I have switched from typing on a Qwerty keyboard layout to a #Colemak one

Today marks the completion of my first week in Colemak!

I needed a new keyboard and it was when I looked at what was available that I also ended up reading about alternative layouts such as Dvorak and Colemak. The advantages for speed and ergonomics were clear.

As it is such a simple matter on Ubuntu Linux to switch layouts, I had a few minutes play with Colemak thinking I might try it some day. I considered, before deciding definitely to switch, doing a speed test to see how fast I was (after over 30 years of touch typing). I forgot! Now I will never know.


After three days at a conference and not typing, I returned to the office. I printed the layout of Colemak and propped it against the monitor and slowly started to type. I intended doing it for about 15 minutes but ended up staying in Colemak all day. It was not fast but still faster than handwriting speed. And I am not a typist so did not have loads to type, just some documents and a few emails.

On day two I did some of the exercises from the Colemak in 9 Days site. I concentrated on getting a grasp of the home row layout. An advantage with Colemak is that the most used keys are on the home row. Cracking the home row moved me forward quicker than I had expected. It was then that I realised that I had done it, I had switched. There was no going back.

How to do the £ sign in Colemak? Hold down Alt Gr and Shift with the right hand and click the number 4 key.

First few minutes felt like things were sparking in my brain it was so weird. Then it was great. Next day it was like a sigh of satisfaction.

This was me describing to a friend that, because it was going at a reduced price, on a whim, I bought an ergonomic keyboard.

His reply was that my description almost sounded like I was describing my first experience of LSD or Ecstasy something!

I it just a computer keyboard. It is good though. I now wonder, after about 35 years of typing daily, why I never invested on one before. Mine is about the cheapest one currently on the market (£29) and is the Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000.



Big and ugly it may be, but it is a dream to type on. I had expected comfort but it is even more comfortable than I had anticipated. What I had not expected was that my touch typing would be so much more accurate, and therefore quicker.

Now of course I am trying not to covet the other even more appealing ones out there such as the TEK  Kinesis or the ErgoDox. All of which are considerable more expensive.

The TEK “Truly Ergonomic Keyboard”



The Kinesis



I know the Kinesis looks weird but having watched people using one on YouTube it looks very comfortable. I particularly like the idea of the keys that are worked by the thumbs.

Which brings me to the ErgoDox with is only available in kit form and consists of two separate keyboards, one for each hand.



Perhaps I should set my sights on something not as expensive as one of these exotic variants. The updated Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard looks nice but I have not had an opportunity to try one to see how it feels.



Living with my new phone. The Sony Xperia Z Ultra the biggest HD screen phone in the world #xperiazultra #xperiaz


This is supposed to be the largest HD phone if the world. I did wonder if it would be too big. My previous phone was a Samsung Galaxy Note, and before that I used a Dell Steak with the 5.5inch screen. So I like using large screen phones.

Before buying my Z Ultra I had to know if it would be too big for carrying in my pocket. I knew that as I usually wear a jacket I could probably cope, but I was still not sure so…

I cut out two bits of cardboard from a cereal packet, the exact size of the Z Ultra, and taped them together. You think that is mad? I also filled the cavity with pound coins so the package was the exact weight of an Ultra. I sealed it up then carried it about in various pockets to see if this would be a phablet too far. I came to the conclusion the Z Ultra is about the size of an old fashioned tall man’s wallet. And I decided I could cope.


Don’t I feel embarrassed taking calls with that huge sleek sheet of black glass? No! I don’t care what others think because I know it is a great phablet. I don’t use my phone as a phone very much. I use my phones much more as a reader, emailer, diary, bible, word processor, internet browser, satnav, map, list and note taker, scanner, etc. Although I do use my old Bluetooth earpiece more now. What with that and the Sony Smartwatch I find I am doing a lot of stuff without even taking it out of my pocket or bag.

Having been using it for almost two weeks now I can say that this is a fabulous bit of kit. The screen is gorgeous for viewing anything. It was just right for watching a rented movie on a train journey. The battery life is incredible compared to my Galaxy Note 1 that I was using previously, and that is without putting it into ‘stamina mode’ which extends battery life to last more than a week on a single charge.

With a 2.2 Ghz quad core, Snapdragon processor it is more powerful than many desktop and laptop computers.

I liked the SPen on the Samsung Galaxy Note but with the Z Ultra I can use almost any pen or pencil to do pretty much the same things.

I love the magnetic charger bit on the side. No more fiddling with a micro USB getting it into the slot, just touch to the magnetic port and it gets going. As well as a spare magnetic charging lead, I got the magnetic charging stand, both of the cheap on Ebay.

I have my Ultra in a flip/book style case as I found the thing so slippery that I feared I would drop it. Now it looks very like an old fashioned black notebook in my hand.

