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Healthy Computing

I've noticed that I tend to lean toward my computer screen.  This causes me to get a sore neck.  I think it's because of my chair and computer desk setup are'nt "right".  Your line of sight should be centered on your monitor? Anyone have any good chair/desk recommendations?  (I'll just build my own desk if I have to.) I try to take breaks every hour or so.  That way I can get up, walk around and maybe step outside for some fresh air.  I also have what I believe is adequate lighting, but how can you tell?  I was also wondering how many folks out there ate at fast food places like McDonalds because you were too "busy" to get a good meal?  How did you get out of that habit?  And of course, How many of you guys make time to go to gym everyday?

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Well, I used to lean towards my screen because everything was too small, not because of my desk (Though that may be the issue for you).

I had one decent-sized screen at 1600x1200, so I could fit a lot of stuff on the moniter. But I had to lean forward to read it. The solution for me was 2 more moniters, all running nice low resolutions that I can read from my doorway. I can relax, lean back, put my legs up... It's nice.

Mike Swieton
Thursday, January 30, 2003

I once worked for a company which bought those big gymnastic balls to sit on. Of course you would not want to sit on those for the whole time, it can be very good to switch from a normal chair to sitting on such a ball from time to time.

It felt a little awkward at first, but since you are constantly forced to balance yourself and therefore keep moving your spine slightly, it really helps against strain in your back muscles.

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Thursday, January 30, 2003

>>> I was also wondering how many folks out there ate at fast food places like McDonalds because you were too "busy" to get a good meal?  How did you get out of that habit? <<<

I do eat out a bit too much.  Mostly it is at the company cafeteria, which isn't too bad.  I am going to start bringing my lunch to the office Real Soon Now.

The greasy food at McDonald's, especially their terrible fries, did kind of lower my interest in going there, but what really got me to quit almost entirely was the attitude of the staff.  McDonalds was cheap and consistent if far from gourmet, and their staff was reasonably cheerful and friendly.  Not any more.  They have become just mean and nasty.  If I go there at all I use the drive through to minimize interaction with the staff.  Boston Market is even worse.  After a few insults by staff who wanted to take their bad day out on me, I doubt I'll ever set foot in one of those establishments again.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

On breaking the fast food habit: It happened to me the instance I looked at how much cheaper it was to make things myself. My roomates and I buy bulk and split the cost: If I bring food to work or something, I can bring ramen (Cheap, but I think it's better than McDonald's...), or whatever: chicken quesadilla's are simple. Cold meat is dirt cheap if you like sandwiches.

Hell, a lot of fast food is done in microwaves: If you have a microwave and a fridge at your place of employment, you can do a lot. Throw a george forman grill in your office and make a steak once. That'll kick the fast food habit :) (Course, it'd taste better on a good old fashioned charcoal grill, but I doubt that'd work as well in a cubicle!).

Just a few thoughts. If you think you're eating too much fast food, you probably are. Try some alternatives.

Mike Swieton
Thursday, January 30, 2003


Thanks for bringing up a pet subject of interest to me.

I have spent a huge amount of time, thought and work on this and have found a solution for myself after years of experiments. At no cost to you and today only I will share with you my one of a kinsd patent pending health oil solution to all your troubles. Aren't you lucky, yada yada yada.

First, I am tall (6 ft) so much of this is based on that and the fact that all office furniture is standardized for smaller people and simply does not work for me.

Rather than regale you wit the long history I will just tell you my set up right now which has cured my carpal tunnel problems and greatly reduced by low back pain.

1. Problem: Desktop is too low. Solution - raise the desktop. The first way I did this was with sawhorses. Right now I have two 28" tall 2 drawer filing cabinets holding up the desk and a frame made of 2 by fours on top of each cabinet to elevate it even farther. The desktop is made of a hollow frame door and boy can I fit a lot of stuff on it. This is the perfect developers desk in my opinion.

2. Problem: Seat is now too low. Solution: drafting chair. Now I can have my butt at any height at all relative to the desktop and my feet can rest at any height I like on the foot rest ring. Lots of possibilities here for positioning. If I start to get stiff I can change it. I can even sort of half stand half sit when I feel like it. This solution totally beats the doodle out of the old posture chair which eventually rips apart your knees.

3. Problem: Wrists positioned at wrong angle relative to keyboard. Solution: I have a 2 by 4, three feet long, lying flat right in front of the keyboard and it works as a wrist rest. This is the solution I am telling you!! Just try it and you will become a believer! I tried everything else, and without getting one of those $400 concave keyboards, this is the cats pajamas. Forget those funky split keyboards. They are all at the wrong angle. Have your keyboard flat and a 2 by 4.

