zany new keyboard dingus

TouchStream LP keyboard

This seems kind of interesting: the whole surface of the keyboard is a flat touchpad, basically, so there are all kinds of gesture-based macros. E.g., you hold down "shift" by pressing with 4 fingers of either hand, so you don't have to actually reach for the shift key. And you can do things like "increase font size" in your browser by pressing and spreading your fingers. So it's like a combination of of Palm Graffiti and a keyboard. And you don't have to move your fingers off the "keys" to move the mouse.

I can't imagine trying to touch-type on it, though, without any tactile response: it seems like you'd be positioned on the wrong keys all the time, with no key-edges to feel.

Brad just gone one, and he likes it.

I'm still pretty happy with my chair-mount Kinesis Evolution keyboard; it's around four years old now, and starting to show it, but it's held up longer than most keyboards I've used, I suppose. I still wish it had a trackpoint instead of a trackpad, though (I use a normal desktop mouse with it, since I dislike trackpads so much.)

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18 Responses:

  1. injector says:

    Isn't that keyboard one BIG track pad?

  2. mhagler says:

    I've had one of Fingerworks iGesture Pads for a while and it's pretty cool when you get the hang of it. You can open and close files by twisting your fingers on the pad like you were opening a jar, kind of.

  3. _haywire_ says:

    Hi. I asked you something silly once.

  4. transiit says:

    Doesn't seem like it carries much weight on the ergonomic front. Still the traditional flat surface with all the possible pitfalls. Maybe different, as you'd probably spend more time extending fingers rather than lifting. Sounds more like a "fixes one RSI-prone movement by substituting it with another"

    I'm with you on the trackpoint (aka the virtual nipple) thing. The trackpad has become horrendously prevalent on all laptops and I just can't use the things. The problem is a mix of hitting the thing with a thumb while typing and sloppy focus.

    Last time my wrists were starting to show signs of blowing out, I picked up a couple of the recycled-silicone-implant style wrist pads. Seemed to do the trick, so as long as I stay thoroughly paranoid about them blowing out, perhaps I can keep them in decent shape while I trade in the rest of my youth.

  5. rjray says:

    I think I'd be more likely to get one if (a) you could completely switch keyboard layouts (that is, the visual key layout were projected, like a touch-screen, rather than etched on the underside of the plastic sheet), and (b) you had more control over the configuration of the gestures. Maybe my Emacs usage isn't the same as jwz's, I might want to re-map some of the shorter, easier gestures to other commands.

    Plus the price is a little off-putting. The closest of the resellers to me is the one in San Leandro, and I don't relish going there during business hours.

  6. forthdude says:

    I'm very tempted to get the one they make for the PowerBook. I just have to figure out out how to justify the cost.

    They also have an interesting set of emacs gestures.

  7. jcurious says:

    One problem I have with most split keyboards... is the "y" key... for some reason when I learned to touchtype I use my left hand to type the "y", and as far as I can tell you can't "fix" this bug in hardware with most of these keyboards... intrestingly enough, if you look at the microsoft split keyboard the "t" key has an extended flatplace where a "y" key would fit...

    am I the only one with this bug?

    • jwz says:

      I had that problem too, but I got over it in like, a day.

      The kbd I have does have a "6" key on both sides, though. So I guess that was more controversial.

  8. nerpdawg says:

    I had a trackpoint at work, but unless you're gentler with it than i am, you'll be getting it fixed every 8-10 months.

  9. king_mob says:

    Every once in a while I type C-x C-f and think to myself, "Gee, this was considered a labor-saving shortcut in 1976. I don't drive a Pinto, so why is this still a good idea?"

    At work we use Remedy to track tickets and Eudora with a bunch of preset stationeries to respond to common email queries. A couple of years ago, someone there got a Microsoft Strategic Commander(probably to play Starcraft with) and figured out that all it was doing was mapping keyboard shortcuts; why not use it outside the game? He set up macros for the keyboard shortcuts he used most often, and his productivity skyrocketed.

    Since my boss is actually quite bright, now we all have them. Highlight, left index finger, left middle finger, left ring finger; I just set someone's email forwarding. Highlight, left middle finger, left middle finger + thumb; I just sent them email telling them about it. Typing something fifteen times a night? Thumb the record key, select a button, and type it for the last time in your life. You've got 72 shortcuts available, although really only 24 are convenient at any given time. Within seconds of getting mine I was thinking how to set up the gdb-mode shortcuts. Spend hours debugging and never touch the keyboard! An additional side benefit is that your hands spend most of your shift in the approximate positions that a Kinesis keyboard would force on you; so if there are ergonomic benefits to that relaxed, hands-to-your-sides posture, then you still get them this way.

    And so naturally it's going away! Yes, one of the few genuinely innovative things Microsoft's ever done, and they couldn't figure out how to market it properly. To look at the ad copy that comes with the device, you'd think all it was good for was real-time strategy games like Age of Empires and the aforementioned Starcraft; those aren't even the only games it's good for, let alone the other applications, but you'd never know it to listen to Microsoft.

    At home I use a cheap knockoff, the Saitek Action Pad, which is not as cool. I may replace it, but I'm not made of money. Although it is better-engineered in one significant way; the Microsoft pad has a a tendency to slip around on your desk, and the Saitek one never does. So of course it's been discontinued too...

    I don't see Linux drivers for either pad in the course of some brief Googling, but I think it's just a matter of pretending it's a USB keyboard and setting it up that way.

    • belgand says:

      I bought one last summer off of eBay for about $10. Oh, and the slippage problem can be easily corrected by placing a strip of duct tape the length of the controller and simply taping it to your desk. Not reccomended for all desks, but it does work suprisingly well.

  10. jered says:

    I borrowed one of these from a friend who bought one. I tried to use it for a few weeks, and then gave up. Perhaps I'm just weak; I didn't have the time to say "I'm only using this device for data entry" and so I didn't use it enough.

    The main problem I had was the complete lack of positional feelback. The lack of any force feedback was troubling, but the biggest problem I had is that I keep myself alligned by the fact that my fingers are touching physical keys. I type without looking at the keyboard, and I have a 'home row' of sorts, but I do not do proper touch-typing. I know how to type because I've been doing it since I was five years old.

    I really love the gesture concept, but I think that I'm too much in the spirit of getting things done with the tools that work instead of trying to look like I belong in the next sequel to "The Matrix".

  11. klausboop says:

    Touch-typing on it seems like it would be like touch typing on a Timex/Sinclair 1000 (which was a bitch...I learned to hunt and peck like a mofo on that thing)

  12. ruda says:

    Bad designed keyboard, there is a CAPSLOCK key!

  13. stonemonkey says:

    Since an alternative input device was mentioned....The twiddler is something I own. I have not used it in a while (which probably speaks volumes), but it is a cool device none the less. You chord (press multiple buttons at the same time) to enter key(s). Highly customizable. One-handed (which has it's uses). Url:

    • jwz says:

      I bought one of those -- I tried to use it for all of two minutes, and it drove me crazy. Haven't touched it since.