Monday, September 17, 2018

Suggestions for 2018 Community Survey

It's time for our annual Open Steno Community Survey! Last year we got 91 responses, which isn't bad, but considering that the Discord is now up to 952 members, I'm hoping we'll get substantially more responses this year. This morning I solicited suggestions from the Discord on new questions to include this year and got a few good ones, but I thought I'd throw it open to blog readers as well. I'm hoping to have the new survey finalized by next week, so if you've got any ideas, feel free to comment on this post or email me,

Monday, September 10, 2018

More DIY Hardware!

It's been a bumper crop week for Plover-compatible DIY hardware!

First, a nice color-coded mod for a keyboard which claimed to be 19-key rollover, but that unfortunately only included WASD and function keys, so it didn't turn out to be compatible with chording. Still, a great idea by Robo, which will hopefully be implemented on a truly n-key rollover keyboard in the future.

Second, from SashaK, a Stenomod-inspired custom steno keyboard available on Thingiverse!

Next, some beautiful 3D printed keytoppers from verbalshadow, which apparently came out of the printer pretty much ready to mount on a Gherkin. Impressive!

And finally, from ElephantEars, a Palantype (which, if you haven't heard of it, is a mostly UK-based chording input method that uses more keys and is rather more phonetic than steno; Plover has had Palantype support for quite a while now) machine, with custom lighting that not only looks beautiful but also indicates what mode the machine is in.

Brilliant work all round! I can't wait to see more!

Monday, September 3, 2018

DIY Steno Hardware Spotlight: The Specter

User incognition on the Plover Discord completed a DIY steno machine project a while back, and I realized I never wound up featuring it here. Incognition has promised me a guest post with lots of details about the build at some point in the future, but in the mean time, here are a couple of morsels to whet your appetite. Incidentally, if anyone else has ever built a custom board, whether as a commercial prototype or as a one-off for exclusively personal use, I'd love to see it and feature it here! Nothing warms my heart more than a beautiful handmade steno machine.

The parts weren't very expensive. It's a knock-off Arduino, about 32 Gateron switches, custom keycaps and PCB, spray-painted and screwed into a piece of particle board. It took a LOT of time to assemble though, milling the PCB and hand-cutting the keycaps. I milled out one set of each keycap on a CNC machine, then made molds of those. The mold casting process still required me to cut all the keys to the right height by hand, along with an obscene (obsessive-level) amount of sanding and polishing.

What a gorgeous piece of work!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Skell: Drill any word using real sentences

Just a quick one today from niten on the Plover Discord's useful links channel:

Skell, which allows you to enter a word and get a ton of English sentences containing that word. I remember back when I was training for NCRA certification tests I always used to choke on the word "brochure". This would have come in pretty handy! If you want something a little more targeted than Steno Jig's most-common-word sentence drills, give it a try.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Steno Specs in the QMK Docs

Both my dad and my eldest brother are electronic engineers, and my dad taught me to solder when I was a kid, but I haven't tried my hand at it in decades, and these days I'm too intimidated (plus I live in a tiny apartment with a rampaging toddler) to ever seriously consider wiring my own keyboard. Still, it's an appealing thought, and I really enjoy watching the intersection of DIY keyboard makers with steno learners. So I was delighted when Ted posted a link to the QMK docs on the Plover Google Group recently, and they turned out to be far more detailed and helpful than I'd imagined. I knew people had been using QMK, the popular open source firmware used on the majority of user-assembled keyboards, for various steno projects, but I didn't realize that the steno chapter in the official QMK docs were so exhaustive. I guess it's always just a delight to see Open Steno out in the wider world, and I wonder how many people who'd never heard of steno before find themselves idly flipping through the QMK docs and suddenly fall into an unexpected steno adventure. If you're one of them, please do get in touch!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Script Sending with Plover and Vim

I had a big screen gig tonight, and while I'd gotten a script in advance, I knew there would be a lot of ad libbing, so I planned to write it all on my steno machine, with the script displayed on my non-steno-connected second laptop for reference. The only exception was a song in Spanish, which I knew I couldn't fingerspell fast enough; I'd have to send it out line by line from the script. Here's how I did it using Vim:

My computer was in "extend" mode, so captions were displayed on the big screen in one gvim window and the script was on my laptop's monitor in another gvim window.

On the sending computer, I mapped F to ^v$"+y

On the receiving computer, I mapped S to <Esc>A<Enter><Enter><Esc>"+gP<Esc>

I could have made a steno stroke to automatically tab between windows, advance down a line, copy the line to my clipboard, tab back, and paste in, but I was worried about latency/syncing issues and preferred manual control so that I could more easily match the rhythm of the song. There were a few repeated lines and callbacks as well, so I didn't necessarily want to auto-advance each time.

When I heard them start to sing a line, I pressed TP*P on my steno machine to copy the line under the cursor, then TABT to quickly alt-tab to the big screen gvim window, S*P to paste the line in, TABT to alt-tab back, STPH-G to go to the next line, F to grab it again, and repeated the cycle until the song was over.
It worked quite well! I've done this sort of thing before using the qwerty keyboard, but I believe this was the first time I did a long section of scripting without taking my hands off the steno machine. Perhaps this trick is of limited utility if you're not a realtime captioner, but on the off chance that someone might find it useful, I thought I'd post it here.

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Double Feature from Di

Not only has Di updated Typey Type again:
You can learn briefs shown as steno diagrams or as text
Practice writing multi-syllable words with doubled consonant letters
Use a wider layout so you can see what's coming up
A new "Exact spacing" setting to match spaces precisely—ideal for coding as well as prefix and suffix lessons
Accuracy scoring now counts hinted words separately
The "Ignore spaces" settings now considers " the", "the ", and "the" to be the same when reviewing words you've seen and deciding what material to show, making sure you don't see words more than you have to

but she also wrote a fantastic blog post on building a steno-flavored Planck, as someone who hadn't done much hardware work before.

Brilliant stuff as always.