TrenchTales (Part 6) - Keyboard Conundrums

by [Published on 16 Oct. 2012 / Last Updated on 16 Oct. 2012]

This article includes some additional reader feedback concerning Issue #886 Keyboard Conundrums of WServerNews.

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I mentioned in Issue #886 of WServerNews that one might think that server dudes like ourselves would only be interested in big metal stuff like 64-core systems, SANs and similar stuff. But what about the human-computer interface a.k.a. the lowly keyboard? A lot of IT pros who have very strong opinions about what the best keyboards are and would rather fight than switch when push comes to shove concerning keyboards. But the fact of the matter is that IT pros like us spend a lot of time in front of computers typing on keyboards, so it's important to have the best keyboard possible and how to get the most out of using your keyboard.

Readers of WServerNews apparently agreed as a number of them sent me feedback on that issue. You can read some of their helpful suggestions in the Mailbag columns of Issue #887, Issue #888 and Issue #889. But there were some additional good comments and recommendations that didn't make it into our Mailbag column, and I've picked some of the best of them for this Trench Tales article.

If you haven't subscribed yet to WServerNews you should do so today!

Numpad placement and keyboard mods

In Issue #886 I mentioned that a colleague in the IT pro industry had expressed the following keyboard "want" to me:

I'd like a keyboard where I can remove the numpad to have more room for using my mouse.

A reader named Ryan who is a Business Analyst working in Alberta, Canada, responded to this request as follows:

In response to the "Keyboard wants" comment, "I'd like a keyboard where I can remove the numpad to have more room for using my mouse", I use this little unit:

where the number pad is on the left instead of the right. I had some ergo issues a couple years ago when I was using the MS Natural Ergonomic 4000 (LOVED that keyboard), but it's massive span across my desk was causing me to over-extend my mouse-ing arm which eventually led to constant wrist and shoulder/neck pain. I made the switch, after much hesitation, to the Evoluent keyboard, and what a difference it made. I will admit, it took a while to get used to the number pad being on the left, but I don't use it a lot to begin with. Plus, I use a laptop and a tablet at home, neither of which have a number pad, so I'm not missing it at all.

Ryan also had a comment concerning the following keyboard customization tip that I had heard from a colleague and shared in the newsletter:

Enable fnlock and numlock, then rip both keys off your keyboard!

Here's what Ryan said in response to the above tip:

One more comment for "Customizing your keyboard" - I'd caution anyone that wants to rip off 'numlock'. Simply enabling it before ripping it off will not solve the problem. Ensure your "InitialKeyboardIndicators" are configured correctly prior to mod-ing your keyboard in this way:

That being said, the first thing I do with any new keyboard is rip off "Insert"! What is the point of over-type mode?!? How annoying.

Ryan ended with a nice comment:

Thanks! I really enjoy your newsletter. I look forward to it every week. Glad I actually had some comments to give back this week . Thanks for the free book at TechEd too! I didn't realize you were the author until your newsletter last week.

If you're interested, you can download a copy of my free ebook "Introducing Windows Server 2012" in PDF, EPUB or MOBI format using the links on this post on the Microsoft Press Blog.

Best keyboard and mouse replacement

Tony from the UK made the following suggestions concerning the best keyboard for IT pros and also explained why he recommends a trackball over a mouse:

Microsoft Internet Keyboard Pro


1) Solid

2) Has just enough buttons on it e.g. for controlling media player, and they are small buttons - not ruddy great keys

3) It has a 2 port USB hub - sadly only USB 1 (well it is an old keyboard)

You have no idea how useful a USB hub built into the keyboard is - for memory sticks, for the USB dongle to talk to my heart rate monitor watch to do the upload of my training runs …

And to complement this, I have a Microsoft Trackball Explorer - this helps a lot with RSI and ergonomics. Firstly, it sits closer to the keyboard than a mouse does, so I don't have to stretch my arm un-naturally. Secondly, although you should rest your fingers loosely on the mouse, I bet most people are like me and cannot help holding their fingers rigidly over the mouse and get aching fingers. The trackball long predates the mouse - they were in daily use in the navy in the early 1970s, and today it is a trackball, not a mouse, that the latest RNLI lifeboats use for the "control by wire", as trackballs are unaffected by the boat moving. A mouse is just an upside down trackball (most people think of it the other way around).

When my mother in law had a stroke, and only had use of one arm, a bit limited, she was still able to use her laptop a bit with a trackball - this was much easier for her than a mouse. You might want to pass this tip on for others to try.

A decent basic simple trackball is hard to find these days - specialist ones with lots of programmable buttons are about all you can find.

I thought those were some really good comments concerning the accessibility of trackballs compared with mice, and that readers who have problems holding or clicking a mouse might find them very helpful.

Interesting keyboard mod

A reader named Ken who works at HoneyWell had an interesting keyboard mod to suggest:

Not being a touch-typer I always remove the key cap for the Caps Lock and Insert keys. I have never actually missed them, but if needed, I can always activate them with a pencil.

I still remember my two-fingered typing days, but having written over two dozen books in the last dozen years I can now touch type blindfolded with pretty good accuracy!

More keyboard tips

Finally, here are a few more keyboard tips culled from conversations with my colleagues:

On Windows XP you can hold down SHIFT to skip auto login and display a standard login dialog. If you're having problems with this on Windows 7, check out the following hotfixes:

KB2526967 - The Shift key on a USB keyboard does not override the automatic logon setting on a computer that is running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2

KB977534 - SHIFT does not override the automatic logon setting on a computer that is running a 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2003, Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2

Numlock making things difficult for you? Check the BIOS of your machine to see if it has a setting for enabling/disabling numlock at power on.

And finally, the best mechanical keyboard for FPS gaming can be found here.


Send me an email if you'd like to contribute your own troubleshooting "trench tale" for an upcoming issue of WServerNews or for a future article here in my column on

Cheers, Mitch Tulloch
Senior Editor, WServerNews

If you would like to be notified of when Mitch Tulloch releases the next part in this article series please sign up to our Real Time Article Update newsletter.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

The Author — Mitch Tulloch

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Mitch Tulloch is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, networking, and security. He has been repeatedly awarded Most Valuable Professional (MVP) status by Microsoft for his outstanding contributions in supporting users who deploy and use Microsoft platforms, products and solutions.

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