17 Jan

My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Identifying Latitude

There are some things that it’s next to impossible to remember, like the fact that ‘separate’ only has two Es in, the fact that I don’t have milk in my tea, and which way round longitude and latitude are. At least, I find it so: I accidentally put milk in my own tea sometimes, and the other two are particular weaknesses of mine.

Latitude-wise (whichever -wise that is, I can’t remember), the problem is that most mnemonics aren’t very good. They encode something like ‘north to south’ or ‘west to east’ – for example, ‘lat’ rhymes with ‘flat’, and we naturally think of lines from west to east as flat. But are we remembering the line along which latitude is constant, or the line along which it varies? I can never remember. For a mnemonic to work for someone as thickheaded as I can be, it has to indicate that as well.

So here is my foolproof (not actually foolproof) method by which anyone (or possibly just me) can easily (or maybe with difficulty) remember (or not) quickly (eventually) which one is longitude and which one is latitude:

‘Latitude’ is a very close anagram of ‘altitude’. Altitude changes when you go up and down, and, if north is up, so does altitude.

You can tell this is an excellent mnemonic, because whenever I check Wikipedia to make sure that it’s right because I don’t trust it enough, it turns out that it is.

Unless it isn’t. Let me check again.

09 Jun

Colemak UK layout for Windows

This is a super-boring post that I’m uploading solely for the benefit of people who might be Googling for this specific thing in the future. If you don’t know from the title that this might be useful to you then there’s no point reading further.

I’ve put together a Windows Colemak layout for UK keyboards, available here so that other people don’t have to go through the faff of doing it themselves.

This won’t remap caps lock to backspace; I recommend SharpKeys to do that easily. It does, however, set the shift key to turn caps lock off when pressed, so that if you somehow end up with caps lock on you don’t have to change layout to turn it off again.

This layout is different to the one you get if you just use Microsoft’s custom layout tool, because it will update keyboard shortcuts too. This might be a bad thing if you don’t want to re-learn shortcuts; I already had.

Finally, I’ve added a few extra characters on AltGr, so AltGr and – types an en dash, AltGr and . types an ellipsis, AltGr and 8 types a bullet symbol, and so on. If this is of no interest you it shouldn’t affect you in any way.

If you don’t know what any of this is about but you’ve still read this far despite my clear recommendation, here’s a brief primer. Colemak is an alternative way to set out the keys on a keyboard. For example, if you’re using Colemak and you press the series of keys that would normally spell ‘qwerty’, you’ll type ‘qwfpgj’ instead. The idea is to put the most commonly-used letters on the part of the keyboard where your fingers normally rest, so that you don’t have to move your hands around as much when you type. There are a few of these alternative layouts (you might have heard of one called Dvorak). Colemak tries to be more efficient than the normal Qwerty layout while not moving things around too drastically – so, for example, the Z, X, C and V keys used for undo, cut, copy and paste shortcuts stay in the same place. People don’t generally agree about whether using one of these alternative layouts is worthwhile, and there are significant downsides to not using the standard, so please don’t take this post as a recommendation that you should start using Colemak.