New Support Forums added

I have long been sitting on the fence when it comes to providing a discussion forum for supporting customers.

I like the direct personal contact of the one-on-one email exchanges and I hate the organized chaos of most discussion forums.

When you open one of those things, you suddenly become a moderator for community rather than just the guy sitting at home behind his monitor helping people sort out problems his software and trying to figure out what needs improving.

Sounds good, but what about the spammers, the trolls, the flaming wars and all of that? Oh, yes and what if you call “forum” and no one comes? Oh well, we’ll see..

I’ll be running the forums on a “wait and see what happens” basis until further notice.

Please feel free to use and abuse it and don’t hesitate to talk amongst yourselves. I’ll be trying to check in as often as possible and keep it as spam free as at all possible.

Hope you enjoy it!


MacBook Air – My 5 cents

Here we go again.. Apple brings out a new product and makes a controversial claim (“The world’s thinnest notebook”) and the entire gadget-loving internet is going bi-polar again. Oh well, I guess that was Apple’s marketing goal in making this claim anyway: get everybody talking about its new product.

Mission accomplished.

The Gadget sites all seem to be taking the wrong approach once more, by comparing the MacBook Air to other (sub-)notebooks based on:

  • features
  • price
  • weight
  • size

The usual arguments re-surface: “It’s too expensive because Acer does the same thing for 20% less”. “It’s missing connectivity (DVD, firewire, ethernet, ..)”. “For $XXXX, I’d expect it to be faster”, etc, etc.

In my personal opinion all this misses the point. The sentence below summarizes my take on the MacBook Air’s “unique selling proposition”:

The MacBook Air is the most portable Mac.

It’s perfect for taking down to Star Bucks (please open one around the corner, so I can take it there!), answering your mail, doing a spot of programming or just plain surfing. True it’s not as small as your iPhone, but it has got a bigger screen, and yes, it does run Mac OS X, which is nice.

How is it possible that almost all reviews of the MacBook Air forget to even mention, it’s main feature: It’s a Mac stupid!.

Is the Lenovo X300 a Mac? No? So why would Gizmodo let you vote on which is better? Surely if you want a Mac, you’re not going to buy a Lenovo?

I guess now that Macs can run Windows or Linux, the question that Gizmodo is asking is: “As a Windows user, is it worth buying the MacBook Air rather than the Lenovo X300 so that you can run Windows XP (not Vista!) on a box that looks nicer?”

The mere thought of buying a Mac, just to erase the Mac OS X partition and install Windows instead makes my skin crawl.. Arrgh.

Anyway, my MacBook Air arrived a week or so ago and it has kept everything it promised: It’s a Mac that I can slip next to my notepad (which happens to be thicker) in a bag and take out with me without breaking my back.

It’s not going to replace my Mac Pro and my triple monitor setup, which I’ve grown to love. Its tiny screen means that I need to switch between windows incessantly, its small disk means that I can’t just mirror my 600Gb Mac Pro installation via Apple’s Setup Assistant, but had to install things by hand.

Sure it would be great if it had a larger disk, a faster CPU or faster wireless networking, but you don’t really expect those things in this small a package. You just know it’s not going to be a tiny version of a full-blown Mac Pro and if you don’t well..

The MacBook Air is a Mac that you can take with you everywhere; without breaking your back. In this market segment it’s unique. Apple had to make some compromises, but I’m happy to live with them. The main thing is that I can just take it with me, in case I need it. It has already supplanted my MacBook Pro, which is a more capable machine, but simply doesn’t offer the same convenience.

The MacBook Pro won’t be anybody’s main machine.

It will be too expensive for teenagers to run facebook on, but it’s ideal for professionals who rely on their Macs and need to take it pretty much anywhere.

I can’t just close shop for a two week holiday. I need to keep on top of my email and I need to be able to fix my website should it decide to go down.

The MacBook Air will pay for itself, just by letting me go on holiday without having to lug my MacBook Pro around for a couple of hours while trying to reign in my 18 month old toddler.

Thank you Steve!

Time Travelling..

This morning I’ve felt a need to reminisce and had a look at friends reunited, the top U.K. site for tracking down your lost friends from university. Not that I’ve had a lot of luck finding anybody.. (no I’m not going to pay to send email to people!).

