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America Online

AOL Joins The Hardware Marketeers 210

The Reverend writes, "Salon has a frightening article about AOL-branded keyboards. There are three hot keys up top (where 'Internet' keyboards generally have a few buttons to automatically go to your favorite Web pages or open your e-mail prog) that link to AOL services. There is a 'better' version due out this fall that has 17 such buttons. I'm scared by this."

Compaq and Dell are among the PC manufacturers who already ship PCs with similar "direct contact" buttons, a calculated bet that convenience and ubiquity are going to beat due diligence on the part of consumers. Embedding a URL in hardware will certainly make alternatives (no matter how easy) just a tad less convenient than the built-in link. I wonder how the linked AOL addresses are embedded in the keyboard, and whether they're alterable. Even if they're not, would it be difficult to set up a layer which "listened" to your keyboard and performed on-the-fly translation when you hit one of those buttons?

At least one of those keys is straightforwardly user-programmable: as the article says, "[D]on't worry; there is one key, with the infantilizing name "My Key," that lets you create a link to any site on the Web." Wow -- users get one key.

AOL may change their mind about shipping these to anyone willing to fork over a few dollars for shipping. For the novelty value, or even for a one-programmable-button keyboard, less than $10 may replace a lot of coffee-ruined keyboards. Then again, the production of AOL come-on CDs doesn't seem to have waned. (But if there's a practical way to hack the pre-set presets, dollars-ta-donuts they pull the deal faster than you can say "Netpliance.")

Be grateful they haven't gotten to "direct-Internet-link" buttons on mice. Yet.

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AOL Joins The Hardware Marketeers

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Seeing all these people who claim that the control key should be where the caps lock key normally is just makes me laugh out loud. These people don't realize that with the control key in the lower-left corner of the keyboard, it can be used by the one finger that (until the advent of PC's and the control key), never got to do ANYTHING: the left thumb. The control key in its normal position allows you to utilize your left thumb rather than wasing precious time rearranging your hand to press it with one of your other fingers. Your other fingers have OTHER tasks assigned to them.

    Now, you tell me. Can you type faster using NINE fingers or using TEN fingers?

    Say you put the control key where the caps lock key normally is. What do you press it with? The left thumb won't reach... it's alone and useless again. The left pinky? Alright... left pinkey is on your misplaces control key. Now, the keystroke you want is CONTROL-A. DOH!!! Hmm, what's going on here? Why, it's your left pinkey's job to type the A key, and it's off on vacation lounging around on some out-of-place control key?

    So what do you do?

    "Ah ha!", you say. "I'll simply press the 'A' key with my left ring finger.

    You do that and:

    1. You're using the WRONG FINGER, which will slow you down.

    2. Make a habit of that and you'll eventually be saying "AHH, my wrists!"

    Those keys were laid out that way for a reason. Taking your hand off of the home row will slow you down. It will also possibly damage your hand... these keyboards were designed so that you could type on them WITHOUT killing your hand, so don't go thinking you're qualified to go rearranging it, because you're probably not.

    So what do you DO you press your misplaced control key with?

    "Ah HA! My left thumb! I'm sure it's still around. It will still have faith in me..."

    So you go and find your left thumb. You ask it, "Left thumb, I'm sorry about before. It was wrong of me. Can you PLEASE try to hit the misplaced left control key on this keyboard while I type the 'A' key with my left pinky?"

    The thumb's feelings are hurt (not as bad as the ligaments in your hand from not realizing I was right sooner, but we'll play along), but eventually you convince it.

    So speaks the thumb: "Well, you really made me sad. But I'll try to press that control key."

    Of course, your control key is where the caps lock key normally is... so it reaches... it strains... your entire wrist bends...

    "AHHHH!!! My wrist! Again!"

    Back to the emergency room.

    "I tried my best," says your left thumb. "It was so much EASIER to hit the control key when it was in the RIGHT PLACE. I'm outta here, loser."

    "I QUIT" says your left pinkey finger. You let that loud-mouthed ring finger butt in on my territory. I'm outa here.

    "I'm gone also" says your ring finger. "Trying to assign ME extra work while that pinkey was slacking off... SCREW YOU."

    Next, your index finger turns in its resignation and leaves without a further word.

    Then you're left with just your one MIDDLE FINGER... and I don't think I have to TELL YOU what it does.

    So to all those people who think the control key should be where the caps lock key normally is... the MIDDLE FINGER has yer number!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm just saying we're supposed to be at least somewhat self-reliant here. If you buy a're not expected to know how it was built...but you're damned well expected to know how to drive the damned thing.

    And the people who buy the AOL keyboard know how to 'drive' it, by pushing a button. What, pray tell, is the limit we should stop at? Are icons and windows to easy? You seem to imply that there is a point at which we shouldn't attempt to make anything easier to use. How far should we go? Your views are typical of elitists who feel that because they have some sort of special knowledge (in this case, computers), that everyone else should be forced to come to their level. That is a ridiculous claim. Ever hear of specialization of labor? You do one thing, they do another.

    find it interesting that you take such a consumptionistic view of things. You make it quite clear that you've never studied economics

    Unfortunately, my course of economics went well beyond 'Das Kapital', but please try to bear with me anyway. Just ask if you see any unfamiliar terms like 'rational' or 'reason'.

    Capitalism is good, in moderation.

    Yes, I suppose you probably want a government to tell you what to do. Sadly for you, my fellow objective thinkers and I see the complete folly of this concept. That is why we oppose idiotic ideas like regulation or socialism.

    If capitalism ran rampant, we wouldn't have things like Linux, or Netscape, or cheap long distance (if you don't see why...please don't reply to this post)

    Let me explain how wrong you are. Linux came about becase Linus Torvalds couldn't afford a real version of Unix. In fact, the original versions of Linux were not licensed under the GPL because he intended to sell it for a profit. Care to explain away how capitalism doesn't fit into that scenario? Granted, Linux has of late been overrun by socialist jackasses like ESR and Jon Katz, but that wasn't the original plan. As for Netscape, Marc Anderrsen, a brilliant programmer, realzied that academia was not only a haven for socialists, but also a dead end in terms of work. Seeking more greenbacks, he started his own company, which he sold out for a handsome profit. That's 'capitalism run rampant', and guess what? It works. You proved so yourself, even if you're too blinded by your biases to realize it.

    Maybe you hadn't heard, but socialism failed long ago. This is an objective fact.
  • Are you joking? Lets see, on my keyboard I have keys labeled F1 through F12. Do you see those on your keyboard? Know what those are? Go ahead... make F5 do whatever the hell you want it to. Feel the power. Rejoice that you are using a Model M IBM AT/PS2 keyboard.
  • I'm using XFree86 with twm.

    In my .xsession:

    xmodmap -e "Keycode 115 = F20"

    In my .twmrc:

    "F20" = : all : f.exec "/usr/local/bin/netscape &"

    Now, whenever I hit the left "Windows" key on my keyboard, I launch Netscape and pull up Slashdot. The moral: RTFM -- you might be surprised!

    The only problem is that TWM doesn't seem to support binding a key to the directive -- I can press all I want, but no menu comes up.
  • try a 'man loadkeys', and look at the bottom for related utilities. or try 'man -k keyboard' and sift through the entries.

    On my RedHat 6.1 system, keyboard-related files are under /usr/lib/kbd/keymaps. There's all kinds of goodies there. I looked into this because I wanted right-alt + f2 to go to virtual console two, not just left-alt + f2.

