Considering my first mechanical, advice needed!

squarefrog

07 Feb 2014, 09:39

Apologies if this is the wrong board, I'm new here.

So by day I'm an iOS developer, and I currently use the Microsoft Natural 4000 keyboard. I've been happy with this for a long time, but I've recently started getting pain in my knuckles towards the end of the day. I'm pretty sure it comes from both stretching to hit the return/backspace key, and using my trackballs scroll wheel.

I recently found out about the Ergodox after a friend in the US bought one in the recent Massdrop offering.

Really what I'd like to know is if the Ergodox would be a good fit? I'm currently leaning towards clear switches, as blue will be too noisy. I've never used a mechanical before, but split keyboard is an absolute necessity. I guess I'm just worried about spending £180 on a keyboard which may or may not help!

As mentioned before, I mainly use Xcode, with XVim plugin to help with some emulated Vim style editing commands.

User avatar
Icarium

07 Feb 2014, 09:55

Disclaimer: I don't know of any evidence that anything keyboard related actually helps with this kind of problem.
However here are a few things that anecdotally seem to work:
1. Switch to a different layout. I'm not entirely sure that something like neo2 or dvorak or colemak are actually better or if your fingers just get more rest because you type so much slower for a while.
2. Get a different chair, desk. Your posture can create pain almost anywhere for magical reasons that not even orthopedists seem to know.
3. Switch things up. This is sort of the first rule of ergonomics in my head. :) Use your mouse with your left hand sometimes, get a different keyboard so you can exchange it sometimes, change some shortcuts around.
4. Get a new job. :) There may be psychological reasons why your hands don't like your keyboard anymore.
5. Exercise more. It helps with basically anything, sounds silly, I know.
6. Things that sound more like traditional medicin also help sometimes (surprise!). For example ice packs seem to sometimes cure RSI.

Alright, nothing else comes to mind right now. I'm sorry this is not the simple solution you were hoping for.

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

07 Feb 2014, 10:06

have you considered a lighter switch, such 45g Topre, or maybe MX Red?

Also you may want to try to swap the backspace with the \| key (if you are on ANSI layout).

Is the Ergodox worth £180? well if it solves your problem absolutely! Will it? Unfortunately it's hard to say, what works for me might not work for you.

For example I cannot use Apple's keyboards for too long because my left little finger hurts pressing FN and CTRL so many times (very bad design in my opinion). But others have no problem at all with that...

So, it's very hard to say. You may try with a compact keyboard (such as the HHKB or a 60%) that generally reduces your hands movement.

User avatar
Icarium

07 Feb 2014, 10:15

The assumption that hand movement is bad makes sense from a typing speed point of view but ergonomically I don't see it.

And considering typing speed I'm not sure either. People can type extremely fast using only their index fingers.

squarefrog

07 Feb 2014, 10:22

Icarium wrote:Disclaimer: I don't know of any evidence that anything keyboard related actually helps with this kind of problem.
However here are a few things that anecdotally seem to work:
1. Switch to a different layout. I'm not entirely sure that something like neo2 or dvorak or colemak are actually better or if your fingers just get more rest because you type so much slower for a while.
2. Get a different chair, desk. Your posture can create pain almost anywhere for magical reasons that not even orthopedists seem to know.
3. Switch things up. This is sort of the first rule of ergonomics in my head. :) Use your mouse with your left hand sometimes, get a different keyboard so you can exchange it sometimes, change some shortcuts around.
4. Get a new job. :) There may be psychological reasons why your hands don't like your keyboard anymore.
5. Exercise more. It helps with basically anything, sounds silly, I know.
6. Things that sound more like traditional medicin also help sometimes (surprise!). For example ice packs seem to sometimes cure RSI.

Alright, nothing else comes to mind right now. I'm sorry this is not the simple solution you were hoping for.
Hahah some great suggestions here!
1) I have considered an alternative layout. Objective-C seems like an awkward language for some of the alternative layouts, particularly due to its judicious use of square brackets.

2) I do have a good chair with lumbar and neck support, but I think my desk could do with being about an inch lower. Unfortunately it's unadjustable.

3) This is solid advice.

4) I've only been in my current job 3 months haha!

5) I have started walking for an hour during my lunch, with gentle wrist exercises after work, but this is definitely something I can improve on further.

6) I have been to the doctors a few times, but its a struggle getting them to give me any solid advice. I was sent for a carpel tunnel test - I forget what the test was called, but they essentially gave me electrical shocks to measure the resistance in my carpel tunnel. The results came back normal so that was about the extent of the help I was offered.

squarefrog

07 Feb 2014, 10:28

matt3o wrote:have you considered a lighter switch, such 45g Topre, or maybe MX Red?

Also you may want to try to swap the backspace with the \| key (if you are on ANSI layout).

Is the Ergodox worth £180? well if it solves your problem absolutely! Will it? Unfortunately it's hard to say, what works for me might not work for you.

