Only one product appeared very different, which was the Beeraider Keyboard. But the product did not exist yet, it was crowdfunded via a pre-order process. The design was singing in my mind though, so I pre-ordered in September 2015, accepting all the risks this step could involve.
Once per month I received a status update email from “Ray”, whose surname is yet to be discovered, but those mails kept a certain feeling of progress being made. One year later, the product is finally send to its funders. I’ve worked about one week on the keyboard, and it is time to tell a story.
The wireless Beeraider keyboard is shipped with a wireless mouse. Apparently there have been a few confusions, but the antenna can be found in the battery compartment. I also received the batteries for both keyboard and mouse. There is an instruction manual which you really need to read through, or you won’t get it. The package also includes a CD-rom with drivers, install those and then get the latest version from the web.
After you installed, you need to re-learn how to type. Beeraider comes in two keyboard layouts, the qwerty layout, and the optimized layout. I chose to go all the way, with the optimized layout.
Beeraider provided an excellent training video how to get started. And then you start typing, and typing, and typing. Stop a little, try to remember the keyboard layout by heart, try to see if your fingers can find all keys without looking. Focus on accuracy, and after a few days you gain a little speed. Won’t be anything you are used to tough.
I used the keyboard for software development, and to write a few articles. In the current state I’d say that the keyboard is more suitable for writing text, than writing code.
Every one in professional data entry has heard about the right way to sit behind your keyboard. However, the good old rectangle “qwerty” keyboard allows you to bend the rules a bit. Beeraider does not negotiate. It hurts to bend the rules. I needed to revise my sitting posture again. Chair up, place the keyboard under my fingertips, while the position of my elbows are leading. I’ve found a position which is a bit more comfortable, but I’m still experimenting. A new posture is activating though, which is a good thing.
Even though I’m not fully up to speed yet, I do notice progress in my typing speed. It is just a matter of seeing it through. Don’t learn this in your bosses’ time, you’ll be one week less productive.
Many keys at the top of the keyboard have some extra function, ie spelling correction, save file, and these work nicely. Note that the center button is a space-key, not an “Fn” button, even though they share the same color. I even programmed one of the macro buttons, which was quite easy.
I’ve already send the following observations to Beeraider, via their support form. Probably very busy with deliveries at this moment, but they’re currently not very responsive. Most crowdfunded projects have a blog or forum, to share experiences, and to send signals of activity. Now the product is leaving the factory, it would be a good moment to scale up.
The keyboard has a switch at the back, which I mistakenly took for an on/off switch. It actually switches between “qwerty” and “optimized” mode. I did not expect this switch on the optimized version. There is an on/off switch on the mouse, so it was my own Pavlov to even touch it. But then I searched for a few hours for language-settings, until I discovered why all letters came out wrong.
The product still has a few child diseases. When I plugged the USB antenna at the back of my notebook, I had a bad connection and a non-responsive mouse in some areas. Plugging it in at the side improved performance drastically, with nothing in between the antenna and the equipment. Both setups had less than one meter between antenna and keyboard/mouse. My old wireless Logitec mouse does not have this problem.
After a few hours of working, things sometimes go crazy, ie typing my name, would result in: “frnkkkkkkkk”. Correcting this and adding the letter “a” is simply refused, while some keys keep being repeated (driver v1.0.5). It sometimes helps to remove the antenna and re-insert it again.
Speaking of software development, I’m not convinced that the current “user experience” is very suitable for software development. The issue is that all special characters are accessible via ‘sticky keys’. So you press the blue key, and then the key with the special character. On a classic keyboard you hold Shift and press 9 to get a parenthesis. On the optimized radial keyboard, you press blue and then you press ‘T’. You don’t -hold- the blue button, so every special character always involves two key presses. I don’t expect this to sell very well in software sector, where such special characters are very common. I actually did some development in FSharp with BeeRaider, and found this feature quite reluctant.
One issue that software can’t solve. The mouse has a very comfortable coating, but it wears of in hours, making your long awaited and brand new mouse look old and compromised. Where your hand is resting on the mouse, it is stained, in my case the left mouse button, a the right half of my hand-palm.
Even though my criticism, I do love this keyboard. Its creator has started this project in the nineties’ or something. During the last year, it did become clear that BeeRaider is very committed to make this into a perfect product. I have version 1.0, and the adventure has just begun.