Neil's News

Fridge Letters

14 March 2007

How to create magnetic fridge letters from keyboards.

  1. The first step is to determine the relative frequency of each letter. Obviously one needs more E's than Z's. I went to The Quotations Page and collected 100 random quotes. Everything from Socrates to Oprah Winfrey. The resulting text was processed to obtain a histogram:
  2. The next step is to choose the scale of the operation. There are two possible constraints: How many letters do you want on your fridge? How many keyboards do you have at your disposal (otherwise known as the number of E's)? After a bit of thought I settled on 85 keys, which equates to 10 keyboards:
    Trying a few test phrases suggested that having only one B was consistently the limiting factor. So I added a second.
  3. With the paperwork complete, the next issue is to locate a source of keyboards. Unless one is seeking the ever-stylish rans0m note look, one wants identical keyboards. While skulking around with a coworker, I discovered Google's electronics dumpster. (Note to Googlers: it's in the basement of MTV-42 and you'll need an access badge to get out). All the keyboards one could wish for. A Swiss Army Knife pops the keys off nicely and one ends up with a pile of letters:
    [Photo of a pile of keyboard letters]
  4. Backing magnets are easy to find. Look for places which sell flexible magnetic sheets designed for use as bumper stickers. I got 0.3 square meters of the stuff for $6.50 on eBay (most of which was shipping). Alternatively, grab a magnetic bumper sticker that's no longer needed.
    [Kerry & Edwards sticker]
  5. The final step is to cut the stem off of a key, cut a magnetic square to match and glue the two together. Times eighty-six.
    [Ceci n'est pas un message]

Not sure what a histogram is, but too afraid to ask? This is a histogram.

Update: A new version of the table sorter is now available. It is now object-oriented, extensible, better documented, and generally benefits from the programming practices I've picked up in the past three months. And we all know what a random, care-free, shotgun-debugging hacker I was before...

Update: Awwww, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer called my work "cute". How sweet of him. I think Steve is cute too.

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