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Hardware Software Linux

A One-Handed Keyboard For $25 349

Posted by timothy
from the you-knew-there-was-a-catch dept.
Bruce Perens writes "Slashdot has often featured attempts at improvement upon the QWERTY keyboard. Here's a one-handed USB keyboard that you can buy for $25 online, or a bit more at the CompUSA. There's one catch: someone will have to design a keying pattern and hack up software for it. It's a task just crying out for an Open Source project." Bruce has also included on the linked page code with which to read the output from the device.
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A One-Handed Keyboard For $25

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  • Oh Jeez... (Score:5, Funny)

    by bje2 (533276) * on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:05AM (#9938130)
    let the stream of one-handed web surfing jokes begin...
  • Cue joke (Score:5, Funny)

    by 3eyedlie (706075) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:07AM (#9938138) Homepage
    about what the other hand is doing. "I tried to have phone sex, but the holes were too small" - Sage Francis
  • Saying that you can buy a one-handed keyboard for $25, but you have to roll your own software, means you're not buying a one-handed keyboard for $25. That's like saying you can buy your own crystal meth for $25 - sure, the ingredients are only $25, but you have to know the recipe and risk life and limb cooking the stuff.

    Not that I'd know about those things. (And that applies to both coding my own keyboard drivers as well as cooking meth.)
  • whaw (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:08AM (#9938143)
    Looks pretty armless to me ;-)
  • by elSpike (678416) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:09AM (#9938144)
    What is the sound of one hand typing?
  • One handed Dvorak (Score:3, Informative)

    by Shard013 (530636) <shard013.hotmail@com> on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:09AM (#9938145)
    Dvorak allready has keyboards designs for both left and right hand only. These could probably be put on the new kb easy enough. Not that I can read the article, mirror anyone?
  • Worth a try (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:09AM (#9938147)
    My daughter only has one hand. I used to think she had a really hard time typing because of the style of typing she used on AIM, it was very fast but did not make much sense. Then I realized all the kids type that way. She can type about 15-20 wpm with just her one hand. I guess it depends on how handicapped someone is but if someone handicapped learned to type with this device, they would be "stuck" using this device any time hey needed to type.

    • Re:Worth a try (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      you really cant use this to type. this is an 'enhanced version' of a previous belkin product, the n50, which i own. it simply doesnt have enough keys to do more than keyboard shortcuts and macros.
      think forward, back, and up a directory, not
      'all good men are created equal'
      in terms of what this device can do
      • You forget about chording, unless this keyboard cannot chord at all? In which case I agree.

      • Re:Worth a try (Score:3, Informative)

        by poot_rootbeer (188613)
        it simply doesnt have enough keys to do more than keyboard shortcuts and macros.

        Belkin's site states that you can program up to 104 functions using it -- that's enough to implement a full keyboard with (even SysRq and Scroll Lock)!

        Teaching yourself custom chordings for all the different keycodes, now that'll be the challenge.
    • The Matias HalfKeyboard [halfkeyboard.com] is basically the QWERTY left half of a keyboard with a thumbshift key to let you type the right half. Unlike all the other chordboards I've seen, it's extremely obvious how to type with it, and the only thing to memorize is the QWERTY layout that most of use already know. Their main market is a Palm Pilot keyboard - much smaller and more solid than most of the competitors, and it lets you use the keyboard in your left hand and stylus in your right hand - you could use one of these
  • Maybe (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:10AM (#9938149)
    Writer must be stuffed, this couldn't possibly become a successfu... oh Bruce Perens, ^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h
    Wow, great idea! Lets start coding! Where's the source-forge page?
  • DVORAK keyboard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by w.p.richardson (218394) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:11AM (#9938154) Homepage
    Some would argue that a Dvorak keyboard is an improvement over QWERTY. Why hasn't it taken over? Simple - there is no real cry for an improvement.

    This idea is akin to changing the steering wheel in a car to a joystick; possible, but why change something that is a functional standard?

    • Re:DVORAK keyboard (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gilesjuk (604902) <giles DOT jones AT zen DOT co DOT uk> on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:42AM (#9938271)
      There's a proper reason for having a steering wheel in a car and that is accuracy and usability. You have to turn the wheel quite a large distance to go from full lock left to full lock right. With a joystick it would be a foot at the most.

      Other reasons include feedback, you simply wouldn't get the right feedback from a joystick. A stick is ideal for a plane as you are banking the plane towards the left and to the right, in a car you are rotating the wheel and so a rotating control method works best.

