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Should I buy this product?

Posted: 17 Aug 2005, 16:28
by rolfwind
Background: I'm a programmer, a couple of years ago in college, I felt pain in my wrist from typing at the end of the day every day one semester. I read about RSI and immediately switched to the Dvorak layout - you know - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This layout works fine for me except with programming...... the symbols simply weren't factored with Dvoraks excellent design - too far away. I hate moving my hands away from the keyboard - for the mouse or to look for the symbols, numpad, up/down arrows, or the insert, home, pgup/down, delete, end, or anything really.

I tested my typing speed and it's about 50wpm, that includes backspacing and correcting errors - which only increase with speed and make me reach for the backspace more often. But in view of my work, I've come to the conclusion that words per minute simply isn't that important over a certain amount - I'm not a secretary nor do I think that fast. Like in literature - less is more - what should be written is quality, not quanity. I just want to move my hands less. Also, as I'm getting into emacs - I notice that I want to NOT TO HAVE TO REMEMBER arcane CTRL-X-Y commands anymore nor lift my hands into the painful positions to enact them (emacs was not made for non-Qwerty users, the commands are everywhere.) I even hate CTRL-C or CTRL-V to copy and paste in the meantime.

I've been looking around and the only two products seem to be revolutionary enough to warrant attention - Datahands and the Touchstream. All the others seem contoured evolutionary designs.

Dataworks ProII also has macros but is expensive and it seems that the built in mouse is less than satisfactory - basically you have to use a regular mouse - more movement. Also, they milk more money out of you by charging $100+ for a simple firmware upgrade to use Dvorak and also the connectors are old serial/ps2 where you have to get expensive adapters for $80 if you want to connect using USB. It's less about the money, but these two things just irk me, especially as the adapters suggest the product isn't being updated for new advancements and has been basically the same since it came out in the mid-nineties.

On the plus side, it has tactile feedback which can be a HUGE factor. And the macros. and the fact you hardly have to move you hands when typing.

The touchstream, I have a few questions about:

1) Does it work as well under linux as under Windows? Meaning by this, not just the keyboard function and built in commands, but will I be able to make my own macros? How does this function - with a program or through an HTML generated page by the keyboard, etcetera? Will I be able to add Alt-Tab and such cominations?

Do programmed in macros get stored in the keyboard or the computer? If I switch computers, will I have to set up everything again?

2)How is programming on this thing - is it easier?

3)The keyboard and the underlying platform look flimsy from pictures. Is this so?

4)Touch typing, I care not so much for the speed, but for accuracy. Does a lot of bad input happen, like with trackpads that support gestures. I find with them that random things happen (accidental input). The same here? Also, does accuracy increase or will I find myself hitting the backspace often six months from now?

5)Do you ever miss your mouse or is the mouse in this thing good enough? I don't like trackpad mice too much.......

6)This isn't really related to this product - have any of you heard of neo keyboard layout? Or de_ergo, or meier or Ristome? I thinking of switching to one of these but want to know if it's worth it. I'm comfortable with dvorak except for the programming symbols.

I would be particularly interested in hearing from programmers, linux users, or fellow emac users.

I'll be reading the forum in the meantime.



Posted: 17 Aug 2005, 16:59
by Shawn_Milo
First off, Fingerworks went out of business, so the only way you'll probably get one of these babies is through Ebay for about $150 over retail, maybe higher. Sorry. :(
To answer your other questions:

The gestures/macros can be edited through a Java interface which is available for Linux, Mac, and Windows. The changes are stored directly on the keyboard and to an XML file on your hard drive. So you can pick up the keyboard and take it to any other computer without reprogramming, but you can also back up different revisions of your layout in XML.

Yes, it does everything in Linux that it does on the Mac or in Windows.

The keyboard and the platform are definitely not flimsy. The weakest point is the ribbon cable connecting the two halves, but problems with that are rare judging by the posts I've read in the forums.

Your mileage will vary on the typos. If you don't care about speed, and you learn to relax and keep a consistant hand position, you should be okay. Because the keys are merely artwork and nothing physical, your typos will come from a drifting hand position and reaching for rarely-used keys and mis-judging the distance.

I haven't gone back to a mouse, and don't miss a damn thing. Being able to double-click, right-click, cut, copy and paste with my fingertips is a major upgrade.

Hope this helps.

Milo :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry:

Posted: 17 Aug 2005, 17:09
by Rqyteqto
Welcome rolfwind,

Let's see,

1 - Works under almost anything, but I am not conversant with anything other than Windows. There is an excellent program for changing layouts, creating macros, creating gestures, etc. Not sure about where the results are stored, I think in the board, but could be wrong, in any case, the configurations are easily transferred so, no, you would not have to go through the whole config routine with each computer, just copy the config file over.

2 - Fairly easy, but it depends on your level of knowledge. For the most part, its point and shoot. You select from a list or enter via keyboard what you want for each element of a combination or pick graphically.

3 - The board is reasonably stable, not flimsy at all, with the exception of the cable connections. Those are highly vulnerable. The stand is pretty much indestructable. Not sure how big a car you could drive over it but in the end it doesn't really matter as its not absolutely essential and could be replaced without too much bother.

4 - There is some with typing, but there is also an error correction program you can turn on or off. Its pretty helpful and also learns. The lack of tactile response steepens the learning curve and its steep to begin with, very steep. Gestures seem much better. I've yet to have a gesture go wrong, but typing is still a bit of a bugger after 8 months. 'n's are particularly difficult for me.

5 - No way, not in the least. The mousing on this is fantastic, but that is a personal subjective thing. I've never used mouses much and worked with touchpads exclusively on notebooks for over 10 years so it was a natural for me.

6 - No comment.

However, in the end, your biggest challenge may well be just getting one. The manufacturer has gone out of business and the boards are not being produced any longer. As best as anyone knows, there's no retail stock anywhere. Prices on EBay are running aout $500 to $650. There's also the issue of zero support and there will be no future upgrades to the software, firmware or drivers.

I will say, this is one of the best things I've ever purchased in my life. I can not imagine going back to a regular keyboard and mouse though its highly probable I will have to eventually. Hopefully my board will last a very long time.

Posted: 17 Aug 2005, 17:10
by rolfwind
First, thank you guys - you were really really helpful, all three of you:)
Shawn_Milo wrote:First off, Fingerworks went out of business, so the only way you'll probably get one of these babies is through Ebay for about $150 over retail, maybe higher. Sorry. :(
You know, I went to their site a few times and never noticed this announcement on top! :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:

It seems to be such a potentially good product too - DAMN IT!!! Anything else out there that compares to this? Otherwise I'll keep looking around - but for a Dvorak version.

Edit: Had to thank Rqyteqto for her response too, we posted at nearly the same time.

Posted: 17 Aug 2005, 21:29
by Rqyteqto
You're welcome, though I be a he not a her, the nick is semi-phonic for my work.

There's no question FingerWorks leaving the scene and the loss of retail availability is a disaster. The Multi-Touch system is an unbelievable technical coup, both as hardware and software. I just hope its not gone for good simply so somebody else's lesser product doesn't have competition. The only bright glimmering is there's indication the purchase price for the patents was substantial, see the latest News about FingerWorks thread. So whomever was at least somewhat serious and Elias and Westerman seem to have made out well.

Just wish I had bought a dozen last fall when I could have.