4. Problem: Alphabet keyboard is way off to the left of yourmonitor because the imbecile keyboard designers put the numerical pad and arrow keys on the right and the mouse is on the right, meaning the alphabet has to be way over to the left if the mouse is going to be nearby. Solutions: There are two. the first I have now - put your mouse on the left side of your keyboard and learn to use it with your left hand, or use the mouse cross-armed. This enables you to keep the alphabet keys directly in front of you when typing. Seriously, look down at where your keyboard is relative to your hands and monitor and ask if it makes sense. The second solution which I think is even better is to have a IBM thinkpad style keyboard with a force-sensitive mousestick in the center of the keyboard. These are really nice and enable you do switch from keyboard to mouse without having to go through the context switch. You know the one I mean. Alas, I don't have one of these right now.

I also popped the keytops off all the keys on my keyboard and rearranged them to a more sensible arrangement. This last one is a personal choice but it works for me.

X. J. Scott
Thursday, January 30, 2003

A note on wrist-rests (and also wrist-braces): what I've read indicates that they _can_ (not necessarily always are) harmful, because the encourage you to rest your wrists on it. This has two results:

1) Your muscles atrophy, or don't get stronger. Supposedly, one way to help RSI is to do wrist excersizes to strengthen your forearms. This would seem to go counter to the idea of wrist-rests. Take this with a bigass salt shaker, but do some research at least.

2) "Paws, not claws": I also read that the correct way to use a keyboard is to keep your wrists relatively stiff, and move your hands with your arms. Your wrists are doing all the work if they are sitting on a rest.

Again, check the research, but I've read things that indicate this.

Mike Swieton
Friday, January 31, 2003

programming is very unhealthy. here is what i have done to compensate.

i am about 6 2, and my weight varies between 170 and 200. in terms of food, the key is to count calories. ultimately you can eat whatever garbage you want, so long as you don't eat too much of it. my great grandma lived to 97 years old with no health problems on a diet of roast beef and mayonaise.  google for the "hackers diet" for more on this. of course eating healhty food will make you feel better but i think with modern medicine and moderate exercise you can live to 100 years old eating anything you want, provided you don't eat too much and get obese.

i destroyed my back snowboarding when i was 17 (i'm 29 now) and for a while, i wanted to quit programming, just because of the crappy physical work situation. now however, i just consult from home, and set up a "high desk" which rules. I can stand up, or lean against my barstool. The monitor is set up to be eye level when i'm standing or sitting on a high stool.  for me, this is way better than slumped in a chair all day long. I think the key is to set up a workstation where you can alter your position a little bit whenever you want, without breaking your flow.

i've never had problems with RSI but about 5 years ago i started using the kinesis keyboard to make sure i never would have RSI problems. i highly recommend it, especially if you are an emacs user. you can offload the ctl and alt keys to your thumbs. in my experience, i can also type way faster using the kinesis.

Friday, January 31, 2003

oh yes, regarding the gym. i now go to the gym regularly. i also ride my bicycle to work. i used to do kick boxing for about 90 minutes per day. i think you should try to do 60-90 minutes of exercise per day, even if that means just walking to work, or whatever. just do something that you find fun, don't worry too much about what exercise it is. if it is something boring, you wont keep it up.

Friday, January 31, 2003


Ok, good point. I just checked and for me the 2 by 4 is a forearm and elbow rest. The function is not to rest but to elevate my hands above the keyboard so that my wrists are straight or even slightly bend down instead of the usual bent backwards which is the troublesome position.


X. J. Scott
Friday, January 31, 2003

Just a word about wood wrist rests...

I had a desk with one of these in college, and after the first couple of hours each day, I wouldn't realize that I was supporting my weight by leaning my wrists on it. By the end of the semester, I could barely move my hands. If you just use one as a reminder to keep your hands up, that's ok, but be careful.

Devil's Advocate
Friday, January 31, 2003

I'm sitting by the computer keyboard for last 20 years 8-12 hours dayly and could never understand what is this buzz about keyboard, wrist pains, etc. I absolutely don't care about the type/position of the keyboard and mouse. I believe, I type quite fast, but I never had my hands/wrists/fingers tired. The only thing that gets tired is spine, sometimes (if monitor/refresh rate is not good enough) - eyes, but never my hands.

My theory about this:

I have graduated from piano music school... You know, they spend first couple of month just teaching you the proper shape/position of your palms and fingers, how you hit keys, etc. Maybe, because I have proper keyboaring technique, I don't have problems with computer keyboards?

That means that instead of teachnig computer touch-typing with focus on speed, someone should teach first about hands positions, palm shapes, dynamics of key pressing, etc.?

Just a thought...

Friday, January 31, 2003

Initially no emphasis is put on speed when touch typing. I think the problem is that few, if any, of us were ever taught to touchtype in class by a proper typing tutor.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, February 1, 2003

If you (like I used to) get tension headaches after a few hours at the desk I can recomend

Its a pretty simple program but it works. I think the online version is 30 bucks or so.

Eric DeBois
Saturday, February 1, 2003

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