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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

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A simpler setup; no more external keyboards

I spent a lot of money on keyboards this past 2 months. I started with the Kinesis FreeStyle 2 Blue for Mac and while I loved it a lot I didn’t like the delays because of BlueTooth. I should have just purchased the wired version instead, but I decided to go for some other brand instead (just to try things out) and went with the even more expensive Das Keyboard 4 Professional for Mac. I had high hopes for it, being a mechanical keyboard and NKRO etc. but today I decided to return it. It is a good keyboard, mind you, but I dunno I wasn’t that blown away by it. I mean not blown away enough to justify the super high cost; and it wasn’t entirely pleasurable to type on either. As with other keyboards I’d find the space and X keys to sometimes stick – I think it’s just me, I am jinxed with these keys. I hate delays. I tend to type very fast, and the smallest of delays irritate me. And I don’t like stuck keys (no one does, I guess). Plus coming from the split keyboard design of the Kinesis FreeStyle 2, the Das Keyboard felt very cramped. 

What I loved about the Das Keyboard was its integrated USB 3 hub and also the giant volume button and media keys. These were a pleasure and these are what I am going to genuinely miss. 

Why am I going to miss these? Because I decided to simplify things. The whole reason for going with an external keyboard was for better ergonomics, but somehow it wasn’t working out. I don’t mind the MacBook Pro keyboard, and in fact I had gotten used to it the first few months; and while these external keyboards are way better to use over the MacBook Pro keyboard due to the extra travel etc., I realized I better get used to the MacBook Pro keyboard. For one, I will be traveling and at that point I can’t lug around additional keyboards; and for another, my desk was having a complicated look with the extra keyboard and its cable etc. If I go wireless I notice a lag. If I go wired I still notice the occasional lag, plus the keyboard wires mess up my desk. Plus, since I have a keyboard and 2 screens, I have to keep the MacBook Pro at a distance and not really use it as a 3rd screen (except for say having iTunes open on it) and I wasn’t too happy with that either. 

So enough with all this mess. Keep things simple. MacBook Pro + it’s inbuilt keyboard (which needs some getting used to, granted). Plus the two screens that I already had. Plus an extra trackpad (which I already had, coz I prefer the extra trackpad so I can use my lefthand too for tracking). Plus the Logitech Mx Master 2S mouse (which too I had purchased as part of my experimenting around, and which is useful for my right hand when I need a mouse as such). It’s a good feeling to be honest. Removing the keyboard and putting the MacBook Pro back at the centre of my table kind of brings a symmetry. I use the inbuilt MacBook Pro speakers for casual music listening and now they are back to being in the centre of my desk and so the music isn’t coming from one side of the desk (where the MacBook previously was). I can use all 4 USB-C ports as the MacBook Pro is again centered and so I don’t have to worry about distance. The headphone jack too is nearby so I can skip the long extender cable I had – and that’s one less cable on my desk. Everything is great, except that I have to get used to the butterfly keyboard again. :) That takes some getting used to. I mean, I don’t mind the keyboard, and I can type reasonably well without mistakes on it (and the autocorrect helps a lot) but it is not a 100% error free and a 100% love. Something with more travel would definitely have been preferred. But well, you can’t get everything. Am pretty sure my hand is going to start hurting soon. :(

Another advantage of removing the keyboard is that I feel “free-er”. As in, now I am no longer tied to my desk or need all this extra paraphernalia. If I am bored of sitting at my desk or want to take the MacBook Pro elsewhere, I can just unhook it and go away. I don’t need to carry around the keyboard etc. coz I am not longer used to it. I have a StarTech Thunderbolt to Dual HDMI adapter that drives my two monitors, so unplug that and simply move on … whenever I need to. A very nice thing about the macOS is that when I later plug in the adapter again, it automatically places the windows back on the screens they were at. So convenient! (The window manager isn’t without its faults, but I love this feature and also the fact that even after a reboot it places everything back the way they were). 

Update: Freedom is … sweaty

This is for anyone else who Googles on “sweaty palms and MacBook Pro” and doesn’t find thing of use. Yes, there are plenty of results, but those are mostly to do with how to protect the keyboard for your sweaty palms – not about what causes them in the first place! I don’t have much laptop experience (I usually plug in a keyboard) so maybe it’s not a MacBook thing, maybe it’s all laptops, but I noticed that when I use the MacBook Pro keyboard my palms are more sweaty. After one day of using the MacBook Pro without keyboard, my palms are constantly sweating. And I know this is not a on time thing coz the previous time (a 2 week stretch) when I did us the MacBook Pro directly without any keyboard I had the same issue. At that time I Googled and convinced myself the issue is with me rather than anything else … and just moved on (got myself an external keyboard basically, later on). Today I realize it is probably coz of the keyboard. 

Like I said, may not be MacBook Pro related as such. But the lack of travel of the butterfly keyboard does stress my palms and that’s probably a large contributing factor. I hate this lack of travel, and I find the layout a bit having to get used to … my fingers are definitely a lot more cranky since I started with this keyboard. 

Update 2: I tried, but decided to give up. I sit long hours with the MacBook Pro so it is not good posture either for me to sit bent on it. I should ideally be staring at a monitor or the MacBook Pro raised – like I was doing so far – so why am I trying to disable myself by taxing both my neck and hands with poor posture. If I raise the MacBook Pro in the centre of my desk, and use the keyboard again with it, neither am I hurting my fingers nor am I hurting my neck. So this post eventually turned out to be about nothing as I am back to where I started. :D