Stuff I remember


I had a new employee start this week. It is usually not long before I have to explain that I very strongly prefer typing on a Dvorak keyboard. Among computer programmers, it’s a little better than a 50% chance that they’ll have heard of a Dvorak layout. They’ll often say something like, “Oh, maybe I should try that.” And I give my standard response: “If you’re already competent on QWERTY, don’t bother.”

Using a non-standard keyboard layout is a pain in the ass, for one thing. Windows has, over time, improved its handling of having a user on a PC that uses a second layout. At some time in the past, each application had its own keyboard layout setting…if I had Excel and Word open at the same time, one might be QWERTY and one might be Dvorak, leading to lots of gobbledegook being typed in order to recognize I wasn’t using the keyboard setting I thought I was using. For example, right now my keyboard is set to Dvorak, if I switch my brain to QWERTY and type “Fuck you, Windows!” It looks like “Ugjt frgw <cber,o!” And vice versa, if the keyboard is set to QWERTY and my brain is set to Dvorak, the result is “Yfiv tsfw <glhs,;!”

In some Windows 10 update, this was improved to having one global keyboard layout setting within the user’s session (although there are occasional bugs where particular applications will not obey the session setting and in fact can’t be switched without closing them and re-opening them).

You can imagine this wreaks havoc on login information, which is one area where Windows has been terrible (and when typing your password, you can’t see the letters that are coming out…). For a while, Windows would only use the keyboard layout from OS install time in the login screen (always QWERTY). Then it started to recognize that some users had different layouts installed, and would only use the one last used by a user. Then it allowed it to be switched in the login screen. There have been some cases where the Dvorak layout setting, which should be specific to my user profile and should not affect other users, was in use when other users tried to log in (resulting in a few of my coworkers being locked out of conference room PCs because they had no idea to check for that).

Not to mention the difficulty of sharing keyboards. Inevitably, IT needs to come do something on your computer. Or you’re working on something with someone else, and need to share a computer. Or someone needs you to look at something or fix something on their computer.

The learning experience itself is thoroughly terrible, too. Here’s a chart that I typically draw on a whiteboard during this conversation:

You might notice the broad “canyon of unproductivity” which I fell into precipitously when I decided to learn Dvorak. I was in the floor of that canyon during finals week my first semester of college. It was super fun trying to type up my final papers with poor typing skill on two keyboards and near zero ability to switch between the two of them.

Which leads to a funny story…that was back in the days of Windows 95 or Windows 98, and alternate keyboard layout support was even poorer back then.

The lab computers on campus didn’t give users sufficient permissions to change keyboard layouts. So, I found the files that Windows used at the time to define keyboard layouts, copied my Dvorak one from my PC, renamed it to match the QWERTY one, and overwrote it. Yes, on a lab PC. So some unwitting schmuck most likely came to that PC after me, and had absolutely no idea why the letter “o” came out when they pressed the letter “s”. If you’re curious, if you think you’re typing “Why? Dear God, why?” on a QWERTY keyboard, but it’s actually a Dvorak keyboard, the result is “<dfZ E.ap Irew ,dfZ” The OS itself was unaware Dvorak was in use.

The physical markings on the keyboard itself are also interesting. When I was first learning Dvorak, I pulled up all the keys on my keyboard and rearranged them, so if I looked at my physical keyboard, I would be able to see where the keys actually were. Many keyboards are contoured into a curve which matches hand shape better than a flat layout; if you randomly move the keys around, the contour is destroyed.

This person‘s post includes a picture of the screwed up contour that results from rearranging keys to the Dvorak layout on some QWERTY keyboards

I had a friend in my dorm room and he asked if he could use my computer. I said sure. He pulled out the drawer with my keyboard in it, and just stared at the malformed and apparently random distribution of letters for about 30 seconds. Then he closed the drawer and decided he didn’t really need to use a computer after all.

