Apple Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard Dvorak Hacking

It’s very easy to switch around the keys on Apple’s current generation of wireless bluetooth keyboard. The first time doing this hack I only had one “close call”, but know that I know how to get the keys off safely it’s simple, fast and easy. I used a couple razor blades to pop off the keys, but a very small screwdriver would work just as well and be much safer.

The keys are best removed by lifting the cap key from the top left or top right corners. The plastic mechanics beneath the key move analogously to a cherry picker, and you interfere with them less by lifting the top corners of the key.

Once you’re done, the only drawback to your new sleek Dvorak keyboard is the lack of nubs on the U and H keys. Very carefully dab a small drop of superglue on them to address the issue, and enjoy!

(Sorry for the lack of pictures … when I figure out where I put them I’ll update this post. Andy Skelton has some pictures in a similar post.)

Switching To Dvorak: Seven Months Later

Today marks exactly seven months from the day I switched to the Dvorak keyboard layout.

Key Observations

  1. 72, 81 and 77 words per minute, clocked with three different one-minute tests on TypingTest.com.
  2. In home-row-only tests I took several months ago, I was already consistently over 100 WPM. The many common home-row-only words (those spelled with A, O, E, U, I, D, H, T, N and S) are remarkably comfortable and fast to type.
  3. It’s all about muscle memory. I can type my thoughts just as well as the next guy without looking at the keyboard, but can’t recite you the upper or lower row keys by memory. Interesting, huh?
  4. The pain in my left-hand little finger tendon is gone! More of this is likely due, however, to also switching my Command and Caps Lock keys in software.

Other Conclusions

  • I’m much, much better at hunt-and pecking in Dvorak–that is, staring at a QWERTY keyboard set to Dvorak in software and “sensing” where the right key are with my pointer finger alone. (Useful when typing a few words on someone else’s box.) This is hard because of #3 above, but learnable.
  • I can now hunt-and-peck suitably on my iPhone (QWERTY only) keyboard.
  • Typing QWERTY on a Dvorak keyboard is a lost cause. I have to stare at a secondary QWERTY keyboard to do so, because my muscles and mind have totally forgotten. (Again, see #3.)
  • Typing on a laptop keyboard feels better on your finger tendons, but just as uncomfortable on your wrists.
  • Sharing windows machines with others is awkward and frustrating. Let me know if you have a good system tray applet for quick-switching the whole system to Dvorak, because team-admining a windows machine requires a hellish amount of clicks to set the system-wide keyboard layout.
  • Apple is absolutely horrid at designing with ergonomics in mind. (In their defense, they obviously aren’t trying.)
  • I haven’t discovered the mental gymnastics that allows you to type in QWERTY when necessary. I can type my name and common passwords in QWERTY, but that’s about it, sorry. No hablo QWERTY.
  • Stuff that now sucks because they are built for a QWERTY layout: emacs, vi, <your_favorite_editor>, Aperture, some Java apps. All games now require new key bindings off-the-bat too.

Five Major Apple Design Irritants

Apple,

My software development firm–OpenRain in Arizona–spends buckets of money on your products. Stuff works pretty well in general, but you really need to address these issues. Really.

  1. PowerBook, MacBook and MacBook Pro power supply cables invariably rip. Not only that, but it’s always at the same freaking places. The MackBook/Pro power supplies are better than the PowerBook ones, but still don’t last more than a couple years of real-world use. The issue is at the endpoints of the laptop end of the cable that get bent constantly from travel and being wrapped sharply when the electric outlet is on the wrong side of the laptop. I really love the small and agile design, but the cables need to last at least 4 years without tearing.
  2. Laptops still run hot. Phoenix summer get hotter than 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and I have gotten physically burned by the MacBook Pros when wearing shorts. Product such as the iLap are amusing, but should not be necessary. Getting physically hurt by a computer is a problem.
  3. Keyboard are not ergonomic. The latest iteration of post-modern laptop-style bluetooth keyboards are great to look at, but absolutely horrid on the wrists. No one at the office really likes them in practice, and we’ve had to revert to the Microsoft Natural series of keyboards when have been around f-o-r-e-v-a-r but Apple hasn’t responded to. I’m 100% confident you could build a swanky, highly usable bluetooth keyboard that puts the Naturals to shame.
  4. iPhone copy/paste support. It’ll be an awesome design accomplishment when we no longer need this, but you haven’t gotten there yet, sorry, and everyone else agrees. Add copy/paste support (if only in key areas) to iPhone.
  5. iPhone needs to support dvorak. Yeah yeah…. I know I’m in the minority on this and am sneaking it in, but I spend a lot of money with you guys, and having to use QWERTY just for the iPhone is driving me insane. Add the freaking layout please.

 

 

Switching To Dvorak: One Week Later

dvorak.pngIt’s been exactly one week since I switched to the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard (DSK) layout. Thoughts…

  • The first couple days are especially frustrating while you memorize key locations and build a small bit of muscle memory for common phrases. Hang in there.. this is the toughest part.
  • Temporarily relabel your real keyboard with cheap stickers from eBay or physically rearrange the keys on a cheapo USB keyboard while you’re learning. Physically mod’ing a QWERTY board kinda sucks, though, because..
    • The nubs for the pointer finger keys are in the wrong place. This alone is a deal breaker.
    • Keys aren’t necessarily manufactured to be of homogeneous shape. Even on my cheapo Memorex, for example, the key tops are sloped differently by row, so rearranging the keys results in what feels like a 3D topology of the Rocky Mountains.
  • The common typos (“teh”, “taht”, “nad” etc.) are different, so..
    • You’ll have to be more accurate in IM conversations. People won’t be able to guess what you meant to type.
    • Spell-checkers won’t work as well.
  • Make every reasonable attempt to avoid using QWERTY while you’re learning.
  • Be prepared to explain to people WTF you just did to their computer when you use it.. Every. Freakin’. Time.
  • Looking for an ergonomic, Dvorak Mac keyboard? LOLL3RSKATES!!! Good luck with that, and let me know if you think your new $300+ Kinesis is worth it.

Switching To Dvorak

dvorak.png
After years of deliberation, I’m finally taking this Thanksgiving break to switch to the Dvorak keyboard layout. It’s been frustrating, yes, but I believe my wrists will be much better off with the change. Within a couple hours of switching I’m probably crawling at ~15 words per minute, which is faster than I expected. Stuff that still throws me off due to being permanently etched in muscle memory..

  • My name.
  • `cd` and my custom `ls` aliases.
  • OpenRain.
  • . (period)
  • Common commands such as cut/copy/paste, closing and opening files etc.
  • The letter ‘o’ for some reason.

Ohh, and I switched my command and caps lock keys too, so my brain is a tad bit overloaded at the moment 🙂