Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's been so long! But plenty's been happening on the Plover front behind the scenes. For one thing, I've been using Plover a lot more often since I bought a Filco Majestouch keyboard a month or so ago. Unlike the Sidewinder X4, it's actually small enough to fit in my steno bag along with my two computers, steno machine, and all my other stuff. Before, when I had to do transcription work on the train, I had to try to wrestle my steno machine onto its tripod, balance my computer on my steno bag, plug in the foot pedal, and keep everything in place with my thighs so it didn't topple over. A huge hassle, especially when the train was crowded. With the Majestouch, I just pull it out, plug it into my laptop, and put it on top of my laptop's keyboard. Couldn't be simpler! When I went to visit my family in Montana, I left my steno machine out of my bag so I had room for clothes, and wound up transcribing an entire 80-minute interview in three airports just using Plover and the Majestouch. One big advantage of Plover over traditional steno software is that it has complete control over the OS, so I can set KH-FG to "pause/play" and TR-RL to "rewind 1.5 seconds", keyed to autocommands in Audacious, which completely removes the need for a foot pedal. So that's quite exciting.

I'm also giving two presentations on Plover in the next few months: One at PyGotham on September 16th or 17th (the schedule isn't nailed down yet), and one at the Greater Washington Shorthand Reporters Association convention, on October 21st or 22nd. It'll be interesting to give one presentation to a group of programmers who are almost certainly unfamiliar with steno, and another presentation to a group of steno people who are almost certainly unfamiliar with Python, Linux, or Open Source. We're still working on possible funding leads for getting Plover out of hiatus (its main programmer, Josh Lifton, had a kid a few months ago, so I also wanted to give him a break while he adjusts to fatherhood and other big life changes.)

I've also -- slowly, oh, ever so slowly -- been putting my thoughts together for the next installment of Steno 101, but in the mean time, I wanted to link to something that a member of the Plover Google Group discovered on the internet a while back: Stenotypy the Machine Way, a steno manual from 1914. Surprisingly, there's still a lot of really good material in there. Of course, realtime transcription wasn't invented until the 1970s, so it doesn't include long vowels or conflict resolution (where a single steno outline corresponds to more than one English word or phrase). But even so, the example sentences alone are worth my time to dig through, and if anyone's frustrated with the glacial pace of Steno 101's development, they might to give it a glance.