That made me think: Can people find me on the internet? So I googled myself and came across an interview (!) that I gave a decade ago to coming in late for work, PowerTools G3 Clones.. those were these days 🙂

A Better Finder Launcher is set free

A long, long time ago, in another life time (the 6th of August 2003 to be precise), I released version 1.0 beta 1 of “A Better Finder Launcher”, my entry into the perfect Mac OS X application launcher contest. Back then I was full of plans for all the cool things I could do with that program..

There were already plenty of contenders our there, but I didn’t like any of them. My problem with them was that they did too much. All I wanted was a quick way of launching the applications that did not fit into the dock. Period.

I reasoned that I can’t possibly be the only person on the planet (or at least the Mac) who wanted something quick, simple and effective, rather than something bloated with features that nobody could possibly want, and so I set out to build a radically fast, radically simple and 100% effective application launcher.

As it happens, I was totally wrong about my market analysis. As it turns out, nobody wants a quick, simple and effective application launcher rather than a bloated “launch everything and the kitchen sink” launcher. And certainly the perceived value of a “simple” product is much less than that of a “complicated” product.

A Better Finder Launcher never took off: not even in a small way. Feedback on the product was never more than a trickle and most of the time was about “why does it not do more”, rather than “couldn’t it do this better”.

Development continued in a haphazard manner, driven more by individual user’s requests and my own whims than by market forces 🙂

The fact that Mac OS X 10.4 introduced “Spotlight” and that the QuickSilver (“Less is more” can mean many different things) guys continued to do an impressive job and do it for free, didn’t help the product to flourish either. Still a hard core of loyal A Better Finder Launcher users continued to exist and I was probably the most hardcore of them.

I have long ago given up on making A Better Finder Launcher a commercial success and as a full time developer that means that I can’t really spend that much time on it (people keep sending me bills!). I was often tempted to acknowledge defeat (I have really) and discontinue the product (I will not) for good.

The thing that stopped me from cutting my losses and get out of the launcher market altogether was that hardcore of users. I didn’t want to let them down. Moreover, right from the start, A Better Finder Launcher was bundled with the A Better Finder series of tools and there are thus potentially tens of thousands of avid users out there that I know nothing about; my guess is that it’s more like a hundred or so, but still..

Unfortunately, I know for a fact that many A Better Finder users don’t like A Better Finder Launcher and that they would be much happier if I stopped bundling the program with the series installer. A Better Finder Launcher is a launcher and not a file utility per-se and it never really fitted in that well with A Better Finder Rename, A Better Finder Attributes and A Better Finder Select, which really are pure file utilities. For me, it was a way of adding a free goodie for the existing series owners.

How then do I get myself out of this predicament? Keeping the existing users happy while acknowledging defeat in the larger market?

My solution in the end is simple: As of today, A Better Finder Launcher is no longer part of the A Better Finder Series and it is no longer a paying product. Instead it becomes freeware (which may widen its appeal at least a little bit). I will continue to update the product in the same haphazard way as before and accept voluntary donations; existing users can now consider themselves early “donators” (thanks!) and customers who want the A Better Finder file utilities, but not the launcher, no longer need to “implicitly” pay for it.

I hope this will make the A Better Finder Series more focused, as well as giving A Better Finder Launcher a new lease of life. I’m currently considering changing its name and icon to reflect its new status, but this will need to wait until an icon can be procured, but a plan is already starting to take shape..

As a loyal user, I don’t want “my launcher” to go out on a low, however, which is why today’s 2.2 release features a number of much requested improvements:

  • two user interface modes: run as a normal application complete with menu bar and dock icon, or run as a hot key-only application (no dock icon, no menu bar)
  • improved responsiveness (always a goal)
  • all known bugs fixed

As Steve Jobs would put it “This is best A Better Finder Launcher we’ve ever done and it is really, really amazing.” … and one more thing … now it’s free.

Ergotron LX Triple Display Lift Stand Review

When I recently reviewed the new Mac Pro machines, I mentioned that the one thing that didn’t really make it such a great upgrade for me was that the graphics cards in the new Mac Pros do not (yet?) support portrait mode. I mentioned that my beloved three monitor setup (from left to right: 21″ portrait mode, 21″ landscape mode, 21″ portrait mode) from the G5 PowerMac needed to be converted to a landscape only “panorama” setup.

