During my brief vacation, which involved flying to the midwest to see family and catch a really bad cold, I ordered a new laptop. It’s a Mac, of course, because Windows is simply less functional for people like me. I ordered it online from Apple, so that I could get the precise hardware configuration I wanted: 2.93GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, 320GB 7200RPM hard drive, and the Japanese keyboard.
Oh, my, the Japanese keyboard. This is going to take some getting used to:
The worst thing about it is that it doesn’t work under Windows. Even a fully-updated Vista Ultimate install insists on treating it as a standard US keyboard layout, and none of the registry hacks or driver overrides you’ll find through Google will help. You know how MacOS X will ask you to press a few keys to help it figure out what kind of special keyboard you’ve attached? Windows doesn’t do that. This is true even for external USB keyboards made for the Japanese market. Apparently the only way to get it to work is to make sure you overrode the keyboard layout during the initial install of Vista/XP. Maybe.
The second-worst thing would be the absence of a “\” key. For historical reasons, the “¥” key replaced it on Japanese keyboards, and you have to type Option-¥ to get “\”.
Third-worst would be the massive slowdown in my typing speed for non-alphanumeric characters, which are in places my fingers don’t know how to find.
Nice things include the 英数 and かな keys adjacent to the spacebar. These handle the input-mode switching, replacing the usual Command-Space toggle. 英数 switches to English/numeric input, かな to kana input. I’m still using the romaji-style kana input, of course, even though this keyboard has a true kana layout printed on it; that’s a project for, well, “never”.
Also, the Control key is where god intended it to be.
Apart from the keyboard, there are no real downsides to the machine. I’m doing a clean migration to get rid of years of cruft, which helps. I think I’ve got all the finicky licensed apps moved over (Aperture and Photoshop adore their new home), and the bulk of the data. I need to reinstall a crapload of Perl libraries and random bits of code, data, and configs, but I’ve got basic functionality. The old MacBook is still under AppleCare for a few more months, so in a week or two I’ll revert it to the factory RAM and hard drive and send it in for some minor repairs I’ve been putting off.