2009-11-25

Peter Pan WiFi

WiFi! On a Peter Pan bus from Springfield to Boston! How cool is that?

In my speed test, I saw 372 kbit/sec and 0.228 seconds latency.



2009-11-12

See Richard at ICCA Boston

Join me on Tuesday, November 17, as I present Winning Clients with Scrum and Agile at ICCA Boston. Here is the abstract. See you there!


Winning Clients with Scrum and Agile


Speaker: Richard Kasperowski, of Nellymoser
Your clients want to deliver great software, but traditional approaches get in the way. Use Scrum and other Agile approaches to show your clients how to deliver great products on time, helping them win, and helping you win new clients.
Attendees will learn:
  • How traditional software development methodologies often fail
  • Why Scrum and other Agile approaches can succeed
  • How to introduce Scrum to a development organization
  • Tools you can use to succeed with Scrum
  • Pitfalls related to Scrum and Agile
Richard Kasperowski is Director of Solutions and Services at Nellymoser, leading his engineering team building great mobile applications.  Richard ran a successful independent consulting practice for eight years before rejoining larger organizations. He has been developing software for over 20 years in a wide variety of roles, including engineering director, architect and developer. His blog can be found at kasperowski.com.  Richard is not an agile zealot, but rather someone who has come to embrace agile methodologies as a result of his real world experiences with them.

2009-11-05

My Dvorak story

Update: See Read More on Dvorak for iPhone for more!

How Dvorak happened to me
I typed a lot.

I moused a lot.

I hurt a lot!

I was a young tech worker learning the trade, and I was a Computer Science student finishing my degree. I wrote code and I tested code. I designed computer chips using CAD tools. I wrote papers. I participated on Usenet and email lists. I spent 12 or more hours a day using the keyboard and mouse.

I developed repetitive stress injury (RSI) symptoms: sore, throbbing hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Symptoms peaked during a hardware design course. For class assignments, I designed circuits using a CAD tool, and I did a lot of mousing. Near the end of the semester, I was away from home 24 hours a day, living at the office and in the computer lab, typing and mousing, working and finishing my circuit design assignments.

I hurt! I sought medical treatment for RSI, but I stopped short of a hard core diagnosis and surgical treatment. I read data on the marginal success rate of carpal tunnel surgery and decided it wasn't for me.

I read everything I could find about RSI, scouring Usenet, FTP sites, and printed books and magazines. I learned about the principles of the body's natural position and that work area ergonomics should try to put your body in a similar position: keep your back vertical, use a chair that supports your lower back, keep your feet flat on the floor, keep your forearms parallel to your desk, and more. (Harvard has a good introduction.) In the ideal body position, your hands are parallel to your body, contrary to the usual hand position while typing, so I tried a split keyboard slightly raised in the middle. I tried typing gloves and wrist rests for the keyboard and mouse. I tried left handed mousing, and a trackball instead of mouse. I learned to take typing breaks, using an automatic X11 based timer that popped up on my screen and made me stop typing. I learned that we stress our hands in our sleep, so I wore wrist splints to bed at night. And I discovered the Dvorak keyboard layout.

The intent of the Dvorak keyboard layout is to improve your typing speed. The most frequently typed letters are on the home row, directly beneath your fingers. Compared to the standard QWERTY key layout, your fingers don't move as far. I guessed that the Dvorak layout might be a good way to decrease the stress on my hands while typing--if your fingers don't move as far, they probably do less work and get strained less.

I spent a week learning to touch type Dvorak. I used an xmodmap config to map my QWERTY keyboard to a Dvorak layout. It was the same physical QWERTY keyboard, but with Dvorak outputs: press the S key and see an O on the screen; press D and see E; press F and see U. It was impossible to hunt and peck like this, so I had to learn how to touch type. My typing speed immediately slowed , but by the end of the week, it was back to normal.

Actually, my typing speed was better than normal. Just learning to touch type makes you type faster. According to the Dvorak spiel, touch typing Dvorak should make you a superstar touch typist, and I became a superstar touch typist! Ironically, this was counter to my goal: I ended up typing more, so Dvorak didn't help with RSI.

It was too late to return to QWERTY, though. Now that I was a speed demon touch typist, there was no going back.

Dvorak on mobile
As I got into mobile technology, I avoided phones with QWERTY keyboards. I didn't want to switch from Dvorak, thinking it would hurt my brain. It takes a little bit of mental acrobatics to switch between keyboard layouts, almost shopping in a country where you don't quite speak the local language. You can do it, but it's not trivial.

My first "smartphone" was an HP iPaq. I was attracted to the iPaq because of its handwriting UI. Using a stylus, you write on the screen instead of typing on a keyboard. Handwriting is a very natural UI on a small device, and it is a skill that we all learn as children. Most of us are better at handwriting than at typing. The handwriting recognition wasn't perfect, but it was good enough that I could use the iPaq as a notepad, taking notes in real time.

My next smartphone was an iPhone. I liked the idea of the on-screen keyboard, thinking it would support alternate layouts like Dvorak. I was wrong, though: no Dvorak, and there was no easy way to configure the keyboard layout. And at the time, there was no App Store, so there were no third party add-ons to solve the problem.

The iPhone's on-screen keyboard does two things well. First, it lets you slide your thumbs over the keys, displaying key clues so you know which key is hidden under your thumb. When you tap and hold a key, the key clue pops up, and you move your thumb around, looking at the key clues. When you see the clue for key you want, you let go, and the key you typed appears in the text box.

The other thing it does well is typo correction. When you misspell words, the keyboard automatically corrects your typos based on QWERTY patterns of typing errors. This lets you type, type, type, without worrying about typos: the keyboard corrects most typos for you.

I had jailbreaked my iPhone so I could use it on T-Mobile. A pleasant side effect of jailbreaking was the Cydia app market. In Cydia, I found a Russian keyboard add-on and a Dvorak hack. The Russian+Dvorak hack gave me a Dvorak keyboard layout, but it didn't give me the iPhone keyboard benefits. The key clues were in Cyrillic, so it was difficult not to make typos, and the typo corrector was still looking for QWERTY typo patterns, so the keyboard couldn't correct my typos properly. The Russian+Dvorak hack was a disappointment, so I reluctantly stuck with QWERTY.

A while later, iKeyEx was released. iKeyEx was a good alternate keyboard framework, with support for many international keyboard layouts. I installed iKeyEx and the Dvorak keyboard layout, and voila! I had an excellent Dvorak keyboard on my iPhone.

Tapping Dvorak on the iPhone was great, but I discovered something interesting. Thumb typing is a different skill from touch typing. Thumb typing is more like hunt-and-peck, especially with an on-screen keyboard, where there are no home keys or other tactile clues. It turned out that I could thumb type QWERTY faster than I could thumb type Dvorak. After all that work, I was better off with the QWERTY layout anyway.

Then I upgraded my iPhone to OS 3.0, which broke iKeyEx. No more Dvorak, even if I wanted it.

The bottom line
I reluctantly thumb type QWERTY on my phone, a little bit by choice, and a little bit because there is no choice. If I had a phone that had excellent Dvorak support, I might give it another try.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails