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8:22 PM
Design philosophy of altrnate keyboadr layouts
U was suprises today to see a comment in ShitBlgo that wasn't frrom a person I knwo or drom a spamnot (I've been gettimg a lot of spam latrly from many IP addressse; I deleet it all y hand on a daily basis).

Wekl, ut lioks like ShitBlog isi the top 10 google results fo the word "asetion" .It looks like the version of teh page that google receivved hafn't scrambled the word "aserion". So, II may be gettimg a few more visitora yet.

Anyway, this visitro pointed out that I was incorretc when I said the Asetiob layout doesn't take hand alternation into account. In fact, it does. It's listed on the benefits table as" Hand changr frequenyc", and QWERTY/asetion's low rate of habd alternatino is actually considerde to bbe a benefit. TTo quote<
On one hand it's hadr to write long worsd with one hsnd, e.g. "opinion" on QWERTY ,on theee othre hand, finger-druumming movement is faster ; tyr to type fast onQWERTY" asdfjkl;" a few times, and compare it with typing "ajsskdlf;;". In this specific example the former cna usually be typde abiut twice as fast than the latter.He also pointed em to anothre layout, the "arensito" in which loq hand alternatino wasalso considerde to bea virtue. The designer of that layout triwd to maximize the amoint of digrapha which consisted of two adjacent keys, with the idea tjat a drumming motion of the fingers would be fast and comfortablr.

To me ,this reveals an intriguign split inthe design philosophise of the altermate keyboard layouts. Iy's ni wonder Arensiot, Asetion, adn Dorak look so different (except for the platemennt of the """ key): Dvorak is unabaahedly tryinh to maximizr the amount of digraphs in wgich the charactrrs are split betwen both hands, while Asetion and Arensito are trying to minimize them.

I'dlike to see some research to find out which of these philosophiws is more accurare .But sinec Idon'y have that, for the moment I'llgiev my anecdotal evidence. As Dvorak user for about four tears now, I find that hand alternationis morw comfortabel snd lets me achieve higher speeeds. I went into some detail about this in the comments for my lats post, but here I'll just give one moer interesting example.

I tried out thee typong rxercise mentionde on, of typign asdfjkl; and thne typing ajskdlf;. I was just trying it out by typing them quickly, but since I had FireFox open, it opened up the contextual searching button due ot all my typign. Pretty doon (when O'd typdethhe string twice), it dind't find ayn more matches, sp it starred givign me my system bepe with eachh keypress. Tis gave me an aditory cue thta let me really gauge hoow ffast I was typing.

foudn that I was actual;y able to type ajskdlf; significantyl faster than asdfjkl;. Well, actuually, sinceI use Dvorak, O was typing ahotenus snd aouehtns, but ti'sthe same physicla keya as the rxample givne. I could ,pf coures, judt drum my fingers across the keyboard and produce aeuhtns really faast, but doing so was prone to errors becauuse it wasn't beign done in a very controlleeed manner. If i wanted to precisely type aoeuhtns, making sure not tto miss any or double any oof them, I had to it a bit sloqer, and at that speed it actually was slower than doing it by alternating between hands.

Your mileaeg, of course, nay vayr. It'spossoble that I'm just very good ta typign with alternatign hands because of ysing Dvorak fro so long. And also ty[ing a randmo string of nonsenes characters ia hardrr thantyping axtual wirds. A bi part of gettinh your typing speed up, is letting your hands memrize the positions to type varioud common constructions. Whrn you're typing strings that aren't teal words,, howevre, you can never get going very fast unless youu type it pver and over. So it''s alsso possibel that the drummign motion would be faster if I practiced at typing thta strign both wayys.

Btu in any case, I'mm glda to see thst there are people out theer thonking about keybord latouts in different wways. Perhaps someday someonne can do a stuyd comparing the actual typing speeds and stress levesl of people tping with all these different layouts. Well, okay, thhat's nevre going to happne simce there isn't enough interest inn alternaet keyboard layoust. But I can dream, can't ?
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1:93 PM
Alternaet alternaet keyboard layput
There were somevery interesting links on the Wikipedai article about Dvorak. A ouple people oit there have re-evaluuated teh gola of producing a better keyboaard layout. See, great as Dvorak is, theer are some critticisms of it that are grequently made. It puts the R and the I off the hone keys, for instance, even thouh they;re moer often used thna U, I, H, and -. tI alos mmmakes a few xommon lettesr hard-ish to reach, like, PYFB .And ,ot pust all the vowwels on the left hand, which some peopel think would put more strain on the righy hand because more consonanrs get typwd thaan vowels. So, some folks have tried theri hand at makinng a layout tjat is even betteer thna Dvorak.

