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Interface Zen
News Posted by CmdrTaco on 30/11/99 9:20
from the stuff-to-read dept.
Tom Christiansen , perl god, writer, and the guy that once kicked me out of #Perl for asking a question about sockets has written us another excellent feature. This one talks about modern keyboards, and the problem with them. It's an entertaining piece with gratuitous Who references so it's all good by me.

The following was written by Slashdot Reader and Perl God Tom Christiansen .

He stands like a statue, becomes part of the machine
Feeling all the bumpers, always playing clean
Plays by intuition, the digit counters fall
That deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball.
from Pinball Wizard, sung by Elton John in Who's "Tommy"
When was the last time you really zenned out on a pinball machine? You know what I'm talking about: that transcendent state of consciousness in which you're no longer carefully calculating what to do and when to do it. You're completely oblivious of anything in the universe except for the ricochets of that silver ball. You're so totally in the groove that those extra balls and replays just keep racking up. Spectators and would-be players come and go, but their presence barely registers in your mind. Hours later, when it's all over and you finally step away from the machine, you find that words come haltingly; you've gone a bit nonverbal. Drifting off to sleep that night, instead of getting darker when you close your eyes, the world gets brighter as hypnagogic flashes from today's games explode in your mind's eye like comets dancing with lightning.

It's a pretty neat feeling, isn't it? You were in an altered mental state--a high, if you would. And like any other high, pinball zen is a bit addicting. Not only will this high leave you a lot less poor than plenty of others would, the only physical side-effects are apt to be some sore pects the next day.

This pleasant state of mind is hardly limited to pinball. You can become one with your skis and the powder you're flying over. You can become one with your musical instrument of choice. And, if you're a hacker, you can become one with your computer.

I'm not talking about sitting for hours on end, clicking from one web page to the next as trivia trickles passively in. I'm talking about actually creating or seriously manipulating something, not just impersonating the couch potatoes down the hall in the TV room. You're in the groove; you've got all the right moves down so pat you don't even think about doing them. The world again fades away. There is the computer. There is you. There is nothing else. And this is good.

This blissful state of being one with your computer doesn't actually have much to do with your computer. Paradoxically, the computer just gets in the way, a constant reminder of irrelevant physical constraints and realities. As long as your brain needs to spend time thinking about hardware, like the keyboard or the mouse or a flickering monitor or a whining disk drive, you will be forever denied access to the altered states. That's because it's not the computer itself you're trying to become one with. It's the software world that you're trying to enter. Only when the physical world recedes from conscious awareness can enlightenment become possible.

When you're learning a new piece of music, bringing it up to performance tempo and committing it to memory, a funny thing happens. After enough practice, it feels as though your fingers themselves remember how to play the piece. You don't even watch them. They've a job to do, and once they've it, can go about that job remarkably free of direct supervision. The key to clearing the mind of the outside world so that the program becomes the dominant reality is what a musician would call "finger memory". (You might have heard athletes or dancers refer to it as muscle memory, but when we're talking about using the computer, it really is the fingers that count.)

Of course, that's not really what's going on; it only seems to be. Your fingers don't really remember. But a part of your brain that controls them does, even though "you" don't realize it. What's happened is that you've so successfully assimilated the moves needed that conscious direction is no longer required. The little lighthouse keeper behind your forehead can worry about other things, assured that your fingers will do the job you've trained them to do. Your eyes are on the screen, the program in your head, and your head is in the program. Your fingers become an unnoticed extension of your will. They're are no more a conscious concern when typing commands than are your feet when you decide to walk across the room. That's probably just as well, because if you ever thought too much about how walking is really just perpetual falling and nick-of-time rescue, you'd probably stop being able to do it as well as you can now.

It's a shame, but many people never achieve the same zenning out with a program that they may with a pinball game or a musical instrument. Still, it can and does happen, and although it's something of an uncanny thing to witness someone else doing, it's a beautiful one to experience personally. In this satori-like state of experiencing knowledge without thought, the program's commands have become so deeply etched into your wetware that low-level tasks no longer require conscious direction. Your fingers seem to remember to do on their own. Now on automatic pilot, they dance across the keyboard as quickly and as accurately as any performing pianist's fingers move, and just as automatically.

This isn't to say that the keyboard is the sole path to blindingly efficient computer use. Far from it! To be honest, the keyboard is sometimes the worst possible choice. It's entirely dependent on the task. For example, if you're playing xbill, the hacker's favorite video game, you certainly don't want to try use the keyboard instead of the mouse. It's just going to slow you down. But neither does that mean that the mouse is always the best choice for all interactions.

Here's another example. I once tried using xmame to play millipede. Using the keyboard for movement was excruciatingly painful, but the mouse wasn't all that much better. I realized that I would never become one with the millipede using either access device. But just a few feet away stood a real millipede game (yes, I actually do own one). I have no problem becoming one with that version, even though as far as the software goes, it's the same as what xmame is running. Why? Because the real game has a trackball, that's why! No longer tied to a clunky input device, I could sail along so fast that the non-rational part of my brain could take over, and like Tommy, play by intuition alone. After the first 200,000 points, you get to play with eight darting spiders simultaneously. Try it sometime. It's a real trip.

There's no question that certain tasks, the keyboard is clearly the optimally efficient input device. Consider the game of rogue or one of its more recent incarnations. You wouldn't want to use anything but a keyboard there. The command set is just too rich. Trying to play the game with a mouse and menu interface instead of a keyboard one would slow you down by at least two orders of magnitude. It would be as bad as trying to play millipede with a keyboard, if not worse. As someone who at times spent most of his non-hacking waking hours at university playing rogue, srogue, larn, moria, and nethack, you'll just have to take my word on this. I certainly became one with the game. My fingers flew across the keys; my eyes never left the screen. I never had to think about how to do what I wanted to do, because no sooner did the desire enter my head than my finger memory took care of it.

When I wasn't playing rogue at university, I was hacking on code, for which I used a popular rogue-variant called vi. Yes, I know you probably think of vi as an editor, but I've always found people more receptive when I explain that it's actually a video game that gets a job done, too. In any event, the command set and design philosophy of the two programs overlap well enough to permit cross-competence between them. And as with rogue, I could zen out on vi. I was tremendously lucky I could, too, because most of the classes in my compsci program required more than 10,000 lines of code for each course. Now, try taking two or three of those classes in one term. You had to have a powerful and super-efficient editor, and you had to let the mechanics of the editor fade into the background, or else you just didn't survive. By zenning out, you ascended to a higher plane of productivity and did things that you normally couldn't do.

It sometimes seems that as time marches on, fewer and fewer people will get the chance to experience the sublime joy of becoming one with their computer. It's as though hardware and software manufacturers were all conspiring to render this good, clean high an unattainable one. It's not illegal, at least as far as I know, but for most people, it might as well be. In pursuit of the dubious goal of producing idiot-proof, zero-learning-curve programs, even programs intended for long-term, heavy-duty use such as an editor--arguably the most important piece of software you'll use--have been turned into children's toys, effectively expert-proofed. In mindless and unexamined pursuit of false efficency, the programs' authors have sacrificed all the design attributes that let our fingers go about their proper business, got our faces up out of the mundane mechanics, and let our minds transcend the hardware and get into the program. They installed, if not outright roadblocks, then velocity regulators and gratuitous speedbumps.

How did this ever happen? Let's start with why the current crop of keyboards are suboptimal in the extreme. There's a general rule (Fitts's Law) that says that the farther away something is, the larger it needs to be for equally swift access. This is true even if you are looking at the keys (but don't do that--see below), and fatal if you aren't. Distant keys like SHIFT, ENTER, TAB, CONTROL, and the spacebar used to be larger, but they keep getting smaller as more and more vanity keys get added to your main keyboard. Look at an old Sun keyboard. Notice how SHIFT is bigger than CONTROL, and CONTROL is bigger than TAB. This size corresponds to how much relative use you make of those keys. Oh, and the CONTROL key is both large and conveniently located on a Sun keyboard. What a joy.

Now go look on the cretinous keyboard that came with some poor sot's Wintel box. The spacebar, the most important key on the whole keyboard, is but a shrivelled and shrunken vestige of its former self. The ESCAPE key has been moved to the penalty zone, the CONTROL key is both distant and small (that's two strikes), and there's a CAPSLOCK key that's just as big as the TAB key. Hello? What are these people thinking? That I want to hit CAPSLOCK as often as I do tab, and that I don't care about CONTROL or ESCAPE? This is all nuts. The proper place for a CAPSLOCK key is in a different hemisphere from you. If we ever manage find out who invented that abomination, we're all going to show up for the lynching party, but we'll have to wait our turn in a line of programmeers stretching all the way from Boston to Mountain View.

If it were only the outlandishly rococo keyboards they were shoving at us, we hackers might still have a chance to become one with our computers. After all, we could always get a real keyboard instead, one with a decent layout and sans penalty zone.

But really, this is but the least of our many problems. First of all, there's no end of brain-damnged programs these days which both expect and require you to constantly enter and exit the penalty zone. This destroys your concentration, because you can no longer get there and back again while still looking at the screen. You incur a context-switch penalty that feels like a speedbump in your typing. It slows down your hands, and it interrupts your eyes. Once that happens, your concentration takes a severe blow as you're forced to deal with mechanics, once which you cannot internalize or omit.

The next gross inconvenience is requiring chorded key combinations. Any time you have to hold two or more keys down at the same time, this becomes more difficult to finagle. Compare how difficult it is to type a CONTROL-G chorded combination with a simple, unshifted `g'. If you ever need to hit a chord with more than two keys, such as CONTROL-ALT-SHIFT-F11, you're in serious, serious trouble. This kind of thing is especially arduous on keyboards lacking duplicated left and right versions of the modifer keys. There's a very good reason we have two SHIFT keys. We should have two control keys as well, and these should be easily accessible without looking. It's a lot easier on the hand to use the right-hand SHIFT key with a letter like `e' or `g'. Why should it be any different with CONTROL, ALT, or the vanity keys?

If you're striving for efficiency, it's best to stay away from chords entirely. If you look at the way popular video games like rogue and vi work, their command structure consist mainly of single, non-chorded keystrokes, or sequences of single keystrokes. That's why those games are inherently easier on the typist than games like emacs are, where all your most valuable real estate has been thrown away, and every command is now a chord. Chorded commands are harder to type because you have to hold down the SHIFT or CONTROL key, but in a program designed for efficient use, these are relegated to rarer activities, so the impact is minimized. The easy stuff is easy, and you never have to slow down, or even look down.

Consider how much easier it is to type a `/' to start a search than it is to start a search instead of a ALT-S, or horrors, pulling down a menu. There's no reason that a slash can't mean a search in context where it makes sense. This wouldn't mean that if you were typing in a path name in some text box that a search window would pop up. You simply make it context sensitive. Humans, you know, are really very good at context. Check out this sentence: "Can you please can the can-can while I'm in the can, man?" No problem. You see, our brains don't work off of a context-free grammar, and there's no reason that commands, keystroke or otherwise, should. In fact, because our brains do not work off of a context-free grammar, making our command set context free would be running against our inner natures. It's just not how we think.

Besides the useless vanity keys stealing invaluable real estate from the main keyboard, we are saddled with an ever-growing number of extra keys in the penalty zone, such as function keys, INSERT and its friends, arrow keys, and relics out of the shrouded mists of antiquity such as SysRQ and Scroll Lock. I'm sure there will be more in a year or two.

Can you imagine how painful it would be if you were typing in some code or a letter, and every time you wanted to go to the next line, you had to use ENTER key way over on the numeric keypad? That would be nuts, wouldn't it? So can anyone tell me why programs expect you to switch back and forth between the real keyboard and the penalty zone? Apparently nobody ever told them that the closer something is, the easier it is. According to Fitt's Law, something right underneath you is infinitely large, and, consequently, the most readily accessible. Proximity combined with non-chorded keystroke commands is why the rogue-style movement ("hjkl") is easier on the hand than emacs-style movement (CONTROL-B, CONTROL-N, CONTROL-P, CONTROL-F), and both of these are easier by far than using arrow keys over there in the penalty zone.

The much vaunted arrow keys, ostensibly easier to use for cursor motion, are in fact tremendously harder to use. First of all, if you're mixing commands over in the penalty zone with other commands which are on the keyboard, you're never going to achieve keyboard satori. You've got too much back-and-forth going on to find your grove. Your eyes act as a bridge linking two virtual worlds, one inside your head and the other inside your computer's memory. With arrow movements, they have to desert their post as vicar and go slumming in the real world for a while to play tour guide long enough to get you there and back again.

The second reason the arrow keys are inherently evil is that they are set in an arrangement designed by a masochist, probably the same nimrod who stuck us with the CAPSLOCK key. Even if all you were doing was keeping one hand poised above the arrow keys and never switching keyboard domains, you still would be slowed unacceptably. That's because the up arrow and the down arrow are directly aligned vertically. Your hand despises this, which is why the rest of the main keyboard has no such configuration on it anywhere. To see what I mean, try using the `j' and `k' keys in rapid succession, back and forth as though you were executing a trill. It's quite easy to go up three, down one, up two, etc. But now try playing your trill on the up and down arrows. Whoops! You have to turn your hand completely sideways, or use the same finger to do both jobs. Either way you play it, you lose.

Does the visible label on the arrow keys truly offset the gross inefficiencies of being placed in the penalty zone and being stacked vertically? After all, the argument runs, someone who doesn't know the key command to move around can just use those. In the shallow and ephemeral world of zero-learning-curve and one-shot programs, this might have a scant of iota of reason behind it. But really, for just how long do you expect your users to remain ignorant? Once they learn what the motion key is, they're not going to forget it from one moment to the next. If you assume that users cannot or will not learn, you thereby guarantee this very outcome. That hardly seems either fair or productive.

The third reason that arrow keys are inherently evil is that they support navigation based characters alone. You'll never move on to higher abstractions, like words, sentences, or paragraphs, or in the programming world, to tokens, expressions, statements, blocks, or functions. By relying upon arrow use alone for movement and discouraging other kinds of information chunking, you lock your poor users into a tedious monotony and forever bar them from making the jump to light speed.

In any program designed for heavy use, the penalty zone should be not merely strenuously avoided, but completely banned. The keys there interfere with your prospects of ever becoming one with the computer. But isn't the numeric keypad in the penalty zone, and isn't it great for accountants? Don't they become one with their keypad? Well, sure they do. That's because they're staying in the same area. If all you're doing is entering numbers, then it's actually a good bit quicker to use the numeric keypad, because it fits under the hand better. The keypad also optimized for numeric data entry: see how much larger the `0' key is there, and the `+' key? If you don't know why, watch a bean counter entering numbers on it some time. Now go to your keyboard manufactures and demand the return of the your CONTROL key to it proper place and the restoration your wimpy spacebar to its proper size.

Don't expect to switch between numeric keypad and the main keyboard with anything resembling speed or accuracy. Unlike a normal clavier, where you can feel where you are in the scale because of the alternating two-three sets of raised keys, on a computer keyboard, no such sign posts exit. That means that while, the musical keyboardist can often make tremendous leaps in complete confidence without bothering to engage his eyes, the computer keyboardist cannot. Sure, you've probably got little nibs on your `F' and `J' keys, and on the `5' over on the numeric keypad, and it's a good thing that they're there, but really, they don't help that much compared with a real keyboard's cues.

The lesson is that if you're going to change domains so radically that your hand has to move somewhere else, you absolutely need to stay right where you are for a good while in order to amortize the extreme cost of movement. Otherwise the context-switch latency issues will just kill you. And this is where the true root of all keyboard evil rears its ugly head: the mouse.

The mouse is the single greatest obstacle standing in the way of becoming one with your keyboard and the dramatically higher productivity levels which that state promises. That's because, of course, it has nothing to do with your keyboard. Compared with the mouse, even a high density of chorded commands in quick succession becomes fast and easy. Chorded they may be, but at least they're still on the keyboard. The mouse might as well be in Timbuktu for how convenient it is to get your hand over to it and then safely home again.

Unlike the arrow keys, that doesn't mean the mouse is inherently wicked for all things. (Well, unless you're an RSI victim, that is, or if you'd prefer not to become one. Mice, you see, destroy your wrists, and much more quickly than keyboards.) The mouse is only evil when you have to repeatedly switch between mouse and keyboard. That's because it knocks you out of the groove just as badly as an CONTROL-ALT-SHIFT-F11 chord would. (I call that one a demented eleventh.)

Let's go back to that wonderful, angst-purging video game, xbill. You think of yourself as a Jedi sharpshooter, the last, lone defender against that creeping darkness which seeks to pollute and assimilate the free world into its hive mind. Reflexes are everything. You must walk the path of knowledge without thought, of action without contemplation. Anything less than complete dedication to your sacred duty will see another sun lost to the Evil Empire. In the back of your mind, you know that if you set down your laser rifle, you could program up a smart bomb to encase the Bills in a treacle and slow them down for a file. This you would do by taking your hand off the mouse, moving over to the keyboard, and typing the mystic words, "Department of Justice Anti-Monopoly Litigation". But in the time it would take to do that, untold numbers of worlds would be lost, assimilated into the collective. So the smart bomb of slowness remains untriggered. The price is too great to justify putting down your laser rifle.

So you see, there's certainly a place for a mouse. And contrary to popular mythology, that place is not simply any system that provides the user with something more sophisticated than a 24-by-80 character display. Mouse doesn't mean GUI, you know (nor, for that matter does GUI mean mice and menus). And a keyboard doesn't mean a CLI. A keyboard means efficient input of diverse commands covering a vast domain. A mouse means efficient selection of points and areas. Even if we temporarily tolerate the mistaken notion that CLI=text and GUI=pixels, a keyboard should not be limited to the world of command-lines and pipes, nor should a mouse limited to the world of pixels and pop-up menus. Those are not the effective criteria for the most effective use of those two input devices.

If you don't believe me, just think for a minute about gpm, the mouse package for virtual consoles on Linux operating systems. It sure is a nice program to have around, isn't it? You don't have individual pixels, but you still appreciate having a mouse for certain tasks. Now think about your favorite pixel-addressable program, like xv or eterm. They have keyboard-accessible keystroke commands as alternatives to tedious mouse hunting. Aren't you glad those are there, too?

I'll say it again for the logic-impaired: keyboards aren't just for CLIs, and mice aren't just for GUIs. There's no good reason whatsoever that even in what's commonly referred to as the GUI world, that you should eschew the keyboard. For many problem domains (xbill and its ilk notably excepted), the keyboard remains the fastest, most efficient, and most powerful input device available, and it would be the height of folly to avoid it.

Have you ever tried to play a piano using a stick that's clenched tightly between your teeth? Oh, you can do it, sort of--if you call that playing. The percentage of your brain devoted to the hand, and in particular, the support structures for the fingers, is incredibly huge compared to the amount devote to nearly any other physical activity. By avoiding the full potential of Man's wondrous capacity for prestidigitation (in the literal sense), you cut him off from one of his greatest assets, one near and dear to his neural biology--he was made for.

There's just no way you'll ever zen out on a keyboard when all you've got is a one-bit stick stuck in your mouth and your hands are tied effectively behind your back. Perhaps you prefer it this way, but you should understand the consequences of that choice. You'll never reach the point where your fingers know what to do on autopilot. You'll never get your face completely up off your desk. And you'll never savor the pleasures of having your mind firmly ensconced in the virtual reality of the program you are manipulating. The higher levels of mastery will be forever forbidden to you, and you shall dwell in the House of Clumsiness and Inefficiency all the days of your life.

