[solved] Is there a laptop keyboard that doesn’t suck?

June 27th, 2008

Update: Found one!

I'm in the market for a new laptop, but I can't seem to find one with a decent keyboard. I'm a programmer so these are keys that must be easy to hit without looking:

  • Esc
  • Enter
  • All the arrow keys
  • Tab
  • Home, End
  • Del, Backspace
  • Alt, Ctrl

Most laptop keyboards, unfortunately, have one of the following problems:

  • A stupid little "Fn" key as the lower right key, making it nearly impossible to hit left-Ctrl without looking
  • No space around the arrow keys, so I can't feel which button I'm touching
  • Little or no consideration for the placement of the Home/End keys, rendering them unusable without hunting (or that blasted Fn key)
My modified Acer Aspire 3500 keyboardMy modified keyboard

I've modified my current laptop keyboard to add space and remove annoying keys:

Victims include: Tab, Scroll lock, Ins, Context menu, and some proprietary dollar and euro keys nestled in with the arrows.

I'm not looking for a fancy machine with an amped-up graphics card or fingerprint reader or other such nonsense. I just want a basic laptop with standard hardware and a keyboard that doesn't suck.

Anyone want to recommend a manufacturer?

Cross-posted to LJ and the Neon Guild mailing list.

Getting a software modem to work under Ubuntu Linux on an Acer Aspire 3500

May 17th, 2006
Problem
I have an Acer Aspire 3500 running Ubuntu Linux, and I occasionally need to use the modem. Unfortunately, the Acer uses a winmodem (softmodem), which is not well supported by linux (because it isn't a true modem).
Solution
  1. To locate the appropriate software, I needed to know what chipset my modem used. I used linmodems.org's scanModem utility.
    1. Download scanModem.gz to a working directory.
    2. Extract the gzipped file.
    3. On the command line, change the permissions to allow execution of the script: chmod +x scanModem
    4. I don't know what this does, but you have to do it: sudo modprobe snd-intel8x0m
    5. Run the script: ./scanModem
    6. Don't worry about all the output, just go to the newly created Modem folder. Open ModemData.txt, and scan through for information like "Your modem supports the _____ codec" or "Use a _____ driver". In my case, some text halfway through the ModemData.txt file instructed me to get the hsfmodem driver from linuxant.com. There was also an additional file called Conexant.txt detailing HSF modems. If you can't figure it out, subscribe to the linmodems discussion list and send them ModemData.txt and a very nice request for help.
  2. If, like myself, you have a Conexant chipset modem, the following instructions may be of some use.

    Conexant is a manufacturer of softmodems. Linuxant has a contract allowing them access to Conexant's source code and technical information, so they can write software to support the modems under Linux.

    If you have a working ethernet or wireless connection on the machine that needs the modem drivers, use Conexant's online installer. Otherwise, you'll need to download and install the drivers manually.

    • If you are using the online installation:
      1. If you agree to the terms of the license, download the HSF softmodem driver.
      2. Run the cnxtinstall.run file and follow the instructions.
    • If you are installing manually:
      1. Don't bother with the version-specific downloads -- get the generic package with source from the Linuxant HSF downloads page. I use Debian, so I picked the DPKG version.
      2. Download and extract the zip file.
      3. Go to the command line and navigate to the extracted folder.
      4. Before you can install the package, you need to have installed linux-headers-386: sudo apt-get install linux-headers-386
      5. Install the package: sudo dpkg -i hsfmodem_7.47.00.01full_i386.deb
      6. You will be prompted for some configuration information. I just hit enter at each prompt to accpet the default, except for the email address prompt, where I entered my actual email address. They won't spam you.