If you’re a coder, or indeed a regular keyboard user of any kind, and you don’t have RSI of some form yet, I have a depressing fact for you - it’s just a matter of time. I used to foolishly think I’d somehow be immune to it (for some bizarre reason no doubt associated with youth) but a few years ago it started to stab it’s little knives in my knuckles, wrists and sometimes palms. I took action by changing my typing habits from speedy spider-like to the kind Mavis Beacon would be more proud of, and it certainly helped. However RSI is not something you can defeat (without actually giving up keyboard duties), you can only battle it to a standstill for a while.
Despite my improved style (and it’s far from perfect but at least it’s a lot better than it was), I still get problems sometimes, especially after a long coding session - reaching for all those strange symbols is a lot more stressful on the hands since QWERTY was not designed for this purpose. And no, I’m not going to try switching to something like Dvorak layout, that would just completely screw up my muscle memory when moving between machines. Still, when things got bad I would often move to my laptop, where I found the keyboard much more comfortable since the profile is much flatter, and the keys have a much smaller distance to travel, leading to less bending and stretching of the fingers and less effort required to depress each key.
Since I’m now spending a lot more time on my main development machine, I decided to sort out a better keyboard, and chose the Enermax Aurora, which arrived today (pretty impressive since I only ordered it at lunchtime yesterday - thanks Overclockers). Now, let’s get one thing out the way - it’s expensive for a keyboard. The price is mostly down to the fact that it’s aluminium (or ‘aluminum’ if you’re in a certain letter-dropping country ;)), and for me this was just an incidental fact - the main thing is that it’s got an almost identical profile and feel to a good laptop keyboard, whilst being a fullsize layout.
My initial impressions are very good. It feels like a very quality product (heck, it should do at this price), very solid and doesn’t budge an inch once it’s on the desk. Typing is a dream compared to any regular keyboard I’ve used - low pressure, low travel distance, quiet. The low profile is much more comfortable - the leading edge of the keyboard is so thin it meets the desk elegantly and the keys are so flat there isn’t any tendency to bend your wrists up at a horrid carpal-tunnel inducing angle to rest on the keys should you not maintain the recommended ‘floating hands’ posture all the time (and who does?). The whole setup just feels infinitely better than any other keyboard I’ve used, including my laptop since there you have to deal with some odd key locations. Oh, and the blue LEDs are nice 😉
The only downside I’ve found so far is that I have a small issue with it being USB-only. Whilst my BIOS natively supports USB keyboards, and as such I can get into the BIOS with it happily, it won’t work at the XP boot prompt. You’re supposed to enable a ‘USB Legacy Devices’ option in the BIOS to deal with this (for me I have an explicit ‘USB Keyboard’ option to enable), but unfortunately as soon as I enable that, XP just hangs on booting. Great. So for the moment if I want to boot from a CD or boot into Ubuntu (haven’t used that for a while anyway), I have to either use my old keyboard or use a USB-to-PS/2 adapter. May well be a bug in my BIOS I suppose but I’m already running the latest version available. Still, it’s not a big deal and well worth the extra typing comfort.
Luckily I’m feeling a bit better today so I’m giving this baby a proper workout during my normal working day, as well as writing this blog entry on it.