    -Paul Komarek
  • who cares? its all marketing. if you were so easily persuaded then you wouldn't be here reading this stuff that is for sure. You would be caught either spending money on Amazon or CDNOW!

    Its all good.
  • My keyboard already has 18 or so "internet hot buttons". Theoretically I guess I could set them to do whatever I want in Linux but I haven't gotten to that yet. Right now they don't do anything in Linux. They used to print messages in syslog about unrecognized scancodes, so I'll take that as a hint it wouldn't be hard to make them handled any way I want. No predefined links though, but mostly common web functions in Windows. Buttons are: Logitech (brings up a menu of user-defined links), www, history, open url, home, send to back, print, back, forward, stop, refresh, search, find, add favorite, open favorites, hot links, scroll up, scroll down.
  • To use them in linux, you want to look at the man pages for showkey, loadkeys (for console), and probably xev, xmodmap, and xkeycaps (for X). (I wonder if anyone has made xkeycaps know about these keyboards yet? That would be really cool. Get xkeycaps. It makes messing with your keyboard really easy.)
    #define X(x,y) x##y
  • Both ways make sense. Some people are more visually oriented than others. A friend of mine (who is in CS, and uses Linux, so he isn't a dummy:), really likes having icons and buttons for things. I couldn't care less about icons. I'd much rather have a command line. That explains why he uses KDE, and I use the text console or a simple window manager (like uwm [] or fvwm2). (sorry, the UDE link seems to be down, but I can't find another page for it. It's in the Debian operating system's uwm [] package (which depends on the ude (unix desktop environment) package)).

    I would be inclined to agree that we shouldn't over do it with extra buttons, and that language is good. (of course, I'm very much a text+command line+words oriented person. I use lynx because I don't care much about graphics, and I use love LaTeX because it lets me write good looking docs without using an annoying GUI.)

    Here's an idea: There should be a row of function buttons which have any program can use for its own functions. This would be like the normal F[1-9][0-2]? keys, but they would have little LCD screens on the keyboard above the keys that could be have icons displayed in them by the program. There is no standard way to do this, so I think it would have to be in a USB keyboard or else be a horrible kludge of the keyboard protocol (it might not be, since I haven't looked into AT or PS/2 keyboard interfaces.) This would be the analog of the button bar at the top of a window, but you wouldn't have to reach for your mouse to use them. Of course, you could use loadkeys and showkey to bind them in console mode, and you could use xmodmap and xev to set them up under X. Apps could program the icons when they got the keyboard focus, I guess. This would be good because it keeps the people who want buttons happy, and it makes it very scaleable by allowing reuse of the same buttons for different apps. For novice users who don't understand how different programs have different windows and stuff, you could fix the keybindings the way they are in the AOL kbd :(
    #define X(x,y) x##y

  • You are right, except for your point about text consoles. For the "power user", i.e. someone who uses a computer every day, text commands are useful because you can combine your knowledge of one command with your knowledge of another command to do really cool stuff. I wrote a big rant about this a couple weeks ago on a mailing list, and I'll post it here for your entertainment/edification: (I wrote it starting at about 2:00am, and finishing around 6, and I haven't spell checked it or read through it :)


    Desktops are over-rated. You don't use a computer just for the sake of using a computer (unless you are trying to waste time, in which case you should read /. with your threshold at -1 and read _every_ comment, or you should read through the cartoon archive right from the beginning. (hint, use wget to download the .gifs as you read :)). The reason you use a computer is to accomplish something. This is either something like preparing a document, writing some code, sending email, reading 'net news, browse the web, get mp3s, or various other things that amount to something which you either have to get done or you want to get done. I find this is best accomplished with a simple window manager. I saw somebody saw that "the reason for having a window manager is so you can have more xterms open." There are some programs that obviously benefit from a GUI, mostly programs that have anything to do with graphics or formatting. (i.e. xfig is great for doing diagrams. LaTeX's picture environment (where you use commands like \put and \line in a .tex file that you compile/run to create a .dvi, which can be converted to postscript or PDF, or viewed directly) is nice for things which need scale and precision, but you often have to draw the thing by hand on paper to figure out all the positions, lengths and angles if the diagram is anything at all complicated. xfig is great because it is a wysiwig vector drawing program, and can export as LaTeX commands for \include'ing in a LaTeX doc. (it also exports ps, eps, and various raster formats like jpg or pnm.))

    Consider programs that do a non-interactive task, like list files in a directory. This is the classic type of command line Unix program. You run it, it does its thing, it exits. (The really classic ones which are part of the core Unix shell commands that all sytems have are almost always very terse. If part of its job description included printing info, then it does, otherwise is doesn't print anything except for errors. You check $? to see if it worked right, if you have any doubts or want to use it in a script. I'm not limiting the discussion to those commands, since that would be dumb. (they already work very well with no GUI.) I'm including programs like zip and unzip, which have a tendency to be chatty, but which are still very much one operation per invokation shell commands, and non-interactive (except for y/n overwrite confirm).)

    For the class of programs described in the paragraph above, it is possible to implement a GUI version of the command by providing a window which shows information relevant to the task, and providing radio buttons and toggles which specify extra options. If there are a lot of options, there can be menus or tabs. For example, xrm, if it existed, would show you a list of files in the directory, and let you select one or more of them. It would have a toggle for recursive, a toggle for force, and an execute button which would delete the files/directories. It wouldn't exit after deleting one file, because that's not how GUIs are done. They let you do more operations with the options set the way you put them, usually.

    For most programs with more than a couple options, a GUI is useful if it can present the options in a way that makes it easier and faster to get your task done than it would be to do the task from the command line.

    There are several factors that go into deciding whether write the program as a GUI or as a command line tool. First, and extremely important in the whole philosophy of Unix, is that the programs like this are tools. programs that do a non-interactive task are the kind that can usefully be combined with other programs in a pipe, or as part of a script. What if the only command to delete files was to run xrm (which doesn't exist, so you'd be doubly screwed), and pick some options from its menus, then pick a file? If xrm didn't take command line options, or if it insisted on opening a window, then shell scripting would suck. (rm isn't really a good example, since a lot of scripts need it, even if they do something totally unrelated. Besides, the sysadmin would have to clean up /tmp every now and then, and would have to do it manually (since there is no way to script it with xrm!) unless she was a good hacker and thought of using mv -f file /dev/null to get rid of things.) GUI versions of things that are already handled well by command line programs have their uses, especially for people who don't need to use computers often, or for very long.

