A magic mistake

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I’m a fan of Apple hardware. Apple does an immaculate job of creating physical objects that are aesthetically stunning and a pleasure to use. For the most part, no competitor comes close; the rest of the industry can only copy.

I’m also a fan of HIDs (Human Input Devices), whether it’s a LEAP Motion, a good trackball, or my array of keyboards and trackpads. I guess it’s kind of a fetish. When I saw that Apple was releasing a new version of my all time favorite keyboard, I jumped to order.

My favorite keyboard is the Aluminum Bluetooth Keyboard from Apple. The one that comes with most desktop Macs, and the one you probably have somewhere around the house. I own hundreds of dollars worth of keyboards, and it’s the one I’ve always come back to. It’s partly because it matches the layout of my MacBook Pro and my Air, and muscle memory is vital given the number of keyboard customizations I’m prone to. It’s also a pleasure to type on, and I’ve always come back to it as my primary work keyboard.

Despite my admiration for Apple Hardware, I’m also willing to acknowledge design flaws when they happen. I’m not quick to jump on them, as I’ve found the things that people complain most loudly about after a new release are the same things they complain about changing later. I’m happy to give it an adjustment period.

However, this new Magic Keyboard is killing me. I don’t own one of the new MacBooks yet, but this appears to be the same keyboard. I’m unsure how everyone else is finding it so usable.

The key profile is so low that my fingers have no reference when sensing edges of keys. The response has an odd lag anytime the CPU is pegged, which I do not understand at all. The setup process is very cool (plug in a lightning cable and it pairs instantly), but my first impressions using it have been bad and going downhill.

I’ll be able to get used to the key profile, eventually, but there’s one thing that’s absolutely killing me: the configuration of the arrow key cluster. The seemingly small change in the size of the left and right arrow keys to full height has made it nearly impossible for me to use.

When my right hand travels to the arrow cluster, my index finger feels for the top of the left arrow key, and my middle finger assumes that the down arrow is to the right of it, and the up arrow is above it. This is the way every keyboard I’ve ever used is configured.

With the new key size, when my index finger hits the top edge of the left arrow, my middle finger hits the shift key above almost every time. The ridge between up and down has also decreased, and my fingers are large enough that even if I can feel it, hitting both or the wrong one is happening frequently.

I’ve tried in vain to develop the muscle memory to be able to use this configuration without having to look. The problem is exacerbated by a double-tap on Shift being a LaunchBar trigger for me, so two fumbles opens the popup and takes focus from my text window.

I have Karabiner set up such that holding down the S and D keys simultaneously turns my HJKL keys into Vim-style navigation, so I’m defaulting to that for now, in combination with the standard Emacs ctrl-keys for navigation. I really want to love this new keyboard, but I’m at a point where I’m not sure it’s going to happen. Arrow keys are kind of important.

I have my issues with the Magic Trackpad refresh as well, but those mostly stem from the amount of BetterTouchTool configuration I’ve done and how the sensitivity of the first click interferes with my muscle memory on those additional gestures. I can get used to that. I think.