Saturday, May 03, 2008

Save Those Wrists

About a month in, Data and I are getting along perfectly, and, for the most part, Lore has been behaving himself.

However, I have been having trouble with my wrists using the bundled keyboard that came with Data.  I have been typing on a Microsoft Natural keyboard for years, after I started having tell-tale wrist pains -- in high school.  Being a touch-typist, the split design was never a problem for me, and it dramatically increased the amount of time I could type before fatigue and/or pain started in.

I have been eyeing the Kinesis keyboard for about the last nine months, as even typing on the MS Natural started to hurt, as the next step up from the MS Natural keyboard, figuring that if a $100 keyboard kept me away from the carpal tunnel doctors for 15 years or so, then hopefully a $300 keyboard would do the same.

(The step up from that would be the Maltron, which is even more, and approaches the price point of, "Oh, forget it, just go see the scary carpal tunnel doctor."  Unless my chicken tendencies kicked in and went for the -- apparently at least temporarily out of business -- DataHand keyboard.)

Anyhow, the problem is that I actually like typing on the Apple keyboard.  Many don't.  Many panned its design when it was essentially introduced on the MacBook.  Having played around with a MacBook and tried typing on it, I agree -- it's not comfortable on a laptop.  But as a desktop keyboard, I've really liked it -- the tactile feedback of the keys is very nice, and I like the clicking.  Call me old school.

But my poor wrists....  While working to get Data set up the way I wanted, I even had to start wearing a wrist brace again, it hurt so much.

So I had a dilemma.  I have this keyboard that I really genuinely like -- and, what's more, doesn't take up two-thirds of my desk.

But as all this is going on, I began to notice something -- even moreso than when I was typing, it hurt to use the mouse.  I mean, as in, I probably could have shown you exactly which nerves attached to which muscles on the back of my arm.

So I did some research, and it turns out that for many, the mouse is a bigger problem than the keyboard, because not only are you turning your hand in an unnatural way, you're moving it around and such.

With some trepidation, then, I decided to take an $80 gamble that may save me $300 on the Kinesis keyboard (or, at the very least, postpone the leap for a while).  I found the Evoluent Vertical Mouse while browsing, ironically enough, the Kinesis website, and the documentation on their own website about the problems with mouse usage seemed somewhat convincing.

So far, I can say that, while it looks...well...weird, it is very comfortable.  It's taken some training to use the middle finger (there are three buttons on one side) to right click and to remember that the pinkie button is the switch-applications button (equivalent to Alt-Tab on a Windows computer) but that makes sense because the muscles in the pinkie are weaker and you'd use that one less.

My only problem is that the tracking speed is way, way too fast for my poor eye-hand coordination.  I have it set to the slowest it can go, and I still seem to have to expend additional mental effort to get the mouse where I want it to be.

Will this save my wrists?  I doubt it -- but like my original investment in the MS Natural keyboard, hopefully it'll delay more expensive dilemmas.

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