    Note that GUI-versions-for-newbies of commonly used programs are a terrible idea, in my (NSH :) opinion. Newbies who expect to spend a significant amount of time using computers (i.e. want to become non-newbies, probably ASAP), do not benefit from a GUI wrapper for doing non-interactive simple tasks. It is much better for the aspiring newbie to learn to the command line syntax of relatively simple commands which do tasks which crop up all the time, like removing files with rm. Knowing how to use a GUI program to do something is one thing. You can't easily combine that knowledge with other programs. Knowing how to use a command-line tool is another thing, because once you know a few simple tools, you can use the shell to put them together with pipes, command substitution, xargs, etc. The capability gained from knowing how to use a GUI program which does a given task adds linearly with the capabilities gained from knowing other GUI programs which specific operations. The capability gained from knowing a command line tool to do a certain task _MULTIPLIES_ your previous total capability (well, probably not multiplies, probably some combinatorial function like the number of permutations of n commands blah blah, ... (not to knock discrete structures or anything :) hehe.), because you can combine the newly learned command with any combination of other commands you know. (note that this capability product counts the capability to do many many useless tasks, like deleting all the files whose names is the rot13 codeing of a word which appears on a line in a text file which also contains the word "echelon". (i.e.
    rm -- $( grep -w echelon foo.txt | tr 'A-Za-z' 'N-ZA-Mn-za-m' )
    ) Try doing that with a GUI character translator, a GUI pattern-searcher, and a GUI rm. You could, but you'd have to get the GUI programs to save their results to a file, then load it from the other GUI. Kinda slow, compared to the command line. (ok, I admit it took me about a minute to get the rot13 with tr right, but you'd have the same problem if your GUI character translator was as general purpose as tr, which it would almost have to be to be worth writing at all. (except for rot13 features in file viewers or editors, which could be used.) Keep in mind that once you figure out how to do it with tr, you can do it as many times as you want, grepping different files, with no extra effort, but to use the GUI tools again you'd have to do just as much work. (you could leave their windows open and the options set, but you'd still have to save to a file and move to the next tool, or cut and paste if there wasn't too much text. That introduces even more chance for human error.)) GUIs for things only a few very commonly used options, to do a simple task, are good only for people who won't be spending enough time with computers to justify the learning time. Learning command line tools is a long term investment which gains value the more you learn how to do more different things from the command line. (i.e. not just processing files into other files.) For example, you can do a lot with wget and one-line sed and/or awk scripts. (I don't know much perl yet (working on it, though :), and my computer isn't very fast, so awk and sed are great.)

    Note that xrm is becomming the poster-child for dumb things to have a GUI's for.

    Another factor in determining the whether a GUI is useful for knowledgeable users is how complex the options are. Programs with lots of different seldom-used options, like find, could benefit from a GUI. (of course, find gets regular use from the command line, usually with -name, -mtime, or -size, so the command line version is very important to have, especially for scripting. However, it _would_ be useful to have a GUI frontend to construct a command line for find. A powerful, not a flashy or user-obsequious, GUI is required. find is used often enough that remembering how to get what you want out of a relatively powerful GUI which lets you string together multiple conditions is not too hard. Very importantly, a GUI for an experienced user would be centered around searching for files named x. Everyone knows how to do that anyway, so it would be stupid to write the GUI assuming that's what most people would use it for. People would use the GUI mostly for complicated find commands most people would have to read the man page for every time they wanted to construct such a command. For use in scripting, a button to print the constructed find command on stdout could come in handy. (I'm going to have to write a GUI front end for find sometime... Cool. I should start a useful-GUIs-for-hackers project. :)

    This leads my argument to the point that another factor in the usefulness of a GUI is how often the task is done, with respect to the complexity of the command line arguments. For things which are done regularly like deleting files, a GUI is a complete waste of time. For complicated things which get done all the time, like grep, a GUI is not needed. This is a case where newbies might be attracted to a graphical searcher, because they keep forgetting the command line arguments to grep. (which one makes it search for non-matching lines...? -n? (nope, that prints line numbers. -v is the one to inVert the search...) However, grep is such a powerful scripting tool and can be put to good use so often that it really must be learned by anyone who plans to use computers regularly. Another program, wget, has very many command line options, most of them difficult to remember. (the --long-options forms aren't much easier to remember, I find.) For simple use, the command line wget works fine. For more complicated tasks with patterns for accept-lists, etc., it is usually necessary to check the man page. It might well be possible to make a GUI version or front end for wget which made it easier to choose the right options to get the job done. The critical question is whether it is faster to use the GUI or to check the man page. I'm not sure whether there would be much benefit to having a GUI for wget. I think there might be, since wget isn't used very often, and there are a _lot_ of options which nobody remembers unless they've just spent the last couple minutes putting together a wget command that does what they want. Even then, you'd never remember all of them. You might remember that wget has a certain feature, but not know the relevant command line option. OTOH, a GUI is not a panacea for this problem. Some things are just complicated. However, it is often easier to figure out how to do something when the options to choose from are all sorted into categories. For example, a GUI can't make pattern matching much easier than grep, unless it limits itself to a less expressive pattern language than regular expressions. I can't picture how a GUI would be faster for stringing together sub-patterns, etc. This is especially true when you consider that you usually need to go back and tune your pattern to match exactly what you wanted it to, unless you are using a simple enough pattern that a regular expression for it would be easy to make up. Allowing for small changes to the composed pattern would probably leed to an overcomplicated GUI. Another example of a task that isn't done very often is uudecoding. The uudecode program doesn't need a GUI because it doesn't have many options. You just give it the filename. If find that you need to read the man page, it's probably because your about to do something that will end up using it a lot shortly after, so it's worth your time to gain the speed of the command line.

    The value of a GUI for a task which could be done by a non-interactive command is in the amount of time it saves getting the job done. The time to use the command line version must take into account the time to read the man page and figure out what command line options to use, if necessary. Obviously, for commands that get used all the time with simple arguments, like rm filename [more filenames], a GUI is useless. For doing tasks which require a lot of choice of options, especially tasks which are done infrequently enough that the command line syntax isn't usually remembered from the last time you figured it out, a simple GUI which presents the options in a sensible manner can speed things up considerably.

    GUIs are way over-rated, but they do have their uses.


    Note that the rant applies mostly to Unix environments, and others where a flexible, versatile command shell is available, and the tools runnable by the shell are powerfull enough that they _can_ be used to do almost everything, even things that aren't very convenient. This includes Windows with Cygwin32 bash + tools. Note that a shell environment itself benefits enormously from having a mouse to cut and paste text, ala xterm under X or gpm on a Linux text console.
    #define X(x,y) x##y

  • by peter ( 3389 )
    Just because all those nice looking number keys on that number pad dedicated to them are there doesn't mean you have to use them in every word, you know.
    #define X(x,y) x##y
  • Any ideas? Sure. man xmodmap.
  • I don't want a "Linux" keyboard either, with Penguins on the keyboard. Am I supposed to tell people to type "Penguin-X"?

    How about a "Hackers" keyboard that has (in order of importance):

    1. Put the word "Meta" on the "windoze" keys

    2. Put the word "Ctrl" on the "caps lock" key.

    3. Put the word "Super" on the two current control keys.

    4. Put the word "Menu" or "Hyper" on the "windoze menu key".

    5. Get rid of the arrow, home, etc symbols on the numeric keypad, and make the key marked with "NumLock" say something else (comma?).

    6. Make the three keys with PrintScrn, etc say F13, F14, F15.

    7. Make all the labels on the function keys, especially the Fn keys, MUCH larger, at least as large as the capital letters, so they can be read at a distance. Get rid of all the arrow logos on the tab, shift, and Enter keys. The arrow keys should have nice bold triangles on them.

    8. Make the labels for the leds be 1,2,3 or A,B,C, or something. Since I have deleted numlock, caps lock, and scrolllock, they don't need to show keyboard state, so this allows them to be more easily used by a program.

