Friday, August 04, 2006

Switching keyboards...

Switching keyboards is hard. I got a new one yesterday based on a recommendation. It is the IBM UltraNav and in general, I’m very pleased with it. The play on the keys is pretty good, feels comfortable. I really like not having to reach and grab the mouse since it has an eraser mouse and a touchpad. It will take some getting used to – I still reach for the mouse when I don’t need to out of habit – but I’ll grow out of that over time.

There are three things I don’t like about the keyboard thought. First and foremost – the escape key is totally in the wrong place. Escape is supposed to be to the left of F1, on the top row of keys. Everyone knows this! If you look at a larger image of the keyboard though:

UltraNav keyboard

You’ll see the escape key is on a row above the F-keys. I spent most of yesterday afternoon dismissing the help window in Linux! Every time I edited something in vi, I ended up hitting the F1 key.

The second thing I didn’t like was – there is no “windows” key. I have gotten used to hitting Windows-E, Windows-L – a lot. That missing key is a big problem.

The third thing I didn’t like was the placement of the function (FN) key used to invoke the “third function” on some keys. It is exactly where everyone knows the CTL key belongs!!! I keep hitting it instead of CTL.

I found I can easily fix the escape key and Windows key problems. I found a small utility – KeyTweak – that let me map the F1 as escape and turned my right CTL key into the Windows key. Unfortunately, the FN key is not a key that can be remapped – it doesn’t send out a scancode when you press it.

So, there is only one thing that makes this keyboard less functional than it could be now – that FN key. I suppose over time I’ll get used to it – but then I’ll be hitting the wrong key on other keyboards…


Blogger Laurent Schneider said....

I am also getting used to the Window Key... in Linux! just to popup the "Start" menu :-)

Fri Aug 04, 09:51:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

My fingers have become so used to hitting esc for vi that I sometimes hit it while composing in Google... which erases the message.

I've never gotten over the idea that ctrl-c is interrupt, I always hesitate when in an environment where it means copy.

I've noticed people have bizarre superstitious movements with mice, apparently based on idiosyncracies of their own particular mice.

It's hard to unlearn physical movements in a complex environment. I used to have a four-wheeler that had the clutch as part of the foot-operated gearchange, and a second brake lever on the left handlebar. Most four-wheelers and motorcycles have the clutch as a lever on the left handlebar. So naturally I would either shift and hit the brake, or forget to use the clutch. Fortunately, the latter is not such a bad thing on those vehicles.

Fri Aug 04, 10:04:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

How long until Oracle implements an ESP interface to sqlplus?

This is not entirely a joke. I saw a report that some documents are putting chips into parallelized peoples heads and they can move cursors with their mind.

I wonder if we get an ESP device is people will mentally try to do:

alter session fast=true;


Fri Aug 04, 10:31:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

How long until Oracle implements an ESP interface to sqlplus?

deja-vu, read the article pointed to by the recommendation link above. That was an earlier entry on mind control as the user interface...

Fri Aug 04, 10:36:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Michael Norbert said....

I'm going home, I've done my learning for today.
I never knew about WINDOWS-L and WINDOWS-E. I'm forever closing windows and moving things around to get at the explorer window.

Fri Aug 04, 10:57:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Doug said....

Window-R and Windows-M/Windows-Shift-M are other favorites.

Microsoft provides a full list of standard short cuts. Search the page for "Windows Logo" for these.

Fri Aug 04, 11:15:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

The FN key is very annoying when you cut and paste. I use an IBM laptop that has the same key layout and I find it very frustrating...

Fri Aug 04, 11:17:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Lloyd Johnson said....

That keyboard is identical to my ThinkPad laptop and I have exactly the same gripes. If I was using my laptop more and got 100% used to its keyboard then it would be nice to have those problems repeated on a workstation to.

Does it have the same AWESOME feel of IBM Laptop keyboards?

/me is very tempted to buy...

Fri Aug 04, 11:18:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

It does have the good feel of an IBM keyboard...

Fri Aug 04, 12:00:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Robert C said....

For a genuinely great keyboard, with windows keys, and with all other keys in the right place, try:

It's the same technology used in the original IBM keyboards, and it feels great. It's kind of loud though, so you may not want to use it in an open office.

Fri Aug 04, 12:02:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Chi Hoang said....

Tom, I know exactly what you mean about the function key. From looking at your picture, it looks like the same layout as their laptop -- I can't stand it.

For my workstation, I use an IBM keyboard with the model IBM SK8815 and it has been working out great for me. No touchpad, though.

Fri Aug 04, 12:49:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Hae-Kwang said....

I was chatting with a coworker in another satellite office and provided the link for this post. They too agree that being able to control the mouse cursor without having to use a physical mouseu would increase productivity. However, the trackball being a part of the physical keyboard, below the spacebar, sounds like it may be a better design since the two index fingers are used for various other keys when they also are used to control the cursor using the touchpad, while the thumbs just hover above the spacebar only. I guess it'd be nice to give the thumb a little more action to participate in, giving it a little more 'purpose' on the keyboard.

Sat Aug 05, 01:44:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

I never liked trackballs - the touchpad is handy below the spacebar.

By far however is a new feature I just discovered today - if you hold the blue middle mouse button down (betwen the two red ones right below the space bar), the red eraser mouse in the middle becomes a scroll wheel - that is heaven....

Sat Aug 05, 02:30:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Arian said....

Do you type with 2 or 10 fingers? (or any number in between).

For me, a MS Natural keyboard is heaven. But I'll have to carry it with me, since it's only for 10-finger typing. Together with their optical trackball I'm all set.

Geez.. never realised that Microsoft is better at making hardware then software.


Sat Aug 05, 04:23:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

very much a touch typist, that is why I'm liking this keyboard - I'm reaching for the mouse less and less.

But I cannot believe that FN key - it totally ruins what would be an otherwise perfect device.a

Sat Aug 05, 04:27:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Hae-Kwang said....

I didn't think most desktop keyboards would have that function key ... Both my work and personal laptop has that function key too, but it sits inbetween the left control and Windows keys, with the control key at the far left. And that's the ctrl key I use most often to do the ctrl+c, etc. I looked at some "Thinkpad keyboard" images on eBay, and it looks like that key is in the same place as the UltraNav. That would take me some time getting used to too!

Sat Aug 05, 04:58:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Alex Gorbachev said....

I hate IBM keyboard and laptops only for this FN key's wrong place. Seems like general design flaw of IBM. Position of touchpad is also a bit confusing - I would always touch it by chance and cursors can select something or do some mess for you. At least I hate it when it happens on a laptop. I would prefer to reach a mouse instead.
On MS natural keyboard - I hate that there is no separate "Ins" key and only one on numeric pad and I always use it for numbers. I need "Ins" key in Windows since I use file manager like old good Norton Commander - "Ins" does file selection there.

Sat Aug 05, 05:52:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Connor McDonald said....

Like the Fuji laptop I've got - the keyboard in terms of feel and touch is great, but whoever thought up the idea that you'd need to press FN to get access to Home and End should have been shot...

Hmm, select the current line of text - Ctrl+Fn+Shift+Home

Holy moly...

Sun Aug 06, 08:57:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Hae-Kwang said....

Thomas Kyte said, "Unfortunately, the FN key is not a key that can be remapped – it doesn’t send out a scancode when you press it." Apparently, according to, "The FN key doesn't return a scancode - instead, it
modifies the scancode of the key it is pressed with, inside the
keyboards circuitry." Someone needs to build a laptop where the keys are movable, and the actual keys determine what character is to be typed, like if E is moved to S, rather than "E" inputting S, E will show up.
Can IBM / Lenovo redesign their keyboard, or are they stuck with this layout?

Tue Aug 08, 10:01:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

IBM keyboards don't have Windows keys. Some sort of grudge against Microsoft, I think.

Mon Aug 28, 02:49:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Im on a desktop IBMSK-8815 multimedia keyboard - and it has a windows key, so sorry, its not a grudge thing, i think its down to space

Wed Jan 17, 04:25:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Thnaks for the info. I solved windows key issue with that utility!!

Thank you very much!!!

-Thaha Hussain

Thu Nov 22, 06:20:00 AM EST  


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