Author Topic: Need New Ergo Keyboard (for Programmer)  (Read 11372 times)

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Offline CaptainKirk

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Need New Ergo Keyboard (for Programmer)
« on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 03:57:41 »
I have been using a Datadesk SmartBoard ( http://www.datadesktech.com/desktop_base.html ) for some years now and it's beginning to fail (keys are sticking a bit). It is better than my old MS Ergo piece of junk, but I am not in love with this keyboard. Not all, in fact.

I am a programmer and I type fast. This keyboard, however, has hard-to-press keys I think, and home/end/pgup/pddown are on top of the numeric keypad which means they're hard to reach--and I like using those keys. :(

So I've been looking at the Kinesis Maxim and the Goldtouch Adjustable Keyboard. I also looked at the Kinesis Advantage (contoured keyboard) and while it looks VERY interesting, I am not sure if I want to invest $300. Partly because I live overseas (Israel) and I have someone coming to visit this month from the USA who could bring a keyboard, but if there's a problem, returning it would be a pain.

Anyhow it seems like one of these split keyboards should be better than what I have. I suppose I would also then need a numeric keyboard as I also use that. Probably that I could find cheaper than what Kinesis or Goldtouch sells them for however. :)

I use Linux but I presume/hope that I can find drivers for these keyboards. I presume actually that standard drivers should work--I don't need anything special in particular.

So, any suggestions or advice for a new keyboard?

Thanks.

Offline keyb_gr

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« Reply #1 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 05:05:28 »
You typically don't need special drivers for keyboards. Certainly not for PS/2, and USB 'boards usually are plain ol' HID devices as well.

As for the Kinesis Maxim, try looking around for a Siemens / Fujitsu-Siemens / Fujitsu KBPC E in ol' Europe, maybe a UK layout. That may be quite a bit cheaper provided you don't mind an ISO layout (here in Germany they are €50 or thereabouts).

Be aware that both the big Kinesis and Maltron boards have F-keys that are, umm, F'd up - by which I mean they do not use the same nice mechanical switches as the other keys (usually Cherry browns) but rather some rubber domes or worse and are smaller to boot.

BTW, you can determine actuation force on your present keyboard using the "ripOmeter" method - level it and stack some coins onto the key in question (they have a precisely defined weight). I would recommend an iterative approach, i.e. start with the heaviest coins until it goes down, then take away one and determine the point more precisely with the next lighter kind of coins, etc.
This is a fairly one-dimensional kind of "measurement", but does give you an idea (rubber domes usually are kinda similar anyway, while with mechanical switches the force displacement graphs and corresponding feel can vary a good bit). For a FSC KBPC PX, a conventional-layout relative of the KBPC E, I determined a peak force of about 50 g recently - subjectively this is Cherry blues ballpark, or medium to low force. Like the feel, hate the lettering contrast.
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Offline CaptainKirk

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« Reply #2 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 06:04:51 »
Thank you. The more I look into it, it seems the Kinesis Freestyle Solo Keyboard is even nicer than the Maxim. Seems definitely more flexible. I also just realized that it has an integrated keypad on the right side. I guess one of the far left buttons toggles that feature. Looks good to me actually.

Unless there's a better idea, I think I will try that keyboard.

Thanks.

Offline itlnstln

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« Reply #3 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 08:10:05 »
For something more familiar to your Datadesk, you might want to try a Northgate Omnikey Evolution.  You can get one (either NIB or refurbed) from northgate-keyboard-repair.com.  They are built like tanks, and they have Alps switches.  The Datadesk uses an Alps-compatible switch, so they feel should be pretty close with the Northgate probably feeling better.


Offline keyb_gr

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« Reply #4 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 10:42:59 »
Ah, now I've got an idea of why the OP doesn't like the feel of his board... Even original black Alps aren't among my favs by any stretch - bottoming out is nearly unavoidable. The KBPC E / Maxim would be about the exact opposite, and browns and blues would be rather different too.
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Offline CaptainKirk

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« Reply #5 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 12:46:25 »
Quote from: keyb_gr;138032
Ah, now I've got an idea of why the OP doesn't like the feel of his board... Even original black Alps aren't among my favs by any stretch - bottoming out is nearly unavoidable. The KBPC E / Maxim would be about the exact opposite, and browns and blues would be rather different too.


Could you explain this in layman's terms? I suppose my Datadesk does sound something like this
but what does "bottoming out" mean?