Software engineers need to pay attention to both the keyboard and the mouse, irrespective of whether the program is running in a terminal or in a full-display environment. They should maximize locality of operations to faciliate eyes-free operation of the program. Above all, careful attention must be given to programs destined for heavy use so that they offer an upward path for users so that experts are not hampered by zero-learning-curve demands from non-users. Don't require infelicitous input combinations that would hamper finger memory in accomplished speed demons. Only when the speed limits are removed can a programmer hope to reach that transcendent state of zenning out.

< Programming Pearls (Second Edition) | Cursor Software Tracks You On Web >

yandros
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    Update: 08/26 01:48 by hemos:

    Past Features

    "Interface Zen" | Preferences | 219 comments | Search Discussion
    Threshold: Save:
    The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. Slashdot is not responsible for what they say.
    ( Beta is only a state of mind )
    (1 ) | 2
    How did this ever happen? (Score:2, Funny)
    by Shimmer (berns-at-rdaconsultants-dot-com) on 30/11/99 9:37 EST (#2)
    (User Info)
    No fair padding your homework by repeating the same text over and over.

    I count 10 occurrences of the paragraph that begins "How did this ever happen?". Methinks an editing goof has occurred.

    -- Brian
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Updated? (Score:2)
      by Industrial Disease on 30/11/99 10:57 EST (#114)
      (User Info)
      I swear that the first time I read this article, I scrolled past three or four identical copies of the paragraph with the "Fitts's Law" link, and it looked like a lot of other text was being repeated as well. I go back and look at it now, and I only find one iteration of the paragraph in question. Was I hallucinating, was my browser tripping out, or was the article text actually changed? If the last, an "Update" notice would have been nice.
      "Violence on TV only affects children whose parents act like TV personalities." -- David Byrne
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Seems to repeat himself a lot (Score:1)
    by georgeha on 30/11/99 9:38 EST (#3)
    (User Info) http://www.frontiernet.net/~ghaberbe/george2.htm
    Or maybe we need better editing, instead of four (five) repeated segments?

    George
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Perhaps a refrain? (Score:2, Funny)
      by slashdot-terminal on 30/11/99 9:42 EST (#9)
      (User Info) http://www.debian.org
      In english poetry and literature you can find something called a refrain. A literary device that is used to emphasize a point or a basic theme that is moving through the whole piece.
      Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. - George Orwell, "1984", 1948 If you want a picture of the future,
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    I really don't believe in this whole Zen concept. (Score:0)
    by slashdot-terminal on 30/11/99 9:38 EST (#4)
    (User Info) http://www.debian.org
    There is not logical notion that human kind has any implied fuzzy quasi-telepathic state wherin they gain "mystical" powers. I think that happiness requires a direct ability to perceive that happiness and translate it into something more comphrensible.
    Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. - George Orwell, "1984", 1948 If you want a picture of the future,
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:I really don't believe in this whole Zen concep (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 9:57 EST (#29)
      Who said anything about special powers? Think of zen as the focusing of mental ability. Rather than spreading our capacity over a large range of tasks, our mind becomes focused on a single task (or set of tasks), allowing for a dramatic performance increase (i.e. the mental version of distributed processing).
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:I really don't believe in this whole Zen concep (Score:1)
        by slashdot-terminal on 30/11/99 10:01 EST (#42)
        (User Info) http://www.debian.org
        Who said anything about special powers? Think of zen as the focusing of mental ability. Rather than spreading our capacity over a large range of tasks, our mind becomes focused on a single task (or set of tasks), allowing for a dramatic performance increase (i.e. the mental version of distributed processing).

        Ok but why is this suddently so special to people? Because of it's literary merit?

        P.S. Why does good ol Taco have such "fond" memories of this man. Seems quite trivial.
        Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. - George Orwell, "1984", 1948 If you want a picture of the future,
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
          Re:I really don't believe in this whole Zen concep (Score:2)
          by Mr. Slippery (tms@spambefuddler-infamous.net) on 30/11/99 12:35 EST (#201)
          (User Info) http://www.infamous.net/
          Ok but why is this suddently so special to people?
          Whadda mean, "suddenly"? The Buddha lived about 2500 years ago, and Bodhidharma brought the beginnings of Zen to China (the famous Shaolin temple) about 1500 years ago. It's hardly a new idea! American interest in Zen first became strong during the Beat movement and has been growing ever since.

          Anyway...I have to say that never having been a touch typist, I just don't find Mr. Christiansen's complaints all that moving.

          If I'd bothered to take "Personal Use Typing" in high school (back when Apple IIe's with Z-80 cards running CP/M were The Coolest Thing In The World), I might share his objections. But my typing style (such as it is) grew up on a computer keyboard, arrow keys and all. (Mostly the old PC version with the arrows on the numeric pad, though). "hjkl" are no more special to my hands than "M-x" (that's emacsish for "alt-x") or the arrow keys. And given the realities of the modern keyboard interface, st

          Read the rest of this comment...

          [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:I really don't believe in this whole Zen concep (Score:1)
      by rasilon on 30/11/99 10:03 EST (#46)
      (User Info) http://www.tardis.ed.ac.uk/~rasilon
      You will, practice and give it time. I've fired up a new disk, closed my eyes for a moment to think about disk layout and opened them to find I've logged in as root and started fdisk on the appropriate device. Similarly with many other things outside of computers. You have got to be comfortable with yourself and what you are doing.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Dosn't this fall in the realm of dome form of.. (Score:1)
        by slashdot-terminal on 30/11/99 11:13 EST (#130)
        (User Info) http://www.debian.org
        ..mental disorder? If you were to do things without concious thought that can be a sign of some form of mental disorder. I always believe in hard facts and take thing as using thought. I can recite the ABCs quite easily as I learned them a a small child however I must think about the task (small ammount) to form the sounds that allow me to produce the string of letters. While I am sure memorization is possible there must be a more precise term for the actions you could preform in such a manner. For me I rely on my eyes to do what I cannot immediately see and determine.
        Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. - George Orwell, "1984", 1948 If you want a picture of the future,
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:I really don't believe in this whole Zen concep (Score:2)
      by zuvembi (zuvembi@mindless.com) on 30/11/99 10:03 EST (#49)
      (User Info)
      Nobody said anything about mystical powers, it has more to do with focusing your whole being on the task at hand. The way tchrist describes it as being where thought and action are one is very good IMNSHO. I believe in it for the same reason I believe in gravity, because I've experienced it. I've experienced it on 4 different occasions, in three different circumstances.

      1. twice while programming
      2. once while just lying in the sunlight relaxing
      3. once while kneeing my friend in the groin - very long story (sorry ken)

      And while it was happening, I was indeed in 'another place', and it felt damn good. A place where motion, thought, & deed were all the same. Though of course after I was finished with #3 there were some problems to deal with :)

      "I prefer the wicked rather than the foolish. The wicked sometimes rest." -Alexandre Dumas
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:I really don't believe in this whole Zen concep (Score:1)
      by CaseyB (cbarton@e-commerce.com) on 30/11/99 10:16 EST (#71)
      (User Info) http://www.e-commerce.com/~casey/
      There is not logical notion that human kind has any implied fuzzy quasi-telepathic state wherin they gain "mystical" powers.

      It's not mystical at all. It has nothing to do with telepathy. But I can tell you that the brain seems to enter a very different state when it is focusing on certain tasks. It happens to me often when I code and when I play videogames.

      IANANeurologist, but I would guess that 'zenning' is the process of shutting down portions of the hundreds of inputs that the brain manages from moment to moment. You're allocating mental resources to the problem at hand, rather than wasting them on trivia like maintaining an awareness of your environment, checking for bodily requirements like food, water, or sleep, or even keeping your eyeballs moist. It stands to reason that ignoring these distractions will allow the brain to run at a faster, more productive pace.

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Too bad (Score:1)
      by Kaa (subdimensiondotcom!kaa) on 30/11/99 10:22 EST (#81)
      (User Info)
      There is not logical notion that human kind has any implied fuzzy quasi-telepathic state wherin they gain "mystical" powers.

      Nobody is saying anything about mystical powers. This is one of the so-called altered states of consciousness, specifically one in which you can achieve and maintain high concentration for a long period of time. It is often called 'flow'. The existence of such a state is widely recognized and documented. For example, being able to go into 'flow' is one of the characteristics of a world-class athlete in individual-competiton sports (martial arts, tennis, etc.)

      Kaa
      Kaa's Law: In any sufficiently large group of people most are idiots.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:I really don't believe in this whole Zen concep (Score:1)
      by dingbat_hp (dingbat@codesmiths.com) on 30/11/99 10:42 EST (#96)
      (User Info)

      There is not logical notion that human kind has any implied fuzzy quasi-telepathic state wherin they gain "mystical" powers.

      There certainly is, although there's nothing "mystical" about it.

      Some tasks are executed rarely, and are complex. Higher, conscious, parts of the mind are involved in performing them so it's a conscious mental effort. Other tasks (walking, running, playing soccer (for some of us)) OTOH, have become so ingrained that they really are almost automatic. A good interface gets far enough out of the way so that you can begin to learn this autonomic (?) response. Once you've acquired that (it takes both a good interface, and practice) then you'll see a vastly improved performance, even with far less effort.

      I'm both an (occasional, and dismal) Zen practioner and a skier. I empathise completely with what Tom was talking about in that fine piece.

      There's never a neurologist around when you need one...

      -- Smert' Spamionam

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:I really don't believe in this whole Zen concep (Score:1)
      by jejones on 30/11/99 11:27 EST (#144)
      (User Info)
      I agree; mystical powers are BS. OTOH, as many others have said, nothing mystical is involved here, just the notion that just as once you have the chops the piano keyboard stops getting in the way of your expressing yourself musically, or once you've mastered driving the car, you drive without having to pay conscious attention to the steering wheel, accelerator, and brake, computer interfaces should be designed to make that same kind of transparency possible--and keyboards as they are now, with the arrow keys, stupid Windows keys, and typewriter influence (the caps lock key is just where a typist expects to see it; never mind that as a programmer, I've never had occasion to use it!), and requiring one to endlessly switch from keyboard to mouse and back, make the mechanics of interacting with a system about as obtrusive as it can be.

      If you've read your Oliver Sacks, it's a matter of proprioception, and whether one can develop it. If I'm thinking about which button to push, I'm not thinking about my p

      Read the rest of this comment...

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:I really don't believe in this whole Zen concep (Score:2, Insightful)
      by Anonymous Colin on 30/11/99 11:57 EST (#172)
      (User Info)
      Well, everyone else has argued that what you don't believe in actually does exist, so I'll look at something else. This discussion has a supreme irony that no-one else seems to have noted. What TC described (and everyone else here) is actually the exact opposite of a Zen trance. It is actually much more like a yoga trance. In the yoga trance state the participant becomes oblivious to the outside world. In a true Zen trance, the participant becomes totally and unconditionally aware.

      I read about an experiment (sorry, no references - too long ago) that studied these mental states. It involved three groups, on of untranced subjects, one of Zen-tranced subjects and one of yoga-tranced subjects. The experimenters measured brain activity with an EEG and then exposed the subjects to a series of loud surprise noises. In the untranced, the measured startle response was large for the first noise but died down and then died out with repitition - normal acclimatization. In the yoga-tranced,

      Read the rest of this comment...

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:I really don't believe in this whole Zen concep (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 11:14 EST (#131)
      Gee thanks people.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    huh? (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 9:41 EST (#6)
    was it just me, or were a lot of those para's repeated constantly? kinda poetic, no doubt, but very strange.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Sun keyboards (Score:0, Flamebait)
    by Andy on 30/11/99 9:41 EST (#7)
    (User Info)
    His main point seems to be that PC keyboards suck and Unix (Sun) style keyboards are great. So why is this piece so long? I take exception to his criticism of Emacs keyboard sequences. Emacs is the most magical program of all time. What else would you expect from a Perl simpleton?
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Sun keyboards (Score:1)
      by slashdot-terminal on 30/11/99 9:48 EST (#15)
      (User Info) http://www.debian.org
      What exactly is a "unix keyboard". I used a win98 keyboard for my linux machine at home. I consider it a unix keyboard because the system runs unix.
      Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. - George Orwell, "1984", 1948 If you want a picture of the future,
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Sun keyboards (Score:1)
        by aheitner on 30/11/99 10:19 EST (#73)
        (User Info) http://singularity-software.com
        Various workstations have interesting keyboards.

        Suns come with Sun keyboards. The current ones are Types 5 and 6. They are very nice. They have many many keys. They have a blank mystery key. The have a Stop key. They have Ctrl keys in the right place. Old Type 4's are pretty usable, but they don't hold up all that well (I've got a lot of dead ones and a few working ones).

        IBMs (RS/6ks) used to come with blessed IBM PS/2 keyboards. When our RS/6k died at my HS, the keyboard was still going strong. I use only IBM PS/2 keyboards on my PCs.

        HP PA-RISCs come with fairly standard HP keyboards off the PCs, AFAICT. No special keys.

        SGIs come with middling keyboards in funky colors of recycled-looking plastic. Grey and blue and crazy and all.

        Never actually seen a DEC Alpha keyboard. Old DECStations came with kinda squishy keyboards.

        My SPARC laptop has a standard Lexmark laptop keyboard, it's ok. Needs more Stop and mystery keys :)

        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
          Re:Sun keyboards (Score:1)
          by lar3ry on 30/11/99 11:25 EST (#141)
          (User Info)
          My Alpha XP1000 (COMPAQ, formerly DEC), has a standard PC layout, including the misplaced CAPSLOCK key, ESC at 11:00, 12 F-keys along the top, etc.

          Interestingly, the backspace key reads "Backspace" [you'd have to have used older DEC keys to appreciate this!].
          --
          "I suggest a new strategy, R2. Let the Wookiee win!" -- C3PO
          [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Sun keyboards (Score:1)
        by Ramses0 on 30/11/99 10:22 EST (#80)
        (User Info)
        A "unix keyboard" just feels different. A lot of times teh control and alt keys will be in different locations, the slash "\" is moved to a different place, a lot of times the INS-HOME-DEL block is moved to a different place (and possibly the layout has changed). Even the function keys normally fall in a 2-wide block to the left.

        All from memory, and I haven't used much unix keyboards before. Contrast with the "windows keyboard" picture posted not long ago... a small bar with only the CTL-ALT-DEL buttons. ;^)=

        --Robert (rames@utdallas.edu)
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Sun keyboards (Score:1)
      by gomi on 30/11/99 11:31 EST (#147)
      (User Info) http://www.pollywog.com
      Well, this is the same guy who praised the anti-intuitive, incredibly awkward 'hjkl' movement keys (yeah, I just *love* mapping orthogonal movement axes to a single line) over the completely intuitive arrow-keypad (gosh, the down key is on the bottom and the up key is on top! Amazing!).

      I didn't get his ranting against chording, personally -- probably just vi bigotry again. Chording done right doesn't take any longer than a single keystroke. Not two years ago I could prepare WordPerfect docs hundreds of pages long and not have to touch the mouse more than twice or thrice a day (WP has a keyboard shortcut for everything, and unlike [gack] MSWord, lets you at the SGML-like codes).

      gomi
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        hjkl (Score:0)
        by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 11:46 EST (#159)
        Actually, they take some getting used to, but hjkl work suprisingly well for moving the cursor. Well, I like 'em, at least.
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Sun keyboards (Score:1)
        by ByteDancer (bytelord@magenet.com) on 30/11/99 11:52 EST (#170)
        (User Info) http://www.magenet.com/coding
        > Well, this is the same guy who praised the anti-intuitive, incredibly awkward 'hjkl' movement keys (yeah, I just *love* mapping orthogonal
        > movement axes to a single line) over the completely intuitive arrow-keypad (gosh, the down key is on the bottom and the up key is on top! Amazing!).

        Um, you really missed the point, BADLY, why do you take so much offence? Because you don't understand how to use vim?
        The point was that when you lift your hand and put it on the arrowkeys, your concentration breaks which is a bad thing, and makes you less productive, why don't you just go read the article again, it has some *great* points.
        -- And remember folks; "In a few years, the good code will outperform the bad code again." -- The guys at lkml '99
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Sun keyboards (Score:1)
        by Tarnar (jpullman@spamfree.ualberta.ca) on 30/11/99 12:04 EST (#180)
        (User Info) http://localhost
        I do believe you missed the entire point. His arguments are similar to that of a qwerty-vs-dvorak keyboard. On a dvorak, the 'power' keys, or the ones most used, should always be in reach. He has simply extended this to software itself, saying that magic function keys should be at your fingertips, right in/around the 'sweet spot' (Home Row)

        This makes perfect sense too, as soon as your hand wanders off to find arrow keys, you lose time and your rhythm (sp, I know). You fall out of 'Zen' as the case may be.

        Strange though, I summed up half his article in 2 short paragraphs :-)

        --- "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." -Albert Einstein (email should be spamless)
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Sun keyboards (Score:1)
        by StanSmith (martin/dev/null@hobgoblin.net) on 30/11/99 12:28 EST (#197)
        (User Info) http://hobgoblin.net
        Speaking as someone who finds the 'hjkl' keys not only intuitive but inherently elegant, I'd have to say it's all in how you learn. If you were taught using chords, and took to it, you'll always love them...same goes the other way around. I just feel bad for the people who learned from chorders who're natural 'hjkl'ers, and vice versa.

        S.S.

        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Emacs Rules (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 13:10 EST (#218)
      I can do alot better programming zened out on emacs than vi even though I know both pretty well. Emacs is simply better for codeing. (of course, I keep habitually using vi commands in emacs and emacs commands in vi arrgh!!)
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    ... (Score:4, Funny)
    by Signal 11 (signal11@mediaone.net?Subject=Slashdot) on 30/11/99 9:41 EST (#8)
    (User Info) http://www.malign.net
    He moves mythodically though the hallways, bouncing grenades off the walls an onto the hapless souls that dared to fire a rocket at him. He deftly completes a rocket jump, does a 180 spin, and unloads a rail slug into the LPB below, sending a fine red spray across the divide below. Grabbing the Quad, he procedes down the hallway - The familiar BFG10K whine is heard. Instinctively he switches to his railgun and peels off the imputent wrench before the payload can be unleashed. Showering the open cavern with rockets, he angles for the flag, grappling for the dark ceiling. Just before a pair of rockets hit him, the grapple catches hold, whisking him to safety. The flag now glows an deep red, taunting him: "You'll never get me!" it cries. Determined, he fires his last rocket at the flag defender, and the tell-tale sound of a quad-damage about to run out echos through the cavern. "Now's your chance!" He grapples for the flag, and in a crescendo of chaingun and rocket launchers firing in tandum, he grabs t

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:... (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 9:51 EST (#19)
      what's your point? or are you just herding karma again?
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:... (Score:0)
        by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 9:59 EST (#35)
        Of course that's what posting to slashdot is all about. You just post things (even items that you don't believe in it) and you get karama points. If you post enough you get an automatic level of 2. That makes any negative moderation difficult (but not impossible). You can then get more and more responses because you are seen more than likely on more default threasholds then before. It's selfperpetuating
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
          Re:... (Score:0)
          by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:01 EST (#44)
          oh, so this is some kind of mud for snotty geeks? i like it. can i be an elf wizard???
          [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Quake = Zen (Score:1)
      by BaMBaM on 30/11/99 9:54 EST (#26)
      (User Info)
      Using keyboard and mouse, never looking at the keyboard, using almost all 104 keys (bound & aliased) Zen is acheived for me.


