Keyboard Layouts


Everyone knows that QWERTY (urgh, that’s difficult to type) was originally designed mainly for mechanical concerns rather than ergonomic ones. Given that, its astonishing that people can use it so well, and also that it’s outlasted the concerns that led to it by such a long time.

Anyway, it seemed crazy to me, so I’ve just finished the goodtyping basic course but with a twist; I did all the lessons with my keyboard set to Capewell (0.9.1) (there is a newer version available from his main page). I’m writing this with it as well, and although it’s slow going compared to the speed I type on QWERTY, I’ve been quite surprised that it has made no discernable difference to my ability to type in QWERTY. I expect I’ll pick up speed as I keep using it.

Capewell Layout

Alternative layouts

  • My choice was a Capewell layout because he takes the very sensible point of view that you’ll still need to be able to hit control-C, control-V, control-X and control-Z easily. He also doesn’t have the bias against running letters in the same hand, and what could be better than using a keyboard layout that evolved?
  • Another evolved layout comes from Peter Klausler, although he doesn’t rate it as highly as Dvorak.
  • Arensito is an interesting layout, particularly because he’s put some thought into designing it for programmers, perhaps more sensible than using a keyboard layout designed for typists. He’s also taken a slightly more radical approach and moved the hands position from the QWERTY to give those thumbs more options. Nice.
  • The asset layout is a nice layout, designed to be easy for the QWERTY typist to learn, but with a much better home row.
  • Maltron, mentioned below have their own layout. Check out their comparison of the home row frequencies. Yes, QWERTY really is that bad.
  • Compare different layouts here. You’ll find that the Capewell layouts perform quite well.
  • Fitaly is an input system designed for one finger or pen input.
  • Create your own with microsoft keyboard layout creator (warning: link).

Alternative input devices

See also Hongkiats blog post.

  • SHARK a very cool gesture based system for tablet input
  • Touchstream LP a brilliant looking touch board that supports gestures and is a keyboard and mouse at the same time. Sadly they don’t make them anymore and they’re still pretty expensive on eBay.
  • A proper, no gimmicks single handed chordic keyboard is the Infogrip BAT keyboard, but it looks plasticy and cheap. Don’t they realise that the future is all chrome and black and OLEDs?
  • No one could deny that the Data Hand looks very cool and it has Zero hand movement! I’m not surprised that NASA use them.
  • The Orbitouch is a cool idea, but aimed more at disabled people rather than geeks looking for the future of input.
  • The tactapad has cameras, two handed interaction (that’s really cool), and a tactile feedback system. Not available for sale yet, probably quite expensive, and not really a keyboard either, although I like their idea of putting one in the split of a split keyboard.
  • The alphagrip is a game controller like keyboard and mouse. I like this idea, since moving the hands between keyboard and mouse is a very annoying context switch. I also like the ability to lean back that it would give you. Sadly, people don’t seem to get enormous speeds with it, and it’s really designed for more mobile devices. Maybe good for a tablet pc when you need a keyboard.
  • Like the accordian? Perhaps you want a vertical keyboard.
  • The Twiddler2 (yes I’m thinking friends and Claw) is a really neat chordal single handed keyboard and mouse, perfect for adding to your wearable computer cyborg get up. Again, not really designed for replacing a normal keyboard and mouse though.
  • I really like the Ergodex DX, a moveable custom keys system but it really needs to suport chordal behaviour.
  • Maltron make a large number of cool different keyboards, including one handed ones, and hyper ergonomic ones. Not cheap though.


Try to implement a chordal system using a normal keyboard and perhaps turning it sideways. Get a mouse with buttons on it that can be programmed to Cut, Copy, Paste, Escape, Return. Ideally include Undo, Redo, Space, Alt, Home, End, Arrow keys, Delete, PgUp, PgDown, Tab, actually, why not the whole keyboard? A chordic mouse-keyboard, marvellous.

Jumping off links

One handed keyboarding in general, aimed at disabled people, but one hand on the mouse and the other on the keyboard might be pretty good.

The pretty Optimus keyboard might be good for learning new layouts on (if it were available).

Cornell unversity page on keyboard design.

Rahel pointed out that I really should include the new microsoft chordal layout that’s been designed from the ground up to take account of the frequency of key usage. You may have seen it before, but I think it’s innovative enough to deserve a link.

Natural Population Limitation

It is a simple logical truth that, short of mass emigration into space, with rockets taking off at the rate of several million per second, uncontrolled birth-rates are bound to lead to horribly increased death-rates. It is hard to believe that this simple truth is not understood by those leaders who forbid their followers to use effective contraceptive methods. They express a preference for ‘natural’ methods of population limitation, and a natural method is exactly what they are going to get. It is called starvation.

Richard Dawkins
–The Selfish Gene

I have some quibbles with some of the things he said there. Not all of these were directly said by him, but I think they are implied by things he said or related ideas.

Mass emigration into space requires millions of rockets per second. What about other technologies for space emigration? Mass emigration into space would bring economies of scale anyway, rockets would start carrying more people.

Uncontrolled birth rates lead to horribly increased death rates (meaning diminished life expectancy and quality of life). As long as everyone who is born dies, of course death rates will increase, but what I take this to mean is that life expectancy and quality of life will diminish. What about other technological solutions to the problems of increasing population, such as more efficient food production? Lets face it, there’s still an awful lot of unused land, and that’s ignoring the fact that 2/3rds of the earths surface is water. We have a long way to go before we run out of space and resources (Africa and South America currently produce less than 1 percent of their potential agricultural harvest) on Earth, and necessity is the mother of invention.