And what is the opposite of black Alps?

Thanks!

Offline ch_123

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« Reply #6 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 13:00:16 »
Bottoming out is when you press the key all the way down to the bottom. Unlike regular keyboards, on a mechanical keyboard, switches activate anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 way down. The Black Alps switches are particularly unforgiving on your fingers to type on. I usually don't have any RSI/CTS problems, but when typing on a Black Alps board for a while, my hand and shoulder tends to get quite sore. This is largely due to the rather bad design of the switches - they are stiff, and all the pressure is concentrated at the top, this means that you have to press quite hard on the key and then you hit the bottom quite hard. It also makes it slower to type on.

As far as I know, the Kinesis uses brown Cherry switches, these are effectively an opposite of the Black Alps. They are nowhere near as stiff, you'll definitely find that typing on these switches is quicker and less tiring.

Incidentally, do you have any specific RSI issues that require you to use an ergo keyboard? I say this because a lot of people come here looking for ergo keyboards because they find regular keyboards painful, and end up using regular layout keyboards with mechanical switches. I'd even argue that in some ways, the compact keyboards like the HHKB or Filco Tenkeyless are even more ergonomic because they allow you to have your hands closer together when using the mouse.

Offline MsKeyboard

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« Reply #7 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 13:18:46 »
Considering what you use now, and the limited options available in your region, you may find that the Kinesis Freestyle Solo will give you the most flexibility (in terms of options).  I won't get into switch design, but as far as having one board that can be positioned in an almost unlimited manner you will find the Solo very accommodating.

YMMV, but you should not be disappointed.

Later..........

Offline CaptainKirk

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« Reply #8 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 13:30:40 »
Quote from: ch_123;138053
Bottoming out is when you press the key all the way down to the bottom. Unlike regular keyboards, on a mechanical keyboard, switches activate anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 way down. The Black Alps switches are particularly unforgiving on your fingers to type on. I usually don't have any RSI/CTS problems, but when typing on a Black Alps board for a while, my hand and shoulder tends to get quite sore. This is largely due to the rather bad design of the switches - they are stiff, and all the pressure is concentrated at the top, this means that you have to press quite hard on the key and then you hit the bottom quite hard. It also makes it slower to type on.


I see exactly what you mean!! In fact I DO get pains a bit in the tips of my fingers after a day of a lot typing. Never really thought about it so much, that it was due to difficult to press keys.

Quote from: ch_123;138053

As far as I know, the Kinesis uses brown Cherry switches, these are effectively an opposite of the Black Alps. They are nowhere near as stiff, you'll definitely find that typing on these switches is quicker and less tiring.

Groovy. I'm ordering now! :)
Quote from: ch_123;138053

Incidentally, do you have any specific RSI issues that require you to use an ergo keyboard? I say this because a lot of people come here looking for ergo keyboards because they find regular keyboards painful, and end up using regular layout keyboards with mechanical switches. I'd even argue that in some ways, the compact keyboards like the HHKB or Filco Tenkeyless are even more ergonomic because they allow you to have your hands closer together when using the mouse.


No I don't have RSI. But I do know that when I switched to the MS Natural Ego many years ago, I felt it was easier to use. I think that the pronation issue clearly makes ergo keyboards easier to use. There is of course a learning curve.

You are also correct that the lack of a numeric keypad assists in having the right hand closer to the mouse (for righties like me), but I see no reason to suggest that having the left hand close to the right is of any benefit whatsoever. I have not researched any studies on RSI but certainly there is ample anectodal evidence that ergonomic keyboards are easier on the hands.

Quote from: MsKeyboard;138057
Considering what you use now, and the limited options available in your region, you may find that the Kinesis Freestyle Solo will give you the most flexibility (in terms of options).  I won't get into switch design, but as far as having one board that can be positioned in an almost unlimited manner you will find the Solo very accommodating.

YMMV, but you should not be disappointed.
.


Great. That is exactly what I presumed. The VIP attachment looks nice but I will wait and see if I like the keyboard first. :)

Thank you both for your posts.

Offline alexlzl

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« Reply #9 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 13:55:38 »
Quote from: CaptainKirk;137955
Thank you. The more I look into it, it seems the Kinesis Freestyle Solo Keyboard is even nicer than the Maxim. Seems definitely more flexible. I also just realized that it has an integrated keypad on the right side. I guess one of the far left buttons toggles that feature. Looks good to me actually.

