Saturday, July 31, 2010

Avoid Computer Injury - Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Software

I've recently succumbed to the unforgiving punishment of continued computer use. I purchased my first computer in 1995. It had an Intel Pentium 133 MHz processor. I don't recall the memory size. It had a 4GB hard disk drive (called Quantum BigFoot). And so began my computing journey. I was inseparable from this machine. I vaguely remember a day passing without me using a computer. Of course, I had no hint that muscle injuries could occur due to extended and imporper use of computers. I don't think that everybody agrees the proper computing practices, but no one argues that regular breaks and stertches must be carried out during computer usage sessions.

Looking back at things, I averaged  about 10 hours a day using a computer. So, for the past 15 years, that's: 5,479 days or 54,790 hours!!! To be a bit conservative, I will take an average of 7 hours a day (to account for occasional breaks). That would only take it down to 38,353 hours... that's a lot of hours.

After looking at these numbers, and the stiffness in my shoulders, I decided that it is time to look for options. Of course, forcing myself to take breaks never worked, so the ideal candidate was a software that lurks in the background and tracks my computing levels to suggest micro and macro breaks.

Micro breaks seem to be the most important. These are very short breaks (10 to 30 seconds) that are to be taken between intervals of intense keyboard usage activity (~50 words per minute). In general, taking a micro break every 2 to 4 minutes is a good option. Ive looked at a few software and here's what I liked so far:

MacBreakz - I use that on my Mac. It tracks your activity and suggests breaks with stertching exercises. I like it a lot. It is very cheap ($25 for a single license) and it is worth every penny.

Wellnomics Workpace - Windows only. I used it for a while. The user interface is a bit ugly, but the software has great features. It can perform statistics and does real time keyboard tracking. It is expensive: $69 for a single license.

Workrave - Windows/Linux, and most importantly open source! It may not have all the advanced features of Workpace, but for the price, I'm taking it.

So here you go. My advice, don't underestimate this problem. Take the proper measures to reduce the impact of computer usage on your muscles and ultimately your career.

Cite as:
Saad, T. "Avoid Computer Injury - Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Software". Weblog entry from Please Make A Note.

1 comment:

  1. With the rapid evolution in technology comes rapid evolutions in the way that we interact with technology. Technology evolves many thousands of times faster than humans, so it is inevitable that the use of technology will push the physical limits of the human body.