Categories: twiddler

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Revisiting stenography and Twiddling

| learning, steno, twiddler, geek

I've been thinking about what I can learn alongside A+ - something that will be slow to learn but that might be fun to get the hang of. I think it will help me practise patience and develop my empathy with her as she learns fine motor skills too. Maybe I'll even be able to model persistence and self-acceptance.

At home, I practise steno on my Georgi keyboard while she does her homework, learns how to type, or writes stories. It works out pretty well, since I have to sound out words to chord them and I fingerspell slower than she types. I steno the words she wants me to spell for her, and I also steno the instructions on her homework. I steno my journal entries, too. I'd like to someday be able to write blog posts with steno. Not that I'm speed-limited now, but I'm curious about it and it's good to show A+ that I'm learning too. I made a webpage that lets me steno large text into a small textarea on my Android phone using Dotterel, displaying my cheat sheet and steno hints for the last few words using the main typeytype dictionary. That way, I can fingerspell words for A+ and then practise them as she copies the words. I'm also slowly going through The Art of Chording.

I've also dusted off my Twiddler 2 one-handed chording keyboard, since that's something I can do while looking elsewhere. Looking outside makes me feel a little happier in winter. Maybe I'll even figure out how to write while waiting for her outside, perhaps bundling up my hand in a small blanket to keep warm. I mostly remembered how to chord with my right hand using the default layout, but I wanted to experiment with alternative layouts. I started learning a modified Backspice layout, moving some letters around since I can't easily reach 000L with my short pinky. I couldn't download the Twiddler 2.1 configuration tool from the Tekgear website, so I just programmed it interactively.

To practice on the go, I set up Emacspeak in a Debian instance on UserLAnd on my Android phone, with audio output routed using pulseaudio to XServer XSDL via export PULSE_SERVER=tcp: in my UserLAnd ~/.profile. It worked surprisingly well. I could press chords and hear what letter I typed. When I pressed SPC, I heard the word read out. This was enough for me to be able to explore the layout and think of words I want to spell with the letters I've found so far. I've been having a hard time figuring out how to easily get files in and out of UserLAnd aside from scp, though, as the document provider doesn't seem to show up for me.

So I wrote a web-based tool that uses the Javascript Web Speech API to speak each letter as I type it and speak out the word after I press space–basically, the main things that I'd been using Emacspeak for. I also added a little cheat sheet that I could update on the fly, and I can have it read aloud by typing hlp and pressing SPC. I like this more self-directed, exploratory approach to learning the keymap. I press a chord and hear what letter it is, then think of words I want to spell with it and where those letters are. Here it is: twiddler.html (might not work on all browsers - I use it on Chrome on Android)

Based on conversations on Mastodon, I decided to get the Twiddler 3 Wrap + Bluetooth. I wonder if the Twiddler 3 will make it easier for me to reach the far button with my pinky finger, and I'm curious if Bluetooth can still get through however many layers I want to have so that I don't get too cold. I probably won't use the Twiddler to write stuff while ostensibly standing around with the other grown-ups at a playdate. It's good for kids to see grown-ups being friends. But if there's standing-around time while she's off being independent, or if I want to look outside, it might be interesting to use.

A+ sometimes gets frustrated with how slow writing is, or how she gets tripped up by a 3x3 perm she wants to learn. I'm glad I can slow down and learn something along with her.