Tom’s Tech Tips

Tom’s Tuesday Tech Tip: What’s a Keyboard Worth to My Legal Nurse Consulting Business?

I recently had to replace Vickie’s super-small laptop with a cool fast machine running Windows® 7. In our home office she runs it from a docking station like I do. Part of the laptop replacement process involved running the new laptop side-by-side with her old one until we were sure all the settings, programs, etc., were identical on both machines.

When I’d matched it all up and it was time to swap them out, I realized that although the new dock has lots of USB ports there’s not one good-old-fashioned PS2 port (PS2 connectors are those round plugs full of pins used to connect your keyboard and mouse). The station also didn’t have a VGA (video graphics array – old school) plug for the monitor, but Vickie’s cinema-sized monitor has a DV-I (digital video interface – new school) connector and it plugged right in, as did her rollerball mouse, external speakers, Dragon Naturally Speaking headset, webcam, charging cables for her iPhone® and her BlueAnt® headset and extension cables for her digital camera and Flip® video recorder.

All was going exceedingly well until I went to plug in the keyboard, which of course turned out to be PS2. Being a techie I have many keyboards around the office (they stack up like firewood for some reason). So I jumped into the global warmer, rolled by the office and grabbed the first USB keyboard I could find, brought it home, plugged it in and it was fine – until I noticed that most of the keys weren’t labeled. All the little white letters had been rubbed off by some miscreant who obviously used a toxic hand lotion while typing. I knew Vickie wouldn’t want an obviously used keyboard so I was off to the computer store, company credit card in hand (Techie Nirvana).

It’s been a long time since I purchased a keyboard and I was surprised by the selection: mini-keyboards not much larger than the one in her old tiny laptop, gaming keyboards with all sorts of rollers and buttons to speed your gaming, wireless keyboards to operate your computer from your recliner across the room, and ergonomic keyboards with funny shapes to help relieve hand fatigue. There were keyboards priced from $9-$99+. I couldn’t make up my mind but immediately ruled out wireless because I didn’t want to be changing batteries.

Finally I chose a sleek, modern, ultrathin, back-lit keyboard with shortcut buttons to open Outlook, Word, iTunes®, speaker volume and more! She’d never have to take her fingers off the keyboard to reach for her mouse again. It was truly worthy of the CEO of Vickie Milazzo Institute – until I saw the price of $79.99! I was stunned but figured she’s worth it. Installed, it was every bit as cool as I expected. I put on some Barry White music, turned down the lights to set a certain mood and showed her the back-lighting feature that would allow her to type in low light. Things were going my way until she tried to type on it. Turns out I overlooked a wrist-rest extension along the bottom of the keyboard designed to help reduce carpal tunnel. Her movable keyboard tray already has one of those and this pushed the keyboard so far forward she had to uncomfortably extend her arms to use it. Luckily I saved the box and trimmings (a tech tip by itself – always save the packing materials until you’re sure it works).

So it was out into the pouring rain to the computer store. Next I came home with a thicker USB keyboard but without the extra extension. This one had many of the same shortcut buttons as the last one, but as an added bonus it was mechanical, meaning it was more like the old PS2 keyboard in terms of tactile feel and had guaranteed connections. It would never fail or wear out and at only $49.99 seemed like a bargain. I installed it and tried some test typing – it was louder than a typewriter and clackier than a court reporter! I knew there’d be no way I could work in the same room without feeling like a victim of the Chinese Typing Torture.

Back to the store again. Finally I came back with another cool, flat keyboard that looks like it was designed by Apple® but came with a Wal-Mart® price of $15.99 and like they say at McDonald’s®We’re lovin’ it!

The moral of the story for Certified Legal Nurse Consultants is that when it comes to keyboards, price doesn’t always mean much and size does matter. Some are more expensive simply because of the brand name. Others are expensive because they have multiple shortcut buttons and spiffy features (like an LED clock so you can watch your billable hours) but if you’re not going to use them don’t get them. If you have small hands, you can consider a smaller-size keyboard to reduce fatigue. If you like the firm contact of the keys, you might want a mechanical keyboard.

If you share your legal nurse consulting business’s computer with your family, you may need one that’s soft drink-proof and has larger, kid-friendly keys. Backlighting is nice but not bright enough to allow you to consult your Core Curriculum for Legal Nurse Consulting® textbook while you work in the dark. Finally, wireless keyboards are terrific because you don’t have to crawl through the dust bunnies under your desk to string the cables, but the batteries will run down in the middle of your legal nurse consulting report so you’ll need to keep plenty of spares.

When you select a new keyboard for your CLNC® business, don’t be afraid to take them out of the box and try them right there in the store (ask for help though). Also, take a good look at where you plan to install it (look for those pesky wrist rests). Don’t worry about the price – I’ve got $9.99 keyboards (like the one with no letters) that have been in service for years so higher prices don’t necessarily mean higher quality. When you make your decision, base it on what works best for you, your needs and your budget.

Keep on techin’,

Tom

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