Monday, March 23, 2015

Plover-Inspired Geocache Puzzle!

Check out the amazing epistolary tale of Doris Plover, Court Stenographer circa 1935!

I was contacted by someone trying to solve it (it's since been solved, but you can try it yourself for practice; translating the steno is only the first step toward finding the correct location of the cache.) The pedant in me has to admit that the stenography is not 100% accurate for the time period (You never need to write P/KPA* for a period; just FPLT will do, both for Plover and for non-realtime stenographers. Proper names don't need to be manually capitalized either. Also, they probably wouldn't have used long vowels, an asterisk-based fingerspelling alphabet, or S-P to work around a word boundary error; all of that stuff only came in when realtime was introduced in the 1980s.)

But even so, how mindbendingly awesome is this?!? I was absolutely tickled pink to find that it existed. Many years ago I made up a brief steno puzzle of my own for a friend who didn't know steno himself but who was interested in cryptography and wanted to see if he could figure it out without any prior knowledge. It makes me so happy to see that someone I don't even know had the same idea.

Even cooler is that after I helped the guy who was working on solving the puzzle, he made a $100 donation to The Open Steno Project! What a mensch! Money aside, learning that this thing existed seriously made my whole week. Thanks, Mysterious Puzzlemaker, whoever you are!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday Miscellany

Just two quick items:

* Emanuele has started a Stenoboard blog. There's only a welcome post on it so far, but if you're interested in the progress of the Stenoboard, you might want to add it to your RSS reader of choice.

* Also, it's not strictly Plover-related, but Drew from the Plover Google Group told me about a Vim plugin that's turned out to be life-changing: Vim-G. As Drew explained:

"It provides a :Google command that lets you run your query direct from Vim. Additionally, if you select a word then run the :Google command, it will search for the selected word."

So I've been able to map my TKPWHREFRPB command to {#Escape}:Google{#Return}, which will open a Chrome window and search for the word under my cursor. This is so great for looking up words while editing CART transcripts! Previously I'd tried to do it by using Launchy, but because there's currently no way to make definitions with predetermined "wait x milliseconds" commands, the processes would get out of sync and wouldn't execute properly. This solves that problem completely. It's still probably worth building a "wait" command into Plover at some point, but now that I have this Vim-G solution, that feature is not as urgent for me as it once was.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Another Awesome DIY Plover Board

Check out this beautiful DIY Plover Board built by Timothy Aveni for less than $100!

Seriously impressive.

Speaking of DIY keyboard projects, The Matias Keyboard Switch Crowd Supply campaign is 176% funded and already shipping out keysets. Josh says he's hoping the Stenosaurus Crowd Supply campaign will go live in the next two or three months, which is tremendously exciting.

On a more discouraging note, our previous go-to low-cost n-key rollover keyboard, the Sidewinder X4, is now well and truly out of production, so prices for leftover stock are climbing inexorably upwards. This is really a shame. At its best, it cost around $45, but now you'll have to pay around $70 for a used one and $150 or more for a new one.

There's currently a Massdrop for a $50 Noppoo Lolita Spyder 87, but that won't last forever, and retail for the Spyder is around $80. I really hope that a new low-cost gaming keyboard with true nkro (not fake nkro like the disappointing $20 Sharkoon) comes around again soon. There's a surprisingly big difference between $50 and $100 when you're talking experimental entry-level steno. I'll always be grateful to Microsoft for releasing the Sidewinder right when I started the Plover Project back in 2010, and I know that all manufacturing efforts have a limited lifespan, but I sure hope something else comes up to take its place.