For example I cannot use Apple's keyboards for too long because my left little finger hurts pressing FN and CTRL so many times (very bad design in my opinion). But others have no problem at all with that...

So, it's very hard to say. You may try with a compact keyboard (such as the HHKB or a 60%) that generally reduces your hands movement.
I haven't actually used any mechanical keys before so I haven't tried the Topre or Red. Remapping the pipe key is a good idea - I've already mapped caps lock to be return as I use that way more for auto completion.

Thats essentially my problem - if the pain goes away, then I really don't care about the money spent. But £180 is a lot to lose if it doesn't work out.

Don't get me started on Apples keyboards! That aluminium knife keyboard is what initially brought on my symptoms in the first place! Dreadful ergonomics, kinked wrists, too low, horrible!

The only thing that I don't like about the HHKB is that its straight profile. I don't think I can go back to keyboards like that anymore unfortunately.

I appreciate the feedback - I know its impossible to say whether it would work without trying it for a month. I guess i'm really looking for a justification to spend that kind of money!

User avatar
Muirium
µ

07 Feb 2014, 11:03

To get to know the various Cherry MX switches on the cheap, try this:

http://www.cmstore.eu/cm-storm/keyboard ... ch-tester/

It has all the common ones (red, blue, black, brown) plus clear and green (which are harder to find in keyboards). And CM will give you credit off a board of theirs for its full value, if you like.

The weird thing about Microsoft's ergo keyboards is their horrible rubber dome feel (worse than many half decent domes out there) and overall size of the layout. Ergonomics is notoriously bespoke – one man's heaven is another's hell – and unfortunately the toughest road of all in keyboards is trying to find the ideal shape and layout for you.

See if you like reds. I find them a fantastic switch, nice and light. They're the closest MX to Topre 45g, which I like the best of any light switch. Reds have the advantage of comparative ubiquity. The only ergo Topre I know of is the µTRON:

Image
http://deskthority.net/wiki/ΜTRON

This forum's a good place to get an ErgoDox. Czarek's making them to order in Poland:

http://deskthority.net/marketplace-f11/ ... t6972.html

squarefrog

07 Feb 2014, 11:30

Muirium wrote:To get to know the various Cherry MX switches on the cheap, try this:

http://www.cmstore.eu/cm-storm/keyboard ... ch-tester/

It has all the common ones (red, blue, black, brown) plus clear and green (which are harder to find in keyboards). And CM will give you credit off a board of theirs for its full value, if you like.

The weird thing about Microsoft's ergo keyboards is their horrible rubber dome feel (worse than many half decent domes out there) and overall size of the layout. Ergonomics is notoriously bespoke – one man's heaven is another's hell – and unfortunately the toughest road of all in keyboards is trying to find the ideal shape and layout for you.

See if you like reds. I find them a fantastic switch, nice and light. They're the closest MX to Topre 45g, which I like the best of any light switch. Reds have the advantage of comparative ubiquity. The only ergo Topre I know of is the µTRON:

Image
http://deskthority.net/wiki/ΜTRON

This forum's a good place to get an ErgoDox. Czarek's making them to order in Poland:

http://deskthority.net/marketplace-f11/ ... t6972.html
Oh cool! I didn't know you could get a tester! Shame the shipping to the UK is as much as the tester! Ah well, whats another £20 :)

I agree with what you say about ergonomics. I guess what is pulling me toward the ErgoDox is that I can completely change the distance and tenting quickly and easily. Thanks for the thread link - getting from Poland is a massive deal as no EU import tax!

User avatar
Muirium
µ

07 Feb 2014, 11:41

QWERkeys also has a similar MX tester. They're based in Britain, but I'm not sure where the tester ships from. Doesn't help that Massdrop is too passive aggressive to let me tell without registration…

http://deskthority.net/marketplace-f11/ ... s%20tester

The ErgoDox is particularly brilliant because it has one of these inside:

Image

And where there's a Teensy, there is full no-bullshit programmability. This is the way I make my own custom keyboards too. You have full control over the layout, layers and macros; anytime you like.

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

07 Feb 2014, 12:02

if you want to try an MX Red I can send you one but consider that the only way to really test a switch is on a full keyboard, I wouldn't advice investing on a key tester (unless on a real bargain). I know it's better than nothing, but still...

I remember trying a Cherry ML and it felt nice, but it's pure crap on a full keyboard. Consider that the same switch feels differently on different keyboards as well (MX Blue on a leopold feels different than an MX Blue on a Filco)
Last edited by matt3o on 07 Feb 2014, 12:05, edited 1 time in total.

squarefrog

07 Feb 2014, 12:03

Nice find with QWERkeys! They state its on backorder, its essentially the same price as the cooler master. I think I'll order from CM.

