Wednesday, April 27, 2016

60% Funded! Plus Plover on a Planck

Okay, it took a lot less time to get from 0% to 50% than it did to get from 50% to 60%, but that's the nature of the crowdfunding beast. The important thing is that we're still edging upward. The For All To Play team is working hard on getting out an update of Steno Arcade featuring three slower songs that will be easier for qwerty typists and steno beginners. Speaking of which, I can't condone any of the language in this 20-video playlist of people playing Steno Arcade on YouTube; much of it is NSFW, in languages ranging from Thai to Italian to Russian, and it's all uncaptioned, so watch at your own risk. But I have to admit it's pretty hilarious to watch people ragequitting over the difficulty of our game, especially since they all seemed to be having a pretty good time with it. Why don't you all just learn steno already? (';

The other exciting thing I've been up to lately is playing with the gorgeous new Planck keyboard that Scott Urueta of SOFT/HRUF fame built and graciously sent to me.

This thing is by far the best steno input device I've ever tried, apart from my Infinity Ergonomic. Smooth, lightweight, extremely compact and portable, with lovely flat keytoppers and a very low actuation force. I absolutely adore it. Some people on Reddit asked if I'd make a video writing steno on 10FastFingers, so I gave it a shot:

That video turned into a 90-comment discussion on r/mechanicalkeyboards about the virtues of steno, and that led to the creator of the Planck adding Plover as a layout in the default Planck firmware, which is really exciting! I had to go through a whole process of downloading a custom firmware remapper to get Plover working on my Planck, but the new batch of Plancks will ship out with Plover already baked in. I seriously cannot emphasize enough how great a machine this is for the amateur or hobbyist Plover user. There are only two major downsides:

1) The Planck is sold unassembled, requiring some soldering skills and a fair amount of time and patience to put together, which is pretty intimidating for most users.

2) The manufacturer doesn't keep a steady inventory of Planck kits; he waits for orders to accumulate on Massdrop and then sends them out in batches.

The good news is that Scott is considering selling assembled Plancks alongside his SOFT/HRUFs. Even with a markup for his labor, they'd still be pretty affordable, and if he was able to keep a fair number in stock at a time, people wouldn't have to wait on Massdrop releases to get theirs. Fingers crossed it works out! I think this could be a huge help in filling the gap between the $40 Zalman solution and the >$500 lever-based proprietary machine option.

Next time I post, we'll hopefully have a new release of Steno Arcade up and running, and with any luck we'll have edged closer to our goal. I'm still really hoping we'll hit that $10,500 stretch goal so that anyone who wants to make a Steno Hero level with a song from their own music library will be able to do it. Fingers crossed! Even if you don't have the means to contribute financially, signal boosting the campaign in our last few weeks would be massively appreciated. Many thanks for all your help so far!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

50% Funded!

Check out the update on We've got a ways to go, especially if we want to make the stretch goal that will allow us to include an in-game song editor, but we're off to a great start!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Steno Arcade Campaign is LIVE!!!

Check out the Steno Hero Crowdfunding Campaign!

Our base funding level lets us finish Steno Hero with screen reader support and 12 playable songs, but our first stretch goal, which I'm REALLY excited about, lets us build an in-game song editor that will allow you to play Steno Hero using any game in your music library. Seriously, how amazing would that be?! And any money we get after that will go toward the development of other games in the Steno Arcade series, like the chord-hopping Stenogger, the single-stroke platformer Stenobolt, and the dictionary crunching Stenografius!

If you want to be a Steno Hero and help save the future of stenographic technology, contribute at the $35 level and get the T-shirt to prove it! Or if you want to kick in a little more, you could get your name included in the lyrics of a special Steno Hero song level that we'll be composing just for the game. There's even a level where you can get a little custom-built pixelated version of yourself getting funky in the Steno Hero crowd!

Go check out the campaign, and if you've got a bit of cash to kick in, that would be amazing. Also many thanks for signal boosting this as much as possible, both online and off! When complete, the game itself will be 100% free for anyone to play, but the more funding we get, the more games we can build.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Stenosaurus Gets One Step Closer

From The Stenosaurus Blog:
We've had printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) for the Stenosaurus for several months, but I've only recently been able to begin properly testing it. Here are the tests I've run so far:

Apply power. Nothing started smoking or even heating up. Success!

