WUWT Status report

Some of you who have corresponded with me lately may have noticed that I have been brief with my responses.  You may also have noticed a number of spelling and grammatical errors in recent WUWT blog postings. This is due to the fact that after over five years of blog posting, I have succumbed to a problem that plagues many people who use the computer too often -carpal tunnel syndrome.

During the last week the problem has gotten severe enough to interfere with my ability to use the keyboard and mouse, as I have constant pain in my right hand.  So tonight I decided I would try something new.

That “something” turned out to be speech recognition in Windows 7, which until tonight I didn’t know existed.  I started looking for a off the shelf program to do the job but in the Google search discovered that it was built into Windows 7.  After going through the tutorial on it I am using the speech recognition utility to write this blog posting.

As with any new technology it takes some getting used to.  But, I am getting the hang of it with continued practice.  So far I’ve only had the correct about six or seven mistakes in the paragraphs preceding this.

Over the next few days I planned to take a little bit of a break in blog posting and I will use that time to get more familiar with the speech recognition software.  Hopefully by taking a short break I will be able to improve the situation with my right hand.  Of course, I also have to learn how to dictate more effectively as it is something I’m not used to on a regular basis.  I will say that that dictating to the computer allows me to write faster than I have been able to for quite some time.  Further, it seems the speech recognition software is quite good at picking up the nuances of my voice and inflection which results in an overall increase in typing speed.

For those of you that have Windows 7, you might want to try getting a USB headset with a microphone and practice learning how to use the speech recognition software -it may help you write better comments.  One of the most interesting things I learned is that screaming at the headset results than nothing being typed at all – the computer gets confused.  So, on the plus side if everyone use speech recognition for writing comments we would probably have less trolls because they tend to shout.  🙂 it even recognized when I said the emoticon in the middle of the last sentence.

In the meantime, those of you that wish to submit stories should use the submit story button on the WUWT menu. Please bear in mind that when submitting a story it should be submitted as if it’s actually going to be posted rather than as a tip or advice.  Please use tips and notes in the menu for those sorts of notifications.

As always, thank you for your patience and consideration.  -Anthony

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Mark and two Cats

Bravo Anthony!
Carpal diem!

Jenn Oates

I have the same problem, Anthony–it first manifested itself when I was in my early 30s while slinging around five gallon buckets of mud at an archeological site, and when I saw my doc about the pain he said it was my carpal tunnels rebelling at the labor. I told him that I was too young to get carpal tunnel, and to his credit he only smiled, not laugh derisively.
It’s a pain, but for our sake I’m glad you’re finding a workaround!
Okay, okay, for your sake, too. 🙂

How is the contextual stuff working out? Can it distinguish between “recognize speech” and “wreck a nice beach”?

Thanks, Anthony … going to pass this on to my (almost 90 yr old) Dad, who’s been struggling (unsuccessfully) with Dragon for several years – and who against my better judgment (countermanded by my sibling and step-siblings), a year or so ago got new laptop with Win 7 and MS productivity minus “Office 2007”!
But I did notice one error you might want to correct in your post: “So far I’ve only had the correct …” I’m sure you probably said “So far, I’ve only had to correct …”

Jimmy Haigh

Isn’t technology wonderful? Of course one will have to mind one’s ‘p’s and ‘q’s…

DirkH

Nice tip, thanks, gotta try that out. I bought a Dragon NatSpeaking 10 years ago but after benchmarking I found that with all the corrections I had to make I wasn’t faster than typing – it wasn’t bad but I’m a fast typer so the bar was too high and I abandoned using it. Also, the windows integration wasn’t good enough for me. Let’s see whether this one works better…

LearDog

Anthony – glad that you are using that software.
I did 4 things to address my issues:
1) Increased my water intake (it turns out that dehydration aggravates the condition)
2) Increased the recommended flexibility exercises with the soft squishy rubber ball thingy provided me
3) Took an anti-inflammatory
4) Installed an ‘ergo’ software to remind me to take breaks
The condition is now well-managed. Hopefully you can address yours as well…. I’m keeping my fingers crossed (wait, that doesn’t sound right…)! ;-D

has Romm discovered Voodoo, I wonder

Patrick Davis

Although I don’t suffer from your condition I know how RSI can render people almost unable to do things comfortably. I know this technology in Windows 7 is quite good out of the box so to speak. I recall setting up an IBM PS/2 running OS/2 back in the early 90’s for an employee who suffered from multiple sclerosis, took a while to setup, but worked rather well. Enjoy the new toy.