      Also, to use a stick you would need control systems, fully powered hydraulic steering, this would be prone to faults and in the event of a system failure you would lose steering. Currently cars have power assisted steering but standard steering still functions in the event of a fluid leak etc.

      Other problems with a stick system? how about requiring the engine to be running for the system to work? this would make getting your car onto a recovery truck rather difficult if the engine won't run. What about getting towed? impossible without the engine running.

      So while it might be possible to change cars to use a joystick it is simply a bad idea.
      • Re:DVORAK keyboard (Score:5, Insightful)

        by the pickle (261584) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @08:01AM (#9938622) Homepage
        Let me preface this with "I think a joystick is a horrible way to drive a car" and "Change for the sake of change is almost always bad." So in principle, I agree with the spirit of your comment.

        A stick is ideal for a plane as you are banking the plane towards the left and to the right, in a car you are rotating the wheel and so a rotating control method works best.

        Uh, what? This reasoning sounds awfully circular (honestly, no pun intended) to me. There are plenty of planes that use a wheel instead of a stick. The main reason for using a stick with an aircraft is that a wheel doesn't easily (or as conveniently, anyway) lend itself to motion in a third axis. Using a stick removes a lot of that awkwardness.

        Also, to use a stick you would need control systems, fully powered hydraulic steering...

        There are plenty of planes that don't have hydraulic systems associated with a control stick, and there are a lot more that have systems no more complicated than what's in a car. There's no reason a hydraulic-assist stick, much like today's power steering, couldn't be developed for use in a car.

        I can almost guarantee you that helicopter (and maybe fighter) pilots would be the only people who would be able to drive such a system with any sort of precision, though. Your point about having to turn a steering wheel a very large distance to effect a fairly small change is a good one. Without some sort of serious speed sensitivity, the smaller range of control input inherent in a stick would make for VERY lively steering (read: easily overcontrolled).

        Of course, if cars had *always* had a joystick-type steering mechanism (some early ones did, in fact), we'd be sitting here having this discussion from the opposite perspective. There's really nothing inherent in a steering wheel that makes it the perfect solution to steering a car. It's more a matter of "what's always been done."

        To get this back on topic, there's really nothing inherently superior about a QWERTY keyboard, and many arguments can be made that there are inherently inferior aspects of it. The problem is, QWERTY layouts have been in use for so long that they're the de facto standard, no matter what other great technology comes along. QWERTY keyboards will rule the world until either voice recognition or direct brain control is perfected.

        p
      • Re:DVORAK keyboard (Score:4, Interesting)

        by singleantler (212067) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @08:37AM (#9938858) Homepage Journal
        People with various types of disabilities all ready use joysticks to drive their cars, it's just a later adaptation by specialist companies. With the latest generation of cars with drive-by-wire this is a lot easier, but it's been done for years.

        I don't think the steering wheel will disappear any time soon. There are huge advantages to having one over-riding standard in vehicles - once you know how to drive a car you can get in any car and drive it. Learning on a joystick car only to then need to drive someone's steering-wheel car would be very awkward and annoying. A smaller version of this is seen in the UK when someone learns to drive with an automatic gearbox then goes to a manual (stick shift.) It's a whole extra thing to learn and, at least when I learnt to drive, if you didn't learn in an automatic you had to take lessons and another test if you wanted to drive a manual in the future.

        Steering wheels are just like keyboards - QWERTY is used everywhere, and we're stuck with it unless you have a special adaptation. Steering wheels are everywhere unless you've got a specialist vehicle (e.g. some fork lift trucks) or had it adapted to your special use.

        • if you didn't learn in an automatic you had to take lessons and another test if you wanted to drive a manual in the future.


        • ...if you didn't learn in an automatic you had to take lessons and another test if you wanted to drive a manual in the future.

          Huh? You mean that if you learned on a manual you had to take lessons and another test if you wanted to drive a manual in the future?
    • This idea is akin to changing the steering wheel in a car to a joystick; possible, but why change something that is a functional standard?

      In the case of the steering-wheel-to-joystick change, there are advantages in the area's of cost, weight, and amount of power required. You could save in all three areas by going to a joystick + steer-by-wire.

