The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!

29Jan/141

My Move Away from the Das Keyboard and Back to the IBM Model M

modelm_4My Das Keyboard experiment was short lived.  I sent it back after a week.  The Das Keyboard was good, don't get me wrong, but it just wasn't good enough.  I was looking for something that would feel to me like an improvement over the venerable IBM Model M, and it just wasn't.  The feel of the Cherry MX Blue keyswitches was good, but not quite the same as the buckling spring Model M keys.  And the click of the Cherry MX Blue keys seemed a little higher pitched.  At $140 the Das Keyboard was too expensive to keep when I could get a refurbished IBM Model M off eBay for half the price.  And so I did.  I got a 1991 IBM Model M (1394540).  The guy who did the refurbish job made it like new, truly impressive.  And with a little "blue cube" USB to PS/2 converter it's working great on my Windows box.  The only thing I had to do was to remap some keys so I could add some of the modern functionality we expect from keyboards, restoring the Windows key, menu key, media control keys, and app launching keys.

Ah, the joys of typing on the IBM Model M.

^ Quinxy

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28Nov/109

Twiddler 2.1 + TabSpace + Twidor

I'm well on my way to learning to type with the Twiddler one-handed chording keyboard. The beauty of the keyboard is that it isn't a board, and that it fits all traditional 104 keys onto just 16 keys, and it includes a mouse replacement. The secret to doing so much with so little is chording, or pressing multiple keys simultaneously and having the device recognize the combination as a new single and distinct letter. The advantage of a one-handed keyboard that you operate by gripping it like you might a ski pole (though at any angle) is primarily in the area of wearable computer applications, but it also helps reduce repetitive strain injury (RSI) or at least create a different kind of RSI (instead of carpal tunnel syndrome).

The first thing I did when I got the Twiddler was to realize I needed a new keymap. The included keymap arranges the letters in A, B, C, D, ... order which clearly was not optimized in any way to aid in typing faster or reducing finger strain. Clearly you want a keymap which has been created based on letter frequencies to ensure that the most frequently used letters (and letter combinations) require no chording and minimal strain (the buttons closes to your palm being harder to reach than the ones farther away). A few minutes of searching led me to the TabSpace keymap for Twiddler 2.1, which has been so optimized. The problem then became actually learning to use the keymap. A brilliant piece of training software called Twidor helps you do that, but the problem was, it is set up to use the default, un-optimized keymap. Twidor can use alternative keymaps by simpling placing it as "keymap.txt" in the same folder where the Twidor .jar or .exe is, but it expects a Twiddler 1.0 format file, NOT a Twiddler 2.1 file (which is what the above TabSpace keymap is). After a bit of digging and some trial and error I modified a copy of the original TabSpace (from which the above updated one was made) and made it compatible with Twidor and the current version of TabSpace 2.1.  And now I am well on my way to learning to type, I'm surprised at how easy it is.  Within an hour or so I've already memorized a handful of letters and I can easily see how in a week or two with lots of little training sessions I'll be up to a pretty good speed.

Download

You'll need the following to use Twiddler 2.1 with Twidor and TabSpace, so download them if you haven't.

Download TabSpace, a Twidler 2.1 compatible keymap for optimized chording

Download Twidor, the training software

Download Quinxy's modified keymap.txt, allowing Twidor to train you on the new TabSpace keymap

Installing

Install TabSpace on Twiddler 2.1

To install the TabSpace keymap onto Twiddler you need to put Twiddler into a special mode where it will expose its configuration as a mounted drive.  Disconnect the Twiddler USB cable, then reconnect it while holding down one of the front keys.  Open the new drive that will appear and rename the original keymap (so you can revert if you want).  Now copy the new keymap onto this drive, using the original name you just changed.  Disconnect the USB cable and reconnect it.  Voila, new keymap installed.

Make Twidor Teach You TabSpace

Now place my keymap file (above) in the same folder as your Twidor exe or jar.  Twidor will now teach you how to use the TabSpace keymap.  Note: One oddity I noticed is that in Twidor backspace does not behave as you would expect.  To backspace in Twidor you actually need to do a delete (which is NUM + R000, in Twiddler-speak).  It doesn't appear to be anything wrong with the keymap file, but I'm not 100% sure.

Hope this saves someone else a bit of the hassle it caused me.  Happy Twiddling...

^Quinxy