I've been using a Kinesis keyboard for about nine years now. My first Kinesis was a Kinesis Contour QD PS/2 and it recently died. I was using it daily even at work. Within the past year, I was having problems where it wouldn't register my keystrokes without a lot of effort. The PS/2 cable itself had a stress point where it wouldn't function unless I twisted the cable in certain way. It would continuously make a clicking sound like it makes when you first plug it in. Finally the 's' key died and I decided to replace it.

You can usually find these keyboards on eBay but they typically are in the $200 range anyway. If you need one quickly, I would check out Amazon's marketplace and, failing that, a retail store. I've used The Human Solution before and they seem good. They ship fast and their prices are as low as you're going to find for a retail site. The Human Solution was cheaper than Amazon's marketplace dealers when I ordered this. You can still get the PS/2 version cheaper but I wanted to try out the USB version. It's also nice not lug around a PS/2 to USB converter.

There are a few differences between this USB version and the old PS/2. I'll have to see if they fixed the stuck keys problem. Sometimes on my old PS/2 version, it would repeat keys indefinitely. I could reliably stop it by typing 'A'. It happened infrequently (once every couple weeks) but it was annoying. This appears to affect a number of people and Kinesis now has an entry in the FAQ talking about it.

This new USB version has moved insert to the embedded level. This is a good change because previously it was too easy to hit it when you meant to hit the arrow keys. The USB hub is nice. The bottom USB port is tight currently. I'm only able to use it with some force. The top USB port works fine. The USB hub is to the left of where the cable attaches underneath the keyboard.

They also include a key tool to extract keys and replacement keys for Mac and non-descript. I've popped off keys before on my old keyboard and this tool makes it much simpler. I replaced the Windows key with the Option/Alt one.

I use Dvorak on a Kinesis and qwerty on a normal keyboard. I've been using this setup for years and it's very easy for me to switch between the two. If I try to use dvorak on a normal keyboard (which I used to do), it would take me 5 minutes before my typing speed was back to normal. Switching between the two layouts becomes second nature when you use it exclusively on one type of keyboard.

As far as whether Dvorak is worth it, I'm not sure. I switched from qwerty because it seemed to make more sense in that it puts the most commonly used keys in the home row. I was also really bored at the time so I decided to relearn how to type. I don't know about any benefits in terms of speed. I think I'm faster now because I type on a Kinesis Advantage. It's much more natural for me because they keys line up in a grid. All of your fingers move the same ammount to get to the keys rather than being staggered. I think whether you can adjust properly depends on how you remember keys. For instance, the movement keys in vi are hjkl which line up nicely in qwerty. On dvorak, they're split equally between the left and right hands. As long as you remember keys rather than positions, you should be fine.

I obviously think the Kinesis Advantage is worth it. If you type a lot, you'll probably like it. If you use Emacs a lot, you'll love it. There's no better layout than putting alt and control at your thumbs rather than at your pinky fingers when you use Emacs. All of the remapping and macros stuff is just fluff if you use a free operating system. We already have better tools such as xmodmap to do that instead of embedding the functionality into a keyboard.

When I get a new kinesis, I switch to dvorak and disable the annoying clicking sound. Here are the commands for reference.

  • Program + Shift + F5 (flip between dvorak and qwerty on USB models)
  • Program + Ctrl + F5 (flip between dvorak and qwerty on PS/2 models)
  • Disable keyclick: Hold program and hit
  • Disable toggle tone: Hold program and hit _
  • Press Shift + Shift + F12 to have it dump out its version.
  • Example: copyright 1986 - 2003 by interfatron-bbc, ltd., rev 2.67 03/09/03
  • Light memory reset: Program + Shift + F10
  • Full memory reset: Hold F7 before turning on your computer. Start the computer and hold continue holding F7 for a few seconds and then let go. The LEDs will flash if it was successful.
  • Display instant configuration with '=' + 's'

I have no idea what's the latest firmware. The manual says it was written in November 2006.

Display "instant configuration" settings with '=' + 's'. Here's my initial string:

v3.2[SL K H e ]

This is the default (PC Windows) where there are 2 control keys, 1 alt, and 1 Windows. To switch to non-PC (2 ctrl, 2 alt), use '=' + 'p'. To flip back, use '=' + 'w'. When you hit '=' + 's', it should now show:

v3.2[SL K H x e ]

I use the non-Windows mode because I can easily add a super key with xmodmap. I'd rather have the extra alt for Emacs in the console.

Update: This keyboard has the same problem as my old PS/2 version. Sometimes it will switch to all uppercase out of no where. You can still fix the problem by typing 'A'. It's quite annoying in programs like Emacs or vim where the case can mean completely different actions. It's still worth the money though especially if you use Emacs.