    9. If you want to call it a "Linux" keyboard, print your company logo and "Linux Keyboard" in the corner.

    Some X programming is necessary to make this work, especially to get rid of "num lock", but no hardware changes are necessary except for changing labels, so a keyboard manufacturer could probably do this easily. If the keyboard manufacturer is willing to do hardware modifications than some of the buttons can be electronically switched and new scan codes produced for all the keys with new labels. You could also delete the keys I called "Super" and "Hyper" above and make the space key much wider. You could also delete the LED's entirely. And use an upside-down T for the arrows (Windoze users would appreciate this, too!).

  • Microsoft has been pushing their Internet Keyboard [] and Internet Keyboard Pro [] for coming up on a year now. They've got 10 and 17 "hot keys" respectively that are activated through driver software -- without it, the buttons are dead.

    Microsoft has also been co-branding these with OEMs such as Dell for some time now. This is just more of the same.

  • Here is my own proposal to enhance the AOL keyboard -

    It will take three more button to make
    the AOL keyboard truly unique.

    Button 1: Sucks !

    Button 2: Sucks even more !

    Button 3: Mother of all suckers button !

    Now AOL can start selling their enhance button during the Halloween. :)

  • I'm scared by this.

    Yeah, I'm terrified, too. The mere thought of yet another product out there that I don't want and don't have to buy scares the shit out of me... Why doesn't the government prevent companies from producing products that I don't like??

  • Why would anyone care if there are additional
    keys that do certain things under winblows?
    Just reprogram them to something else. When
    you're running Linux or OS/2 those keys aren't
    handled by the winapi so what's the big deal?

    I see these keyboards as a neat AOL deal much like
    those free reformatable diskettes of the past.
    I wish they'd send us RW CDs instead of those useless CDs that fill my garbage can.
  • >When you install your RocketBoard driver >software, you will be assigned a unique global
    >user identification number (GUID). This number
    >along with your IP address is used to help
    >dentify you and your browsing habits and to
    >gather broad demographic information.

    Are you for real? They aren't likely to provide
    drivers for Linux and even if they do why the
    heck would you want to install them?
    Just remap the keys and you get 18 new function
    keys. I think this is a great gift form AOL
    much like those diskettes they used to send us

  • I don't see how you folks are disturbed by this. They are just offering another product, not forcing it upon you. I don't understand why, when AOL comes up with some idea, everybody's first thought is "evil" or "scary".

    All it does is broaden the market. There is probably a way to hack those 17 buttons to your pleasing, so don't fret.

  • it's like stephenson writes in diamond age. sandwich a weak spread-spectrum transmitter between a watch battery and a 32x32 lcd. glue on pressure-sensitive board. the diode diagrams dance, the people poke, literacy is lost.

  • damn copy and paste....
    that second "first post" button should read

    * A "troll/grits" button (ac version only)
    sorry.... :)

  • You never use your Windows-E to open up Windows Explorer? Or Windows-F to open up Find Files? I find the Windows button quite useful, actually. I don't really appreciate the right click button, though.
  • These new keyboards not only have the extra aol keys, but will have a small LCD panel that will give you all those nice AOL ads. Sure you can cover up the LCD panel but they keyboard has a "LCD Panel being covered" sensor which will make the keyboard driver post the ads on your screen. Any attempt to use your old keyboard will result in the destruction of your computer.
  • Only capable of producing upper-case letters? Fourteen extra exclamation point keys? A "repost this article seven times without changes" shortcut key?

    If you care, my lame mp3s live at []...

  • Allow me to applaud you for your brilliant troll. The $100-fine-for-profanity idea was truly inspired, as were the advocacy of "Horny4u" and "CoolDude3949291" as superiour usernames. And the notion that having to type "GNU Image Manipulation Program" is superior to "gimp" is masterful.

    I award this five bowls of hot grits.

  • So basicially pay for the shipping and then remap the keys to do strange and unusual things in X.
  • Does Microsoft scare you?


    The only reason why they are doing this is to harness a phsycological principal that people don't like to waste things that they have. Therefore, some of them will use the AOL keys even if it means switching to AOL.

    Man, I have to give everyone my new email address, resubscribe to all my mailing lists, and get a new ISP.. but thankfully I can now press that big shinny AOL button on my keyboard....

    Hmm... I don't really think its going to work that way.

  • One word: emacs. Bind the function keys, meta-function keys, control-function keys however you like.

    But then to use emacs effectively you have the task (becoming more and more difficult nowadays) of finding a keyboard with the CAPS LOCK and CONTROL keys in the right place, i.e. CONTROL above the left shift key, CAPS LOCK below it.

    Incidentally, I question strongly the wisdom in the PC arrangement with the key placement reversed. CAPS LOCK is never chorded with any other keys whereas CONTROL is always chorded; why place the chorded key in an awkward location and put the unchorded (and seldom used) key in a place where it's easy to mistype? This cannot even be useful for word-processing typists given the relative ease of mistyping the CAPS LOCK when TAB or SHIFT are intended.
  • There is (was?) a Logitech keyboard, the creatively named "Internet Keyboard", that includes 16 buttons (and 1 rocker for volume) and a nifty little piece of software for doing something like that. You can't remap any of the keys, but one of them, the "Logitech" button, calls up a little app that is nothing but slots to which you can assign programs (or files, links, etc). You get a nice little menu listing everything you have set and, IIRC, a choice of clicking or doing a Logitech-[0-9] combo.

    Of course, I didn't use the feature more than once, and didn't bother attaching the keyboard to my current machine, but if you into that sort of thing, it's really quite OK.

  • IBM AT Keyboard rox!

    The best keyboard any heavy-typster can get!
    I love it.

    What do we need shortcut-keys, when we have shells with command-completion?

  • Ernest, as in Ernest scared stupid,... etc...
  • YES!!! I would pay $$$ for a ADB->PS/2 adaptor so I could scrounge up the original mac ADB keyboard! That is what I grew up using and it is the only keyboard I can truely love. Control is in the right place, and it don't have no stinkin' F-keys or navigation keys but it does have arrow keys and a numeric keypad. If anyone has one of these keyboards in working condition, mail me! As for the ADB, I'm pretty sure there is ADB->PS/2 (intended for iMacs).
  • I don't know about you, but my left thumb is on the right side of my left hand. The control key is on the left side of my right hand. This would not be a comfortable arrangement. Am I missing something?
  • The model M's are great keyboards, but they have all of the extra keys that I am complaining about (except the MS ones).
  • These keyboards are stupid. They are win95 keyboards with penguins painted on them. It is SO PATHETIC that windows keyboards are so commonplace thesedays that people explicitly trying to manufacture a linux-friendly keyboard can't find one non-MS keyboard.
  • Does Microsoft scare you? This is the same thing. AOL will use their big bucks to give out free/cheap stuff that will be designed to only work with AOL - e.g. anti-competitive. The only reason why they are doing this is to harness a phsycological principal that people don't like to waste things that they have. Therefore, some of them will use the AOL keys even if it means switching to AOL.
  • What's ironic about it? I don't like Microsoft hardware or software and I never said I did. Does it make it ironic because I don't follow the status quo?
  • There's an HP keyboard I saw that has a TON of extra internet-related keys like that. Uesless stuff for "shopping", "people",etc.

