Going Dvorak

I’ve never quite been a touch typist.

Sure, I learnt to type from tutorial programs like Mavis Beacon, but for some reason I’ve never used my little (aka pinky) fingers, just my 6 fingers and two thumbs so I never considered myself an actual touch typist. I’ve also always used UK keyboard layouts and much prefer it to the US layout. The reversal of @ and " never really bothered me as much as the shape of the return key. Since adopting Unix/Linux, I’ve also added the positions of | and ~ to my frustrations with the US layout. I never really gave any of this much thought since I was able to use pretty much any keyboard in front of me and never had any issues with RSI. At least that is, until recently…

In the last few months I’ve noticed more and more wrist pain, sometimes during the working day, but more so late at night or really early in the morning to the point that it sometimes wakes me up these days.

Since work is caring and considerate about these sort of things, they have occupational therapists around to do ergonomic assessments. So in the last few months, I’ve had a few assessments resulting in adjustments to my desk and chair layout and tried to take “micro pauses” every 10 minutes but nothing seems to make any significant difference. I even swapped out my trusty UK Apple keyboard for a Microsoft Natural 4000, which I found frustrating as hell, mainly because I am using a PC keyboard on a Mac which just feels weird (even after I swapped the modifier keys in software), too many keys are just in the wrong places physically, not to mention getting used to the curve in the keyboard.

I briefly tried a friend’s Kenisis Advantage out of curiosity, but I gave up 40 minutes later (considerably short of the 1 – 12 month learning curve it comes with) since I’m not a touch typist and it just felt weird having to stop and think about what I need to don’t my little fingers. I’m currently waiting on an order for a Mac layout GoldTouch V2 to try, but it will force me to use a US physical layout.

Researching various ergonomic keyboard manufacturers has left me with the distinct impression that UK layout Mac users such as myself are such an edge case that I won’t really be fully happy with any ergonomic keyboard. *sigh*

So the only thing left for me to do is to hack my brain. No, not literally, but I am going to have to remap my muscle memory to where everything is on a keyboard.

Since I’m going to go through this process to adapt to a US physical layout anyway, I might as well take the plunge and go Dvorak while I’m at it. Sure, it gives me a little more geek credit too, but it does sound like it may help reduce the wrist pain.

My largest concerns with going Dvorak are login prompts (and unlocking a screensaver) and using vim. For the login/password issue, I know I can always change the keyboard settings just at login prompt in OS X, so that should be enough of a crutch to get me started. Vim is a little harder, but I only really use a small subset of vim keyboard commands after the obvious ones (I kept getting distracted whenever I ran vimtutor). Conveniently, I found a handy little page of a qwerty vim user adopting Dvorak who documented her adventure. The page stood out to me since the domain name looks quite familiar. In fact, I know that very Dvorak evangelist!

So far, I’ve complete the initial preparation steps, like printed Dvorak & Programmer’s Dvorak layouts and stuck them to my monitor & configured OS X to have both input types easily available. Following this conversion advice I’m going to try Master Key for a while at a time while I get acquainted wit the layout before switching to it by default.

I’m slightly concerned by the initial hit in productivity, but I’m more concerned with the RSI in the long run, not to mention the impact of the current status quo is already having on my productivity, so now is as good a time as any really. Here goes nothing…

Posted from Ireland.

No Longer In A State of Flux…

I’ve bounced around a lot of places in the last few weeks.

In early April, I was in the Zurich office for a few days (and yes, they really do have a fireman’s pole, no I didn’t go down it), before going to Innsbrook, Austria for an internal work conference and finally Soelden, Austria for our annual ski trip. Thankfully, we left Soelden just in time.

After that trip, I was around Ireland for three weeks and doing various things, including a 24 hour trip to Kilkenny for Andrew‘s Stag Night (mischief and mayhem was appropriately documented) and a few weeks later, Ciara and I were in Barberstown, Kildare for Andrew’s wedding over the May bank holiday weekend.

A week later, I was on a plane again, this time to (sunny) San Francisco. I was back in the mothership for meetings and a well deserved top up of the company koolaid. Apart from working, I got up to many things such as taking a San Francisco Bay ferry tour in dense fog, catching up with people, and slowing resenting the 60 – 90 min commute each way from San Francisco to Silicon Valley (like the locals do).

I was also caught unprepared for one of SF’s biggest events, Bay to Breakers, which can only be described as a St Patricks Day Parade (floats, mass drinking, etc) colliding with Halloween (fancy dress costumes), but SF style fancy dress (think Rocky Horror) which masquerades as a 12km run across the city. Very strange and surreal, but quite entertaining.

I’m now back in Dublin since last weekend, with no plans to travel again (just) yet. Photos from my various recent travels should end up on Flickr soon, I just need to sit down and publish the good ones.

Random Mutterings

The last couple of weeks have been busy, both in work and personally. There’s nothing specifically newsworthy, there has just been a lot going on and not quite enough time to fit it all in. Things are starting to settle down now, so I’ve more time to do random things like (re)watch my West Wing DVD collection while the WGA strike continues.

