I Rant, You Listen: What the PC Industry Can Learn From Slick, Simple Gadget Design

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Ceadderman

Get rid of the f5 key?!!! Are you nuts? Most every game I play used f5 for quicksave. Not that it can't be moved by the developers but c'mon some keys are legacy keys for a reason. Oh and is the Delete key not good enough for you to get into your BIOS? Takes MAYBE 3 taps for me to get in since I run Win 7. ;-lol

And I agree whole heartedly about the Power Bricks, but it's not like you cannot buy a labeler and label them, right? There is a reason Sheldon is on Big Bang and it's not because he's smart. You can learn alot from us Anal Retentive OCD types. Even portable electronics don't label their bricks as to where they go, so if you already have one of these lovelies you can put it to use and get your gear labeled. xD

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Shalbatana

Hey here's one more idea...

the new caps lock key command..... alt + shift

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DJSPIN80

I love my function keys.  F5 is build + debug in Visual Studio.  F10 is to step over, F11 is to step into code.  ALT+F4 for closing Windows and F5 is browser refresh.

I'm way more productive with my keyboard shortcuts than I am with the keyboard + mouse.  On my Mac, I use the keyboard shortcuts for code completion on Textmate.

USB's aren't that bad at all, I'm not even sure why we're talking about it.

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sasquatchua

Programming compilers also frequently use the function keys - you can't take the away. I'd rather be living in some future OLED world where all keyboards can change the key name / picture depending on what app has focus.

The keyboard lockout is genious... whenever my son walks up and wants to start banging on the keyboard, I try to open the most innocuous app like a new text file as fast as possible.  It's all great until he hits the windows key.

Power bricks: even if you don't work in IT, having a netbook, a portable DVD player, rechargable battery charger, powered speakers, xbox controller charger... the power cable ports all look the same!  Not only should the power cables be clearly branded, but the port on the device should be required to show the post-transformer expected voltage & amperage so you know you're not going to fry it.

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deject

Any gamer worth their salt will use the Function keys all the time.  Quick save has been either F5 or F6 for every game I can think of off the top of my head.

 

Also, F5 to reload pages, etc. is something that I use all the time.

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sojrner

I'm not sure why the pitchforks and torches for the caps-lock... The article mentioned the truly legacy scroll lock but not caps. That one (as mentioned a few times in comments) still has a use. Honestly so do the F-keys. (as also mentioned) Developers particularly used these keys but if we use them mainly because they're there... if there were other keys we'd use them instead. Caps lock is flat-out necessary for dev. Accept no substitutes.

Totally agree with the rant though... all are solid points that made me laugh in the truth of them all.

I was rolling at the "Konami track and field" comment as anyone who's worked on PC's for any length of time has done that. A bios button would be awesome... of course there would always be a bios out there that did not (or refused to) support it. sigh...

...now to rant on something TRULY legacy, why not take on QWERTY? lol

 

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Ceadderman

Gamers are a special breed and we hateses the Caps lock. It interferes with our WASD keys when we reach away from the board to grab a fistful of Chex Mix. xD

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LatiosXT

I've found that Dell has standardized their power bricks since around 2005. I've plugged in an old, current, and new (relatively speaking) power brick to my Inspiron 1520, and it all worked. 

And I learned the rule of thumb for getting USB ports in the right way the first time: if the device where you're plugging into is oriented properly, the USB plug is either going to be USB logo face up, or face right (relative to the direction of plugging it in).

And I use F5 and F6 a lot, considering that's the browser shortcuts for refresh and go to address bar (at least, when I use it). I also use F5-F12 a lot for software development.

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bloodgain

I'm with everybody else on CAPS Lock.  It's time for it to go.  It was time when we moved away from typewriters as the primary method of creating print.  I'm not saying I never use it, but for the frequency I do, I could hold Shift.  I'm sure there are people who need it, but it would be easy enough to just support this function with a shortcut that would be slightly more difficult to press by mistake.

