Truly Ergonomic - full review

I've been meaning to write this post for a long time. But now it's finally here.

Meanwhile I've been using the Truly Ergonomic computer keyboard (short TECK) for about 4 months now. Let me go over the features.

Key placement

At Truly Ergonomic, they call it Columnar Key placement. Basically, this means the keys are placed in non-staggered columns. In theory, your fingers have to travel less far to reach keys that are not on the home row.

Truly Ergonomic key placements

In other reviews I've read this key placement has a steep learning curve, but I did not expect this layout would be a big issue.

I was wrong...

The first week I did type lots of errors. I really had to learn to touch type over again (my colleagues laughed at me). But I took advantage of this, because before I nearly ever used my pinkies while touch typing. So while learning to type on the TECK I tuned my touch typing skills. Now I type fast on the TECK, even faster than before and with less errors.

Only so far I didn't get used to the position of the number keys. It feels like they are farther away than on a regular keyboard. But this just might a feeling because I often use the keypad or remove my hand from the home row when typing numbers on a regular keyboard.

Split halfs

This is one of the main reasons why I bought the TECK. To get a more ergonomic keyboard.

And, it helps.... It doesn't look like the angle between the two halfs is large, but I think it is good enough to have ergonomic benefit.

Mechanical keys

My TECK is equiped with the Cherry MX Brown switches. And I love them. They are really comfortable to type on. They do not require much force and really give a tactile response, without being too clicky. After using mechanical keys for some time, you really hate typing on those cheap rubber dome keyboards.

Missing & double keypresses

But when it comes to the Truly Ergonomic keyboard, these mechanical keys have a downside. They can suffer from contact bouncing. This means in some cases a key press is not registered or registered double.

In the first two months I had many keys suffering from this issue. I can tell you, this really frustrating! So much that if the thing did not cost a few hundred dollar, I think at some point I would have thrown it through the window.

After a the first week I was really sure there was something wrong with the keyboard, so I contacted Truly Ergonomic. Also I did browse the web to find people with the same problem and all I could find was 1 topic on geekhack. Some people reported the problem did disappear after some time. So I decided to keep using it, hoping the problem would dissappear. Meanwhile days passed by. Some days all keys were working good, other days the TECK was a b*tch to work with. After two weeks without response from Truly Ergonomic I decided to send another email. This time with a bit more pressure, while still being polite.

Another two weeks later, still no response. In that time, the problem was almost gone. But I still wanted response from them, so I mailed again. This time I was not that polite. I did explain I like the keyboard layout and the mechanical keys, but double/missing keypresses were just unacceptable for a keyboard in this price range. I really did put them under pressure by demanding a return and refund, without me paying the shipping costs. Surprisingly, putting them under pressure worked. A few days later I did receive a response.

Basically, they told me, a break-in of mechanical keyboard keys is not uncommon. Which in mean time did figure out myself. And, of course, they pointed me to the Terms & Conditions telling me the shipping costs would be at my expense. Eventually they also published the issue on their Troubleshooting page.

After 4 months of every day use, I wish I could say all problems are gone. But still very rarely the Left Space is missing keypresses. And when it does, the problem persist for a while (an hour or so).

I am still mailing the manufacturer about this issue.

Compactness

The keyboard is really compact. And that is awesome.

Truly Ergonomic MS Natural 4000 Comparison

Symmetric layout

All modifier keys are placed symmetrically. So the Ctrl, Alt & Shift are placed on the same position on both sides. This makes it really easy to use your opposite hand to press a modifier keys, e.g. Right Ctrl + C, Left Shift + U This has a large ergonomic advantage. You never have to reach for keys when having your pinky placed on a modifier key.

Tab, Backspace & ENTER

It took me some time to learn their location, but you'll get used to it. Too bad the Backspace is placed right above the ENTER, because you can accidentally press ENTER, while you wanted to erase text. Which can be a problem inside a chat window.

