Tag Archives: programmer

What do you buy a programmer for Christmas?

Easy, a T-shirt. Programmers love T-shirts.

It juuuuust so happens that I have created some T-shirt designs for software developers. Even better, all the commission will be split equally between two very worthy charities: jaipurfoot.org and sightsavers.org.

designs

sightsaversSightsavers works to alleviate sight problems around the world. Last year Sightsavers and their partners treated more than 23 million people for potentially blinding conditions and restored sight to over 244,000 people. Sightsavers is charity particularly close to my own heart, as I have suffered from eye problems myself. My vision without specs is very poor (-8 dioptres). A few years ago I suffered a detached retina due to a martial arts injury and ended up having emergency cryosurgery on both eyes. The possibilty of losing vision in one eye, let alone both eyes, was a frightening prospect. And yet it only costs:

  • $0.10 to protect someone from river blindness for a year.
  • $10 to pay for eyelid surgery for trachoma.
  • $35 for an adult cataract operation.

jaipurfootI first heard of this charity while watching a TV program Paul Merton in India. This organization pioneered the “Jaipur foot” (also known as the “Jaipur leg”) – an effective and easy-to-fit prosthetic lower limb that can be produced for a little as $30 and is provided for free by the charity. The prosthetic was first developed in the 1960s by an orthopedic surgeon and a sculptor. Since then the charity has provided over 300,000 limbs in 22 countries. In the television program a young boy arrived at the clinic hopping on one leg and left running on two, beaming. It was moving to watch. You can read more in this Time magazine article.

In these gloomy economic times it is easy to forget that there are people much worse off than ourselves. A little money goes a long way with either of these charities. So, how can you help?

Buy a T-shirt

Buy a T-shirt for yourself, your geeky friends, your work colleagues or your employees. Currently there are nine designs available. I have set up separate shops for North America (zazzle.com) and Europe (spreadshirt.net) to cut down on postage costs and shipping times.

North American shop: www.zazzle.com/successfulsoftware (the 12.5% commission included in each T-shirt sale will go to charity)

European shop: successfulsoftware.spreadshirt.net (the £1.50 commission included in each T-shirt sale will go to charity)

Design a T-shirt

Got an idea for a design? Add it in a comment below or email it to me. I will do what I can to turn some of the better ideas into T-shirts. You can supply graphics and/or text. I don’t have the artistic skills to turn your idea into graphics, but someone else might have. All commission from your design will go to charity. But your design must be original – no copyright violations please.

Gimme some link love

If you have a software-related blog or frequent a software-related forum, please link to this post and/or the online shops.

Trivia

My “It works on my machine” machine design predates Jospeh Cooney’s and Jeff Atwood’s by more than 4 years, as proved by this link to the (now sadly defunct) ntk.net ezine. The profits from those T-shirts went to the Jhai foundation – pioneers of bicycle powered Linux. Ironically I can’t sell this design in the European shop due to a bug in the Spreadshirt.net code.

** Update **

These T-shirts are no longer available. Sorry.

7 Ways to be a healthier programmer

Developing software is an indoor job with no heavy lifting. How dangerous can it be? Actually, the long term dangers to your health are all too real. Humans have bodies evolved for running around the African savanna, not sitting motionless in front of a computer for hours at a time. I have heard several stories of developer careers cut short by RSI. Imagine if you couldn’t type any more, because it was too painful? Yes, it could happen to you. I started to write an article about ergonomics for developers. Then I realised I knew someone who was a lot more knowledgeable about it than me. Derek kindly agreed to write it instead.

It may seem hard to believe that working at your desk can cause you long term harm, but unfortunately the real toll of sitting in the same location and doing the same operations over and over again may not be felt until it is too late.  Here are some simple precautions you can take.

1. Setup your work environment to be ergonomic

Make sure that your whole working environment is set up correctly. This includes your monitor, keyboard, mouse, your desk height, your chair, and possibly a foot rest. Adjusting your seating position relative to your workstation layout encourages good posture. Do this on a regular basis, not just when the ergonomic assessment forms come around once a year. Setting up your chair correctly is probably the most important step and is covered in detail at healthycomputing.com.

2. Try using an ergonomic mouse and keyboard

There are a wide range of ergonomic mice available nowadays, and while some of them may look a little strange, you may be surprised how comfortable they are compared to conventional mice. The Evoluent VerticalMouse is ergonomic, easy to use and available in left and right hand variants. If you find an ergonomic keyboard inconvenient for programming, consider looking into one with a small key travel distance, like the keyboards on laptops where the keys only need to be depressed a small amount, as this reduces the finger movements and effort required.

3. Remember to look up from your monitor

Staring at your computer screen for long periods will lead to eye strain, tiredness, headaches and dry eyes. Every few minutes, look up from your monitor and focus on objects in the distance, either by looking out of the window or at the most distant end of the room. You can do this by using ScreenRest set to remind you at fixed time intervals. It is also worth adjusting your monitor screen to eliminate reflections from light sources behind and above you.

4. Sit up and stop slouching

Leaning forward, sinking down in your chair or resting you elbows on the desk places unnecessary pressure on your back. Poor posture, maintained over a period of time, leads to back pain and more serious back conditions. Make sure that you regularly correct your posture, sitting slightly reclined and supported in your chair with your shoulders relaxed.

5. Keep yourself hydrated

Don’t forget to keep up your fluid levels throughout the day. Even mild dehydration can leave you feeling lightheaded or bring on a headache. Often when you feel hungry it is actually that you’re thirsty, so don’t reach for the biscuits, get a glass of water first. Staying hydrated will help keep you clearheaded, more alert and help counter the dry environment around computers.

6. Take regular rest breaks

Get up and walk around regularly, taking a few minutes to relax. Try to avoid the temptation of carrying on with that feature that is “nearly finished”, or doggedly tracking down that bug that you’ve “almost fixed”. Taking a break will refresh you both physically and mentally. Also, use the break as a reminder to change the type of task you’re performing. If you use the keyboard and mouse extensively, you may want to use ScreenRest set to remind you based on the amount of usage. It can be surprising how much you use a computer continuously without realizing.

7. Look after yourself before it is too late

As a programmer your livelihood depends on you being able to use a computer. Pay attention to any discomfort, tension or pain you may feel while using the computer. Don’t think that computer-related conditions won’t happen to you and ignore those nagging pains until they become something more serious.

Do not underestimate how severe and uncomfortable repetitive strain injury pains can become and how long they will persist throughout the day and even into the night and will eventually impact leisure activities you enjoy doing. Once the damage has been done even the simplest of movements, not just using the computer, can be enough to trigger pain.  There are tools available, such as speech recognition software, to help with basic computer tasks such as emails and browsing basic websites, but it is of no use when controlling complex development IDEs.  Speech recognition can frustrating to control at the best of times and is impractical in an open plan office environment, due to the background noise.

Derek Pollard

Derek Pollard is the developer of ergonomics software ScreenRest, for the prevention and relief of eye strain and the management of RSI while using your computer.

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stackoverflow.com goes public

Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky’s programmer’s Q&A site stackoverflow.com has now gone from private beta to public beta today.

I have been one of the private beta testers. I find the badges a bit patronising (I’m a 42 year old professional, not a boy scout), but otherwise I have been very impressed with the site. I think it is going to be a great resource for developers – assuming they can control the group dynamics of a large number of developers (the ‘herding cats problem’) while keeping the spammers at bay. A lot of thought has gone into the reputation system, voting, badges etc so it will be interesting to see what behaviour emerges.

Go and take it for a spin. It has been designed to be ‘low friction’ – you don’t even need a login to get started.