Thursday, November 5

TypeMatrix 2030: Two weeks later

I promised a follow up after my initial review on the TypeMatrix 2030 and here it is.

First the bad. I am still not back up to my previous typing speed. I was previously in the 80-90 wpm range and now I'm stuck around the 50-60 range. It's not terrible, but it's not fast.

I still overshoot the b and y keys at times, but it occurs less often than my initial difficulty. Now my biggest problem is the symbols and the right shift key. I have trained myself to be careful reaching to the right, to make sure I hit shift instead of return. Because of this I have to force myself to reach directly right instead of going down and right where I end up on the Ctrl key.

I am also having issues with the difference in location of the |, /, \, and -. Pipe is above the enter key on most keyboards and, as a Linux user and programmer I tend to use that key a lot. As for the forward and backslash it's not so much the difference in placement as the fact that they are right next to each other. I think that's just a coordination thing that will work itself out.

The last key I have had trouble with but I think I am over now is the CAPS LOCK. While incredibly annoying for most typists, it's somewhat of a convention to use a lot of capitals when writing SQL and holding down the shift is a pain when typing more than 4 or 5 caps at a time. This key is on the entirely different side of the keyboard, all the way to the right instead of all the way to the left. If I was to redesign this keyboard, I would have put all the special keys on the left rather than the right since there is already an extra column of keys beyond the semi-colon. That would make this keyboard perfectly balanced and make some keys, like caps lock, easier to remember.

Now the good. For all that bad, the modularization of keys is awesome enough to make up for it. By putting all they navigation keys in the bottom right corner, I don't need to move my hand from top to bottom in order to go from the arrows to home/end or pg up/down. I still have to look for the keys at times, but it's worth the fact that once I am oriented to which is which, I can fly around a text file with those keys.

A key that I have grown to love is the window switcher key, although I wish it would send it's own key code rather than alt+tab. I realize that this prevents users from having to set up a key binding, but I would like alt+tab to open a different switcher. In any case, it works great to toggle the ring switcher in Compiz. I think if I had to use the hold-down functionality it would be brutal, but it works perfect for my needs when using compiz. I've also remapped the show desktop key to bring up my desktop wall. That works great as well.

Another, sort of sidebar. This keyboard is STURDY. I can put it in my backpack with my laptop without protection and carry it around without an issue. Normally I wouldn't dream of doing something like that with a 100 dollar keyboard, but this thing can take it. One thing I would like to see... if the TypeMatrix guys are listening, is to come up with a solution for laptops so I can set this keyboard inside the housing while I type without it hitting they keys on the internal keyboard. I really need that if I'm going to get the benefit of my laptop, otherwise I might as well just have a desktop.

Most importantly, the promised finger travel savings makes a difference at the end of the day. I love the key placement for the backspace and enter keys even if I sometimes hit them by accident.

I will give another update in a few weeks.

Tuesday, November 3

Linux Deleted My Work!!

Ok, so the title is a shameless attention grabber. Linux is not alive, even though there are some who believe Linus Torvalds is trying to create AI life. We probably many reasons we speak anthropomorphically about our computers, but a main one is to cover the fact that WE screwed something up. Either by failure to recognize a problem, failure to understand, or simple brain failure, it is nearly always human error when something goes wrong on a computer... at least if you are running a real operating system. If you are running Windows then it's 100% possible that it's the computer's fault. ;)

The real title of this post should be something more like "Why you need a backup system" or, "How I idiotically failed to back up my files before wiping my hard drive while installing the new version of Ubuntu"... but had I done so you probably wouldn't be reading this right now. The fact is, I know better. I've been an IT professional for nearly 10 years now. I crossed the line from casual user to computer nerd before I hit puberty. These are not mistakes people like me are supposed to make. However, sure enough, last night I was confused by the fact that I couldn't find some work I was looking for when I had one of those moments of complete clarity. I was watching TV, carrying on a conversation about Windows 7, and selecting files to back up off my hard drive before my eagerly anticipated upgrade to Ubuntu 9.10. I remember specifically looking at a directory(poorly named "sandbox" ... first mistake) while thinking to myself, "I don't need that." I was wrong.

The problem was not the operating system, it wasn't a problem with backup software or anything else. It was a problem between keyboard and chair ... an ID-10-T error ... I was my own UserException. The truly unfortunate coincidence is, I have been putting off building a backup system because I said to myself, "It's not that important."

It is important. I was able to recover my mistake in about 3 hours, but there are some things we store on our computers that can never be recovered. Sound overly dramatic? Consider what would happen if your house burned to the ground. What would you lose? Financial statements, bank records, even credit card receipts are all recoverable somewhere. What about the pictures of your kids... your grandkids... your honeymoon or wedding? Those are moments in time that you can never recreate, and if they are gone, they are just gone. Hard copies are not necessarily a fool-proof backup. Physical media has the same problem. Even in a fire safe, it is unlikely a CD or DVD will survive the type of heat you would have in a fire that burns your house to the ground.

As more and more of our lives go on our computers, appropriate measures should be taken to ensure the safety of our data... and the more important your data is to you, the more you should consider backups as one of the most important things you can add to your home computing environment.

This blog is mainly about problems in technology and how to handle them. Over the next few weeks I plan to write about the steps I am taking to preserve my data. I am planning to write on the following topics:

1. Disk is cheap - Backup methods and retention period
2. Some things change, some things stay the same - Selection of backup method based upon media type
3. Fire, EMP, Gamma ray burst, Rapture - Protecting backups
4. The way it should be done - My system

In case you couldn't tell, most of the titles are slightly tongue-in-cheek, I am not arrogant enough to believe that I have all the answers to this problem. My point is, do something and get moving. You never know when something bad is going to happen and you'll wish you had given this a higher priority.