Shift & Ctrl

I do not really like the default placement of all keys. By default the Shift is located at the home row and Ctrl below it. I've tried this for a short time, but I did not like it for two reasons: - On a regular keyboard Shift is placed below the home row. - On a regular keyboard I did remap Ctrl to Caps Lock (above Shift) So for me it makes more sense to swap Ctrl & Shift. Luckely for me, Truly Ergonomic provides a firmware version with these to keys swapped. Also the keycaps are easily swapped, because their shape is the same.

Alt

The position of the Alt is something I was afraid for. The default location is all the way at the bottom corners. For an emacs user this is a disaster. So people suggested me to remap the left Space to Alt. This places Alt at a similar location as on a regular keyboard. Unfortunately this means Alt is only on the left side of the keyboard and SPACE is only at the right side of the keyboard

In the beginning it was hard to type SPACE with the right hand (only). Until now I still use this placement.

But I am thinking about remapping the middle Delete key to Alt (maybe more on that in a next post).

Truly Ergonomic Key locations

To change the keymapping, I used KeyTweak on Windows.

Mac

I work on 3 different operating systems: Mac (at home), Windows and Linux (at work). I'm already used to switching, and I like the Ctrl on the same location for all systems. Because of that, when working with the TECK on Mac I do not set toggle DIP switch #2. But this means the SuperKey, at the center of the keyboard, is the only ⌘ key. This key is located between the 5 and 6. And this does not feel right.

So I've used KeyRemap4MacBook to remap the Left Space to ⌘. Again this gives a very similar feel as regular keyboard. Because I use the ⌘ as Meta key in Emacs, this makes switching systems even easier.

Overall

I like the TECK, a lot. I've been looking on the internet for lot of other keyboards. And in my opinion the TECK is the best on the market (in its price range). Too bad I've had trouble with missing/double keypresses.

Advice

Do I recommend the TECK? Actually, I do!

The layout is really great, also is the quality of the mechanical keys. The only big downside, Truly Ergonomic sucks at support. And to be honest, this also might be a showstopper for me. On the other hand, I am also considering to buy a second one for use at home.

Alternative

So far I did not test many keyboards. But if I had to recommend one keyboard different from the TECK, it would be the Kinesis Freestyle 2. With the two separate halfs you can use place them similar to the TECK, which is a big ergonomic improvement. Also the keys are good, although not as good at the TECK. You can buy it at backshop.nl.

One other keyboard which has gained a lot of my interest lately is the ErgoDox. Soon it will be available on Massdrop (you need to register first).

Final note

I wrote this post on my Apple keyboard, and now my left pinky hurts.


First days with the Truly Ergonomic keyboard

First feel

Yesterday I received my Truly Ergonomic keyboard. At first, it feels really awkward. It's like I have to learn how to type all over again. I am constantly looking at the keyboard to locate the keys.

Ctrl & Shift

I am a heavy emacs user, so I constantly use Ctrl. Therefore I had Caps Lock remapped to Ctrl. But now with the Truly Ergonomic it feels like the Ctrl & Shift are swapped. So I started to wonder "How to remap keys?". Fortunately Truly Ergonomic provides an official firmware that will swap these keys.

Alt/Meta

This is something I was afraid for. The default location of Alt is all the way at the bottom corners. For an emacs user this is a disaster. So people suggested me to remap the left Space to Alt, and I've tried this for a while (in a later post I'll share how). Result: Alt is easily accessible, but I can no longer type a Space with my left hand. And it will be hard to lose of this habit…

Mac

I work on 3 different operating systems: Mac (at home), Windows and Linux (at work). Meanwhile I'm already used to switching, so I like the Ctrl on the same location for all systems. That's why I didn't set toggle DIP switch #2. But this means the SuperKey, at the center of the keyboard, is the only ⌘ key. This key is located between the 5 and 6. And this does not feel right. But I'm not sure yet how to fix this problem?