At OU, I had another friend who was substantially more determined. In this case, I had already learned how to touch type so I didn’t need to destroy the keyboard contour in order to have the keys correctly labeled. He wanted to do something on my computer, but he could neither touch type nor look at the keys to find the letters he wanted to type. So he methodically pressed every key on the keyboard until he got the next letter he wanted and deleted all the characters he didn’t want, and repeated this process until he had typed out his desired text.

Years ago, I convinced my employers to buy me a hard-wired Dvorak keyboard. I thought it was brilliant. All the keys were correctly labeled for Dvorak, the contour was fine, and I could leave Windows’ default keyboard settings alone and type comfortably. This was an even worse situation: Unless I had both a physical QWERTY and Dvorak keyboard attached to the computer if anyone else was going to use it, plus I had to carry it around with me and attach it the other computers that I might want to use in meeting rooms, and god forbid if I remoted in to my desktop and changed the software setting to Dvorak and then tried to go back to the physically Dvorak keyboard which sends appropriate codes for QWERTY for the letters pretty despite their physical locations, and have a software re-interpretation as if I was typing on QWERTY keyboard to a Dvorak layout. A nightmare.

In my entire life, I have met one and only one person who also typed on a Dvorak layout as their primary layout. I have met one or two dozen people who tried it for a little while and gave up.

Posted by snaotheus, 2 comments

Coffee + Couch + Computer

It’s Saturday, I usually wake up earlier than the rest of the family; have coffee, surf the net.

This morning in my routine perusal of my ~15 “glance at this every day” websites, I found Amazon offering a deal on a book called Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb. I thought to myself, “That title and author sound familiar — I have I read something else by her?”

After reading the summary in the Wikipedia article, I realize I have in fact read that exact book. I have no idea when, except that it was long ago. I have no idea why, either.

I was tickled enough by it to actually get on here to post about it, when my WordPress admin panel notified me I had gotten a comment from someone who *gasp* wasn’t Mom or other family, which immediately evinced “This must be spam of some sort” reactions.

After suspiciously digging around a little bit, turns out it’s my German friend Robin, a programmer I met through work who is (aside from a very tall and cool human being) a great photographer who has built his own website with a gallery of his photos. It’s easier for us ignorant, unilingual Americans (or those of us who can’t read German anyway) if you use Google’s translation capabilities (most easily through the Chrome browser).

Posted by snaotheus in Stuff I remember, 1 comment

Such cute kids!

Because I’m such an awesome human and dad, I was searching today for videos of my kids crying, hopefully having a tantrum, that I could use as a background during Zoom meetings.

I found these, but I didn’t use them.

Posted by snaotheus in Family, Photo updates, Stuff I remember, 4 comments

Memories (or lack thereof)

Man, I ran across this post from 2011, and I don’t remember seeing that and I don’t remember posting about it, and if the comments didn’t reveal that it was a true story I wouldn’t have believed it myself.

Posted by snaotheus in Stuff I remember, 0 comments

Fives Of Years Ago

2014…I was 32. My back had started to degrade but wasn’t useless yet. Chilkoot was ~6mo, Chilkat nearing 3. I think I wasn’t managing a team yet, just a project. I can’t remember if I had actually resumed reading yet (this was triggered by the discovery of Kindle on the iPhone) — based on GoodReads stats, probably not. I’m sure I was tired. Probably at this phase in my life, it was more survival than anything else. I would have been a fairly experienced traveler, having visited Japan several times for several reasons and various spots around the US.

2009…I was 28. I think this was shortly before my first clearly recollectable lower back episode. This is the year KrisDi and I got married, so at this time of year, we were engaged, she was approaching end of her Master degree. We’d been in our current house for about a year — I probably still had a room where we kept all our space (we don’t have any anymore). I was a “System Engineer” writing requirements, using Quick Vision and QVPAK every day, solving and communicating about concrete problems. Kids were a theoretical notion at the time. This was probably only a couple years into serious beer interest — I was probably still searching for Lagunitas Imperial Red.