TimM

Speech recognition training is mostly about training yourself to enunciate properly and leave micro-pauses between words.
For carpal tunnel syndrome I recommend therapeutic gloves or wrist bands. They worked well for me and over a couple of years my CTS seems to have faded almost completely.

Hey Anthony
Sorry to hear about your wrists I have suffered with issue myself but the good news there is a solution without surgery. I know you have probably heard of miracle pain relief products a dozen times. But I can assure you as some one who lost complete use of both hands (carpenter turned heavy computer user) this stuff works. I keep buying it 6 at a time and end up giving most of it to others I tell about it who suffers from carpal, tendinitous any joint swelling pain. Usually takes just a few days for initial relief then a few weeks to be almost like new. Last lady I gave it to was back to work renoing her house after just 3 days. Just check amazon reviews of the stuff I’m not sure there’s a single bad one. You can find it at http://www.penetrex.com/
Check it out I think you will be amazed.
PS In thanks for such a amazing site. I’m gone hit the Tip jar to cover your first jar of the stuff
Cheers
Mark

GeoLurking

I have been using a keyboard since the mid eighties. (actually a bit before) and have never had this issue. In fact, I have been using a keyboard for so long, that when telling someone what keys to push, I keep messing up and tell them to hit the return key. (enter).
I don’t doubt that it’s a problem… I have had other non keyboard repetitive stress issues… but they mainly are due to extended periods of mouse use or leaning wrong for too many miles while driving.
Hope you get better!

Tucci78

One of the most interesting things I learned is that screaming at the headset results than nothing being typed at all – the computer gets confused.

Reminds me of an autobiographical note published by Isaac Asimov some decades ago, in which he mentioned – disappointedly – his failure to make dictation and transcription work for him in his fiction writing.
Apparently, Dr. Asimov “thought” his dialogue and narration in very vivid terms. At the keyboard of his computer, he could put no more immediate emphasis on his prose than hammering the hell out of the poor gadget (the old steam-powered Smith-Corona portable I used in college and med school still bears the marks of my fingernails grooving the keys commonly struck by the second and third fingers of both hands).
When he tried to dictate, however…. Hoo, boy.
His transcriptionist had to give up in despair, reporting to him (according to Dr. Asimov) that especially in dialogue he projected the emotions of his characters – particularly in conflict – so frenziedly that she couldn’t understand him.

Yet somehow I’ve managed to use a keyboard all day, every day, since 1980. I’m skeptical.

AlexS

One option is to get a tablet like wacom and use a pen.

Hector Pascal

Commiserations Anthony. My carpal tunnel syndrome is chronic, not acute, so I can manage. It peaks in spring at the end of the snow clearing season (16 metres last winter).
Does the voice recognition thingy respond to “dig, shovel, faster”? That would be cool!

Dg

I had bad pain in my right thumb/wrist area, cured it by switching from a small short oval mouse to a large tall ergonomic mouse that allowed my hand to be more open.
Cheers

I suffered from carpal tunnel, repetitive strain injury and tendonitis from using computer mice, keyboards and controllers. Being a video editor I had few options other than to not work. I eventually switched to using a Wacom pen and tablet and have been able to manage the condition for the last ten years. Still get occasional bouts when I’m busy but on the whole I get by without any serious problem. Pen and tablets get a little time to get used to but they are so much better than mice. Just try writing your signature with a mouse. Voice recognition software is invaluable too. I use the iPad’s built in speech software to dictate blog posts, articles and documents. And this message!

When I first tried using speech recognition I was very impressed when it got “I’m too tired to walk two miles” (with the three forms of ‘to’) correct. I’ve since given up with it as much of my work is overseas and having spell the name of each raingauge or flow meauring station slows things down too much.

