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Entries tagged 'cat:Keyboards'

Phones people say don't exist but they do

Some people say things like: Phones should have bigger batteries, I don't care how thick it is. Or: Why aren't there any smartphones with screens smaller than 5 inches anymore? Or: There used to be a wider variety of phones; I'm missing keyboard phones/rugged phones/phones without a bunch of bloatware/etc. I think it is a very small group of people who feel like this strongly enough to say it. But I keep stumbling over such comments and I notice them because I have sometimes felt the same. And there's some truth about some of it. The most popular phones are all large and thin with privacy-invading bloatware that you can't uninstall and often with other malware pre-installed. They don't have keys on the front and you can't simply switch out the battery. But there is a bigger variaty of phones than there has ever bean. If you're missing a certain feature in your phone and can't find one that has it, you probably haven't looked far or long enough. I'd just like to mention a few manufacturers of not entirely mainstream phones and then maybe I'll make individual entries about some of them later with more information.

Keyboard phones

Notable options are:

F(x)tec: Flips open, keyboard in the style of late Nokia keyboard smartphones, best for thumb-typing, currently the first version is only available used and the newer version is currently shipping to Indiegogo backers. So it should be available without a long wait from the web shop soon.

Planet Computers: Different variants available, older ones are clam-shell, the latest is trying a new mechanism that leaves the touchscreen on the outside and usable when the physical keyboard is closed. Keyboard in Psion Series 5 style, best for table typing.

Unihertz: Clones of late Blackberry keyboard phones, screen above keyboard, for thumb-typing.

A used phone. Because you can still get a blackberry if you like. A few weeks or months from now you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between you almost new one and a refurbished one anyway. It's cheaper, you have more devices to choose from and it's better for the environment (whatever your definition of that may be). Did I miss or forget an option?

Phones with small screens

Uniherts also has started to fill this gap. Or you can get an older phone, maybe a used one. A few weeks or months from now you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between you almost new one and a refurbished one anyway. It's cheaper, you have more devices to choose from and it's better for the environment (whatever your definition of that may be). Did I miss or forget an option?

Phones with large batteries

If that's your one important requirement, you have many cheap phones that claim to have batteries with around 10 Ah (yes, 10.000 mAh if you prefer to see read more zeros) to choose from. Some manufacturers that I don't know anything about are: Yess, Gionee, Blackview, Ulefone. Ulefone seems to have several current models to choose from and I know somebody who is happy with theirs, whatever that tells you. I'm sure there are more brands of phones with giant batteries. But I'm personally happy with the 2 to 3 days I get out of my regular phone. I only complained about this when phones would at most last for one day without getting charged. If you're content with a battery with a capacity of around 6 or 7 Ah, you have even more to choose from and that range has actually started to enter the mainstream phone market (Huawei, Samsung, Asus, ZTE, …). You'll easily find some if you look for them. But many still don't think of searching for one. I guess this has been more of an issue 10 years ago, where phones needed more power to come through a day while at the same time no smartphones with big batteries existed. Getting an external battery that clips to the back of your phone has been more of a thing back then. That's still an option if such a product exist for your phone or you really love duct tape.

Headphone jacks, removable batteries, hardware buttons below the screen, ...

How about getting a used phone. A few weeks or months from now you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between you almost new one and a refurbished one anyway. It's cheaper, you have more devices to choose from and it's better for the environment (whatever your definition of that may be). Or at least I read that somewhere a few minutes ago. There are new phones with current hardware that haven't given up on these concepts. But none that I care to mention and the choice of phones with current hardware and easily removable batteries or hardware more than one hardware button below the screen doesn't appear to be good. Did I miss one?

But what about software? Security updates, free software, Google-less Android, privacy-respecting operating systems

Well, it would certainly make choosing and setting up a phone easier if you don't care about those things. But the FOSS community is producing images for many phones that otherwise would only run an Android built by the manufacture or carrier with all the usual insults like bloatware, pre-installed malware and other privacy-invading components. Using an older smartphone (maybe not a Nokia Communicator/Nokia 9xxx, but like maybe 10 years old) with current free software is certainly an option.

