Solving Workplace Hazards
In his article on repetitive strain injuries (“Occupational Hazards,” November 1998), Dr. Franklin N. Tessler didn’t mention a simple and effective strategy to prevent repetitive strain injury while greatly improving your productivity: learn to type using the Dvorak keyboard layout. Usually all you have to do is select the Dvorak layout in your keyboard control panel, and then get an inexpensive typing program that includes Dvorak, such as Typing Tutor 7 by Davidson. The standard QWERTY keyboard reminds me of Microsoft’s operating system: omnipresent, painful to use, and designed to slow you down. You can learn more about Dvorak by contacting Dvorak International, at
Some computer users do find the Dvorak layout less stressful and faster than the conventional QWERTY arrangement. You can download several alternative Dvorak keyboard layouts for the Mac from Apple’s Web site, at
http://www.apple.com/education/k12/disability/shareware.html.;Franklin N. Tessler, M.D.
I was disappointed in Dr. Tessler’s article. I’m sure his advice about avoiding wrist damage is sound. However, his advice about monitor placement, although it is what’s often quoted, is incorrect for baby boomers and older people who are now wearing progressive lenses or bifocals in their glasses. These lenses are designed for looking down at close things. For all of us who wear these glasses, a monitor positioned with the top edge at eye level is certain to produce neck discomfort. For us, a monitor needs to be recessed into the desk, preferably at a tilt, with the bottom edge of the monitor no higher than the desktop. An article dealing with recessed-monitor desks would be appreciated by our aging workforce.
As an aging baby boomer who also wears progressive lenses, I find that the middle focal zone is ideal for reading my monitor, which is positioned with its top at eye level. For those who prefer the alternative positions Dr. Davis describes, LCD panels offer far more flexibility than bulky 17-inch or larger monitors.F.N.T.
Talking Back for the Mac
David Pogue’s column “Speech Impediments,” on the state of voice-recognition software in the Mac world, was very revealing (The Desktop Critic, November 1998). He tells of a software developer who would already have created a voice product for the Mac except that he was fearful Apple would undercut him. This reminds me of how Apple treated the clone manufacturers, who made a huge commitment to support the Macintosh, only to have Apple pull the rug right out from under them.
Meanwhile, Pogue says, Dragon NaturallySpeaking for the PC is selling 250,000 copies a month. I wonder how many of those buyers are people like me, longtime Mac users with a repetitive strain injury who were forced to switch platforms. That’s a lot of Mac users and yet another missed opportunity for Apple.
Irksome OS 8.5
David Pogue’s uncritical rave about Mac OS 8.5 touches on all of its admittedly fine improvements, but his article is no more critical or balanced than the average car-magazine article (“Mac OS 8.5,” November 1998). The beast is a memory hog, and one simple sentence could have been added to the skimpy paper manual that would have made life so much less maddening to those of us not tethered to Ethernet backbones: “You must load Open Transport, and all of its blubber, before either Sherlock or OS Help will work.”
I applaud Apple’s new directions and innovations, but the rats who screw up the details are still around. Maybe Apple should thicken the “manual” by another 20 pages for those of us unwilling to surrender 25MB of RAM just to make mandatory features work.
I picked up my new copy of OS 8.5 yesterday, was on the brink of installing it, and read the fine print of the fine print: “Apple PC Compatibility Cards are not supported.” Ouch!
I run my consulting engineering practice off my Power Mac 7200 with an Apple PC Card. I only use the PC Card for items that “industry demands”for example, I have to issue schematics in ACad LT format. It works great. So although I do 80 percent of my work on the Mac side, I cannot get along without the 20 percent on the PC side.
I’m sure I’m not the only engineer or architect in this situation. If Apple were to update the PC Compatibility Card drivers, there would be a lot of very grateful professional Mac users. If the PC Cards are not going to run on the Mac, many of us may have to take a different fork in the platform road, against our preference. (Virtual PC isn’t an optiona new Wintel machine is far more attractive if it comes to that.) How about reconsidering that support issue, Apple?
I have been an addict of Faxstf (Reviews, November 1998) for quite a while, to the point that because of the quality of transmitted documents I persuaded my worldwide clientele to accept these faxes as solid legal documents. But that was version 3.2.5.
I am thoroughly disappointed with the new version, Faxstf Pro 5.0. The phone book doesn’t automatically transfer over (what were they thinking?), and the log doesn’t, either; the software doesn’t facilitate ten-digit dialing; the visual quality is lower; the gray-scale quality is less clear; and the OCR utility is totally gone.
I found Faxstf to be a lifesaver several times, and now it’s gone. I have since switched back to 3.2.5 and have made arrangements to return Pro 5.0, but I am waiting to see what the manufacturer is going to domaybe get wise and fix it all with an update. I am also looking for another application that’s more up-to-date and has the quality and user interface one would expect these days.
Your review of Faxstf missed aserious bug, maybe because your reviewer never tried sending a fax overseas. The program has a nice feature of automatically adding country codes for overseas calls when you specify the destination country. Unfortunately, the phone book loses that information, and the next time you try faxing to that destination, it thinks the destination is in the United States. Well, most of the time. Once it reset a British destination to Albania.
For Want of Good Storage
Your article “Gigs to Go” (November 1998) gives the good advice to keep a safe backup of the backup of magnetic media. But what about the drive’s reliability? I’ve gone through five (!) 1GB Jaz drives in less than two years, and suffered the lost data, headaches, countless wasted hours, and many damaged disks caused by the drives’ mechanical failures. The accommodating customer-service reps of Iomega cannot make up for a technology that doesn’t work.
I have a bone to pick with the focus of “Gigs to Go.” Magnetic-storage technology is still in its infancy and has quite a way to go before it reaches either the speed of a real SCSI hard disk or the archival cost, reliabil-ity, and portability of CD-Recordable technology.
As you noted, CD-R costs only 0.3 cents a megabyte, plus it can be dropped ten feet without damaging the data, taped to a computer screen for a week and still retain its data, survive the winters of Siberia and the summers of the Amazon, and live in an environment as dusty as a wood mill. In addition to its durability, the CD media can be read by any PC or Mac built since 1994, without additional hardware needed for recovery or transfer of the information. I recommend CD-R to all my clients, and they all agree there is no better backup medium.
Keeping Games in Hand
In your recent feature on joysticks and game pads (“Take Control,” November 1998), you omitted a great product, the ChoiceStick Mark V by Kernel Productions (
). This is an adapter that allows you to use any Sega Genesis, Atari, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64, or PC joystick with your Macintosh. It greatly increases the number of controller choices available to Mac game fans.
We indeed wanted to add the ChoiceStick to our roundup, but alas, it was not available to test at the time we wrote the article.Ed