Maybe you’re doing something else wrong. Maybe your diet is bad. Maybe your exercise regimen is bad. Maybe you’re not sleeping well. Maybe your stress is bad.
I encourage you to avoid chemicals and quick fix products.
I didn’t mean to sound rude before, but carpel tunnel doesn’t happen to healthy people. I encourage you to investigate your health instead of fixating on one issue.
I hate to promote a site, but if I had to, I’d promote MarksDailyApple.com

Crap. I have no association with MarksDailyApple.com, other than the same first name.

tonyb

Anthony
It was probably about 15 years ago that I first used a program called ‘Dragon-naturally speaking’;
It was totally hilarious to the point I seriously thpught about asking the TV people to make a game show of it whereby everyone spoke a pre prepared text and the one that was changed the most into a totally incorrect but still reasonably lucid story was the winner.
Obviously things have moved on. I commend you for your ability to continually adapt to changing circumstances
tonyb

Go get ’em, Tiger. You must be greatly relieved. I find that voice recognition software is sketchy owing to my workplace, where there is a constant background din. So, I type. But for you and your seemingly tireless running of WUWT, wow. What a revelation, eh?

LevelGaze

I’ve been using Dragon for about 13 years, often professionally, through numerous sequential versions. The training period has improved from about 3 weeks (in the early days) to 30 minutes or less with the current software and I’m *very* happy with it. 130+ words/min, comparable to a competent typist.
Tried the Windows 7 software 6 months ago and found it decidedly inferior.
However, Dragon is now quite expensive and upgrading your O/S might make your earlier version inoperable, necessitating a big hole in your wallet. Not so good!
I have similar gripes with Quicken, whose policy in this area is outrageous.

Dreadnought

Seems to work very well, Anthony – who’d have thunk it?! I hope it takes the strain off the hands.
A friend of mine was attempting to show off his new ‘virtual assistant’ (aka SIRI) on his iPhone 4s at the golf club the other day. Unfortunately, it kept getting all the commands wrong and we all sat there, patiently humouring him in his vain attempts to get it to do something even remotely clever – until, red-of-face, he finally blurted at the phone “do what you’re told, YOU STUPID F****** ****!”
After a brief pause, the ever-polite voice said sternly “I do not respond to profanities”. End of conversation. He was well and truly pwned, and by his own telephone! {:oD

If it is a mouse RSI problem..simply train yourself to use the other hand. I did. If I run into problems again……I shall switch back.

Krazykiwi

Anthony, I’m right handed and haven’t used the mouse in my right hand for 15 years due to CTS. I was a hard-core software geek and 18 hour code-a-thons were not unusual. The pain, from my wrist back up my forearm got worse and worse until I abandoned the PC for a week but not before hitting up Google and a few fellow sufferers for suggestions. My suggestions are:
1. Learn to use the mouse in your other hand. It felt like sitting backwards driving on the wrong side of the road for a while… but I got used to it.
2. Never rest your wrists. Lateral mouse movements need to be with the big muscles in your arm, not the small muscles in your wrists. Tension in these small muscles apparently traps toxins.
3. Becoming a mouse-leftie was a bit unweildy at first. I ended up using my little finger as a ‘brake’ on the mouse pad given the forearm of your non-primary limb is a kinda sledgehammer approach to moving a mouse
4. Drink plenty of water (already suggested and I concur with that)
5. Take regular breaks. My 18 hour code junkie session are over. My family thanks me!
Wishing you a speedy recovery, and a succussful alternate input strategy!

Arron

One thing that is a definite cause of carpal tunnel problems is bad posture. The most common reason for bad posture when sat at a desk is a bad chair.
A lot of people who get the problem report that they got a new chair 6-12 months beforehand. The worst offenders of the chair world, in my experience, are the big, luxury boss-type ones.
For proper posture, you need to have your wrists parallel to the desk top, i.e. any weight that you put on them should run along your whole forearm and not just on your wrist. That normally means having a chair that can go quite high. You also need to make sure that nothing puts pressure on your elbows — big, padded arm wrests that seem to support your arms are just as bad as hard plastic ones. Your hands should be able to be on the keyboard with your forearms along the desk and your elbows free from obstruction.
I can’t claim to be qualified in this area but I’ve had to use some truly dreadful desks and chairs over the last 20+ years hopping from customer site to customer site and have had carpal tunnel syndrome come and go due to them.
Hope this helps.