    My question is, how hard would it be to make your own drivers to make the keys do your bidding? I had one of those fancy multimedia keyboards that had semi-useless(but uncustomizable) features such as calculator, sleep mode, etc. Eventually I renamed WINAMP.EXE to CALC.EXE, and I was able to bring up my tunes with one keypress.
  • Actually, for a techie user in Windows (yes, we do exist...), those buttons are genuinely useful. I use my mouse as little as possible, and having a button to right-click is part of that (as are all the other keys you mentioned - try not using your mouse in Windows for a bit and see what I mean). I agree with you on the Windows logo buttons, though - I've never found them to be worth the space. And BTW, there are 2 buttons for left-click: Enter to run (double-click), and Space to put focus on the selected icon (single-click).
  • strangely enough, there will be 12 more buttons but none of them will take you to the web.

    press 1 to see our pre defined content
    press 2 to see out pre defined content
    press 3 to see . . .
  • It says the keyboard is free....I wonder if we can
    find another use for the aol buttons....
  • Actually someone IS making the Northgate keyboards again... see
  • Damn it, don't feed the trolls.
  • I am a NT user who worships at the altar of the start menu key. Start + R brings up a run dialog, Start +E brings up an explorer window, Start+f brings up the search window (in 2k MS replaces "find" with "search" everywhere. weird), Start + M minimizes all open windows.

    Anyhow, I am of the belief that keys are good, and in *nix you just ought to program them to do something cool.

  • The e-machine that I use (Hey, it's cheap) uses a bit of software called "Easy Keyboard" which just runs a prog when it gets the right scancode. The version that I use can't be easier to change, just open up the config, type the path/prog name next to the button name (or a address next to the internet button) and that's it. As lame as it sounds, it's kinda growing on me.

  • "Bend over and kiss ISA, PCI, overclocked Celerons and The Computer Show and Sale good-bye."

    Wait, you mean the Computer Show and Sale which is basicly just a flea market full of hole-in-the wall junk hardware dealers? Ugh. That's the last place you want to go to build your own system. I hate to go off on a tangent, but these dealers are the same types that try to make a living selling crap on Ebay instead of, uh, getting a JOB. They have this nice habit of lying about the hardware they sell ("Yeah, you can use this CD-ROM to play DVDs!"). and overprice it. I seen this in the Maryland area, so maybe it's different in other states.

  • Anyone here work for a keyboard manufacturing company?

    Just a thought.....

    Perhaps you could slip some code into these "internet keyboards" that just occasionally sends users to Slashdot or some other "subversive" website instead?

  • I think it's cool. Think about this keyboard under X we could bind the keys to anything we wanted. A "PGP Sign" key. Perhaps a "slashdot" key. I'm sure any talented windows user could also set their keyboard to bring them to sites such as betanews or bugtraqnt. Heck it's a free keyboard. Why not? I personally have keyboards coming out my ears. They seem to multiply or something. I don't see anyone perticulary using these keyboards. I'm looking forward to getting one in the mail with a free AOL disk:) At one point, I was receiving a redidiculeous amount of online service cds. I tried to collect enough to cover my room in them. However, it didn't work well, about two weeks into it I started through the things like frisbies at trees and such. Lately, I've been thinking about microwaving them. HEY! I wonder... what would happen if you microwaved a keyboard? Oh ya, and the obligitory: Man, think about the WPM on a beowolf clusters of these things:)
  • err.. most hardware devices, including Keyboards, use drivers. In linux, DOS, winXX, whatever... so the fact that these new keyboards would require new drivers.. well, that's not very surprising, is it.

  • . We're approaching a world where everything is automated for ease of use - College graduates can then sit on their asses and buy computers that do their laundry, their dishes, and jack them off...

    all I wanna know is.. WHERE CAN I GET ONE!??!
  • >Come on, two keys pull down the start menu and one pulls down a contextual menu
    > (we already have the right mouse button to do just that, but I don't see a button to left-click).

    Start menu? What start menu? My windows keys act as meta in X so that Emacs still gets all of my meta- keystrokes, even with windowmaker intercepting alt- a lot of the time...

    >The Hacking keyboard is the keyboard of my dreams, EXCEPT it does not have physical arrow keys. For using a shell,
    >editing in a console editor, or gaming, these 4 keys are essensial. It's really too bad - they got everything else right.

    Feh! These are only essential if you like pulling your hands away from the keys.. I haven't used editors besides vi and emacs (what else is there? (don't answer that.)). But both of them allow me to move around and edit text without moving to never-never land where they keep the arrow keys.. And just about any shell you use will allow command line editing using one of the two keysets ( vi or emacs ).

  • Yeah, that would do. Actually, my Compaq Armadea 1585DMT (P150 MMX) was like that. I made them run different programs. Although the buttons only worked in Windozes :(.

  • I'd rather get a keyboard that emphasizes comfort--like the Microsoft Natural Elite

    Heh, and a keyboard that makes you confused every time you go back to normal arrow and nav keys. ("wtf? the home button moved again?")

    no hot keys around!

    Uh... not that the Windows keys are very hot or anything, but I think they technically qualify as 'hot keys'.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    this is just another step in the automation of idiocy.

    As are computers in general. Just read most any comment posted here.

    People who use AOL, and most of the rest of 'em too, just don't want to do shit. Congratulations to AOL for marketing this.

    You're right. Everyone should be forced to wade through as sea of configuration files, man pages, chat scripts, incompatible PPP versions, etc. just to get online. Did you build the house you live in? Maybe you were to lazy to do it the old fashioned way and do it by yourself? Congratulations to the real estate agent for marketing it.

    We're approaching a world where everything is automated for ease of use

    It's called 'progress'. Perhaps we should go back to steam power? Horse power? When your argument is taken to it's logical conclusion, we should be back in caves, fighting mammoths with our bare hands and eating trees.

    College graduates can then sit on their asses and buy computers that do their laundry, their dishes, and jack them off...all at the same
    time. was probably college graduates who designed said machines. Or did the computers invent themselves? Please explain.

    The cool part is that all the dickheads who have BA's in Business Administration (read: "Well, no, Mr. Prospective Employer, I don't know any *nix or networking but i'd like to be a system administrator!") get to do nothing while the REAL geeks of the world get to do all the work.

    Translation: despite the booming economy, no one will hire me. As a result, I resent anyone with a job. Pity me, please.

    You obviously have some sort of issue with the advancement of technology. It was luddites like yourself who tried to destroy the Industrial Revolution one machine at a time. But they failed just as surely as you will. AOL has a product. They offer it for sale. People want it. They take money and buy it. They don't buy it because they are stupid, but because it makes sense. You see, it in a society like ours, innovation is encouraged. Remember all the fuss about patents? AOL selling these keyboards is along the same lines. It's called capitalism, and it works much better than any other system. In fact, the only moral option that AOL has it to sell these keyboards: doing so creates capital, which is the highest persuit a man can engage in. Think about it sometime. I mean really think, too, not just repeat the mantras you've been instilled with by the state-run education system. You might be surprised at the result.
  • by hawk ( 1151 )
    Tell me again how this is different from the current version of emacs? :)
  • by hawk ( 1151 )
    Model M is nice for a PS2 keyboard, but it's only half a loaf. There's one sitting on my lap as I type--the tech guy finally 'fessed up to having a real keyboard when the malfunctiong keys on the annoying gateway keys got up to 3 . . .

    But at home, I have genuine AT keyboars, with the control key where God meant it to be, and the 10 (not that new-fangled 12) function keys to the left, where I can reach them while typing.

    I don't know what I'm going to do when I get a motherboard that won't take the old keyboards :(
  • You do need a replacement keyboard for your i-opener, don't you?
  • What's wrong with convenience? If 14 million households have AOL accounts, why should they have to custom-program "email" "web" and "weather" keys on their keyboard, or go through menus to get to the 3 or 4 things they use their computers for 95% of the time?

