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Semiformalishmaybe

Saul of Catharsis

Attn cities: If you will only fix potholes and bumpiness near the middle of your streets, leaving the sides all bumpy and nasty, expect bikers to ride in the middle of the streets even if they hold up traffic. If you want bikers not to block traffic, fix your bloody roads.

It's beginning to be a long time since I've last had a fully-blown migraine. I wonder if a more active lifestyle is helping. If so, I may be paying for it in that my heart has been acting up more frequently.

Recently I've been thinking about keyboards. On my Android (I think I'll call it that in the future - tired of giving the brand like I'm some consumer), the virtual keyboard behaves very differently than a real one - hold down a key, and variants of that key pop up. On a computer, holding down a key causes the key to repeat (sure, you can disable that with "xset r off" on many Unices..). Which is more useful? At some point I think I actually had a use for key-repeat (might've been in my DOS days? Maybe for ASCII art?); nowadays it feels pretty useless. The android virtual keyboard's popup is kind of useful - I can't get a ö as fast as I can with my compose key, although it's roughly in-line with all other typing on the Android - not great, not bad. If I didn't have a compose key mapped, the Android's hold-button behaviour seems better. It might be more awkward on a traditional keyboard - one would hold things down, look at the screen, and select with the mouse - not exactly ideal. Other alternatives: LCD keyboards become popular, Laser keyboards take off, regular keyboards die out. On the other thing, the occasional need to type large numbers of spaces or tabs is much more convenient with key-repeat. Hmm.

There's a lot of weight we put on our input devices - barring exceptional circumstances, it's hard to imagine giving up on a mode that's as fast and precise as a traditional keyboard, which is probably why PDAs and other small devices have only made a moderate impact on how we provide input to computers, and why pad computing (which is likely, IMO, to be the next big thing) might be our first real shot at changing that by virtue of being powerful enough for general-purpose computing. On the other hand, pads must compute almost-directly with small-form-factor laptops and are big enough not to be a convergence target for tiny devices like phones (maybe? We're used to holding phones up to our ear, but maybe headsets or data-glasses-with-builtin-mic-and-earphones will change that?). How much of the merit of keyboards is that we all have years of experience with them, compared to intrinsic merit? Are there other text input devices that might be better?

Last night's dream: playing some kind of game involving rotating and creating gears and other things floating in the air with someone else, taking turns. I don't know if there was an actual goal to the game, but I remember it requiring a lot of thought.

Comments

On a computer, holding down a key causes the key to repeat (sure, you can disable that with "xset r off" on many Unices..). Which is more useful?

you want to be able to type "fffffffffffffffffffffff"
"Attn cities: If you will only fix potholes and bumpiness near the middle of your streets, leaving the sides all bumpy and nasty, expect bikers to ride in the middle of the streets even if they hold up traffic. If you want bikers not to block traffic, fix your bloody roads."

Thank you! Although, even when there aren't potholes, debris tends to find its way to the edge of the road, forcing us toward the middle. It's one of several downsides of bike lanes.

"How much of the merit of keyboards is that we all have years of experience with them, compared to intrinsic merit? Are there other text input devices that might be better?"

Hard question to answer. I'd expected voice-recognition word processing to be commonplace by now.
One problem with voice recognition: it'd get really irritating in workplaces, particularly cubicles (although I think cubicles really should never have been invented - is it that hard to make cheap proper offices?).

I don't recall if I was still using the voice recognition stuff built-in in OS/2 4.x when you knew me, or if by then I had moved on to mostly using Linux. That software was pretty decent, although it was necessary to go back and proofread any papers spoken into it. It's amusing now to think that so many years later I'm back, more or less, computing the way I always have.