Those of you that know Matt know that he’s a big fan of the Dvorak keyboard layout; I tried it once and felt like I was throwing a baseball left handed, drunk, while juggling chainsaws and puppies for an hour. The whole experience was uncomfortable and awkward and made me feel like a stranger in my own house, so I haven’t gone back to trying it since.

As a developer I usually find myself doing a lot of typing. I use a lot of symbols that most people don’t use through-out their day so much, like $,#_%-;*&”()!=//’ and just about anything in between. I use these constantly, on almost every single sentence of code-poetry that I write. I’m constantly copying and pasting and saving and committing and upping and all sorts of random things that most people would never really shake a stick at if they saw me lying unconscious on the floor babbling about camel-case and the importance of properly indenting your mark-up.

This got me thinking about the keyboard on my Sony VAIO FW340J (which I love dearly) and about the keys that I use most through-out the day. The thing that I love most about Sony and their keyboard layout (up until this years’ models) is they’ve kept the additional column of keys to the right of the keyboard dedicated towards text navigation. The delete, home, page-up, page-down, and end keys are all nicely piled on top of each other for super quick use. Combined with the power of my left shift key, they allow me to effortlessly highlight lines of code with only the lift of a finger or two.

Back in the days of type-writers (when people were apparently ALWAYS SHOUTING) it was decided that the caps-lock key would be positioned to the left of your left pinky, directly above the shift key, and directly below the tab key.

In the middle of my bustling downtown fancy modern day chicklet style keyboard, lives an old curmudgeon of a caps-lock key that refuses to give up his real-estate.

This is actually the main reason I haven’t purchased a Mac yet.

Anyhow, today Kunal Bhalla mentioned that he recently tried out the Dvorak layout and decided to revisit it again later when he was feeling a little more dedicated to cause, but he brought up the idea of remapping and switching his caps-lock and esc keys in Ubuntu, and I thought that was a pretty clever idea.

I found a few articles online about remapping keys in Windows, but nothing that was dead simple. So, a quick back-up and dive-in to the registry and I’ve kicked my old man out and replaced him with a shiny new key. I opted for having it open My Computer -6B E0 for now, because hitting Windows + E was just too many key presses. 🙂

When I stop and think about the caps-lock key, it really is amazing that’s stayed put for as long as it has, considering how rarely we actually use it anymore. Given the number of computers in the world, the words per minute that most of us can type, and the number of times the caps-lock key is hit by mistake, I’d wager that $2 billion dollars are lost in productivity every month by mistakes that old-school key placement causes. (Keep in mind that figure is based on absolutely nothing but my general feeling of negativity towards the inefficiency and complete randomness of that key in our modern, fancy-pants, high-rise building world we live in today.)

If you could replace your caps-lock key, what would you put there? Besides diamonds, or a freshwater fish…

I’m not really a business-man kind of guy. I’ve never really been able to wrap my head around the economic logistics of running a zillion dollar corporation, so I’ll preface this to say that I can’t really speak from that angle with first hand experience. What my perception of that kind of business is though, is cut-throat and viscous with a side of watch-your-back. Considering I’m generally a laid back, go with the flow kind of person (unless I’m sitting in traffic) it’s pretty natural and obvious that I’m just not cut out for that line of work.

What has worked pretty well for me though, is open source development. I think because it has that whole ‘pay it forward’ type of mentality to it… and because I get to prove myself everyday to my friends, my peers, and my clients and colleagues. It benefits not only me, but the people that I work and play with, to do a good job. I’m rewarded with natural thank-yous and random pats-on-the-back just for doing something that I would be doing anyhow, which lets me ‘make my own bed’ so to speak. It’s like having a commission based salary, except without the sales pitch and the getting ripped off by the sales guy.

I’m blessed and fortunate to be able to do what I do and be able to pay the bills with it. It’s a luxury that I’m not always sure I deserve yet, but I take advantage of the opportunities doing my best not to take them for granted any step of the way. Because of the WordPress community, I’ve met amazing people that I call my friends, even if we’ve physically met 3 times. I’ve gotten to work a lot on BuddyPress, and will be putting some efforts into bbPress now, all of which I’m happy and proud to be able to say that I am a small part of.

All of this, isn’t my doing.

If it wasn’t for the GPL, I wouldn’t have any of it. None of it would be possible.

If I wasn’t able to see other peoples work and reapply it for the task at hand, I would never have been able to learn LAMP development in the first place. The first thing I noticed is that open source developers are typically very generous, providing copious amounts of insight and example code with out asking for a penny in return. The general rule, of course, is that you credit the original author for their assistance, even if it was in a semi-anonymous fashion. I generally like to drop a comment in their blog if they have one thanking them for their help, but I digress…

This is all what made giving props cool.

