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 epiphany 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.