Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Community Input on Spending OSP Funds

Last night the Open Steno Project received an extremely generous donation of $500 from a longtime community member who wishes to remain anonymous. This brings our total funds (Donations + Store Sales to over $2,500. Not too shabby! We've got some of that earmarked for future projects -- domain names, a software cert, etc -- but there will probably be some left over. Community feedback on how best to spend the funds would be helpful. What do you think? A bulk buy of ultralight key switches or other hardware to sell in the store? Seed money for another crowdfunded steno game campaign? Or should we sit on it for a while longer until the right opportunity comes along? All ideas welcome.

A thousand thanks again to our magnanimous benefactor!! This community is amazing.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Volksboard

Check out this incredible DIY steno machine with step-by-step instructions on how to build it, by the amazing Carl. It's called the Volksboard, and I love it. Scrabble tiles for steno keys! Ingenious! It's also wireless and uses WiFi with a Raspberry Pi Zero built into the board to connect to Plover.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Toss Ted Some Cash For More Red Hot Steno Theory

Ted, our amazing lead dev, has been developing Plover for FREE over the last several years -- not to mention the hundreds and hundreds of hours of unpaid web design, tech support, hardware hacking, community leadership, and all-around steno ambassadorship that he's contributed to the cause. He's got a day job and a personal life, so he recently decided that his eagerly awaited new steno theory book would need to be prioritized on a gratuity system. Toss him some cash to get more pages! I just threw some in. Lord knows he deserves it!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Responses to the 2017 OSP Community Survey!

It took me a while to get to these, but I finally made a digest of selected responses from the 2017 Open Steno Project Community Survey. Here are the complete responses, if you're interested in all the details. I figured I'd just touch on a few highlights.

First off, we got a total of 91 responses, quite a bit higher than last year's 72!

We can also see signs of the Plover community maturing, with almost 40% of respondents in the 60 to 260 WPM range, compared to last year's 30%.

Most respondents are still working on exceeding their regular typing speed, which isn't too surprising, considering that many of our new recruits this year came from ultrafast speed typing circles.

But of those who have exceeded their regular typing speed, 75% did it in under a year.

Most of our users are not interested in formal stenography programs.

Which isn't too surprising, since most of them want to use steno to write prose or code.

We've got a strong cross-platform community, with 55 out of 88 respondents using Plover on operating systems other than Windows. No other steno software runs natively on non-Windows operating systems, so we've pretty much got that end of the market sewn up, haha!

Finally, a small selection of comments from respondents:

"Documentation is getting better all the time! Good work! Discord has been the best thing to happen to Plover lately."

"I'm not fast yet but am usually able to guess new words, and steno intrudes into my mind sometimes and there I am mentally stenoing stuff. Weird but fun."

"Finding it too hard as a self teach option."

"Plover allows me to use my writer with my Mac without having to use Windows! What's not to love?!?"

"Would love to see absolute beginner training exercises in Steno Arcade."

"Learn Plover is very good, but I'd like to see the theory spelled out more explicitly; there's a lot that's not covered, and you have to learn inductively, more or less."

"Plover got my career off the ground. Thanks."

I definitely agree that we need more entry-level training and drilling tools. Ted's new textbook should help, as will Stenomancer. But clearly learning steno theory and building speed is possible with the currently available tools, which thrills me to bits. Let's keep it up! I hope next year's survey response count will be even bigger!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Gherkin!

I got a Gherkin! Isn't it adorable? The delightful Kyzak on the Plover Discord built it for me, and I love it. Sadly, the key mapping was messed up, so I'll have to send it back before I can use it, but the size and shape are extremely endearing, and the touch seems quite nice as well. If you want one but don't have the skills to build and solder it yourself, you might still be able to nab one if you head over to the Discord. Especially great if you have small hands and value portability.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

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 Makeover! 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!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Stenotoppers: 3D Printed Keys for Your Mechanical Keyboard!

The most exciting recent news in the Open Steno sphere is Jason's new Stenotoppers models, which you can print on any 3D printer (or have printed for you by a 3D printing shop, though that can get pricey), to turn your staggered-layout mechanical keyboard with steno-unfriendly beveled keytoppers into an ortholinear steno-style layout with smooth interfaces between rows.

It works with any Cherry or Gateron switches (I recommend clears/whites if you're in the market, since they have the lowest actuation force) and is entirely free to download and modify. If you have a mechanical keyboard and a 3D printer or access to one via your local makerspace, this is a great robust alternative to our laser-cut acrylic keytoppers, which are sometimes a little fiddly to align. Please note that these are unfortunately not compatible with the Zalman NKRO keyboard, which at $45 is the cheapest solution for entry level steno. Most mechanical keyboards with compatible switches are in the $100 to $150 range, so budget accordingly.

Speaking of which, if you'd rather just buy an ortholinear keyboard at the outset, the Planck is currently available on Massdrop for another 5 days. I have one, built and donated to me by the fantastic Scott of SOFT/HRUF fame, and it's quite a nice little machine. A little clickier than my beloved StenoMod, and somewhat bulkier than the sleek and compact SOFT/HRUF, but a very strong contender in the dual qwerty/steno keyboard bracket. Even better, the firmware comes with a Plover layer built right in. You'll have to assemble it yourself, but I've been told it's not terribly difficult, even for beginners.

The Plover README file has been updated to include recent developments in the Open Steno community.

Finally, there's a new expanded StenoJig landing page that allows you to customize your drills in a more flexible way without editing the URLs as you had to do previously. Extremely convenient!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Plover 3.1.1 Released

This is a minor bug fix release affecting Linux and Mac users.
  • Fix a certain type of NKRO on Linux (#644)
  • Fix control key on macOS Sierra not working with global shortcuts
  • Fix an edge case of output for Mac, where certain keys wouldn't be shifted
Check out the release on GitHub.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Plover Beginner's Guide

This is a bit overdue, but we now have an excellent Beginner's Guide to Getting Started With Plover over on the new wiki, which has supplanted the old outdated wiki. It's got step-by-step instructions on setting Plover up and trying it out for the first time, as well as hardware advice and links to learning and practice resources. Many thanks to Ted and Ellis for the writing and editing work!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Come To The Discord Group! Meet Stenobot!

So I've pretty much dissolved the Aviary. I just couldn't keep the spammers out, and I froze the board to new posts, and it had very low traffic anyway. All the real Plover community action these days is on the Discord group, which is basically like updated IRC, or a more open Slack. It's great, and we've got a fantastic group of people, with wide-ranging conversations on steno and virtually everything else under the sun. Also, as of this week, we have a new member:

Ted whipped us up a bot called StenoBot, who displays all steno code written between backticks on the Learners channel (and on other channels if you start the line with !). It's very cool.

Come check it out at the Discord Group!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

New Gutenberg Sentence Drills at Steno Jig!

Check out all the new sentence drills featuring only common English words, extracted from public domain texts! There are a total of 80 of them so far. The URL above links to number 80; just change that number in the address bar to get each of the rest of them.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Timeline of the OSP and New Steno Jig Exercises

First off, Ted has compiled a rough timeline of the Open Steno Project from its inception through the present day. Useful for people who want to put the whole trajectory of Open Steno in context.

Also, Steno Jig (a link to which you can find on the learning resources page on the new Github-based Plover wiki, which has superseded the old outdated Wiki), has a new fork by Jason which uses sentences from Project Gutenberg containing the most used words in the English language. Great if you're looking for realistic practice material without too many esoteric words to wade through!