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Poly Keyboard

Here is another project idea I never really started working on: A computer keyboard that has a small LCD in each key cap. I'm convinced that there are legitimate use cases. After all, the function of the keys changes according to context. Different applications have different shortcuts, when I press and hold the Ctrl or Super key, the whole layout practically changes. Most people don't remember useful keyboard shortcuts, if they try to memorise them in the first place (if the learn about them to begin with). It would be nice to have the markings on the keys reflect their role. In some special applications, like video editing, a completely custom keyboard layout would be useful (a cheap alternative to byuing a custom video editing interface input device). In computer games, only the useful keys could light up, as well as display what they do (which depends not only on the game, your custom layout, the current situation in the game, as well as what happened earlier in the game, e.g. what items you have in your pockets). You might want to write in different languages and need different keyboard layouts at different times. You could have icons or descriptions of key functions be displayed whenever you hold a modifying key, to see which shortcuts are available. You could have a second keyboard with an additional layout to give you access to frequently used functions, and have the keys display the relative application icons or describe what they do. And it would just look cool.

The idea has been in my head for years. I even board the electronics to build a few keys to try it out. But I never build one because I think it would have been too much work on the side to get it done well, considered I come by very well without one. Now I learned that somebody else has built a keyboard very similar to what I had/have in mind. To be honest, I never really get very deep into the keyboard building community to know whether a keyboard like this already existed. I think when I had the idea I didn't even know how big the mechanical keyboard fan community is and that DIY builds are such a big thing.

The project I stumbled over is the Poly Keyboard by thpoll. Here is an article about it in the Keyboard Builder's Digest, here is the Github repo. Apparently (according too the article) it isn't the first of its kind. But it's the only one I've seen.

Alternative Operating System: MenuetOS and KolibriOS

This entry is referencing the entry 'Alternative Operating Systems'.

MenuetOS

This is a really interesting one. Or two. I'll start with MinuetOS. Written in Assembler for 586 systems, open source, very fucking impressive, performance- and size-wise. Including the included applications it fits in 1.44 MB. The boot time on my Code2Duo isn't easily measured because it's completely done before my monitor adjusts the resolution from the boot menu to the desktop. But when I chose the same resolution it uses for its boot option screen, I learned that it boots up completely pretty much instant even if the monitor doesn't have to switch modes. A guess writing 100 % in Assembler makes this possible. Very promising software, but a small community. The developers have been very dedicated when the 32 bit version was still under active development. So it is very stable, packed with useful little applications, especially for development and debugging, but also for daily use and casual gaming. This 32 bit version is not developed anymore.

There is a 64 bit version, which is not open source. I'll mention the reason in the paragraph after the next paragraph. It's where the development of MenuetOS is happening nowadays. I don't know how far it has changed since the 32 bit version. I didn't try it, because I'm looking for a 32 or 16 bit system. So, the source is not available, but the information available should be suffice to write drivers and applications for it. Edit: I've tried the 64 bit version briefly. Since there has been years of relatively active development between the last (pre 1.0) 32 bit version and the latest 64 bit version, the changes and advantages are very noticable. If a closed source OS is an option, the 64 bit version is surely what you'll prefer using.

There is a CD image with ~ 22 MB of additional applications that I didn't really try. But it's worth mentioning that there are more than the very basic applications available. There's a media player, even some networking tools (FTP, telnet, but no SSH, as you might have guessed). There is a very rudimentary shell. But it is obvious that the developers' focus was on GUI programmes, as even the ping tool is used by opening a window, entering the target in a text field and starting the ping with a button. Most things worked flawlessly during the time I've tried MenuetOS. But there are a couple of things that may be considered annoying by a demanding user. The most obvious to me was that the mouse is very hard to use. Stopping the pointer in a particular spot takes practice. It seems to drag behind quite a bit. It takes time to do something with a mouse. And when setting the speed slower the pointer sometimes starts moving into the opposite direction. Not completely a matured OS. But many parts are matured and it is usable.

KolibriOS

And then there is KolibriOS, a fork of the 32 bit MenuetOS. It doesn't claim to be a fork, though. Its heritage isn't mentioned on the web site. Just once in the web forum by somebody asking about it. Every mention of it in the source code has been removed, but copyright notices have been added by the "new owner". That makes this fork a pretty vile act. I don't know what the motivations behind this have been. It is pretty clear that the KolibriOS developer didn't start KolibriOS from scratch, no matter how much they try to make it look like it. There are people who learn about and get into KolibriOS who don't know where it came from. So, after this fork the developer of MenuetOS has decided to not publish the source code of the new 64 bit version of MenuetOS. I felt it relevant to get into all that because making a decision for KolibriOS and against MenuetOS can be seen as a political statement. (And I'm not saying this in any way as a reference to current international political happenings. KolibriOS is sometimes called "a Russian OS". But people who speak out against using KolibriOS because it's Russian and therefore evil should either produce some sort of evidence, hint or at least rationale for why the OS or its developers have any connection to the war in Ukraine or shut up.)

