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Too Much Variety in Laptops 2006/07/30

Posted by Dave in hacks, Reviews, shopping, Tips and Tricks, Whinge.

This is a call to laptop manufacturers to get their act together and come up with a standard arrangement of sockets, slots, drawers and even keys! There must be a lot of people like me — who have to use a variety of hardware and software under pressure to be productive amidst strange company procedures, networks, and whatnot.

From the point of view of software, I have developed a way to cope with relentless new versions and revisions to essential software packages, and my keyboard shortcuts also serve me well in using all sorts of unfamiliar software applications. As such, though, I worry when the keyboard layouts stay standard on desktops and vary wildly on laptops!

I am amazed at the sheer variety of laptop designs; surely there has to be an optimum ergonomic/ component assembly arrangement that would begin to standardise the arrangement of leads, slots and drawers?

I used a Toshiba Satellite for years, and got used to the power cable going in at the back left, the CD drawer opening to the front, the phone and network sockets to the right, This was replaced by the Clevo, [spec] and I had to get used to a new power lead arrangement, the CD opening to the right and so on — the phone and network sockets meant a complete redecoration and rearrangement of my home office!

Sadly my Clevo lasted a year before it was fried by a storm. I loved it dearly, and the insurance company sent out as an equivalent replacement, a Fujitsu-Siemens laptop with no printer socket, no floppy, a DVD drawer to the left! Nothing was situated correctly as far as I was concerned!

  • But the BIGGEST ‘crime’ was that the CRTL key was not at the bottom left position; it was swapped with the Fn key!!!! Aarrgh! Why? Why? No wonder they call this the Effin’ key!

[Picture of effin key in wrong place]The Fujitsu-Siemens turned out to be a piece of crap anyway [spec] — it was replaced itself on more than one occasion, and after a long struggle I got money from the insurance company — and so I bought a Dell Inspiron.

The Dell has the CTRL key in the CORRECT position. The DVD drawer is to the left (which is weird), but the power goes in the back — which seems natural. The USB of the mouse is on the right at the back, but there are USBs at the back near the left for left-handed people and for all the things we now use them for (there’s no floppy, no PS2 and no printer socket either).

[Picture of CTRL key]A few weeks ago my new client asked my if I had any preferences before they ordered a new laptop for me — and I simply asked that the CTRL key be bottom left! The Sony Vaio they had ordered was on a long delivery, so they were good enough to remember my CTRL request — and I got a Hewlett-Packard with the CTRL key bottom left. It is a weird laptop in that it has a separate numbers section — just like a desktop keyboard!

The HP laptop has the power lead going in on the left side (middle)!, and all the USBs are left and right, but near the front! There is absolutely nothing going in the back or front of this laptop! But with the CTRL issue OK, I can live with the highly visible and touchable wires and cables. It is massive, and will never fit inside a laptop case!


Well, it’s because I use the keyboard shortcuts all the time! The reason for this is that these keyboard shortcuts seem to be independent of applications (they work in all software packages I have ever used — in new and old revisions and versions)… doing so means that I do not have to bother learning new software packages, I do not have to scan through menus and toolbar icons looking for what I want to do. I’ve been using the same shortcuts for 10 years — they always works and they are part of my muscle memory: I don’t even have to think. It’s all about productivity!

I have seen people suffer with strange layouts — and then finally giving in and purchasing a desktop style keyboard to plug in and use instead of the laptop’s built-in keyboard!

I cannot understand why laptop keyboards vary so much, but apart from that, I cannot understand why such matters are not really covered in the sales blurb — it’s all about the software installed, the wirelessness, the size and speed, even the weight and battery life get more of a mention that where the mains lead is plugged in! So this is also a call for sales and marketing teams to have close up pictures, and thorough descriptions of set up arrangements.

  • EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to all for comments, as a result I have taken out the list of Keyboard shortcuts to a new post. –Dave

[Picture of  AST Lasptop showing PCMCIA flap][Picture of Dell Laptop's CD drawer][Picture of AST Laptop's power connection][Picture of Dell Laptop power connection][Picture of AST Laptop floppy slot at front][Picture of HP Laptop CD drawer][Picture of back of HP Laptop]


1. George Dunn - 2006/08/14

too little differences between one and another laptop


2. Amilo M 1437G « devine - 2006/08/27

[…]cross ref […]

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