Let me just say, that NOT crediting people for their help is usually uncool. I am of the opinion that anyone with a shred of moral fiber should thank the people that helped them get where they are. But in the open source development world, having a link in your footer to the engine that runs your site, is something you’re proud of; having a commented line of code inside yours that credits the original author is something you’re proud to do, and there’s a few reasons why I think that is:

  1. It shows you’re paying attention to other people and what their methods are.
  2. It shows that you respect them and their efforts.
  3. It lets the world know that you’re humble enough to thank the people that help you along the way.
  4. It proves that you can’t do it alone, and that you understand that no one expects you to.
  5. It goes a long way towards building good relationships and business practices.
  6. It means that when someone credits the hard work that you’ve done, you’ll get that warm, fuzzy feeling too.

I know that the GPL is a legal document that is meant to protect the rights and abilities of the developers that use it. Going back to the business-man thing, I can honestly say that in my beginnings (and sometimes even recently) I did not comprehend exactly what the GPL was or what it meant to believe in it as strongly as I do on this day. To me, today, the GPL is something that protects me and my rights as much as it is something that lets me safely distribute what I do for others to use, reuse, and share however they see fit in a respectable and ethical fashion.

The kicker about all this, is my feelings won’t be hurt if I don’t get ‘props’ even if it’s in the spirit of the GPL to provide them; even if it’s written in the license that you need to obey the original license. If I never get a thank you, and never get recognition for what I do, and my code shows up somewhere without a direct credit to me, I won’t even be mad… it isn’t something I need or want… but I will appreciate it. Like most things in life that can be appreciated, if they go totally unappreciated for too long… if they are used and abused to point of an obvious injustice being committed, be it moral, ethical, legal, or otherwise… there are and should be repercussions for that kind of behavior.

So… in short (but also very long), the GPL made props cool. It did that by giving everyone a perpetual and reciprocal way of helping each other get things done in a way that makes sure everyone is appreciated, everyone is treated fairly, and everyone gets recognized for their hard work and dedication. If you use a GPL licensed snippet of code, or an icon that someone has made available, or use open source software, by recognizing the hard work that went into those things, you’re silently appreciating and respecting the people that help make the internet awesome, and they do appreciate it. I know I do, and I appreciate all of you too. 😀

A year ago this August, my girlfriend and I moved into our second place together. At our first place, I purchased us two very plain white tables from IKEA that we used as our L shaped shared office, and it worked out pretty well since we both use laptops as our primary machines and they don’t take up very much space. Once we moved into the new place (which is much nicer and fits the both of us better) I never got around to setting our workspace back up.

Instead, I confiscated the dining room area to use as my man space. On one end, proudly displayed are my turntables (Technics 1200 MKII’s + Rane SL57 + Serato, naturally) and on the other end I salvaged a friends TV stand and book shelf to use as my video game station. The space is awesome, it’s filled with toys and goodies, but I haven’t had much time since the move to actually use any of it.

Leading up to the point of this story… I’ve gone almost 1 calendar year without a desk at my home office, and it’s been a pretty bizarre experience. Using a laptop as my main (and only) development machine for the past 7 years or so, I’ve formed some bad habits like working from the couch, working from bed, and wanting to take my work with me everywhere I go.

These habits, are probably bad. I’d recommend avoiding them at most costs, if possible.

There’s something to be said for being able to work anywhere you want to… being able to lay down under a blanket, turn on some music, and get comfy on the couch with a good night of programming has been something I’ve taught myself to look forward to. But, it also makes me look and feel pretty retarded when the real world watches me, because what’s really happening is desecration of sacred relaxation space with the presence of work… all the time… everywhere I go.

So in the corner of our bedroom has sat one of those old tables I got from IKEA so long ago, having been converted from a respectable desk into an elevated clothes hamper for shirts and pants that just aren’t dirty enough to actually make it into the hamper itself, but still need a place to say to the world “I have been worn at least one time since I’ve been removed from the closet.” Jess was out-of-town no more than 3 hours by the time I decided to start nesting my work area again.

Couldn’t be happier so far.

Having a desk, if you don’t have one, makes work feel like a place where you can sit down to get stuff done, and then disconnect from it when you’re not there. I know it sounds really silly to say out loud, and probably even more silly to read since it’s such an obvious necessity in life, but it’s true at least for me. The past few days I’ve probably been more productive with my time than I have in a long while, both in part because my work space inspires my brain to click into ‘work mode’ and because I’m able to keep work where it belongs, and use the couch for what it’s really for… Napping.

I think especially when you work from home, being in a “work space” means people will more than likely not interrupt you when you’re working because you’re not just lounging on the couch or in a cushy chair trying to not glance over at reruns of Grey’s Anatomy. Not that I was sad when George died or anything… Just saying…

So, if you don’t have a desk, and you work from home, you should spend the $50 and buy a table from IKEA and set yourself a nice little spot in a corner somewhere. I think you’ll be glad you did.

I also think my next project is tricking out my desk with a rad external monitor swing-arm, and finding a nice iPhone and iPad charging dock to keep things nice and tidy.