It’s 9.15pm and I’m still at work, so don’t kill me for this being just another blogmarks entry. I have some cool stuff for y’all.

  • This laser technology looks really really cool — it allows superimposed images on top of what you’re actually seeing and is being piloted for mechanics and surgeons, who want to see manual details or scan results when they are actually working. I can see their being a lot of great practical hands-free applications for this sort of work … but how long before you find you’re on a date and someone has a monocle showing them notes about you or working out what your kids would look like? Interested to see where this goes
  • This skate-boarding dog is just the funniest thing ever. And I think it’s for real too … how long before he’s a TV star do you reckon? And I’d love to know how they taught him to do that…
  • Apparently computer security is a big deal and companies are losing out due to lack of it. And we don’t have the computer security skills in business to deal with it. What a shock. Shall we start a “provide cold pizza to a hacker and he’ll secure your network” campaign?
  • Devil duck USB storage!! — I want, I want, I want!! via Neil Gaiman
  • Latte with a Marilyn Monroe face please — cool story about a guy who paints faces in the foam on your coffee. Presumably you get slow mornings in Aussie coffee shops sometimes…
  • Gay for Payday logo — Gay for Payday seems a catchy little campaign, which I found via Bradlands (the guy who found the social engineering security hole in GMail), who incidentally also has a very funny (if extremely cynical) page all about being single
  • It’s getting chilly in Hellvia Si
  • I almost laughed out loud when I found this absolute quality rant about a guy who found his spark plugs had been sawn off his motorbike to be used as crackpipes — worth reading to the end as it’s just sooo funny
  • Quality rant about fat, which includes the following fantastic insight into the American attitude to dieting:

    We may drive environmentally insane SUVs that dump untold tonnes of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere; we may consume a vastly disproportionate share of the world’s diminishing natural resources; we may support a foreign policy that consists of throwing America’s military weight around without regard to objections from our allies – but at least we don’t eat that extra cookie when it’s offered to us

    via Neil Gaiman

  • Too much time on your hands? Construct a mouse pad that helps you endure the summer heat by creating a soothing breeze. Complete with flashy blue lights, via Slashdot

You may recall that a while ago I advocated a piece of software designed to prevent RSI etc by timing your use of the computer and making you take breaks. The software was Workrave and I have been using it ever since, unlike some 😉

I was taking 15 second breaks every 10 mins and a 5 minute break every hour. Unfortunately, however, it seems this is not enough. I’ve had problems for the past few months, always occasional, with shooting pains from my wrists all the way up to my elbows, as well as a strange feeling in my left hand in the 3rd and 4th fingers. Although painful, the episodes didn’t usually last long enough for me to do anything about it, other than take a little time away from the keyboard.

Things got worse, however, and I went to see the Occupational Health guys at work. To their credit they got me to see a doctor pretty quickly and after a few quick tests he had a verdict: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my left arm (which was causing the weird numbness and pain in my hand) and Upper Limb Disorder (which seems to me to be the same as good old RSI) in both arms.

So what does this mean? Luckily both are in the early stages and the use of Workrave, the strength I have in my upper body from working out and my youth are all already helping it not progress further at a rapid rate. Still I’m going to take this seriously, since I really don’t want my computing career over before it really begins!!

The doc gave me a brace to wear at night on the CTS affected arm and work are being very accommodating in terms of changing my peripherals so they don’t require as much wrist movement. I already had a gel thingey to help my wrists stay flat when typing and I’ve just acquired a wireless optical trackball (luckily with a scroll wheel, else my likelihood of using it would soon approach 0) which will apparently help a lot since I can use it without moving my wrist. He’s also told me to cut down the working before a break to 40 mins and to double the break length. I’m also to try to limit the amount of time I spend at the computer to a given maximum and to spread my meetings out during the day so I use them to full (rest) advantage.

I blogged this for two reasons … firstly, I think its important for people to realise that there’s a whole generation coming through to working age now that are highly susceptible to this sort of problem. I’ve been using computers since I was about 8 years old — I’m only 21 now, but that’s still plenty of time to permanently injure yourself. I imagine it will be worse for kids who starting using the PC before they went to school (and there are plenty of them around). Another interesting thought here is that soon we’ll see lawsuits against schools and universities, because they are so often trying to cram so many computers into a small space that the ergonomics of the situation are completely shot. I reckon it will just need a few strategic bits of legal action for that all to change, but by the time it does it will likely be too late for many. And what of laptop manufacturers … are they culpable too? I will resist going off on this tangent, but I would love to hear if this kind of thing has already started happening…

Secondly, I’m very interested by the predicament this highlights in terms of Human Computer Interaction. What if interacting with your computer is going to disable you? What do you do then? How does the industry adapt interaction methods to make it so people aren’t in so much danger of hurting themselves? Elly recently wrote about how she’d given up her mouse completely in favour of her tablet. This is one option (my trackball is a similar escape route), but is there a bigger problem here … that perhaps the WIMP standard that we are all accustomed to is somehow basely flawed?

