[solved] Is there a laptop keyboard that doesn’t suck?

June 27th, 2008

Update: Found one!

I'm in the market for a new laptop, but I can't seem to find one with a decent keyboard. I'm a programmer so these are keys that must be easy to hit without looking:

  • Esc
  • Enter
  • All the arrow keys
  • Tab
  • Home, End
  • Del, Backspace
  • Alt, Ctrl

Most laptop keyboards, unfortunately, have one of the following problems:

  • A stupid little "Fn" key as the lower right key, making it nearly impossible to hit left-Ctrl without looking
  • No space around the arrow keys, so I can't feel which button I'm touching
  • Little or no consideration for the placement of the Home/End keys, rendering them unusable without hunting (or that blasted Fn key)
My modified Acer Aspire 3500 keyboardMy modified keyboard

I've modified my current laptop keyboard to add space and remove annoying keys:

Victims include: Tab, Scroll lock, Ins, Context menu, and some proprietary dollar and euro keys nestled in with the arrows.

I'm not looking for a fancy machine with an amped-up graphics card or fingerprint reader or other such nonsense. I just want a basic laptop with standard hardware and a keyboard that doesn't suck.

Anyone want to recommend a manufacturer?

Cross-posted to LJ and the Neon Guild mailing list.

Wanted: Spam trap extension for Mozilla Thunderbird

June 16th, 2006

I'd like to see someone write a spam-trap extension for Mozilla Thunderbird that would simply delete any messages that match messages from a spam-only account. I'd be willing to pay for such an extension.

Concept

I first saw this idea in use on unstable.nl. At the bottom of the page was this puzzling declaration:

spam-trap@unstable.nl - Please send spam.
Humans may write to andreas@unstable.nl

I presume that Andreas has programmed his mail client or retriever to delete from andreas@ any messages that are identical or similar to messages that appear on spam-trap@. I later contacted him on Jabber, and he validated my suspicions, adding that he only sees one piece of spam per week. I was impressed.

Specification

A Mozilla Thunderbird plugin could easily implement this concept. Have the user specify an address they don't use, but own, such as an outdated Hotmail account. Then delete any similar or identical messages that arrive on other accounts. Defining "similar" is the hard part, of course, but I have some ideas:

  • Compute a quick hash of each embedded attachment (otherwise may have disproportionate effect on filtering)
  • Use the diff function on textual areas
  • Strip query strings from URLs and embedded forms (query strings may have hashed copy of email address embedded)
  • Compare some email headers

Research

I don't know much about email headers or routing, so I don't know how same-session spam messages are similar or different. Research into this would be necessary. Perhaps public data on this already exists.

Problems

This technique of filtering may be circumvented if spammers start sending out messages with more randomization and scrambling. Additionally, if this filtering technique were to become popular, unforeseen loopholes would undoubtedly arise. In both cases, however, I am certain that spammers would be required to use more processing power, and therefore incur more cost to themselves.

Bounty

This is a cool enough idea to warrant a bounty, especially if research is required. I would be willing to pay $50 out of my own pocket for the first successful solution, and I'm sure others would be willing to contribute. Alternatively, if someone can find a fatal flaw in the idea before any serious work is done, I am willing to pay that person $5-10 dollars. (I might pay more if they devise a new specification that is not vulnerable to the same flaw.)

A "successful solution" is defined as open source/free software, cross-platform, reasonably non-buggy, and able to implement at least the core feature of the request (here, deletion of mail on one account upon receipt of a similar message in another.) A "fatal flaw" is defined as a reasonably easy concept or proof-of-concept which, if implemented, would defeat any reasonable solution.

Please, if you plan to implement this idea, leave a note here so that people are not duplicating efforts. If there is a change in status, I will notify every person who leaves a comment, unless they request otherwise. (Yeah, I know, opt-out emailing...)

Are you willing to pledge bounty money for an implementation? Leave a note here to motivate potential developers. (Your pledge isn't binding, even though mine is.)