2004…I was 23. I’d been working for the Navy for less than six months. Living in California, traveling a lot. I had probably already gotten to the point where I knew more about RAM than most people who’d been working on it since I was in middle school (not to be conceited or anything, but totally likely). Still in my original apartment, living alone — not sure if I had bought any furniture or anything yet (or if my futon-mattress on the floor had started molding). I think by this time I had discovered Old Rasputin and started paying some attention to beer — associated with starting to date KrisDi, of course. She was most likely feeding me regularly. I had probably gotten my car running again and I had probably lost 30 pounds by commuting by bicycle in the meantime. I’m not sure if I’d been to Japan yet at this point. The other JPs and I had regular social events like barbecues and parties — maybe the most active and normal my social life has ever been.

1999…I was 18. I was in the middle of my first year of college, living in a dorm at NDSU (with a wrestler named Craig with whom I had absolutely nothing in common). Dating or conflicted about dating Meredith; possibly still conflicted about wanting to date Awz’s cousin. I was probably off of crutches from my 2nd knee surgery at this point. Actually, this might have been about the time that I walked a couple miles to get to PT for my knee, only to have the therapist tell me to go away because I had so taxed my knee walking out there. Of course, all my Beulah friends were still in Beulah, since this was the year I was supposed to graduate — this was before I got my scholarship at OU (or before it was effective, at least). I was hanging out with Abu, Wrong Ryan, John, Big Scary Dave, others of the same crowd. Smoking cigars from time to time. Hadn’t started to drink yet (was still zealously opposed to the idea of drinking). This was probably close to the time that Dave and I took a 12+ hour walk to Minnesota and back, bullshitting and smoking cigars. I walked a lot with my NDSU friends, and we bullshit a lot while walking. We watched horribly made horror movies (like Jason) and threw koosh balls at the TV to express amusement at their cheesiness. I listened to the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy radio show on mp3 a couple times. I was an EE student, I had probably at least learned what Matlab scripting was. Napster didn’t exist, but I was starting to build an mp3 collection by somehow discovering and downloading them directly from other people’s computers via FTP. I probably still have some of those mp3. I remember marveling at having something like 120 mp3s (currently my kids have nearly 200 on their playlist, and I have 8-9k). I was driving the 1980 Cougar XR7 (RWD v8) I’d gotten when I was 15-16. My knee was too shitty to drive a clutch — I remember helping Wrong Ryan get his stickshift truck out of a snowbank (in a parking lot), and nearly collapsing with knee pain (I was in the driver seat, he was pushing).

1994…I was 13. I was hanging out with JJ a lot, starting to discover “sexy movies” (like Johnny Be Good). I had a hernia surgery somewhere around this time, and this was about the time that I grew a foot in a year — going from one of the smallest kids and getting picked on a lot to being one of the tallest kids and being left the fuck alone. Also, my bones hurt. I remember doing stretches constantly in classes (I think I was trying to keep my muscles and tendons caught up with my skeleton). My 7th grade teacher hadn’t figured out that his pre-algebra extra credit scheme was dumb — if he followed it strictly, I would have gotten a 260% in the class. I understood it better than he did. He was more of a volleyball coach than a teacher. When I got in trouble, he wrote my older brother’s name on the board out of habit. I remember killing some kind of standardized testing that made me eligible for skipping math classes, or something similar. I think I was in track, or running long distance. I remember one particular event where somehow the coach pissed me off beyond my capacity to handle, and I ran something like 5 miles about twice as fast as everyone else while crying the whole time. I can’t remember if I was actually running hurdles at this time — I wasn’t good at it.

1989…I was 8. 2nd grade. Mrs. Swegarden was my teacher. I was learning to read. I think I was primarily hanging out with Awz at this time. There was a kid named Matthew that I hung out with — he may have moved away this year or the year before. I don’t remember what I was reading, but it was pretty simple stuff (Dick and Jane type).

1984…I was 3. I don’t remember anything for sure. We were probably in our second winter in North Dakota. I probably hadn’t met Awz yet. I have either a dream or a memory of when the house was being built — the driveway being piles of dirt, and my brother kicking me in the face and making my nose bleed.

Posted by snaotheus in Stuff I remember, 2 comments