Thursday, September 30, 2010

Calm Before the Storm

Just so none of you are alarmed, I've temporarily switched Plover's Github repository to private, at the request of Josh, the programmer. He's putting the finishing touches on the big release version and doesn't want old messy code lying around all over the internet. I've tested the version he's currently polishing, and it's absolutely glorious. Installation is dead easy, the interface is simple and intuitive, and the actual translation (now with formatting and orthographic suffix rules!) is like butter. Like butter, I tell you. You're gonna love it. He says it'll probably be about a week before the big reveal, so I hope you can all hold out 'til then. If I get a chance, I'll try to put together that screencast I've been promising. It's gonna knock your stenoloving socks off.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Plover takes control

So Josh, the person responsible for 99% of Plover's code, came by my coworking space today and showed me the newest version of Plover. It's wonderful beyond description. The dream I had when I first came up with the concept and started this blog back in 2008 is finally realized: Plover now writes instant English translations from a steno machine or SideWinder to the active window. Yes, we have achieved keyboard emulation. It blew my mind to see it, and I did a jig of giddy glee.

Now, for the time being this only works on Ubuntu. Windows development, when it comes, will be a fair distance down the road (possibly after development for Android, though we're still thinking about how best to work out that one.) Still, with Wubi available, there's no reason that anyone with a Windows machine can't install Ubuntu as a dual boot option on their system in about 20 minutes, without affecting their existing configuration at all. It's remarkably seamless. There are also a few other kinks to work out before I upload the new code to the Github. We discovered a bug or two today, so Josh is going to tackle them over the next few weeks and hopefully after some testing we'll have a good stable release to show you. Then there's the polishing that needs to be done, adding some linguistic and orthographic rules, and putting all the formatting syntax back under the hood where it belongs. But this is a huge step, and I'm thrilled to bits. In the next day or two I might try to do a sneak preview video to show you guys, if I can get a screencast put together. But for now, you're gonna have to take my word for it. It works! It works! Yeehaw!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

New readme file!

So the illustrious Stan, longtime Plover user and supporter, has turned the ugly-as-sin Github readme file into a gorgeously formatted PDF. He also assigned it a version number, which I'd been extremely neglectful in not attending to up 'til now. Behold!

Plover Readme 1.3

Thanks, Stan! You're the best. Hopefully in the not too distant future we'll be writing a whole new extensive readme to incorporate the keyboard emulation features that Josh, Plover's lead programmer, is currently working on.

Edited to add Stan's reply in the comments, just because it's too good to be overlooked by people who might not click through:

Well, it ain't open source for no'n ;).

I definitely had fun doing it -- even though it distracted me from actually practicing steno along with the fact that I stayed up until nearly five in the morning to do it. But I figured this would be easier than the old readme file which I for some reason I had a hard time following (maybe I was the dummy toward which the dummy series are directed).

But I'm glad I could contribute. I hope the version number makes sense. My reasoning was as follows:

1.0 - Plover that worked in command line.
1.1 - Plover that opened the small window (for which you made the 'it really works!' video)
1.2 - Addition of Eclipse and DC dictionary support
1.3 - Current one with the text output and GUI.

On a final note, I want to let everyone know that everything in that readme is subject to change and revision. I threw that logo together because it was the first idea that popped in my mind but again, I can design something a lot sleeker if I spend a little more time thinking about it. But I do love the designs from the design prototypes post so I will do my best to try to somehow integrate them if I decide to change it up.

And of course with any major changes with Plover will hopefully be documented in the readme.

I'll put up a url for the original InDesign file once I get my FTP server working again (home ISP services tend to look down on mass file sharing I have found) to uphold the opensource spirit.

Go Plover and opensource software! I'm pretty much done shoveling through my backpack for the hardware key every time I have to open CaseCATalyst or having to spend $5k on Eclipse once I go pro. Many people at my school and around Seattle have even expressed interest in learning steno after observing me practice at coffee shops or libraries. They say, "How is it that you're 'typing' THAT fast?" Or, "My fingers and wrists would kill me if I even attempted half of that pace on a regular keyboard." Then I begin to explain how it works, show them my theory notes, and tell them that I was doing a 200wpm drill and they become captivated further. Once I tell them how much machines and software cost however...

Makes me wonder how many people we could get to at least give steno a chance if the equipment were more accessible.

Steno machines and software are really not complicated things. It's only because of its esotericism that companies are able to reap in as much as they do and bully their users around with excessive and cumbersome anti-piracy measures for technology far exceeded in complexity by things as common as the iPhone or a netbook PC.

With everyone's small contribution I think Plover's really got a chance to rise up to become an equal competitor along side DC, Eclipse, CaseCAT, etc.

Linux did. It even runs on mobile phones. Who's to say we can't steno on an iPad or on a tablet PC?