That F’n Key

Microsoft make good keyboards. They also make good mice. My choice of keyboard is the Microsoft Wireless Natural Keyboard, combined with the wireless optical mouse it’s a killer combination – except for one ‘feature’ – the new Enhanced Function keys. The F keys not only now perform their standard F1-12 features they can also perform extended operations by using the new F Lock key.

A great idea but for one thing. They default to the new extended settings, ie the F Lock key is on. So when you press F5 to refresh a screen of directory listing the Open dialogue box appears, F12 in Dreamweaver is supposed to preview your page in a browser, but the extended F key prints out the source code. No problem you say, just change the option so the F key doesn’t come on by default. This is where the stupidity enters – you can’t. It’s a physical switch in the keyboard so you have to remember to disengage the F Lock before you want to use F1 to F12.

This drove me mad, and I have many print outs of page coding to prove this, until I stumbled across this great reg-edit on Bleeding Edge. By installing the F Lock Key Flip your problems are solved. It only works for Windows 2000 and XP and it will save you a lot of aggravation.

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6 thoughts on “That F’n Key

  1. Titel

    I had the same problem with my Microsoft Natural Multimedia keyboard. It’s an well designed Human Interface Device and an excellent product overall, except for two flaws.

    First, the need to press the F-Lock key after each reboot was really, really annoying. Sorry Microsoft, but I’m used to Function keys, not quick-command keys; after so many years in Windows, my brain simply cannot associate F5 with anything else than Refresh. The registry tweak solved the problem, and I only wish that the function reversal could be programmed in the keyboard somehow so I don’t have to remember to press the F-Lock whenever I’m in CMOS Setup, DOS or Linux.

    Second, the keyboard’s design pleases the eye: white keys, pale gray wrist pad, dark blue cover surrounding the multimedia keys; however, I can’t understand who was the moron throwing in three ordinary green LEDs. I could resist only for a few days before opening it up to install some nice blue, ultrabright LEDs. Ignoring the bad photo, it looks much better now, don’t you think? 🙂

  2. andy

    One of my geekier friends said that there are a plethora of blue LEDs around now, mainly because they are cheaper. Is this true? My apple keyboards use green LEDs – if it’s good enough for Apple…

  3. Titel

    Yes, blue LEDs and, more recently, white ones are getting cheaper since they moved from the R&D labs into mass production. They are not as cheap as the common LEDs — 3mm green, red, orange, yellow LEDs are under 10 cents a piece, while blue ones are still over one dollar — but they will eventually get there. Each LED has two important specifications: light intensity, measured in mcd (mili-candela) and the angle of the focused beam given in degrees. Beware: if you like sitting in the dark at the computer, do not get ultrabright and narrow beam LEDs like I did (there weren’t other variants to pick from at that time). The ones in my keyboard are making clear, bright blue spots on the ceiling as well as on my retina if I sit too close to the keyboard. 60mcd is dim, 250-500mcd should be OK, 1000mcd and more is very bright. 8, 12, 15 degrees will focus the light, while 30 or 50 degrees disperse the light better; narrow-angle LEDs are usually made of clear blue or white plastic, the others are matte. You can test the LEDs at 3 volts (two AA or AAA batteries in series), hold your hand a few inches in front of the LED and see if it makes a bright disc with clear edge or a diffuse, mild intensity light. It’s best to shop around until you find a variant matching your taste because intensity can be lowered by adding a resistor in series with the LED, but you won’t have room for extra resistors in the keyboard; the angle cannot be adjusted. My Microsoft Natural Multimedia keyboard used 3 3mm LEDs which were fairly easy to replace; other keyboards may have SMD LEDs that require special soldering tools.

  4. andy

    Cool response. My friend gave the impression that blue LEDs were cheaper than the greens etc. – maybe he just meant they’re getting cheaper in general and people want them. He was quite disparaging about them.

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