When is a mouse not a mouse?

This is the first in the series of tools and technologies that I use to deal with the loss of functionality in my hands and arms. Check out this article for the lead up to this series.

Setting the stage

The issue I’m dealing with involves muscle atrophy in my hands and my arms. As a result, I’ve lost a lot of strength in my hands and arms including my fingers. Some of the unintended or unplanned impacts included the inability to successfully type at times (more on that later) and what feels like cramping in my hand when holding a mouse for too long. I was using a nice Logitech mouse for most of my work. I have also used the Surface Arc mouse from Microsoft. I liked Arc mouse because it traveled very well because you can flatten it. The Logitech mouse and split keyboard were a part of my standard home office setup.

An older picture of my setup with the Logitech mouse and keyboard

As a condition worsened, I found myself struggling to use a mouse longer than half hour to an hour at a time. I would work with the mouse and then eventually I would start unintentionally clicking the buttons and was unable to actually move it. The level of frustration caused by working that way is pretty high.

Large trackpad try out

Because the problem appeared to be around the fact that I was holding the mouse, my first thought was to try a larger trackpad. This would allow me to use both hands and fingers effectively to manipulate the mouse on the computer. What I found was it just transferred the problem. My lack of finger control and the cramp in my hand still existed while using the trackpad.

Enter the roller bar mouse

A friend of ours works with hand specialists back in Minneapolis. She suggested we check out something called the RollerMouse. It’s an interesting tool. (One thing to note here is that all of these tools cost something. Trying to find the right tools to work is not inexpensive. Hopefully some of this information will help you save some money. ) I went online and did some research about how it’s supposed to help. A lot of the reviews talked about folks with arthritis or other similar conditions which impact their ability to work with a mouse for an extended period of time. Including the fact that they could have shoulder issues and so on. That being said, I decided to give it a try.

The RollerMouse Red that I purchased

It is a completely different way to work with the mouse functionality on your computer. Many of the reviews talked about the two-week learning cycle that was required to be effective. I found that I was affective using the mouse within a couple of hours. I do think this was related to the fact that I struggle so much to work with a traditional mouse or trackpad. The roller bar effectively supports a three-screen solution including two 34-inch monitors. The side-to-side motion of the bar navigates seamlessly from one screen to the other.

Beyond that the buttons are awesome! Naturally there are the left and right click buttons in the center of the bar. The bar itself functions as a left click which is a very natural function when working with the mouse. There is the scroll wheel in the middle which works like a scroll wheel on a normal mouse. Now it gets interesting. At the center in the bottom is a double click button. I did not know if I’d actually use this, but I find myself using it especially when switching hands while using the mouse. The steepest part of my learning curve has been effectively using the buttons. I must keep in mind that the cursor placement is where the clicks will occur, not the last place I had clicked. Up next, they have the copy and paste buttons right above the left and right clicks. In a later blog I will talk about speech to text functionality but having shortcut buttons for copy and paste means I did not have to do the Ctrl+C or Ctrl+V patterns on the keyboard. Which is great! All the buttons are programmable. This means you can change them if you have a better pattern that works for you. So far, I’ve only changed one button, the scroll button click. I use it to turn on dictation in Word.

It changed the way I work

To say that this has changed the way that I work and allowed me to work longer is the understatement of the year. I am still working through other tools and devices to continue to help me be productive. But to date this is by far, the best investment I have made. If you’re experiencing issues manipulating a mouse in the traditional fashion or anything that requires you to potentially either switch hands to give yourself a break or just because it’s hard sometimes to use a mouse and move it, this is a great solution for you. The mouse is stationary and has a nice wrist pad for you to work on. The ability to switch hands allows me to get the break I need on either hand at any given time. With this mouse I am able to stay more productive than I ever thought I was going to be able to win the started. As you can see, I’m a real fan.

My new desk set up with the RollerMouse in the middle

For those of you that aren’t dealing with issues and are wondering should you use it? If you want to experience a different method of working with a mouse and get rid of moving around mouse is on your desk or touching a trackpad this is a great solution. I personally think I would have fallen in love with this solution much earlier had I known about it. Now you know about it!

I love to hear from you if this was helpful and if you’ve decided to give this a try. For those of you suffering with carpal tunnel or arthritis come on give this a serious consideration. It is on the pricey side, but I will tell you in this case it may be worth it.

The Impact of Change

I started this summary on LinkedIn. Check out that article here. I only used LinkedIn to introduce what is happening, if you’re interested in learning more keep reading.

Kristyna Hughes

First, I have to say thank you to my daughter Kristyna, who has been contributing regularly to our Data on Wheels blog in my absence. I’m amazed at quality and depth of the content she has provided to the community including blogs on the tabular object model and C#. I’m glad she is able to provide great content for the data community.

3Cloud has been a key partner in my journey so far. Early in the diagnosis we were not sure if this was ALS. Frankly, we are still not sure if it will lead to that eventually. 3Cloud has stepped in and helped me find a place where I can contribute and support our teams as we continue to grow our business in data and analytics. For that I can say I am supremely thankful. This has allowed me to adapt to my new circumstances and continue to contribute in meaningful way.

Now we get a little more personal, I can say nothing but great things about my wife, Sheila. She has had to step up as a caregiver in ways that we were not expecting. Sheila has been my rock through this as well as my support when I really needed it. From helping me get ready for the day to keeping me going through the day, she has been magnificent through it all. What we do not know is what God has planned for us or what the next stage will be for me as we move forward. We can only trust him every day for what is next.