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Poly Keyboard

Here is another project idea I never really started working on: A computer keyboard that has a small LCD in each key cap. I'm convinced that there are legitimate use cases. After all, the function of the keys changes according to context. Different applications have different shortcuts, when I press and hold the Ctrl or Super key, the whole layout practically changes. Most people don't remember useful keyboard shortcuts, if they try to memorise them in the first place (if the learn about them to begin with). It would be nice to have the markings on the keys reflect their role. In some special applications, like video editing, a completely custom keyboard layout would be useful (a cheap alternative to byuing a custom video editing interface input device). In computer games, only the useful keys could light up, as well as display what they do (which depends not only on the game, your custom layout, the current situation in the game, as well as what happened earlier in the game, e.g. what items you have in your pockets). You might want to write in different languages and need different keyboard layouts at different times. You could have icons or descriptions of key functions be displayed whenever you hold a modifying key, to see which shortcuts are available. You could have a second keyboard with an additional layout to give you access to frequently used functions, and have the keys display the relative application icons or describe what they do. And it would just look cool.

The idea has been in my head for years. I even board the electronics to build a few keys to try it out. But I never build one because I think it would have been too much work on the side to get it done well, considered I come by very well without one. Now I learned that somebody else has built a keyboard very similar to what I had/have in mind. To be honest, I never really get very deep into the keyboard building community to know whether a keyboard like this already existed. I think when I had the idea I didn't even know how big the mechanical keyboard fan community is and that DIY builds are such a big thing.

The project I stumbled over is the Poly Keyboard by thpoll. Here is an article about it in the Keyboard Builder's Digest, here is the Github repo. Apparently (according too the article) it isn't the first of its kind. But it's the only one I've seen.

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I overestimate that by 2025 there will be more distinct keyboard layouts than humans.

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No smart home for me, thanks.

I don't think I'm going to set up anything that could be considered smart home tech for me. There are such fun projects in it and it would be very satisfying to be able to control some things remotely (that is, I'd decide on and be able to change the interface) but it would also be yet another never-ending project for me. I have never planned to install anything of that kind but I already have so many ideas about what I would do if I would go smart home and how I'd set things up. Let's leave it at that. I have enough too many unfinished project already.

For example I have those universal keypads that were made for numeric keypads (+ a fey extra keys) of industrial machines. I have at least a dozon of them, maybe two. They are great: Good quality in every aspect, nice hard click, sturdy, customisable (buttons can be switched out or replaced by blank covers) and a simple matrix connector. It would ne great to have one of these next to every door, in or on every table, at the bedside, and maybe one or two non-stationary ones that would control everything that could be relevant from the location of each terminal.

Every terminal would have a micro controller connected to a network. I could update those controllers all at once with new firmware. The keypads would have several modes from where I could control devices and the lights (including color, at least in one room). Also for my blinking light projects and mood light that would be a nice way of turning on and off exactly those lamps, effects and glowing pictures that I want at taht moment.

But I won't do it. That's a decision.

PS: Does anybody want some great small keypads for DIY use?

Edit: I remember that I, when I previously talked about this topic, said that I don't start with this because the value I see it bringing to my life isn't large enough. I said that the one thing that could convince me that it's worth investing money and time into smart home tech would be a really very reliable way of sensing presence in a room as well as somebody approaching the entrance to a room. Basically, if the music or podcast that I was currently playing on my PC or phone would automatically be played in the room I'm currently in but not in any room I'm not in, except when I was about to walk into another room, then I'd maybe get in. If this would be really really reliable and affortable, then I'd reconsider my decision. Thermal based motion sensors aren't good enough for this. I'd probably need a dozen of them in each room. (Looks like I saved a dozen of the wrong things from being scrapped.) And to customise the software for my home would probably a small project on its own. I don't know of another sensor that could do this that wouldn't require me having at least some sort of device on me all the time.

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