      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Quake = Zen (Score:2, Insightful)
        by Enoch Root (elijah[at]hushmail[dot]com) on 30/11/99 10:43 EST (#97)
        (User Info)
        It's a sad fact when the Occident is determined to reduce Zen to a simple game of Quake. For the record, 'forgetting' your keys and going on automatic pilot mode is as Zen as driving your car. Ever notice how drivers just forget about the controls and just 'become' the car?

        It's just a matter of repeating something often enough that you jumpwire your brain, and don't need to think about every command anymore. The same goes on in walking.

        If that were Zen, then Zen would be another word for 'automatism'.

        "The wages of sin is death but so is the salary of virtue, and at least the evil get to go home early on Fridays."
        -- Pratchett's
        Witches Abroad

        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
          Re:Quake = Zen (Score:1)
          by Signal 11 (signal11@mediaone.net?Subject=Slashdot) on 30/11/99 11:09 EST (#125)
          (User Info) http://www.malign.net
          Oh yes, I agree completely with you!! I honestly don't think this guy has a good grasp of Zen. Then again, I don't have a firm grasp of it either... I simply can't describe it. You just know when you're "in it". Everything is just right there. Agggh! You know what I mean..

          --
          Take the blue pill.
          [ Reply to This | Parent ]
          Levels of Consciousness (Score:1)
          by angelo (anrkngl@fubar_lm.com) on 30/11/99 12:24 EST (#194)
          (User Info) http://www.lm.com/~anrkngl
          Neuro-Linguistic programming brings it down to 4 stages:

          1) Unconscious incompetence -- A state where you don't know you cannot do something
          2) Conscious incompetence -- The realisation that you can't do someting, usually after trying it.
          3) Conscious competence -- The great amount of practice that brings us to:
          4) Unconscious competence -- Doing things automagically : driving a car after a few months at it, Typing most words at a keyboard, playing the piano.

          There is a point where we should fall out of state four for the sole reason of re-learning something from the ground up. When we open ourselves to learning anew, we generally walk away with more wisdom. You can also lose the grace of step four if you come under stress (like re-taking a drivers test) or through periods of inactivity in an area.




          Angelo
          [ Reply to This | Parent ]
          Re:Quake = Zen (Score:1)
          by James Lanfear (jclanfear(at)presys(dot)com) on 30/11/99 12:46 EST (#208)
          (User Info)
          Very true, being able to use a keyboard without looking is hardly Zen. (I call it 'typing'.) Ditto driving and walking.

          But there is something to the Quake Zen (allowing that we're horribly butchering the meaning of 'Zen') beyond key memory. There's definitely a sort of 'altered state of consciousness' (*blech*) that can be invoked on top of the key memory. If nothing else, it shares with Zen an ability to utterly confound me whenever I try to explain it.
          [ Reply to This | Parent ]
          not Zen, Zone (Score:2)
          by Wah (t h e w a h @ uswest . net) on 30/11/99 12:55 EST (#211)
          (User Info) http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=wahiscool
          "He's in the Zone, babee!"

          A decidedly western concept, "the Zone", can be roughly the same thing. It is a state of oneness. Of being. Achievable in nearly all forms of action, including simple inaction (meditation). A fun place to be, but I wouldn't want to live there. (The stark realization of being in the zone usually happens at the same time you come out of it)

          if ignorance is bliss, is omniscience hell?
          [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        What do you need so many keys for? (Score:2)
        by Mawbid (hawk/gagarin/is) on 30/11/99 10:53 EST (#110)
        (User Info) http://gagarin.is
        What on earth are you doing, moving your hand off the keypad?
        --
        Fuck the system? Nah, you might catch something.
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:... (Score:1)
      by sien on 30/11/99 10:27 EST (#86)
      (User Info)
      This is exactly what I was thinking when I read ( or skim-read, it's way too long, does this guy want to be Jon Katz or something ? ).

      I work in a VR Haptics company, and it would be great to come up with something as good as the interface of a keyboard and mouse for Quake. Interestingly, this seems to be close to using a chord board and a mouse, which is what a lot of animators and designers use. Somehow we have to get back to just needing two hands, instead of three.....
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:... (Score:1)
      by The_Messenger on 30/11/99 11:11 EST (#126)
      (User Info)
      Thank you! Exactly what I was thinking. The mark of a truly great FPS is the ability to get zenned out like that. When you've played a few games and get in your zone, the mouse and keyboard seem to disappear. And you'll play like that for hours until the server starts lagging. Or, if your mouse needs cleaning, it gently reminds you by sticking at a critical moment, and you get your ass fragged, and you start cursing at the mouse, but it's okay, 'cause it's only a game, RIGHT? ;-)

      Half-Life, Quake 2, and now Quake 3 (at least the demotest!) all showcase this emersive ability.

      I think the secret is finding "your" ideal keyboard and mouse control setup. I used to use the numberpad for movement, but became addicted to Half-Life's default key setup. That was it, for me. It's all I play with now, in any FPS.

      Copy your config files onto a dozen floppies, and put one in your car, in your backpack, maybe at a few friends houses. You never know when there'll be a LAN party, and then you'll ha

      Read the rest of this comment...

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:...OMG (Score:1)
      by doobman (bamiller@ohio.net) on 30/11/99 11:50 EST (#164)
      (User Info) http://none
      You just described my life! I DO stop playing at eleven or so with about 5 Mnt Dew cans scattered across my desk, near my 19" monitor! oh but no microwave pizza..its generally pizza rolls. This is too eeri(sp?) I know most of us /.ers have lots of things in common but someone just wrote my biography :)
      Oh and for the record, i went to a lan party over the weekend, first time i played q2 since q3test was released. I was totally zoned in a zen state fraging everything and doing jumps such that i was freaking out. I never noticed how much different q3 is from q2.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Good points, but... (Score:2)
    by rde (rde(at)ireland(dot)com) on 30/11/99 9:43 EST (#10)
    (User Info) http://www.irelands-web.ie/rde
    Two objections:
  • The caps lock key is as important to AOL users as the little windows key is to all our 9x-using chums. Don't diss it.
  • I don't care how small the space bar gets as long as I can hit it with my right thumb. My old five-year-old dell space key is quite dirty, except for a 1-cm length that I've tapped millions of times. I've a dirty thumb, though.
  • [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Dirty Thumb (Score:3, Funny)
      by DonkPunch (donkpunch@S.P.maiermedia.com.A.M.) on 30/11/99 9:55 EST (#27)
      (User Info) http://www.maiermedia.com
      For some reason, I heard my grandmother's voice saying, "You don't know where that thumb has been." :)

      More On-Topic: There seems to be a fair amount of hatred for CapsLock. I use it quite a bit for #define constants and macros in C. Do Perl programmers not use ALL_CAPS for much?

      Save the whales. Feed the hungry. Free the mallocs.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Dirty Thumb (Score:1)
        by toast0 (toast@dont.spam.me.ruka.org) on 30/11/99 12:01 EST (#178)
        (User Info) http://ruka.org/~toast
        all caps are generally only used in perl for filehandle names, because they don't have a type indicator in the front and might conflict with a reserved word

        What do you get when you mix FreeBSD and linux? A daemonic penguin who has just fed on the souls of a bunch of herring.
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        all caps (Score:2)
        by kuro5hin (rusty@please.spam.me.intes.net) on 30/11/99 12:10 EST (#184)
        (User Info) http://www.itchmagazine.org/rusty
        No, I don't use caps for much. Only for global constants, really, and even then, sometimes I don't. I'm a perl programmer, by the way.

        I started, however, as an HTML jockey, and during my servitude with that miserable beast, I got so I can type in all caps, just by holding down the shift key, almost as fast as I can type without holding it down. I was always in the "HTML tags are capitalized and that's that" school. So, the caps lock key is thoroughly useless and should, indeed be banned outright. The only thing it appears to be good for is getting in the way of the tab key and making me capitalize a whole line instead of moving it four (that's pronounced "The One True Tab") spaces to the right.

        ----
        Morning gray ignites a twisted mass of colors shapes and sounds
        I wish the ceiling was the ground...

        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Good points, but... (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:48 EST (#103)
      Get over the Caps Lock key... It has no practical useage. If you base its existance soley on AOL (which shouldn't exist), it has no place on my keyboard.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      what about lefties!!!!!! (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 12:04 EST (#181)
      Sure you can go on about the bastage that is moving the backspace key to where the spacebar is being good. But you are a righty.... one of the freaks that does not conform to the true way of the lefties. If you are left handed then the "new" keyboard layout sucks goats and blows llamas.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Of Keyboards and Repeat (Score:5, Insightful)
    by lar3ry on 30/11/99 9:43 EST (#11)
    (User Info)
    Despite the repeated sections (Rob... PLEASE fix this!), this is pretty informative. But I still have a few nits to pick.

    CAPSLOCK. Why? Well, some people don't touch type. Other people have physical deformities that makes hitting SHIFT plus another key difficult, and "accessibility" wasn't something that was thought about in previous generations of systems.

    CONTROL. Yes. It should be where PC keyboards put the CAPSLOCK key, but it isn't. Same with the ESCAPE key being sent to Siberia. Frustrates the heck out of us VI users (um... EMACS users use those keys too... no flame wars please).

    Those of us with X have xmodmap and xkeycaps and other utilities for redefining our keyboard layouts. I imagine that there are similar utilities for Macs and Windows... so there are people aware of the problem and who have some solutions.

    Using the right input device for the right job is crucial. Otherwise we will never be able to get the non-initiated to use them.

    People

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Of Keyboards and Repeat (Score:2, Informative)
      by proj_2501 (kanem@egr.uri.edu) on 30/11/99 9:48 EST (#16)
      (User Info) http://www.ele.uri.edu/~kanem
      For Macs it's very easy. Just use ResEdit to make a new keyboard map and select it from the Keyboards control panel. (you need the right file type code, but I don't know what it is. and since I'm sitting at something decidedly non-Mac right now, I can't check)
      --
      "I was a fool to think I could dream as a normal man."
      B. B. Buick
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Of Keyboards and Repeat (Score:1)
        by lar3ry on 30/11/99 9:52 EST (#25)
        (User Info)
        I figured there was a way. I haven't used a Mac in years (I have a Mac Plus somewhere in my garage). Thanks for the illumination.
        --
        "I suggest a new strategy, R2. Let the Wookiee win!" -- C3PO
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Of Keyboards and Repeat (Score:2)
      by revnight (mdb.bugger@off.votenet.com) on 30/11/99 10:16 EST (#72)
      (User Info) http://www.qsl.net/kg4clc
      What I find ironic about the Caps Lock rant is that the focus of the article seems to be about the evils of chording, particularly when the keyboard he espouses uses the 'caps lock' idea for the function keys. ;)

      Mind you, I think the caps lock is in a pretty lousy place, but "a lynching party"?? C'mon...




      "The things we wizards have to put up with."--Jethro Bodine
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Of Keyboards and Repeat (Score:1)
        by xinit on 30/11/99 11:52 EST (#168)
        (User Info)
        Well, on the happy hacker keyboard, there isn't a CAPSLOCK analogy to the function keys. There IS however a chording one. That is, you hold the Fn key and hit 1 for F1, 2 for F2, etc.
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Tom's on crack! (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:50 EST (#106)
      This is the first time in years I've heard anyone try to defend modal interfaces... *YUCK* Give me an alt key multiple modes any day of the week. I'd rather hit CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+PGUP six times a minute than suffer with vi.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Of Keyboards and Repeat (Score:1)
      by Fross (dontspamthe.fross@darkwave.org.uk) on 30/11/99 11:48 EST (#161)
      (User Info) http://www.fross.darkwave.org.uk
      >CAPSLOCK. Why? Well, some people don't touch type. Other people have physical deformities that makes hitting SHIFT plus another key difficult, and "accessibility" wasn't something that was thought about in previous generations of systems.

      surely, on something as personal as a computer keyboard (personal referring to "thing that you use for yourself"), manufacturers should give various products as solutions... people who need big keys, caps lock etc, should get them. people who need a more "hacktastic" keyboard should get one of those.

      so what can you do about it? put your support in companies who cater for our "special needs"... for instance, follow that link in tom's article to the company that makes the "Happy hacker" keyboard, other companies like it. get yourself a gadget that helps you be productive. dont settle for your microsoft keyboard if you dont need one.

      if enough people do this, who knows, we could have good ergonomic dvorak keyboards available en masse soon :) Read the rest of this comment...
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Of Keyboards and Repeat (Score:1)
      by wabewalker (jens(at)argaeus.ma.rhbnc.ac.uk) on 30/11/99 11:59 EST (#175)
      (User Info) http://argaeus.ma.rhbnc.ac.uk/~jens/
      Here's how I fix it in the console. I have something like this in my ~/.bash_profile:

      if [ -z "$DISPLAY" ]; then
      if[ -e ~/.keys]; then loadkeys ~/.keys &>/dev/null; fi
      fi

      loadkeys is terribly chatty, so I prefer to redirect any output. And the ~/.keys file:

      keymaps 0-15
      keycode 58 = Control

      The caps lock key seems to be 58; works on PCs but YMMV; otherwise use the dumpkeys program to find the right keycode.

      (The above formatting looks sort of weird in lynx; hope you can read it... ;-)
      --- Premature complacency is the evil of all roots

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Related Aticle (Score:3, Informative)
    by NME (nearixson@getridofme.earthlink.net) on 30/11/99 9:47 EST (#12)
    (User Info)
    To go along with this excellent essay:

    an old wired article by Brian Eno

    -nme!
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    This is no longer the case with me. (Score:2, Informative)
    by pen (digdug@hotmail.com?subject=notspam:[subject]) on 30/11/99 9:47 EST (#13)
    (User Info)
    I have made the journey to my garage, and have retreived my old keyboard. Goodbye, windows keys, goodbye cheap rubber mat keys. Hello, fast typing, and non-aching fingers.

    If you still have your old keyboard that you used with your XT, get it out of the garage and use it. These things are priceless. If you don't have one, it's time to check eGay and buy one. There are some suckers out there that don't know what treasure they have, and will gladly get rid of it for a few bucks.

    You can drive nails into cement with this thing, and it will still work. You can spill hot coffee and sweet sticky soda on it. It will work for years after that. Don't use the wimpy $5 keyboards. They will do major damage to your fingers.

    On this thing, it takes virtually no effort to press a key. Therefore, I type much faster.

    Yadda yadda yadda... I've become an old fart before becoming an adult.

    --
    The most feared fact of life is change.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:This is no longer the case with me. (Score:1)
      by yAm (ceidem@citilink.com) on 30/11/99 10:26 EST (#84)
      (User Info)
      Now, I don't use the old XT keyboard or vi enough to warrant finding one, I have to agree with the idea of using the old keyboards. I have a brand spankin' new workstation at work with a keyboard off of a 8 year old Northgate (remember those?). The Omnikey. Weighs about 5 pounds and can take a direct hit from a 20mm shell...

      Clicks like hell and has the tactile feedback that I really like, plus with all the noise, it drives my co-workers nuts!

      I hate new keyboards. Feel like I'm typing on overcooked pasta. Feh.


      Chris

      So Buddha walks into a pizza parlor and says: "Hey, make me one with everything."

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:This is no longer the case with me. (Score:2)
      by SoftwareJanitor (SoftwareJanitor@yahoo.com) on 30/11/99 10:55 EST (#111)
      (User Info)
      If you still have your old keyboard that you used with your XT, get it out of the garage and use it.

      Look out though, some XT era keyboards, while using the same DIN-5 connector are not exactly signal compatible with newer machines. Some do have an "AT/XT" switch though. And some XT keyboard (particularly some of the original IBM ones with the dinky shift and return keycaps) are even more heinous than the current cheapo keyboards.


      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:This is no longer the case with me. (Score:1)
      by dgoodman (deg3@ra.dont.msstate.spam.edu.me) on 30/11/99 11:07 EST (#122)
      (User Info)
      =) I love my old PS/2 keyboard. Large, heavy, but with a satisfying *CHINK* everytime you hit a key. its 11+ years old now, and still works perfectly. oh yeah, and it has a ps/2 connector (duh!): no dongles! heh.
      It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion...
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:This is no longer the case with me. (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 11:29 EST (#146)
      You can drive nails into cement with this thing, and it will still work. You can spill hot coffee and sweet sticky soda on it. It will work for years after that.

      But NEVER EVER EVER take one apart.
      Never.
      It will explode in a shower of little springs
      You will never reassemble it.

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Old keyboards (Score:1)
      by Zigg on 30/11/99 11:35 EST (#151)
      (User Info) http://www.zigg.com/

      I was recently lucky. I got a hold of two boxes full of those wonderful fully mechanical (clickety-clickety-clack-clack, annoys my wife to no end) IBM keyboards with PS/2 plugs on them (I think they were used with terminals of some kind...?)

      It's almost worth buying a bunch of AT-to-PS/2 adapters to use them on all my systems. :-) In any event, I find myself using my slow, old laptop quite a bit now -- even at home! -- because I can plug one of those keyboards into it, whereas I can't plug one into my HP 720.

      Goodbye mushy keyboards!


      "If you continue running Windows, your system may become unstable." - Windows 95 BSOD
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Everything old is new again -- Wanted! (Score:1)
        by Demona (frogfarm@hempseed.com) on 30/11/99 12:47 EST (#210)
        (User Info) http://dj.frogfarm.org/
        I love the older, gen-yoo-wine IBM keyboards with that exquisite feel, but the sound also drives my wife up the wall. I'd be grateful if anyone could provide a pointer to my dream keyboard:

        • Has the up-and-down "clicky-clack" tactile feedback, without the audible (feel, not sound)
        • Integrated Trackpoint (the "pencil eraser" pointing device)
        • And black. Blacker than Zaphod's stolen spaceship. Blacker than James Brown. Etc.
        Anyone aware of such a beast? The first two would be enough even, since I can paint it myself.


        --

        "You can't tell me what sucks!" -Beavis, a true Objectivist.

        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:This is no longer the case with me. (Score:1)
      by rebrane (neilk@cs.uchicago.edu) on 30/11/99 12:00 EST (#177)
      (User Info) http://www.cs.uchicago.edu/~neilk
      Hot coffee and sweet sticky soda I haven't tried, but I was amazed to have lost a 15-year-old ultradurable superclick IBM keyboard to a glass of water. Something must've shorted out inside it..

      Anyway, they're fortunately easy to get. As the poster suggested, eBay is one good place; some retail stores sell them too; the only one I know off the top of my head is JameCo. Despite what this poster insinuates, also, they're cheap. JameCo has 'em for $14.95 a pop. I got my replacement on eBay for $3.

      --neil, whose typing is mistaken for gunfire

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    A few trivial comments (Score:3, Insightful)
    by gnarphlager on 30/11/99 9:48 EST (#14)
    (User Info)
    First: I'm sure there's something quite zen about reading the same paragraphs several times in a row ;-)

    Second: I've found Tetris a great gateway to programming satori. I play a game or two, and my mind is buzzing, and elevated beyond the actions of the game, or the computer. I then fire up an editor, and get to work, no longer distracted by the physical actions of interfacing with the computer. Perhaps in the future I'll have trained myself to enter that state without the game, but for now, it really helps me focus. Who says video games aren't productive!

