Saturday, November 17, 2007

Easy Keyboard Layout

REACT! 
The QWERTY keyboard layout (the one that you probably use every day) was made mainly to avoid stuck pairs of typebars in typewriters. Of course this is not a problem with modern keyboards and that makes the QWERTY layout a bit inefficient (at least for the right handed people). For example many words can be typed by using only the left hand while there are fewer that can be typed with the right hand only. The best case would be to have both hands type alternating keystrokes so that you can move one hand in place while you are striking a key with the other.

There are other keyboard layouts too which try to address some of these problems. One the most famous is the Dvorak keyboard which is probably better than QWERTY.

Anyway, to cut a long story sort, I wrote, before one or two days, a program in Lua that would try to make an optimized layout based on three criteria:
  1. Letters that appear next to each other often in English text should be far from each other on the keyboard so that the two hands can press them alternatively.
  2. Characters that appear often with a distance of two characters (like T and E in the word "the") should be close to each other so that that each hand moves as less as it is possible during the alternations.
  3. The most used character should be close to either the third or the seventh key of the second row (where the D and the J lie on QWERTY keyboards) because that's where I put my middle fingers. :-P
I run this program with LuaJIT (because I really needed more speed) and it came up with this layout:

Z V M L W D A I G Q
X H N R S T E O K
J U C F Y P B

Today I bought a keyboard (the cheapest I could find) and started switching the positions of the keys to turn it into this:
(the photo is outdated. The P and B should be switched)
I still haven't tested it because I bought a PS/2 keyboard while my laptop hasn't got a PS/2 port. So I am waiting to test it to a friend's PC tomorrow.

Of course to use this keyboard you will need to notify the system of the different letter positions. I made a file that can be loaded with xmodmap in Linux to use this keyboard. I will also do the same with Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator so that Windows will be able to recognize my layout.

I won't upload the program's code yet because I am constantly changing it. If you really want it then just leave a comment asking for it and I will upload it. You might also want to try Kiwi: a program written in C that will create custom keyboard layouts. It looks like a great program but I haven't actually tested it yet.

Amazing fact: Just by changing the position of the letters on a keyboard you can create more than 403,291,461,126,605,635,584,000,000 different layouts.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Abandonware

REACT! 
Surely you've heard of terms like freeware and shareware but perhaps you do do not know what abandonware is. Adandoneware is a term, without any particular legal meaning, that is used to describe software that has either been placed on the public domain by the copyright holders (usually the company that produced it) or that no one is willing anymore to enforce it's copyright. For example some really old games are not sold anymore and the company normally doesn't care if you start making illegal copies since it won't loose any money at all.

There are many sites with huge collections of abandonware. Most of them host old games for DOS or Win9x but you might also find some programs too. My favourite site for abandonware is Abandonia but you can find others by Googling abandonware. I also found this interesting torrent on The Pirate Bay which supposedly contains around 3000 old games but I haven't downloaded it yet...

Before downloading any abandonware make sure that you have installed DosBox (it's the best DOS emulator out there and you will need it to play those old games) and also do not forget to check for alternative versions of the same game that run on modern systems. For example Heretic is a great game but why would you play it on DosBox while you can use ZDoom to run it with higher resolutions etc?

While witting this post I also came across a site that offers $200 to anyone that finds the English version of an old and extremely rare (based on the very few results that Google returns if you search for it) game called Fatal Encounter.

For more info on abandonware you should also read this article from Wikipedia

Monday, November 12, 2007

DizzyDiff v1.4.0

REACT! 
Normally I should be posting something about Abandonware right now but I am a bit bored to continue writing that post and I felt more like releasing this version. I mainly added lots of command line options so that you can customize the program by editing the batch script (for Windows users) or the shell script (for Linux users). For more information you should read the READ_ME.txt that is included in the archive. I also added DizzyDiff in Softpedia so you may rate it there.

To download DizzyDiff click here.

Friday, November 2, 2007

DizzyDiff v1.3.0

REACT! 
One more version for DizzyDiff. It will now ask you what kind of search you want it to perform: Filenames only, filenames and ID3 tags, filenames and inside textfiles or everything. I also fixed some bugs.

Click here to download the latest version.

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