Thursday, July 20, 2017

I Now Own an NKRO Laptop!

My old Lenovo Helix is getting alarmingly long in the tooth, so I bought an Alienware 13 for about $1,000 on Amazon two days ago. It arrived last night, and this morning I tried it with Plover for the first time. Sure enough, its keyboard has proven to be fully NKRO! Woohoo! Obviously it requires quite a bit more force than my Infinity or even my StenoMod (which is about the size and weight of the Alienware's ridiculously massive power brick!) but the keys are nicely flat, and I find that I don't actually notice the staggering all that much. I used it to converse a bit with friends on the Plover Discord during my break and found it surprisingly comfortable! It'll be a real asset when transcribing on the subway, at the very least, and while it'll never replace a professional machine, it'll let me use Plover more often for casual computer use, which is excellent. All in all, I'm quite pleased that truly NKRO laptops are actually a thing now, even if they tend to be a little on the pricey side. These are all just first impressions, but so far I must say I recommend it!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Playing Catchup

I haven't been good at keeping up with the amazing things that have been happening in the open steno world! So here's a quick rundown!
  • Excitingly, the For All To Play team has released a new version of Steno Arcade on Steam! It includes new songs, new animated audience members, and a first pass at screen reader support! There's still a bit more to go before they deliver everything promised in the crowdfunding campaign, but this is a significant advance from the previous version.
  • The Hackathon resulted in a basic sketch for what I think could be a fantastic beginner-level steno tutorial game. It's a sort of combination top-down RPG, adventure game, and quickfire typing game. We're calling it Stenomancer, and you can read all about it on our lead developer Yianna's GitHub page. We've also got a channel for it on the Plover Discord, so feel free to drop by there if you want to help brainstorm ideas for it.
  • Speaking of resources for beginners, our multitalented lead dev Ted has been working on a new entry level steno theory book. It's still in progress, but I love what he's got so far.
  • Gaming laptops are finally, finally coming out with enough rollover to use steno. The ROG Zephyrus GX501 from Asus costs a pretty penny, but if you want portable steno without wrangling an external keyboard, it's probably your best bet.
  • And one more bit of steno gaming news: The popular competitive typing site Typeracer has opened up its monthly championship to people using steno! We get a separate leaderboard and everything. Two months ago I narrowly squeaked by dark horse self-taught steno whiz John, and last month he beat me, 98.91% to 97.88%! Gonna do my damnedest to reclaim the title this month if I can, but John is a force of nature, so there are no guarantees. If you want to join, make sure you include "plover" or "steno" in your user and/or display name, and install a Tampermonkey script to get around Typeracer's frustrating steno-unfriendly input length limit (which they've promised to fix in future updates).

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Steno Learnathon at Flatiron School NYC, June 25

The Flatiron School is hosting a Learnathon/Hackathon on June 25, and one of the hacking challenges will be to make a simple, addictive tutorial game for steno beginners. I'll be giving a 45-minute crash course in how steno works and then letting people loose to devise games that teach the steno keyboard layout, simple common words that can be written with one to three keys, and possibly simple chords as well. All participants in the Learnathon/Hackathon will be entered in a raffle where they'll have the chance to win a Planck and/or Steno Hero/Steno Arcade T-shirts. There are still tickets available, so if you're gonna be in NYC that Sunday, come by and give it a try!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

OpenSteno.org Makeover!

OpenSteno.org has received a major makeover, with updated content and styling by the ever-versatile Ted. The old wiki has been replaced with a new one that's far better organized and contains current information about the state of the project, including the Beginner's Guide and a rundown of affordable steno machines. We've needed a major content overhaul for ages now, so I'm really grateful that Ted put in the hard work to make it happen.

Monday, May 8, 2017

New Plover Weekly: Plover 4.0!

I have a substantial backlog of cool Open Steno stuff to share with you, but all of that's been superseded by an incredibly exciting development: There's a new version of Plover available to download! I'm just gonna link you to the Github page detailing the new weekly Plover 4.0 release!! As with all weeklies, this is an experimental release, so proceed with caution, but if you have the time to play around and tinker with it, please be sure to give our mindblowingly amazing developers Ted and Benoit your feedback so that they can incorporate it into the next stable release. The quick rundown of features, from the release page:
  • New UI (PyQT instead of wx)
  • Plover closes to tray, so you don't need to have a window in your taskbar.
  • Dictionary Revamp
  • Enable / disable dictionaries
  • Dictionary display order is now higher priority first (configurable)
  • External dictionary changes trigger a reload on configuration change (e.g. reconnecting the machine)
  • Windows now has an installer version available.
  • Older Mac versions should be supported again. (The lower bound is untested)
  • We now create a Linux AppImage.
  • Plugin support (not yet documented).
  • Will allow for custom machines, layouts, utilities, commands, and more, in time.

Go check out the new release at the Github page! Woohooo!

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Adorable Gherkin Keyboard

Someone in the Plover Discord Group posted a picture of a tiny ortholinear keyboard that I now want desperately, even though I already own an Infinity Ergonomic, StenoMod, SOFT/HRUF, Planck, and Sidewinder, not to mention a manual steno machine that ostensibly was once owned by Margaret Mead's stenographer. Look at this thing!

It's called a Gherkin, and it's an extremely stripped down 30-key qwerty keyboard that could actually work pretty well as an ultra-portable steno machine. There aren't enough rows for a number bar, but Charley of StenoMod fame pointed out that you could map the keys to either side of the vowels to the number bar and get numbers that way. People with large hands might struggle with the crammed-in key placement, but people with small fingers like me would probably love it. It supports NKRO firmware and mechanical keyswitches, so there shouldn't be any problem using it with Plover.

Like most mechanical keyboards aimed at hobbyists, this one requires assembly, including soldering, and requires you to flash the firmware manually to the board, both of which are a step or two outside my own personal wheelhouse. Plus you have to get someone to make you the PCBs. But if you're looking for a fun DIY project, this could be a really fun convertible steno/qwerty machine that almost fits in your pocket. If you wind up making one, let us know what you think. And if you wind up making two... Uh... Can I buy one off of you? Seriously, that thing is cute as heck.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Take the 4th Annual Community Survey!

Yep, it's that time of year again! And given how much our community has grown in the past year, I'm really excited to see what happens. Really hoping we'll be able to beat our former record of 72 responses! (We collected a few more after I posted last year's results.) It'll only take a minute, and it'll help us tremendously!

Please take the Open Steno Project Community Survey 4.0!