I’ve also started to look at getting down to doing things I’ve always intended to do, but never had the time to do, such as setup Nagios monitoring of my servers, complete with SMS alerts through Clickatell, using a simple python script I’ve knocked together. I’ll post more details at another time, after I’ve actually got Nagios up and running…

I’ve also been occasionally dabbling with assorted software.

OmniFocus is the natural successor to kGTD, so I tried it out for a while. It’s very nice, but doesn’t suit my needs yet, mainly the ability to sync a single To Do list between 2+ Macs, without resorting to using a USB stick to store it on. According to the online forums, the next release will be aimed more at this use case. \o/

RTM is also nice, particular with the numerous ways in which one can interact with it. I might look at learning AppleScript and trying to make a script to sync certain tasks from kGTD/OmniFocus with RTM. Finally, I’ve been playing with last.fm through iScrobbler. iusethis.com is also a useful site for keeping track of the various OS X apps I use, it even has an RSS feed so I can see when there are new releases.

On the travel front, I haven’t really gone anywhere since Venice, which was 2 months ago. So, Ciara and I are off to explore Copenhagen this weekend, which I’m really looking forward to, since I’ve never been to any of the Nordic countries before. 🙂

Oh, and the new 32GB iPod Touch is rather tempting, perhaps I’ll get it the next time I’m in the US…


So, I’ve been in the US for almost 2 weeks now, so my trip is coming slowly winding up and I’ll be back home in Dublin by this time next week. Apart from work, I’ve been up to quite a few things:

I explored NYC for the first time, taking in numerous sights such as Central Park, the Guggenheim, 5th Ave, the Rockerfeller Centre, Empire State Buildings, Staten Island (and the ferry ride there and back) and many other things. I did regret foolishly walking the 71 blocks from the Guggenheim museum all the way back to my apartment on the Saturday, then I walked around the waterfront to Battery Park the very next day. My feet were sore for almost a week :-/ Thanks to a colleague, I was brough to a very interesting, themed bar, the Beauty Bar, which had wonderful decor inside.

In San Francisco, there are a few things I still haven’t done, so I try to do one or two more things each time I’m back. This visit, I plan on finally going to on a tour of Alcatraz and crossing over to see (and photograph) the views of the city from the Golden Gate Recreational Area. I’ve already managed to get to JapanTown on Sunday, where I had lots of fun wandering around shops and having some very good sushi for dinner.

Oh, and this evening I experienced my first (noticeable) earthquake, 5.6 Mw shake which only lasted 10 seconds. I didn’t even manage to get all the way to a doorway before it ended. :-/

Back, but for how long?

Arrived back from my holiday Sunday afternoon. Trip to New England was really, really good. I’ve lots of photos to prove it, they may even appear online soon. However, I’m almost out of time back in Dublin. I’m off on a business trip to New York and then San Francisco for almost 3 weeks on Wednesday.

I acquired a few toys in New England, primarily a handheld GPS (I tagged waypoints of the trip highlights, I’ll find something to do with them later) and another camera lens, the ultra wide-angle Sigma 10-20mm (which is so much fun to use :).

One interesting thing I’m doing for work on Monday is giving a 10 min talk to students in 3rd and 4th year CS in TCD about a career in IT, particularly in Google. It’s somewhat ironic, since I would never consider myself to have been a model student in college. 🙂

Proof Of Life

In case anyone is using posts over here to check if I’m alive, yes I’m alive. I’ve simply been neglecting this part of the internet.

So, what have I been up to over the last 2+ months? (yikes, it has been a while!). Mainly working, a little bit of travel to London for a few days back in early August, and not a whole lot else. I was over in London for a few days, mainly a visit to finally visit Mark in Oxford, and to visit Ikea and a decent Mexican restaurant.

Apartment is going very well. Essential household items such as dishes, bookcases, a clothes horse, a proper DVD player and of course a Budda Bag have all been acquired and thoroughly tested. I had to survive on a 3G modem for a few weeks while my Magnet DSL was setup, which is now powered by a shiny Soekris net5501. I’ve even gotten used to the challenging 5 minute commute to the office in the mornings…

I’ve slowly been working up uploading my vast collection of outstanding photos to flickr. I plan to upload them all before the end of this week, since I’m off with Ciara on a 2 week vacation, exploring New England by car and train. A Garmin GPS is on my list to acquire as I arrive, so I should have a detailed itinerary and accompanying photos after I return.

Now all I have to do is resist temptations such as Core 2 Duo Mac Mini, an iPod Touch, and of course, an EOS 40D while the US dollar is so low. *sigh*

(Nerdy) Family Reunion…

So, I’m currently on a 5 day training course in work on the Internals of BSD by none other than Kirk McKusick (one of the original 1970s BSD hackers, in case you don’t know your computer history). The course is very, verg good (imagine a CS Operating System course, merged with a hardware couse; but taught by a knowledgeable lecturer because they pioneered this stuff!!!).