Richard Briscoe

Anthony, may I make another suggestion ? Try using the mouse left handed for a while.
I work in IT, and a few years ago I started experiencing pain in my right wrist. I switched to left handed use. It’s easily done – go to Control Panel and you can reverse the buttons. I quickly adjusted, though it annoyed anyone else who tried using my machine! After a month or two the problem with my wrist has gone away, I switched back to right handed mouse and have had no problem since.

Paul Matthews

You say the main problem is in your right hand and it’s related to mouse clicking.
When I got pains in my right index finger as a result of this a few years ago I simply started left-hand mousing (so I use the 3rd finger of my left hand for the usual left-click). It was fairly easy to switch and so far no problems with the LH fingers.

Scarface

Hi Anthony,
I’ve a tip that may work for you too: If you’re righthanded, use the mouse with your left hand! It worked for me. It may take a couple of days to get used to it though, but it’s worth a try. I’m painfree for over 7 years now.
When I accidentally use my right hand with the mouse I have pain within 5 minutes. With the left hand I can use the mouse all day long.
Somehow with the other hand one uses the mouse in a more relaxed way and that avoids a too firm and tensioned grip which causes the complaints imo. I have had no more complaints since the switch.
Kind regards,
Scarface

If I might be so bold to suggest…..
Quite a few years ago (I forget how many–before I was fired for being too old in 2003) I was diagnosed with CTS–went through the splints thing, listened to some serious talk about how I “needed” the surgery…..
Short summary–the splints helped (or seemed-to) early on–eventually got to the point that they caused as much discomfort as they helped. I stopped using them regularly, but I kept them (but haven’t used them in a while–not sure what happened to them when we moved a year ago) to wear at night when I have misbehaved–they keep me from bending my wrists in my sleep.
I quit the Naproxen because it makes me angry, and the Vioxx and Celebrex which developed scary reps. I use Naproxen now and Ibuprofen and Tramadol at night sometimes. (sometimes together, some times not–the target is seldom my wrists, usually knees and angles.)
The big breakthrough was getting referred to a Physical Therapist that taught me hygiene and posture techniques that have eliminated the problem,. E l i m i n a t e d.
Every now and again I misbehave and the pains return, but quick attention to corrections in the posture and what I called “hygiene”–exercise, tension control, rest stops it before it gets bad. As I say, I have not needed the splints for a year or two, and then only at night.
Take from this what ever is useful–I don’t want a debate, or even an acknowledgement. Mods, I don’t even care if it is released.
It worked a miracle for me and I feel a need to pass it on. End of story,
Good luck. Good Bless. Thanks for what you do.

Minor glitch, which is obviously the software’s fault: “I started looking for an off the shelf program to do the job…”

Krazykiwi

… acutally, have just realised that it was altavista not Google that helpd me out!

X Anomaly

Hey, maybe there is a usb foot clicker/ pedal out there somewhere…….

Mark says
“I didn’t mean to sound rude before, but carpel tunnel doesn’t happen to healthy people. I encourage you to investigate your health instead of fixating on one issue.”
Of course Carpel Tunnel Syndrome can happen to anyone. It is a physical condition not a biological condition.

Lilith

I am sorry to hear about your condition. Acupuncture can be very helpful indeed with carpal tunnel, and an ergonomic mouse. It is important to fix it before it becomes chronic. Good luck and do rest.

The mouse is a killer on the wrist and forearm.
Has the pain woke you up in the middle of the night or caused you to lose grip on a steering wheel? I hope it hasn’t gotten that far. Did you ever try an ergonomic mouse with a thumb track ball? If you get one and find a way to mount it so that the bottom face on the mouse is perpendicular to the top of your desk, and facing to the left (I’m sure you with your son that is a Boy Scout could tinker together a wooden, or metal holder for the mouse so it faces that way) and top of the mouse faces to the right and fits in a natural position into the palm of your hand, in a relaxed position, without any tension on the forearm muscle, you may find the pain going away.
If the palm of your hand is always facing down, toward the top of your desk, you will ALWAYS get pain in your forearm muscles since those muscles are always tensing to hold the hand in that position. Human muscles are not meant to remain tensed for long periods. The longer the hand is held in that position the worse that pain will be. You could end up feeling pain 24 hours a day.
For the wrist:
If the palm of your hand is facing down, toward the top of your desk: if the TOP of your hand is in a straight line with the forearm, or worse yet, at an angle slightly bent back (i.e., actually meaning up in this case) toward the forearm, you will get sharp pains in your wrist over time. The palm side of the hand must always be flexed forward, in an angle slightly toward the forearm. But again, this only applies when the palm of your hand is on a conventional mouse, facing down, toward the top of your desk.
If you have an ergonomic mouse mounted in the way I described above you will find freedom for your hand, wrist, and arm 🙂
A nice ergonomic mouse made by Logitech:

Bob from the UK

I’m a programmer, so I type all day and I developed this syndrome many years ago. I was told by a specialist to rest my wrists when typing. It cured it completely. I now always make sure I can rest my forearms on the table whilst typing.

TimC

Glad to see that you are obviously enjoying the new technology! BTW, is it the type of speech recognition that learns to adapt to your voice, so improves as it goes along?
And we’ve all got other things (the SCOTUS Affordable Care Act decision) to look at today!
Have a good break.

Mindert Eiting

Your problem is also well known to musicians. There are physicians who are specialized in these job-related handicaps. In your case there may be an oldfashioned solution. I think that there are many nice women or men around who want to be your secretary for free perhaps on a part-time basis. Not using mouse or keyboard for several months would be my approach.

The Git has carpal tunnel syndrome in his left wrist; he’s a right handed mouse user. Go figure…

connolly

Sorry to hear about your condition. Irrespective of what happens with the important work you are doing here for which so many people are in your debt, all the best to you and hope you can get on top of the pain issues mate.

AndyG55

“You may also have noticed a number of spelling and grammatical errors in recent WUWT blog postings”
I never noticed any errors, anyway, how can carpal tunnel affetc grammar ? ;-)))

AndyG55

Yo Git, when I was doing lots of phone support and work, I taught myself to use the mouse left handed so I could write and use the computer at the same time.
Now I have bad rsi in the tendons that connect the forearm to the elbow, and despite all the proper and alternate remedies, I can’t get rid of it
I had to sell the motorbike because I couldn’t control the clutch :-(((((((((

Anthony between falling off a climbing wall, hitting myself with a trowel and getting a lump of bone growth and constant computer use, I too have suffered from painful wrists.
What I think has helped is:
1. A roller-ball type “mouse” (with the ball on the top). I was quite sceptical of this and I miss the wheel for quick page scroll, but there is no doubt it has improved.
2. A “ergo-???” designed keyboard (I used to just use the laptop). I started using this the same time as the rollerball. The slight change in wrist direction when typing may have helped.
– also I use a soft wrist support. It’s a rubber thing about half an inch by 3 inches – it probably predates the internet, so I’ve no idea where you would get it.
3. Stretching exercise. Stand with your arm out to the side with the palm flat against a wall. Hold it there for 30 – 60 seconds. (Alternatively put hands together as in “prayer” and move away until you feel things getting tense).
4. The other things I was told generally was to move the monitor top level with your eyes.
… and measure progress over weeks, don’t expect some kind of miraculous change (which is why I’m not really sure what helps)

Eric (skeptic)

Anthony, I had that problem in both wrists (at different times) in the 80’s. I have changed a lot since then including diet, exercise (the rest of the body), stress reduction, etc. That’s probably the main reason it hasn’t come back along with coincident problems like neck ache.
My advice right now is extremely simple: if a wrist hurts badly, stop moving it completely. If that means brushing teeth with the other hand, then do that; spend the extra 10 minutes. Pain is a wonderful warning signal so pay attention to it carefully when considering the advice above (e.g. if some “wrist exercise” hurts, don’t do it!)

I have been typing on computer keyboards for 40 years, often for 12 hours a day or more and have never had RSI or CTS. But as my computer use predated the mouse by at least a decade, I never did warm to that new fangled device and use keyboard shortcuts where ever possible.
You might checkout the Headmouse. I’ve never had a need to use it, but knew someone who used a similar device and I recall his speed of navigation was impressive.
http://www.orin.com/access/headmouse/