Do we need to change the way we interact with computers or, more interestingly, will we change in order to interact with them better? Will our children grow up with strangely strong wrists and tendons accustomed to frequent tiny movements? Innovation vs evolution — what do you think? 😉

There’re two tabs open at the moment in this browser window, side by side, but worlds apart.

The first describes the historic move by Judge Frank Bearden to freeze issuing of gay marriage licences in Oregon on one hand, ordering the state to formally legalize them on the other. His order that all the marriages performed thusfar must also be recognized is also very significant and a huge step forward for the movement in America. Even if Bush pushes through his constitutional amendment, even if these marriages aren’t recognized in other states, those people who just want couples who love each other to be allowed to marry, regardless of orientation, have won a major victory and should be proud of themselves.

So what’s in the second tab, you ask? Well, you would ask if you were there, or reading this or possibly gave a damn 😉 In the second tab is an article reporting the surge in hate sites on the Net, claiming that the Internet is fostering racism, Semitism and various other hate-based activities. It’s amazing to me that on the one hand we have a massive liberalization in the Real World ™, juxtaposed with increasing hatred. And that modern communications has made both possible.

Admittedly television has been responsible for much of the relaxation of attitudes towards homosexuals that is visible (after all, exposure does breed tolerance) in public. But driving this was a much greater feeling by gay people that they could be safe in their own skins … and nothing helped this more than the internet. Gay pride and all those sorts of movements could hardly have reached out as the internet has and still does.

Think you might be gay? Confused about it? Well, a quite Google search (with the right terms of course) will beat you a direct path to a number of supportive people who don’t mind that you want to remain anonymous (hell, they probably did once too), who understand how confused you feel, who want to help you and let you talk. Places that will give you a little time to get comfortable in this new skin you suddenly realised was real underneath the clothes and to realise that you needn’t be a stereotype. This was the essential prework before homosexuality could become anything like acceptable to the general public — it is difficult to like or respect anyone who is scared or afraid to be themselves.

So how can the internet foster so much hatred on the other hand, just as easily? For the exact same reason. Google and similar can put you in touch with likeminded people, wherever they may be. You can be anonymous. You can be insular, unexposed to real people who embody the things you hate, whether that be a race, religion, orientation, age or economic level (after all, a surprising number of people really do hate the poor…). You can pick and choose where you go, who you talk to. It’s much easier on the net to filter out the unwelcome reality or normality that has driven you out of the Real World in the first place.

While I was writing this it almost surprised me that I did not resent these facts. But then I realised why — the internet is just a tool. People will be people and all the abuse, all the hateful rhetoric, is all down to people. The internet allows the “mob-component” aspect of people to run free, particularly when anonymity is so much easier. Just watch the comments to this post and see. They can stay there, testament to the greatness of the internet as a tool and the sadness of people’s ability to hate each other for no reason at all.

I have too many sources of information. That blogroll down the side there seems to grow every day and the amount of time I have for surfing, reading, digesting and then blogging is less every week. What’s worse is that many of those that I read, as well as my news sources that now send me digest emails, act as a portal into a whole new _realm_ of information. The linkblogging habits of those I respect and read are filling up my tabs and increasing the number of posts I have that are simply blogmarks, with little or no extra commentary. This of course means that original content is few and far between as well.

Why did it take me so long to notice? Probably because I was too busy reading things on the web!! It wasn’t until this morning when I was driving that I really thought about it at all. Ironic, really, that when I’d taken the morning off to take a really nice drive from Bath to London, along all the nice twisty minor roads in the spring sunshine, that I was thinking about my blog. And my attempt at a Debian installation, which has also been vortex-like in absorbing my time.

What am I going to do about it? About what? Well I’m going to document my Debian troubles in the potentially vain hope that someone will be able to proffer some helpful advice. Or maybe learn from the help that I’ve already received, from housemates, by sifting through help topics on a variety of websites and even from books.

And about the blogging? I’m going to resolve to write some actual content at least twice per week. There will also be lots of blogmark entries, since I really enjoy a lot of the things that I find, through the blogroll and the other sources, and I don’t want to give that up. But I’m going to be a bit more ruthless about reading everything that I find interesting (because, after all, that’s just a spiral down into no sleep, no food and an angry girlfriend) and closing tabs once I’ve read the first paragraph and honestly am never going to get to the rest. However interesting it might be.

I’ve diversified a bit too much. So now I think I’m going to go back to my main interests. If I were being horrifically corporate, I’d describe this as a return to my “core competencies”. But I haven’t been here __that__ long. So I’m going to try and write some more useful, original things. To be honest this should just be more a matter of articulating what I’m thinking about already.

But more on that tomorrow. For now let me unload some links into a nice blogmark entry, so at least you might get some interest out of this page, particularly if my introspective prattling has become annoying by this point 😉