    Third (and final, I swear): I don't have a problem with the "penalty zone". Perhaps it comes from growing up with pc keyboards instead of unix keyboards. I use the numeric keypad without missing a beat too. Or at least I don't THINK I miss a beat (as that I'm not too aware of typing). I agree the big caps lock and small ctrl keys are just damn stupid (but I do like the placement of ctrl . . . maybe switch tab down, and caps lock u

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:A few trivial comments (Score:1)
      by Zerth (zerth@hotmail.com) on 30/11/99 10:10 EST (#62)
      (User Info)
      >First: I'm sure there's something quite zen about reading the same paragraphs several times in a row ;-)

      I don't know if it's good or bad, but I didn't notice till after the second repetition.

      > Second: I've found Tetris a great gateway to programming satori. I play a game or two, and my mind is
      > buzzing, and elevated beyond the actions of the game, or the computer. I then fire up an editor, and get
      > to work, no longer distracted by the physical actions of interfacing with the computer. Perhaps in the
      > future I'll have trained myself to enter that state without the game, but for now, it really helps me focus.

      I used to use Tie Fighter to get psyched like that. Really, anything can get one going like that if it has something repetitive in it. While gaming is definitively a prefered way to go, sometimes just typing sequences that come easily to hand but don't make much sense (reatingscolerium, rtiongert, stuff like that) work just as well, but don't have the nice

      Read the rest of this comment...

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:A few trivial comments (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 13:07 EST (#215)
      The Guitar analogy is good, but as a guitarist and geek, I've got to agree with TC in that the escape key and chordal keys are like going from 3rd postion to 17th position without checking ... guess it's possible, but I never could.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Related, Repetitive Links (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 9:50 EST (#17)

    Related Links
    Linux
    Slashdot
    Tom Christiansen
    Pinball Wizard
    Fitts's Law
    real keyboard
    Fitts's Law
    real keyboard
    Fitts's Law
    real keyboard
    Fitts's Law
    real keyboard
    Fitts's Law
    real keyboard
    Fitts's Law
    real keyboard
    Fitts's Law
    real keyboard
    Fitts's Law
    real keyboard
    Fitts's Law
    real keyboard
    Fitts's Law
    real keyboard
    Tom Christiansen
    More on News
    Also by CmdrTaco

    Funny.


    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Screen, Keyboard and navigation tool. (Score:1)
    by farrellj (farrellj@hotmail.com) on 30/11/99 9:50 EST (#18)
    (User Info) http://www.courts-of-chaos.com/mozilla/
    Back when I had a brief gig selling computers back in the late '80s, I used to tell people that for the most part, computers worked the same on the inside. Once you have chosen your feature set, you need to pick something that is almost, if not maybe more important...your interface to the system: The Keyboard, the Monitor, and Nav Tool (mouse, trackball, clitorus, pad, etc.). Get a keyboard that you are comfortable with, a monitor that gives good contrast and resolution, and a device that you feel confortable with.

    Personally, I like both the Marble Mouse by Logitech and the IBM clitorus for nav tool, since both are handedness agnostic, and I change what han I use every couple of months.; I always remap my keyboard to put the ctl key to the left of the "a" key, and I have a nice, crisp .22 dot-pitch philips display.

    BTW, I still prefer the Wordstar keyclusters for editors...I recently amazed a co-worker on how fast I could get around and edit a text file with Joe in WS emulation mode. And he

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Screen, Keyboard and navigation tool. (Score:1)
      by Glytch (superglytch@yahoo.com) on 30/11/99 10:47 EST (#100)
      (User Info) http://members.tripod.com/~glytch/
      >BTW, I still prefer the Wordstar keyclusters for
      >editors...I recently amazed a co-worker on how
      >fast I could get around and edit a text file
      >with Joe in WS emulation mode. And he has >been using VI for a decade...

      Yeah, joe's a great editor. I love it's small size and customizability. I tried both Emacs and vi, but found vi to be too counter-intuitive (I grew up on MS-DOS. Don't blame me.) and Emacs to be far too bloated. Other people are perfectly welcome to enjoy these two editors, but please don't ram either of them down my throat. Give me a small, fast, customizable and modeless editor like joe anyday.

      Sorry, RMS, but I really don't want to have to learn Lisp just to customize my editor.

      Cheers. -- Glytch
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    #perl (Score:1, Informative)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 9:51 EST (#20)
    Is it me or is this channel filled with the most obnoxious self rightious elitist Perl users that exist? I fear for any newbie who comes here looking for help. I would gladly answer most newbie questions, but this channel has made a religion out of being unhelpful. I don't mind people telling me to RTFM if I ask an ovious question or even one that would take a bit research to solve, but there is no calling for the rude, emotional responses one gets on #perl. Offtopic but I needed to say it.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:#perl (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 9:58 EST (#31)
      I have to say that the level of support, friendliness, helpfulness and community in the Perl "community" is really rather poor. I find the PHP crowd to be *much* more helpful.

      That's not to say that I dislike Perl; it's just an observation.

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:#perl (Score:0)
        by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:53 EST (#109)
        I really like Perl and just completed a fairly large website with PHP. Perl I learned from a book, PHP I learned browsing email lists and online sources. Each method has its strengths I guess.
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:#perl (Score:1, Informative)
        by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 11:19 EST (#137)
        i agree, it is a kind of cult on #perl, with merlin the "little god" there with his pack of sycophants .. i was treated quite rudely while on #perl on what would have been an acceptable and polite mission on other channels. i guess merlin was having a bad day and started insulting and kicking me for no reason, and all his followers started insulting me as well... a couple of people msg'd me privately with sympathetic messages so I guess the clique is not without its dissenters. anyway so much for the "perl community" on irc anyway.
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:#perl (Score:1)
      by mill (millNO@SPAMludd.luth.se) on 30/11/99 12:17 EST (#188)
      (User Info) http://pedgr571.sn.umu.se/~mill
      I think it is understandable. Tom Christiansen et al spend enormous time writing great documentation for all of us to use. Then there are some people who don't read this documentation and instead join #perl and ask questions that would have been answered in the documentation.

      From what I understand #perl is a channel for Perl programmers to hang out and sometimes even discuss Perl related stuff. It is not a help channel for people that don't want to read documentation and expect others to do their work.

      Ask interesting questions and I am sure any hacker will be interested in finding solutions - even Perl hackers. In fact Perl hackers will probably give you several solutions - on one line ;-).

      These things are obvios if one considers how many clueless newbies who have probably joined various programming language related irc channels to ask FAQs.

      /mill

      Don't bother to reply if you can't put your name behind it.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        I will reply (Score:0)
        by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 12:46 EST (#209)
        specifically because of that last stupid line in your post. So, I did bother to reply, and I am not putting my name behind it. What an ass you are.
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Kicked from #Perl for asking a question? (Score:1)
    by Stephen Williams on 30/11/99 9:52 EST (#21)
    (User Info) http://www.nysa.u-net.com/

    Though I've never visited said IRC channel, and am therefore unfamiliar with its general ethos and atmosphere, I have to say that being kicked for asking a question sounds rather harsh. Was it meant in jest? Is #Perl the Wrong Place for new Perl programmers to go to ask questions?

    -Stephen


    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Kicked from #Perl for asking a question? (Score:1, Informative)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 9:58 EST (#33)
      Yes #perl is the wrong place to go with any sort of question. People here are very elitist and most unhelpful. You might as well just look in the mirror and ridicule your self about what an idiot you are. It would say you some time and grief.

      Oh, and asking a windows or cgi perl question, is a /ban'able offense.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Kicked from #Perl for asking a question? (Score:1)
      by treat on 30/11/99 10:58 EST (#116)
      (User Info)
      I've never been in #perl, but it's pretty standard on IRC to get kicked for joining a channel you've never been to before and assuming that the people there want to answer your stupid questions.

      You wouldn't consider it rather harsh if you had to deal with 10 people a day asking questions that they could have found the answer to on their own. It's rude, as if they think that their time is much more valuable than the people they are asking.

      Most IRC channels are not there to help people. That would get very boring very fast.


      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Kicked from #Perl for asking a question? (Score:2)
      by Mawbid (hawk/gagarin/is) on 30/11/99 11:11 EST (#128)
      (User Info) http://gagarin.is
      It's the wrong place to ask about things that aren't really PERL-specific, such as CGI programming and sockets.
      --
      Fuck the system? Nah, you might catch something.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Kicked from #Perl for asking a question? (Score:1)
      by jjohn on 30/11/99 12:41 EST (#203)
      (User Info) http://www.aliensaliensaliens.com

      Well as a #perl (ir)regular and op, I'd like to bring up two points that are often lost.

      1) #perl is not a helpdesk. Honest.

      2) Being kicked from IRC is not a big deal.

      I've been kicked from #perl (and by Tom) numerous times. Oh the scars...

      Often what happens is someone will come into #perl demanding answers to questions that really require more research on that user's part. If you are kicked from #perl because you are asking legitimate questions, perhaps you need to read some of the basic documentation again (or once).

      RFTM is a form of Tuff Luv(tm). If you do the research, you will be a better programmer.

      Said another way, #perl will help you become a better fisherman, not a better beggar of fish.

      On another note, I've been waiting for CmdrTaco to show up in #perl again. I have to think that a little virtual kicking wouldn't leave so many emotional scars, but he does seem to bring this up a lot. Rob, I think you'd bring

      Read the rest of this comment...

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    the ideal perl keyboard (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 9:52 EST (#22)
    should have 2000 keys - all of them either '$', '(' or ')'
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Some Thoughts... (Score:2, Interesting)
    by Midnight Ryder (midryder@intcon.net) on 30/11/99 9:52 EST (#23)
    (User Info)
    While he puts the smack down on apps that require frequent changes between the mouse and the keyboard, I've had a pretty good solution to that one for a while now. I broke my right hand (my mouse hand) about 3 years ago, forcing me to have it in a cast for 13 weeks cause of the stupid pins they had to put in it. Well, that forced me to learn to type one & mouse one handed. After I got my right hand back in working shape, I then had a very high one-handed typing speed, and can keep my hand on the mouse for mouse operations, with out having to switch at all. Normally this is for MMI development packages, but, also applies to some programing cases, and to some other things like AutoCAD.

    Someone else mentioned that they don't belive in that 'zoned feeling'. You may not be a programmer then, or at very minimum, you've never been one of those people who's initals are at the top of the score board at the arcades. In that environment, being 'in the zone' isn't just an option, it's almost the only way

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Some Thoughts... (Score:1)
      by Rhys on 30/11/99 10:27 EST (#85)
      (User Info) http://www.imsa.edu/~kamikaze/
      I'd actually found a particularly good way to get the zoned feeling was good old X-Wing by Lucasarts. Get in an A-wing, turn off the guns, turn off the shields, and attempt to fly through the course (can be simulated with a defender in TIE as well).

      Note however, crashing tends to drag you out of the zone, so make sure to avoid it. ;)

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Some Thoughts... (Score:1)
      by randombit (ysyblpq@napz.wuhm.rqh) on 30/11/99 11:52 EST (#169)
      (User Info)
      I still get that feeling, however, setting and programing, and even more so, setting and playing something like Quake2 or Unreal Tournament.

      Freespace (btw, one of the best games I've ever played) is like that for me. I can sit down a quite literaly play for hours without thinking once, it's all just instinct and reaction. You use one hand to control the keypad (you need all the number keys for controlling the ship decently well), and the other for things like weapons and speed control. Since it's all configurable (good thing, since the defaults kind of suck, IIRC).

      I've only been in the zone when I'm programming once or twice. Sadly, I have a hard time getting into it with vi or emacs; Borland C++ 5 is the only editor I've found that can do it. Sadly, I hate Windows. :(

      AAAAHHHH!!!! Late for class!!

      -- (Remove the leters s,p,a,m and then rot13 to email)
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    "Real Keyboard" looks like an original Mac ripoff (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 9:52 EST (#24)
    That "Real Keyboard" looks just like the keyboard on the original Mac's. Wish I had a link with a pic. At any rate, they're pretty similar. And certainly no Windows key.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:"Real Keyboard" looks like an original Mac kbd (Score:2)
      by Erich (nobody@wreck.org) on 30/11/99 10:22 EST (#79)
      (User Info) http://wreck.org
      Nope.

      The origional mac keyboard didn't even have an escape key. The control key was also in the wrong place (it was in the lower left hand corner). The Happy Hacking keyboard is really nice compared to lots of PC keyboards, but I still like the Sun 5 unix kbd better...

      -- Erich

      Paranoia is just Reality at a higher resolution!

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:"Real Keyboard" looks like an original Mac kbd (Score:2)
        by the eric conspiracy (rlarson-at-monmouth-dot-com by-the-sea) on 30/11/99 11:15 EST (#133)
        (User Info)
        but I still like the Sun 5 unix kbd better...

        My favorite keyboard for layout and feel is not the current or first Mac keyboards, which were crap, but the model they originally sold with the Mac II in 1987, the 'Apple Extended Keyboard' or 'Saratoga' aka 'Keyboard of The Gods'. That sucker was huge, but it has exactly the right feel - great tactile feedback, short key throw and no clicky noise, and a hell of a lot of attention to detail including a concave shape to bring all the keys a little closer together. I still use mine with my G3 - it's too bad I never was able to find a PC keyboard as well laid out or constructed.



        /* Eric Conspiracy Secret Labs */
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
          Re:"Real Keyboard" looks like an original Mac kbd (Score:1)
          by puetzk on 30/11/99 12:45 EST (#207)
          (User Info)
          Same here. I love this thing :-)

          I'm really going to miss it if it ever dies (no signs of it, though) or when I have to get a machine with no ADB :-(

          Now if only I could switch control, capslock and escape, I'd be pretty happy. But capslock is a physical latch, so I doubt this would be as simple as xmodmap'ing.


          The Matrix is going down for reboot now!Stopping reality: OKThe system is halted.

          [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    The Right Interface for the Job (Score:4, Insightful)
    by jalefkowit (jalefkowit@NOSPAMaol.com) on 30/11/99 9:57 EST (#28)
    (User Info)

    The problem isn't limited to input devices. This article got me thinking about something I've been wondering about for awhile -- the recent tendency to use a 'standard' interface for various tasks, rather than a purpose-built, optimal interface.

    It seems like there are dozens of companies these days that want their interface design to be the One True Interface to All Things. The best example of this is Microsoft, which every couple of years makes noise about how toasters and refrigerators should be controlled with some variant of Windows. But MS isn't the only offender -- lots of Internet companies do this too, by forcing you to use an HTML front-end to their resources rather than designing software for the purpose.

    Don't get me wrong, I can see the reason for this approach -- once you've learned the One True Interface, you're set, you don't have to learn anything else. The problem is that trying to force all devices to share the same interface means that some of those devices are going

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:The Right Interface for the Job (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 11:39 EST (#152)
      I think that you've hit the nail on the head. the interface should match, as closely as possible, the user's mental model of the process. GUI's that match the implementation model, instead, are harder to use than they have to be. But, they are easier to program, and are more amenable to reusing existing code,etc. The keyboard may or may not play an important part in the interface. It depends on the application. A good GUI, OUGHT to provide keyboard equivalents for all mouse operations. Check out Cooper's About Face. All developers ought to read it, all the way thru, and then redevelop their GUI from scratch. They ought to, but it'll never happen. fwiw, Russ
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:The Right Interface for the Job (Score:1)
      by David Roundy (droundyatjungledotberkeleydotedu) on 30/11/99 11:57 EST (#173)
      (User Info) http://civet.berkeley.edu/droundy/
      I agree that there is a place for specialized interfaces, but there is also a place for standardized interfaces. This was one of the greatest things when the mac first came out. It didn't matter what application you used, command-p printed, command-c cut, command-i made something italic. It was wonderfully easy to use any new program. It got harder as programs introduced lots of new features, and they started running out of key combinations. But having some degree of standardization makes it easier to reach a zen state.

      For example, as was pointed out using '/' to perform a search is very easy, and works in vi, more and less. I am not a vi user, but because of the similarity between more (on non-linux systems, since linux has a braindead more) and vi allow me to get by pretty well in vi when a collegue is using it, although I still have no idea how to edit.

      The problem, of course, is how to decide which set of commands is standard. I would love to have navigator use the emacs commands right n

      Read the rest of this comment...

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:The Right Interface for the Job (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 12:06 EST (#183)
      "MS someday proposing that you run your AutoPC through a modified Windows interface." - jalefkowit

      I know for a fact that this is the case. The version being worked on over a MSFT as you read this runs on windows CE and has a web browser. It does use a voice interface at least.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    You have to have the right keyboard (Score:2)
    by aheitner on 30/11/99 9:57 EST (#30)
    (User Info) http://singularity-software.com
    I agree with a lot of what Tom is saying, though not with the arrow keys -- I have no problem moving my hand slightly to get to them, and I can move one word at a time with the Ctrl key.

    Of course the right editor is key. I can use vi, bt not fluently. I use nEdit, which I find extremely efficient and also easy.

    But all of this is minor. In the end most of typing in code would work fine in pico. The real critical path is the keyboard. Here at school they seem to buy a lot of Dells with the cheapest keybaord, Dell's horrendous "Quietkey". It's squishy, you can nver tell if you've hit a key.

    Sun's Type 5 keyboards are very nice -- good feel, intelligent key location. I use Suns for this reason when I'm not using my computer.

    But ah, on my computer, I have a big old IBM PS/2 keyboard. Super tactile click. Indestructible (still working perfectly since '87!). The key doesn't actually contact till exactly on the click, and the peripheral keys are nice and big. T

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Wow. I think I just had a zen moment. (Score:4, Redundant)
    by Pyr (doctorwho(at)thegrid(net)) on 30/11/99 9:58 EST (#32)
    (User Info) http://tofproject.org
    early in the morning, listening to some heavy industrial, I start reading a slashdot article. I begin to slip into a transcendendal state.. and then I realize that I haven't suddenly jumped out of time.. I'm just reading the same few paragraphs over and over.

    damnit.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    "Real Keyboard" (Score:1)
    by Lamont on 30/11/99 9:58 EST (#34)
    (User Info)
    Interesting article. I agree that the state of keyboards today is just pitiful, but that "Happy Hacking" keyboard IMHO is an ergonomic nightmare.

    I also agree that the mouse is a bigger cause of RSI than the keyboard...I see people all day long mashing their wrist down into a wrist pad while working with the mouse...not good. Of course, keyboard or mouse, if you don't have proper posture or an correctly configured workstation, you are going to have problems....
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Split keyboards? (Score:2)
      by Zigg on 30/11/99 11:47 EST (#160)
      (User Info) http://www.zigg.com/

      As far as ergonomic nightmares go, I have to wonder what people think of the split keyboards. I put my hands on one in an office store once and immediately felt nauseous, but I wonder... if they didn't have the Windoze keys (among others), would they help or hinder in achieving keyboard zen?


      "If you continue running Windows, your system may become unstable." - Windows 95 BSOD
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Split keyboards? (Score:1)
        by Lamont on 30/11/99 12:24 EST (#192)
        (User Info)
        I use a split keyboard and quite like it. I have a hard time going back to "straight" keyboards. The split design is not perfect, but it's better.