I got mine from eGlobal. they were far cheaper than buying it in the UK and would use them again.

Any.do. An elegant task list manager for phone, tablet, etc but I dumped it as a security risk


Astrid used to be my list manager of choice but then, when it closed down, I moved over to Any.do. I had some irritations with it but it all came to a head when I tried to change my password.

After the security breach at Adobe I decided to see if any of my passwords could do with being updated using the LastPass password creator. I changed passwords on a few sites and then came to Any.do to change it there.

Try as I might I could not find any way to change the password. I Googled, I searched the app settings – nothing. There is no “change password” option in the app’s settings. So there is no obvious way to change your password.

I emailed Any.do and got a swift reply telling me I could change my password through the app in settings. I could not! I emailed again with the full list of the options in ‘settings’ showing that a password change was not one of them.

Another reply came telling me to click on the “Forgot Password” feature on the log in page and follow through the prompts as if you forgot your password. Ah, I thought, you mean on a desktop, in a browser? To do it that way you have to have the Any.do Chrome extension installed. I had been trying to do all this my phone where most of my Any.do usage takes place. I followed those instructions by going on to the desktop, logging out of the Chrome extension, then instead of logging in again I entered my email address and clicked the ‘forgot password button’. Any.do sent me a ‘rest password’ link and I finally succeeded.

It was when I was searching for that information that I can across the mention that Any.Do transmits Passwords in plaintext. Link to the site here.


The site went on to say: Some of you may be interested to know that the Task Management and TODO-list Application, Any.Do, happily transmits your password and just about everything else in plaintext.

Why is that a problem? Any.do can be linked to contacts in Gmail. It can also have access to browser tabs, etc. A security weakness like that compromises the whole machine.



I have moved over to Wunderlist.

Some day I may be tempted to go minimalist and retro with plain text. Now there are apps to manage a plain text todo such as Todo.txt for Android and iPhone, or for my Ubuntu desktop there is Day Tasks.

How to get shopping lists or check-lists on your Sony Smartwatch

The Any.do smartwatch app does not perform all that well. So this is my solution. And anyway, I have recently switched to Wunderlist as my to-do list. It syncs across all my devices (all except the watch) and I like it.

First you install Daily Helper on the watch.


The you create you shopping list in Wunderlist like this:


At the foot of the list you tap on the ‘share’ icon and you choose Daily Helper as the destination, like so…

sharing with


You will see the number next to the app icon to indicate it has been received. Sorry for the poor quality of the photo, but it is not easy photographing an illuminated screen.


Tap on the icon and the list is there.


Now you can get out and buy that hat!




Adobe user passwords stolen and uploaded to web. Time to check that your passwords are safe and sound


Let me explain how unskilled hackers get into personal email and bank accounts easily.

One way is to get you to enrol into something with an email address, user name and password of your choosing. They can do this by getting you to register for a free download or purchase, on a dodgy site, or a host of other tricks.

They know that a good percentage of internet users are silly and use the same details for all the sites they are registered with. So as soon as they have your new registration details they try those same details on a host of sites such as email and banking – purely speculatively. If you were that stupid – bingo they are into your precious accounts.

Another way, which requires more skill, is to hack into a company account and steal the passwords and user IDs they have on their system. As hackers like to help each other those passwords are then shared and form the base list of passwords they can bombard a site with using a programme that tries each password from their list in a fraction of a second. Most people use the names or dates of people or events so they will have been included in earlier lists they will have copied, along with a set of dictionary words.

This last technique has just succeeded yet again. LastPass, a password security firm, said on Thursday 7th November 2013 that it had found email addresses, encrypted passwords and password hints stored in clear text from Adobe user accounts on an underground website frequented by cyber criminals.

What you should do about passwords:

The basic way. If a website is your email (such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc) or has your personal date or it involves any sort of financial transaction, make sure it uses a password not shared with another site. Make it a good password that would not appear in any dictionary, one that includes at least on e capital latter and one number.

A better way. Is to use a password manager on your browser (‘browser’ is the generic name for that thing you use to get on to the internet such as Google Chrome, Firefox or even Internet Explorer). I use LastPass which, once I added their extension to the browser, creates strong passwords for me which it remembers. LastPass is excellent.

One of the first things you should do with LastPass it to let it check your existing passwords (which it can do automatically) for strength and change them into something better.

The best way. This is identical to the above but with the addition of two-step-authentication by those sites which make it available such as Gmail and Evernote. This is an optional feature you can switch on. Once you have given a mobile phone number (and usually an additional friend’s one in case you lose yours) whenever you log on using a new machine such as a friend’s or in a library, they send a unique one-off number to your mobile which you then put into the login screen.