Hello blog, it’s been a while! Again!
I can put this down a lot to the fact I was teaching, at least up until just over a year ago. Not only is teaching a job which necessarily takes up a lot of your time and energy, but this blog is a place where I tend to talk about personal, day-to-day experiences and events. When those day-to-day experiences are almost entirely interactions with pupils and lesson planning…well, the former is definitely not appropriate to share on a personal and public blog, and the latter probably wouldn’t be a particularly interesting read either.
As a result, I didn’t really have much left to write about. I hadn’t been going to that many gigs, and I went through a phase of not playing at that many, either. I remember once talking in the staff room about the first night out I’d had in months, and ended up being envied for ‘having a social life’.
In the last year or so, the work situation has been all change, on a number of occasions. My career path is more of a career squiggle, though it’s been a very interesting squiggle. I’m sure I’ll write a blog post about that at some point, as I’m now venturing into pastures new as a software developer. My social life, however, seems to be becoming more stable (there’s a lot more of it, for starters), and as part of that I’m making it to more gigs.
I’m also, ironically, going to blame the march of technology for my lack of blogs – stay with me here – things have advanced so quickly that most tasks requiring dedicated time on a PC can now be done on a mobile phone. For anything lengthy, though, I tend to prefer to get the laptop.
Sure, I can thumb-type ferociously when ideas just have to come out, even if I have to tolerate the speed slowdown from my touch-typing, the corrections that are needed every other word, and the really annoying thing phone keyboards seem to do where the gaps between the keys sometimes seem to let you click on an element behind the keyboard, and all of your hard work vanishes into oblivion (and sometimes you occasionally click on an advert you didn’t want to open, or send a random stranger a friend request in the melee of flying popup windows). Argh! But a proper keyboard is much nicer.
The problem is: getting that proper keyboard means putting down my phone, putting down my coffee, getting up to go to another room, getting my laptop out of my work bag, finding the charger, plugging in the charger, waiting while the laptop boots up and installs updates…
OK, maybe I am being just a teensy bit lazy. But there never used to be a faster way of doing things on the internet. And when you have limited energy and limited free time, the more steps you know are between you and the ‘quick’ thing you wanted to do, the more likely you are to revert to scrolling through Facebook, because there’s only five minutes until Emmerdale is on, anyway, especially if the alternative is furious thumb-typing and the associated build-up of frustration. And so the enthusiasm quickly wanes, the ideas remain in the mind to disappear silently, and creative outlets of the written (or, rather, typed) word go on being neglected.
However, mind-numbing and endless scrolling has led to a solution. Potentially. I’m using it right now, to type this, in conjunction with my phone, and the WordPress Android app. It’s a folding Bluetooth keyboard. Nothing particularly revolutionary in that, you say – they have been around for a while – but I’ve never seen one like this before. Most foldable keyboards seem to still be designed to be used on a table. That’s all well and good if you’ve got yourself set up in a nice spot with a table and chair, and maybe a cuppa, but to me that’s not really an advantage over using the laptop. In fact, as implied by the name, you can also use a laptop on your lap, when you don’t have a table. The folding keyboards I’d seen before had the hinges so that the keyboard opened up widthways, which is fine if it’s on a solid surface, but unless it locks rigidly it’s going to fall through my lap, and even if it does lock rigidly, typing will put a lot of strain on those hinges. I can’t see them lasting very long. Also, what do you do with the phone? You could awkwardly stand it up, in a case that lets you do that (mine does), and balance both the keyboard and the phone on your knees, but it’s not a great solution, nor a comfortable one.
Then I saw a different type of keyboard. One that had the hinges the other way, so that the folded up keyboard looks more like a long, thin necklace box, and the sections of the keyboard can rest across my lap, putting a lot less strain on the hinges as I type. Plus, the back section folds into a stand that locks rigidly. It’s not quite big enough to hold a tablet (at least not my tablet), but it’s perfect for my phone.
It took a while to find this one, though. Scrolling through eBay, I saw many identical-looking adverts, from the same sellers, but they were all different keyboard layouts, so I started to get worried about accidentally ordering a non-UK layout. There are also two categories of negative review, at least in my book. Sometimes, you read a negative review and think “OK, sounds like they’re only human, everyone deserves a second chance”. However, when you see hundreds of negative reviews talking of items not arriving, and refunds not being given, and other shenanigans, that’s more than enough to make me steer clear, even if there are hundreds of positive reviews, too. I was beginning to think I’d never find a different, less-negatively-reviewed seller of this particular type of keyboard, but I did, and one from the UK at that. All I had to do was be willing to settle for a keyboard that was black rather than silver.
There are other advantages to this one, though, over the others: it has a physical on/off switch, rather than automatically turning on when you unfold it. The latter sounds like a great and convenient idea, but if it breaks, you’ll end up with a very expensive brick you can’t switch on any other way. I also like the fact that the lights don’t turn on needlessly – the power switch lights for a short time to show it is turned on, and then doesn’t waste power that should be going towards keeping your keyboard going for as long as possible. The red charging light also turns off to let you know it has fully charged – some of the other keyboards were criticised for not giving any indication of this. It also has a few more keys than the others, and a bit more of a logical layout.
Having written this blog post partly just to write something to test the keyboard, I can say that the chiclet keys are very pleasant to type on – perhaps even nicer than any chiclet laptop keyboards I’ve tried, and definitely easier to type on than my existing laptop keyboard or a desktop keyboard. Also, the other advantage of the hinges running across the keyboard, rather than up, is that the hinges fall between complete rows of keys. On the others, some of the letter keys were made slightly larger or smaller or shifted slightly to accommodate the hinges, and I felt that would mean I’d occasionally be hitting a hinge instead of a key, or hitting the wrong key, or generally getting a strange feeling to typing. I needed virtually no time to get used to this keyboard. It feels like I’ve always used it.
Of course, it only solves the problem when I have a lap to type on. It’s not quite compact enough to always have in my trouser pocket, so thumb-typing will still be the only practical method for most cases when I’m out and about, but for the times I have a bag with me it’ll take up hardly any extra space, and in the house when I get an idea, it’ll be ready to go in seconds.
Now that I’ve removed the technological barrier to my blogging, the only obstacle that remains is my effort. If I can’t surmount that, then maybe I really am just being lazy. Only time will tell, I guess…I’ll either post again in a few weeks, or I’ll be blowing off the cobwebs in another two years…