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Comment: Re: Animations vs dialog/words/drawings (Score 1) 166

by newdarktimes (#40213107) Attached to: Ask Slashdot. Best Online Science Course?

I know I'm being obtuse, but seriously, this stuff is too complicated for simple little animations and pictures to make substantially easier.

I'd say high quality animations and pictures are EXACTLY what's required to make basic biology, chemistry, and physics substantially easier. These subjects are ideal targets to improve with these tools. Consider the excellent animations in this ted talk: (animations start at around 3:40).

How long do you think the level of understanding granted by a few minutes with these animations would take to impart via "dialog, lots of words, and drawing on blackboards"?

Comment: What's the point if ISPs throttle traffic? (Score 1) 247

by newdarktimes (#38029828) Attached to: Brits Rejecting Superfast Broadband

I don't know about the European market, but here in Canada our ISPs throttle our traffic, at least during prime time, which is when I tend to use my home computers.

What's the point of me upgrading to their higher tiered bandwidth selections if they're going to throttle me anyway? I don't want to pay for potential throughput during off-hours. Eliminate throttling practices and I'd be happy to pay for a faster connection.

Comment: Re: A Simple Chair (Score 1) 235

by newdarktimes (#37726932) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Ergonomic Office Environment?

I posted my own thoughts elsewhere, but I forgot to mention my chair. Thank you for reminding me.

I agree that a simple one can be ergonomically sound. I use a very basic chair now, with no armrests. I think the most important thing is that it's at a good height and the backrest is adjusted appropriately, but in my case (and it won't be the same for everyone), the best thing I did was to eliminate using a chair with armrests. The armrests tended to give me "lazy posture" because I tended to lean to one side on them, and they also propped my elbows too high or too far away from my body at times.

Comment: 15 years of tendon problems made me a bit wiser (Score 1) 235

by newdarktimes (#37726860) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Ergonomic Office Environment?

My background: I have struggled with RSI due mainly to computer-based overuse for nearly 15 years. I first developed problems when I was a software developer. When I wasn't developing software, I tended to spend a great deal of my leisure time playing games (mostly FPS games using a PC with a keyboard+mouse setup). In my case, that was a really bad idea, but it seems genetics and other factors play a role as well. Others might be able to handle what I was doing year after year with no problems[1], or they might heal up after their injury, fix their ergonomic situation, and be able to continue at the same pace with no further problems. I am not one of the lucky ones, so I ultimately chose to give up developing software professionally and switched to a (lower-paying but more physically active) career that mostly kept me away from a desk. That way, I could continue to use a computer after-hours without much trouble. I did lay off the FPS games, though, and made MANY ergonomic improvements.

Once you're struck with a problem, it will become pretty obvious what works and what doesn't for you, because the pain will tell you. Everybody makes different mistakes, but here are the two I believe to be most common:

1) A desk that is too high.

Put your monitor wherever it's most comfortable for you, but don't think you need to put your input devices on the same surface. Lower your keyboard as close to your lap as you can, and especially your mouse. I find that if my upper/fore arms are forming an acute angle, it makes me very prone to re-injury. An obtuse angle is not as bad, but optimally, something near a right angle seems to work best, at least for me. I won't claim that it will be the same for everyone, but I will claim that most people have their keyboard and pointing device too high.

Keyboard/mouse trays may help, but attaching one to any old desk might not lower the surface enough. When I first injured my tendons, I simply got a cardboard box and put it down near the level of my quadriceps, next to my chair. That helped immensely. As others have pointed out, improving ergonomics doesn't require expensive equipment.

2) Not varying your working position.

The latest trend seems to be standing desks. I'm sure those can help, but might open you up to new ergonomic issues. As others have stated, varying your position between standing and sitting is probably better. I've found that the best thing while I'm at home is to switch between my laptop (on my couch) and desktop, seated at my desk. If you look up "correct posture", I'm pretty sure none of the diagrams will look like me reclined on my sofa with my macbook pro on my lap, but that is one of the best improvements I've made. I now alternate between laptop/couch and my desktop computer with standard desk chair.

