Why the Keyboard is Here to Stay

There’s been a lot of fuss recently, (and not so recently), about multi-touch interfaces and alternatives to keyboard and mouse as input devices for computers, but I believe that the keyboard, at least, is here to stay.

The keyboard is the best instrument we have, and the second best instrument that I can think of, to get text quickly from my mind into a computer. It’s been around for about 181 years now, and while there are some strong arguments to change the way it works, there is no really good reason to get rid of it.

As Scott Berkun said the other day:

Most technology doesn’t change much. The wiring that powers your home, the plumbing that brings you water, the roads you go to and from work on, work in mostly the same way they always have. This is ok. Lack of upgrade is not a sign of failure.

He is right, and the keyboard belongs right in there with plumbing, elictricity, and roads. How else are we going to get ideas from our minds into a computer? (I have an idea, I will come to it shortly).

Multi-touch has been the darling of the UI world for a little while now, and we keep hearing about the possibility of multi-touch enabled full-size screens. BumpTop has released a version of their software, (which is really cool, by the way), that has multitouch support. Do you really want to spend your day at a desk or counter, with your arms extended in front of you touching a screen? Try it right now for sixty seconds. Just reach out and put your fingers in front of your screen. I’ll wait. Finished? How do your shoulders and arms feel? A little tired? Now imagine your whole workday like that. Yes, we will become accustomed to the feeling, and we’ll get more endurance in our shoulder muscles, but we’re not meant to spend eight hours a day with our arms out like zombies.

How about voice control? It works pretty well in Star Trek, but if you have ever had to speak for an extended period of time you will know that your voice can get tired and sore just as your shoulders and arms can. Even if voice recognition technology was good enough to correctly transcribe what we say every time, with the correct grammar, (and it’s not, as Fred Wilson’s Dictated Post clearly illustrates),we would still end up talking all day. Imagine what it would sound like in an office, and how would students take notes on their laptops? Because of voice fatique and noise levels, voice control is not a viable solution for entering large amounts of text, or for doing long periods of computer-based work.

Multi-touch and voice control are great for short messages and commands. Even my ancient Motorola lets me use a voice command to call my fiancée, but for entering a lot of text, or for long sessions of work, they suck.

What’s the solution? Thought control. Hook the computers up to our brains, then whatever we think will become what is written, or drawn, or whatever. Imagine the possibilities, no more typing, no more trying to draw something that you see in your mind using Illustrator, because your computer sees it too. Also, we won’t need computer screens because hey, if the computer can see what’s going on in our minds, surely it can show things to us as well. However, even if we include the Firefox, controlling a computer with my thoughts is still a dream and will remain a dream for many years to come. The solution for today is the keyboard. It lets us enter text and commands very quickly, often faster than we could write them using pen and paper. It lets us do so quietly. And it’s a worldwide standard.

Hotmail vs. FF3 – Clueless Support!

Since I wrote that Hotmail is not friends with Firefox 3 on Wednesday there have been a lot of people finding that entry searching for things like “hotmail not work firefox 3” and “hotmail tells me to clear cache and cookies.”

Well, one reader, Joel, contacted support, and here’s the excellent E-mail he got back:

…Your message was forwarded to us at Windows Live Hotmail Technical Support. This is Kris and I gather that you are having issue that Windows Live Hotmail will not load in the full version when you are accessing your #######@###### account through Firefox 3 as your browser. I understand the importance of having this addressed immediately.

Joel, I would like to inform you that Windows Live Hotmail does not currently have the feature that will allowed you to use the full version of Windows Live Hotmail when using Firefox 3 as your browser. What I can do for you now is to personally submit this item to the Windows Live Hotmail Product Development Team as a feature request for evaluation, as I see the usefulness of this capability.

We appreciate your continued support as we strive to provide you with the highest quality service available. Thank you for using Windows Live Hotmail.

How cryptic can the response be?  Again:

Windows Live Hotmail does not currently have the feature that will allowed you to use the full version of Windows Live Hotmail when using Firefox 3 as your browser.

What’s going on?

Hotmail is not friends with Firefox 3

Since yesterday’s release of Firefox 3 I have been enjoying snappier speeds browsing  some of my favourite websites.  Not Windows Live Mail though.  When I log in it tells me this:

You are temporarily on the classic version of Windows Live Hotmail due to an error encountered during login. Before trying again, please clear your cache and cookies.

Reminds me of earlier times, when Windows Live Mail didn’t fully support FF.  What gives?

Update: A lot of people are finding this post when searching for things like “firefox 3 hotmail not working,” so it seems that this is a fairly common problem.  If anyone finds a solution, drop me a line at john at johnbeales dot com and let me know how it works, or post it in the comments, (comments are moderated so it may not appear right away).

Downloading Firefox 3

Today is Download Day and there has been a lot of griping about the servers going down.  Well, it looks like the servers are back up again.  I hadn’t tried earlier, (well, I tried at 10 AM EDT, since I’d read that FF3 was going to be available at 10 AM, but apparently the article I read forgot to mention the timezone.  10 AM = 1 PM).

I have now downloaded Firefox 3 with no problems at all and am writing this post using it.  I had played around with some of the release candidates but hadn’t been using them full-time because of plugin compatibility, (I’m looking at you Firebug).

Speaking of Firebug, it didn’t upgrade automatically when I installed FF3 as it should have, and when I went to getfirebug.com I got no response.  After a quick Google search I discovered that getfirebug.com has been down for a bit, (ownership is being transferred to Mozilla so this never happens again).  However, you can download Firebug 1.2 from Mozilla, (this is the FF3-compatible version).

So I am now running FF3, (and keeping a copy of FF2 around for testing). If you want FF3, get it here.