Austin’s Sitter

Since Austin doesn’t get along well with cats, the last couple of times I have been out of town (Tybee and Dallas) he has stayed with my friend from work, Jenny, instead of with Katie at Susan’s house. She absolutely adores Austin and pampers him beyond belief while he stays with her. One time when I went to pick him up she told me how much Austin likes ham and eggs with cheese on top. Her two boys help take care of Austin as well, taking him for several walks a day. He gets constant attention all the time, which he just adores.

Jenny likes Austin so much that she asked if he could stay over this weekend just so they could see him again. So I packed up his bag and took him over on Friday. On Sunday Jenny called and said her family had taken a vote and it was 3-0 to keep him for another day (Jenny telecommutes on Monday so she would be home all day with him).

Last night I went to pick him up. I noticed Jenny had a bruise on the bridge of her nose. I asked her what happened. Apparently Austin was on the couch next to her when one of Jenny’s sons slammed a door or something, causing a giant bang. This startled both Austin and Jenny and Austin wound up knocking into Jenny’s face pretty hard, breaking her nose. This was on Saturday and I think the reason she wanted to keep Austin another day was because she had missed out on being with him most of Saturday, what with the trip to the emergency room and everything.

Austin is back with me now, but it will be several weeks before Jenny heals up from his visit.

Graffiti is back!

The main drawback of owning the new Palm TX was that Palm had to abandon the Graffiti handwriting recognition system for Graffiti 2, which was awful. After exploring alternatives and getting excited about my new keyboard, I drug out my Palm VX to do a speed comparison. On the first try I got 24.7 words per minute (after weeks of practice I was up to 23.3 wpm with Salamander writing the most common words, for which it is optimized). Wow. Plus I realized that with myKbd I had to look closely at the keyboard to tap the right keys, but with Graffiti I can look at what I am copying down and not look at the Palm.

So I went back and looked for the files. I found some updated files dated in April 2005. Before installing them I did a Hot Sync to back everything up (with the other files my Palm wouldn’t boot and I had to do a hard reset, wiping out its entire memory to get it to work again). Then I put the files on the SD card, moved them over to the Palm, and did a soft reset. It took a while to boot and I thought it was frozen, but then the prefs screen popped up! I was in business. It is even compatible with myKbd, which just replaces the old Palm keyboard.

Salamander

After making what I thought was a much improved myKbd key layout, I found out why the other designs put the space in the middle. In a separate e-mail (and in the options in the program), Alex pointed out that if you are sliding through letters (rather than pecking them) and you run across the space key in the middle of the word, the space is ignored. This opens up a lot more digraphs and trigraphs since now you can slide from E to 8 other letters (instead of 5 on Metropolis if you ignore this feature or 6 on my layout). In fact, all of the letters that touch the space key have 8 letters they can go to, and they are all very common letters. The stylus travels further than if they are touching, but you still get to slide which I think may provide a speed advantage.

salamander

If I give those key combinations one point then Metropolis goes from 14 to 21 (out of the top 30 digraphs and top 15 trigraphs for a maximum score of 45), QUONG goes from 17 to 25, and because my space key is off to the side I stay at 24. I came up with a new design taking advantage of this feature and it has a score of 20/29. More on that later.

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Graffiti Alternative

I’ve been pretty frustrated with my new Palm TX’s Graffiti 2 software for inputting text. With the old Graffiti I could get about 20 words per minute (a word is 5 keystrokes, including spaces). That’s a lot slower than I can type (60 wpm or so) but in a pinch it lets me write fast enough that I don’t usually forget what I’m writing about. With the new Graffiti I am getting 10 words per minute. I could probably get that up to 15 with practice, but it is still slower since some letters are now two strokes (f, i, k, t, and x) and others are easily confused like u and v. So I’m also getting lots of typos.

On the Brighthand website (kind of like iLounge for handhelds) people mentioned a program called MyKbd by Alexander Pruss. It turns the writing area into a screen of hexes, each with a letter on it. You tap the letters you want, just like on a keyboard, but he has made it faster than a keyboard by putting the most frequently used letters next to each other, optimizing it for people using a stylus. He took it further by letting you slide from one hex to an adjacent one. Naturally he put t and h next to each other so you can just slide from the t to the h and “th” appears on the screen. And e is after that so that you can write “the” with one well-placed stroke.

Some IBM engineers used computers to optimize the layout of the keys with the following result, called Metropolis:

kbd-metro.gif

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Best Buy Commissions

Lately my Amazon sales have been way down because they ran out of the most popular battery pack. Their affiliates sold them, but at higher prices and sales went way down. Best Buy was selling the same thing for $20, so I thought I should see if Best Buy had a commission program. Sure enough, they did. I went ahead and signed up but I soon realized that it was just Commission Junction with a Best Buy face on it. Like CJ, the commission was only 1% instead of the 4% minimum that Amazon gives me. They would pay once I reached $25 but that meant I would have to sell 125 $20 battery packs to ever see a payment. Since I had sold 58 of them through Amazon last quarter, I figured maybe I had a shot if I were patient. Plus I could get some additional revenue if people bought extra stuff while they were browsing Best Buy’s web page.

Oh well. I tried it for two weeks. I sent a decent stream of visitors to Best Buy’s website, with 104 clicks in 17 days, or about 6 a day. It would have been nice if that had resulted in about one sale a day, or one every other day. But during that time I got absolutely no sales. Even if I got my first sale tomorrow, that would mean only one sale every 18 days. That means it would take over six years to make $25.

I think the problem is that people don’t order stuff from Best Buy’s web page, they just go visit a store. So, once again, I gave up on that scheme and reverted to direct links. I will ask Best Buy to remove me from their service.