        I'm still debating whether to try out one of those Kinesis Ergo keyboards.....
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    keyboards (Score:1)
    by Phule77 on 30/11/99 9:59 EST (#36)
    (User Info)
    I got to the point fairly quickly via bbs multitasking where my automatic typing was fairly quick (though often terminally dyslexic), but I've found that I tend to avoid using the arrow keys, penalty box, etc. as much as possible, much as that hampers my work, simply because it's such a PITA to bother with, distracting me from the work at hand.
    On the other hand, in the realm of control and alt keys that are too small and inconveniently located, I do wish there were some easier way to do curly braces and such so that I wouldn't wear out my pinky holding down the shift key while tagging, but that seems a terminal fate of the current keyboard. Help?
    Vi was interesting, in the few unix enabled jobs I've been in, but not being from a programming background ("you need to swim, so we're dropping you into the Unix Ocean, tell us next week if you drown.."), but the learning curve on that sort of thing, when done on one's own, seem rather steepish. But I can dream...
    I myself attain zen via keyboard more

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    About mouse usage with keyboard (Score:3, Interesting)
    by kooma (kooma@iname.com) on 30/11/99 9:59 EST (#37)
    (User Info)
    Just the other day I witnessed someone who used his mouse with his foot. He had both of his hands at the keyboard and (quite effectively) moved in the X-environment with his foot...

    He said it took approx. 2 weeks to master the Art, but it was worth it. The advantages were about the same as what was mentioned in the article as drawbacks with the mouse. The advantages were:

  • One doesn't have to take eyes off the screen while mouse is required,
  • One doesn't have to move the hand away from the keyboard when mouse is required,
  • No one at the workplace wants to borrow his mouse.

    I ain't gonna try it (since I like to keep my feet in my shoes while at work), but at least some hardcore zen-wannabe could try this one for kicks. :)

    -kooma

  • [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:About mouse usage with keyboard (Score:1)
      by IHateEverybody on 30/11/99 10:45 EST (#99)
      (User Info)

      Just the other day I witnessed someone who used his mouse with his foot. He had both of his hands at the keyboard and (quite effectively) moved in the X-environment with his foot...

      That just about proves it; Dilbert was right. Computing and evolution have conspired to make monkeys the superior race. In the future all the high paying jobs will be staffed by super-intelligent monkeys who can manipulate the mouse with their tails while keeping both hands on the keyboard. Humans will be kept in zoos, reduced to flinging feces at their monkey overlords.

      Does this .sig make my butt look big?
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:About mouse usage with keyboard (Score:2)
      by Zigg on 30/11/99 11:42 EST (#154)
      (User Info) http://www.zigg.com/

      Now this interests me. I might just be crazy enough to try it. I suppose you've got to have a certain kind of mouse, though -- looking around my desk, I see a Dove-bar shaped Dell mouse... the ever-present warped M$ mouse... and what looks like a melted Dove-bar Compaq mouse. :-)

      What kind of mouse did said person use? What size were his feet? (I wonder if my size 13's could move a mouse effectively at all...) I wonder if OSHA has any problem with it...


      "If you continue running Windows, your system may become unstable." - Windows 95 BSOD
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:About mouse usage with keyboard (Score:1)
      by GregWebb on 30/11/99 11:50 EST (#165)
      (User Info) http://www.rdg.ac.uk/~ssu97gw/index.html
      Surely a custom mouse could do this through shoes?

      I'm thinking something in the scale of those foot massagers you sometimes see. Imagine a big version of a laptop joystick for the ball of one foot, then the mouse buttons handled with the other. How you do the scrollwheel I'm not yet sure :)

      The obvious problem with this is potential chaos if I start tapping my feet for any reason, but I can see real potential in this as an idea.

      Greg
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:About mouse usage with keyboard (Score:2)
      by DeadSea (1010SD@LegOstermillerArm.com) on 30/11/99 12:02 EST (#179)
      (User Info)
      As I was reading this article, something similar occurred to me. I do spend a fair amount of time switching between my mouse and my keyboard, and it does suck. But there are several ways that you could keep your hands on the keyboard and use a pointing device.

      I think the perfect thing would be to use your tongue! What if you had a little pointer or a touchpad on the roof of your mouth? Aside from the nastiness of using it at a public terminal, I could imagine I would really like it. Anybody know of anything like that?

      You need to amputate to email me.

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:About mouse usage with keyboard (Score:2, Funny)
      by GossG (ggoss@direct.ca) on 30/11/99 12:13 EST (#187)
      (User Info)

      Like this?
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Why I hate Mac keyboards (Score:2, Informative)
    by igjeff on 30/11/99 9:59 EST (#38)
    (User Info)
    "Sure, you've probably got little nibs on your `F' and `J' keys"

    Tom seems to diss those little nibs as largely insignificant...and in the realm of the types of movements he's talking about...they largely are...but I tell you...this is the single biggest thing that I hate about typical Mac's...they have the nibs on "d" and "k". I know it sounds insignificant, but I always end up typing like, "O ;Qua wms i[ ru[omf ;olw" (translation: "I always end up typing like")

    Jeff
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Why I hate Mac keyboards (Score:2)
      by Herbmaster on 30/11/99 10:55 EST (#112)
      (User Info)

      this is the single biggest thing that I hate about typical Mac's...they have the nibs on "d" and "k"

      Unfortunately, on recent keyboards (the "iMac" Apple USB keyboard and some powerbook keyboards) Apple has sunken into the mindless conformity that is jf keyboard nipples (wtf is a nib? The word is "nipples"). Nipples on d and k are actually far superior. No, this is not a matter of opinion, this is a fact about human interface design. A person can get used to either fj nipples or dk nipples so the while personal preference does matter, it's only a matter of which one a person uses. What makes dk nipples superior is that there's a more or less equal chance of putting your fingers down left/right/inward/outward shifted from the correct position for typing. dk nipples give you positive feedback no matter which direction you're off in. That is, you feel the nipple being on the wrong finger, as opposed to just failing to feel a nipple at all. As any intelligent interface designer wi

      Read the rest of this comment...

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Why I hate Mac keyboards (Score:2)
        by SoftwareJanitor (SoftwareJanitor@yahoo.com) on 30/11/99 11:18 EST (#136)
        (User Info)
        you feel the nipple being on the wrong finger, as opposed to just failing to feel a nipple at all

        That is a point I had never thought of. Another thing that you don't mention is that your middle fingers are the longest fingers, and thus the most likely to come into contact with the keys first as your hands come down to the keyboard. I always assumed that the dimples on the fj keys were because the people who designed the early IBM PC/XT/AT keyboards were obviously hunt and peck typists (and thus would prefer the fj keys due to using primarily the index fingers).


        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Why I hate Mac keyboards (Score:0)
        by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 11:32 EST (#148)
        That is, you feel the nipple being on the wrong finger, as opposed to just failing to feel a nipple at all.

        Who was it that said the only intuitive was the nipple? Reading slashdot gets me hot these days ;)
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        also... (Score:1)
        by David Roundy (droundyatjungledotberkeleydotedu) on 30/11/99 11:46 EST (#158)
        (User Info) http://civet.berkeley.edu/droundy/
        The d and k keys connect with your middle fingers, which are longest, and most often connect first for that reason.

        David Roundy

        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Why I hate Mac keyboards (Score:1)
      by gruber on 30/11/99 11:45 EST (#157)
      (User Info)
      Actually, recent Mac keyboards (starting with the current PowerBooks and the iMac) have the nibs on the F and J.

      As someone who's been typing on Apple keyboards since 5th grade in the mid 80s, I find it highly annoying. Luckily, the key caps pop off easily, and can be swapped.

      The PowerBooks (including the iBook) have excellent keyboards, really. Apple has an engineering team solely devoted to them. The iMac keyboard, however, is another matter entirely. It is, quite frankly, the worst keyboard I've ever used, by far. The arrow keys are half-sized, and are tucked under the right Shift key, in the area normally occupied by the right Option and Control keys. So, the only Option and Control keys are on the left.

      --
      Gruber
      -- Gruber

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    This is a minimalist article (Score:3, Funny)
    by Ted V (tedv@NOSPAM.ce.mediaone.net) on 30/11/99 10:00 EST (#39)
    (User Info)
    This article.
    This article is.
    This article is minimalist.
    This article is very minimalist
    The minimalist article is.
    The minimalist article is repetitive.
    The minimalist article is not repetitive.
    The minimalist article appears repetitive.
    The minimalist article topics appear repetitive
    The minimalist article topics repetitively appear.
    The minimalist article topics repetitively change.
    Topics repetitively change minimaly.
    Topics change minimaly.

    Now look at that text and compare it to Tom's article. He says the same thing over and over-- ALMOST. This is the zen of writing. At the end, he's brought up a totally different point than what he started with, except for one common theme. In my example, the theme is "minimal". In his article, the theme is "Zen".

    Here's a brief summary for those who don't want to read the article.

    Starting idea: Zen interfacing is good.
    Ending idea: Bad use of input devices stops Zen.

    Hope t

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Problem may have been fixed already (Score:2)
      by Industrial Disease on 30/11/99 10:52 EST (#108)
      (User Info)
      It looks like you're responding to the first couple of comments about the article repeating itself. I'm pretty sure that at the time the article truly had some repeated text. I swear that the first time I tried to read it, there were several paragraphs (the one with the link about Fitts's Law caught my eye) repeated, verbatim, at least four or five times. The article seems to have been quietly (perhaps too quietly; an "update" notice would have been nice) fixed to remove the truly redundant paragraphs. I still find the article a little longwinded, but Your Mileage May Vary.
      "Violence on TV only affects children whose parents act like TV personalities." -- David Byrne
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Thanks, those are holy words (Score:1)
    by jw3 (jw3@gyral.com) on 30/11/99 10:00 EST (#40)
    (User Info)
    You speak out of my heart! I'm not a hacker, and I'll never be, but I type quite fast and I do type a lot. And every time I get a new keyboard I turn into an old grump: whoa, the keyboards these days are worse and worse, in my days we had real keyboards... I got constantly annoyed by some poor inventions claiming to be 'a revolution' - I suppose that means 'bloody', 'pointless', 'cruel', 'eating own children' and so on. Look at this damned new Macintosh keyboard (no, I'm not a Macintosh users, but there are mostly Macs in our lab - I use them as a terminal): not only they changed this little spot which tells your fingers whether they are in the right place (it was on "d" and "k", now it's "g" and "h"), but they also removed the keypad (did you ever have to type in a hundred or so numbers by hand?), removed the delete key and run over the keyboard with a sledgehammer - at least that is my impression (and don't forget the colors like from a Velasquez's nightmare).

    I got a new NT box serving onl

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Give me control (Score:2, Informative)
    by Goner (switch-at-atdot.org) on 30/11/99 10:00 EST (#41)
    (User Info) http://www.columbia.edu/~rjs51
    Here is my /etc/X11/xinit/Xmodmap to get control instead of caps lock

    !
    ! Swap Caps_Lock and Control_L
    !
    clear Lock
    remove Control = Control_L
    !remove Lock = Caps_Lock
    keycode 0x1A = e E currency
    keycode 0x36 = c C cent
    keycode 66 = Control_L
    keycode 37 = Control_L
    keycode 115 = Caps_Lock
    add Lock = Caps_Lock
    add Control = Control_L
    keycode 0x40 = Alt_L Meta_L
    keycode 0x71 = Alt_R Meta_R

    Also, changing the keyboard map to emacs2 fits with this. The above changes the dreaded window$ key to caps lock... Far enough out of the hemisphere?

    -Rich

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Caps lock -> Scroll Lock (Score:1)
      by TossPot on 30/11/99 12:34 EST (#200)
      (User Info)
      I like to move caps lock to the scroll lock key, its far away and in my case next to the caps lock LED. I'm looking at a gateway keyboard and the LEDs are in the wrong order, weird.
      I use the win keys to control things in my window manager like switching desktops or moving windows.

      in the modmap: add Lock = Scroll_Lock
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    GUIs are killing good CLI and keyboard shortcuts (Score:1)
    by klund on 30/11/99 10:01 EST (#43)
    (User Info)
    I have Quickcam connected to a machine running Windows that updates a picture on my web site. Which sucks, because it's the only machine I own that doesn't recover gracefully from a reboot. For some reason, there is no way to put the little Quickcam applet into the Startup Folder so that it starts up in Autocapture mode. Everytime the machine reboots, I have to go up to the keyboard and type "Alt-F, down, down, return, return" to get it to start taking pictures. I have sent Connectix technical support a few emails about this, and here is the (rather curt) reply that I finally received:

    > Is there a way to put the quickpict applet in the startup folder
    > so that it starts up automatically in the autocapture mode?

    Unfortunately, not at the moment. Thanks.

    The menu in the Color QC applet claims that spacebar is the keyboard short cut for "start capturing", but that doesn't even work.

    You know, this touches on one of my pet peeves. Say what you want about graphical user in

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:GUIs are killing good CLI and keyboard shortcut (Score:2)
      by Zigg on 30/11/99 11:50 EST (#163)
      (User Info) http://www.zigg.com/

      Everytime the machine reboots, I have to go up to the keyboard and type "Alt-F, down, down, return, return" to get it to start taking pictures.

      I know Windows at least used to come with a ``macro recorder'' of some kind that, it would seem, could automate this for you. But as I have been avoiding Windows innards religiously for some time I can't say for sure what the current state is...


      "If you continue running Windows, your system may become unstable." - Windows 95 BSOD
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    This is subjective (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:03 EST (#48)
    By repeatedly mentioning "Fitt's Law", this article comes off sounding like some sort of scientific study. Its not. The choice of keyboards is totally subjective. I started out using a Commodore 64, then an Amiga, then UNIX-ish keyboards (and used them for many years) particularly the Sun keyboard Tom is so fond of, and then finally PC keyboards. I hated the Sun keyboard. I still hate the Sun keyboard. I use a standard issue (non-natural) PC-style keyboard. The alt/ctrl/windows (yes Windows key!! punk!) keys are all the same size and hardly bigger than the letter keys. I love the keyboard I currently use, and am perfectly able to "zen out" with it.

    Of course, I tend to use more modern software than 'vi', such as Windows based software, and UNIX software that is GTK or QT based. I don't use the control key all that much, and I almost never use the alt key. I think Tom's preferences (and they are just that, preferences) are colored by the rather oldish software he uses, which was designed to be e

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:This is subjective (Score:1)
      by frog51 on 30/11/99 11:08 EST (#123)
      (User Info)
      I don't agree that it's 'cos of old software, as I use modern software (lots of NT, Irix, Linux etc etc) and still prefer the older real keyboards.

      I do, however, agree that it is subjective - maybe there should be keyboard for each type of user...someone like me has no need for Caps Lock, Windows key, SysRq etc, but maybe some people do. I would like a bigger spacebar and left shift, the pipe character up top right where it should be and a whole host of other things - but that would also cause disturbance to those who like it like that.

      So, manufacturers - how about more of you doing a pfuca


      For evil to triumph it is only necessary for good men to buy Microsoft.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    CapsLock vs. Ctrl. Round 1. FIGHT! (Score:1)
    by Keith Russell (krussell@SCREENSCRAPETHIS!.sgi.net) on 30/11/99 10:03 EST (#50)
    (User Info)
    Actually, the great CapsLock/Ctrl switch came about because touch typists, trained on typewriters, were accustomed to Shift Lock being above the left Shift key. (You do remember typewriters, don't you? :-) ) When placed in front of old-school XT keyboards, they kept hitting Ctrl, expecting CapsLock, and getting something other than what they expected. Their finger memory was already burned-in. I guess they just shouted louder than the hackers.

    What I'd like to know is this: What poorly-trained chimpanzee decided that the F-Keys belonged across the top of the keyboard?

    I miss my old Gateway AnyKey keyboard. No Winkeys, F-Keys down the left and across the top (independently reprogrammable, no less), and an arrow key cluster that would not satisfy Tom, but was absolutely awesome for games. Alas, a poorly placed pop bottle brought it to an untimely end. If I could go back in time, I'd tell myself, "No, fool! Don't put that bottle of Sprite there while playi

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Is this following on from the poll? (Score:1)
    by anthonyclark (anthony dot clark at adv dot sonybpe dot com) on 30/11/99 10:04 EST (#51)
    (User Info)
    from My comment from the last poll.

    What I want in a keyboard:

    • Ergo/split design.
    • All the programming symbols on their own keys ($#|{}[]()<>?@)
    • Silent, soft but clicky keys. I hate noisy typists!
    • A whole bunch of keys with durable 32x32 LED panels on them, programmable to display different symbols. (so I can reprogram the windows key to be a penguin without buying a new keyboard) (or so I could program a key to do C-c C-f for open or C-c < for docbook)
    • Lasts a lifetime
    • Function keys below the space bar
    • Large keys so I don't miss
    • On-board memory for keymappings and symbols (see above)
    • Statistically designed using only programmers as the sample. This should give a keyboard with all those funny symbols in nice convenient places.


    AFAIK the dvorak keyboards were designed statistically with the most frequently used ke

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    That Zen zone... (Score:2)
    by kzinti (kzinti@pobox.com) on 30/11/99 10:05 EST (#52)
    (User Info) http://jimthompson.org/
    Excellent article, though it's a bit repetitive, though it's a bit repetitive, though it's a bit repetitive, though it's a bit repetitive.

    Personally, I don't think the keyboard matters as much as the working environment, and how well it and the programmer are attuned to each other. This is probably why people are so religiously bound to their choices of development tools, in particular their editors. People who can find that zone do so because they work well with their tools, because they know the tools well enough that the tools themselves fade into the background, and the code and programmer come to the fore. Having a bad keyboard will certainly get in the way of this experience, but having to use bad tools will get in the way more.

    For the programmer to be able to adapt to the tool can be as effective as the tool being able to adapt to the programmer. This is why people are able to reach the zone with editors like vi that aren't as programmable and as extensible as edit

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:That Zen zone... (Score:2)
      by PigleT (spodzone@netscape.net) on 30/11/99 11:00 EST (#117)
      (User Info) http://www.glutinous.custard.org/
      With your 'working environment' I encompass both mouse and keyboard together.
      I disagree about the arrow keys (if he means cursor keys) as they're a god-send, but I do hate the arrows on the numeric keypad.
      Something else not to forget: the arrow keys *do* scale into words and paragraphs (if not sentences) with WinWord (and no doubt others), using ctrl+cursor up/down. (And on the subject of WinWord, did you know that F12 does file/open, print, save and SaveAs ever since Word 2?!)

      You're right that author and editor adapt to each other. ObHistory: I used to be into emacs in a relatively big way, but I didn't really know my way around it - I let others' opinions of vi keep me with emacs. Then I decided to branch out and do the Other Thing, and hey presto, I'm still *with* vim, because vim and I get on better together.
      However, for webpage editing, I do sometimes prefer something like screem, because I hate having to mess around with word-delimiters to manipulate tags.

      When I'm work

      Read the rest of this comment...

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:That Zen zone... (Score:3, Insightful)
      by Gurlia (sweetswale@swalecove.zots.org) on 30/11/99 11:24 EST (#140)
      (User Info)

      Good point. Although I suspect that most people here have emacs or vi as their favorite editor, mine is aXe. On the surface, it seems clunky and less optimal than the "true hardcore text editors" like vi/emacs where a few simple keystrokes get you to do what you want. Tom seems to be making the point that only a certain kind of keyboard allows you to "zen out".

