A surprise phone call on a Friday afternoon...
"Hello, ****** speaking."
"Hi, this is ***** from WayTools" "Wait a minute, did you say WayTools?" "Yes..."
<...Drop everything I am currently doing...>
"OK, you now have my undivided attention"
Long story short, we had a pleasant conversation about the TextBlade and she identified my forum profile and remembered my posts. Yes, they read our posts. We spoke about what I do for a living and I expressed my desire to be a TREG tester. She said they would vote on those contacted and select who will be offered a TREG opportunity. A few hours later, I received an official TREG invite along with the NDA. I completed the process and received the shipping confirmation and FedEx tracking number.
I did take unboxing photos but found no changes from previous reports on the packaging other than the Bluetooth dongle is now branded and the color matches the TextBlade. The numeric symbol layer is now printed in a dark metallic green which can be difficult to read in low ambient lighting but reflects direct light and is visible in most conditions. The TextBlade is designed for touch typists and you really can't read the keys when obscured by your hands. Practicing using an iPad with the TextBlade software keyboard offers an ideal way to learn the key layout without looking at your hands. An LE or non-plus sized iPhone screen may be too small to be as useful in the same way for most people.
I had a slight mix up in that I didn't receive the TestFlight redemption code as promised but that was quickly resolved by WayTools almost immediately. I was able to get up and running quickly and I configured some jumps. All contact with WayTools has been highly responsive via the App. Their cloud and App interface directly with support staff which speeds their response.
Initial impressions, this thing is a lot lighter than I anticipated. It initially felt fragile but upon further use and handling it is much sturdier than it appears and should hold up to normal use. Obviously, if you were to bend a KeyBlade too far or fold it in half it will break. If your pet decides to use it as a chew toy it will be destroyed. I would not want to remove the keycaps without clear instructions and maybe a key puller tool with the TextBlade secured magnetically on a metal surface to prevent the base of the KeyBlade from twisting and flexing.
Typing performance is reliant on precision muscle memory. One stumbling block is the 'c' key. On a normal QWERTY keyboard the home row 'f' key is centered above the 'c' and 'v' keys as a pyramid. In typing class, in 1987 on IBM Selectric II typewriters, we were told we could use either the left middle finger or our left index finger to strike the 'c' and 'v' keys. My muscle memory is using the left index finger. On the TextBlade this is a problem for me as I must force myself to use the left middle finger. I am getting better with practice but it does take a clear thought to make the maneuver where normal typing is fluid without thought. When touch typing I can go very fast with no thought transcribing written notes into typed form. But when writing from the brain to keyboard there are delays in mental composition. The other issue is most common, the 'p', '"', and 'return' keys result in mistakes on my part due to an inaccuracy of a pinky finger that wishes to reach further. Another is typing a capital 'A' which requires a left pinky press and release of the shift then striking 'a' which is on the same physical key pad. Alternatively, I can strike the right shift and hold like normal. Again, this takes deliberate thought to change one's muscle memory. The rest of the struggle is related to symbols and mode switching as well as modifier keys. Writing source code is currently painful but I am improving.
As a guitar player, there are many finger patterns and depending on where you need to be next can dictate where you finger things to make it easier to transition. As well as going super slow motion focusing on precision and staying relaxed will do the most for improving speed. Lots of practice is required to retrain muscle memory but speed will improve. My plan has been to use the TextBlade as much as possible. But I am guilty of bypassing it when in a hurry then return to it again. So yes there is a learning curve. Forcing myself to go slow works. Now and then I mentally let go and just type and am noticing speed and accuracy improvements.
Overall, the TextBlade is going to reduce RSI risk as I do type a great deal. There is a lot less motion of one's fingers on the TextBlade. Using the TextBlade as a primary keyboard is more than possible it's essential to getting accustomed to it. The more I use it the more I love it. The feel and key throw are perfect. The resistance of the keys feels like a high-quality keyboard of yore. The key click is satisfying. Using Jumps is fast and fluid.
The Bluetooth dongle is necessary for those older systems without BLE or Bluetooth enabled. In enterprise environments, Bluetooth is disabled intentionally due to security concerns. The nice thing about the WayTools Air-In Bluetooth dongle is that it requires no drivers. On a Mac, it shows up as a Cambridge Silicon Radio CSR8510 A10 USB device. Since it has no storage flash memory it won't likely be blocked by enterprise security measures. The Bluetooth is between jump slot 6 and the TextBlade itself and is quite independent.
One of the things that strike me is the TextBlades requirement to use modes and modifiers and chords to change the key layouts and functions. This is very reminiscent of the ViM programming editor. Navigating text using a mostly home row keys of J K L and I for up models the reverted T arrow keys on a traditional keyboard. Whereas ViM uses H J K L. It's possible to remap those keys and I might try it to match ViM everywhere else. But it's close enough so far. There is so much more beyond navigation and text selection such as media keys and OS keys that translate between operating systems. There is also translation between international key layouts so your QWERTY TextBlade will send the correct keyboard scan-codes to a ZWERTY system. e.g. typing Q results in a Q, not a Z.
I received another communication for a TREG walk-thru and had a chance to speak with Mark Knightly himself. Two and half hours later my head was spinning. To put it simply, Mark is an absolute genius. My impression is that he's operating on a whole other level from the remaining 99% of the population. He's been working on this for many years, I believe he said it was 9 years. It's clear that nothing short of his best will be allowed to ship. This is his baby and he wants it right the first time. The level of engineering involved is astounding. They are doing things no one has done before and they are exceeding the work of others like Apple whose iOS touch sensors are eclipsed by the scan rate and sensitivity of the KeyBlades.
I believe that WayTools is very close to general release. Hands on the wait will be worth it. I've had zero problems with my TREG unit and it is clear the issues are my own faulty precision. The waves of new TREG users appear to be growing larger.
I'll post more insights as I encounter them. Hang in there, I had pretty much given up on TREG selection until out of the blue they contacted me. Make sure your contact info is up to date with the WayTools TREG request registration.
iPad Pro 12.9" iOS 11 Public Beta 4
Mac Pro (mid 2010) w/Air-In Bluetooth Dongle
Mac Pro (late 2013)
MacBook 12" Retina (early 2015)
MacBook Pro 13" (oct 2016)
HP EliteBook 840 G3
Typed entirely on the TextBlade in ViM within tmux running in a virtual machine accessed via Panic Inc's Prompt2's iOS SSH App on an iPad Pro over cellular from a park bench while drinking an iced coffee. The TextBlade is ready for this new mobile world.