Core Principles

Our Sip Linux has at its heart a concern for those seeking to prolong careers despite suffering from RSI. In that sense the "our sip" (i.e., RSI Protective) is more more important that the Linux in the website's title. There will be articles on making Microsoft Windows better for RSI sufferers.

Despite that openness to Microsoft Windows there is a clear principle in this website that Linux provides the best operating system within which to protect RSI sufferers. That is in part because the decentralised basis of Linux (which is actually a series of operating systems using the Linux kernel) means that it is possible to develop a Linux operating system that is RSI protective and know that no future changes can stop that RSI protective features working. There are plenty of RSI protective settings within Microsoft Windows, but its basis as a centralised monoculture means that there is no guarantee that those settings will continue to be available. The licensing structure of Linux means that once a open source version exists it will remain available to anyone who wants to begin again, even if the original program backers take a different perspective.

Our Sip Linux does not take a hard and fast stance on what licences should be used. The Linux kernel and many of the most prominent programs linked to Linux are licensed under one of the versions of the General Protection Licence (or GPL). Its guardians are the Free Software Foundation (FSF), which contains a list of software it sees as fully complying with the GPL. Prominent in that list is the Gnome desktop environment. Gnome is a prime example of how a GPL licence does not prevent an open source program or environment behaving in as restrictive a manner as a proprietary system like Windows. Gnome allows very limited user settings and is one of the worst examples of excluding RSI sufferers. The GPL means that someone could take Gnome and write an RSI protective version of it, or at least offer far greater flexibility in settings, but the GPL does not stop Gnome's decision makers from largely ignoring the needs of RSI sufferers.

There are a wide variety of RSI conditions, but Our Sip Linux will focus on those who have difficulties with traditional ways of using keyboards and mice in graphical desktop environments. For example Linux has better facilities for making keyboard shortcuts chains of successive keys, rather that the more problematic key chords that cause pain for so many RSI sufferers. Most Linux desktop environments, window managers, and programs remain centred on key chords, but Linux has tools that allow key chains to be used in most situations.

RSI conditions that arise from posture are best solved through hardware solutions, whether that is a better deskchair, always using a desktopcomputer rather than a laptop, or using external keyboards to provide a more RSI protective experience. Our Sip Linux will focus primarily on configuring Linux window managers and programs, but will touch on some hardware issues. The best RSI hardware website I know is RSI sufferer Xah Lee's Keyboard Blog. Our Sip Linux will never go into the detail that Xah does in relation to hardware.

I am an author and my use of Linux has always revolved around my writing of non-fiction and fiction. Most websites and online videos have their focus on programmers and the very tech literate. Yet the primary audience I am targetting is the one I think of when I remember a fellow author saying, "If you get your Linux book written let me know as I'm using Ubuntu Linux on an old netbook and want to know how to make it go faster." The most ardent Linux users tend to be IT professionals or very geeky types like me, but there is a large swathe of Linux users who use the system because it allows them to continue using a beloved but low-powered computer. This is particularly the case with authors, who like to take a lightweight and small laptop around with them and with the notable exception of the Macbook Air they tend to be machines with limited memory and storage capacity. These small laptops are usually sold with Windows installed, but most of them lack the resources to run Windows, so many ask more techie friends to put Linux on their computer. Our Sip Linux will focus on those non-technical Linux users, whether they are authors or not, but hopefully it will have something useful to say to the IT professionals as well.

Our Sip Linux is not a Linux distribution, but a set of guidelines for configuring Linux to make it more RSI protective. As such it can be honest where Linux is not the best option. If someone's RSI is so severe that the only way to continue writing is to use speech to text technology then the best approach will be to use Windows on a computer with sufficient power to run an editor or word processor at the same time as Windows and possibly a separate speech to text program such as Dragon Naturally Speaking. Speech to text technology is far from perfect on Windows, especially if you speak with a minority accent, but it is far more advanced then the rather limited offerings on Linux.

Our Sip Linux is being produced as a website rather than a book as there is limited information on this topic and a website allows for my developng ideas to appear piecemeal. A book would mean waiting for a final polished product that may never be completed due to my worsening RSI.

Our Sip Linux is about choice. Everyone's sufferering with RSI is different and I can only offer suggestions and if they help you I will be delighted and if they make no impact on your RSI then I hope you find another way to keep writing despite your injury.

© Mercia McMahon

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