Introducing ThinQu, the Fully Optimized Keyboard Layout

There has been many attempts to improve the QWERTY keyboard layout. Dvorak maximizes hand alternation; Colemak and many others emphasize on easiness to switch from QWERTY; Workman improves on these by considering the effort of lateral movements and the interaction between finger and row; Q*MLW* layouts provide the optimal solution of a quantitative effort model but fails to consider the factors raised in Workman. I generally agree with Workman’s finger strain mapping.

To design the most ergonomic keyboard layout, all of the advantages of the existing layouts are considered. The ThinQu layout has the following features in common with its predecessors:

  •  As much as 60.6% of letter typing is done with the eight base keys (lower than Colemak’s 65.0%, because of the two-letter keys). 80.1% of the letter typing is in the 14 keys rated 1-2 by Workman. There is a strong correlation between letter frequency and Workman’ rating.
  • Hand alternation is strongly favored. Within each hand, hand rolling (consecutive letters on the same row using adjacent finger) is favored.
  • Same-finger movement is strongly penalized, which provides motivation for a more even frequency distribution across fingers.
  • Lateral movement of the index and little finger is strongly penalized. The usage of the middle columns excluding numbers is 8.9%, compared to Workman’s 7.0% and Dvorak’s 14.8%.
  • Hand utilization is more balanced with only a slight consideration for right-handedness. 49.7% of letter typing is done by the right hand. If including punctuation marks and Shift but not numbers and special keys like Enter, 51.4% of the typing is done by the right hand.
  • With a priority for optimizing typing effort and speed, easiness for a QWERTY user to learn is minimally considered. No letters, four punctuation marks, and all numbers are in the same place as QWERTY. Three letters stay on the same finger as QWERTY. Users wishing to put less effort in learning the ThinQu layout should consider using the transitional ThinQu layout. 

The ThinQu layout shines with the following added advantages:

  • The most frequent and the third most frequent bigrams, th and in, have their own keys. The in key also lessens the burden of the pinkies by pressing i and n keys less. A third two-letter key, qu, replaces the q key since u follows q 99.1% of the time. Thus the name ThinQu. Also, Shift+in does not produce In, but rather the most common 4-gram – tion. Note that the bigram keys still output lower-case letters when CapsLock is on.
  • The base keys are shifted to the right by one space so that the right pinky is closer to Enter, Shift, and Backspace. It also redistributes most of its duties in punctuation marks to the new middle column for the index fingers. Now the right index finger rests on the K key of QWERTY. I recommend that you physically swap the J and K keys so your index finger can still feel the bump.  For those using a split keyboard, the non-shift version of ThinQu is recommended.
  • All modifier keys in Windows and third party applications are still in the QWERTY layout. You can keep using Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V keys in their usual location.
  • Utilization frequency for each finger is related to that finger’s strength but with finger movement in mind – less moved fingers can bear a higher frequency.
  • The locations of punctuation marks are optimized by considering their frequencies. Square and curly brackets are available through Alt Gr.
  • In addition to brackets,  letters with diacritics and other less often used symbols can be entered by pressing Alt Gr (right Alt or Alt+Ctrl). The layout is identical to the English international keyboard in Windows. Square and curly brackets along with an added  (en dash) symbol are placed in the home row.
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    Brackets and other symbols can be entered using right Alt + another key.

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    Capital letters with diacritics and more symbols can be entered using right Alt + Shift + another key.
  • There is a programming version that makes symbols more accessible by some rearrangement.
  • Users can modify the layout to their preference by editing the .klc file. Programmers can rearrange the symbols in the programming version to suit their programming language. This article lists the frequency distribution of symbols for each programming language.

The ThinQu layout makes the following assumptions:

  • The ThinQu layout is only suitable for touch typists.
  • It was designed for keys laid out in a QWERTY style (i.e. columns are staggered) although the relative loss for an ortholinear keyboard to adopt ThinQu is very small.
  • The language used is always English with punctuation marks, occasional internet slangs and abbreviated spelling, and limited account/password/captcha entering.