I may have given the impression that doing this on my Ergotron DS100 triple monitor stand is not so easy. Well, it’s true. The DS100 is a kit-type system designed primarily for static setups with anything from 2 to 5 (or more) screens.


This makes sense because until recently a dual (or God forbid triple) TFT screen setup was just prohibitively expensive. This meant that you were only ever likely to find such setups in environments like control rooms of half-billion dollar factories, airports and of course financial trading rooms. In these types of environment, “set them up and leave them running” stands are more than sufficient.

The price of LCD screens has now, however, plummeted so far that multi-screen setups are, if perhaps not cheap, at least affordable for most professionals. Thus monitor stands need to evolve!

After I reported my “niggle” with their product on my blog, the good people at Ergotron contacted me via email. That’s customer service! With most companies, it is YOU who have to contact them and they will then be happy to ignore you until you give up (e.g. Canon’s scanner support people).

Not so at Ergotron: they promptly set out to convince me that their monitor stands had already evolved. Would I like to give their new LX Triple Display Lift Stand a go? An offer I couldn’t refuse..

On paper, the LX Triple Display Lift Stand is exactly what I was looking for before I “settled” for the DS100. It can accommodate three flat screens, is fully height adjustable, you can allegedly easily rotate the displays from portrait to landscape mode and tilt them forward and backwards as a unit.


Today, the good man from FedEx delivered a parcel roughly the size of a golf bag (at least I think that’s how big a golf bag must be). So let’s see what the new generation of triple monitor stands looks like..


The giant box contains a surprisingly small number of components and right from the start you notice that this is a consumer/ prosumer kind of product. My previous stand had a utilitarian/industrial feel about it: designed for and by people who like ratchets and aren’t afraid of a spot of DIY.


This stand is different. Each component is “designed” and attention was given to the detailed aesthetics; there are even nicely emblazoned “Ergotron” logos here and there. The bulk and the impeccable finish of the major components screams “German SUV” aesthetics.


Assembly too is definitely at the prosumer/ consumer end of the spectrum. You simply plug the three major components into one another and fix them with 4 screws. 5 minutes flat if you are of a careful disposition.


The assembled stand according to my wife looks like “space tech”; I think it wouldn’t look out of place on an big Audi Q7. It’s a bit too large to ignore, just big enough to impress and not quite so huge as to be ridiculous. In a word: nice.

It is of course the part where you put YOUR screens on the stand where things start getting tricky, and swapping between different setups “on the fly” is where the reality of manipulating some fairly hefty hardware re-asserts itself.. let’s see whether the new stand fares better than the old models in this respect.

Hands down the most complicated part of assembling your three display stand is to unmount your TFTs from their original stands. Many LCDs these days come mounted on a rotating, tilting and height adjustable base. Disassembling this and using the VESA compliant (if you’re lucky) mounts can be a little tricky especially on models with built-in USB hubs, power supplies, speakers, etc.

This is where the “oh my good I hope I don’t break it” feeling starts to strike (perhaps not so much if it’s not YOUR screen that YOU paid YOUR money for, but still..).

Luckily for me, I went through this whole process a while ago when assembling the DS100 stand, so that part was plain sailing for me 🙂

Now for “How do I put my screens on that stand”?

This turns out to be not so very complicated, even though it takes two people to do it.

The basic problem is the weight distribution: the middle monitor goes on without a hitch, but the side monitors are more problematic. While you are trying to put on the first side monitor, there is obviously a lot more weight on that end of the stand and the whole thing is going to topple over. This is where you need the second person to stabilize the other end. Once the first side monitor is on of course, the entire stand will be unstable until you put on the third and final monitor, so don’t plan on doing this without having somebody else around to help you. While you’re at it why not invite a third person along?


With the older DS100 model, this was quite tiresome because each screen was attached with a jumbo size screw that went through the horizontal rail itself. There was nothing keeping the screen horizontally stable until the screw was at least halfway in.

