Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy Hacking

I haven't really talked about my physical setup yet. And it occurs to me that I should, otherwise I'll never think it through properly.

First off, there's my graphic design machine.

It's pretty much exactly what you'd expect. The whole thing is Apple standard (although I did get a Wacom tablet, and Microsoft mouse. Apple doesn't do very good pointing devices as far as I'm concerned). I used the keyboard config to change the Caps Lock key into another Ctrl, but that's it (and it's only relevant in Emacs, since OS X uses Cmd for almost every keystroke where you'd expect to be hitting Ctrl). Nothing to see here.

For travel purposes, I have an HP Mini 1035NR (Which, in spec-terms is basically a Macbook Air with a $1600 instant rebate).

(displaying a PDF of the Emacs Extensions Guide)

I ripped out Windows XP a little while ago and started running Ubuntu. It's great all-round for my purposes. Mostly, I use it to read e-books and practice with Scheme and SBCL on the subway on my way in to work. No hardware mods, although I will note that of all the netbooks I surveyed, this one had hands down the best keyboard layout, especially once I made the customary Caps-Lock/Ctrl switch (can you tell I'm an Emacs user yet?).

Lastly, my hacking machine.

Only a single monitor for now, but I'm getting a second in next week. This is the one that ended up getting that solid-state drive. I've got a Microsoft ergo-keyboard and Trackman trackball for input (although I plan to do some hacking on something a bit weirder soon. I'll let you know how it goes). It goes without saying that the Caps Lock key acts as a second Ctrl.

I've been trying to get to 70wpm lately, and the weird thing is that it seems to be easiest on the netbook. Not because of the keyboard size; it's actually a bit too cramped. Because the keys offer very little resistance, which means I get to type pretty much as fast as I can move my fingers. Given that I switch up the Caps and Ctrl keys on every keyboard I own, I figured I may as well look into a keyboard that does it for me.

Turns out us Canadians can't get it for less than $300, or a friend in a Japanese shipping company. Americans can get it for just under $80, which I would gladly pay, but no dice. Here's the thing though; I've been comparing layouts, and it turns out there's a half-way-decently priced, globally available alternative.

I've been studying the photos like some jackass off CSI: Whatever The Fuck, and I can spot exactly five differences:

  • Small arrow keys instead of the "Happy Hacking" nameplate (Though interestingly, the Happy Hacking Lite 2 has a set of arrows)
  • A row of function keys above the number line (which is nice to have, even though I very rarely use them)
  • Fn key at the bottom left instead of next to the right Shift
  • Escape key moved up in favor of Tilde
  • A Caps Lock key

Also yes, technically the apple keyboard makes you look like a fruity designer-type, while the Happy Hacking keyboard looks more like something used by manly *nix hackers with massive beards.

I'll give the thing a try, but assuming I can re-calibrate it to pretend its Cmd keys actually say Ctrl, it looks like an excellent Happy Hacking stand-in for us Canucks.

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