Missing choice of keyboards in latest build

Kevin Dean kevin at foreverdean.info
Sun Jan 27 21:20:48 CET 2008

I think raising the issue of usability makes a lot of sense, however I
caution the "I'd just get a <device X> and be done" logic. OpenMoko
and the Neo are platforms designed to be Free and open from the ground
up - I've looked and you won't find another with those same goals.

That said, the multi-touch keyboards suck, in my opinion. The only
real benefit in my use would be for texting while driving since it's
harder to do that with the stylus and keyboard. The lack of some kind
of tactical reaction to "crossing" keys also makes the Neo poorly
suited for texting-while-driving - coupled with the fact that
texting-while-driving is illegal in some places and considered
"dangerous" by others, I don't think adopting a mutli-touch to make it
easier is a signifigant enough advantage to do it.

The keyboard, however, is also not a great solution for the usability
perspective because it is so small and so poorly optimized for
emulation. Case in point? The "Bksp" key is on the top right. The vast
majority of people are right handed and using the stylus will cause
many people to adjust their grip to type the backspace key. I'm also
willing to bet that the number of "Bksp" presses far outnumbers the
frequency at which the oppositely spaced key, ESC, is. At the very
least, swapping the ESC and BKSP keys would constitue an improvement
and I'm sure that the entire QWERTY layout has a handful of similar

The problem, I think, is that doing something that would be "good" for
OpenMoko also means doing something from scratch and I've gotten the
impression that many of the developers consider real work on the
userspace apps to be secondary to dealing with the hardware/kernel.

On Jan 27, 2008 2:44 PM, Peter Rasmussen <plr at udgaard.com> wrote:
> I down- and uploaded the latest build to my Neo:
> http://buildhost.openmoko.org/daily/neo1973/deploy/glibc/images/neo1973/OpenMoko-openmoko-devel-image-glibc-ipk-P1-Snapshot-20080127-fic-gta01.rootfs.jffs2
> And found that the keyboard layout has changed from a QWERTY keyboard to
> a mobile keypad style keyboard.
> A bad choice if you ask me!
> One of the reasons I still love my Motorola A780 from 2004 is because of
> its keyboard setup! There are other things I hate, but this one is very
> good!
> Actually, I found that the UI in 2007.1 was good, partly because of the
> keyboard choices, and that it was much more mobile-device-related than
> the present 2007.2, which is actually not very good.
> When the only choice is provided to make it a regular mobile-phone style
> keyboard, and still without international characters, I can't help think
> if OpenMoko is actually trying to make a smart-phone or just emulate a
> dumb mobile with an expensive touch screen?
> Let's get to choose between an international QWERTY keyboard, a
> mode-keyboard like in 2007.1, and then of course the newly invented
> soft-mobile-phone-keyboard.
> I understand that there is a desire to be able to use the Neo just with
> the fingers, and not be required to use a stylus, but if that was _the_
> requirement I could just get myself a Nokia N95 and be done with it.
> If the present status is just a stage in development, please let me know
> of where I can read Release Notes and/or a road map, so it doesn't look
> so much like an ad-hoc development process as it does now!
> Thanks,
> Peter

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