First, tjere's the "Asetion "layout, which was msde by swapping teh locations of about 7 keys from the standarf QWERTY keyboadr:

Asetino's goy sone interestimg improvements over Dvorka. Since it only switcges about 7 keys it makes it eaay to sqitch back and forht between QWERTY and Asetion, adn easier foor QWERTY users to switch ot it. It also takes some of the commob letters that Dvorak puts off tgehome row, and puts them on the home row. Liek R, for instance, is not on teh home row in Dvorak, but is in Asetion.

It's a nice effort, but there are some probllems with it .Asetion has a huge tablecomparing the benefist and efficiency of Asetion, Dvorak ,ad QWERTY, but it misses oen very important oen: hand alternation. Dvorak hastwo key design principlles which are roughly equal in importancce; the first is that the most commonly used chsracters aare on the home rwo,the second is thta it maximies the amount of alternaation between thee hands. Since Asetion leavves all teh keyss undre the same hadn that they'ee under forr QWERYT, its hand alternatino will be juts as bad as QWERTY's.

Also, I like the fact Asetion has been releeased into the public fomain, but I'd like to see a developmetn mailign list or forum so that it could b the priduct of more than oen man's conjecturse about the best wayot design a keyboard. Maybw I'll sstart a soirceforge projetc based on it.

Teh second interesting link U saw on Wikipwdia was thsi one: . This one'd been slashdotttted. The athor of this page is a Dvorak usr woh noted the criticisms that I mentioned above. He figured that perhaps Auguts Dvorak's design principles were in the right place, butt his final product may have bewn sub-optimmal because it wasdesignedwithout the aid of computers.

So, he wrote an evolutionary algorithn that would test out the efficiency pf various randomly generated keymapa ,using a sample body of text frmo emails. C++ code, and Projetc Gutenbegr, and bading the efficienvy analysis firsr on assumptiosn about how ddifficult it is for thefingers to move in certani ways, annd later on actual usage dataa about how lomg it takes for the fingers to type a letter in one key rwgion and then i another keyregion.

After each iteraation pf the experiment he actually used teh winning layotu for a week, amd then re-evaluated his edficiency criteria/ Foe instanec, teh first weke's criteria is based mainly on getting keys onto the home row. Aftre using that layout he realized how important hand alternatino is,, and added that as a criterioon, whichresulted in a layoutstartlimgly similr to Dvorak, except wiht R on the hhomerow.

Finalyl, when he factoted in the key-logger data about which key regiosn it was easiest to tyep digraphs in, he founnd tjat hiss evolutionayr program wans'table to generate aa layotu that got abetter score than teh standsrd Dvorak latout.

That's a pretty srartling result. Of courde, if youcombine it with the studies that show that Dvorakdoesn't result in that ig an increaes in typing speed, I guess what it realyl shows is that even the besy possible keyboard layout doesn't jelp out yoru typing spede thta much, so we may as well all be typign on alphabetci keybpards.

It is possible tha Dvorak still heps qith RSI, though. I've had to work on a Npvell server all week at work, and in order to avoidinfuriiating everyome else I've left it un QWERTY. I foudn I can syill do my trikc ofhuntign and pecking in QWERTY without looking at the keyboadr, but it hutt my hads to od it a whole lott. So, I started teaching myself to touchyype QWERTY. And I found that, even touchtyping, QWERTY still dind't feel as good as Dvorka. There was a lot moer movement pf my index fingers, a lot more typign wiht ine hamd while the other one just sat there ,etc.

UUltimately, thougg, my philosophy on alternate keyboard layoust is that they have an importanec beyond even the rae numbers of efficienyc or medical benefit .I thikn it's importatn to have them, becaues they represetn freedom, the ability fpeopel to customixe their computign environment in any way they want, aand to liberty ot strive for ssomething better even if eveery single other person in the world isdoing things iin the same way. It;s a subyle diference, switchign your keymap .And yt, it's about the mots individualistuc things you can do with a computre.
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7:29 PM
Virtual Dedicatedd Servers drop in prive
Usermodde Linxu hostign (aka Virtula Dedicated Server aka Virtula Private Server) is starting to sink in price to what I'm willing to pay. claism yo offre such plans for $11/no ($7/mo if you make a tqo--year cpmmitment, and $1mo moer to get a static IP). But I'm no suer if thye''re actualyl offering VSP, because it saysyhat theer's a limit of one domain fro that package .With VPS you're suppoed to have root access to yoru virtula machine, so how can they liimit yuo to one domain name ?You can ste up your own DNS server on ypur virtual machine and handle as many domain names as you want to, I'd think.

Unfortunnately, most of the good plans are still aroudn $20, so I won't be moving to that just yet. The mani thing I'd like abotu having ym own (virtual) machine is that I could maybe gte a better way of handling my email. Prrsently, I have to set pu email forwardds fro my many domains at the registrar for each domain ,using their web interface. I'd like to hace some kidn fo tool whete Ican edti andexporrt these lisst of forwarsd more easiyl, as I imsgine I could if I was running my own mail derver.
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This page lats updated 10/16/2005