New iMac Keyboard On XP

Shortly before the new iMac debuted a few weeks ago along with a new keyboard, my current Apple keyboard was starting to signs of impending death. I had purchased the thing form a thrift store for a measly $5 so I can't complain about longevity, so when the new Apple keyboard came out, I knew it was time to replace it.

I went to the Apple Store to purchase one when a so-called 'Genius' told me that they didn't have any in stock. Nor would they in the foreseeable future. So, I took the keyboard for a test drive and decided that this was the keyboard for me.

Well, it came today only to discover one fatal 'Insert' key. Apple decided to put in its place a 'fn' key that enables certain buttons to have additional functionality when running OSX. However, when you run Windows XP like I do, it does nothing. I've downloaded various keyboard remapping utilities and even gone as far as installing the BootCamp keyboard driver, but to no avail. XP doesn't even register that the key exists. So how do we get 'Insert'? Well, the keypad '0' functions as 'Insert' when the numlock isn't on.


Will I take the keyboard back? Not likely. But we'll see how things go with a gimp keyboard.

UPDATE 8/15 21:44

Another bummer. After trying to use the function keys (F1, F2, etc.) I have found that they are only activated while pressing the blasted 'fn' key. Grrr....I'm downloading the latest BootCamp image and am going to extract the latest drivers (that came out on 8/8 (day after the new keyboard debut) in hope that this gets corrected...

UPDATE 8/15 23:28

Well after spending a ridiculous amount of time downloading BootCamp and downloading about a dozen different applications to read a .DMG file on XP, I was not able to extract the installation files to see if those drivers could help me out. After playing with my keys a bit, I figured out that it is F1, F2, f10, F11, and F12 that have to be used in conjunction with the 'fn' key.

I also discovered that by holding one down one function key and pressing the desired function key will express itself normally. For example, if I want to rename a file (that is typically done by pressing F2), then I would hold down F1 and then press F2. Conversely, if I wanted to pull up help (usually F1) then I could hold down F2, and then press F1. Goofy, but it works.

My last hope is to get one of my coworkers who have a real Mac to create a installation disc for me. It would seem that this is my only hope... :(

UPDATE 8/16 08:53

Sad Realization 43:

I got to thinking this morning that the reason that the 'fn' doesn't register on the key mappers is that it is only registered at the interface level, not the OS. This means that the 'fn' key only has meaning to the keyboard controller itself in order to send other signals to the computer that would later be interpreted by the computer. For example, using 'fn'+F2 instructs the keyboard hardware to send signal that represents F2 on a keyboard. Simply pressing the 'fn' key doesn't do anything because the keyboard is designed to send a signal in combination with the 'fn', not by itself.

So what does this mean? No 'Insert' key for starters, but it likely means that there is no away around the 'F' keys issue, either, aside from the key strokes I had mentioned earlier. I'm not a 'hardware guy' in a sense that I could hack the keyboard to do what I want on a hardware level, so...I think I'm outta luck.


UPDATE 8/25 22:03

OK, well, it's been more than a week now since I bought this new keyboard and it's only till now that I have realized how much I use the 'Insert' key: Almost never. About the only time I think I have ever needed to use it was pressing ctrl+alt+insert in VMWare to simulate a ctrl+alt+del for a virtual machine. Other than that I really haven't missed it too much.

The cool thing is that I always love being able to type out long things on it. I find the near effortless key strokes to be quite nice on the fingers and the fact that it has pushed me into a more ergonomic typing position has my wrists thanking me too. This means that I've ditched my stained wrist pad which has freed up a considerable amount of space on my desk. Now, I can fit a bigger glass of DP by my keyboard. Ahhh...It tastes so good...

UPDATE 10/08 22:44

After purchasing a new motherboard/CPU/and RAM I decided to install Windows XP Pro on my machine instead of Media Center 2005.  The insert button thing still doesn't work, but the function keys fully work as they should.  Why?  Who knows, maybe its a MCE 2005 thing, or maybe it just decided to work nice after all.

Posted on Aug 15
Written by Wayne Hartman