      The reason why that doesn't happen is not that there is no cry for improvement, simply that drivers are used to the current interface and are unlikely to ac
      • Re:DVORAK keyboard (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Smidge204 (605297)
        You might save on cost, and it might be marginally lighter, but you won't save on power. The reason being that if you replace the steering wheel with a joystick, that's the ONLY thing you'll be changing. You will still need the steeling linkage, power assist cylinder (moreso than ever, because the driver now provides 0% of the mechanical force required to turn the wheels - so it would probably use more power), and all of the bits that go along with it.

        However, using a joystick as a control is a BAD idea, a
    • Re:DVORAK keyboard (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cska Sofia (705257)

      Some would argue Mac OS X is an improvement over Windows. Why hasn't it taken over?

      Just because a technology is established across the vast majority of users doesn't mean that alternatives wouldn't be a great improvement. QWERTY is so firmly established that despite the common knowledge that it was designed to put common letter combinations as far apart as possible, most users do not even consider looking for an alternative. There are many reasons - lack of knowledge, lack of learning resources, cost - bu

    • I curse at any keyboard that's even slightest bit different from the "standard". Microsoft's natural keyboard. Laptop keyboards. One of IBM's keyboards. Any keyboard that moves the ins/home/pgup/pgdn/del/end group. Those keyboards that move the backslash to have a bigger enter key. Most Apple keyboards. Especially keyboards that move the left ctrl over to put in an "fn" key. Send them all to hell.
    • Re:DVORAK keyboard (Score:4, Informative)

      by BillyBlaze (746775) <tomfelker@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:50AM (#9940051)
      I personally use and like Dvorak, but it has three problems. First, you can't learn only Dvorak, so you have to switch, and this still takes my brain a few seconds, egpcbi ,dcjd C yfl. icxx.pcodv (Mat.o a jrrn jre.w ydrgid) Second, with QWERTY you typically have runs of several letters on one hand, and you kinda queue those up, position your fingers, and type them in one handfall. With Dvorak, because the vowels are on the left hand, you alternate hands - some consider this an advantage, but as someone who learned QWERTY first, it's hard for my nerves to coordinate the hands to avoid transposition errors at high speed. And third, every word, every single one, needs both hands, unlike QWERTY where if you only have to type one word, there's a good chance you won't take your hands off the mouse.
    • Re:DVORAK keyboard (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SlipJig (184130) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @12:13PM (#9940872) Homepage
      Who cares if Dvorak takes over? It's not like everybody has to switch before anybody can use it. I think it's better, and that's why I use it. However, this is a different argument than whether it actually IS better, and whether it was designed for the sake of change.

      There is an excellent description [mwbrooks.com] of the Dvorak layout on the web, along with a brief history [mwbrooks.com]. The inventor of the keyboard conducted extensive keyboarding studies that fed into the design; nevertheless they (and the studies that followed) can only be taken for so much truth before succumbing to the "lies, damn lies, and benchmarks" argument, usually due to whether you believe the study director was biased. Regardless, I think it's clear Dvorak designed the keyboard because he thought he could improve upon Qwerty, not because he just wanted to be different.

      In a more general sense, I think it would be stupid to think we can't improve on things that already are functional standards. Quick show of hands: how many /. readers think Windows can't be improved on? How about another one: how many people think the plurality election method is the best one possible? How many people even know there are alternatives? (/. readers are an exception here). Criticizing folks for questioning the status quo is just bad for everybody.

      Anyway, back to the point: you're right there's no real cry for improvement, but this could be due to any number of factors. Most people don't even know Dvorak exists; others already know Qwerty and are resistant to change; others have concrete practical reasons for using Qwerty, like the need to use special software like Autocad; or, Qwerty may just be better. Regardless, I don't think anybody's suggesting that everybody switch to Dvorak en masse.
  • Direct link (Score:4, Informative)

    by Brama (80257) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:12AM (#9938158) Homepage
    http://catalog.belkin.com/IWCatProductPage.process ?Product_Id=157024 [belkin.com]

    Seems the technocrat site is already slashdotted.

    • Re:Direct link (Score:4, Informative)

      by Blind_Justice (544387) <herkko@noSPAM.turre.com> on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:20AM (#9938190) Homepage
      Here is the text of the page:

      One-handed keyboards sell for $99 to $350, but here's one that can be had for $25 at a well-known net merchant, and a little more at the CompUSA. Of course, it's intended for gamers, but can easily be made into a one-handed chording keyboard to nurture your inner cyborg, if you just...

      design an appropriate keying pattern and learn it, and write a little software. This is just crying out for an Open Source project. You can help handicapped people, perhaps even influence a new generation of low-budget cyborgs!