    What a bunch of babies y'all are. Is ease-of-use really so horrible? Why not just crawl under a rock and go back to flipping a panel of toggle switches to enter data like you had to on the Altair?
  • Anyone near Seattle who wants cheap computer parts should visit the Boeing surplus store. They usually have rolling bins with about 2 cubic meters of assorted keyboards, for $4-5 each. If you know what you're looking for, the "assorted circuit boards" bin can be a great resource too, I got enough 10-base-T NICs to set up a home network for about $5 each, and a Dell pentium-75 (now a firewall) for less than $50. You too can be the envy of your friends with a modem and telephone labeled "not for use with Classified data"
  • The "Windows" keys on the bottom row of keys on most modern keyboards aren't what I technically call "hot keys." Now, what this company wants with its one key access to certain web sites and certain AOL-specific functions is definitely a hot key. In a way, the Internet keyboards function in a similar manner.

    I still like the MS Natural Elite keyboard because after using the keyboard for a few months, using another keyboard is very uncomfortable and feels cramped.

    (BTW, what I find ironic about the the Linux crowd is that while they have a dislike for Microsoft software, they do admire Microsoft mouse pointers and keyboards.)
  • What I find ironic about your statement is that while a most Linux users rant on and on about Microsoft software, many of them actually have lots of praise for Microsoft keyboards and mouse pointers.

    You'd be surprised how many people use the MS Natural Elite keyboard; it's shape--while it does get some getting used to--is surprisingly comfortable and going back to a normal keyboard results in a cramped feeling. By the way, the "Windows keys" are actually useful for many of the "themes" in KDE and Gnome GUI desktops. And of course, the current Microsoft Intellimouse and Intellimouse Explorer are very popular, mostly because of the shape that fits your right hand very well (it should be noted that Linux programmers know how to take full advantage of the Intellimouse Explorer's features).
  • Personally, I _hate_ the concept of a computer keyboard with pre-programmed hot keys. All that does is direct traffic to certain sites instead of other sites. I've seen it on my stepfather's e-Machines 466 MHz Celeron machine and it smacks of advertising overkill.

    I'd rather get a keyboard that emphasizes comfort--like the Microsoft Natural Elite keyboard (no hot keys around!).
  • Heh. What you want is one of the old-school IBM PS/n keyboards. No OS-specific keys, tactile feedback you can feel and *hear*, and a built-like-a-tank construction you just don't see in computer hardware anymore. This thing weighs like ten pounds. It eats other keyboards for breakfast };-)

    And as for the Ctrl key thing, hey, nothing a couple of self-adhesive stickers and xmodmap can't fix . . .
  • "There is a 'better' version due out this fall that has 17 such buttons."

    • [Stalk]
    • [Harass]
    • [Swap Gender]
    • [Insult]
    • [Lie About Age]
    • [Shop]
    • [Shop]
    • [Shop]
    • [Shop]

  • AT to PS/2 adapter: $7
    AT to USB adapter: $27.50
    AT to newfangled futuristic keyboard connector, circa 2025: priceless
  • The Jon Katz keyboard: It has fourteen-thousand letters, yet nobody ever gets past the first thirty...

    And it's got a direct-link button just like the AOL keyboard; it automatically sends preset flamemail to Jon Katz. Comes in very handy when you're in a hurry.
  • I'm scared by this

    Really, you think this is scary? Why? No one is going to force you to press the button... There are tons of keyboard manufacturers out there.

    Sorry, I don't think I'll be seeing this after eating too much sardeen and olive pizza and falling asleep.
  • Goodwill has a store in Pittsburgh, too. It's much the same as the one you described. Pity they weren't willing to part with the Commodore PET, VIC-20, and Apple IIe on display. :)
  • I'm surprised nobody has pointed this out before. The keyboard isn't free per se; you still have to pay $7.95 shipping and handling. If you look around at thrift stores and the bargain racks in computer stores, you can find 101- or 104-key keyboards for less than that, without advertising built in.

    Besides, the true geek either uses an IBM buckling-spring keyboard (raises hand) or some funky ultra-ergonomic dealie.
  • i have a 105 key logitech internet keyboard with 17 extra internet keys (for a grand total of 122 keys (= ) and i couldnt figure out what to do with the extra keys in linux (in windoze it used the logitech software drivers in order to work)

    then i found the scan codes [] for the extra keys and now in linux a row of internet keys are used to switch to consoles 1-6 (havent figure out what to do with the other 11 internet keys)

    anyhow, it seems the keys work through some kind of software in windows, in *nix, we can figure out the keyboard scancode and use these extra keys on the keyboard for other purposes (such as rm -rf /)

    p.s. is extrans (html tags to text) not working?

    There is no statute of limitation on stupidity.
  • At the risk of giving away a not-at-all-secret source;), I'd like to suggest to anyone who does crave a nice IBM buckling-spring behemoth and is anywhere near Austin, TX to visit the Goodwill computer store on Research Blvd -- near the Dell Factory outlet, too, so you can get a Dell Precision(tm) WorkStation to go with the good keyboard, and only wish it would have as long a useful life.

    I've purchased several keyboards there, all of the heavy, clicky, substantial variety. They tend to have quite a few 'ergonomic' split-halves variety, though exactly how ergonomic these are I leave for others to decide, since I don't really like them. And plenty of run-o-the-mill cheapies, too, but some people like that chicklet feel, I think. Anyway, lots of people don't care.

    Among the keyboards I've purchased there are two IBMs 'retired' from govt. service at a) NASA and b) some other agency, I forget which. The stock is pretty fluid, though -- you get what you get, and the nicer ones are understandably more than the cheapies.

    (Two more bonuses: 1) There's a mini computer 'museum' as you enter with some interesting hardware. For anyone who's only read about a Lisa here on Slashdot and knows Ronald Reagan only from Saturday Night Live re-runs, this is one place you can see one running. 2) Many of the PCs / Macs sold at the store are running Linux -- mostly or all Debian, I think.)

    Well, that's a ramble, but I hope someone liked it. I'm sure Goodwill would be happy to be slashdotted with your donations of obsolete (to you) equipment ...

  • Keyboards are used for typing; don't you just want characters in the latin alphabet? Rant follows:

    The keyboard I am typing on is useless. It has a resonable amount of tactile feedback, but more would be nice. The thing that really bothers me is the keys. Control is in the lower left corner. Wrong place. No, I will not get a Sun keyboard. Read on to find out why. This keyboard has a bunch of useless crap keys, namely F1-F12, Insert, Delete, Home, End, PgUp, PgDown, Num lock, caps lock, scroll lock, print screen, pause/break and most of all the win95 keys. The windows keys piss me off more than anything. Because Microsoft wanted some ego reinforcement, they have effectively guarenteed that it is impossible for the average consumer to find a resonably priced keyboard without four useless keys with their logos on them. I mean useless literally. Come on, two keys pull down the start menu and one pulls down a contextual menu (we already have the right mouse button to do just that, but I don't see a button to left-click). All of these keys are just legacy crap taking space on my keyboard and making it heavy and ugly. Give me something slick like the Happy Hacking keyboard. The Hacking keyboard is the keyboard of my dreams, EXCEPT it does not have physical arrow keys. For using a shell, editing in a console editor, or gaming, these 4 keys are essensial. It's really too bad - they got everything else right.

