Fame at last!

On a whim, I submitted a t-shirt design to the inaugural (April) competition. Lo and behold, I made it into the top 20. Scores are based on votes, and I seem to have made second last position (judging by the other scores). Nevertheless, I am pleased, and am waiting for the money to roll in. That's right, I get R1 from every t-shirt sold. Hmm.. now is that R1 of each of /my/ shirts sold?

Go here to see my design.

For those who are curious, it was made in Inkscape.

Flickr Pro

I finally took the plunge and got a Flickr Pro account. It's only $25 a year, so even I can afford it. The Pro account allows you to keep more than 200 public photos, and lets you create more than 3 sets. Initially I had planned to use tags to simulate sets. The disadvantage is that then you don't get nice navigation pages. So, I forked out the cash... Have a look

It's like everyone suffers from baby duck syndrome...

I've recently been learning the Dvorak keyboard layout. The typical computer keyboard layout is the Sholes layout, named after the inventor of the typewriter. Christopher Latham Sholes. It is also known as the QWERTY layout, after the upper row) It dates back to the late 1900s when the typewriter was invented. The keyboard started of in alphabetical order. The mechanism of the typewriter was such that keys jammed very easily when typed too close in succession. To solve this problem Sholes developed a keyboard that seperated the common digraphs to avoid the jamming problem). Sholes sold the rights to his typewriter to some guy Densmore, who sold it to Remington. It went on sale in 1873 but was very awkward to use and sold only 1000/year in the USA. You couldn't even see what you were typing! The second model of the typewriter used a different mechanism which didn't suffer from the jamming problem. As it didn't need the QWERTY layout anymore, Sholes improved the keyboard layout to be more logical but by this time Remington refused to change it. The sales of the improved typewriter improved (it was now possible to see what you type) and before you knew it everyone was learning this keyboard layout that was designed to solve a problem that no longer existed. Now, consider this:

The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard Layout was created by Dr. August Dvorak, an educational psychologist and Professor of Education at the University of Washington in Seattle. It's design was based on research of language (digraphs, letter frequency etc) and actual typing practices. The basic argument is: the less your fingers move, the better. The rest position of your fingers is called the home row (that's the row ASDF... on a QWERTY keyboard) With Dvorak 70% of keystrokes are on the home row, while in QWERTY it is only 30% . The Dvorak home row contains all the vowels and most commonly used consonents. The top row (which is easier to reach than the bottom row) contains the next most common letters, and finally the bottom row contains the obscure letters like v q x and z, among others. Dvorak also took into account other things to optimise the layout, and research found that typing speed and accuracy is improved, and that it is easier to learn than QWERTY. So, the Dvorak keyboard is more suited for typing than the QWERTY layout. Detailed arguments in favour of Dvorak can be found here.

So, I'm a pretty good QWERTY touch typist - I pretty much don't need to look at the keyboard, and I type with all my fingers. Naturally I'm curious to find out how Dvorak can be better, and I started learning it with the aid of an online typing tutor. Incidentally, all popular operating systems support Dvorak layout for many years now. Getting to the point of my tale...

I was trying to explain to some colleagues of mine that I'm learning Dvorak, and all I got back from them were comments to the effect that I should "get a life". Which naturally made me sit back and ponder... what's happened that people so easily laugh off an attempt at original, logical thinking and improvement of an activity that millions of people spend hours on each day, to the detriment of their health (and sanity?) Why do we not teach Dvorak at schools? Why do keyboards still get sold with QWERTY on them? It's been more than 70 years since its development, and there have been Dvorak-like layouts designed using the same principles for most languages (changing the language affects the letter frequency, of course). Is it just a matter of "don't fix what ain't (perceived to be) broken"? If that's the case, why should we keep on developing better ways of doing anything else? It also makes me think about Esperanto, which has offered a viable solution to a widely recognised problem - that of neutral inter-national understanding for the sake of, at the least, economics - for more than 120 years.

What kind of effort will it take to change mindsets about pollution and global warming when people can't things evaluate for themselves and see the benefit of changing the tools they use and the way they do things every so often? Smells like baby duck syndrome to me...

Recent happenings

I haven't posted to LJ for quite some time and I apologise to my loyal fans. My last post was about tea... not exactly "gripping stuff", yet apparently interesting enough to draw comments. The post before that was about the antipation about the Durban 27Dinner. That was a blast and inspired me to write this on my Drupal-based blog. I hope to see some Durban LJers at the next 27Dinner, in September. Maybe we'll get to have that coffee yet, MageP? ;-) The week of the Dinner was quite hectic with orchestra rehearsals taking up a lot of my time. We pulled off a successful concert at local girls' school and we've just started rehearsing new repertoire which will probably include Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony (1st mov) and hopefully Night on Bare Mountain.

Other than that, things are quietening down. I decided to make this public holiday (9th Aug, National Women's Day in South Africa) into a long weekend by putting in leave for tomorrow. I wasn't as opportunistic during April and ended up being one of the few people in my section of the department. Today's public holiday was taken up largely by a wind band rehearsal, and tomorrow I'm running some errands and going to a wind band concert in Pietermaritzburg, so my "long weekend" is a bit stuffed anyhow :-/

After rehearsal today I had coffee with $tubaplayer at the Royal Hotel coffee shop. I had gone there on a whim with another friend this past Sunday and quite liked it. The prices are reasonable for such an establishment - about comparable to Mugg & Bean in fact - and I just liked the look of it. They even offer sugar cubes! (see picture below) The fancy coffees go for about R11, and the meals at R30-R40. If you think that's too steep, you can get exactly the same coffee from the take away place in the hotel foyer for about half the price... The experience is not quite the same though - if you're in the vicinity you should go give it a try.

Originally uploaded by voyager42


Durban 27dinner

I was bored, so I went to amatomu. There I noticed Durbzblog, by Marc. The posts about Mauritius caught my eye, and I started to read further, and doing so I found a link to Marc's Facebook. Amongst the wall posts I noticed Dave Duarte (whom I've run into a few times on the interwebs), asking Marc for help organising a 27dinner in Durban. "27dinner? Durban? What is that about again", I asked myself, and went to the 27dinner wiki to refresh my memory.

27 is a get together, held on the 27th day of each month for geeks, marketers, entrepreneurs, writers, media practitioners, speakers - well, just about anybody who is keen - to share ideas and news and opinions over food and drink.

The date for Durban is posted as 27th July 2007. Less than two months away!

The details are still sketchy, but I suppose things will start heating up soon... I assume the wiki doesn't lie and that something is indeed planned for Durbz, so start clearing your geeky calender for the biggest geek event since BarCampDurban 2006.