Monday, February 22, 2010

Fitaly Keyboard running on Nexus One

Well I couldn't wait til my next lunch hour to work on this, so when I got home I did a little search and found an open source project called softkeyboard which is a really nice soft keyboard with multi-language support and lots of great functionality including the predictive text function and user defined dictionary support I was looking for. Since it's quite a bit more complicated than Google's little sample keyboard it took me a bit to figure out how to get my FITALY layout integrated into it but I got it going in about an hour (while watching 24). Here it is running on my Nexus One:

Yea, I was pretty proud of my first hack of an Android app. But now that I got it on my phone how's it work? Well, to be honest, not as great as I thought it'd be. First, as you can see, the 6 row format takes quite a bit of screen real estate and the keys are already too small to 'thumbtype' like I wanted so making them any smaller is out. I'll give it a try for a week and see how I like it.

DYI - Fitaly Keyboard for Android

A little departure from photography in this post to get a little 'geeky'. I've had my Android Nexus One phone for about a month now and I'm still loving it. One thing that I had to get use to coming from the blackberry is the N1's virtual keyboard. I'd like to be able to type quick messages out one handed using just my thumb to peck at the keyboard but a QWERTY keyboard is not suited for this. Back in my Palm OS days, I used a keyboard layout that was designed for a stylus, and transfers well to one finger typing. The layout is called FITALY and is based on grouping the most common keys in the center of the layout and the least used at the edges with the intent of minimizing the distance your finger has to travel to type out a message.

In looking at the Android marketplace, I found all sorts of alternative keyboards but no FITALY. The original makers of fitaly for the palm still have a webpage but no signs of plans for porting it to Android - So I decided to see how tough it'd be to write my own. After all, Android is supposed to be and open platform and Google gives you all the tools you need to get started writing apps - so let see...

As it turns out, it was amazingly simple, Google even had an example of a virtual QWERTY keyboard in their SDK. The keyboard layout is defined by a simple XML file. So without any programming, I got fitaly running over a lunch break. Now it's pretty basic, but after seeing what's involved I think I'll adapt the layout to one of the more elaborate soft keyboards that are open source projects to take advantage of the predictive text and user dictionary functions they provide. Maybe done by next lunch break?

Anyway, this little exercise cemented my love for the Android OS - I think its going to take over the small device market over the next couple years.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Step away from the delete key...

Was doing a shoot this afternoon experimenting with fill flash and when I was back at the computer culling the images I came across this one were the flash didn't fire leaving the subject under exposed. Usually I'd hit the old 'x' on lightroom to mark for deletion but I really liked the lines created by the headband. When I started to play with some levels, I got struck with some inspiration (or copycatitus) and pulled the image into photoshop for some channel work, masking and....

bam! instant poster. Moral of the story is it doesn't always have to be a great photograph to be a keeper - with a little creativity you can save those bits from the delete key...

Monday, February 15, 2010

My hiking rig

Here's my light weight rig I use while hiking. G9, super pod, and a ex580. Yes, the flash is grotesquely large, it does an excellent job fighting the Arizona sun. Using its high speed mode, I can still use fast shutter speeds and wider apertures with fill flash performance the built in can't touch.

I know I've knocked the G9 before but it's got its place. The rig is light weight and easy to carry - the folded tripod makes a good carry handle.