Imagine the scene: one person is holding the already mounted left hand screen level so the stand doesn’t fall over on its heavier left side, while the second person is trying to hold up the right hand screen so that the jumbo screw fits into the rail while trying to fit the nut onto this screw. This would be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact that some very expensive hardware is about to get damaged 🙂


The LX Triple Display Lift Stand makes things an awful lot easier by supplying a more horizontally stable base. What’s more the screens are first mounted on a kind of bracket with a straight edge that is hung onto the horizontal rail. This makes an enormous difference: you simply lift the screen and hang it onto the rail and then do all the fine-adjusting. Much nicer.

The stand comes with a whole array of mounting plates and screws to fit all VESA compliant monitors. If you are worried about your particular monitor being compatible, Ergotron have a very comprehensive list of monitor specifications on their website against which you can check your particular model. This also takes into account the weight of each monitor, an important factor.

My own setup consists of three 21 inch monitors: two Samsung 213Ts on the sides and one Samsung 214T in the middle. Ergotron recommend that the monitors have similar weights but this is not strictly necessary.

Since the LX is able to accommodate many different monitors and setups, a little bit of adjustment is necessary in order to get the best of it. The stand is capable of both moving your monitors up and down and to tilt them forwards or backwards in unison. Given that you might put three ultra light 17 inch LCDs rather than three heavy 21 inchers on the stand, the force that needs to be applied can vary dramatically. On the stand you can adjust Ergotron’s patented “Constant Force Lift and Pivot Motion Technology” (CF) by tightening three screws with the supplied adjustment tool.

I found that I had to tighten all three of the screws to very close of their respective maximum settings: I guess that the combined weight of my three 21 inchers must be close to the allowable maximum.


Once these adjustments are made the screens do indeed move up and down and forwards and backwards easily enough.

Unfortunately, the ability to rotate the screens from landscape to portrait orientation somewhat interferes with the nice smooth action of the CF adjustments: the landscape/ portrait swivel is rather loose so that when you use the edge of the center monitor to move the whole unit up or down, or tilt it forwards or backwards, the center screen tends to rotate a little bit on its vertical axis. In an optimal setup, the edges of both side screens touch the center screen and are thus also knocked out of alignment. A stiffer action on the swivel would eliminate this problem and make the whole thing feel more solid.

Apart from this minor gripe, the adjustability of the stand is exemplary. Especially keeping in mind that my setup is probably towards the maximum weight limit..

The technical support at Ergotron informed me that the brackets have undergone a redesign and that the currently shipping product features this newer design. This confirms my earlier experiences with the Ergotron support team being very eager to get feedback and going to some lengths to satisfy their customers. I’m currently waiting for the new re-designed brackets to arrive and will update you on this point as soon as they arrive.

Moving the screens from landscape to portrait mode is also easily accomplished. You simply loosen the knob of the bracket, move the screen a bit along the horizontal rail to make some space, turn it, bring it back in and re-tighten the knob. A definite improvement over the DS100 where this was a two person job (in all fairness, Ergotron do also offer rotating “pivots” for the DS100, but I’m not lucky enough to own one).


In conclusion then, the new LX Triple Display Stand is a marked improvement over the already more than adequate DS100 series. Unlike its predecessor, it is targeted squarely at the non-DIY crowd and makes both a stylish and practical triple monitor stand. As far as I am aware there are at present no other fully adjustable triple monitor stands available and this ought to make this an even easier choice for anybody looking for this type of product.

All this quality and ease-of-use comes at a recommended retail price of $299. Some people may think that this is an awful lot of money to pay for a monitor stand.

The reality though is that multiple monitor setups do not work half as well without a specialized stand. In order to be truly usable the displays need to be as close together as at all possible and arranged in a parabolic arc that keeps them at an easy viewing distance. Achieving this with individual stands isn’t easy and will usually mean that your elbows end up knocking into the stands of side screens. Supporting three large screens requires some no-nonsense engineering, and that comes at no nonsense prices.

What’s more by shopping around you can find the stand for anything between $200 and $250.

Your basic calculation for a three 21″ monitor setup will thus be something like: 3 times $500 for the monitors plus $250 is $1750 for a 4800×1200 pixel mega screen (that’s 5,7 Megapixel!). This isn’t exactly cheap but still compares favorably with a single Apple Cinema 30″ HD Flat-Panel Display that offers “only” a 2560×1600 screen at 4 mega pixels.

