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On the Subject of my Keyboard

On weekdays I go to an office a few miles west of Lincoln where I do “work” in exchange for “pay”. My job involves using a computer, so I use a keyboard. I do not think this is unreasonable.

Recently my keyboard had started to become displeasing to use. The return key worked around 85% of the time which, it turns out, is the precise point at which it becomes extremely frustrating to use, but is still not faulty enough to warrant complaining about it to other people in the office. In addition to this, the space bar (which sounds far more exotic than it really is) had become disappointingly wonky.

Here is a photograph of my keyboard:

It was made by a company called “Kensington”. I know this because their name is printed at the top-right of the keyboard:

According to their website “Kensington computer accessories bring practicality, creativity and inspiration together in a comprehensive line of products that delight users and create lifelong customers.”

Frankly, this just adds insult to injury. Anyone “delighted” with a wonky space bar needs their head examining.

I decided to swap my keyboard with another. I looked around the office and settled on this little beauty:

This keyboard was made by Dell. It is 44cm wide, a whole 2cm shorter than its Kensington predecessor. That’s almost 5%! Just think what I could do with that extra space!

Unfortunately, it is also 16cm deep, to the Kensington’s 15cm, which only results in a 2% reduction in surface area.

But there must be a good reason for this increase in depth, right? Well, no. My investigations show that the only thing they seem to have done with the extra space is have their logo at the bottom – not the top! The bottom! Look!

I mean, yeah, it’s nice to have it recessed into the plastic like that, but why there? They could have put it at the top. Look, there’s a perfect space for it by the Num- / Caps- / Scroll-lock indicator LEDs:

Here’s a Photoshop of how that might look:

Pretty sweet, huh?

This isn’t the only part of the design they’ve had to change though. If we refer back to the decrease in width (44cm down from the Kensington’s 46cm), we now have to start asking questions about how they have achieved this reduction. You can’t just magically zap 2cm into thin air. I know; I’ve tried.

As far as I can tell with my layman’s eyes, Dell’s designers have made two adjustments to traditional keyboard design. The first is to rotate the cluster of navigation keys (you know; “Home”, “Pg Up” (technical speak for “Page Up”; literally “move up the page”), “Insert” and that). This is how they look on my colleague’s keyboard made by Microsoft (who know a thing or two about keyboards):

This is how they look on the Dell:

Weird, eh? Initially I was sceptical – how would my fingers cope with this change? – but having used the keyboard for a while, I have concluded that this arrangement is perfectly serviceable. I occasionally have to look down to check if I’m pressing Home or End, but to be honest I used to have to do that anyway. I don’t have a degree in typing.

The next concession Dell have made in their quest for narrower peripherals is to make the left – but not the right – Alt & Windows keys narrower than they would normally be. On the Microsoft keyboard they are around 20% wider than a standard letter key:

On the Dell, they are the same width as those above them:

I know, what the fuck, right?!

The effect of this is that if I try to casually Alt+Tab between two windows using my left hand, I frequently press the space bar with my thumb instead of the Alt key. I cannot begin to tell you how infuriating this is. Not only do I not switch to the other window, but now I put a big bloody gap in the text I’m writing in the current window. Like this:          . It’s a nightmare!

The worst compromise they’ve made though, is that as a result of the reduced width, they’ve had to move the arrow keys.

On my colleague’s Microsoft keyboard the arrow keys sit in line with the groups of keys to the left, right and above:

On the Dell, they have shifted them out of line. On the left of the arrow keys, this looks good:

But on the right it leaves a gaping chasm:

Let’s take a closer look:

This is nothing short of an aesthetic disaster. What were they thinking?! They may as well have printed a picture of a turd on the keyboard and been done with it. Unbelievable.

The gap is large enough to fit another key onto the arrow key cluster. That key could literally be anything. It could be an extra Esc key, or a backup ] key in case the usual one broke. But no, they thought they’d leave the gap. It’s a slap in the face to the user, is what it is.

Despite this catastrophe, there are things to like about the keyboard. The keys are all shorter than on a traditional keyboard and the function keys are flat with the PrtScn / SysRq, Scroll Lock & Pause / Break keys shifted to the top right which looks fucking amazing:

After a lot of thought I’ve decided I’m going to keep using this keyboard, not least of all because swapping it again would involve going upstairs.

After using the Kensington with its dodgy return key and wonky space bar, the Dell is functionally acceptable. But that gap by the arrow keys drives a dagger into my eye every time I glance at it. The Dell design department should hang their heads in shame.

Things that are not sports

I like darts. It requires skill and co-ordination and it’s fun. I like to play it in the pub. Like anything that requires skill and co-ordination, I’m not very good at it, so I admire anyone who is. Thanks to the wonders of Modern Technology I am able to watch men playing darts on the television.