The customisable option is brilliant. I hard a hard time remapping the caps lock -> return key. And I cant seem to remap the pipe key to backspace on the MS 4000 in Mac OS X. So a Teensy powered board wouldn't sort that right out.

squarefrog

07 Feb 2014, 12:05

matt3o wrote:if you want to try an MX Red I can send you one but consider that the only way to really test a switch is on a full keyboard, I wouldn't advice investing on a key tester (unless on a real bargain). I know it's better than nothing, but still...
Thanks for the offer matt3o thats very kind of you. Yeah I really wish there was somewhere local i could just go an mash on a few keyboards but I live in a small town so theres really nowhere that sells mechanicals!

User avatar
Muirium
µ

07 Feb 2014, 13:27

Even in Edinburgh, there's nowhere to play with mech keyboards. Yet in little Ayr, across the other side of Scotland, there's these guys:

http://www.kustompcs.co.uk/acatalog/Mec ... oards.html

Seems to depend on who's running the shop and who's into keyboards. There's no shortage of PC parts shops in Edinburgh, but all of them sell the same Logitech and worse keyboards you'd find anywhere.

The best way to try keyboards is to visit someone's collection! I think we need to have local DT meetups for various regions. There was one planned in London some months ago. Might help to say which shire you're in to see if anyone else is around here. DT's got a good few Englischers and Schottischers on it!

squarefrog

07 Feb 2014, 14:29

Thats bizarre :) Wonder if I could convince the wife we need to go there next time we go up to Glasgow...

The idea of a meetup is cool, definitely something I'd be interested in. I'm in Lincolnshire/Humber region. So literally slap bang in the middle of North and South..

User avatar
Muirium
µ

07 Feb 2014, 14:56

Of course, any time I show people my keyboards, I convert them to buckling spring. Or at least that's the idea…

squarefrog

07 Feb 2014, 15:48

What is buckling spring?

User avatar
Icarium

07 Feb 2014, 16:00

f3ac7d6a_834ee78eb1666da184c2b151aad52401.gif
f3ac7d6a_834ee78eb1666da184c2b151aad52401.gif (80.18 KiB) Viewed 994 times
animated-buckling-spring.gif
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Just search for buckling spring. :)
The switches often require a lot of force to press and make a lot of noise.
But everybody loves them. They apparently have the same appeal as Hilti and Caterpillar. :p

User avatar
Muirium
µ

07 Feb 2014, 16:20

IBM's finest. They look like this:
Image
(The blue one is an MX green 60% that I built myself)
Or this:
Image
Even this:
Image
Or indeed these 60% "Kishsavers":
Image
My favourite. Yet to get it to work with USB, though. But all the others do via a Teensy! Then of course, finally, I must concede to Webwit's collection:
Image

They sound like this:

Model M
Or this:

Model F
Compared to MX red:
http://deskthority.net/news-reviews-f4/ ... t7130.html

Not for everyone! But so soothingly, maddeningly, clicky! And ironically, quite Mac friendly when given programmable superpowers with a Teensy running Soarer's Converter:
Image

squarefrog

07 Feb 2014, 21:39

Wow those buckling spring mechanisms are crazy! I especially liked the gifs. That large wooden mockup looks like a foot!

I find it quite asounding that these are all 80s/90s keyboards. The Model M actually looks like the keyboard my parents had on their IBM PS/2 machine back when I was younger.

Also it's lovely to see a sunflower iMac sill in use! I have a soft spot for that machine. Great design - although the arms always loosened with use so eventually the screen would slowly droop. I spent one summer upgrading a whole suite of those to maximum ram. A nightmare as you had to clean and then reapply thermal paste from the heatsink pipes.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

07 Feb 2014, 21:52

Yup. I got this 17 incher for nothing a few years ago, popped in 2 gigs (one SODIMM and one full size DIMM, as Apple was especially sneaky with this one) and a larger, quieter hard drive while I was at it. Neck's still good and tight, too. It now spends its days playing podcasts and music when I'm around, while various ever louder keyboards take a pounding right in front!

Buckling spring is as old as you think. My XT's from 1985, my Kishsaver's from 1986, and the Model Ms are all eighties or early nineties. IBM built them like brick shithouses, though, so they're all still in good shape. Even the PBT caps are hard wearing. It's hard to tell which ones have had more use.

Absurdly, people were so used to loud keyboards back then that IBM included speakers inside a bunch of these to add extra click if you liked! The Kishsaver has a volume dial on the bottom, and it is an authentic monster of a noise maker in its own right. Have to blame it on typewriters. Those were the crazy days! If you weren't making the click-clack you weren't working.

squarefrog

07 Feb 2014, 22:03

Really glad to see it being put to good use - I used to work at a College and we had a room full of them. They were still in use in 2011. We only took them out as we had funding for new ones. Broke my heart seeing them sat disused in a cupboard next to all the bondi blue G3 iMacs!

Yeah I can believe how people would have found the initial transition strange. But it angers me slightly as I learned to touch type on a qwerty layout when theres no reason to still be using this layout in 2014! But do I have the patience to learn dvorak or colemak?

Still.. dvorak plus a ErgoDox would definitely make it harder for the fellow nerds in my office to mess with my computer :lol:

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