    Look for a rant on mice coming soon. :-)

  • I wouldn't think that the URL would be determined by the keyboard... they simply send a keycode to the computer which does what it needs to do to handle that. Just as my Win95 key [ :( ] is bound to Compose on my current X setup, these AOL keys could probably be bound to anything on software, and on Linux it wouldn't even be a hack.
  • If this is a true aol keyboard, there must be no option to turn off the caps lock.
  • He didn't say anything about Linux. You know, even AOLers have a right to privacy.
  • You say, it's not a problem, because it's an ease-of-use thing and we should let people have easier-to-use systems. Yes, user friendliness is a good goal.

    But AOL is the point-of-entry for many people into the net -- come on, even I started out as a brain-dead AOLer for a month or so. AOL is the Ellis Island, the NYC of (often computing and) the Internet. As such, people will buy the keyboard, get lock-in syndrome, and THE ASSIMILATION WILL STOP, which is the importantly sad thing. AOLers are meant to move on, to grow from AOL into mature ISP users. The AOL keyboard would keep them in the womb.

    And children don't know any better than to buy what the womb tells them to.
  • AltaVista [], NetZero [], BlueLight, FreeINet [], and other free ISPs, if you fiddle with them, probably won't interfere with your dad when he tries to connect to AOL. A few ads aren't a high price to pay for me (but then, I'm a poverty-stricken college student).

  • I bought a cheapo e-machines box last week to use as a toss-it-in-the corner headless Linux server - it has "ebay", "", "" and "US bancshares" keys - god knows what they do in X - probably not what the respective 'owners' expect when they paid for them - maybe I should call them up and complain they don't work :-) ask for my money back along with my M$ refund .... (oh wait they probably made my box cheaper .... I'd have to pay them).

    I wonder what such a key costs? Maybe we could all chip in and buy one with a cute penguin .... press it and some time after midnight when you're not looking it wipes out the M$ crap and pulls a Linux distro in in its place :-)

  • This is the Age of Microsoft. Hardware vendors HAVE to write their own OS drivers. Ibm could have easily added a routine to their M92G ActiveKeyboard Driver to 'accidentally' redirect me to their site every 100 presses of the 'Internet' button.

    What's to say that the PROM/KBC imbedded in their keyboard is actually returning in-range scan codes for those 'AOL keys'?? It would be a plus for them if they could do it otherwise!!

  • Big Blue made both M and F series (F had a touchpoint) with the correct caps/ctrl/tab/alt configuration. I'm typing on one now. They did manage to put SysReq in an odd place, though.(It's alt-F16, instead of alt-PS). They were used on REAL 52xx terminals.
  • Compaq computers come with keyboards with a bunch of extra keys, and there's a program that always sits in your system tray that lets you configure the keyboard. The program isn't in the windows start menu, so you have to go through a convoluted series of steps to stop it from coming up each time you start your computer:

    1. Run msconfig.exe from start, run (alternatively, accessories | system tools | system information, tools | system configuration)

    2. Under the "startup" tab, look for the program and uncheck it. It should be called "CPQEASYACC".

    3. Create a shortcut to the program in case you want to use it later.

    4. Uncheck the box next to "CPQEASYACC" in msconfig.

    Similar methods might be necessary for computers sold with AOL keyboards or computers sold by other manufacturers; I've only tried Compaq.


  • "[D]on't worry; there is one key, with the infantilizing name "My Key," that lets you create a link to any site on the Web."

    Since Warner Brothers invented the web, it seems only fitting and proper that their URLs take the place of the keyboard.

    They gave you your own key and look at the ingratitude it bought them! I bet they'll be so wimpy as to leave you with your "My Key", and maybe even add a few -- one for each member of the family. And you, embolden by their capitulation in the face of your ruthless greed, you will continue pounding nails through their innocent hands with your hate speech.

  • One button for /. site, one for Blue's News, etc. :)

  • Scared by a keyboard, now there's something you don't see everyday.

    Of course, if this was a Linux keyboard with seventeen such keys which range from recompiling your kernel incorrectly, to popping up echoed "M$ suckz" ego boosting messages, it would be deemed "very neat" by the Slashdot Editorial crew
  • would it be difficult to set up a layer which "listened" to your keyboard and performed on-the-fly translation when you hit one of those buttons?

    It probably IS just a software driver that handles the URLs because all a keyboard transmits is a scancode. This scancode is translated to an appriate character code by the operating system. The translation layer would be in the form of a driver (guess which operating system its for). As a result, it'll probably be fairly easy to hack up.

    Because of the way the keyboard 'protocol' (if you want to call it that) works, there is no real way to transmit a true URL from the keyboard, except by having it transmit the actual scancodes for the characters that make up the URL, but that wouldn't allow you to run a program from that button. It would allow to type that URL into a word processor pretty quickly though.

  • RocketBoard's website isn't helpful; it looks like you can't get the keyboard yet. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if you needed drivers for it. Even Microsoft's new keyboards need drivers for any extra button functionality beyond volume and suspend.

  • AT to PS/2 adapter???

    They're only about $7.

  • I agree completely. If a keyboard came out that was linux-friendly...let's say with 12 buttons above the function keys...and had a simple coolkeyboard.conf file that looks something like this:

    button_1:/path/to/my/terminal/emulator/executabl e
    etc would be a Good Thing. But because a huge company does it, and it's somehow tied to their software, it's a Bad Thing. Now, I'm no fan of AOL/Time Warner, but it seems every time a large company does anything to make their product more accessible, it's a Bad Thing. Give them a break, stop jumping down their throats for every little "innovation" (if you call it that)...if we complain about everything they do, our more valid points will be dismissed by the NonGeekLawMakers as just more petty whining. I'm sick of it. We need to grow up as a community and realize that Large Companies are a necessary evil...let's work _with_ them rather than crucifying them for their work in getting technology into everyone's lives...even people who couldn't find their way around my little coolkeyboard.conf file. If we do this, then my favorite OS would find its way into more homes...


  • From acy.html []:

    When you install your RocketBoard driver software, you will be assigned a unique global user identification number (GUID). This number along with your IP address is used to help dentify you and your browsing habits and to gather broad demographic information.

    Since they are using a GUID, they will know exactly who you are and everything you look at in their network. No doubt they will be providing your name, address, phone number, etc to any of their advertisers whose pages you visit.

  • this is just another step in the automation of idiocy. People who use AOL, and most of the rest of 'em too, just don't want to do shit. Congratulations to AOL for marketing this. We're approaching a world where everything is automated for ease of use - College graduates can then sit on their asses and buy computers that do their laundry, their dishes, and jack them off...all at the same time. The cool part is that all the dickheads who have BA's in Business Administration (read: "Well, no, Mr. Prospective Employer, I don't know any *nix or networking but i'd like to be a system administrator!") get to do nothing while the REAL geeks of the world get to do all the work.

    Thank you life is complete! oh...i'm sorry, sir, would you like fries with that?

    Your Ad Here!