      The Belkin Nostromo n52 Speedpad has 14 typewriter-style keys that chord (meaning they can all be read individually), LEDs, a dial, and a game controller with firing button. That's easily enough to make a chording keyboard. You can use the game controller as four shift keys (your thumb rests upon it).

      To make the job easier, here's C code to read the device on Linux. To finish the job, you'll also have to push key events back into the Linux console or X Windows. Code to do that is already available on the net, it's been written for use with other USB devices.

      • Of course, it's intended for gamers, but can easily be made into a one-handed chording keyboard to nurture your inner cyborg, if you just...

        Yeah, so why buy a $25 gaming thing with 14 buttons when you can get a numeric pad? those have 17 keys, have been around for ever and can be had for a buck at your friendly computer recycler.

        What's so different with the gaming pad? why didn't Bruce propose the same thing with numeric pads? hell, why didn't he propose the same thing with the numeric pad section of a n
        • Chording support? (Score:2, Insightful)

          by SeanDuggan (732224)
          Correct me if I'm wrong, as I've only seen a few peripheral numpads (generally for laptops), but my impression is that they tend to be built the same way as the average computer keyboard. You know, where you can't press two keys at the same time if they're in the same row? If this device allows you to detect which keys are pressed as individual signals, then chording is much more feasible. And I would not be surprised if they indeed allow for multiple keys being pressed as this is one of the major problems
          • You can't? I just tried that on my ps/2 keyboard under XFree4.2 using an old keyboard I pulled from a friend's broken e-machine (which means it's roughly the cheapest ps/2 keyboard you could buy). I used xev to monitor keyboard events.

            Then I pressed (on the keypad) 4,5,6,and + all at the same time. I repeated this three times. Then I tried it on j,k,l and ; and got the same result.

            xev registered every event - four separate key presses, and four key releases. Of course, it didn't consider them as one
            • by OrangeTide (124937) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @11:20AM (#9940363) Homepage Journal
              Generally keyboards that have chording problems don't give you break codes (key release) when you have more than 3-8 keys down. (depending on the model). Make codes work fine on all keyboards, to the best of my knowledge.

              The symptom is that when playing a fps you might get stuck in firing or stuck crouching after a crouch-jump. etc.

              Keyboard controllers only report the changes in the state. every few microseconds the keys are scanned (in a matrix pattern). And keys that are down are checked to see if they've been reported as down in the past, if not it's sent out. Keys that are no longer down are reported at up if they haven't been reported before. Generally it's easier to report down keys than up keys (because there are almost always more keys that are up than down). Cheap keyboard controllers have small queues rather than complete bitmaps because it's less memory (the microcontroller they chose might only have 16-32 bytes of RAM).
        • Actually, I have one of these things. I use it for Warcraft 3, Counterstrike, and Doom 3. The software that powers it rules (to the point where, I could see some people consider it cheating.)

          Guys, there's no need for writing custom drivers. What the author is suggesting could be accompished in like 20 minutes with the included software. To be honest, the original author didn't know what he was talking about.

          -Grym

          • Guys, there's no need for writing custom drivers. What the author is suggesting could be accompished in like 20 minutes with the included software.

            Okay, I was wrong...

            It took 30 minutes. I've posted the files on my university filespace. The link to the files is in another one of my posts HERE [slashdot.org].

            -Grym

    • Ah, thanks. With that link I can see that the "keyboard" is in fact a Belkin Nostromo game"pad". Australian slashdotters might be interested to know that older revisions of this thing ( bundled with a mouse ) occasionally turn up in Electronics Boutiques across the country marked down at a very, very low price. ( A$45? )

      There's been several times when I've considered picking one up to turn into a chordboard, but when I weigh up the extra clutter on my desk from yet another input device, the time to train

      • They're pretty nice.

        It seems much more intuitive than a regular keyboard while using a mouse mostly due to symmetry. Both hands have about the same size input device in their grip.

        Currently I use it entirely for games -- BUT -- I use it for EVERY game. I've actually debated on using it as a onehanded keyboard before but I didn't because it would be rather complex to design. For it to work one would have to use more than two shift states which is what I prefer for a onehanded keyboard.

        Anyway, even though
    • Re:Direct link (Score:4, Informative)

      by JWSmythe (446288) * <jwsmythe@jwsmyth ... minus physicist> on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:03AM (#9938346) Homepage Journal
      My automagic mirror [lmlinux.com] caught the original site and picture.