Tab, Backspace & ENTER

It would take so me time to learn their location, but I'm pretty sure I'll get used to these quickly.

Key arrangement

It also will require some practice, more than expected. I've noticed it is important to use the correct finger for each key (so I'll have to use my pinkies). But I'm sure it will pay of at the end.

Mechanical keys

The keys are great! The required pressure is good and the sound they make is gentle but provides a decent feedback.

Overall

I try to use my keyboard for everything, but at the moment I'm grabbing my mouse faster than before. I hope that feeling changes soon...


My cellphone history

Just wanted to draw a history on the mobile phones I've used in my life.

Nokia 3310 (end 2000 till 2001)

Nokia 3310

Yes, I bought one of the 126 million Nokia 3310 phones sold (which makes it one of the best sold ever). In the early days of the release of the phone Nokia couldn't keep up the production with the request. But I managed to get one of the first.

It was my first mobile device, in my eyes it was awesome. Maybe the most awesome about the phone was "Snake II".

I don't know where this phone is now, I think I donated to family or a friend when I bought my second phone.

Nokia 5510 (2001 till 2004)

Nokia 5510

I spend almost all my savings on this phone (I remember it costed about 15000 BEF, which is approximately 375 EUR). And this phone just had it all: - A complete QWERTY keyboard - A music player with 64 MB storage

If I think of it, it is ugly as hell and it's also huge to carry in your pocket. But I thought it was great. I loved typing on the complete keyboard.

I still have this phone and still works.

Nokia 6820 (2004 till 2006)

Nokia 6820

Best phone I've had so far. Really look at it, the design is clever. You get a phone with complete keyboard without any other downside. You might think the mechanism is quite fragile, but it is rock solid.

I've installed quite some applications on this phone, because in those days Symbian/Java apps were hot, so there was a good selection available.

This phone died on me. The repair would cost about 150 EUR, which was too much for me back then, so I never got it fixed. I still regret it.

Siemens CF62 (a few months in 2006)

Siemens CF62

Now a time of mobile phone identity crisis started. As a student I didn't have much money to buy a fancy phone so I got this cast-off from my brother.

This was really a horrible device. Slow, lots of bugs, bad battery life, ... Never used a Siemens since then.

Motorola Razr V3 (a few months in 2006)

Motorola Razr V3

This phone was hot in those days. With lots of advertising it should start the Motorola empire in Europa. But it didn't. Sure the design was nice, but I didn't like using it. Probably that is why it also was I cast-off of my brother. Although it had that catchy 'Hello Moto' ringtone.

I still have this phone, but don't know if it is working.

Nokia 1600 (end 2006 till 2007)

Nokia 1600

A dead simple phone, and cheap. That is the reason I bought it. As you can read from this post, I was satisfied from Nokia, so I went back to it. The best thing about it, it was cheap (again). So I didn't have to take real care of it. If it fell on the floor, no problem...

This phone is still in my drawer and I use it once in a while when I need a phone that doesn't require gentle handling.

Nokia E71 (2007 till present)

Nokia E71

Again I saved some money and bought me a decent phone. I looks like a Blackberry, but still is a Nokia (my favorite brand so far). It does what it should, without any extra. So I cannot conclude this phone is great.

I think what I hate most about it is the bad camera. This is a common weakness of Nokia phones (especially the business types).

What's next?

I'm not planning to buy a new phone, but if I will I don't know what I will buy:

Nokia

I doubt it. Nokia just can't keep up with the competition. The touch is quite unresponsive (compared to other brands) and the selection of apps is poor. Although there is one change: If they make a new version of the 6820, I really would consider buying it.

Android

Some colleagues of my are really satisfied with there Android phones. And I like the openness of Android. But I've heard better not to buy a Samsung, because they add a lot of junk to the Android OS.

iPhone

Well, you know, iPhone. Do I need to say more?

Conclusion

I think it is clear from this post, I really like a mobile device with a complete keyboard. So they might influence the choice of my next phone.