    ---end stupid commentary---

  • I wonder if it comes with an AOL 5.0 recovery key (Format c: /s /u)...
  • It's not like it is surprising or anything. We've known for quite some time that they intend to make boxes that do nothing except run AOL- this is just the logical predecessor to that box and it's cousins. AOL gets a little practice in distribution and organization for very little skin off their back.
    Besides, this isn't really a big threat. It's not like AOL can control HW makers in the same way MS does, especially once they start competing. What should be scary is their newfound control (via TimeWarner) of content. I can always get a box from VA or office depot or any of about a zillion online sites, and I'll be able to get them without AOL keyboards. I won't be able to get whole bunches of movies that the Turner Networks own with that box, though. I may not be able to read Time. And don't forget those NBA contracts... think might get shutout of the loop anytime soon? That is the kind of domination that has been staring us in the face for months, and that is what we ought to be scared of.
  • by Steve X ( 11964 ) on Friday March 24, 2000 @08:26PM (#1174100) Homepage
    I have some el-cheapo keyboard w/ fun extra buttons like "internet", "phone" and "eject". The keyboard sends special scankeys when you press them, which could then be mapped to keycodes. My question is: has anyone written a daemon for using similar keys (for use outside of X, etc.)?

    It seems like it shouldn't be too hard to watch the keycodes that are flying around and system() something when the button press is detected. A program like this would make this and other keyboards' extra buttons somewhat useful (volume control/mute would pro'ly be the best)

  • by marks ( 12185 ) on Friday March 24, 2000 @08:11PM (#1174101) Homepage
    The slashdot has
    * 4 hot keys for favorite sites, defaults to /., freshmeat, jennicam and userfriendly
    * a "submit story" button
    * a "first post" button (ac version only)
    * a "first post" button (ac version only)
    * an lcd karma counter (login version only)
    B. coming soon to an e-tailer near you....only $59.95 (or 3 shares of ANDN)

  • by sumana ( 66640 ) on Saturday March 25, 2000 @08:08AM (#1174102) Homepage
    Okay, you say, it's not a problem to us, we're not going to buy intentionally malformed keyboards. We have many other choices. The problem is that AOL will add value-added content for users of these keyboards, and their Time/AOL/corporate domination will exclude is from it.

    But AOL is the point-of-entry for many people into the net -- come on, even I started out as a brain-dead AOLer for a month or so. AOL is the Ellis Island, the NYC of (often computing and) the Internet. As such, people will buy the keyboard, get lock-in syndrome, and THE ASSIMILATION WILL STOP, which is the importantly sad thing. AOLers are meant to move on, to grow from AOL into mature ISP users. The AOL keyboard would keep them in the womb.

    And children don't know any better than to buy what the womb tells them to.

  • by Issue9mm ( 97360 ) on Friday March 24, 2000 @09:23PM (#1174103)
    I would think the coolest keyboard for geeks would be one with a bunch of 'blank' keys. Y'know, labeled with 1, 2, 3, etc..., but completely customizable as to where they went. I know my viewing habits change with the wind, and wouldn't want to be locked in to anything, no matter how perfect for me the presets are at time of purchase.

    Simply put, there's nothing good about something you can't change. I want customizability. I mean, really, who wants a proprietary keyboard? No matter how cool it is, not me...

  • by synesthesia ( 120307 ) on Friday March 24, 2000 @10:23PM (#1174104)
    Cavemen couldn't talk, so they would draw pictures on cave walls and point.

    How on earth do you reach the conclusion that a culture that paints on the walls of caves is nonverbal?

    I'm not sure I can agree with the assertion that having more and different keys is going to lead to the downfall of civilization. I don't think a couple extra keys on a keyboard could be held accountable for that. Face it, it's not a bad thing. The difference between having a button on the keyboard that loads AOL and an icon on your screen that loads AOL is nil. They both allow a user to open an application by clicking on it. This kind of rant reminds me of my grandfather, who always seemed to have it better in the good ol' days: "sure we had to walk to school, barefoot, through 12 feet of snow in the winter...but we liked it. Now a days you kids have it too easy with your modern school buses and your automobiles."

    What's the difference between pressing a key to take you to AOL (or your choice) and having it come up as a homepage? Or, what's the difference between typing in a URL and pointing and clicking it from your bookmarks? Your assertion that it would be useful to have keys for bold, italics, underline etc., doesn't seem to be different in kind from having a key for an internet application.

    As far as people limiting their vocabularies to what they can "immediately see." Sounds interesting on first reading, but is it fair to suggest this is what happens? Where does discourse revolving around emotions fit into this model? How about two cavemen agreeing to meet at the hunting grounds the next day? Even such a simple conversation is not limited directly to what they see around them. It involves recognition of man's relation to both spatial and temporal elements.

    Perhaps it is more a reflection of the communities you associate with that leads you to see this in people (or conversely, perhaps it's a reflection of the people I associate with that I don't see this). As a rule I think people use language to represent a spectrum of experience far greater than what they simply see around them. Consider the difference between your hypothetical troglodyte pointing at a deer and saying "food" and a level of discourse that is limited simply what people see around them. The recognition of deer as food represents a level of symbolic manipulation that we often overlook: the furry animal is not merely a creature, but a potential dinner. Certainly the discourse is related to what he sees around him, but it is not limited to that, as it refers to internal stimuli (hunger, conceptual recognition that the object can be manipulated) and external stimuli (deer as object). Even if your caveman just points to the deer and says "deer," we still have a rather complex manipulation of symbols going on (on the verbal-language level).

    It's a mistake to assume that oral cultures and/or oral people are stupid/suffering because they don't have an extensive (or any) written discourse. The same holds true for iconic discourse. "Do you have any idea how many pictures it would take to have a decent conversation now days?" No. But efficiency is a different issue. If you want to talk about efficiency, do you have any ideas how many words it would take for Michelangelo to describe the images portrayed on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel? I don't think the issue is so much about one method of communication being inherently better than another one, so much as it is a question of difference. It is easy to broadly conflate the issues of quality and difference. History is replete with examples of this as Western cultures came into contact with other cultures.

    So, if you don't want a keyboard that will take you to the web page of your choice at the click of a button, fine. But don't assume that your decision not to use that option makes you inherently better than someone who does want/use it.

    Thanks, AC, for the food for thought!


  • by fluxrad ( 125130 ) on Friday March 24, 2000 @08:39PM (#1174105) Homepage
    Isn't it just sad when M$ decides that the difference betwixt a "Pro" and an "Amateur" is 17 "hot keys"...if i buy one of these Internet Keyboard Pro's do i get to be involved in some sort of corporate sponsorship program?

    The following is courtesy of ESPN-3, or "The Thrice"

    "Hi, my name is FluX. I surf for microsoft!"

    angle shot of a keyboard with 17 (count 'em) hot keys, adorned with various manufacturing stickers including a Microsoft logo and a felt patch from "Tommy's Burrito Shack"

    cut to shot of FluX surfing

    Annoyingly southern-californian anouncer: "Woah bro! Did you see that McDoubleClick...flawless execution."

    cut shot of FluX bitch slapping the announcer with his Internet Keyboard Pro (void in Utah, Nevada, and where prohibited).

    Your Ad Here!
  • by Tim Pierce ( 19033 ) on Friday March 24, 2000 @08:45PM (#1174106)
    What's different here are the 18 colorful keys lining the top of the keyboard, most of which have generic subject names like "travel" or "auction."

    Eighteen control keys is good news. It means that at last we can have really useful Emacs keyboards.

    "To spell-check, just hit Auctions-Travel-Q. If you want to spell check against a French dictionary, use Music-Auctions-Travel-Q instead."

    Note: I am only partly joking.

"The chain which can be yanked is not the eternal chain." -- G. Fitch