incredibly sturdy since I put it up on the desk, and lets me make effective use of vertical space on my desk. It’s also wide enough that if I were to ever go to dual LCD monitors, they’d fit. Hope this inspires you to create something effective for your workspace; don’t settle for being uncomfortable, when $20 of supplies and a bit of time is all it takes.


Posted in DIY, Ergonomic | 4 Comments »