This is great, but it bothers me that it is always televised under the banner of “sport”. It is not a sport. You would have to be mental to consider it so. It consists of standing in one spot, throwing sharp sticks at a circle of cork. It can be played in a pub. The men who play it professionally until very recently did so whilst completely battered. It is not a sport. It is a game.

I’m not trying to devalue darts or in any way suggest that professional darters are not worthy of praise or acclaim. I just dislike the way the word “sport” is thrown around. There are many things that are not sports. Throwing stones at ducks is not a sport. Shredding paper is not a sport. Fishing is not a sport.

I believe the majority of activities currently accepted as sports can be moved into one of three categories:

1. Games – anything requiring skill and having a competitive element in which the participants do not run or otherwise cause themselves (or others) to sweat
2. Hobbies – anything that passes time and is generally undertaken alone (no, not that)
3. Racing – anything that involves getting from one point to another quicker than other people whilst in or on a vehicle or animal (humans racing each other whilst running or swimming is obviously sport)

These definitions are not absolute and allow some room for movement, but on the whole they should cover everything. Below is a list of things that are not sports, divided into the above categories. This list is not exhaustive and nor could it be – it would have to include every activity a human could possibly undertake and would take hundreds of years to compile.

I will add to this list from time to time. If you have any suggestions or require classification on an activity then please Tweet me. I had to turn off comments on the blog because of all the spam. (Creating spambots is definitely not a sport.)

  • Darts
  • Snooker
  • Pool
  • Bowling
  • Bowls
  • Golf
  • Archery
  • Table tennis (ping pong)
  • Table football (foosball)
  • Air hockey
  • Billiards
  • Curling
  • Fishing
  • Dressage
  • Rhythmic Gymnastics
  • Shooting
  • Weightlifting / body building
  • Diving
  • Synchronised Swimming
  • Figure skating
  • Hunting (including fox hunting)
  • Skateboarding
  • Surfing
  • Formula 1 (and all other forms of car racing)
  • Moto GP (and all other forms of motorbike racing)
  • Horse racing
  • Greyhound racing

Olimpics is for benders

Before the long awaited end of the Mayan civilisation, 2012 is first going to jizz the spectacle of the Modern Olympic Games into our faces. And this time it’s in BLOODY LONDON!

This is exciting because London is where we all live. Well, I don’t. And you possibly don’t either. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be excited at the prospect of this international sports day.

With the Olympics comes a lot of ridiculous abuses of power and attempts to control behaviour. Not for nefarious purposes (unless you bloody love chips), but mostly to ensure multi-million dollar enterprises such as McDonald’s or Coca-Cola aren’t exposed for the twatbastards they undoubtedly are.

I was recently directed to this post on the free speech blog which highlights the Olympics organisers’ attempts to control how people link to their website. That’s right, how people link to the Olympics website from their own sites.

In particular:

You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations (or our or their activities, products or services) in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner. The use of our logo or any other Olympic or London 2012 Mark(s) as a link to the Site is not permitted.

Well I say EFF THAT and EFF YOU, LONDON 2012. I ain’t gonna play by your rules!

olimpics is for benders

How do you like them apples?

Ketchup perverts

I like the Twitter. It’s brilliant. It took me a long time to “get” it, but I’m glad I finally did.

Last night I had a breakdown and shouted at people about how ketchup belongs in the cupboard and anyone putting it in the fridge is a pervert. Lots of people humoured me and joined in, and it kept me amused all evening.

I have collated all the Tweets, mainly because I think Storify is brilliant and wanted to use it again. I have learned my lesson and will not attempt to embed it – instead, here’s a link.


If you don’t already follow me on the Twitter, please do so here. We’ll be best friends.

The real cost of F1 on Virgin Media

British Grand Prix 2011 - Hamilton & Massa

Last year the BBC decided to sell out and give half their F1 rights to Sky in a move that can only be described as a bloody outrage. Sky have also taken Martin Brundle, David Croft & Ted Kravitz, meaning that their coverage will be excellent – probably the best we’ve ever had.

I’ve looked into how much it will cost, and whether that cost is justified, to see all races live. The BBC will have 10, although their coverage will undoubtedly be inferior. (That said, it’s the race that matters, not the commentary team and pundits.)

There will be highlights of the Sky exclusive races on BBC, but I wouldn’t always consider these an acceptable alternative; I watched the Turkish GP highlights last year and it was almost impossible to follow the story of the race. (That’s an extreme example – the tyre degradation and DRS meant last year’s race had far more overtakes and pit stops that usual – but I still prefer to watch a race in its entirety.)

Virgin Media have now announced the only way to watch it on their platform (which I currently have,) is to add the Sky Sports package (which I do not,) so I’ve been able to do some mathematics and see how much it’ll cost per race.

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