Friday, February 20, 2015

Pre-Stenosaurus Crowd Supply Campaign!

Many exciting things to report!

First off, Josh Lifton, Plover's first developer and inventor of the forthcoming Stenosaurus, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to offload some of the extra custom keys he commissioned from Matias as a way of raising funds for the very nearly imminent Stenosaurus campaign launch. It's already almost halfway funded, but if you're a hardware hacker with a need for quiet, lightweight, feather-touch keys with a dead simple mounting system, go pick up a bag of 150 for $50. Heck of a deal!

Also, the amazing Ed (aka ezyang of Stenomatic fame) has put a Starter Guide up on the Wiki to help ease new steno learners into the fray. Ed's got a lovely friendly conversational style and extremely solid advice. If you're intimidated about where and how to get started, definitely go check it out.

Speaking of new steno learners, Lars has been keeping an online diary of his learning process. He's only been doing it for a week, but he's already up to almost 60 WPM on single-stroke words! Pretty dang impressive.

Finally: Ellis, a technical author and relatively new convert to Plover who's already been able to double his typing speed, recently wrote a blog post on his company's website extolling the advantages of steno for members of his profession. In his post, Ellis included a link to an Ignite Talk Josh gave to the Technology Association of Oregon some months back, which I'd been dragging my heels on captioning for no good reason whatsoever. But thanks to Ellis's post, I finally just sat down and did it. The captioned version is embedded below. It's fantastic five-minute précis of just how powerful and useful open source steno can be. Check it out!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Stenowiki and Bob's DIY Machine

The redoubtable ezyang (of Stenomatic 9000 fame) has created StenoWiki, a collaborative database intended to categorize and explain definitions in the default Plover dictionary! When a beginner first starts learning steno, it can be tricky to develop the skill to tell a misstroke from a brief or a semi-phonetic stroke from a completely phonetic stroke. This wiki helps to bridge that gap!

Also, Bob from the Google Group has just converted an old manual steno machine into a Plover-compatible device!

He writes:

"I managed to complete the stenotype to digital.

I was asked to post some pictures of the process. This is the 1st. This is the one I will start learning with.

My total conversion cost was about $30.

If I add the cost of the Stenotype I have a fully working setup for less than $75.00.

I found the stenotype on ebay delivered for $28.00. I'll be ordering another to incorporate updates I want to make to it. With the cost being this low it won't be expensive at all to have a backup system."

Check out the pictures! Pretty dang impressive, I have to say.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Back From Vacation!

The new semester has started, and I'm finally settling into a groove. I'm still working on a big post about where I see the Open Steno movement going over the next few years, but for now I just want to post a few brief updates.

First off, looks like the Sharkoon Tactix keyboard I posted about recently apparently doesn't have full n-key rollover after all, despite what it claims. So the price is nice, but it's not going to work for Plover. Bummer.

Secondly, The Aviary has really been hopping lately. It's been quiet for years, but it seems like it's actually achieved something of a critical mass in recent months, with some great conversations happening between various users. Unlike the Google Group, which is focused more on tech support and discussion about the future of Plover, the Aviary is more of a place to talk about your day-to-day steno learning process. I check it every day, so you can also ask questions about steno theory, and when I answer them, they'll be up for the reference of other Aviary users. If you haven't been there recently and you want to talk about the ups and downs of learning steno, go check it out!

And finally, I bought some elastic, Velcro, and fabric adhesive at a craft store the other day. I've been carrying my Stenoboard around in my backpack for months, but I don't often use it, because I can't seem to find a typing position that's both comfortable and secure. I'm so used to the tripod-based system I use with my Infinity Ergonomic that resting the two halves of the Stenoboard on a table just feels too flat, and I haven't figured out any other way to replicate my preferred double-handed tilt. So my eventual goal with all these supplies is to make a more durable and adjustable version of the thigh-mounted setup I depicted in my Mobile and Wearable article. The Stenoboard is much smaller and more lightweight than the Gemini2 in that picture, so I'm hoping it'll be a lot less unwieldy and a lot more comfortable. I'm not generally so good with arts and crafts, but if I can manage to make a stable, secure attachment for my Stenoboard that allows me to quickly set up and start writing sans tripod, I'll be really happy. Stay tuned to see if I can manage it!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Cumulative Effect of Of, The, And, and To

A brief but notable gem from ellispratt on the Aviary:
Peter Norvig has some interesting statistics on word frequency in the English language Four words - the of and to - account for 16.94% of the words we write. If you include the need to press the space bar, these four common words require an average 3.5 key presses on a QWERTY keyboard. Steno requires one. In the field I work in, technical communication, a Technical Writer spends 50% of their time writing (the rest on researching, planning etc). Adjusting for the fact that these four common words are half the length of an average word in English, that means they spend an average of 19 minutes every day (1 hr 35 mins in a 37.5 hr week) typing those four words on a QWERTY keyboard! With Steno, I estimate it would take just under 5 and a half minutes/day (27 mins a week).

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stenomatic 9000

New Plover learning tool: The Stenomatic 9000, courtesy of ezyang from The Aviary. Looks pretty dang nice!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Two Quick Links

First, a fantastic post on the Plover Aviary by ezyang, detailing the ups and downs of just beginning in steno.

Second, a new dictionary generated by Ted, which allows you to use the "EU" inversion flag on numbers of more than two digits.