While we're at it, can we put the Ctrl key up where CAPS Lock is, where it should be?  Sun keyboards have been like this for -- I don't know -- forever.  It may not make too much difference in the Windows world, even if you are keyboard-shortcut-happy, but it would make a huge difference in the rest of the world where everything is *nix-based.

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Shalbatana

I have a slightly better function key idea though. Let's instead keep them and add..um... I don't know.... some FUNCTIONALITY to them! Let's not call them function keys. Lets make them dedicated keys like the bios key you mention.

Additionally, you should be able to re-assign these keys (and I mean all of them all the time, not just some, sometimes) without having to download some free macrokey plug-in program.

Here's some proposals:

Volume minus, plus and mute.: our laptops have them, most 2ndary keyboard makers build them in anyway. Let's just give them over to these keys by default.

Eject primary optical disc tray: Yes, it's stupid and redundant and you could just lean over and press the front of your DVD drive, but Mac has one, and when I'm forced to use a Mac, I find myself using that key. My version would also eject usb drives if you hold down the alt key.

Open Task manager: Ctrl alt delete is so passe....use F10 for example. And while we're at it, let's move that annoying windows key up there where it's out of the way of my gaming.

copy, cut & paste: why play twister with your fingers? Make one button presses for each of these commands we all use 500 times a day.

Remote key: This key connects to a port that branches off your keyboard wire 3/4 of the way down. It can be used with a wall wart to turn on the lights in the room, or (in the case of WOW gamers) tell the Mountain Dew dispenser to pour another glass.

How about a button to bring up the control panel?

In addition to your bios key, there should be a boot options key.

A button to hide every window but the one you're actively in (with a toggles for all the obvious variations).

And my #1 request::: whatever happened to the "Boss" key?!!!!!!!!

 

 

p.s. buttons I never want to see on a keyboard:

"that was easy"

"facebook" or "tweet"

"MSN Network"

"Try AOL Free"

 

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Vano

The usb plug could be easily made with 100% proof, if they moved the contacts to the center...

 

As of F5 key, you do realize it's the page refresh key, right? It's a must-have key.

Caps lock and Scroll Lock should be gone for good, or at least move the damn capslock somewhere else, like next to scroll lock and make it as pin-hole type button, which required a toothpick to press.

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p309

I've often wondered what in the blazes is up with the USB thing. I go thru the same routine- try it one way, it doesn't fit, flip it over, it doesn't fit, flip it back, maybe it'll work. I'm a desktop support tech, and this design (or lack thereof), infuriates me. And it makes me look as if I don't know what the heck I'm doing. GRRRR It's a totally dumb connector, but it's always smarter than I am, it seems.

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bautrey

What i would like is for my cap's lock key and windows key to be located somewhere else entirely so i stop pressing it by accident.  Also, there is a key on the right side of my keyboard between the windows key and the ctrl key that i have never used before.  I have a pause break key right next to the scroll lock which i haven't used either.  

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Vano

Totally agree about caps lock. Windows key however I don't have a problem with, never pressed it by accident. As of context menu key you mentioned, this is a "mouse right click" button if you don't have a mouse.

The pause key needed if you want to pause during BIOS post for example

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statehack

I'll keep my Function Keys thank you!  You can HAVE my CAPSLOCK key though!  What the heck did we ever need that for anyways?

The BIOS button sounds nice, but I envision it having a safety cover like on fighter jets to prevent accidental triggering....

Also now that every modern keyboard has the arrow keys and the Ins/del/home/end/pgup/pgdwn keys as standard can't we lose the NUMLOCK key too?  Seems pretty pointless!

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fellowleo

Am I just being a dingbat or am I losing my enthusiasm for using crosshairs to illustrate a point? Are we as gamers so desensitized to the violent/death/maim motifs that it no longer disturbs us?

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Oedipus_Rex

Yes, you are.