Unless there's a better idea, I think I will try that keyboard.

Thanks.


I tried Kinesis Freestyle one year ago and it has the most terrible rubber dome switches. The key feels really smooshy. At the moment I never have even typed on a mechanical switch yet and decided to return it right away.

I am typing on Kineiss Contoured right now, the layout and Cherry Brown is quite nice. I wouldn't worry about the F* keys, turns out I don't even use them that much, and it doesn't bother me to be small (I use Intellij IDE).
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Offline ch_123

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« Reply #10 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 14:00:45 »
Quote from: CaptainKirk;138060
You are also correct that the lack of a numeric keypad assists in having the right hand closer to the mouse (for righties like me), but I see no reason to suggest that having the left hand close to the right is of any benefit whatsoever. I have not researched any studies on RSI but certainly there is ample anectodal evidence that ergonomic keyboards are easier on the hands.


I didn't get it either till I tried it myself. The general laws of ergonomics suggest that you should sit with the monitor straight and your arms out straight. Assuming that you have some sort of space constraint such as a keyboard tray, you can't really do this with a regular keyboard, as you will generally place the keyboard over to the left slightly to accomodate your mouse. Even if you have lots of space, you end up with your mouse too far over to the right for comfort. With a tenkeyless, you can have the keyboard straight in front of the screen and have ample space for a mouse or trackball.

Also, if you are doing a lot of command line stuff in Linux, particularly with Vim or Emacs, you might want to check out the layout of the HHKB which is designed specifically for this stuff. I even have remapped some of the keys on my Thinkpad so that it is similar to this layout.

Offline CaptainKirk

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« Reply #11 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 14:06:09 »
Quote from: MsKeyboard;138057
 I won't get into switch design, but as far as having one board that can be positioned in an almost unlimited manner you will find the Solo very accommodating.


Maybe you should. Or someone else. Having mushy keys is what I disliked about the MS Natural. Relative to my Datadesk, it was like typing on wet pistachio shells.

I like the tactile aspect of the Datadesk, but as noted, it's a bit too hard to press. Can anyone comment on what the Freestyle Solo is like? The videos don't really show that.

Offline MsKeyboard

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« Reply #12 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 14:23:47 »
Ok, not where I wanted to go with this thread, but here goes......

The Solo board is a membrane board, not really what I would call "mushy" but definitely not tactile either.

You are going to get recommendations here that will cover the entire spectrum, but for the most part there are always concessions to be made.  You have to determine what is important to you and let us guide your decision.

Don't forget, let us know what you choose, and how it works out for you.

Later......

Offline CaptainKirk

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« Reply #13 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 14:34:08 »
Hmmm, what's important to me? I can't really say because I'm not sure what the membrane is like. I have here in my office a cheap Quantum keyboard and a cheap HP keyboard that came with a PC I bought 2 years ago. They both feel somewhat similar. They're not mushy either, but they're not tactile. Is that what the Freestyle is like?

Although I'm not sure these are NOT called "mushy." They also seem to bottom out with every keystroke. I suppose for one not familiar with various key types, I will just have to experiment and see, eh?

I bought the Datadesk on the recommendation of a friend who loves it. You did recommend the Freestyle and I presume that for the price, it can't be a BAD keyboard. As you also said. :)

Offline ch_123

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« Reply #14 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 14:35:49 »
Wait, which Kinesis has the Brown switches?

Offline timw4mail

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« Reply #15 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 14:39:44 »
Quote from: ch_123;138087
Wait, which Kinesis has the Brown switches?

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Offline MsKeyboard

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« Reply #16 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 14:44:22 »
Quote from: ch_123;138087
Wait, which Kinesis has the Brown switches?

The Kinesis Advantage........Sorry too late answering

Offline alexlzl

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« Reply #17 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 17:58:02 »
You may just get a Goldtouch (very cheap on ebay). It uses membrane switch, feels much better than Kinesis Freestyle. I used Goldtouch for 4 straight years until the switches felt sticky and weird
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Offline microsoft windows

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« Reply #18 on: Wed, 02 December 2009, 18:56:54 »
Isn't a Goldtouch based on the Model M15?
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Offline ricercar

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« Reply #19 on: Thu, 03 December 2009, 00:38:40 »
Yes, my Goldtouch is virtually identical to my coworker's M15, save for the key switches. I read somewhere recently, probably on this board, that the IBM M15 designer worked for Goldtouch before Goldtouch was bought by another company.