Of course you could just go for a 19 inch setup at 1280×1024 which would work out closer to $1000 and still give you an impressive 3,9 mega pixel.. or a dual 21 inch setup for 2 times $500 plus the $269 for the LX Dual Display Lift Stand. Choices. Choices. Choices.

Before you go off and order your own multi-screen setup: A word of advice for your monitor choice: choose something with a small bevel size (that’s the frame around the actual monitor) so that you easily place them close to one another and make sure that they are VESA mounting compatible. Sophisticated add-ons like usd hubs, built-in speakers and similar “nice-to-have” features can become a real problem because they might interfere with getting your screens as close as possible to one another. The extra features also often require the use of the supplied stand and you can thus end up disconnecting these features to get them onto a double or triple stand.

Samsung make some affordable “bare bones” screens without fancy USB ports, built-in speakers, etc but with great picture quality.

Right, I’ll now let you go off and plan your own triple monitor setup 🙂

MacBreakZ 4 Beta 1 Press Release is pleased to announce the availability of the first public beta of MacBreakZ version 4.

MacBreakZ has long been the break timer of choice for many Macintosh users having received a 4 mice rating from MacWorld in September 2002.

Version 4 is more than a simple upgrade, but is a re-thought, re-designed and re-written product developed in cooperation with a dedicated group of volunteer private alpha testers. The new version is completely re-implemented using Mac OS X’s native Cocoa libraries, but remains true to the spirit of earlier versions that repetitive injury prevention should be a fun rather than frustrating experience.

The extensive use of Tiger’s transparency and layering features and the invaluable input from our alpha testers have made MacBreakZ 4 far less intrusive than “traditional” break timers. Nick Miller, the lead cartoonist for the project, has contributed to the easy going tone of the product with his colorfull stretching illustrations executed in both a fun “informal” style and a more serious “business” style better suited for a more formal work setting.

In order to promote healthy computing on the Macintosh, we have slashed prices by over half for the introductory period of the product: a single user license is available for as little as $9.95.

MacBreakZ 4 beta 1 can be downloaded from:

Review of TypeMatrix EZ-Reach 2030 Ergonomic Keyboard


Choosing the right keyboard and mouse is one of the most important ergonomic decisions that we take when working with our computers. Many of us spend much or even all of our working lives in front of a computer screen and in the course of a single working day, we expect our finger to execute as much as 50,000 keystrokes. Over a 30 year career, you can thus expect to reach half a billion keystrokes.

While many of people are quite able to believe that half a billion waterdrops could erode a slab of concrete down to nothing, they appear to be pathologically unable to imagine that the same number of key strokes (strokes!) might cause a little irritation in the finger joints. Not so!

Under the circumstances spending a few extra bucks on a decent character input device does not sound like such a bad idea and the market is happy to supply you with an endless array of ‘ergonomic’ keyboards ranging from excellent to worse than the five dollar Dell keyboard that you are using now.

Most people who use ergonomic keyboards start doing so only after having experienced some early symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and I was no exception. In 1996 while writing up my doctoral thesis as well as working full time, I developed tendonitis in my forearms and all kinds of secondary symptoms in my fingers. The time had come to reconsider changing my work habits (12 hour days, 6/7 day weeks, few breaks, less than perfect work environment and lots of bad habits).

Choosing a good keyboard on its own will not save you from RSI, but it is an important component of your overall strategy. Your likelihood of developing Repetitive Strain Injuries, such as hand, wrist, shoulder, neck and back injuries, depends on many factors, including but not limited to workspace ergonomics. The quickest way of injurying yourself is to work long hours without break, crouching in your chair, hammering away at an old IBM keyboard with your wrists lying flat on the desk reaching over to an old clunky Microsoft mouse half a foot away.

If you are interested in learning how to use your computer in a healthy manner, go over to the ergonomix or MacBreakZ Personal Ergonomic Assistant sites.

Enough introduction already, let’s turn our attention to the TypeMatrix.

The first thing you notice about the TypeMatrix is how small and flat it looks. It is only about the size of a PowerBook keyboard and stands at only about half an inch height. It is also drop-dead gorgeous with its slick white and light gray keys and brushed aluminium finish. The single scarlet ‘Delete’ key on the right hand side raises the coolness factor further..

