Tag Archives: hacks

DIY Home Row Finger Placement Nubs for Remapped Dvorak Keyboards

Pro tip: converting your keyboard to Dvorak is awesome, but you lose the little nubs on the “J” and “F” keys that let you plant your hands by feel. I use little strips of vinyl stickers on the index-finger home keys (“U” and “H”) so I can find them by fingertip. Paper stickers will get gross pretty quickly, but the vinyl holds up pretty well. I have to replace them every 3 months or so, but that’s not too big of a deal. Finger-feel-key-finding doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in practice the difference between having and not-having nubs is enormous.

finger-nubs-laptop-wide

If you’re in an office setting and can’t find stickers, I’ve also had success with excess label-tape. The tape is too thin to feel when stuck flat to the keys, but it works nicely when folded into flaps.

finger-nubs1

Pro tip 2: if you’re in an environment where sharing keyboards is the norm (e.g. a pair-programming shop), prominently label the Dvorak keyboards. I can’t tell you how many times someone’s walked over to my machine, started typing, and gotten that “is-the-world-crazy-or-is-it-just-me?” look in their eyes before spending 5 minutes trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

tl;dr: Vinyl stickers make great home-row-key nubs on remapped keyboards. While your at it, label keyboards as Dvorak to prevent confusion.

Rat King Dongle

rat-king

Over the last year or two there’s been a preponderance of posts and even blogs (e.g. here, here, here) dedicated to nerds and the gear they carry. At their worst, this is navel-gazing and brand-bragging of the most banal sort. At its best, it can be a way to share useful hacks.

Because I get a ton of comments on it, I’d like to present my (unfortunately-named) Rat King Dongle in the spirit of the latter.

  1. USB key drive
  2. Mini DisplayPort-to-VGA
  3. Mini DisplayPort-to-DVI
  4. Mini USB-to-USB
  5. iPod cable
  6. Buckle (clips into laptop bag)

That last part is important: find a keychain or something that’ll let you clip all these cables together. I’ve got a combination of zip ties, binder clips, and the wires themselves clipped in. Optimally you want the keychain (or whatever) to clip into a bag—even if this ungodly mass of cables falls out of the bag-pocket, its still secure.

I’ve found this to be incredibly helpful in preventing me from losing dongles because they’re no longer a single Tiny Little Thing that can get lost. Even better, when people borrow a dongle, they give it back: there’s very little ambiguity about What The Hell Is This Giant Mass Of Cables And Who Does It Belong To?, unlike single dongles which are more easily misplaced. (I’ve also added a “reward if returned” label with my “jonathanpberger” email address).

tl;dr: zip-tie all your dongles together and they’ll be harder to lose.

Why I Want to Work at a Treadmill Desk

So it turns out that if you’re sedentary (read: sit at a computer for a living), exercise doesn’t mitigate the risk of heart disease. Scary! That’s why I got pretty excited when I saw the treadmill desk made by the fine folks at Instructables. It turns out that tons of people buy treadmills and never use them, so you can find them for a bargain on Craigs List. After that its just a matter of putting together a few surfaces for your keyboard and monitor, and you’re good to go.

treadmill-baby

The money shot is about 24 seconds into the video. First we see Eric working at his treadmill desk. Then the camera pans to his wife Sarah, also working at a treadmill desk. And here’s the kicker: a baby is strapped to Sarah’s back, and the baby looks wildly happy. That’s when it hit me: we spent thousands of years strapped to our mamas’ backs, walking across the savannah. Of course this makes sense. So much of modern life is about the mis-fit between the life we’re built for (hunting, gathering, fleeing saber-toothed tigers) and the life we lead (wake, shower, office, tv, bed). Treadmill desks seem like a reasonable step back towards a day-to-day routine that fits our bodies and keeps us healthy.