Microsoft LCD keyboard

On the last UIST conference the MS presented the LCD keyboard or so called Adaptive Input Device for the student competition. It is similar to "the old" Optimus Maximus, however, instead of having an LCD under every keyboard key, the whole background of the keyboard is an LDC screen under regular keys. In addition there is a touch screen on top of the keyboard for shortcuts. The concept is not new and I can see its usage. E.g. I'd love to be able to switch my keyboard keys between different keyboard layouts like QUERTY and QUERTZ. I often type text in different languages like Slovene, English and Italian and is always hard to find language specific characters on an (UK or US) English only keyboard. I would also like to try Dvorak layout without buying a special keyboard.

My fear is the modality of such keyboards as presented in the video. Changing keys based on the application or even worse, based on the state of the application (keyboard can then be in several modes using only one application) can produce high cognitive load. I guess that some user experiments will have to be done on how quickly can users adopt and scan over 100 keys if they change often. But I also see that such keyboard could present more options to the user and provide more screen estate for the content they are working on (e.g. moving the menus from the screen to the keyboard).

My second worry is the neck and head movement from the keyboard to the screen and back. Most people do not focus on their keyboards and mice while working on the computer. Are often changes of the keyboard layout going to affect this?? Probably, but to what extent. I would say that the shifting eye focus from the content (screen) and functions (keyboard) would produce more neck, head and eye travel.

Nonetheless I'm eager to try it out.

PS: students have come up with some nice ideas like having an application switcher or visual clipboard on the touch screen area, password scrambler, teaching typing, etc.

DIY car laptop stand

We just finished a long trip across the Europe with kids. As I wanted to make the trip a pleasure for all as much as I could, I thought ob buying a video player, so kids could enjoy their cartoons during the long hours of the voyage. I almost bought an Aluratek APMP100F (which is a nice device), but a friend of mine said that he would rather have a computer in a car (in his opinion video players have limited features and a laptop can be used for games, internet and other things). I decided to give it a try as others did. I bought an universal laptop car charger for £4 and was good to go.

But one hour before starting our trip I also decided to make a stand for it. I wanted the laptop screen be visible to everyone sitting on the back seat and I also wanted the screen to be as far away as possible. Keep in mind that this is one hour project and there is a (LOT OF) room for improvements (due to the time limit I also used only materials I had in the house). Nonetheless it was a big success (kids had over 30 hour of cartoons which could be simply navigated with P and N keys or paused with a space key) and it took a lot of attention of passing cars and people we meet on the way :). The sand is not in the way (shoulders and head can be freely moved), I could talk to other passengers and I had a view on the back seat as well (between the laptop screen and head support). But bear in mind that the view in the windshield mirror is obscured (not all of it but still ...).

Things to consider from the safety point of view:

  • The handle on which the stand is screwed has to firmly stand between head supporters! Be ensured that moving car seats won't affect this!!
  • The laptop has to be tightened to the stand (I used a tiniest climbing rope which is not shown on the photos)
This way the laptop won't fly around the car in case of fast and hard breaking!!!!
Continue reading "DIY car laptop stand"

.NET and the setup interface (license terms and downloading time)

Recently I installed the .NET framework and have been surprised by the installation interface.

It is kind of hard to read the license terms if they are in such a small text box. Not that I would like to read them; I'm just concerned for the people that would :). There are also print and save options available, if someone doesn't like the small text box like me :).

So much space on the setup window (see the image below) is taken by estimated downloaded time with a dial-up modem (as the software could not figure out the download speed by itself). And what about download size estimate? Does .NET have different size for different users? Maybe ....

Luckily, new versions of MS Windows have .NET preinstalled.



OS X Finder versioning and duplicating files or folders

I just found out about the interesting file manipulating techniques in Finder file manager:

  • Option (ALT) + dragging the file or folder in its own parent folder: creates a new version of a file or folder by adding a consecutive number in the file or folder name.

    Examples:
    • Dragging a file named Thesis.doc to its parent folder (while holding down the Option key) creates a file named Thesis 2.doc
    • If the extension of the file is more exotic (e.g. printer.ppd) it will add the consecutive number after the extension (e.g. printer.ppd 2).
    • If the name of the file has the integer number preceded by the space (e.g. Thesis 2.doc) it will add the consecutive number (e.g. Thesis 3.doc)
    • If the number is not integer or is not preceded by the space (e.g. Thesis2.doc, Thesis 1.3.doc) it will just add the number 2 to it (e.g. Thesis2 2.doc, Thesis 1.3 2.doc)
    • If numbers are preceded by zeros (e.g. Thesis 002.doc, 001.doc, 00.doc) it will delete them (e.g. Thesis 3.doc, 2.doc, 1.doc)
    • If multiple files are dragged and dropped (e.g. Thesis 2.doc, Thesis 3.doc, Thesis 4.doc), it will add consecutive numbers from the highest of them (e.g. Thesis 5.doc, Thesis 6.doc, Thesis 7.doc)

  • Command + D: creates a new file of folder and adds the word copy to it

    E.g.: Thesis.doc will be copied in a new file named Thesis copy.doc
Original post at Mac OS X Hints.



Poyozo

Poyozo is a nice Firefox add-on which aggregates one's internet life and activities and allows reflective overview of one's web presence. It aggregates keywords from various sources like email, RSS, blogs, web browser's history, social web sites, calendars, etc. Keywords are then presented on a calendar as tags where the size of each tag depicts the number of occurrences. The interface is divided in several tabs to separate different aspects of internet activities.


The only thing is that it is not UTF friendly :(.