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Remind me again, which is the mainstream OS that fails the grandmother test?

The very nice keyboard I have been using at work for the last several years is starting to get pretty badly beaten down (I am hard on keyboards). So last night I went over to the Apple store and bought another of their very nice aluminum USB keyboards with numeric keypad.

Although I do not use a Mac at work or for my personal computers at home, I have had one of these keyboards for almost 3 years to use at home with my various PCs, and my wife has an iMac with one. They are wonderful keyboards with all the qualities I like in a keyboard: besides being elegant, they have a fairly short key throw and they are comparatively quiet.

But that is not important. What is important is this. The Apple USB keyboard has always just worked on the iMac at home. Including when I put in a new hard disk and installed Leopard on it from scratch. It has also worked on both of the Linux-based laptops I have had at home and across ALL of the various operating systems (Linux, OpenSolaris, FreeBSD) that I have had on my multitude of home-built PC servers the last few years. Even plugged into a KVM switch.

This always-workingness is not restricted to Apple’s USB keyboards. I have done the same thing with several other USB keyboards I owned before and during my time with the Apple ones, and they have always worked too.

So today, I happily plugged my shiny new Apple keyboard into my work laptop’s docking station figuring that, like every other time with pretty much every other USB keyboard I’ve plugged into any computer, it will..oh I don’t know…work.

BANG! Failure to install driver for hardware: “Unrecognized Keyboard Hub”. Really, Windows 7? Unrecognized Keyboard Hub? What is a keyboard hub? Googling for it gave me little input. Searching around for a few minutes on google did not find any similar problem. I tried uninstalling it, updating the driver, specifically telling Windows 7 it was an HID keyboard. Nothing worked.

OK, I give up. Unplug the Apple keyboard. Plug back in the old keyboard. WHAM! Failure to install driver for hardware: “Unrecognized USB Keyboard”. Really, Windows 7? It worked 30 minutes ago. And you even noticed it’s a USB keyboard. OK, uninstall it. Update the driver. Specifically tell Windows 7 it is an HID keyboard. Nothing worked.

OK, back to the most recent system restore point. Reboot. The old keyboard appears to work. Actually, so does the new one. I can type in my password to log in to Windows 7 with it. Yay! Oh wait, no: EPIC FAIL. It stops working right after I log in. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have both keyboards plugged in. Unplug the Apple one, since that has never worked unlike my old keyboard that has been working flawlessly for at least the last 2 years, if not 3 or 4. Restore back to the same system point. USB keyboard now lets me type my password to log in after reboot. And then…"*STOPS WORKING. AGAIN.*_

After waaaaay too much time spent jacking with this (sorry, boss. I know you’ll probably read this), I give up. I take my docking station and laptop down off the monitor stand they live on, next to my outboard 22" monitor, and place them right in front of my face, and move my outbound monitor a bit to the right so it isn’t overlapped by the laptop right in front of me.

And that’s how my work area in my office at my job now looks. Brilliant.

PS: when I plugged the new Apple keyboard into a coworker’s Mac at the office, it worked instantaneously. And I am typing this post right now on the new keyboard hooked up to an identical thinkpad docking station to the one in my office on a highly similar Thinkpad laptop. The difference? Mine is running Ubuntu. Again, keyboard just worked without any action on my part past plugging it in.

What was the only thing different about today? This was the first time I ever tried plugging this type of keyboard into a Windows-based computer!

Remind me again: why is Windows the easy and obvious choice when you need things to just work?

Because the entire time I have spent over the years making my Apple USB keyboards work across multiple laptop and desktop computers on a variety of versions of operating systems including multiple OS version upgrades across Linux, OS X, FreeBSD, and OpenSolaris has been restricted to the time it takes me to plug the keyboard in. A few seconds. None if I am overwriting the operating system or updating it and the keyboard was already there.

How long did I take trying to get a USB keyboard to work in Windows 7 today? Multiple hours (yeah, again, sorry boss). And it still failed to work, and worse now the old USB keyboard does not work either.

Sorry, my many years of *nix user and admin experience is not relevant here. I don’t do anything special to get USB keyboards to work under any non-Microsoft OS these days. It just…does. Windows? Not so much.

Sorry, Microsoft, you and you alone of the operating systems I tried fail the grandmother test.

Published on 29/07/2010 at 01:23AM under .

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