Wednesday, April 27, 2016

60% Funded! Plus Plover on a Planck

Okay, it took a lot less time to get from 0% to 50% than it did to get from 50% to 60%, but that's the nature of the crowdfunding beast. The important thing is that we're still edging upward. The For All To Play team is working hard on getting out an update of Steno Arcade featuring three slower songs that will be easier for qwerty typists and steno beginners. Speaking of which, I can't condone any of the language in this 20-video playlist of people playing Steno Arcade on YouTube; much of it is NSFW, in languages ranging from Thai to Italian to Russian, and it's all uncaptioned, so watch at your own risk. But I have to admit it's pretty hilarious to watch people ragequitting over the difficulty of our game, especially since they all seemed to be having a pretty good time with it. Why don't you all just learn steno already? (';

The other exciting thing I've been up to lately is playing with the gorgeous new Planck keyboard that Scott Urueta of SOFT/HRUF fame built and graciously sent to me.

This thing is by far the best steno input device I've ever tried, apart from my Infinity Ergonomic. Smooth, lightweight, extremely compact and portable, with lovely flat keytoppers and a very low actuation force. I absolutely adore it. Some people on Reddit asked if I'd make a video writing steno on 10FastFingers, so I gave it a shot:

That video turned into a 90-comment discussion on r/mechanicalkeyboards about the virtues of steno, and that led to the creator of the Planck adding Plover as a layout in the default Planck firmware, which is really exciting! I had to go through a whole process of downloading a custom firmware remapper to get Plover working on my Planck, but the new batch of Plancks will ship out with Plover already baked in. I seriously cannot emphasize enough how great a machine this is for the amateur or hobbyist Plover user. There are only two major downsides:

1) The Planck is sold unassembled, requiring some soldering skills and a fair amount of time and patience to put together, which is pretty intimidating for most users.

2) The manufacturer doesn't keep a steady inventory of Planck kits; he waits for orders to accumulate on Massdrop and then sends them out in batches.

The good news is that Scott is considering selling assembled Plancks alongside his SOFT/HRUFs. Even with a markup for his labor, they'd still be pretty affordable, and if he was able to keep a fair number in stock at a time, people wouldn't have to wait on Massdrop releases to get theirs. Fingers crossed it works out! I think this could be a huge help in filling the gap between the $40 Zalman solution and the >$500 lever-based proprietary machine option.

Next time I post, we'll hopefully have a new release of Steno Arcade up and running, and with any luck we'll have edged closer to our goal. I'm still really hoping we'll hit that $10,500 stretch goal so that anyone who wants to make a Steno Hero level with a song from their own music library will be able to do it. Fingers crossed! Even if you don't have the means to contribute financially, signal boosting the campaign in our last few weeks would be massively appreciated. Many thanks for all your help so far!


Erik said...

Hi Mirabai, I notice that in the Planck/Plover video you have black keys that seem closer spaced at the margins than the white keys so that it is easier to hit multiple keys with a single finger for chording. Are these commercially available keycaps or did you have them made for your Planck? It seems like they might be useful for anyone looking to build their own franken-steno machine. The white ones look like the ones available from Matias, but I don't think I've seen anything like the black ones as for normal typing it might make it too easy to hit multiple keys at once which is generally against the purpose of a QWERTY/Colmak/Dvorak/whatever keyboard.

Mirabai Knight said...

Yep, these are flat keytoppers known as no-bevel Relegendables. They're apparently a bit tricky to find; Scott, who built the Planck for me, got them in a Massdrop mailing. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful!