Author Topic: Computing Without Mice  (Read 3880 times)

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Offline nicholaspeterson

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Computing Without Mice
« on: Sat, 05 October 2013, 00:01:27 »
So this is a bit of question / statement post. I'm trying to gauge others interest in this. I've taken the plunge and permanently disconnected the mouse from my computer. I occurred to me recently that, aside from gaming, my mouse was basically a useless appendage because of the fact that a keyboard can do pretty much the exact same functionality.

After a bit of searching I installed a program called 'NeatMouse' which allows much greater customization of the mousekeys-like functionality in Windows. It's free, and allows me to assign the mouse buttons to almost whatever I want, and allows me to toggle that functionality on and off with a certain set of keys.

I then changed the cursor repeat rate in Windows->Settings->Keyboard to be as fast as possible, this helps smooth out the movement and limit that initial lag when I hold a key down.

My keymap setup:
Toggle = Caps Lock
Up = K
Down = J
Left = H
Right = L
Mouse 1 = U
Mouse 2 = I
Scroll Up = Y
Scroll Down = N

One thing I noticed fairly quickly is that this turns using your desktop into a vim-esque experience, where you change modes from mouse to keyboard. That sounds awkward but actually its how I use the system most the time.

I also noticed that this really tests the hell out of your keyboard. I'm currently using a Microsoft Ergo 4000 (terrible) and this alone makes me want to crush it in a machine that crushes things. It has terrible ghosting and n-key rollover.

I still want to tweak it a bit, but I'm fairly happy with it. I'd be curious to know if anyone else is doing something similar?

Offline rowdy

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 05 October 2013, 00:50:33 »
I do not use a mouse on my server, but that is not running a GUI ;)

Sometimes I get frustrated switching between mouse and keyboard and just spurn the mouse in favour of keyboard shortcuts, including switching tabsheets and moving windows around.

But sometimes I spurn the keyboard and just use the mouse to start apps and get everything setup so I can ignore the mouse again for a while.
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But that’s incorrect. It’s in HHKB’s slogan, but when America’s cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

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Offline pyro

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 05 October 2013, 04:06:49 »
I think you can't beat the mouse for cursor movement. What's really practical though, is having mouse buttons on the keyboard. So f.i. if you need to alter your Google searchterm and your cursor is still positioned over the textbox, you don't need to grab the mouse, but can hit the mousebutton on your keyboard to focus the textbox*. More extremely, being able to assign hotkeys for clicks on particular positions of the screen (some button,  menu item, text field, etc) comes in handy sometimes, too.

* I realize you can just start typing and Google will focus that textbox for you, but this is just the simplest of similar examples.

Offline Oobly

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 05 October 2013, 06:58:26 »
Suka over at deskthority has gone one better. He uses an IBM thinkpad trackpoint device embedded in his custom keyboard :) The nub is by his right index finger between the top left 4 keys. I think he has even worked out a way to have multi-function keys which automatically switch between "normal" keys and mouse keys when the trackpoint is used.

Seems like a great solution to me. Minimal keyboard with built-in trackpoint. :D
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Offline nicholaspeterson

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #4 on: Sat, 05 October 2013, 08:08:25 »
Yes, I've considered that but there are a few glaring downsides with using a trackpoint, it forces one to buy a certain type of keyboard, which our very presence on this forum should show is unacceptable. Also if you have to buy a laptop, you have the same issue unless you use a thinkpad.

Offline nicholaspeterson

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #5 on: Sat, 05 October 2013, 08:09:53 »
Ah, didn't see you said custom, that really is a decent solution, although the laptop issue remains.

Offline bubchi89

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #6 on: Sat, 19 October 2013, 05:06:07 »
This is mostly the experience I have now, but I needed linux to do it. I don't have much installed, but I have managed to vimify everything:
-vim as my text editor
-most programs in linux have a cli (so mplayer for videos, irssi for irc, mpd clients for music)
-pentadactyl/vimperator for firefox
-i3-wm for my window manager (it replaces the notion of a "desktop")

It is a pretty radical change, but I got used to it over about 1-2 months. Honestly the learning curve for pentadactyl is a few days. The learning curve for i3-wm is the same, but I didn't do it all at once just because... I had no reason to. Anyways, now I can navigate without trying to _emulate_ the mouse. I _replaced_ it instead, by doing things differently in a way that works for the keyboard. What I'm trying to say is what other people have said... which is that trying to replace cursor movement with a keyboard... seems impossible.

