Monday, August 06, 2007

Ooooh, My Awful Right Shoulder!

Everywhere I look, I see computer users falling by the wayside. Carpal Tunnel, RTS, ... the perils are hard to avoid. I've been typing data into computers for forty-six years, always aware that, in some strange, unknown way, I've got to guard my body. I've had my ups and downs, but a few years ago I fell and banged my right shoulder into a metal door-edge. Ever since, my long sessions of computer use have been dogged by shoulder pain.

Years ago I decided that the mouse was my weak point. In theory I ought to be able to move a mouse with my wrists, resting my shoulder muscles, but in fact I use my shoulder. I've occasionally shifted the mouse to the left side to give my right shoulder a rest, but my right side is much less accurate, and a mouse needs to be positioned accurately. I tried a gesture pad for awhile, but I still used my shoulder muscles. Recently I decided to try a trackball called the Marble Mouse. I've tested trackballs before, and they always felt weird. The Marble Mouse felt weird too, for a good week, but now I use it naturally. My right shoulder moves when I shift between trackball and keyboard, but otherwise, I'm being really good to my right shoulder, and my right shoulder is kind to me in return.

The next part of the puzzle is how to minimize those mouse/keyboard moves. An obvious answer is to have a lot of buttons on the mouse. If many common keyboard actions can be done from the mouse, I won't switch back and forth so often. Many yeas ago there actually was a forty button mouse, and I thought that was silly; I'd love to try it now. My Marble Mouse has four buttons. I use one for the “back” command, which avoids the most common large mouse motion I might make. I'm trying to do something wondrous with button #4, but I don't know if it can do what I want.

The fourth button works with the Mozilla browser, to call up EasyGestures menus. These are programmable menus that, if I can figure them out, will give me about thirty commands to operate from the mouse without resort to the keyboard. If I can figure out how to program these (the defaults are mostly useless to me), and if I can find a similar feature to go with Open Office, I may be able to give my right shoulder the reward for a noble career that it deserves.
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