One thing I think is funny. When I bought the Nokia 5510 people laughed at me because I bought such a huge device. But nowadays most people want the complete keyboard. So he who laughs last, ...

P.S.: I think I need to do some more research on the dates, but there about right (I guess).


Searchbar in Firefox

Introduction

One of the hot topics of the last years is usability. Consistency can help improving the usability, but I think Firefox 3 fails in consistency when you use the searchbar on three different operation systems: Linux, Windows and Mac OSX.

Example 1: Windows

On Windows shows the searchbar like this:

Firefox searchbox Windows Vista

I really like this layout. You can argue about the position of the buttons: "Next" on the right seems to make more sense, while "Next" on the left will make it easier to push it.

Example 2: Linux

Next image shows how the searchbar looks on Linux (OpenSUSE 11 with KDE3 in my case).

Firefox searchbox Linux (OpenSUSE 11 KDE3)

This layout is quite good. The icons are really clear what the buttons do and the position of the buttons makes sense.

Example 3: Mac OSX

On Mac OSX 10.5 the seachbar looks like this:

Firefox searchbox on Mac OSX 10.5

In my opinion, this layout stinks. The position of the buttons is incorrect, because the button shape makes the "Previous" button look like "Next" and vice versa.

Conclusion

I know there are limit on these different OS's about what you can do with the default UI elements (for example on Mac OSX). But I think the people at Mozilla should try harder to make the user clear what the buttons do and at least change which the position of the two buttons.


Install git on a shared webhost

Introduction

Recently I ran into an article about using git to upload your site (see links at the bottom how to). But off course, this requires to have git installed on your hosting. My host (via TurtleHost.be) does not have it. So I was thinking, why not install it myself. Idea sounded more simple than doing it... .

Requirements

Finding git

Before we can download git, we need to know which Linux distribution your server is using. This is required so the git executable will be able to use the correct libraries. To find out which kernel your server is running, log in to your server via ssh and type the command:

cat /etc/*-release

On my server this returned CentOS release 5.3 (Final). Next thing we need to know if your server is running 32bit or 64bit. This we can verify with the command:

uname -p

x86_64 indicates the server has 64bit kernel running. i386/i486/i586/i686 means it is a 32bit kernel.

Downloading git

Next we need to download git from somewhere. Probably you can find it by searching it on a RPM repository. I found one on rpm.pbone.net. This site has a great search engine where you can find git version for your server distro. After finding a download link, again log in to your server via ssh and type the following commands:

mkdir ~/git-download
cd ~/git-download
wget ftp://the.download.link/of/repo/containing/git-1.6.x.x.rpm

Now you have the .rpm on your server.

Installing git

This rpm needs to be installed, but you won't be able to use the regular rpm installer because this requires root access. You can extract the rpm file with the command:

rpm2cpio git-1.6.x.x.rpm | cpio -imdv

This will create a usr/ directory in currect directory. You best move this directory to your home root:

mv usr ~/usr

Now we are almost there, we only need to add the directory to $PATH variable. Doing this will make it possible to execute the command git from anywhere. Open your ~/.bashrc file with your favorite editor (vim or pico) and add the following line:

export PATH=$PATH:$HOME/usr/bin:$HOME/usr/libexec/git-core

And that's it. To activate this change, run source ~/.bashrc or log out and in again.

Note

You can use git just by typing the git command. But git init might give a warning:

warning: templates not found /usr/share/git-core/templates

To avoid this warning I've added an alias to ~/.bashrc:

alias git-init='git init --template=$HOME/usr/share/git-core/templates'

This git-init command is an alternative to git init and will take the correct path for templates.

Possible problems

One problem caused me a headache when using git to upload my site was het error:

git: 'index-pack' is not a git-command.

The reason for this problem was that $HOME/usr/libexec/git-core was not added to the $PATH variable.

Further reading

So now you have git up and running on your server and you can use it to upload your site. Read about it:


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