Hardware

Commanding the Death Star


In my previous post, I talked about the importance of good monitors to a developer. Today, I will show you a bit more about the setup that is slowly taking root in my home office, where all of my TechRepublic magic (blogs, articles, downloads, etc.) occurs!

Is this picture, we have my desk, complete with the two monitors (yes, that is Outlook 2007 and Word 2007):

 

As you can see, I can comfortably fit a Web browser, Outlook, Word, my taskbar, and instant messaging all in the foreground or near background with little loss of horizontal space compared to a traditional single full-sized monitor setup.

The monitors are an LG1732TQ (17

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

10 comments
gsquared
gsquared

Have you tried a trackball instead of a mouse? It places much less strain on the wrist and forearm. That might also help. You're totally right about widescreen and dual-monitor use. Too valuable. I switched to ergonomic keyboards in the 90s. I'm a 80+ words-per-minute typist, but on standard keyboards, I found my wrists and fingers getting tired after about half an hour of typing, and my rate would go down to 50-60 WPM (still fast, but slower), and after a couple of hours, I'd be down in the 30-40 WPM range. With a good ergo keyboard, I stay in the 60-80 WPM range even after several hours of typing. (I don't have carpal tunnel, but I did injure my right wrist while working in a lumber yard about 10 years ago. Mousing is quite painful to me after just a few minutes, and typing on a regular keyboard can become painful after an hour or two. A trackball and an ergo keyboard can't eliminate the pain, but they do keep it to a minor annoyance instead of a major agony.)

Justin James
Justin James

I am not a big fan of trackballs. I cannot put my finger on why, I just always hated them. Most of my pain is in my non-mouse hand. I could crank out 50+ WPM on a standard KB with my half-hunt/peck style, nd I am finally learning to touch type with the new keyboard, and I am already up to 25 WPM or so, so I am delighted! Luckily, coding does not require constant typing, but writing articles and blogs and emails and IMs do, so it is not impacting my daily work routine too much. J.Ja

tundraroamer
tundraroamer

After suffering a lot of pain in my elbow, I switched to Trackman cordless track ball with the ball under the fingers and not the thumb. Short learning curve but well worth it. That and a wrist band for about a year or so did the trick and no more elbow problems. During the healing time, I could move it around into different positions for comfort. I even found I could take it with me about 6 feet away to my work bench and make changes on my screen while working at another PC. Not quite a two screen set up but sometimes useful. Try different track balls. I have to use others from time to time and dislike using them as they ARE awkward to use.

Mark Miller
Mark Miller

I know you can't have a uniform spacebar on that keyboard, but how do you insert a space? Some ergonomic keyboards I've seen at least split the spacebar into two pieces. I can't see even that on yours. Where is space? Maybe this keyboard is different from the last ergonomic keyboard I used years ago, the Microsoft Natural, but speaking from experience I would be careful what height you put it at. I tried using a Natural keyboard, which had a similar "hill" shape to what you have, and I had it at what was supposed to be the correct ergonomic height, a few inches higher than my knees, so that my forearms were parallel to the floor. It wreaked havoc on my wrists. When I used it again at a different workplace, with a higher desk, causing my arms to tilt upward while typing on it (my wrists were able to rest on the downward sloping wrist-rest on it), it was MUCH nicer. No complaints. I'm not saying you should do the same with yours. Just notice if your wrists feel comfortable while using it. If not, it may be the height you are using with it that's causing the problem.

Justin James
Justin James

Mark - Almost all of the cuper common, not letter keys are actually accessed with the thumbs! The two groups of buttons at the bottom are actually Enter, Delete, Backspace, Space, etc. It took me a few hours to get used to the idea, but so far it was working great! Unlike the other ergo keyboards I have used, this one is NOT a hill! It is actually *concave*, with the keys pointing inwards. While it sounds goofy, none of my fingers need to travel very far to reach anything. All of the non-letter keys are in unusual positions; for a standard typist, this is not too big of a problem, for as a programmer, I use those symbols almost as much as letters, so it takes some getting used to (it took me a minute this morning to find "+" while balancing my chackbook; grateful that I needed "+" though! ;) ). For the first time in my life, I am using all five fingers on each hand, not just the index and middle finger + thumbs like I have been doing my whole life. While my speed is still slow, and I am feeling pain, it is the pain of using rarely used muscles, not the aching of stress and carpal tunnel like I have now. I am very much so looking forwards to learning how to use this keyboard. The warning on height is well heeded, I am already considering building a new desk and replacing my chair, I just cannot get the chair high enough. J.Ja

revinger
revinger

Justin, you didnt mention the foot pedal, ya got to mention the foot pedal... I have one, it came with one pedal. I have mine setup as the shift key... I didnt have the problems you had with your wrists but I was working on getting there. Found mine under a desk in my office and decided to use it. I have never regretted switching to it. Going back and forth to a standard keyboard does not cause me problems... but if I try to use a microsoft ergo keyboard on someones desk I am messed up.. my brain is wired when my hands are in that position for kinesis. and it is really "fun" when the hardware support folks have to do something on my machine :) Been using mine for about 3 years. bob

Thorarinn
Thorarinn

I still use the keyboard that came with my IBM PS/2 386 back in 1987! (Yes, that's where the PS/2 plug came from...) It has a much nicer "feel" than the plastic junk that's made today. I remember a few years back of hearing about an "input device". It wasn't really a keyboard but two "balls" or "spheres" with buttons positioned for each finger. Entering letters and numbers was done using combinations of those buttons. It sounds complicated but I remember reading comments stating that it wasn't too bad and surprisingly easy to get up to speed with.

Justin James
Justin James

I held onto an ancient Gateway KB from the 286 era until a few years ago, just because it was the keyboard perfect for every programmer, right down to the dedicated asterisk button. I have heard very good things about the Selectric KB as well. In an era of junk, throwaway keyboards, it is indeed tough to convince the boss that what came with the PC is not good enough, particularly when they point to so-called "ergonomic" $40 keyboards (total garbage, IMHO) and ask why they aren't good enough. The Kinesis is very good with it being concave, but I would have liked it is the keys were slightly repositioned and some made smaller to point more towards the center like I have seen on some keyboards. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

I do not have the foot pedal, but I am already considering it! I am also not having a hard time going back to work to the standard keyboard, but I do think I should try to get my boss to cough up the cash for one of these at my desk... J.Ja

CodeCurmudgeon
CodeCurmudgeon

I guess I'm getting to be an old fart, but I have yet to see a keyboard for a computer as comfortable as the keyboard of the old IBM Selectric II and its terminal derivatives. If the Kinesis keyboard is dished, that is a BIG step in the right direction: The old Selectric keyboard was distinctly dished in a way which caused the fingers of a touch typist to be roughly equidistant from the keys. . . I did learn to touch type once upon a time, but my typing is at Morse code speeds anyway. . .

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