As a part of this process, we have moved from Minnesota to Kentucky to be closer to my family. That move was interesting. We had a lot of ups and downs as we went along, and I have my adult children to thank for a lot of the help throughout those weeks. We also had many friends help us with packing and prepping because I could not do much at all. They were very gracious and gave us time on their weekends and helped us make this move. When we got to Kentucky my kids did the lion’s share of unloading which was unexpected. With their help we were able to get moved in quickly. They have helped with painting, clean up, and unpacking throughout it all. I have watched my wife and daughters pick up new skills to fill the void where I would have normally done the work. It’s pretty impressive really. Other family members have also stepped up to help as needed which has been great as well.

We are in Frankfort

So, what does that mean for the blog? Well, Kristyna will continue to write on topics that she loves. I will contribute when I can on technical content. But I will also be providing reviews of various tools and technologies I have tried or used through this journey. I hope that some of these reviews will help some of you out there who may have similar or related issues. And maybe someone will find a tool that will be super helpful to them. I look forward to sharing this journey as we move forward.

If you made it this far, thank you for giving me some of your time and lending me your ear. If you want to know more about the personal side of this journey, you can check it out on CaringBridge. I look forward to getting back out in community and connecting with many of you along the way.

New Logo, More Family Contributions

Kristyna and I were looking for an update to our logo prior our sponsorship and speaking at the Minnesota SQL Server User Group (PASSMN) in September 2020. I had worked on the last logo with some help from the graphic designers at Magenic. The logo has served me well, but wanted to continue the reboot, or is it retread, of the blog. My son, Alex Hughes, does video editing work for us at Pragmatic Works and has done some graphic design along the way. So, I asked him to do an update. Here is the result:

Thanks Alex for some great work. If you are interested or have some need for a good freelance video editor or some graphics work feel reach out to him. Here is information about him and his work.

My name is Alex Hughes and I created Northern Geek Productions as a freelance video editing and videography production studio.  I have done editing for news broadcasts, corporate videos, as well as marketing videos for a local business.  I am familiar with interview settings, vlog posts, marketing/promotional videos, and dabble in a few other area.  One of my earlier projects involved creating a new intro sequence for a new logo for Pragmatic Works, a data consulting company.  Feel free to reach out via email for any editing or video consulting needs.

Data On Wheels – Merging Two Great Minds

I am very excited to announce that my daughter, Kristyna Hughes, will be joining the Data On Wheels team. Our fates and paths to this point seem parallel though not sequential. Both of us went to college and studied cultural anthropology. This turned out to be a great foundation for working with customers in our respective technology fields. If you have followed me for a while, you know that my career has focused on data and analytics for the past 20 years. During that time I worked for XATA Corporation which was a transportation management company. We were a cutting edge, SaaS technology company that specialized in electronic driver logs. I created my blog while working there, thus Data On Wheels. I have since went back into consulting but kept the name. Fast forward to today, Kristyna started her career in logistics which led her to her current employer, GlobalTranz. While there, she created a couple of reports which were well received and got noticed by the business intelligence team. She has since helped them grow their Power BI practice and deliver awesome reports. I am very proud of the work she has done and look forward to her joining Data On Wheels as a co-contributor. Now, let’s hear from her.

Kristyna and Steve at Kristyna’s Graduation from Biola University

Kristyna here, I am thrilled to be joining my dad in the BI world and in writing up the lessons learned along the way. Like he said, I have been deep in the world of Power BI from administration to building the executive morning report. I believe people in the business are our best assets as data analysts, so I appreciate learning my logistics knowledge through experience and continue to learn from my colleagues in the field. Our mutual background with cultural anthropology allows us to get to the heart of problems efficiently through discussions with stakeholders to bring them valuable insights from their data. While not all companies literally have their data on wheels like logistics, data can turn the wheels of profitable change for any company.

Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort KY

One other thing my dad and I enjoy together is good whiskey from rye to bourbon to scotch. Look for some of our favorites in the Fun Info page as we sip and savor some soul-warming whiskeys.

How I Got Started in Software Development-A Tribute to Ed

Happy Memorial Weekend everyone. This is a time to remember those who have gone before and in some cases have left us. I started a tribute series that celebrates those who have had an impact on me as a person and on my career. It started with my father-in-law, Ed Jankowski, who did so much to get me started working in technology. I thought this Memorial Weekend, I would reblog my original tribute to him. Still miss you Ed!

Celebrate with family and friends this weekend! Remember those who have left and cherish the time with those who are still here.

Data on Wheels - Steve & Kristyna Hughes

A tribute is an expression of gratitude or praise.  As I head into this holiday season I wanted to express thanks to those individuals who have impacted my career through the years.  What got me thinking about this was the fact that my father-in-law passed away two years ago in mid-December.  I wanted to honor his memory.  I have chosen to do this by starting an annual blog entry where I recognize an individual that has directly impacted what I am doing today.  As a result, this first tribute will recognize my father-in-law, Ed Jankowski’s influence on my career.

Ed Jankowski, My Father-in-Law

I would have to say that Ed was most directly involved with my transition to the field of software development.  I had no prior experience working on computers before I met Ed.  During my employment at Bethany House Publishers, I saw a need Beaver Hatto “automate” the book used…

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