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How to Recover Deleted Coursera and Berkeley Courses from Archive.org

In June 2016, Coursera.org deleted 472 open online courses as it migrated from an old system to a new system; from March to August 2017, UC Berkeley made all 350+ courses on Webcast.berkeley private. Fortunately, most of these courses have been archived by the Archive Team. This post provides the instructions for downloading and opening the archived courses.

Recovering UC Berkeley courses

Recovering Berkeley courses is easy. Go to this link:

http://www.archiveteam.org/index.php?title=UC_Berkeley_Course_Captures#Status

and find the course you want to watch and click on the link to archive.org in the right column. You can watch the videos online or download them. You can find archived course descriptions in this page or search in Berkeley’s academic guide.

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The Deterioration of Coursera

Coursera is the biggest massive open online course (MOOC) platform founded in 2012 with over 1900 courses currently being offered. The website today is nothing like what it used to be in 2015, especially after moving to a new system in mid-2016. It’s not surprising that Coursera remains the alpha in the MOOC industry since it’s an oligopolistic market with universities mostly sticking to the same platform over time. But it’s mind-blowing to know that highly competent people can create a great platform and then destroy it a few years later.

So what happened? For each good feature they added, they removed five other great features. After the 2016 update, course providers are no longer allowed to place a promotional video in the course description and old videos are removed. Users could no longer click on professor names to see their profiles, which took Coursera a year to fix this problem. Professors should deeply appreciate the reappearance of their profiles, because not only are links to university profiles gone, the catalog of all university providers has also been deleted recently.

Coursera has redefined MOOC to be Monthly Open Online Course, as most of the courses now are running a new session every month, and even allowing students to switch sessions if they miss any deadline, helping procrastinating students strengthen their habit of ignoring deadlines. With so many ongoing sessions at once, course sizes have decreased dramatically and the discussion forums are now for roam, as students stare at the blank screen and wonder why nobody complies when the professor asks them to write down their thoughts in the forums. Forum posts are never kept from session to session, strangling the only way left to revive the forums. The Meetup.com collaboration with Coursera is gone too, and the Coursera experience is now predominantly solitary. Continue reading “The Deterioration of Coursera”

Top 6 Online Course Professors

This is an ranked up-to-date list that includes my favorite professors after taking more than 40 online courses. Professor quality is judged from how provocative, engaging, and clear the lectures are. The number and length of available courses is also considered. The amount of study materials available, video quality, and interest in subject are not directly considered.

1. Robert Sapolsky, Biology professor at Stanford University

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Robert Sapolsky is best known for his Human Behavioral Biology course on YouTube. He has three other paid courses available on thegreatcourses.com. He studies human behavior by drawing comparison from baboons and using neuroscientific, evolutionary, and endocrinal approaches, which shows the different ways of looking at human behavior only complement each other instead of being contradictions.

Sapolsky is hands-down the god in conveying passion through lectures. His tone of speaking every sentence makes you really want to hear the next sentence yet the shock of the information he throws at you makes you want to pause and think. Just hearing his voice will cure depression and anxiety.

No whiteboard notes or study materials; yet he had ignited my interests in behavioral sciences and first introduced me to the field of complex systems. After taking his Human behavioral Biology course, the non-majors courses I took in the three semesters left in college increased to about 60%.

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9 Chrome Extensions for Surfing the Web Statistically

There are a lot of data on the web that can help us surf the internet more efficiently. The extensions listed below help us achieve this. Some extensions collect data from the users and summarize them, some analyze user-generated content, while others record the history of web pages. SEO oriented extensions are excluded from this list.

1. Alexa Traffic Rank

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This extension shows the global website traffic ranking of the current website as well as the ranking in the country that generates the most traffic for this website. This is the quickest way to learn about a website’s popularity and credibility. Moreover, it shows websites that are similar to the current one with remarkable validity. This enables a graph based traversal of the internet. The Wayback Machine link allows the user to view old versions of the main page of the current website. To view old versions of any web page, there is a dedicated extension listed below at #9.

Upon clicking on the main link, it shows the traffic distribution overtime, by country, subdomain, gender, education, and browsing location. Traffic data is collected mainly through the Alexa Toolbar and this extension.

Number of users: 550,000

Alternatives: SimilarWeb with better graphics but less reliable traffic rankings.

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