A keyboard of which Apple would be proud in a word. Expect to see it in a movie soon.

The very next thing you notice is that all the keys are arranged in straight rows and columns, not in the traditional staggered rows of an ordinary keyboard. This is the major ergonomic feature of the TypeMatrix and in my humble opinion makes it superior to all so-called ergonomic keyboards that maintain the traditional staggered rows.

“Why”, will you ask, “is it better to arrange the keys in straight columns? What difference could it possibly make?”

Well why are the keys on your Chinese-made Dell keyboard in staggered rows in the first place? Well, my old history teacher would say, in order to understand this problem, we need to look at the past.

Today’s keyboards descend in a straight line from yesterday’s mechanical typewriters. The reason the keys are staggered is because it gives the typewriter engineers more space to place their levers. If they were all arranged in straight rows, the levers would catch on each other on their way up and down. This incidentially is also why your keyboard has the QWERTY key layout. It too was specifically designed to avoid the collision of the levers.

It was the technical requirements of the typewriter machine then that decided on how human beings today enter text into their computers, rather than anything to do with human factors.

The staggered key arrangement is a bad thing because it forces your fingers to do a lot of diagonal reaching. When you strike the key down your finger is thus in a particularly vunerable position and at a mechanical disadvantage resulting in more strain than is necessary.


As you can see from the picture above, the model I’m using has a strange key arrangement. Don’t worry, the keyboard exists in two versions, one with a traditional QWERTY key layout, the other with the Dvorak layout that I personally prefer and yes, you can get the DVORAK model in white, but I can’t seem to find a picture of one..

Remember what I said about the origin of the QWERTY layout. It is based on the needs of the typewritter, not the human being using it. Imagine then how the keys would be arranged if the needs of the human being had been put to forefront? Yes, you’ve guessed it: you’d be looking at the Dvorak layout.

The name of the layout does not refer to the actual key arrangement, but the name of its inventor. The key layout is based on the frequency in which letters appear in the English language. The most frequently used letters are arranged on the home row just under your fingertips and the least frequently used characters are furthest away. In addition the keys are distributed in such a manner as to increase the likelihood that keystrokes are performed with the finger of the left and right hand alternating in a left/right rythm.

In a word with Dvorak you can type quicker and with less effort and less ackward reaching. Once I mastered Dvorak I never wanted to go back to good old QWERTY. Both versions of the EZ-Reach 2030 can be switched from QWERTY mode into Dvorak with the push of a button. The only difference between the models are the keycaps. So no matter whether you want to give Dvorak a go or not you, always retain the option of going back to Qwerty if it proves too tough.

Of course, the TypeMatrix keyboard layout does not stop at arranging the keys into a matrix. Some frequently used keys such as Backspace and Enter have also been moved into a central position where they can be struck with the index finger of either hand.

This is another great ergonomic benefit. In fact on a traditional keyboard the weakest finger, your pinky, does far too much of the work. Worse yet, since your pinkies are at the outside of the keyboard, as well as being shorter than the other fingers, they are required to do a lot of reaching. This is the reason why lots of people get a burning sensation on the edge of their hands after an all pulling an all-nighter. The TypeMatrix key arrangement, as well as its small size do a lot to counteract this problem. You can reach the enter key with both the index finger and the thumb.

The keyboard has two more ergonomic features of interest. The first is its size and height. The fact that the keyboard is so flat means that your wrists and forearms can drop by an inch or so. If do you don’t have a separate keyboard tray there is a good chance that your keyboard is raised far too high to be used comfortably. Your forearms and your arms should be at a right angle and your wrists should be straight both horizontally and vertically when you type. If your desk is too high, your forearms need to point upwards resulting in ‘tennis elbow’, neck and shoulder ache and worse. Having a really flat keyboard will pretty much do the same job as a keyboard tray.

Another problem with traditional keyboards is that they are very wide (after all there is a lot of space on the desk!), increasing the distance to your mouse or other pointing device. This reaching over to the side is a major cause of mouse-related ergonomic problems. The TypeMatrix’s narrower design means that the mouse can be closer, thus improving the ergonomics of your mouse too!