      That's not quite true. I think the underlying thing is that you have to be comfortable with what you're using. Tom happens to grow up with a certain style of keyboard, therefore anything else seems klunky to him. I grew up with aXe as my text editor (it was Norton Editor in my DOS days, but unfortunately I can't find an equivalent to that on Linux, and pico sucks). When I'm really "into" my programming, it seems that aXe isn't even there any more. Every time I need a new editing window, my hands automagically nudge the mouse, slide over the button just enough to click it, and up pops a new window, another wiggle, and it loads up t

      Read the rest of this comment...

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:That Zen zone... (Score:1)
        by smash (smash@gold.PLEASE.SPAM.ME.net.au) on 30/11/99 12:18 EST (#189)
        (User Info) http://www.gold.net.au/~smash
        regarding the comment that vi has a sucky interface...

        I originally attempted to use vi without any sort of instructions, and without fully understanding the philosphy behind it. as a result I started using pico, and then joe, as my unix editors of choice. then, one day, I started doing sysadmin work, and from time to time vi was the ONLY editor available (other than ed, but that doesnt count :).

        once you get the hang of it, vi has a VERY nice interface... most commands you can do without your hands hardly leaving the home row...

        vi also shows you exactly what you have typed in quite nicely as well.. if you scroll the cursor over a tab for example, it will jump the whole tab space.. useful for editing makefiles etc where there is a difference in meaning between tab and space...

        all i can recommend is to give vi a good chance... check out the vi manual (try search for it on google), and edit a couple of files... it grows on you.


        smash
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    datahand keyboard (Score:1)
    by tomson on 30/11/99 10:06 EST (#53)
    (User Info)
    Does anyone here have any experience with the datahand keyboards?

    Wish I was a .sig
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:datahand keyboard (Score:1)
      by jonabbey (jonabbey@eden.com) on 30/11/99 11:25 EST (#142)
      (User Info) http://www.eden.com/~jonabbey

      Yes, I've been using the DataHand Pro II at work on my old Samsung X-Terminal for the last 3 years, after I had problems with my hands/wrists after a couple of years of particularly intense hacking on a flat keyboard.

      The datahand is nice in many respects, as you can arrange each unit into a good position for your wrists, and the load is spread out pretty well over all of your fingers. It is not a panacea, however. I've had problems using it as well.. the datahand has a tendency to keep your hands in a static position (albeit supported by the palm mounds), which doesn't do your blood circulation any good if you're diabetic like I am. Also, some of the motions you make with your fingers often (side-to-side motions), especially with your little fingers, can be a bit stressful after awhile.

      Good posture and strengthening exercises is very important, if you ask me.

      One thing: the datahand is absolutely terrible for games like rogue and zangband.. you have to

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      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Zen C++ (Score:1)
    by Foxxz on 30/11/99 10:06 EST (#54)
    (User Info)
    wow.. have you ever been in a state like that when programming. writing code in new terretory, at least for yourself and making a program so huge and complex you cant take your mind off it and you want to tell everyone. it is a wonderful thing. but alas, i have strayed and i need to re-init myself back into the c++ code again before i can experience another zen.

    -foxxz

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Stuck in Paste (Score:1)
    by DiveShark (jwodziak_AT_yah_WOOO_hoo_DOT_STOCK_OPTION) on 30/11/99 10:07 EST (#55)
    (User Info)
    Just curious, did he have anything worth saying
    after he he paste 42 times?

    Nothing like providing evidence to prove
    ones thesis, eh?
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Long live Nascom II (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:07 EST (#56)
    My Nascom II keyboard (Nascom was one of those solder it yourself together Z80 stuff. After writing an appropriate BIOS for it including terminal emulator and diskette drivers, I could even run CP/M on it) was one of the best I ever used. The keys were springed and had a hard limit (the steel plate on which they were mounted) when banging them down. There were no mechanical contacts, they worked with magnetic Hall effect. Indestructible. The keyboard had no penalty zone whatsoever. The 4 Cursor keys were arranged in the best manner I have ever encountered: left and right from the (sumptious) space bar, in order: You could access them without the leave/return effect, they were in just one row, you could easily use both hands for navigating all across without ever contorting your fingers or pulling them off the keyboard. Left and right cursor movement were pretty mnemonic, up and down you soon learnt. I had several games using those keys, and you could pretty much zen in on them without tw

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Well put (Score:1)
    by panda on 30/11/99 10:08 EST (#57)
    (User Info) http://jason.stephenson.net/
    Apart from the redundant section in the middle, this was very well put. As someone who has been typing on all sorts of keyboards (including manual typewrites) for years, I can agree almost completely. When I'm typing, I DO NOT want to touch the mouse or move my fingers off of the center keys, even when I'm entering mostly numbers, I don't reach for the numeric keypad.

    I find myself enjoying "ergonomic" keyboards very much.

    The QOTD that appeared at the bottom of the screen while I was reading this article was quite appropriate: "Philosophy: A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing. -- Ambrose Bierce."

    I have to say that the whole zen thing is a bit overblown. I do agree that you enter a sort of state of mind where you are unaware of what else is going on around you. If that is what you're calling Zen, then so be it. I don't think that there is anything truly mystical about it. It's just a state of hyperconcentration.

    Man, this Dell keyboard is bugging me. I mis

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Long live Nascom II (correction) (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:08 EST (#58)
    My Nascom II keyboard (Nascom was one of those solder it yourself together Z80 stuff. After writing an appropriate BIOS for it including terminal emulator and diskette drivers, I could even run CP/M on it) was one of the best I ever used. The keys were springed and had a hard limit (the steel plate on which they were mounted) when banging them down. There were no mechanical contacts, they worked with magnetic Hall effect. Indestructible. The keyboard had no penalty zone whatsoever. The 4 Cursor keys were arranged in the best manner I have ever encountered: left and
    right from the (sumptious) space bar, in order:



    You could access them without the leave/return effect, they were in just one row, you could easily use both hands for navigating all across without ever contorting your fingers or pulling them off the keyboard. Left and right cursor
    movement were pretty mnemonic, up and down you soon learnt. I had several games using those keys, and you could pretty much zen in

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Here's another example... (Score:1)
    by klund on 30/11/99 10:08 EST (#59)
    (User Info)
    My office uses accounting software in Windows that requires entering many numbers from paper (invoices, purchase orders, etc) into a dialog full of entry fields. The staff has gotten pretty adept at entering the numbers quickly using the numeric keypad, but in order to move to the next entry field, they have to either reach across the keyboard and hit the tab key, or they have to fiddle with the mouse and click on the next field.

    Needless to say, after an hour of this, their hand, wrist, ... hell, their whole arm gets sore. It seems that a very elegant solution to this problem would be to make one of the keys on the numeric keypad (like enter or "+") a tab button.

    I tried finding a software solution, but none that I have found work, not even the Kernal Toys package. The weird thing is that while pressing tab moves you to the next field, hitting Ctrl-I or Alt-009 won't. Windows 95 grabs the keyboard scan code for the tab key before it's decoded into ASCII.

    Finally, I found ZDKeyMap (

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    is my ibook's casing an important interface? (Score:1)
    by betamax_ on 30/11/99 10:09 EST (#60)
    (User Info)
    Before I had my Bar Mitzvah I was required to attend Hebrew School every Wednesday. At the beginning of it we would have a service, reciting all the normal prayers. When it came time to prepare for my Bar Mitzvah it was like I already new all the prayers and suprisingly, could recite them from memory. I can't understand Hebrew and I only know a small amount of it's grammar, but it was like I was wired for the prayers. I didn't have to think about them. This is exactly like how we speak english or move our body. It is very hard to induce, although I suppose it helped that I was that young. It still required a lot of repitition. And yet it is all really so simple. In pinball, all you really have to do is hit the flipper when the ball come towards the hole. Yet no one can keep it up for ever. There seems to be something impeding our minds from performing such a basic task. Some people area able to get around this. That is where tha high comes from. I have always wondered why it feel so good to

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    arrow keys (Score:2)
    by Hard_Code on 30/11/99 10:11 EST (#63)
    (User Info)
    I'd have to argue that the arrow keys are useful, and not that awfully arranged. With chords like shift and control the arrow keys can easily be used to navigate tokens. I am ALWAYS using CTRL-ARROW to move around the tokens when I'm programming. Since programming languages are nicely broken up into words I can easily traverse a block, select a parameter list etc. With SHIFT-CTRL-ARROW it is easy to select multiple tokens.

    On the other hand when I use vi, I am ALWAYS traveling to ESC-land to reset the context. Most of the editing functions I do can be contained within one "context", so breaking them out so as to have overlapping contexts puts a burden on my by having to unnecessarily go out and find ESC to switch contexts. This context switching is awful and I can't really get in the "zone" in vi. Perhaps if ESC was closer and I actually took time to memorize all the meanings of all the keys in all the contexts I could do things faster.

    I use jEdit (http://www.gjt.org/~sp/jedit.html),

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    It's still VI vs. EMACS (Score:2, Insightful)
    by Ricdude on 30/11/99 10:12 EST (#64)
    (User Info) http://www.tux.org/~ricdude
    An argument by any other name...

    Personally, I believe the benefits of a one key search function are offset heavily by the penalty of having to hit the escape key before searching. The mode changes in vi are tricky to get used to, even for someone like me, who's been through ed, edlin, countless embedded IDE editors, vi, joe, jed, pico, emacs, and epsilon. Most of the time, you are either inserting or deleting text. Anything else takes extra keystrokes to change modes, or chorded keystrokes, regardless of which editor you use. BTW, Tom was complaining about being unable to do scanning by word with the exiled arrow keys: most sane editors (since wp4.0) have word scanning wired to control+arrow keys. Also, the "trill" of the jkjkjkjkjkj in vi is mostly wasted effort, imho. Why on earth would you need to keep going back and forth between two lines, without doing anything to them? If you feel the need for useless exercise, trill the left and right arrows.

    VI bigotry aside, I believe ther

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    WordStar (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:12 EST (#65)
    Great piece. I agree entirely with Tom's views on keyboards. But I'd like to add that the Zen of writing on a computer was realized by only one word processor -- WordStar! The WordStar "diamond" arranged the cursor control commands spacially; and once your fingers knew them, they knew them forever, and you could experience the oneness with the computer that Tom describes so well. If you have a DOS partition, go forth on the net and find VDE, a WordStar-inspired text editor (written in Assembler for speed!). It's a joy to use. The closest Linux equivalents are joe (as jstar) and jed (in WordStar mode). They're good editors and have a better feature set than VDE. But nothing beats VDE in the Zen department... Damn, I wish there were a Linux version.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:WordStar - EDT is Nirvana (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 13:00 EST (#213)
      Well, OK, it's an editor, not a word processor - but back on those days, how much difference, really, between the two. But EDT on a VT100 required no chording (ala EMACS), no context switches (ala vi), and the function keys were close enough to the main keyboard that there was no "penalty zone" in using them. Sliding over to the function keypad became as natural as shifting neck positions on a guitar or violin (good analogy there). Chording maybe was necessary back in the days of lisp machines, but since today's term drivers recognize escape sequences, why the need?

      Oh, EDT had one "context" which was important forward/reverse mode. So, the same "move by word" key worked for moving backwards or forwards.

      I achieved "keyboard zen" on the VT100. The replacement keyboard (VT200 and it's followers) killed that, because they moved the function keys too far away. Then EVE/TPU almost, but not quite got their EDT emulation correct - bummer.

      So, is there a "real" EDT for Linux (not an emulat

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      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Kinesis Ergonomic Keyboards (Score:1)
    by whig (whig at by net) on 30/11/99 10:12 EST (#66)
    (User Info)
    Some very interesting keyboard designs here: http://www.dmb-ergonomics.com/
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Kinesis Ergonomic Keyboards (Score:1)
      by pez on 30/11/99 11:17 EST (#135)
      (User Info)
      I couldn't agree more. Tom C. missed some very
      important points:

      1. Having the keys vertically aligned is vastly
      superior to the normal QWERTY slant (which, by
      the way, only exists as a relic of the old lever-
      driven hammer-head mechanical typewriters). Once
      you've tried a keyboard with a more ergonomic
      vertical layout of the keys, you'll wonder why
      people torture themselves with the extra finger
      travel.

      2. Using chords is a requirement for efficient
      programming. With the Kinesis this beccomes
      easier becuase the control and alt keys are
      under the stronger thumbs. There just aren't
      enough keys on the keyboard to map to the
      commands you want to do (even if you have three
      "modes" like in vi). Not even close.

      3. The single biggest failing in the standard
      keyboard is the spacebar. Of the eight non-
      thumb digits, they each have on average about
      5 different keys they can hit. The two thumbs
      (which are the strong

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      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Blah Blah Blah (Score:1)
    by Kool Moe (koolmoe@crosswinds.net) on 30/11/99 10:14 EST (#67)
    (User Info)
    I didn't find that article very interesting at all. Neat ideas, but (even without the repeated areas) I think he could have made his point in 4 or 5 paragraphs. It was just a lot of rambling, IMO. This guy doesn't have a journalist background, does he? My prof would have ripped such a paper to shreds.
    To actually comment on the meat of the article, I kinda like my Win keyboard. It took a while to relearn when I made the unfortunate move from the Mac to the PC for work, but not too long.
    I agree the Caps Lock key could be totally relocated- swapped with the ESC key sounds good to me!
    The only problem I have with the Windows key is hitting it once in a while while playing Quake, which minimizes the game and shows the desktop. NOT a good thing! Ack! Alt-Tab! Alt-Tab!
    But I guess I could always bind it to something else (can you bind the Windows key in the Q2 config?).
    I'm used to my PC keyboard, and work with it fine. I could remap using programs, but then any other computer I work on, I'd st

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:why? (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:55 EST (#113)
      If you don't like the Windows key, then why did you bought such a crappy keyboard?

      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Blah Blah Blah (Score:1)
      by orcrist (christopher.kuhi@stud.uni-*blah*muenchen.de) on 30/11/99 11:51 EST (#166)
      (User Info)
      I'm just waiting for solid speech rec...

      Improved speech recognition is not going to bring any huge advances in interface efficiency, at least not for hackers; maybe language recognition will, but I'm not holding my breath.

      What do I mean by this? Well, have you ever tried dictating code to someone else sitting at the keyboard? Was it faster than doing it yourself? I'm willing to bet the answer is "No." This is the case even if the person sitting there is a lightning fast typist, since it usually takes longer to explain what they should type (plus to correct misinterpretations) than for them to type it. And that's when a human is doing it; humans are pretty good at interpreting spoken language. Computers would need to be better, not as-good-as.

      Speech recognition is for people who can't/won't type to dictate e-mails and stuff like that, and it might find a place as a complement to keyboard control, but there's not a chance in hell that it'll ever come cl

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      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Remember your history (Score:1)
    by MissinLnk on 30/11/99 10:15 EST (#68)
    (User Info)
    If you compare your current keyboard to the keyboard of some old typewriters, you'll notice a lot a similarities. The Caps Lock is where it is because that's where it used to be on typewriters. The reason most keyboards are the way they are is because they are layed out just like the typewriters. It was left this way to make it easier for everyone that had learned to type on a typewriter first...why change what works?
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Remember your history (Score:1)
      by lar3ry on 30/11/99 11:09 EST (#124)
      (User Info)
      But there were no CTRL or ALT/META keys on those old keyboards.

      If we go back to COMPUTER input devices, we have the 029 keypunch (shudder!) and the teletype. The 029 used EBCDIC, and the teletype used ASCII.

      It was mostly due to the preference of ASCII that the teletype is the place from which most of our current keyboard arrangement descended.

      The teletype has the CTRL key "where God meant it to be [J. Pournelle]" (above the SHIFT key), and the CAPSLOCK relegated underneath the SHIFT.

      History lesson to be continued some other time.
      --
      "I suggest a new strategy, R2. Let the Wookiee win!" -- C3PO
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    I have to agree...somewhat. (Score:1)
    by ZarKov (zarkov\@netnitco.net) on 30/11/99 10:15 EST (#69)
    (User Info)
    Here I am, the tcsh user that hates CGI.pm, and I'm about to agree with Tom Christianson. I never thought I'd see this happen.
    I agree that the vast majority of keyboards these days suck. And those of us with jobs where our bosses don't know the slightest bit about what we do are stuck with those wretched keyboards. I'm surprised Tom didn't make mention of the keyboards you practically have to punch to type a letter. Sheesh, that spells carpal tunnel after five minutes.

    But now, alas, I have to take exception to the comments on emacs. As any emacs user knows, you can define your own macros to do whatever you want. This means that everybody can have exactly the functions they need easiest to access. It's time vi died already.

    JAPH Zarkov

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Something very wrong on slashdot today (Score:1)
    by shomon2 (ale@Spam|mapS.sift.co.uk) on 30/11/99 10:16 EST (#70)
    (User Info) http://charlotte.sift.co.uk/~ale
    About 3 stories for half the day with no comments to their name... Strange, even for us UK people, who have to wait until 2 for the USA to wake up...

    Then this story with the middle bit repeated about 5 times... Then I reload and it's gone! I hope the problem gets sorted, looks like an ugly bug!

    Anyway, I think the fitt's law stuff is good if applied as one more generic rule, but it doesn't convince me the way it's put in the fitt's law link. Design concepts are sometimes so so prone to waffle, that I really need good proof before I believe that keeping the size equal is the solution to all design ills.

    Answering all the questions with the same answer ldos not give sufficent credit to all the other aspects of design, like clutter and metaphor, or how intuitive it all is.

    But it's good for /. people to hear about this stuff from a respectable source like this, because good design (versus complicated configurability) is what all the various software writers need to create a g

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Zoning out for fun, and proffit (Score:1)
    by reaper (bob@danarchy.net) on 30/11/99 10:20 EST (#75)
    (User Info)

    Best user interface for zoning out I've seen so far is the old ViewLogix ECAD system. 1 letter commands, and mouse for connecting the parts. As a test, I decided to CAD the PC-XT, and it took 30 minutes. 30 minutes to CAD out a PC motherboard.

    But, alas, they made the windows version. They got rid of middle mouse button support after a while. Then the command keys became chord combinations. All bad. I just couldn't get into it.

    Many programs have this whole "mouse for drawing, and keyboard for entering command" thing going, but I just haven't found too many that do it well. AutoCAD, for instance... not being extremely familiar with it, but I just couldn't get into the whole picking from the palette thing, or type in the primitive you were trying to draw, and then moving hands to the keybaord to punch in parameters... there must be a better way...

    And as for arrow keys, I'm going to have to disagree here... there is nothing intuative, or good about using 'hjkl' for movement. Except that your ter

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    copy & paste with keyboard (Score:1)
    by J-freak on 30/11/99 10:20 EST (#76)
    (User Info) http://www.game-over.ch
    I still hope that there will be a standard chord for copy & paste in every linux application. at the moment I have to learn for every application new chords :-/ anybody knows if there is something in development?

    I would also like to see more standard accelerator keys (like in m$ windows) (f.e. alt+f for the file menu)

    -- www.game-over.ch - Jesus rules!
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    I think many responses have missed the point (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:21 EST (#77)
    In reading this article, I wondered why it was so long and repetitious. Out of curiousity, I read it under lynx (originally I used netscape). It's still long and repetitious, but not nearly as annoying. . .coincidence. . .I don't think so.

    As I write this, I'm reminded of two postings
    I saw in the thread "How to Write Unmaintainable Code." One of the posters complained about lisp and received a response like (para.) the following:

    Lisp can be written to be very maintainable. It can be harder to read because the code is so dense. . .bottom line: the paragraph was poorly formatted and therefore was difficult to read and comprehend.