‘Natural’ contraceptive methods are not ‘effective contraceptive methods’ Three natural methods have a Pearl Index of less than 1, compare this with the condom – Pearl Index of 2 to 5. Not to mention complete abstinence with a Pearl Index of 0

Not using ‘effective contraceptive methods’ (ie not the natural ones) results in uncontrolled birth rates. There are a few ways of controlling birth rates without using contraception of which the most obvious is abstinence. Perhaps not practical, but he seems to be talking about people with beliefs strong enough to cause them to do impractical things anyway. Beyond that, fertility rates can decrease from factors such as stress, pollution, alcohol and other drugs, and poor nutrion, let alone mobile phone usage. These factors would be likely to increase as population does. There exist some external controls to birth rate beyond just contraception.

Catholics express a preference for people starving.
Catholics are the only group of people I know that ‘forbid’ contraception, and they certainly do not advocate uncontrolled birth rates, millions of rockets per second being fired into space or starvation of millions.

Not using contraception causes starvation. Completely undemonstrated. It’d be much easy to show a simpler contention like eating more than you need causes starvation. In fact, “that people go malnourished is largely a political problem and not an agricultural one.”

Enough people in the world follow forbidders of contraception to cause a worldwide problem for everyone. Considering that not all followers obey all ‘forbiddings’ and that there are very few forbidders anyway, this seems unlikely.

The individuals who don’t agree with using contraception should for the benefit of humanity. This sounds a lot like he’s arguing for them to display altruism. Perhaps he’s worried that by natural selection, the number of people following forbidders will increase. But does he really believe that they should they go against their genetic programming and suffer decreased chances of their genes being passed on for the benefit of others?


“It is a simple logical truth that…” ugggh

A Catalog Of Mythic Resonance

My aim here is to list things that carry a sense of hidden meaning, things that seem to be symbols of a deeper truth, unapprehended. Eventually, I hope to get a picture that captures the feeling of each, but that may be difficult or impossible. Please suggest others, or send me pictures.

A nearly empty, lighted carriage travelling across a dark landscape.

A lone figure standing at a pier looking out over the sea below.

Ripples on the surface of water

A ghostly reflection of yourself in a window

The barrier (like a pane of glass, or the side of a tent) between warmth and storm, light and dark.

The moment of silence after a flock of birds has flown away

A bird carrying a twig in its beak

Rules Of Throw Chess

Throw Chess is an adaption of standard Chess which creates very short games that make your brain hurt. The rules are identical to normal chess except for the following minor changes:

– The game is over when a player is unable to make a move. This player is known as the loser.
– Pawns move in the standard way except for when they don’t.
– The back row can’t move, but when they do, they can move in any piece style except their own (normally).
– You can usually move your opponents pieces.
– Kings are a bit rubbish, unless they’re not a King at the time.
– You really don’t want to lose your Queen (unless it’s a pawn, which isn’t too bad).
– Castling results in an automatic loss, except for some rare circumstances where you can castle as long as it doesn’t involve moving the King.
– It is valid to throw pieces into isolation. Doing this to your own pieces is a play known as “en tant stupide”.

Why you should never be a referee

There are many reasons why you should never be a referee, but the reason I’ve never become a referee is fear of being cooked if I make a decision the home side don’t like. That’s right, cooked. I’m about to do the maths for those of you who don’t believe me.

The average man weighs about 70 kg. Now I reckon the average ref weighs less than this, but we’ll count that as slack.

On a cloudless day (the ideal kind for a football match) the earths surface receives approximately 942 Js-1m-2. More when the earth is closer to the sun, and less when it’s further away.

Now the human body consists mainly of water, which has a specific heat capacity of 4.2×103Jkg-1oC-1. This is generous, as the human body would probably be easier to heat than 70kgs of water.

So the amount of heat energy required to raise a mans body temperature by 35 degrees (way more than we need – to kill we only really need about 10 degrees) all the way through is 70 x 4.2×103x35 which is 10290000 Joules.

Now lets say we give the home side audience reflective programs that fold out to be about a half metre square. If we allow that they are going to be tilted at on average 30 degrees to the vertical in order to focus them then the area of sunlight they are each catching is the width * (the height * sin 30), which works out at 0.125m2 each.

Now there’s the matter of time. That is, how long will it take for the ref to work out whats going on and come up with a strategy to counteract it? Well, on the roads, they allow 2 seconds thinking time, but I think that refs are a little stupider than average folk so I reckon about 3 seconds.

Over 3 seconds, we only need 10290000 / (942 * 3 * 0.125) people focussing these programmes on the ref for three seconds to raise his whole body temperature by 35 degrees. That’s only 29129.5 people. Well, lets call it 30,000 people.

Wembley stadium can hold over 126,000 people (according to Britannica), and its not even the biggest stadium by a long shot. So a home side in Wembley is going to be well over 30,000 people. Even if only half of the home side (say three quarters of capacity – 94,000 people) are organised to do this, and only three quarters of them got it right, you’d still kill the ref with a bit left over.

So a survival tip in case you are ever compelled to referee a football match – ensure it’s on a cloudy day, or be blatently biased in favour of the home side.

I got the idea for this node from a short story by Arthur C Clarke, called A Slight Case of Sunstroke. Also, c.f. Archimedes mirrors and the rtmark demonstrations at Genoa which got the italian police to classify mirrors as weapons.

This post was originally posted on under the username delfick.