  • (Article is /.'ed but hey). Why would a company bring a prodcut to market if there is no support. Its not like you ever see people like Sony or Epson bring things to market and not have any drivers at all. OK The drivers might be for Windows and flakey but least they tried

    Rus
  • ...what isn't imperfect. I live with it comfortably,
    with no RSI or anything else. Why squander brain power on yet another weird device? If you really are sitting there pounding away at 100wpm all day then what kind of coding bot are you anyway?
    (and are you thinking about what you're coding?)

    It's far too late to educate anyone about the merits of a new device that replaces an old device wot works. Try convincing the Brits or US that metric is a good idea? 3/8" bolts on the ISS (yuk). (and I'm old enough to
    • ....er in Britain we are mostly metric.

      Sure we like our beer in pints for reasons of tradition and because to move to half liters would be a reduction in size and there would be a revolution.

      There is no doubt that there are many advantages to the metric system and so the goverment made the choice to change. To use money with Pounds, shillings, pennies..etc was insane. Many people argued that it was no problem for them but there is no doubt that the metric syste is better.

      In the same way we text message (
  • Bart: Did, did you lose your arm in the war? Herman: My arm? Well, let me put it this way: Next time your teacher tells you to keep your arm inside the bus window, you do it!
  • wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:19AM (#9938187)
    Imagine what you could do with two of those!
  • Unfortunately, I already have my left hand reserved for the mouse. Being right-handed, I prefer keeping my more dexterous hand on the keyboard. Dexterity would be particularly required for a novel alternative like this. But it looks like there is only a left-handed model available :(
  • software for the n50 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:29AM (#9938221)
    the previous version of the nostromo, the n50 ( same thing w/ less keys and less orange ) had some linux software written for it avalible here [jimbomania.com]
  • by Vandil X (636030) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:29AM (#9938223)
    My small form factor ThinkPad has such a small keyboard, it's essentially one-handed.

    And it even comes with a nipple!
    • by CRC'99 (96526)
      Or what we call, a 'clit stick' - cos we all know what it is, we all know where it is, but I'll be buggered if we can actually use it properly.
  • It looks from the picture like it might be designed to used with a left hand, i.e. there is a button that looks like it's supposed to be used by a thumb on the right.

    Is this true or am I looking at the picture funny? I had a stroke when I was very young and type one handed but if there was a keyboard designed for just my right hand (that was cheap: I'm not how much faster I'd be than on a QWERTY), I'd give it a shot.

  • Gaming Device (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:33AM (#9938238)
    This is a gaming device. It is not a keyboard replacement. It has been around a long time. It also has no Linux drivers, so I'm not sure why it's in the "Linux" category.

    Other than the title, category, subject matter and content - great post!

    • This is a gaming device. It is not a keyboard replacement. It has been around a long time. It also has no Linux drivers, so I'm not sure why it's in the "Linux" category.

      That would be because it has no Linux drivers and close to a third of the content of the post (there was little content to the post) was about the fact that coding a driver would be a great project. Oh and the other reason, Bruce Perens could write about "the contemplation of my navel" and the editors would put it on linux./.
    • This is a gaming device. It is not a keyboard replacement. It has been around a long time. It also has no Linux drivers, so I'm not sure why it's in the "Linux" category.

      It's a keyboard replacement aimed at FPS games, where the simultaneous use of a keyboard and a mouse is essential. But who's to say it should be limited to games? I for one find it interesting. The arrow keypad part could even replace the mouse to some extent; imagine using this with a wearable computer.

    • Re:Gaming Device (Score:3, Informative)

      by biglig2 (89374)
      It's in the Linux category, because if you RTFA you'll see the story is not announcing the hardware, but announcing a call from Bruce Perens for a Linux driver.
    • Linux Drivers (Score:5, Informative)

      by philipx (521085) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @09:05AM (#9939068) Homepage
      It actually does have Linux Drivers: "Project: Linux Nostromo Speedpad Driver" http://sourceforge.net/projects/nostromodriver/
  • Great for tablets? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcgroarty (633843) <brian.mcgroarty@gmaiLIONl.com minus cat> on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:46AM (#9938285) Homepage
    I've been looking for a cheap one-handed keyboard for use with my tablet PC, hopefully something I could velcro onto the back for use while holding the tablet. Photoshop and Painter are tedious without tab, alt, shift and ctrl. This could be just the thing to provide those.
  • by Inda (580031)

    "It's a task just crying out for an Open Source project"

    I'm on the case! Do you want the ability to use colours in your text editor?