Program the Stenosaurus to monotonously blink its LEDs. This took a horrendously long time, not because the program was difficult to write or because something was broken, but because the development tool chain for actually compiling and then loading the code onto the Stenosaurus took a long time to get right. Nothing was particularly difficult, but I ended up going through four different laptops, at least as many operating systems for those laptops, and a few combinations of various compilers, linkers, debuggers, and programmers. I'm happy to report that I now have a setup that works and is reasonably easy to replicate so that others can also start developing on Stenosaurus. (Of course, there is only one assembled PCB in existence, but that will hopefully change soon.) What's more, the LEDs blink as expected. Success!

Program the Stenosaurus to blink the LEDs anytime a key is pressed. This was relatively straightforward and worked as expected for all keys. Success!

In short, everything is going well, though there's a lot more testing yet to do.
Hope to see even more new developments soon!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Known Supported Keyboards Page Updated

It had been falling into desuetude, so I recently gave the Known Supported Keyboards page on the Wiki a bit of an update. I took off keyboards that were no longer available, put on some new ones like the Keyboardio and the Ergodox, and rearranged them in order of current price. The whole Wiki really needs some work, honestly; it's been quite a while since its last thorough revision. But this is probably the most important page currently on it, so I'm glad that at least it's up to date again, especially since we're on the brink of launching the Steno Arcade crowfunding campaign! If anyone wants to add additional user-tested keyboards or comments (or, indeed, feels like revising other pages on the Wiki), the help would be very much appreciated!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Huge New Plover Pre-Release Candidate!!!!

The incomparable Ted, the redoubtable Benoit, and many other people have been working tremendously hard to create the first new version of Plover for over two years, and they've finally come out with a pre-release candidate for testing!!!

Go to the Github for release notes and download links!

Ted says:
With this new "weekly" build of Plover, we hope to start a trend of rapid releases. We'll try to push a new weekly every time there's a new feature, so you might see weekly builds on a daily or biweekly basis, depending on how much actual development gets done. One thing is for sure, though: We won't wait another 2 years (!!!) before getting improvements into your hands. This is a "pre-release", not quite a version 3.0.0 just yet. We want to have the brave among you try it out and let us know if anything broke in a major way.

  • New icon and overhauled GUI
  • Full Unicode support
  • New lookup window
  • New Suggestions window
  • Undo buffer now defaults to 100
  • Delete words on empty buffer
  • New dictionary editor
  • "Add Translation" Transparency
  • Repeat last stroke
  • Uppercase next word
  • GUI for remapping keyboard layout
  • Better portable mode
  • Add multiple dictionaries at once
  • New output modes (Caps, Title, Snake, Camel, and Custom)
  • 20,000 entries added to default dictionary
  • Default dictionary restructuring (Main, Commands, and User)
  • Keystrokes suppressed instead of backspaced in Linux
  • Retrospective capitalize, uppercase, lowercase, toggle asterisk, insert space, and delete space, and currency formatting

Go to the Github for all the details! Then download the new version and tell us what you think! The official release of Plover 3.0 is right around the corner! Help us make it go as smoothly and quickly as possible by reporting any bugs you run across.

Infinite thanks again to Ted, Benoit, and all our other amazing developers. I've been running a version of Plover with several of these features since last Fall, and it's been fantastic to have them, but I can't wait to get my hands on the newest version.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

OSP Community Survey Responses

We got 55 responses to our survey! Some of the highlights:
The most exciting thing here is that a third of respondents have already exceeded their regular typing speed, and it took at least half of them less than six months! Those are some pretty great stats, I have to say. Selected comments from respondents:
Qwerty typing was hurting my hands and it was too slow. I Googled ways to increase my speed, found out about stenography and court reporting, then found out about the Open Steno project.
One day I decided that there had to be a better system for typing. I then wanted to learn how a steno machine works and that led me to you. Thank you, by the way, for your generosity and incredible guidance.
After investigating colemak I discovered that it would not boost my speed or to any great extent save my hands from RSI. I chose steno because of my loathing of QWERTY and colemak's inability to provide higher speeds or truly improved ergonomics.
I want to see if steno helps my dyslexia.
Video games led to mechanical keyboards led to typing led to steno.
Practice material in the form a la Duo Lingo (start with whole sentences from the start) would be great.
The Discourse chat system has been wonderful. I feel a lot more connected to the few brave souls trying to learn steno than before. :)
I wish plover would use a more rapid release schedule; having only a few small features in each new release rather than waiting years for a big one seems to work well for other FOSS projects who are adopting the strategy.
That last user will be very happy to learn that we're on the brink of a major new release, and that our release schedule will be far more rapid after that point. But more on that as it develops! Also stay tuned for exciting new Steno Arcade and Stenosaurus news, coming in the next few weeks! Thanks, everyone, for answering the survey! It was really cool to see all your responses. Read the complete summary of responses here.