EDIT: Cherry Browns are also used in the Classic, Kinesis' ADB-AT precursor to the PS/2 Advantage. Aw crap, I just discovered the DEL key isn't working on my new Classic, arrived today from eBay. RE-EDIT: ha! PBCAK error. I programmed it inadvertently to ignore the DEL. D'oh! WHEW!
« Last Edit: Thu, 03 December 2009, 15:35:08 by ricercar »
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Offline JBert

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« Reply #20 on: Thu, 03 December 2009, 14:35:35 »
I don't own either of them but I'd say they certainly share some mindset.

In the end, you can't really compare them, the GoldTouch might turn out to be just an affordable split keyboard.
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Offline JBert

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« Reply #21 on: Thu, 03 December 2009, 14:36:08 »
I don't own either of them but I'd say they certainly share some mindset.

In the end, you can't really compare them, the GoldTouch might turn out to be just an affordable split keyboard.
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Offline ricercar

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« Reply #22 on: Thu, 03 December 2009, 15:36:05 »
Quote from: webwit;138266
Yeah completely identical except for the switches, the layout, the color, the build quality and the adjustability. Uhm..

Bwuh? The layout is the same, key for key. What's the difference in adjustability? We couldn't find it.

OK, I was sloppy. I'll eat my words. Yum.

EDIT
This M15 pictured is NOT what my coworker's looks like. His has a release lever with 3 axis of motion, just like my GoldTouch. What a find. I'll get a photo.
« Last Edit: Thu, 03 December 2009, 16:21:53 by ricercar »
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Offline ricercar

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« Reply #23 on: Thu, 03 December 2009, 16:02:15 »
Two palms pressing, with the nose touching PrntScr.
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Offline JBert

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« Reply #24 on: Fri, 04 December 2009, 12:26:01 »
Quote from: ricercar;138422
This M15 pictured is NOT what my coworker's looks like. His has a release lever with 3 axis of motion, just like my GoldTouch. What a find. I'll get a photo.
It's probably a GoldTouch then (there were some different revisions) or a clone.

Pictures would be nice.
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Offline ricercar

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« Reply #25 on: Sat, 05 December 2009, 03:05:03 »
Quote from: ricercar;138422
This M15 pictured is NOT what my coworker's looks like. ... just like my GoldTouch.

Not sure what brand of drugs I was using, but I owe apologies. My coworker's M15 is exactly as pictured. It looks NOTHING like my GoldTouch.

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Offline paranonia

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« Reply #26 on: Sat, 05 December 2009, 05:22:27 »
Why not try HHKB pro2, since you're a Linux programmer, I guess you'd better like Unix style keyboard.

I'm a Linux sys admin. I like Unix style kb quite a lot.
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Offline Buckling_Summer

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« Reply #27 on: Wed, 16 December 2009, 15:42:01 »
What a beauty is the Advantage Kinesis keyboard! (especially with foot pedals)

If it had buckling springs instead of the brown cherries, it would be the Emperor of the all keyboards.  

My instincts say that with Dvorak layout, one could break records more easily.
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Offline keyb_gr

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« Reply #28 on: Wed, 16 December 2009, 17:20:13 »
Quote from: Buckling_Summer;143079
If it had buckling springs instead of the brown cherries, it would be the Emperor of the all keyboards.

Browns are a more 'ergo' choice though... plus you can do NKRO with 'em (which among the buckling spring boards is reserved for the capacitive ones like the Model F).
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Offline Buckling_Summer

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« Reply #29 on: Thu, 17 December 2009, 02:23:28 »
Quote from: keyb_gr;143108
Browns are a more 'ergo' choice though... plus you can do NKRO with 'em (which among the buckling spring boards is reserved for the capacitive ones like the Model F).


To tell you the truth, I have never tried brown cherries, only blue.

And I have just discovered Maltron ergonomic keyboards.

Let's see.
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Offline ricercar

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« Reply #30 on: Thu, 17 December 2009, 07:11:35 »
Quote from: keyb_gr;143108
Browns are a more 'ergo' choice


I have half a mind to put blues into one of my Kinesis contour boards Just so I might Finally stay motivated to try blues for more than a Few hours a week.That being said, now that I have a few black boards, Maybe I'll try the experiment on a black or simulated red Cherry Kinesis contour.

Ask me again in a week or so after I replace one single brown cherry. I may decide key switch swaps are more trouble than the reward is worth.
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