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Virgnarus

For those interested, Scroll Lock still has a very important purpose in Windows. A registry key can be set to cause one to force a BSOD by pressing Ctrl+ScrollLock+ScrollLock. It sounds completely unnecessary, but works wonders for debuggers and advanced Windows techs by allowing them to bsod and get a crashdump when something hangs the PC (like in some cases of spinlocks). The dumps are then analyzed in order to discern the cause.

Of course, I believe there's also a registry key to change Scroll Lock to some other key for forcing crashes, but when you got a legacy key like this with such a critical function, you'd hate to incidentally press it for any reason other than for this particular purpose. It's probably why they chose such a key for this.

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Zestia

Brilliant all around!

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Zestia

Agreed - F5 does sever a purpose.  Keep it on advanced keyboards.

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krisbowls

A dedicated BIOS button and a keyboard Lock button?!?!  Pure genius! 

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ZayLay

I was with you for everything except for the function keys.  I guess could understand removing the function keys for "standard" instead of "adavanced" keyboards and or users.  But everybody mashes that F5 button to refresh web pages even if there is a button.  And as a developer in Photoshop, Flash and what not, the Function Buttons are vital for my work.

Would love to see the Pause/Break button become the BIOS button.  I did recently learn Windows Key + Pause/Break = My Computer, and now use that everytime I look at a new or old comp before doing anything.

Yeah go ahead and get rid of the Scroll/Lock button, i haven't had a switch box in years to actually take advantage of that button.  Nobody ever figure out how to use that for excell anyway LOL.

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StahnAileron

Can't say I can agree with eliminating the Function Keys. One of my most heavily used applications (Total Commander - a file manager I've been using for years) makes extensive use of of the Function Keys for...well, functions. If you stole my Function Keys, I'd realize it fairly quickly, especially for F5-F7: those are the Copy, Move and New Folder keys, respectively; they get used A LOT. I also use F2, F3, and F9 quite often in TC.

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someuid

Power bricks: All power bricks must be mid-cord.  Power Strip Liberators help, but add cable clutter.  Extra long power strips only give you enough jacks to plug in all your devices minus 1.

Legacy buttons: No!  You can't have my function keys!  There are a lot of mainframe emulators that depend on them, and a lot of businesses that still depend on their very reliable mainframe apps.

BIOS button would be nice, but put it on the underside of the keyboard.  There is no telling what horror users will visit upon themselves with such a button on the keyboard.  Or force the BIOS to request a password when the BIOS button is pressed.

No, wait.  Use the Scroll Lock key for the BIOS access, but don't tell the ordinary users!

Rant: could we please find some way to wireless connect monitors to a computer?  With multi-panel setups becoming common, the number of cords in the back of the computer is starting to increase again.

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blazewardog

Just because you personally don't use function keys every day doesn't mean others don't. On my desktop I have most programed to lauch certain apps or perform some function.  It is much easier to use a single button then to have to go digging through a menu.  On my server they are used to swtich between various virtual terminals and/or XServer sessions (if I am physically at the box that is).  On my development box, all of the function keys are the keyboard shortcuts for most of the commonly used actions such as  building, starting the debugger and stepping through lines of code.

Anyway let me just reinforce my point, just because you personally don't use the keys doesn't mean they aren't used in many other places

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lhatten

I can see both of your points, and maybe we remove the keys (why stop at F8, what about F9 - F12) and the Pause Break key.  Then you we could have a Standard Key board and (say) an Engineering key board.  The point is 99 out of a 100 don't use them, and the take up valuable space on the desktop or laptop.  You that do use them should be able to buy a keyboard that has them, but not burden the rest of us with them.

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Neufeldt2002

I agree completely.

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BlazePC

Why is it that captain obvious never seems to get hired at most tech companies?  If he (she) was they must be too busy tweeting or raising farm animals on facebook I suppose...

I enjoyed this piece!

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