Here's a video of how i3-wm can very obviously replace a ton of cursor movement when swapping between apps:

pentadactyl/vimperator adds vim bindings to your browser. So some huge things are:
-scroll up and down with j/k!
-open a new tab with t
-close a tab with d
-yank the current url with yy!
-change tabs with 'b#' (# is the tab number)
-quickmarks are a subset of bookmarks that can be opened really conveniently. E.g.:
    -g o g => opens gmail in the same tab
    -g n g => opens gmail in a new tab
    -g o s => opens stackoverflow in the same tab

These few programs trivialize keyboard shortcuts to the point where it confuses me that people care about programmable keyboards (except... I still want one). But it is a huge "lifestyle" change. You can't just install these and then have it work intuitively. Install one of them and get used to it before moving on to the next thing. I'm assuming you don't want to switch to linux... so pentadactyl is about as good as you can get. Unfortunately, i3-wm was _necessary_ for me to stop using the mouse 99% of the time though.
« Last Edit: Sat, 19 October 2013, 05:25:32 by bubchi89 »

Offline nicholaspeterson

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #7 on: Mon, 21 October 2013, 15:56:45 »
Hah, I've actually switched to Linux, and now I'm using RatPoison, a tiling Window Manager. I'm planning hard coding the keyboard/mouse movements at the lowest layer feasible, and I'm looking at dropping X-Server eventually and running only on the Framebuffer. I'll post an update when I get my setup closer to how I want it. Basically, I've driven off the cliff-side and I'm stepping on the pedal all the way till the ground.

Offline Findecanor

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #8 on: Mon, 21 October 2013, 22:59:06 »
I also noticed that this really tests the hell out of your keyboard.
Do you wish the HJKL keys were analogue?
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #9 on: Tue, 22 October 2013, 01:47:45 »
I also noticed that this really tests the hell out of your keyboard.
Do you wish the HJKL keys were analogue?

Hmm.... Interesting concept. What if.. we could use hall effect switches with progressive springs? When pressed rapidly (fast change in pressure) they send a keypress, but when pressure is applied more slowly they send directional data, faster movement for more pressure. Needs a custom firmware and you'll have to live with linear keys, but... a possibility.

I may try making a custom keycap with one of these guys on instead: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/10835

Not sure yet if it'll be too sensitive for normal typing, though.
Buying more keycaps,
it really hacks my wallet,
but I must have them.

Offline czarek

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #10 on: Tue, 22 October 2013, 07:42:41 »
I almost never use the mouse (trackball actually). For coding / text editing I'm using MacVim (standard vim + better integration with OS X services), for browsing Chrome with Vimium extension, and for just about anything else, OS X has superb (and consistent - i. e. same keyboard shortcuts in all apps) keyboard support + OS X app services with keys bound to them (like open new vim buffer with text selection, or new email / skype message with text selection) is just a killer for me. Can't live without all that.
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Offline bubchi89

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #11 on: Tue, 22 October 2013, 11:25:25 »
Hah, I've actually switched to Linux, and now I'm using RatPoison, a tiling Window Manager. I'm planning hard coding the keyboard/mouse movements at the lowest layer feasible, and I'm looking at dropping X-Server eventually and running only on the Framebuffer. I'll post an update when I get my setup closer to how I want it. Basically, I've driven off the cliff-side and I'm stepping on the pedal all the way till the ground.

Interesting... I'm wondering what functionality you still lack with RatPoison that you feel compelled to bind the mouse to keys? It just seems like it's missing the point. The reason the mouse is slow isn't just because you need to move your mouse to it. It's because you spend most of your time going from one click to the next, instead of just jumping there and clicking.

Offline tp4tissue

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #12 on: Tue, 22 October 2013, 16:10:41 »
Hah, I've actually switched to Linux, and now I'm using RatPoison, a tiling Window Manager. I'm planning hard coding the keyboard/mouse movements at the lowest layer feasible, and I'm looking at dropping X-Server eventually and running only on the Framebuffer. I'll post an update when I get my setup closer to how I want it. Basically, I've driven off the cliff-side and I'm stepping on the pedal all the way till the ground.

Interesting... I'm wondering what functionality you still lack with RatPoison that you feel compelled to bind the mouse to keys? It just seems like it's missing the point. The reason the mouse is slow isn't just because you need to move your mouse to it. It's because you spend most of your time going from one click to the next, instead of just jumping there and clicking.

I don't think removing the mouse would significantly improve the transition time...

You'd need something like "thought control".. or super accurate eye tracking...

Offline bubchi89

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #13 on: Wed, 23 October 2013, 22:37:42 »
Hah, I've actually switched to Linux, and now I'm using RatPoison, a tiling Window Manager. I'm planning hard coding the keyboard/mouse movements at the lowest layer feasible, and I'm looking at dropping X-Server eventually and running only on the Framebuffer. I'll post an update when I get my setup closer to how I want it. Basically, I've driven off the cliff-side and I'm stepping on the pedal all the way till the ground.