If you are used to a traditional keyboard, you may be put off by the apparent abscence of a the numeric keypad. Don’t worry it’s there, but since all keys on the TypeMatrix are arranged in a matrix, it is merged straight into the main keyboard layout. You can temporarily activate it by either holding down the “Fn” key with your left hand or switch over into the “Num” mode by pressing the key at the top right of the keyboard.

Having worked on a keyboard without numeric keypad for the last 8 years, I cannot personally comment on how effective a replacement for the old keypad this really is. It’s easy enough to find the keypad with your fingertips without having to take your eyes of the monitor and it certainly seems well thought through.

The last ergonomic feature of significance on the keyboard are the keys themselves. The ‘double-scissor’ keys provide a good, firm feedback despite their limited travel and they do not require excessive effort to push down. Better still instead of encouraging you to bang the keys, they seem perfectly fashioned for a more relaxed and less forceful typing style. It just takes a bit of common sense to realise that “banging keys” results in more strain and thus higher likelihood of injury. If you take nothing else from this review, just stop banging the keys!

Personal Impressions:

I like the TypeMatrix EZ-Reach 2030. In fact I like it a lot.

Unlike other ergomonic hardware it does not prompt your co-workers to make ‘disabled’ jokes; instead it looks like the “ultimate typing machine” that the TypeMatrix advertising promises. It also does not look out of place in front of your designer Macintosh and frees up lots of desk real estate.

Having used a Kinesis Ergo Contoured Keyboard with a Dvorak layout for many years now, switching over to the TypeMatrix took no time at all. Within the first few 10 minute acclimatisation sessions my typing speed was already back up in the high fifthies words-per-minute averages. The keyboard feels solid, does not slide around and despite its ergonomic properties retains a “normal” keyboardy feel.

I was initially a bit irritated because I frequently lost my touchtyping homerow. I am used to keyboards where the raised dots (or on some models the slightly more concave key surfaces) indicate where your middle finger is supposed to rest. Other keyboards, such as the TypeMatrix, expect you to place your index fingers on these markers. It soon, however, becomes second nature to feel the raised dots on the home keys with your index finger.

The Shuffle key is another feature that has proved surprisingly useful. Tapping it once will switch from your current to your previous application. You can of course do this just as well by pressing Alt-Tab (or Command-Tab for the Mac) key combination but it is still a nice touch.

All in all, the TypeMatrix has passed the ultimate test: it’s still on my desk 3 months after coming out of the box. It is in fact on my desk right now and I type away at it without ever looking at the keys, pausing to think about where this or that key is located, etc.

In fact, it has passed the most important test of all: it doesn’t get in the way of getting the job done. This may not sound so very impressive, but it is very rare to get a new ergonomic device and pretty much immediately feel comfortable with it. It is far more common that in the first few weeks you can hardly think and type at the same time, which for obvious reasons hardly endears your new piece of hardware to you.

There are of course other things that are not so great about the TypeMatrix. The first and foremost is that I would have liked them to have made a real split keyboard. The current model forces you into the ackward “forearms turned in towards the keyboard” position that tempts you to bend your wrists outwards towards your shoulders. This causes the tendons to rub against the carpal tunnel producing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Many ergonomic keyboards are ‘split’ for precisely that reason.

The other thing I dislike is the fact that the low height of the keyboard makes it easy to rest your wrists on the desk in front of it. This is another ergonomic no-no given that it forces your fingers to do all the reaching and makes you bend your wrists upwards towards your forearms. Hello carpal tunnel, hello tendonitis.

In all fairness though, it is perfectly possible to type with your hands floating over the keys with your wrists straight while using the TypeMatrix; the flatness of the keyboard actually makes it easier than on a regular keyboard. It’s just that there is absolutely nothing in the design of the keyboard that ensures (or even suggests) that you should be using it in this manner and that I think is the whole point: no matter how good the keyboard is engineered, you still need to know how to use it safely or you will derive no benefit whatsoever from it.

Most ergonomic keyboards come with a comprehensive workplace setup guide and a user manual that stresses the proper use of the device. The TypeMatrix does not. The idea that you can simply order the keyboard from the website, connect it up to your computer and be safe from RSI forever is sadly very, very naive and almost certainly what every single customer thinks while clicking on the checkout button.