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:02AM (#9938337) Homepage Journal
    Funny, but one handed keyboards have been around since the Englebart demo.

    Except for CAD, they never really took off - until the modern video game.

    And while I certainly would not want to type a comment like this with a one-handed keyboard, I can see where they would be damn useful in editing a document - click-drag, button press for bold, click-drag, underline (or click-drag indent, click-drag create-subroutine-skeleton, click-drag lookup-definition).

    • And while I certainly would not want to type a comment like this with a one-handed keyboard


      Not speaking from experience, but from what I have read, using a chording keybaord once you get accustomed isnt' really very much slower than using a regular keyboard. This is because of course your fingers are moving much shorter distances.

  • by jerometremblay (513886) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:05AM (#9938352) Homepage
    This one is smaller, and supports both a USB and a Bluetooth connection (so you can use it with your cell phone).

    I only wish they included flash memory on it.

    http://www.frogpad.com/information/bluefroginfo.as p [frogpad.com]
  • The Quinkey Microwriter... I had a left-handed one for a while, some ... 17 years ago, maybe? Look here [tiscali.co.uk] for a review of one. This item [newswireless.net] has a picture of one...
  • by ILL Robinson (228744) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:30AM (#9938450)
    I actually own the n52, upgrading from my earlier n50.

    As a gamer (yes, I admit it), I do find these devices useful. After about 4-5 gaming sessions, I became extremely comfortable with the device, and began integrating its usefulness into more traditional applications (like 3DS Max). Given the included software (albeit Windows), you are able to map keystrokes (macros as well) to the device, to which you can reconfigure/reinitialize the mapping through an app that sits in the systray (Loadout Manager).

    Now onto the bad stuff. The n52 makes some improvements over the n50 (extra row of keys, dpad, thumb shift key), however the response of the keys themselves seems to have suffered a setback. While I was never completely satisfied with the response of the n50 keys (not enough tactile feedback for these fingers), the n52 has this even less so. More importantly, the keys sometime stick, making you depress some of the keys more than once in order to execute the keystroke - a pretty large issue when it comes the one thing a keyboard should do well.

    Hopefully, the problems I encountered with this n52 is a defect with this particular unit (/.er's, chime in!).

    All-in-all, the n50/n52 are good and versatile products, and I recommend them for those looking for a one-hand input device - particularly if you come across them at a cheap price (I bought my n52 for $35). The software support is a little flimsy, but Belkin seems to be more focused on this as their products are growing in popularity.

    Another extremely interesting input use... The ILL Clan [illclan.com] (a Machinima team I co-founded) use these devices to puppeteer their virtual characters during their Machinima productions/live performances - mapping the keys to facial gestures, lipsync and triggered animations.
  • by vjmurphy (190266) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:36AM (#9938471) Homepage
    Rejected from about a year ago, even, so who says Slashdot doesn't keep up with the times? :)

    Here's my old review, in plain text glory:

    Review of the Belkin Nostromo Speedpad n52

    The Belkin Nostromo Speedpad n52 is a reworked version of
    the n50: both are gaming peripherals that combine a small keyboard,
    a D-pad, and a scroll wheel into a small, ergonomic package. Using
    the included software, you can bind keys and macros to the Speedpad
    for use in games and applications. So, for example, instead of using the
    typical WASD layout on your keyboard, you can map those keys to the
    Speedpad, along with keys for throwing grenades, switching weapons,
    etc.

    With macros, you can initial multiple actions, such as targeting
    the nearest enemy, following him, and going into attack mode, all
    with a single keypress.

    The n50 is probably the best gaming peripheral I've ever owned: I
    find it indispensible for FPS and MMORP games. When news of the
    n52 began to filter out, I was hoping that many of the flaws of
    the n50 would be eliminated, but that the core utility of the
    device would be maintained. I'm happy to say that I was not disappointed.

    Firstly, some of the flaws with the n50:

    * Lame "scroll" wheel was really not a scroll wheel, but more like
    a throttle: it did not have full 360 degree motion.

    * Shift state indicators in a bad spot: the n50 (and n52) has three
    "shift modes" that you can switch between, allowing each key to have
    more than one use, depending on the shift mode. However, the n50's
    shift mode indicators are on the left side of the unit: when you are using
    it, your hand blocks the ability to see those indicators.