Interesting... I'm wondering what functionality you still lack with RatPoison that you feel compelled to bind the mouse to keys? It just seems like it's missing the point. The reason the mouse is slow isn't just because you need to move your mouse to it. It's because you spend most of your time going from one click to the next, instead of just jumping there and clicking.

I don't think removing the mouse would significantly improve the transition time...

You'd need something like "thought control".. or super accurate eye tracking...

The effect of moving the cursor around is more significant if you imagine removing hotkeys entirely. You can't alt+tab between applications; you have to move your mouse to the bottom of the screen every time you want to swap applications. If you want to swap tabs you can't use ctrl+tab or ctrl+shift+tab or ctrl+# you have to move your mouse to the top of the screen and select. If you are browsing a site which has lots of links (like... anything? reddit, wikipedia, twitter, facebook, etc.) you need to spend time moving from link to link (although I guess you can scroll without moving the mouse :D).

If you consider working on your machine and you need lots of windows open at a time, a tiling WM shines. Let's say you have 5 windows that you want to display on your main screen (which is large, say a 27" or 30" 1600p screen). Well... you are going to spend 2 minutes resizing things to get that set up. I think most people have just resorted to having many many monitors instead of using one or two efficiently. I also realize that this is a special demographic... most people are fine with two things open (and they even buy two monitors just to do that hehe). But yeah... with a tiling wm you open up your five applications, it takes a few keyboard clicks (and no horrid finding the edge of a window and dragging) to move them to the correct location, and then you can resize it whenever you want in a single hotkey combination ("these logs don't have newlines but i can see the entire thing if I just expand this window slightly").

A counterpoint is that you really don't need that many things most of the time. Your brain can't do 20 things at once... often times it's better just to have one application full screened. I don't know, but I am content with this layout/workflow that gives me the flexibility to have 5 things on a single screen with trivial resizing or fullscreening if I feel like it.

Offline nicholaspeterson

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 24 October 2013, 07:40:22 »
One thing i'm contending with is my current keyboard, it has serious ghosting problems, and doesn't support much in the way of rollover. I need to find a small (60%) keyboard with decent rollover, I think 6 keys and no ghosting would be absolutely ideal. I'm not sure what board meets that requirement though. Once a get a better setup going (I'm going through tiling managers like crazy), I'll post a short video to show how I'm handling it.

Offline pyro

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #15 on: Wed, 30 October 2013, 10:16:48 »
[...] i3-wm for my window manager (it replaces the notion of a "desktop") [...]

Thank you for introducing me to i3, it's brilliant!

Offline mkee

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #16 on: Wed, 30 October 2013, 17:52:12 »
Thank you for introducing me to i3, it's brilliant!
+1

Offline davkol

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #17 on: Thu, 31 October 2013, 03:01:30 »
I don't think you need to go that far. KDE Plasma Desktop is both easy to use and configurable. KWin supports hotkeys for almost anything, and you keep useful effects such as the expose-like one. Moreover, mouse emulation on numpad (just another layer on the keyboard) is matter of one checkbox, although I don't see the point... good trackballs are pretty efficient and fun to use.

Offline angelic_sedition

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #18 on: Fri, 01 November 2013, 11:16:39 »
I'll just quickly point out that there is a similar thread on the colemak forum that may be of some use (it's only about linux though): http://forum.colemak.com/viewtopic.php?id=1731&p=1

Since the op has switched to ratpoison, I would very much recommend looking at some of the information in that thread.

For windows, I've found that ahk and pkl are much better programs for a caps layer than things like touchcursor and neatmouse. My general caps layer is currently as follows: (on qwerty)
h- left
j- down
k- up
l- right
u- home
i- end
;- pageup
n- pagedown
o- backspace
w- escape
some combination of alt, shift, and control for asdf that I don't remember
QWERTY(104wpm) -> CarpalxQ(modded) -> Colemak(118wpm) -> Colemak-DH
Mouse less.

Offline mkee

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Re: Computing Without Mice
« Reply #19 on: Fri, 01 November 2013, 22:04:56 »
I don't think you need to go that far. KDE Plasma Desktop is both easy to use and configurable.
Yes, I'm using KDE still, but I believe that ratpoison or i3wm are optimized for keyboard use and are therefore better. For example, when working with several monitors there's not a really nice option to place and move windows.

When it comes to keyboard layouts, Colemak seems a nice option. I'm using a german one – Neo2 – and I especially like the layers for special characters (e.g. for programming) and layer 4 for navigation (left hand) and numpad (right hand).




By the way, just a few days ago, Salix Ratpoison 14.0.1 came out. An OS that can be used with keyboard only. The software selection in the announcement might be interesting.
Salix websiterelease announcement
« Last Edit: Fri, 01 November 2013, 22:58:09 by mkee »