I’m finding it quite amusing that many people are hearing interesting features in FreeBSD that is (finally) making them interested in playing with BSD, they all keep downloading the isos to play with on test systems or under a VM system. This made me smile while I continued to setup my new FreeBSD 6.2 server in Germany (more to follow on that), in addition to other machines, such as my FreeBSD 6.2 router at home and other random machines here and there… 🙂

This evening was particularly interesting, when I got Kirk, Eric, a few colleagues and quite a few members of “the family” (well, at least the majority of us still in Ireland – Dave, Ian, Niall, Ian and myself) together for drinks. Drinks and nerdy conversations ensued, which was definitely good fun. 🙂

Birthday Boy

Man, the last few weeks have been hectic. In my last few days in California, I managed to squeeze in a trip to Cupertino, to visit The Apple Store (for shwag) and I managed to get a quick Apple campus tour while I was there. 🙂

After arriving back from San Francisco, my jetlag was prolonged with a small case of insomnia. 🙁 At the same time, nomad was in Dublin for a few days, after I first suggested he drop by when we met at LISA in DC, last December. Hanging around with Lee, even playing tourist and doing a tour of Dublin Castle was good fun. Before Lee left, he gave a very well received talk to SAGE-IE. Just after Lee left town, an old friend of Ciara’s from Canada came to visit, so tourist activities such as attending the St Patrick’s Day Parade continued for another few days.

Last week was one long blur, predominently of work stuff. Then came the weekend, when I was expecting to have a quiet meal out with Ciara, until we arrived at Chai-Yo on Baggot St, where I found 7 friends waiting to surprise me and wish me happy birthday. It seems I underestimated the lengths and just how sneaky the female gender is…

Today is my birthday. I turned 0x18 (or 24 if you’re unable to read hexidecimal 😉 ) and I received messages from all over, including Hong Kong airport (Hi Mark!) and even a colleague in Zurich (who noticed the unsubtle, yet tasteful way one’s birthday is shown on the internal phonebook 🙂 ) People have also given me some wonderful gifts, in particular, Ciara gave me a Canon SELPHY CP510 photo printer. 🙂 Now all I have to do is continue to resist my current “lens lust” for a fast shuttered, wide angle lens.

Jaded, on the West Coast

So, I’ve been over here in San Francisco for a week and the weather is quite like being at home in Ireland – chilly gusts of wind, unpredictable rain showers, etc – the only difference is when it’s sunny, it’s slightly warmer (and by slightly I mean twice as warm).

So far, my work trip here is going well, I’ve done many things and I still have lots to do. I’ve started to feel a bit jaded in the last few days which is probably due to the combination of jetlag and work. Last weekend was spent vegetating and doing very little. I didn’t actually venture further than a few blocks from Union Square (which is a block from my hotel). This weekend, I plan on being a bit more of a tourist, probably with a trip to Alcatraz and spending some time trying to take scenic or interesting photos.

Not much else has happened during my trip. The dollar is still rediciliously valued, so shopping still feels like I’m pillaging. 🙂 US online stores are still stupid, they initially take and then ultimately refuse non US credit cards, since they’re baltently fraudulant. I guess I need to find someone to go visit a Fry’s with. The food, particularly sushi and Mexican food, as expected is fantastic, particularly compared to what’s available in Europe.

I’ve also getting annoyed with US TV networks again. I became a big fan of Studio 60 after only a few epsiodes, but it’s now been put on hiatus mid season, which is never a good thing. Maybe it’s because Amanda Peet popped last weekend, but I’m probably being too much of an optimist. It’s a shame if it doesn’t return, too many TV shows I’ve enjoyed watching – The West Wing, Alias, etc – have all ended, leaving not a huge amount on TV. Sure, CSI is entertaining, but they are formulaic.

Maybe I’ll find something else to watch, now that I’ve become a Joost beta tester. Early impressions are that Joost is quite shiny. The UI is very nice and from my initial glances, there is a lot of content available. I’m looking forward to playing with it when I’ve more time.

Pit Stop

I’m currently back in Dublin after my week in Zurich (photos will appear on Flickr soon) and 2 days in Courmayeur and Italy for free snowboarding trial (photos are up here).

Zurich was very nice, good food (particularly bread and molten cheese) and I had fun wandering around. I didn’t get much time to explore Courmayeur given the 2 days I was there and the tight schedule of activities, etc. I did enjoy the party on the Wednesday night (the majority of the photos I have) and snowboarding was good fun, even though my body promptly told me I’m not designed for winter sports.

My next trip starts the day after Valentines Day, when Ciara and I head to London Town. I’m there for work, while Ciara’s coming for pleasure. After a few days in the London office and a weekend away with Ciara in between, I’m returning home via a 2 week stop over in California, since I need to spend some time with people I’m trying to work with remotely.

Well, there’s no rest for the wicked, but at least my life is far from boring…