13
Jun 10

Take a break .. take a break .. take a break …

If you’re a white-collar, soft hands clean clothes information-worker, you sit on your ass day in and day out and probably, at night too.  Using the computer is your work and play.  By now, you probably have decent desk ergonomics and understand the importance of them.  Carpul-tunnel and RSI are real, no matter who you are. 

Hell, I bet you’ve had some strange aching pains in your shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist, and or hands at some point.  An early warning of what could come and enough to motivate you to make some positive, preventative changes. Let’s assess the basic ergonomics of a healthy desk:

  • Screen is at arms length from your face and at eye level.
  • Keyboard is parallel or slightly lower than where your arms rest on the desk. Your wrists should not be higher than your elbows.
  • Mouse easily accessible, moves effortlessly, requiring little to no movement of your arm.
  • You’re sitting up straight.  Shoulders back and not hunched over.  If it hurts, you probably need a better chair – get one with good lumbar support. Or, baring the new chair option, one of these inflatable cushions.
  • Feet flat on the ground or better yet, on a foot rest that promotes upright sitting (not slouching!).
  • Check this out for illustrations of an ideal workspace configuration.

Now, on to the meat of the meal: taking breaks.  
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12
Jun 10

Introducing the Countdown Timer gadget

The Countdown timer gadget was created as a learning project and because I needed something to remind me to take breaks throughout the day. I wanted something that had a tiny footprint both in appearance and function, similar to the gnome-timer applet (for Linux desktops).

5 minute countdown underway

The concept is very basic – countdown from a preset time (in minutes) and alert when time is up. This gadget is more akin to a kitchen timer than a countdown-until-my-birthday type timer. However, the gadget will happily countdown 135971947923 minutes in case that amount of time happens to be of value to you.

the settings dialog box

As with any quality gadget or applet, this one is configurable. The Custom Countdown setting (in minutes), if set, will override the default of 30 minutes and any Preset Timers selection (also in minutes). Lastly, the Number of Alarm Sounds option defines how many times the audible alarm will sound when time is up. Putting a 0 in this option field disables it.

The Countdown Timer gadget was designed to work with Windows 7 but there should be no problem running it in Vista. I’ve committed the code to my github account where you can follow along for nitty gritty details.

Download it now

See the included README for installation instructions and additional info. Post questions and comments to this entry and I hope you find it as useful as I have.

Last Updated: July 1st, 2010