Finally — a Wireless Keyboard You Can Love

As you know from my previous misadventures with Apple's wireless keyboard and mouse (which, BTW, seem to be fixed now), I am a big fan of these wireless peripherals -- but, let's face it, they don't always work all that well. Wireless input is usually the most desirable alternative, whether in a home entertainment/HTPC environment, a regular office setting (no wires to get in the way of everything you have in front of you), or simply working from a comfy chair. I'm presently using, as is required, a wireless keyboard in our Wireless Media Facility, and it's a bit clunky due to the inclusion of a joystick for pointing and suffers from dead spots, meaning one is always moving and checking the screen to be sure one isn't wasting one's time pressing keys to no end. The radios on wireless keyboards and mice - Bluetooth or not - are notoriously weak WRT transmit power, and the lack of a two-way protocol means you've got to keep looking up to see what (if) you're typing and if there's a need to continue your search for a reliable keyboard and mouse - which for me, anyway, has been perpetural. Well, my quest may be at an end.

My preference in such devices is an all-in-one design, with the pointing device integrated into the keyboard. While trackballs are OK, a touchpad is clearly the best alternative here. That's why I was pleased to have the chance to try Adesso's new WKB-4100UB. It's a one-piece design with that trendy (and perhaps useful, for real typists) reverse-curved keyboard and a definitely useful integrated touchpad. Range and reliability are very good indeed. I like the feel of the keyboard - a nice combination of travel and click, and it has a lot of additional multimedia keys for use with Windows, assuming you use Windows.

I've been using the WKB-4100UB with our latest home-built client (perhaps eventually to be a Windows 7 client, or maybe a Ubuntu server, or something else entirely), known as Bissell because it's an Atom-based Intel D945GCLF2D mini-ITX motherboard built into (really) an old Bissell Carpet Machine Special carpet-cleaner. I mean, the thing would have wound up in a landfill, so why not? I'm pretty sure it won't pass FCC, but it was a fun diversion to assemble, save for drilling holes to mount the motherboard, power supply, and especially cutting openings for the VGA and power connectors. The keyboard USB dongle is completely inside the case. Installing Ubuntu 9.04 start to finish took less than 30 minutes - I used the UNetbootin tool to copy the Ubuntu ISO image to a thumb drive, booted from that (and, by the way, this a now completely portable bootable Ubuntu environment; no installation necessary), then clicked "install" to write everything to another memory stick installed in the Bissell. I plugged in my Linksys WUSB600N USB .11n adapter, and voila, no kidding, it just worked. I was on the net less than 30 minutes from initial power-on.

A couple of cautions: the keyboard has an on/off switch, which is unusual, so make sure it's on before you send it back as defective. Also be very careful removing the receiver USB dongle from the bottom of the keyboard - it's a very snug fit and it is possible to damage the dongle beyond repair if you're not careful. But most people will do this only once, so no real worries here.

Anyway, check out the Adesso WKB-4100UB. It's terrific no matter what old appliance holds your motherboard.

See also:

Inside the World's Greatest Keyboards

The World's Weirdest Keyboards

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