Taking a Break

My IT budget got extended by a few more quid to add a new keyboard and finish off the new-look desktop. More than a frivolous waste of money there was a real need for this. An expense I could justify. Even to Karen, should she ever query it.

For the past year or so I've been using a Mac keyboard and have always liked it. It looks great and has a satisfyingly solid feel to the keys. The fact that it's not a standard PC keyboard was always a bind, but something I adapted to. The one thing I never got used to though was the lack of a Break key.

As Notes people I'm sure I don't need to say how essential that key is in "disaster recovery" mode. You know what it's like — you accidentally click an icon on the workspace to a database on a server that's offline. Before you know what you've done up pops the egg timer and Notes spends the next minute or so desperately trying to find the server or another way of opening it.

For the past year on the numerous occasions I've inadvertently locked Notes I've taken to staring out the window, going to get a drink or visiting the little boy's room. So, in a way, it's been a good thing. Not having a Break key has been forcing me to take a break. See what I just did there?

I've always liked how the break key was to aptly named when it came to use with Notes. Breaking it is what I sometimes come close to doing as I jab at it as hard I can, screaming at the screen, with another finger tightly held on the control key. Is it me or do you have to press it ten times to actually register with Notes?

Anyway, the keyboard I went for is the IBM/Lenovo (Lenovo bought IBM's PC business, for those who don't know) ThinkPlus Preferred Pro USB Fingerprint Keyboard. Having had a FingerPrint sensor on the laptop for so long I find the Ctrl-Alt-Del + password scenario a chore. What sounds like a gimmick is in fact a really nice feature.

My only problem now is that it isn't playing very well with my KVM switch. That's a small price to pay though, as, since it arrived yesterday, I've already been saved from a considerable amount of non-working down time. It should pay for itself in no time...


  1. Have you tried using a keyboard "remapper" like AutoHotKey? It can be configured to fire the Pause key on combinations like CTRL+ALT+P.

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Wed 20 Jun 2007 04:39 AM

    Now you tell me ;o)

    • avatar
    • Jan Van Puyvelde
    • Wed 20 Jun 2007 05:48 AM

    You can also break by clicking the stop icon on the navigation toolbar.

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Wed 20 Jun 2007 05:56 AM

    In the Notes toolbar Jan? Not much use if it's locked up ;o)

    • avatar
    • Brian Miller
    • Wed 20 Jun 2007 09:57 AM

    Ctrl-C sends the same signal. Sorry to drop that on you *now*. I would have said something if you'd mentioned this earlier. :)

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Wed 20 Jun 2007 10:10 AM

    "Ctrl-C sends the same signal"

    Not for me it doesn't. Are you sure?


    • avatar
    • Jan Van Puyvelde
    • Wed 20 Jun 2007 11:20 AM

    >> break by clicking the stop icon

    Obviously you have not tested it, Jake   ;-)

    I should have added "yes, it works while the lightning bolt shows", but I thought that was obvious; why else would you want to break ?

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Wed 20 Jun 2007 11:30 AM

    So it does Jan. Well, you live and learn. I'd always assumed that an egg-timer meant Notes would be unresponsive to any input. I guess the stop icon is a special case. I'd never taken much notice of it really come to think of it.


  2. I wound up with a mac keyboard for the same reason you did - a mac mini on the KVM... and actually as a result of your encouragement. Fortunately for me though, the machine I do the Notes dev on is my Dell Inspiron 6000 and when I need to Break, I crack open the lid and use that break key. So I get to keep the gorgeous and fluid mac keyboard I have so come to love... especially for it's USB port where I plugged in the wireless dongle for my mouse.

    But, I'm a technonut - so I have to know how you like the new keyboard.

    • avatar
    • Rob
    • Wed 20 Jun 2007 03:04 PM

    Well the space bar on my Mac keyboard binds resulting in spaces missing in my text. Since I can feel it at the time I catch the mistakes, but it breaks my concentration. I've looked at it and discovered it's because my thumb pushes on the front edge of the key. This tips it forward and it rubs on the case. Anyway, no other keyboard I've used has this problem.

    Do you run your monitor through the KVM switch? I have two monitors; one for the PC and one for the MAC. I wanted to use the PC monitor as a second display on the MAC, but the Mac wouldn't recognize it through the KVM switch. When I connected it directly then the Mac used it. Then, with the Mac still running, I switched it to connect through the KVM and it worked fine. But if I rebooted the Mac, no more second monitor. I guess the KVM was not passing some important signal through to the Mac.



    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Wed 20 Jun 2007 04:04 PM

    Sticky keys was another reason I decided to get rid of the Mac keyboard.

    My Mac(s) are fine with the monitor being through the KVM. Probably depends on the KVM though. Mine's an ATEN one.


    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Wed 20 Jun 2007 04:19 PM

    Jerry. It's nice. Just does what it says on the tin. I've had an IBM keyboard in the past and always liked the feel. You can just tell they'll last for years.

    It's pretty ugly compared to the Mac one, but the welcome return of my break key means I don't really care.

    Or were you asking about the fingerprint scanner? That's cool. When it works. Which is most of time. Unless you happen to have a heavy weekend on the old DIY front.


    • avatar
    • dave
    • Wed 20 Jun 2007 05:56 PM

    kvm... have you looked at synergy?


  3. @ Rob - now that you mention it - I do get multiple key sends from the mac keyboard occasionally - like the t key. Some of that I got rid of by increasing the key repeat delay, but not all of them. I haven't had the space bar problem - might be the way I sit.

    @Jake - I've seen the thumb print scanners on some Lenovo laptops and the folks using them really liked them. My big criteria on keyboards has been key weight. I'm using a really nice Dell SK-8115 keyboard at work that has key weight really similar to the Mac but is a bit noisier. Before that, my favorite was a Logitech "navigator" keyboard that had nice light keyweight, but moving keys around for DVORAK layout wasn't well supported. That's the other thing the Mac does well - all the keys and mounts are the same fitting. Logitech and Dell rotate their home keys 90 degrees. I gave up moving keys at work and just memorized the DVORAK layout against the Qwerty key labels so it's not such an issue any longer, but it is nice to be able to hunt and peck the actual requested key without being in a typing posture when needed.

    Jake - if you would perform a minor service - can you tell if the mount for the F key is the same for the Y or if they are different and if the keybed is pitched like on the Mac where all keys are the same height or if the keys are different heights for each row?

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Mon 25 Jun 2007 06:55 AM

    I want to help you Jerry, but I'm not sure what you're asking. Mounts? The keys are on a slight pitch I think.

  4. Cheers, Jake - I'm asking too much - it would involve popping keys off of your brand spanking new keyboard to really find out and I won't ask you to do that. :-)

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