It’s rare that I buy “new” things, because they’re a drudge on the planet and there are usually more than enough leftover secondhand things to stem any urge I might have for shrink-wrapped goods.
But I picked up a new mini keyboard yesterday, at the rough cost of US$30 at a brand-name electronics shop, mostly because it fit the physical dimensions I wanted, and also because, as some people have noted, having an external keyboard is a useful troubleshooting tool.
The context (or should I say reason? or rationale?) was the Inspiron 600m, which I have trundled out of the closet and set up on the desk next to the Thinkpad, while it continues in its role as torrent slave and network storage point. I have no real aspirations for the machine, mostly because it has a long history of hardware errors and one or two current problems that I have no desire to monkey with.
One of those is a row of faulty keys — an issue I circumvent with a little ssh and a whole lot of patience. Lately though, it’s been clear that I would gain a little more use of the machine if I were to actually break down and buy a proper external keyboard.
When I finally buckled, I made one stipulation: Any keyboard I bought would have to sit neatly on the palmrest, so as to not take up any more desktop space. One of the reasons I don’t deal in desktops (aside from shunting them off to new owners) is because they are large and bulky, and that offends my sense of minimalism.
So I measured the palmrest and took those dimensions to the recycling shop, and dug around in a junk bin for a while. The smallest one there would have hung over the edge by about 4 centimeters, and looked like it had been used to wash a dog. So rather than go the secondhand route, I checked a big-name electronics shop in my area, and found this:
That’s a Sanwa SKB-SL10BK, an 83-key Japanese keyboard with USB (and PS/2 overplug) connection, measuring a whopping 225mm x 99mm x 23.5mm. (That’s about 8.9in x 3.9in x 0.9in, for those who need that measuring system.) As you can see, it’s no more obtrusive than an A4-size business envelope, and best of all, doesn’t require extra desk space for a machine that’s already something of a curmudgeon.
As far as typing goes, it’s a bit cramped, but I’m not going to be writing any epic poetry on this thing, so I have no complaints about that. Keys feel good, and I doubt the size makes it any more unusable than the netbooks I saw on sale in the same shop.
And this might be dumb, but now I have the opportunity to use a Japanese keyboard on a machine that only has a US keymap. Bonus.
I still use ssh to manhandle the machine, just because it’s easier to swap terminal windows with a keypress than it is to wriggle around in my chair and bring myself to bear on a separate screen, hunt down the mouse, open a terminal emulator and type in the same command. I am still a slave to convenience.
But this makes things a little easier, if I need to do something directly and quickly. That’s not always, but it is sometimes.