    The response (I don't know if it was from the same poster) just broke the previous response into paragraphs. As a result, it was much more readable.

    I don't know if it was intentional or not, but if you've ever read a substantial amount of lisp code, you'd understand the irony/beauty found in the posts.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Sad (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:22 EST (#78)
    Anyone who would kick you off of a channel for asking a valid programming question sounds like a douche bag to me. Maybe his head is too big?
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Not everyone lives in USA, not everyone is a coder (Score:1)
    by ViGe on 30/11/99 10:23 EST (#82)
    (User Info) http://www.lut.fi/~vnummela
    First of all I'd like to point out that our current keyboards are designed for people who really write a lot, typists. Not for coders. People who have to write lot's of text with their keyboard. They don't want to become one with the computer, they want to get the text written.

    and there's a CAPSLOCK key that's just as big as the TAB key. Hello? What are these people thinking? That I want to hit CAPSLOCK as often as I do tab, and that I don't care about CONTROL or ESCAPE?

    Yes. That's exactly what they are thinking. On my keyboard, which I like really much (many people would call it love, I have used it for 12 years now and I'm going to use it as long as it lasts) the Caps Lock key is a bit bigger than the TAB key. I probably do hit the tab key more often than the Caps Lock key, since it's used for all those file name completions etc., but e.g. my girlfriend, who's not a hacker, but still does work a lot with computers, she writes mostly all ki

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Study human factors before commenting please (Score:3, Insightful)
    by bluGill (hank@black-hole.com) on 30/11/99 10:25 EST (#83)
    (User Info) http://www.black-hole.com/users/henrymiller/

    I spent some time studing human factors in college. Human factors in breifly design of interfaces to be useful. All GUIs should be built from human factors, but obviously few are.

    This zen is a common misconception in human factors. Bruce Togniziky (the Guy Apple had doing most of their mac design) put expirenced uses in front of a comptuer, and had them select text with the keyboard, and then do the same thing again with the mouse. The users reported the keyboard was faster, but his stop watch reported the mouse was faster! (This was for a very specific example, and he admits it doesn't generalise. This however changed my thinking, I no longer hate the mouse, I use it when it is faster, and keyboard when that is faster)

    We know how long it takes someone to move to the mouse make a selection and move back. We also know how long it takes someone to type a few keys to invoke a command. We know how to design user interfaces so they are useful. Few people apply this.

    Human factors is NOT abou

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Study human factors before commenting please (Score:1)
      by Alan Shutko (ats@acm.org) on 30/11/99 10:51 EST (#107)
      (User Info) http://rescomp.wustl.edu/~ats/
      It seems to me that you're arguing against zenning. The point isn't whether one interface is faster than another for an operation. The point is that if you don't have to think to use whatever interface(s) you're using, you will do you work faster and happier than if you're constantly deciding what interface to use.

      The act of moving your hand to the mouse breaks your train of consciousness and even if that single operation is faster, the entire task will probably take longer, or be more error prone.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Study human factors before commenting please (Score:2)
        by bluGill (hank@black-hole.com) on 30/11/99 12:34 EST (#199)
        (User Info) http://www.black-hole.com/users/henrymiller/

        No, I'm not argueing against zenning out on your work. The point of the interface is assist the work you need to get done, and not get in the way the rest of the time. When you zen out on an interface, you have achived the above, but in the case of vi it may be achived DESPITE the interface. Note this is contrast to other programs which allow the work to get done faster, but don't allow the zenning out, into your work because the interface doesn't provide the functionality to get the work done.

        In the case of the mouse, it can be traned. For myself, once I realised the for many operations the mouse really was better, I traned myself to use it, and now I can move over there and nudge the mouse to where I need it and be back on the home row without looking. (and in fact I can put the mouse on either side of the keyboard, and the closer hand will do the work) You can do this, it just takes practice. I cannot zen out of vi, even though the interface is powerful enough to allow it, because I don't know

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        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Study human factors before commenting please (Score:1)
      by DonkPunch (donkpunch@S.P.maiermedia.com.A.M.) on 30/11/99 11:21 EST (#139)
      (User Info) http://www.maiermedia.com
      If I had to know what I was talking about before I posted, I would probably never post.

      (I hear the response of thousands -- "So, what's the downside?")

      Save the whales. Feed the hungry. Free the mallocs.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Disagree (some) about Arrow Keys (Score:1)
    by Ramses0 on 30/11/99 10:28 EST (#87)
    (User Info)
    I have to disagree somewhat regarding the removal of arrow keys from the "modern keyboard"

    The arrow keys give a wonderful point of control when the user is unsure of the machine's current context. A good example is switching desktops under windowmaker ... CTL-ALT-Left, CTL-ALT-Right ... not a "nice" combination by any stretch, but it always works, and doesn't depend on what software is running at the moment.

    Simply because those keys (along with escape, page up, etc.) don't have any other possible meanings, it makes them useful for those context free moments.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Keyboard-specific apps (Score:2)
    by EisPick on 30/11/99 10:29 EST (#88)
    (User Info)

    I've long held that AT-style keyboards killed WordPerfect.

    Good ol' WP 4.2 for DOS was easy to use once you trained your brain to feel the necessary key combinations. When asked what the keystroke for Print, or Search & Replace or Reveal Codes were, I typically didn't know the names of the keys, but I knew their feel with my left hand.

    I say my left hand, because my old XT-style keyboard arrayed its function keys on the far left of the keyboard.

    Cursor keys were easy to navigate without looking, because the only cursor keys available were on the un-NumLocked numeric keypad, where they are much more usefully arranged than in today's dedicated cursor keypad area. My right index finder still does the HomeHomeLeft dance in its sleep.

    Then new & improved keyboards arrived with function keys arrayed across the top, so that for most WP commands, two hands and a glance down were now required. Being able to keep NumLock on and have separate keypads for cursors and number

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Keyboard-specific apps (Score:1)
      by Silver A (silvera@alphageo.com) on 30/11/99 13:10 EST (#219)
      (User Info)
      As the new keyboards arrived (with top fuction keys, new cursor keypad, and migrated Ctrl key), two things happened to WP for DOS users.
      • First, the learning curve retrain our brains to feel the new locations of WP functions was nearly as great as the learning curve for a while new app.
      • Second, once new locations were learned, the ability to type without glancing down was seriously compromised.

      Given these constraints, is it surprising that many chose to learn a new app -- MSWord -- rather than relearn the old app? I think not.

      IMO, what happened to WordPerfect was Windows. Word for DOS sucked like a Hoover. I got used to WordPerfect again when they moved the function keys rather than use Word for DOS, it wasn't that hard. (It was easier to learn "penalty-zone" keys for commands than control-sequences in WordStar.) But then Windows came out, and Word for Windows with it. WordPerfect followed, late, with a second-rate Windows version. That's whe

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      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    VI advocacy, bah. (Score:0, Troll)
    by YellowBook on 30/11/99 10:29 EST (#89)
    (User Info) http://www.sjgames.com/secret.html

    Most of this doesn't have anything to do with keyboards at all, but is just vi (vs. Emacs) advocacy. Bah. When I edit a file, I want an editor. Not a viitor, not an emacsitor, but an editor. Ed is the standard text editor.

    Enough of that. The point about penalty zones on keyboards is relevant though. It's worth noting that Emacs was designed in an era when keyboards were such that it didn't force you in and out of the penalty zones. ESC was normally where backtick (`) is on peecee keyboards. Ctrl was large and normally where Caps Lock is on peecee keyboards. Starting to get the picture?

    Now take a look at the Happy Hacking keyboard. (Link is in article) ESC in backtick position? Check. Ctrl in capslock position? Check. The only problem I see with the Happy Hacking keyboard is that it doesn't have sufficient bucky bits. I need at least control, alt, meta, super, and hyper. I have long fingers and I'm a touch typist, so most cases of going into the pen

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    SysRQ? (Score:1)
    by Medieval (acow@REMOVE_ME_TO_MAIL.home.com) on 30/11/99 10:30 EST (#90)
    (User Info)
    Besides the useless vanity keys stealing invaluable real estate from the main keyboard, we are saddled with an ever-growing number of extra keys in the penalty zone, such as function keys, INSERT and its friends, arrow keys, and relics out of the shrouded mists of antiquity such as SysRQ and Scroll Lock.

    Then how would we drop into 'safe mode' in Linux? :)

    Kernel hackers will know what I'm talking about.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Having several 'modes' slows you down (Score:2)
    by Ed Avis (epa98@doc.ic.ac.uk) on 30/11/99 10:35 EST (#91)
    (User Info)
    So pressing a single key ('j', for example) in an editor is faster than a chorded combination like, oh, I don't know, CTRL-n? Not necessarily. How should you distinguish between 'j' to perform the special action, and 'j' to insert that letter?

    If you introduce the concept of different modes, you need to switch between modes, and that has to require an extra keypress. In vi you must press ESC once before moving, and once after - that's three keystrokes instead of one. Those extra ESCs are a constant whether you move by one character or fifty, so it's arguable that for large movements the two-modes version is indeed better. But if you just want to move down a line, it's a lot more hassle.
    -- Ed Avis
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Having several 'modes' slows you down (Score:2)
      by Col. Klink (retired) (wklink@yahoo.com) on 30/11/99 11:20 EST (#138)
      (User Info)
      First, vim did things right by always letting you use arrow keys regardless of context.

      > In vi you must press ESC once before moving, and once after

      No you don't. If you're in insert mode, you have to hit ESC to go to normal mode, but you don't hit ESC again after that. If you want to start inserting again, you hit "i" or "a". Hitting ESC in normal mode will just give you a beep.

      vim does things even better. Regardless of your mode, you can always use the arrow keys (and PgUp/PgDn/Home/End).
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    It's an old story... (Score:2)
    by Seth Scali on 30/11/99 10:39 EST (#92)
    (User Info)
    But whatever it that helps a person achieve Zen is soon changed. Tom's example is that of the keyboard on computers.

    For another example, look at cars. I learned to drive with a Geo Metro. Part of the interface is sound-- the engine is screaming; shift gears. The engine is rumbling and sputtering; shift gears. The radio? That's way down by the ashtray, where I will only reach it when I make a conscious effort to do so.

    Today I drove a Mercury Villager-- automatic, naturally. Now I have a penalty zone-- the time just before the transmission shifts up a notch. It pulls me out, it shakes me. Not only that, but when I look down at the steering wheel, I see buttons for tuning the radio! The old buttons (right behind where the stick should be!) are still there, but now I have radio buttons. It's idiot-proof.

    For another example, look at the portable phone I bought the other day. There are 12 speed-dial buttons (memory buttons, the manual calls 'em). They are placed more promi

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    excellent points that can be taken much farther (Score:1)
    by s!mon on 30/11/99 10:40 EST (#93)
    (User Info) http://www4.ncsu.edu/~sgbooth
    Okay, I figured this would be a couple paragraphs, but Tom keeps going on and on. But he does do a good job of pointing out yes PC keyboards do suck. I'm on a sun keyboard right now, and its much easier. Same with Mac keyboards, thats because there aren't 200 different vendors making the keyboards. But it is still important for there to be some quality control.

    But I think Tom could have taken his article a bit farther. I do read up a lot on design, particularly human interaction with web design and such....and the stuff isn't obvious. Software has the same pitfalls as hardware. Creating an intuitive interface is very challenging. I expect in the coming years to see "interface experts" for software more common. Certainly they aren't needed as much as a software engineer, but there is more need for somebody with knowledge on creating an intuitive interface to help software engineers. Software engineers generally think in terms of function, not usability. There needs to be more thought in

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    A few random points.. (Score:2)
    by Awel (Email obvious from URL) on 30/11/99 10:40 EST (#94)
    (User Info) http://www.tardis.ed.ac.uk/~rhi/
    Keyboard preference is often a historical thing. I always use ` instead of ' for my apostrophes. This is because once upon a time I typed on an Amiga keyboard, which only had the one, which was in the position that ` is on PC keyboards. I also took quite a while to adjust to the repositioning of the capslock and ctrl keys too.

    As to `the penalty zone`, I can actually see good ergonomic reasons for keeping it, mainly related to those people (the majority) who do not touch-type. By removing the less-commonly-used keys from the main array, it reduces confusion on the part of the hunt-n-pecker, who knows they don`t have to consider these keys as they search for the one they want. As for the arrow keys - well, it may be difficult for extended use, but you can`t say that the placement of the up key above the down key isn`t intuitive!

    Please remember that most people these days can`t touch-type, and would be at a disadvantage on the sort of keyboard proposed here. And since the market depends

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:A few random points.. (Score:1)
      by Alan Shutko (ats@acm.org) on 30/11/99 12:24 EST (#193)
      (User Info) http://rescomp.wustl.edu/~ats/
      Interesting... what Amiga keyboard did that? The US keyboards for the 500, 2000, 3000, 4000, 600, CDTV, etc were all the same as a standard PC keyboard (except it had a decent control key). I don't remember the 1000 keyboard (it's been a while since I've visited it). But all the ones I used had both ' and `, in the same positions as a decent PC keyboard.

      Must have been a weird UK keyboard thing.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Shilling for PFU? (Score:1)
    by Bander (nav@patriot.net) on 30/11/99 10:40 EST (#95)
    (User Info) http://patriot.net/~nav

    Almost everything that Tom rants about in this article is taken care of by the folks at PFU America, makers of the Happy Hacker keyboard. Though he doesn't mention it or them by name, his article is like a manifesto for the HH kbd.

    I hope I get one or two of the keyboards for the holidays, they look excellent.

    I do not actually believe, nor do I endorse the supposition, that Tom is in the pay of the PFU people. I just think it's interesting that there is a company that seems to be on the same Zen wave that he is on.

    Bander


    -- Louis Freeh, decrypt this: SHPX LBH!
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    moria zen (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:45 EST (#98)
    This guy's right about Moria. As I began to read the article, the first thing that came to mind were my hours completely in tune with the game. Then he began to write about it. Everybody go out and put some good hours into a rogue variant, it'll be worth your time.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Zenning and the flow (Score:1)
    by Kaa (subdimensiondotcom!kaa) on 30/11/99 10:48 EST (#101)
    (User Info)
    For people interested in what TC calls "zenning" and what is usually called "the flow" check out the work of a guy with the improbable name of Csikszentmihalyi (search on Google) who is usually credited with first researching the concept. One place to start is www.flownetwork.com.

    Kaa
    Kaa's Law: In any sufficiently large group of people most are idiots.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Keyboards (Score:1)
    by Captain Zion on 30/11/99 10:48 EST (#102)
    (User Info) http://helllabs.org/~claudio/
    The best keyboard I've ever used is the keyboard of the green terminal that comes with series 800 HP9000. The ESC key is in the place of Caps Lock in a PC keyboard, it's just great for vi(1). Very good mechanical action too, almost as good as a Sun keyboard.

    My dream keyboard is a PFU-like compact keyboard with Sun action, HP layout and a Toshiba Accupoint device. Oh well, just a plain PFU would be far better than the keyboard I'm currently using, but they're kind of expensive. -- I wonder if cheaper Asian clones are available.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    BRIEF!!!!! (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:48 EST (#104)
    Has everyone forgot the power of BRIEF! The Ultimate programmers editor! I don't care if I had to visit the "penatly zone" every time I wanted to cut, copy or paste, it's so damned fast compared to any other system that I don't think I could live without it. Page Up, Page Down, Home, End....these are my home keys. The happy hacking keyboard is an abomination. It lacks all these things in an easily accesible manor.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    PC style control key must DIE (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:49 EST (#105)
    Tom is absolutely right about the control key. The Unix/Sun layout with the control key is much better suited to doing work (even though I probably use it for typing ctrl-C 95% of the time).

    On a related note, my keyboard is a Northgate OmniKey Ultra that I found in a pile of surplus equipment last year. I highly recommend it if you are lucky enough to find one. 129 keys, 2 sets of F-keys, real clicking microswitches on every key, and of course control is in the right place :)
    Best of all, it weighs about 10 pounds so it's hard to knock over or lose...
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    New kind of keyboard paradigm (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 10:57 EST (#115)
    One day I had this kind of vision about an alternative "keyboard"... you'd have 5 + 5 buttons, and with different keypress combinations you would get different characters, ie. left thumb + left index finger + right middle finger would be eg. 'A' and so on.

    How would it look like? Maybe two tiny tube-like things which you just held in your hands with your hands on your lap. You would use your fingers kinda like playing a saxophone or something.

    Take your hands away from the keyboard and put them in your lap, like those meditating zen monks do. Now think if you could type from this position! Also, I believe that this kind of system would be faster to type than with normal keyboards. Don't know about the learning curve though.

    If anyone knows of alternative keyboard ideas such as this one, could you please post links. I for one think the current "one finger, one key"-paradigm sucks.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Minnies (Score:1)
    by Sterling (man@hantech.org) on 30/11/99 11:00 EST (#118)
    (User Info) http://www.hantech.org
    Hear Hear Tom! Some very good points, even though I disagree about some of them. (Darnit I like the Emacs editor. I also use vi for small editing jobs)

    Reading his article reminds me that I hate Minnies. The term was used by Alan Cooper in his book "About Face". These are the people who use the mouse for everything.

    It drives me nuts when I am watching somebody editing a document in any Windows Editor and they want to save the document. After they are finished typing, what do they do to save the document? They take there hand off the keyboard ... grab the mouse ... look at the file menu ... move the cursor over and click the file menu ... find the save menu item ... then finally click on the save menu item. Completely ignoring the Ctrl+S that it displays to the right of the save menu item. They do this everytime they want to save. I once watched a person try to save three different documents in three different programs ... they all defined the Ctrl-S accelerator ... did he use it ..

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Hmm... (Score:2)
    by Ledge Kindred on 30/11/99 11:00 EST (#119)
    (User Info)
    I thought this was going to be an interesting article about user input interfaces and then WHAM, right in the middle, it starts to turn into an EMacs slam-fest.

    Personally, I get a shitload more work done with EMacs than I do with vi, despite what some may consider a "brain-damaged" interface. I'm used to it. *I* can "zen out" with EMacs.

    Just 'coz "Ctrl-S" isn't as easy to type as "/" doesn't mean you can't get as much work done with it, or even more. I know if I had to use vi all day long, I'd get much less work done.

    YMMV.

    -=-=-=-=-
    I remember when Sun really was about open computing

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Sports Zen (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 11:03 EST (#120)

    Irrespective of one's opinion on editors and keyboards (although I agree with Tom on vi and the friggin' caps lock key) I certainly can relate to the "sports zen" thing.

    I compete in a sport that's probably one of the most Zen-heavy out there. It's called Autocross (also called Solo2, and ProSolo).

    Here's how it works: Get a hopped-up sports car. Get a big chunk of concrete, like an old B52 base. Lay out a race course on it using traffic cones. Drive through the course as fast as you possibly can. You get 3 tries - fastest time wins. Hit a cone, and you get 2 seconds added to your time.

    No practice laps (although you do get an hour or so to walk the course and try to memorize it). The course is different every event. And while the ultimate speeds are fairly slow (70MPH) for an auto racing sport, the driver-event-per-second rate is higher than even F1.

