Software keeps cat off your keyboard

Meow: Breakthrough program detects pawstrokes and sounds a kitty alarm.

June 05, 2000|By Keay Davidson | Keay Davidson,San Francisco Examiner

Internet moneybags and Silicon Valley kingpins may be concerned about the recent tumult on the stock market, but cat-lovers may have another worry: how to keep kitty off the computer keyboard.

A software designer says he has a solution, a program that is designed to detect when a cat is walking on the keyboard.

The software, called PawSense, automatically ignores anything the cat types. The software also instructs the computer to emit scary, cat-repelling sounds -- for example, the sound of a harmonica.

"I find that for a lot of cats, the most annoying sound is the harmonica," said Chris Niswander, 30, of Tucson, Ariz. Niswander designed the program.

Does anyone really need PawSense, which costs $19.99 a pop? To date, no large computer networks are known to have crashed because a feline traipsed across someone's keyboard.

Yet kitty-triggered crashes are no joke to the individual who tries to maintain a cat and a computer under the same roof.

For such people, there is no outrage like the outrage of returning from the coffee pot to discover that Fluffy is snoozing atop the keyboard -- one big bundle of fur, sprawled from QWERT to Enter -- and that the computer screen has turned ominously dark.

"Cats see people playing with keyboards, so cats want to play with them, too. That's why we talk about 'copycats,'" said Niswander, who runs BitBoost, a small software company in Tucson.

How does PawSense know a cat is crossing the keyboard? Cats don't know what they are typing, so their little paws tend to fall on several adjacent keys at once.

So Niswander programmed the software to recognize when several adjacent keys are being struck simultaneously (except for specified functions such as hitting Caps Lock and Shift simultaneously in order to upper-case a letter).

How many keys can a cat hit at once? To find out, Niswander used a ruler to measure the paw sizes of several neighborhood cats.

When a cat walks across the keyboard, the computer screen displays a slightly tongue-in-cheek warning: "Catlike Typing Detected."

Niswander doesn't have cats himself, not officially, anyway.

"I'm between cats. There is a neighborhood cat who's trying to persuade me that she lives with me, although I claim she doesn't."

Further details on PawSense appear at Niswander's Web site: www.bitboost.com/pawsense/.

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