Review - Desk Doctor

This review was recorded and can be heard on Surfbit's excellent Macreviewcast #111. If you have a burning desire to hear me, check it out.

I am part of the first generation of lifetime computer users. My first computer was a Radio Shack computer with 4k RAM when I was about 10 and I’ve spent a large part of the last 30 years behind a computer in one form or another. I’m starting to see just enough grey hair in the mirror to make me suddenly listen to discussions about healthy computing.

It is with this in mind that I took a look at Desk Doctor from Einspine. Desk Doctor seeks to monitor the way you are using your computer and gives you subtle (and not so subtle reminders) on when you need to stretch and otherwise take care of OS Me. The risk to all of us computer users is RSI, Repetitive Strain Injury. Whether you are mining for gold in World of Warcraft or writing under a deadline, you are subjecting your body to the risks of RSI.

Desk Doctor starts out with a diagnostic test that takes about 30 minutes going over the various parts of your body and letting you identify your various aches and pains. This is a very thorough interview. Indeed more thorough than I’ve ever had with any doctor. Then the program takes you through a series of exercises to determine exactly where you are stiff and where you are not. Each exercise is accompanied by a video with the Desk Doctor lady showing you the way.

Once Desk Doctor figures out your particular needs, the program prepares a series of exercises for you. Again, the Desk Doctor Lady shows you each particular exercise. Not only does the program know what exercises you need, it also tells you when you need them. The program logs your activity on your Mac. It tracks them all, key clicks, mouse overs, mouse clicks. It actually keeps score giving you points for doing exercises and taking points for long periods of computing without rest or exercise.

Everything is customizable in the system preferences but the interface does not strike me as particularly clean or Mac-like. The score window is very small but does take screen space. You cannot see your score when it is minimized. It would be nice if they figured a way to integrate the score into a menubar item so your score is available but out of the way. I primarily use the audio alert feature. Whenever I work too long, Desk Doctor “barks” at me. Sure you can use the chime, but the “puppy” sound makes me grin.

All of this monitoring does not come without a price. Desk Doctor uses a lot of system resources. When in monitoring mode it adds between 5 and 20 percent to my menumeters processor stats. It is generally on top of my activity monitor and when I run the videos it sends both cores of my Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro into the 40-80 percent range. This is actually my second attempt to review this program. A few months ago I tried to review it but it was causing all sorts of mayhem on my intel Mac. The new version is Universal Binary and while it does use resources, I used it for 2 weeks without any crashing or other strange behavior. I was actually impressed with the developer who was very inquisitive after my first failed attempt at using the program and appears to be very interested in making this program work.

Because of the resource usage, I don’t run Desk Doctor when playing in Logic or Final Cut. I do, however, spend a great deal of time working at my Mac in work related applications such as NeoOffice, the Omni applications, and Keynote. It runs just fine then. I think I’m actually more productive with it. I dig in and work hard until Desk Doctor’s puppy starts barking. Then I do an exercise or two and dive back in.

There are high res and low res varients. I used the low res version to save a bit of disc space and make it easier on the processor. It is not cheap at $129 but that really isn’t much more than a single trip to the chiropractor so perhaps it is not as bad as it sounds. There is a free 15 day trial so if you are like me and actually remember what a Radio Shack Color Computer is, it probably wouldn’t hurt you to give it a trial run. If you are listening to this, you are the type who is taking care of OS X, so don’t forget to take care of OS Me as well.