    Minor problems, really: the scroll wheel was easy to just disable, and after
    a while, you didn't worry about the shift mode indicators.

    The n52, though, fixes both problems: it has a 360 degree scroll wheel (that also
    can act as a button when pressed, just like many mouses) making it actually
    useful. The shift indicators have been movies to the right side of the
    controller, near one of the new thumb buttons. Now you can see the shift
    state at a glance.

    There's a new row of keyboard buttons, adding 4 more buttons in good positions.
    Your pinky will now be able to trigger death and destructions much more easily.

    The new thumb buttons, though, are a disappointment. The idea is great: two
    buttons above and below the dpad on the right of the controller. However,
    the round orange button above the dpad is extremely difficult to press without

    Pros:

    * Great ergonomics
    * More buttons
    * Better positioning of shift indicators

    Cons:

    * New thumb buttons are a little annoying in placement and use
    • "The new thumb buttons, though, are a disappointment. The idea is great: two
      buttons above and below the dpad on the right of the controller. However,
      the round orange button above the dpad is extremely difficult to press without"

      Ooops. Cut off a section:

      However, the round orange button above the dpad is extremely difficult to press without pushing the whole unit to the left. The speedpad does have some weight to it, but not enough to remain stable when pressing the thumb buttons.
  • by otisg (92803) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @08:30AM (#9938819) Homepage Journal
    If there is a 1-hand keyboard, is there a 2-hand mouse?

    I asked Google, and interestingly enough, it gave me just the opposite - a 0-hand mouse: No Hand Mouse [google.com].
  • by GlassUser (190787) <slashdot&glassuser,net> on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @09:00AM (#9939028) Homepage Journal
    I got one of these last year the the intention of doing this. The problem is that if you use the four way thumb pad as a shifter, it sends the finger key(s) held again when the thumb pad is released. I eventually got to typing on it, but that "feature" severely limited my speed.
  • I have one (Score:3, Insightful)

    by g0bshiTe (596213) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @09:24AM (#9939215)
    I bought one of those for gaming. I was surprised at the amount of filangy strength needed to depress keys. Not to mention that on occasion keypresses repeat and sometimes arent read at all, though that could be a driver issue.
  • Course I guess as a leftie I win, because I don't need to buy $50 of extra equipment to have my hands sitting perfectly for gaming. Left hand on the trackball, right on the arrow keys for movement, number pad nearby for weapon switching, near cntl and backslash for triggering things, numpad . for reload, 0 for crouch...

    The only thing I don't have is good auto-chat stuff, but for what I tend to play I either have teamspeak up or want to type a full message (both hands, for speed).
  • by johnrpenner (40054) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @09:39AM (#9939357) Homepage

    when douglas englebart invented the mouse (and windows, and networking, and hypertext, etc.), he made the first machines to use a mouse and a one-handed keyboard so that both hands would be utilized.

    then xerox parc had the alto, but their mouse didn't have a mouse ball -- it was apple that invented the mouse ball, and shipped the first commercial computer that came with a mouse as standard.

    one of the devices that came out in the late 1980's was a device called 'the bat' -- a one-handed keyboard -- you can still by this device here [infogrip.com].

    regards,
    j [earthlink.net]


  • And I love it for gaming, though I would think that typing on the think would be hard, unless you could get some lighter springs in it. And for all of those "calling for linux drivers" Yeesh [sourceforge.net] Can't say as I have tried them but I am one of those sad sacks that still uses his windows box for gaming.

    Sera
  • OkayKeybees (Score:3, Informative)

    by stickb0y (260670) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @12:36PM (#9941090)

    I can't read the article since it's slashdotted, but if you need to design the keying pattern and write your own software, then what are you buying for $25? Why not just make a keying pattern and write software to work with a normal 101/104-key keyboard to give it a one-handed mode?

    It seems far more useful to me not to make a keyboard that must be used only with one-hand but to make a two-handed keyboard that allows one-handed use when you need it (the other hand's on the mouse, you dirty thinkers).

    Enter OkayKeybees [arsware.org]. It lets Windows users define keying chords to make your own one-handed mode. Its GUI is kind of clunky (I found it easier to edit the configuration file with a text editor), and it kind of sucks that you have to define your own key chords (Matias [halfkeyboard.com] has a patent on their layout).

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