18.05.2009 00:00

Xwrits and keyboard layouts

Xwrits thumbnail I have problems with my left hand for a while now. Years of bad habits, and lack of vision. Today I control my environment exclusively with the left hand. Emacs with the pinky (Control on Caps Lock) and my window manager with the thumb (Win/Super_L). This works wonders for my productivity but it puts too much stress on the hand. It started to show in the recent months. Before making some drastic changes (such as switching to Dvorak) I did a lot of small changes and tried a few different things.

Quite a few people recommend to switch Alt_L with Ctrl_L. That works for me too, and it's not bad being that thumb is the strongest finger while pinky the weakest. However I choose to control awesome with Super_L and that puts too much stress on the thumb it self (and then there is also the fear of Carpal). Next step was to move Super_L to AltGr. It that situation I control my whole environment with both thumbs... I tried quite a few of these variations, going full circle and returning to the original setup. This time around I read a lot on the subject of RSI and found some good documents. Wrists by JWZ is a good start and provides many references. I decided to start with the very basics.

There's no point in using Dvorak if I'm sitting at my desk like a hunchback 10 hours a day. This is where the real problem lies. I need to maintain proper posture, good working conditions, and the reason for this article; regular wrist breaks. This is where Xwrits comes in, it's a great utility that will remind you (and even force you) to take wrist breaks - which also suggests real breaks; a stroll around the garden, having a snack, or doing some stretches.

One of the tricks Xwrits uses is window flashes, different colors should annoy you and maybe force you to take a break when you decide to ignore it. However that only made me kill the window ASAP. There is also the fact that the bitmaps used are old and ugly as hell. Fortunately you can define your own images. I wanted something calmer, and obviously better looking. I managed to find a nice set of hand gesture cliparts over on "Lord of Design" and used them to create a set for Xwrits. Additional signs suit me well, and I placed them in the bottom right corner as the (break)clock is by default in the upper left. I start it from "~/.xinitrc" with:

# Xwrits reminds you to take wrist breaks and avoid RSI
/usr/bin/xwrits typetime=40 clock breakclock top \
ready-picture=$HOME/.xwrits/ready.gif rest-picture=$HOME/.xwrits/rest.gif warning-picture=$HOME/.xwrits/warning.gif &

Written by anrxc | Permalink | Filed under desktop, work, emacs