How Necessary is a Stinking N Anyway?

May 5, 2007 at 12:07 am 4 comments

Before my Montana trip, I had an accident involving the new hardwood floors, a slippery magazine on the floor, gravity and a laptop in the wrong place at the wrong time. I landed on the laptop, cut my finger and encouraged the n key to become lodged under my spacebar.

Hurt Finger

Hurt Keyboard

The n key still worked for a while. I just got along with typing without an actual key there. I had a lot of practice– my old Sony VAIO (which is the crappiest laptop keyboard ever in my opinion) was missing the left Shift key for years. With the Sony VAIO though– there was no blunt trauma necessary for the Shift key mishap. It fell off on its own because, once again, Sony VAIO keyboards are crap. If you are going to do a lot of typing and programming on a laptop, I would rank the IBM Thinkpads with the absolute best laptop keyboards, followed by Dells.

Anyway, in Kansas during a meeting, the n key stopped working all together. This posed a problem. In C#, I can’t do “continue” calls to move on in a for loop without an n. In VB.NET, I can’t do “If… End If” statements without an n. In either language, I can’t declare strings or longs without an n. I can’t ask Mike E if he is going hiking without an n. Heck, I can’t even spell my own husband’s name without an n!

Well, it turns out I have years of experience in customer support. Part of being an effective support technician is finding ways around obstacles and limitations out of our control (such as Microsoft bugs or development timelines) in order to allow the customer to proceed with their mission critical work. In other words– the ability to foresee workarounds.

So, as a workaround to my keyboard issue, I put an n in my clipboard. Everytime I needed to type an n, I just hit Ctrl-V. It has some drawbacks. You have to remember to repopulate your clipboard with a n after you copy and paste anything else (For that, I have a n.txt file always open with two characters– n and N). And some of my colleagues noticed some interesting formatting as I rapidly talked to them over AOL IM:

I still have an acceptable level of inadvertant boldings that I let through in my instant messages, but overall I’ve gotten quite good at hitting Ctrl-V in lieu of an n. In fact, it has become such a habit this past week, that when I moved to another machine with a functioning n key, my first impulse was to hit Ctrl-V. It had become such a non-issue I began to think, “Wow, do I even need an n key anymore?”

So Thursday comes along and suddenly my naivety about the n need had a harsh reality check. I had to use Remote Desktop Connection to get into a web server. La dee da, I go about my business and type in the necessary IP address and let it connect. I was prompted for my login credentials. Login name– no problem. Password……. Uh oh. I had a randomly generated password and right smack in the middle was an n. I tried Ctrl-V, but guess what– my clipboard wouldn’t work! I tried in vain to press the broken key, but alas it did not start magically functioning just because I really really really wanted an n.. I had no means to log in from my laptop.

Luckily in this particular case, I had plenty of workarounds at my disposal (plug in a real keyboard, use a different machine, etc). Still the lesson was clear:

The 7th most frequently used letter in the alphabet is pretty important.

P.S. Rest assure! I have a new keyboard en route.

Entry filed under: IBM Thinkpad, keyboard, Remote Desktop Connection, Sony VAIO, workaround.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Clint  |  May 5, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    end if.. feh… “}” is so many fewer characters 🙂

    (okay.. i admit i often put an “end if” comment next to the } anyway… )

    you might have better cut-and-paste luck with VNC rather than remote desktop .. of course the machine needs to already be logged in for that to work… I use TweakUI to setup autologin on all my machines (can’t remember the last time I even *saw* the login prompt at home — years) and drop VNC server into the startup. Cause every onceinawhile a graphic card dies. Or the TV out gets turned off (I have no monitor). So VNC server lets me get in from another computer and fix it without having to carry a heavy monitor anywhere.

    But yea. most of what i said can’t be applied to work/corporate anyway… 🙂

    i remember the alt-32 days back at the S house 🙂

  • 2. Clint  |  May 5, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    but oh yea to clarify — with VNC, you have one clipboard between 2 comps. so if you cut on one comp, then go into vnc and paste, it’s what you cut on the first comp… So you can cut and paste URLs across machines easily. Handy if you need to IM a link to a machine that’s not running IM.

  • 3. Katie  |  May 16, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    My g key came off today – I was so glad to remember this post of yours – I’ve been pasting a g all evening!

  • 4. tgaw  |  May 21, 2007 at 7:40 am

    @Katie– Wow, what are the odds of that happening??? Well I hope you get a new G key soon. Until then, happy pasting! 🙂


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