So, back to the OS itself. It's not fully compatible with MenuetOS. As with previous versions of MenuetOS, some programmes still run, some have problems and many just don't work any more on the new version. I don't know if there are even some programmes left that have run on both systems.

There are still 1.44 MB images for floppy disks being published. But for my first impressions I chose the large image that comes with many more applications. That image is over 130 MB, which is likely mainly due to the applications that are not written in assembler. But still, a multiple of the CD image with additional software for MenuetOS. I'd have to compare them in detail to be able to say why that is. The set of applications that is included in the large KolibriOS image is very good for basic requirements and significanty surpasses what's usually included in OS images. There are editors, file browsers, development tools, quite a few casual games and a few not so basic applications. Some not written in Assembler just for this OS, like DOSBox and Netsurf, others impressively small and fast. Netsurf being the only web browser that's available for the OS makes clear who might want to consider using this OS and who might not.

The whole experience of using KolibriOS was a bit smoother than using MenuetOS. That is, almost everything was perfectly smooth, nothing ever crashed. But, some of the not so basic applications are more resource hungry than what you would expect from an OS written in assembler (which is because those applications aren't written in assembler and probably ported from another platform with functionality as the only requirement). For example, the video player would use hundreds of MB of RAM for the playback of some video files. The whole system would become less and less responsive, even though there were still GBs of RAM unused. I don't know what codex' are implemented and how. But some formats wouldn't play at all, bringing the entire system to a halt until I was able to kill the media player.

The size of the complete KolibriOS image (way over 100 MB, as compared to under 25 MB for MenuetOS) shows how the goal of keeping everything small and fast has been overlooked more and more when porting software to run on KolibriOS. But also that more application have been ported. Those are not part of the OS if you use the normal floppy or CD image. But there is one with everything pre-installed. The fact that those extra applications don't run as fast and aren't as small shouldn't be a problem and isn't a fault of the OS. But the fact that no alternatives have been written specifically for Kolibri might be restricting its use in practice.

Why is the Windows Subsystem for Linux called the Windows Subsystem for Linux when it is a Linux Subsystem for Windows?

About entries about alternative desktop operating systems

When I decided to write about operating systems that not that many people know about, I did so after discovering a handful of small projects that I was unaware of up to that point. After starting to test and try them, I found more interesting projects. After I started to write about what I had already tries, I found even more projects that seemed worth mentioning, between a lot of projects that I thought I better not get into in order to not blow this up into an actual OS comparison project. I thought I had a rough overview over the hobby OS world and commercial desktop OSs. I split my entry about alternative desktop operating systems up into many because I took a lot of time between trying out the OSs and wanted to publish the information piece for piece.

But the longer I keep looking, the more interesting (both in number and in interestingness) projects I find. I now see that trying out most of the interesting desktop OSs would be a huge project. Even just shortly trying those that supply a bootable disk image would take much longer than I thought. So entries about OSs that I've tried will likely be a continuous thing that just at some point will stop without anybody noticing. I see now that it was wrong to assume that I could write a resume after a while.

With the number of projects worth trying and mentioning there also comes a variety that's far bigger than I expected. Just shortly mentioning an OS and my experince trying it out randomly doesn't do much good. A list with a one-sentence description would probably be more helpful to people looking to install and/or try an alternative OS. But a database that contains all the interesting information about every desktop OS out there, filterable and sortable, would again be a proper project that would require some dedication or a lot of time.

So, I just give up on generating interesting or even useful information about alternative operating systems and just continue writing short entries about them like I did so far.

Perception

There is a scene in the show "Louie that possibly demonstrates very well part of the source with my frustration from communicating with other humans. (This Youtube video is not the entire scene, but may be enough.)

Apparently the scene is an example of good acting in the show. Louis sits in a cafe, his girlfriend joins him at his table. He eats ice cream and doesn't talk much. She seems to be in a more lively mood and talks more. She says that she believes that, by saying nothing, Louie wants to break up with her. He contradicts that claim by stating clearly that he does not want to break up with her. But she ignores that and criticises him for breaking up with her in such a cowardly manner. He is more lively as well now and repeats and assures her multiple times that he does not want to break up.

Clearly, he could not have done anything more to convince her that she is wrong in her assumtion, without escalating the situation, e.g. into a violent direction. A claim that appears to be founded on nothing but the fact that he seemed a bit down while eating ice cream in a cafe. When I watched that scene, I didn't think about it again. She was weird, apparently wanted to break up with him but give him the fault (or whatever her motivations were, idk) and did so in a convenient moment. It could hardly be more clear of a scene to me. We saw the entire thing, he clearly said how he felt, but she insisted that she knew better.

But apparently I'm the only person who sees it that way. For everybody else it seems to be quite clear that she was right and he wasn't brave/manly/fair/whatever enough to admit that he wanted to break up with her. So he made her do it. I don't know how he supposedly made her break up with him, but according to everybody I ask, that's what he did by behaving like he did, by saying thing the way he said them, and also by not saying certain things. Can anybody explain to me what those things he didn't say were, or how he said things to mean the opposite of what the words he was saying mean? Can somebody explain to me what about his behaviour made him untrustworthy? So far nobody has.