That's service

I promised that I would make a bigger effort to highlight good, positive things when I came across them. Boy did I have some kind of positive day yesterday.

My Macbook had a crack in the case resulting from an improperly seated titanium screw. This caused it to snag the plastic case and created a hairline crack. I took it to the Apple store, where not only did they agree to fix it under warranty but to do the repair in the store to minimize my downtime rather than shipping it off to the repair depot. I just had to wait for the part (a new bottom case for the Macbook) to come in to the store.

When it came in, I got a call two days later saying, hey, it's been two days, we're only holding on to the part for another three. I called back Monday night and said I never got the first call. They were willing to extend the time the two lost days for me to get the Macbook in. Nice touch. Since I don't use the laptop on Tuesdays, I figured that I may as well start my downtime on the day I can't use it anyway and ran right it over to the store that night. Seven to ten business days is what you have to expect for us to get this back to you, they said. No prob.

Tuesday, I come home from work and they have left a message: the Macbook is ready. Less than 24 hours. I shoot over to the Apple store, tell them my name and they knew who I am (and this Apple store is quite busy on weekends). I pick it up and am home in about twenty minutes. It's fixed and I have had no downtime. Kudos to Apple on all around great service.

At the same time, we are getting a new computer because the kids have demanded their own PC. Our current one has a dying hard drive but is otherwise a 4 yr old Dell gaming rig that can meet their needs. I have ordered the new one from AVADirect, which does custom builds. They spend 3-5 days doing a 'burn-in' of the computer, once it's built, to make sure it works fine. They were very prompt in getting things underway once I ordered it. It is still being built so we will have to see how that all turns out.

The new computer needs a monitor and the old one needs a hard drive. So I, on the advice of a tech-savvier friend, went through Newegg, which has low prices, fast shipping and all the computer components you would want. I ordered the monitor, with free shipping, and a new hard drive on Sunday, hoping that it would arrive around the same time as the new computer. The Newegg order shipped Monday.

Right before I got Apple's voice mail, I pull in and see my Newegg packages waiting on my front step. One day for a monitor from Jersey and a hard drive from California to get to my house. Apple and Newegg have not only mastered the quick shipping and service thing, but they have gone the extra mile to make you happy. A whole ton of factors (manufacturers, distributors, shippers, websites, employees) have to do their jobs with care and attention to make this happen. Human organizations and systems can work perfectly when they try. It is awesome to behold.

Now if the new computer can show up soon, and everything work right out of the box, that would make this whole thing perfect. But so far, what service!

Dvorak beats Qwerty by aoeuhtns much

Last year I embarked on an experiment to try the Dvorak keyboard layout for typing to see if it was easier, better, and more comfortable. I'm a sucker for the contrarian method that is reputed to be better, faster and smarter.

Some background first. The Dvorak keyboard is just a keyboard layout that is designed to make typing easier, faster and more comfortable. It has been proven superior to the dreaded, contorted QWERTY. It is available on the keyboard that you are using right now. Here's a picture of the layout:

Learning it was easier than QWERTY and becoming a Dvorak touch typist was about ten times faster. I taught myself by using this website. Switching your keyboard to Dvorak, and being able to toggle between the two can be done pretty easily in the control panel for Windows (look under languages, not keyboard). Go ahead and play around with it. The letter placement is much more intuitive, the beginning steps are easier to follow than on the QWERTY. Note the home row keys (where your fingers rest on the center row of letters) for the two layouts:

asdf jkl;

aoeu htns

Look at the Dvorak home row, especially the two sets of four letters. Vowels to the left, consonants to the right. The other two vowels are on the left - 'i' is next to 'u' and 'y' is on the QWERTY 't', a short jump up from the 'i'.

Think of typing the word 'that' on this keyboard. Roll your right middle and index finger for the 'th', then left pinky for the 'a' and then the right middle for the 't'. No stretchy stretchy. On QWERTY, it would be stretch left and up to the 't', stretch left to the 'h', then 'a' and stretch up and left 't', and with the same hand.

After about a year of use, I can say definitively that Dvorak is much, much better.

Not only will I not go back to QWERTY, but I have found that I can't even if I wanted to. I've lost the QWERTY touch typing ability completely and when confronted with such a layout it is back to hunt and peck. A final knock against it - it doesn't stick in the mind when not used for a while.

So, like the trackball is to the mouse, the Dvorak keyboard is much better and easier to learn than QWERTY, which was designed to be a slow pain in the comma. I recommend that everyone learn it. It is available on every keyboard on every operating system. As a touch typist, you won't need to have the letter stickers on the keys correspond to what you get when you strike them. How many of you will be flexible enough to give it a try? Some won't want to throw away that long and painful investment in learning QWERTY, but Dvorak won't be as long or painful and you'll really crank when you are proficient.

The bigger question is what to do when the younger trackballs are ready to move on from the QWERTY hunt and peck to actual keyboarding? Do I let them join the elephant QWERTY touch-typist club or do I induct them in the enlightened cheetah club of Dvorak typing goodness? In the age of PC's and custom desktop accounts, the choice of keyboard layout is pretty much personal (but your computer support people may be surprised when they try to use it). Dr. Trackball may not like the Dvorak option, fearing that the trackballs will be outcasts, but if I convince her to switch over...