    When you're truely hot; in the zone, the feeling is incredible. You can place 3000lbs of sliding, slithering car with

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Thoughts about revisionist keyboards... (Score:1)
    by divbyzero (divbyzero@hotmail.com) on 30/11/99 11:04 EST (#121)
    (User Info)

    I agree with the argument that today's standard keyboard is rather lacking. For that reason, I only use original IBM brand extended keyboards (clackety, with a separate keypad, single-line enter, double-width backspace, and duplicate ctrl and alt keys in the correct size and location).

    However, even these could stand for improvement, especially in this day of miniaturization for laptops, PDA's, etc. I'd like to explore Tom's complaint about chorded key combinations. Why do we have them at all?

    Would it not be better to have mode keys instead? These would work sort of like caps lock, but they would be used for all modes, and there would be no default mode to "return to". To type Hello, World, you would thus hit upper, h, lower, e, l, l, o, symbol, comma, space, upper, w, lower, o, r, l, d. This way, there is no chording; mode keys are fire-and-forget, like everything else.

    I would propose the following modes, which are mutually exclusive rather than

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    arrow keys (Score:2)
    by ywwg (ywwg@NOSPAM!.usa.net) on 30/11/99 11:11 EST (#127)
    (User Info) http://ywwg.dhs.org
    I grew up playing games on the family's Kaypro II (then 286, 386...), and they all required the use of the wonderful keypad. My favorite was the PC version of spacewar, which required the use of all nine keys in order to use all of the functions. My hands still easily fit over the 8,4,6, and 2 keys. I can navigate around any document using home, end, pageup and pagedown.
    I play quake with no less than 13 seperate keys (with my left hand, even), including seperate keys for every single weapon. The only drawback is that I use my thumb for both backwards and jump, so that combination is a little tough.

    I certainly don't like having the keypad quite so far away from the main keyboard, but I don't agree with his assertion that having the arrows where you expect them to beis better than the HORRIBLE hjkl deal. I mean, what is up? Why is up to the side of down? that makes no sense! I also don't like the inverted-T deal, because the up and down keys are too close together.

    Is there any

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Standardisation (Score:1)
    by stalle on 30/11/99 11:11 EST (#129)
    (User Info)
    As a regular windows user, I've gotten used to the "horrible" Windows button, that came not too long ago. When gotten used to... you realize that they are the best thing that has happened to keyboard layout (for those who are using windows) What I really miss in GNOME (never tried KDE), is the possibilities with one keystroke hit the mouse menus. But then, ofcourse... I miss every kind of keystrokes, since the makers of current GUI's and windowmanagers doesn't seem to be using those, only the mouse... //stalle
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    How 'bout those "Natural" keyboards? (Score:1)
    by RSevrinsky on 30/11/99 11:14 EST (#132)
    (User Info) http://www.mamash.com
    I had the misfortune of helping out a neighbor on a brand-new "Natural" keyboard -- you know, the ones with the huge gap in the middle between the Left-Hand Section and the Right-Hand Section. Obstensibly, this "natural" separation and ensuring curvature is healthier for your hands and wrists.

    No such luck. I nearly lost my sanity trying to get anything done. The most glaring problem was the "B". I do not purport to type correctly -- just the way that gets the job done quickly (as Tom advocates here).

    Upon slower reflection, I discovered that I normally (subconsciously) press the B with whichever pointer finger seems least busy. So, for example, "about" and "autoexec.bat" are right-handed Bs, but "blaster" and "obituary" are left-handed Bs. That choice is not given to natural keyboard users, and so when typing "autoexec.bat", I found my right pointer finger slamming into a ditch in the keyboard.

    Ergonomics is a laudable goal, but it seems to ridiculous to

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    vi? (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 11:16 EST (#134)
    Thats funny... I'm working on a new video game port of galaga that I'm calling emacs. Galaga rocks
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Excellent essay, really . . . (Score:1)
    by himi (himi-spam-and-die-young@bg32.anu.edu.au) on 30/11/99 11:27 EST (#143)
    (User Info)
    The only thing that grated a tad were the continuous comments about emacs - there's not that much difference between regularly switching modes and using meta-combinations. They're both just as automatic as the other after a while.

    That said, I personally would love to have the movement commands in emacs changed to Ctrl-h, Ctrl-j, etc. I love the convenience of the hjkl controls, but I don't want to throw away all the wonderful things that emacs offers just for them . . .

    On a broader note, I think a large part of the changes away from the keyboard result from `ordinary users' finding keyboards intimidating. Neal Stephenson made a really good point in his "In the beginning" essay: when you use a command line (and keyboard shortcuts are in the same league), you have to express your instructions in a completely non-ambiguos form, and that's hard work for most people. You can be really vague about searching through menus and so forth without losing any functionality, but if you're vague about y

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Keyboard Alternatives (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 11:29 EST (#145)
    In his article, Tom refers to the Happy Hacking Keyboard. What other alternatives are out there for decent keyboards? While I really like the size and reported quality of the happy hacking kbd, there are two things that I don't like about it's key layout; the one is the control key position, the second is the lack of arrow keys.

    As for control keys, my personal opinion is irrelevant. The fact is that I am a system administrator and not a programmer. Therefore, I am constantly using different systems as I check things out and help people. So, I really need to have a keyboard on my own desktop which has the control key in the SAME PLACE as all those other keyboards. For me, that means down in the bottom left/right as on PC keyboards.

    I am curious though, on the one hand Tom said that there should be two control keys, which their are on conventional PC keyboards, and they he said that he liked the placement at the left of the "A" key. Well, where would the second key go? If you put it on

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    a mix of good sense and strong bias (Score:1)
    by benjamin_scarlet on 30/11/99 11:32 EST (#149)
    (User Info)
    Disclaimer: I am an emacs user.

    I believe the arguments against chording are specious. I often achieve this zen state while programming with emacs, which uses chorded combinations extensively. In optimizing my environments for myself, I tend to choose chords and sequences in roughly equal proportion. Heck, I've got my X modmap configured to let me use all five buckybits. I don't claim everyone should, just that I'm a counterexample.

    This article combines a good point -- that a user interface should keep out of a user's way -- buried in a tremendous bulk of plugs for particular opinions in age old flamewars. I was surprised I didn't find any arguments for or against the use of keyclick. Without the pro-vi baggage, the article makes a good, but simple, point. (As a side note, this article brings to my mind the pro-ed diatribe distributed in the JOKES file with emacs. I recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it).


    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Keyboard design - OK, it's a poor title. Sue me :) (Score:1)
    by GregWebb on 30/11/99 11:35 EST (#150)
    (User Info) http://www.rdg.ac.uk/~ssu97gw/index.html
    Interesting article. But:

    I would truly hate to have to work on that happy hacker's keyboard. I like have a proper row of function keys - they're useful. I like my numeric keypad - as Tom said, I can enter numbers way faster on that than I can on the row at the top, even if I'm just typing a phone number. Don't kill it. I use cAPS lOCK, too. It's nice when you're shouting at someone - saves having to leave a finger wedging a key down. And I like cursor keys...

    Let's pull a quote out:

    "... the up arrow and the down arrow are directly aligned vertically. Your hand despises this, which is why the rest of the main keyboard has no such configuration on it anywhere. To see what I mean, try using the `j' and `k' keys in rapid succession, back and forth as though you were executing a trill. It's quite easy to go up three, down one, up two, etc. But now try playing your trill on the up and down arrows. Whoops! You have to turn your hand completely sideways, or use the same finger to do b

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    IBM 'Clickers' -- still the best next to Sun! (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 11:40 EST (#153)
    Ok, I admit I like the Sun KB layout and feel. In fact, it's the ONLY "soft-touch" keyboard I will tolerate. However, in the Wintel world, my favorite keyboard, for sheer durability and usability, has always been the 101-key IBM 'clicker.' Short of being hit by a baseball bat, or dunked in a tank of acid, the things are just about indestructible. Dell and the rest of the clone makers can have their mushy-feel crap. Give me something I can BANG on, dang it, without having it die on me! ;-)
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Some thoughts... (Score:1)
    by parkrrrr on 30/11/99 11:44 EST (#155)
    (User Info)
    Personally, I have no problem with the control key being where it is. I like it a little better on non-Windoze keyboards, because if I miss it I don't end up switching to a different application, but I wouldn't be able to live with it to the left of the A anymore (once upon a time, I used a Wyse-50 for everything, and those have it to the left of the A, but I've retrained now.) In my opinion, the need to retrain for the new location is balanced by the fact that I can now touch-type ctrl-A by using the right control key. ("Like shift, only further.")

    I have no problem with the arrow keys. I've trained my fingers to find the home row without looking, and I can find it without looking. I've also trained them to find the escape key, the arrow keys, and the "six pack" without looking (don't get me started on that so-called "Natural" keyboard!) Function keys are still difficult, but only because they put that stupid gap between groups, and put them too far from the number keys.

    I have no problem

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Sooo close yet soooo far (Score:1)
    by greydmiyu on 30/11/99 11:44 EST (#156)
    (User Info)
    As always Tom writes quite well but doesn't quite know when to stop. Reading this article I winced when it came to the various rants on the arrows and chorded command sequences. While I agree that examples like CNTL-ALT-SHIFT-F11 are bad, simple chords (CNTL-K, for example) are no worse than other chords that some editors use (SHIFT-Q, for example). Ah, did we forget that the SHIFT key combo is a chord?

    Then there was how many paragraphs devoted to the concept of muscle memory yet he so flippantly dismisses the arrow keys by stating that the user must look down at the keyboard to find them and look again to regain his place on the keyboard. Can't have it both ways. I can attest that I can easily switch from main block to arrows and back again without looking using that very same muscle memory.

    Speaking of arrows, oddly enough, the keyboard I use now doesn't have the up and down directly over one another. Even so it doesn't take a rocket scientist to do this simple thing to make all the

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    No, I *don't* want to use VI... (Score:2)
    by slothbait (slothbait@hotmail.com) on 30/11/99 11:49 EST (#162)
    (User Info)
    This article makes me shiver. It is not -- as billed -- an analysis of computer interface. Rather, it is a fervent piece of VI advocacy from someone who has been stuck on that interface so long that their mind has irrevocably wrapped around it. I do *not* view VI as a superior editor, and for the record, I've had a number of "transcendent" experiences with Emacs.

    The basic argument for VI is: "You never have to move your hands! Isn't it amazing?". Well, that's all nice, I suppose, but I view the interface as archaic and clunky. He goes off on how control keys slow down an interface...CTRL slows me down a hell of a lot less than switching modes does. (Yes: I've used VI for more than 5 minutes at a stretch, and I'll confess it has its merits, but I've never liked editing "modes").

    And arguments against arrow keys? Please...if you don't like them, then don't use them. I for one find them useful even if they are "exiled". And the argument that they can only operate on characters is whol

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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Ha ha, he said "statue." (Score:1)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 11:51 EST (#167)
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    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Tom's suggested keyboard (Score:1)
    by rm-r (rm-r@null.net) on 30/11/99 11:54 EST (#171)
    (User Info)
    Such an interesting article I read it three time :-) Had a look at the 'proper keyboard' Tom suggested, it looks ~ok, but it's $139! You can nearly by a computer for that these days, methinks Tom must be getting a hefty kickback for advertising them.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    The penalty zone. (Score:1)
    by GossG (ggoss@direct.ca) on 30/11/99 12:00 EST (#176)
    (User Info)
    He abhors the chorded combos. But then he includes a link to a keyboard that eliminates the penalty zone entirely. I have no problem reaching for the keypad or the cursor keys without looking at them. They are just THERE, like the 90% of a piano that isn't right under your hand at any moment. (He despises the loss of the control keys, but says NOTHING about the morons who replaced a numeric keyboard with abstruse and specialized control functions and propagated that as "terminal emulation". Where'd the numbers go? Numbers do not belong in a thin stripe that takes BOTH hands!)

    Vi may be a good video game for him, but I have other deep connections to my code. I like the low control because of the symmetry between the two hands. I want a keyboard with good feel, low control key, but drop the three vanity keys from my current one.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Much ado about little (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 12:10 EST (#185)
    Given the build-up about the author, I expected the article to be deep, enlightning, and intellectually rewarding. Instead, I got a verbose diatribe about the wonders of vi and the evils of other editors and bad keyboards. I can make similar comments of my own in far less space:

    1. I find emacs much friendlier and more convenient than vi, largely due to its modelessness and use of meaningful keys such as the arrows, Cut, Home, and End (on a Sparc 20). My only complaint is that the Del key defaults to uselessly duplicating backspace rather than deleting forward. But this can be fixed.

    2. The keyboard on my Northgate 486/33 (from 1992) has two sets of Ctrl and Alt keys, with the F keys conveniently placed on the left side of the keyboard instead of across the top. It has survived having large piles of science fiction hardcovers fall on it numerous times and still works well.

    --- Brian

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Elton John??? (Score:1)
    by aquarium on 30/11/99 12:20 EST (#190)
    (User Info)
    Off topic, but why refer to Elton John when referring to the song Pinball Wizard. He did play the role of the Pinball Wizard in the horrendous Tommy movie. However, let's give credit where credit is due (i.e. songwriter Pete Townshend).
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Zen and Adobe (Score:1)
    by daniel-san (dtshin@hotmail.noospam.com) on 30/11/99 12:21 EST (#191)
    (User Info)
    Just wondering... Has anyone zenned out whilst working in Photoshop, Illustrator, or Pagemaker? Those programs pretty much demand that one hand work with the mouse and the other hit the CTRL-[key], ALT-[key], or even combination CTRL-SHIFT-[key] (and other permutations... of CTRL, ALT, SHIFT or Option, AppleKey in Macspeak).

    Granted that I've gotta go from mouse/keyboard to keyboard/keyboard when I gotta type some stuff in, but there is no other way, and it has become second nature.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Keypad Zen is possible (Score:2)
    by netpuppy (tdp@*prosecute.spammers*discombobulated.net) on 30/11/99 12:25 EST (#195)
    (User Info) http://discombobulated.net
    Great column, Tom (especially as I jammed the caps lock key at some point and kept getting a lowercase g on Great). I take issue, however, with the idea that you can't have a zen experience with the number keypad and the keyboard at the same time.

    When I was working at an ISP, I found myself consoled into 4 or 5 cisco routers on a regular basis, typing things like:

    sh ip bgp 192.168.1.0
    sh ip route 10.1.1.0
    access-list 110 permit ip 172.31.10.0 0.0.0.255 10.1.1.0 0.0.0.255 eq any
    ip route 192.168.20.0 255.255.255.0 10.14.21.10 1
    ip route 192.168.20.0 255.255.255.0 null0 255

    The typing would be ... (keyboard, obviously) access-list 110 permit ip *this keeps my hands near the keys when I do the 110, so I can quickly move back to permit ip*

    and then (number pad) 172.31.10.0 0.0.0.255 10.1.1.0 0.0.0.255

    and back to the keyboard for permit/deny, etc.

    There was absolutely no interruption in the flow of movement from keyboard to number pad and

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Spreadsheet programs and numeric keypads (Score:1)
    by shaldannon on 30/11/99 12:27 EST (#196)
    (User Info) http://www.auburn.edu/~suttowr
    My experience using Quatro Pro and Excel is that you don't have to use the tab key to move to the next cell. You can use the arrow keys to go to the cell up/down/left/right of the current cell. This eliminates the necessity of straying far from the keypad.

    Am I the only one who knows this, or have the complainers just not realized it yet?

    Caveat: this doesn't work on cells that you're changing the info in, but most data changing occurs long after the enter-next-enter-next rythm.


    Who am I?
    Why am here?
    Where is the chocolate?

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Twiddler anyone? (Score:1)
    by toast0 (toast@dont.spam.me.ruka.org) on 30/11/99 12:35 EST (#202)
    (User Info) http://ruka.org/~toast
    18 buttons, mouse, keyboard.....

    sure it chords for almost everything
    and its hard to get used to (i still haven't yet) but i'm sure if i spent a week typing exclusively on it, i would bitch about all the non-chording keyboards and their inefficency.....


    plus its neat :)

    What do you get when you mix FreeBSD and linux? A daemonic penguin who has just fed on the souls of a bunch of herring.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Mac keyboards, Tab, and Caps Lock (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 30/11/99 12:42 EST (#204)
    On my Macintosh keyboard, Caps Lock is bigger than Tab. For shame!
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    A Freak Speaks (Score:1)
    by Conor6 (strangemeals@hotmail.infernalcorporation) on 30/11/99 12:43 EST (#205)
    (User Info) http://members.tripod.com/HonorableTechie
    After doing a good amount of research on RSI/CTS, I've come to the conclusion that the reason I don't have CTS is because of my unusual typing style. I was never taught to type, I learned naturally. As a result, my hands move over the keyboard a good bit when I type, eliminating the penalties that Tom speaks of. I can hit the up/down arrow keys just as fast as I can the j-k keys. (I've been known to ramp up to 70+ wpm when in Zen state, I usually hover around 50 if my mind can keep up.)

    I agree completely with what Tom said regarding the keypad's use in most apps... I like to use it for some FPSs where mousing is unavailable. As far as the banishment of the escape key, well... a lot of people have been known to hit it by accident... and it's being so isolated means, to me, that I can just toss my hand over there and slap it, and not worry about hitting anything else nearby. As opposed to the new USB mac [excuses for] keyboards which have an escape key that's half-sized. Fun.

    And as re

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    I think you mean "flow", and other comments... (Score:1)
    by Zagadka on 30/11/99 12:57 EST (#212)
    (User Info)
    The "zenning out" you refer to is usually called "flow" I believe. It's discussed in Alan Cooper's "About Face" on page 127. Cooper is rather adamant about creating UI's that don't disrupt the flow. He's very much against useless modal dialogs, for example.

    I'm a VI user myself (actually, I usually use VIM). I don't have any problem with where escape and control are on PC keyboards. The escape key is farther, but not much farther. It's on the corner though, which I find makes it much easier to find by feel. When I go to press escape, I just reach for the corner key with all four (non-thumb) fingers, without fear of hitting anything else. The key isn't bigger, but by using several fingers it balances out.

    As for control, it's also in the corner on PC keyboards, which I find makes it relatively easy to find by feel. I do agree that caps-lock in in an exceedingly dumb place though. Having it be a littel "chiklet" up by the caps-lock light would probably be more appropriate.

    Regarding y

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    real use for vanity key (Score:1)
    by bugi on 30/11/99 13:06 EST (#214)
    (User Info)
    I remap the windows key to escape so I can hit escape with my right ring finger. No movement from homerow required.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    On keyboards and flames (Score:1)
    by LostOne (lost@l-w.net) on 30/11/99 13:07 EST (#216)
    (User Info) http://www.l-w.net/
    OS wars aside, keyboard layouts seem to be the largest magnet for flamewars in existence. At the risk of contributing to the war, I'll add my comments.

    I never did see the logic of having the Control key where the CapsLock key is. It is a shift-like key, so there should be TWO, one on either side of the keyboard. The same for ALT. Control and ALT, if we are going to have them, should be near the size of the shift keys since they are commonly used. Note that the article says at one point that there should be two Control and two ALT keys on the keyboard, then proceeds to praise having only one Control key. Does this make any sense or did I miss the point?

    I don't see the CapsLock key as being overly useful for the most part and it should be relegated to somewhere further away from the main keyboard. How many times have you hit CapsLock while you were aiming for the A key or the shift key? This begs the question of what to put there. Maybe the Escape key? It is used quite a bit and has a fairly

    Read the rest of this comment...

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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