Tag Archives: keyboard

The quest for a perfect keyboard — part 1

I think I have become addicted to computer keyboards.

Maybe I always was, but I didn’t notice until about a year ago. Let’s go back in time a bit.

Year is 1981. I am about 6 years old. Not going to school yet,
in fact I would skip first grade and start straight in second. I must have been too adorable, so my mom didn’t want to let me go to school :-)

My dad brings home something that would change my life forever, some sort of toy. One of the first mass market home computers ever made. The Commodore VIC-20.

The computer *is* the keyboard. I think that is where
the magic started. Fast forward a few years, and I got
the C64, then the Amiga 500, the best home computer ever built:

Tried a few more (old) computer models in school, and then the second “strange” encounter.

My dad again :-) was trying to buy a computer powerful
enough to run some architectural CAD program, that only
came with PowerPC Macs series 6000 at the time.

That’s when I saw my first split keyboard.

Don’t know why, but it felt irresistibly attractive for me, subconsciously imprinting in my mind the link between split keyboards
and raw processing power :-)

Fast forward another few years when my then girlfriend,
about 15 years later still my wife, gave me a completely
unexpected and totally awesome gift:

A split keyboard, similar to the Microsoft Natural Elite,
the old model. I have been working on this very keyboard
ever since, for more than ten years. It has undergone
three or four full disassemblies and cleaning cycles.

Up to last year, when it started having the first aging
problems, particularly with the space bar that needed
a few hits to record a keystroke.

Not sure if I was more sad or more excited to start
searching for a replacement keyboard :-)

After a few days, I found what I think are the reference
communities for keyboard enthusiasts: GeekHack and Deskthority.

A month later I already had an IBM Model “M” scavenged
from a recycled electronics bin here at work, and having annoyed my
office colleagues with the buckling springs noise
for a couple of weeks, I finally went on to buy
myself this little gem:

This is a “Filco Majestouch Ninja 2 TKL” with US layout.
I’ve been using US layouts for my entire life more or less.

The Filco is a really good keyboard, very good build quality,
sturdy, heavy, awesome to look at and to work with.
A bit noisy, yes, I’m reminded every now and then :-)

After months of using the Filco, all I can say is that it’s
great, and I love working with it. If you map CAPS LOCK to
CTRL it’s even better.

I use it with awesomewm, so the Windows/Meta4 key is used a lot.
On some particularly long sessions, I can feel some strain on
my left hand fingers, pinky and thumb.

Which made me wonder whether I should go back to a split layout…

Stay tuned for part 2 – The search continues.

Disable evil page back/forward keys on a Lenovo T500 Thinkpad

Currently I'm using a Lenovo Thinkpad T500. A fine machine. Apart from the awful keyboard layout. The ESC key is way too high, causing useless "F1" hits. But the stupidest thing on this layout is the placement of two evil evil keys that perform browser back and forward functions.

These keys are labeled with a page/document icon and arrows going left and right. I would really like to find whoeve r decided to place these keys there, and punish him with a couple of years of typing with his own keyboard layout :) It happened to me already a couple of times (even more, like right now for example) that I'm typing this long text in a browser text area, and then by accident I hit the evil "page back" key. Oops. F**k! And you just lost 10 minutes of editing because the browser is stupid and won't allow you to go back to your half-edited textarea. Isn't that great?. Fantastic, I'd say.

Today I had had enough of it. That's how you fix it:

Create a ~/.xmodmaprc file or similar, since the name doesn't matter, with the following content:

! Disable the idiot XF86Back and XF86Forward
! keys on the Lenovo T500 keyboard
! They mess up when editing textareas within
! the browser, causing so much waste of time and
! frustration.
! Cosimo, 23/Feb/2011

! XF86Back
keycode 166 = NoSymbol

! XF86Forward
keycode 167 = NoSymbol

And then run:

$ xmodmap ~/.xmodmaprc

VoilĂ , done. Thanks, xmodmap and thanks unnamed Lenovo keyboard engineer.

The “Gran Torino” of keyboards…

My keyboard

It's not the best keyboard for everyone of course, but it's the best for me. Totally awesome personalized keyboard. It's fully supported by my window manager. I don't understand why everyone coming at my desk refuses to write on it…

It's more than 10 years old. It has served me very well, and has been cleaned extensively 3 or 4 times with full disassembly. Here's my personal ritual. Every day when I'm finished working, I cover it from dust with a special cloth. This cloth has been covering my keyboards since I had my first C64, then C128, Amiga and now this one. :-)

Full picture here.