It would have been nice if TypeMatrix had spend a few cents on basic setup instructions or at least would link to such information on their website.

Setup and installation

The keyboard is a standard PS/2 PC keyboard and requires no special driver or configuration. It is a US keyboard layout only. All keyboards can be switched from Qwerty to Dvorak with a single function key press. The emulation is built into the hardware and the operating system never needs to know.

Included in the package is a PS/2 to USB adapter that works as advertised. When using the device with the USB adapter some minor features do not work properly. The double zero key produces a single 0 and the aforementioned Shuffle key shuffles a bit too fast, but in the main the keyboard remains usable without problems.

Mac users will need to re-configure the Command and Option key as is the case with any other PC keyboard. In Mac OS X Tiger this capability is built-in, on earlier systems the freeware uControl utility will do the trick. iMac users will love the way that the keyboard matches the design of their machines (coincidence? I think not).


This is a great keyboard that let’s you type safely as long as you know the ropes. It looks and feels cool and at $100, it is a real bargain as far as these things go (See below for the direct link to Amazon who offer the keyboards for 20% less). Its small size and weight make it particularly suitable for people who want to take their keyboard on the move and it even makes it possible to take it around with you if you need to change machines a lot. The drop-dead gorgeous look also make it a design statement rather than prompting medical discussions.

The keyboard makes a decent compromise between RSI-prevention, productivity, aestetics (I can’t think of a good reason why the delete button should be red other than that it looks great), ease of learning and your purse strings.

If you are looking for a (relatively speaking) affordable, portable Dvorak keyboard it is hard to imagine a better choice. If neither Dvorak nor portability is an issue, it will at least help you claim back some deskspace.

You can order from Amazon at an impressive discount (around 20% cheaper):

PS/2 USB Typematrix Ez Reach 2030US Ergo Keyboard Qwerty

PS/2 USB Typematrix Ez Reach 2030DV Ergo Keyboard Dvorak

If you are already injured and are looking for a device that will save your career and your hands then perhaps it is better to look a bit further at more exotic devices that have much steeper learning curves, look awful and are far more expensive. The Kinesis Ergo Countured Keyboards or the exotic and ridicously expensive data hand may be the solution to your (greater) needs.

Whatever keyboard you choose be aware of the fact that it is worth taken a few hours out of your life to learn about safe computer use.

Version 2: Even fewer features..

A Better Finder Launcher 2
It is not every day that a software developer removes features to make a better product, surely “more = better”. Yet, that is exactly what I have done with A Better Finder Launcher 2. Sometimes, I think, “less = better”.

Unlike all my other Mac software, my little launcher utility was written entirely for myself and it was never intended as a commercial product. It was born out of a desire to have a simple and clean little utility that would launch my frequently used programs and documents with just a few keystrokes.

Sure there were lots of great launchers out there already. Things such as LaunchBar (the blue print for Apple’s “revolutionary” SpotLight) and Quicksilver, but both those applications did such a lot more than what I wanted.

I didn’t want a program that manages my bookmarks, does a full-index search of my PDF files, is also a pasteboard and a coffee maker. Don’t get me wrong. They are great apps, they may be just what you are looking for, but they aren’t for me..

After tinkering around with my fun little utility for a while, I decided to share my little launcher with the growing community of A Better Finder users and it was released on an (unsuspecting) public as “A Better Finder Launcher”. It became a de-facto free addition to the A Better Finder Series package deal and has gone through ten point releases in its short life.

Version 2 brings the utility in line with A Better Finder Rename 7 and A Better Finder Attributes 4 in making the program both more of a stand-alone application and an easy drag & drop installation.

The adaptive ranking algorithm, however, is hands down my favorite new feature. It learns what your favorite applications and documents are and ranks them higher than less-frequently used items. This algorithm uses a combination of heuristics (e.g. “applications are more important than documents”), recency (e.g. “this program was last launched 5 minutes ago and is thus a better choice than that other program that was launched 3 weeks ago) and frequency (e.g. “Safari was launcher 3000 times, Firefox was only launcher 3 times. I think I’ll put my money on Safari”) to make guesses about which item is the best match. The greatest thing about it is that it works uncannily well!

I have enjoyed using version 2 for the past 2 months. I hope you’ll like it as much as me 🙂