April 07, 2014

Antique repair

I wore out the "S" and "D" keys on my laptop.

JWPce is the guilty party. It's a rudimentary Japanese text editor (small and fast) with the WWWJDIC dictionary built in. The lack of an auto-save (and a few lingering bugs) ingrained the CTRL-S habit. I mapped CTRL-D to the pop-up dictionary.

A couple of million words later, those keys were the first to go.

I replaced the actual keys ("S" was worn clear through) but there was no way to save the switches. Getting the expected response when hitting a key turned into a 50/50 proposition, even when pounding on it like an old manual typewriter.

I toyed with the idea of buying a cheapie desktop keyboard, but I'd have to move the laptop out of the way to make room for it and/or get a standalone monitor. At that point I might as well get a new computer.

Replacement keyboards aren't expensive. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten that the Thinkpad T42 came in 14-inch and 15-inch (screen) models. None of the resellers on Amazon mentioned the 15-inch model. So I ended up with the wrong one.

The keyboard for the 14-inch screen has four mounting posts. The 15-inch has three, and they're not in the same places. Given the sunk costs--shipping and restocking fees and whatnot--I started considering the cheap compact keyboard option again.

But having nothing to lose, I twisted off the mounting posts with a pair of pliers. VoilĂ ! The keyboard for the 14-inch model fits fine and snaps into place without the screws. Good as new (as long as I'm not treating it like a portable computer).

Granted, this is a classic case of pouring new wine into an old bottle. Despite Microsoft's best efforts, I'm one more of the half-billion reasons XP clings to almost 30 percent of the desktop OS market. (Linux and OS X combined barely reach 10 percent.)

Legacy support for the zombie OS officially expires tomorrow. And this time, Microsoft says, we really, really, really mean it!

I might have upgraded to Windows 7 if I knew the drivers would work. But I'd need new versions of Office and Paint Shop Pro and I've only got a few gigs left on the hard drive. Better a new computer with a Core i5 chipset and room to spare.

So I'll make do with this antique until then. Well, my previous home PC overhaul was from Windows 95 to XP, skipping past 98, 98SE and ME/2000. XP to Windows 8.1 or 9 is about the right time span.

Next time, though, it'll be a compact desktop with more easily replaceable parts. If I want something portable, a Surface will do.

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