"Happy Hacking" Keyboard

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original in en Miguel A Sepulveda

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Graduated from the University of Washington (USA) in 1993. Work in scientific research in Spain, Israel, Japan and the US. Discovered Linux for the first time around kernel 0.98 (Love at first sight). Now is Editor-in-Chief of the LinuxFocus magazine in his free time.

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Happy Hacking" is a Keyboard produced by PFU America Inc and submitted to LinuxFocus for review. This article describes some of the impressions created by this sturdy little keyboard.

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This is the first time a commercial company contacted LinuxFocus to review one of their products. Times are changing quickly! We are happy to see hardware manufacturers that already understand the importance of the Linux market and care about reaching Linux users. LinuxFocus will gladly help in this role of public media to review products and bring our analysis to Linux users. Our hope is that this kind of initiative will encourage more manufactures to make products for Linux.

About "Happy Hacking"

A few weeks ago we received a small package from PFU America Inc, a subsidiary of the Japanese computer manufacturer PFU Limited. PFU Limited manufactures computers and also has published software since the 1960's and is a joint venture between Fujitsu Limited and Matsushita.
PFU America put together a very strong keyboard for heavy duty use.
The package contained the "Happy Hacking" keyboard (model PD-KB02). The keyboard itself weighs 1.1 Lb and it is 11.6 inch wide, 4.3 inc depth and 1.2 High. There are only 60 keys on the keyboard. Among the accessories available are cabling for Sun, PC(PS/2) and Macintosh computers.

The dimensions of this keyboard are its main strong feature. It is SMALL!. However it feels like a normal keyboard. This is because the size and location of the keys are similar to a standard 101 Keyboard. To picture it, just imagine a standard 101 Keyboard without any of the Function keys, cursors and NumLock's, just the central section. A relevant difference is that HHK has the Control-key located in the right position and the Esc-key to the left of the 1-key.

At first I thought the keyboard was weird. Who would be interested in a keyboard missing most of the standard keys? Then I realized I was the perfect candidate. I do programming extensively at home, my desk is just a common computer desk. However I also do quite a bit of paper work and algebra while I program, it is very uncomfortable to be switching desks or moving the keyboard around. The "Happy Hacking" keyboard came very handy on my desk for my particular habits of work. I really like to have lots of space on my desk available for taking notes and consulting books while I program.

It takes quite a while to get used to the lack of common keys. Most of the missing keys can be invoked by multiple key sequences. There are "Opt", "Fn" and "Meta" keys for generating other key sequences. Behind the keyboard we find a set of switches that change the key coding of the DEL-key and left-diamond-key. This keyboard can be connected to a Sun, PC(PS2) or Mac systems using the appropriate cables.

Users with PC-AT systems can still use the keyboard but they need an extra cable. This is in my opinion a short-coming. However any computer store has adaptors from AT to PS/2 interfaces that would probably work to solve this problem. PFU also provides adaptor cables as an accessory for connecting to PC-AT.

I used the keyboard for about three weeks. At first it felt very weird. The arrows have to be called by typing "Fn"+ "<-". Both keys are conveniently located nearby so in a short time I got used to using my right hand to move the arrows. Similarly for the "PageUp", "PageDown", "Home", "End", "Insert", "Stop", "PrScrn", "ScrollLock", "Pause/Break", "Clear", "Enter" and all the programmable "F1-F12" function keys. The F1-F12 keys are located from keys "1" to "=".

In terms of quality we can appreciate that PFU America put together a very strong keyboard for heavy duty usage. It feels great. I would say it took me about two weeks to get used to the new layout of keys. It is hard to go against 20 years of PC-AT keyboard habits.

The main serious limitation I feel the keyboard has is the lack of a "Caps Lock" key. Not even using the "Fn" or "Meta" functions it it possible to access it. I sent an email note to the manufacturer asking about this issue and they responded that it was a design decission they took. They assumed that "Hackers" do not really use the "Caps Lock" at all so that it was not necessary to add it. However they pointed out that under Linux it would be easy to add a "Caps Lock" by using a key mapping through xmodmap or even easier xkeycaps (a graphical font end). Nevertheless it would be nice if PFU would consider enhancing their keyboard at some point to add these common key in one of the "Fn"+key combinations.