I also highly recommend switching between various pointing devices. For me, mice seem to be the worst. Especially heavy ones. If you have a high end mouse that lets you add the desired amount of weights to it, I suggest removing them all. If your wireless mouse uses standard removable AA batteries, use rechargeable NiMH rather than alkaline batteries to decrease the weight even more.

Trackballs seem slightly better for my tendons than mice but I could never quite get used to them, and the thumb-based ones scare me. That particular digit is more precious to me than the others. Trackpads (some of them) and touchscreens are wonderful from an ergonomic perspective if you can get used to them, though my MBP's trackpad has a button which I tend to use my thumb exclusively to depress, and now my thumb is exhibiting signs of tendon or joint problems. I am learning to alternate between using my thumb and fingers for depressing it now, and it seems to be improving.

I also use one of Apple's magic trackpads with my desktop, which is a bit clunkier and much tougher to get used to (and the Windows/bootcamp drivers are terrible compared to the OS X drivers), but it's much easier on my tendons than my mice--I still use mice for gaming since nothing else is quite as precise and quick, but I limit how much time I use them and stick to the trackpads for everything other than precision gaming.

Don't think that taking frequent breaks is a good substitute for not varying your working position or bad equipment heights. I had lots of breaks while my code was compiling or my colleagues came to talk to me, and I tended to pace around while thinking about my code. I got up from my chair frequently. It didn't save me.

[1.] tendinosis.org is the best source I've found for explaining (or at least, theorizing) why some people have more trouble than others. It's only partially due to your setup, but that's the part you can control most easily.

Comment: Fear (Score 1) 340

by newdarktimes (#28728589) Attached to: Australian Police Plan Wardriving Mission

Maybe geeks in Oz need to start their own campaign. Knock on doors and educate people why everyone should open their router? I recently visited Australia and was amazed at how hard a time I had finding open access points with my ipod. I didn't have a notebook or 3G phone on me, I was backpacking and trying to keep the weight down. The problem is not much better here at home, in Canada. I live in a neighbourhood of dense housing and can see about 20 wifi networks broadcasting, but mine is the only open one. (I call it KarmaNet.) Most connections to it are iphones, and the occasional neighbour that uses it regularly. In the two years I've had it open and uncapped, I've noticed no change in my overall bandwidth consumption.

Yes, there is a miniscule chance that someone will use it to do something truly nefarious, like posting kiddie porn. This common argument is very lopsided relative to the amount of good it could do to society as a whole if everyone had an open network, even if most had capped public bandwidth to something relatively small.

Yes, I know it's against most ISP rules. We should be pushing to have laws that force ISPs to remove this clause from TOS agreements. This should be on the agenda of the growing Pirate Parties of the world. It's something the average person can relate to, even if they have no interest in the copyright issues on the current Pirate Party agendas.

I know I'm preaching to the choir, and I know slashdotters and generally too complacent to actually go door to door and educate people about this (I know I am). Seriously, though, why not bring the subject up with our non-techy friends (many who now own smartphones or other portable wifi devices and can easily relate to how wonderful it would be to not rely on 3G networks). Get people thinking about this "what if" scenario.

Comment: Use it to make head-mounted pointers? (Score 1) 201

by newdarktimes (#11950681) Attached to: Help For Those With Shaky Hands

About 6 years ago I tried mounting a gyro-mouse to a helmet to see if it would be suitable to give my arms a rest, since I suffer from a repetitive stress disorder in both arms. (A gyro mouse is a hand-held mouse that you wave in the air to move the cursor rather than moving it across a flat surface).

It was futile, I quickly discovered, because my head (and everyone else's) has a subtle jittery motion that I didn't know about until I tried this experiment. It makes the cursor erratic.

Hands have much finer control, and doubly so when they're pushing a mouse across a stable surface. For that reason, the hand-held gyro mouse works pretty well, and standard surface mice work extremely well.

So now I wonder if this product (the motion smoothing aspect of it) could be used to make a do-it-yourself head-mounted mouse.

I know there are already head-mounted products available, and at least some of them probably use similar algorithms, but last I checked--several years ago--the prices for quality head-tracking was quite high, and most of them used cameras or similar sensors to track wearable "dots" or your eyes.

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