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So many PC laptops, particularly those in the cheaper range, are now shipping with “special functions” such as screen brightness adjustment and wireless adapter on/off switching as the default action when you press the F1 through F12 function keys. On what planet was this a good idea? What kind of morons were sitting around at HP and Dell going “gee, no one ever uses F-keys, so let’s make them do something else?”

What’s the keyboard shortcut for closing a program? It’s Alt-F4. This has not changed since the days of Windows 3.1, and is a very commonly used keyboard shortcut with anyone that knows what keyboard shortcuts are at all. Not having to shuffle a mouse to the top-right corner of a box to close it literally saves many seconds of effort, and those seconds add up when multiplied across an entire day’s work. Now, however, Dell’s infinite wisdom has decided that the out-of-the-box configuration requires pressing the “Fn” function modifier key to use any of the F1-F12 keys for the functions they have maintained on their own for the past two decades. (Apparently Microsoft isn’t adding any extra combinations for “Alt-Brightness Down” anytime soon.) So, when  I get on a Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop to perform service work, I hit Alt+F4 to close windows and instead of having the intended behavior, I just accidentally turned down the LCD brightness. Now I’m on the hook to press F5 to bump up the brightness again, then hit Alt+Fn+F4 to do what I originally intended.

Oh, but if you think that’s bad, it gets far far worse! Let’s say I’m downloading a big driver file for a printer or display adapter, because these are always hundreds of megabytes in size, yet 98% of the download is extra crap that isn’t required for printing a document or making a video card show cute rotating boxes. I’m waiting on a 200MB HP printer driver to come down the pipe, and while I wait, I’m performing other tasks. I find a file I need to rename for some reason, so I click the file and hit F2 to bring up the renaming function in Windows Explorer.

Guess what? Some complete and total asshats at Dell assigned F2 to be the magical key that disables the internal wireless adapter. Instead of renaming a file as intended, I just killed my wireless connection and lost the entire download. All that time waiting is lost as well, so I now get the privilege of waiting even longer for something that never should have been aborted in the first place. Just to make matters even worse, F2 is immediately above the number 2. Anyone who needs to type a 2 and overshoots the stroke could easily end up killing off their Internet connection instead. HP isn’t much better; while they usually put the wireless switch control on the F11 key instead of F2, F11 is still above the last keys on the number row and is still easy to accidentally press. Other functions such as internal/external monitor switching are almost as annoying, but tend to self-correct when they notice there’s no monitor to switch to, and so are somewhat more forgivable.

In the BIOS settings for most of these systems, an option exists to restore the function keys to their normal function key behavior, as it should be! The user should never have to change a BIOS settings on a factory released computer just to make the keyboard work properly! My problem is that the default setting from the factory is the one which is in favor of accidentally killing off your Internet connection and messing up your screen brightness. In my extremely not-humble opinion, every manufacturer that does this is stupid. No one should purchase these computers. It’s not worth supporting this level of ignorance about how a computer is used. Combine this kind of foolishness with the “ClickPad” garbage that’s being put into lots of laptops nowadays, particularly in HP laptops, and some of the ridiculous keyboard layouts on cheap Compaqs from the past few years, and you have a recipe for a brain-dead, productivity-hostile pile of crap laptops that I wouldn’t accept for free.

Add one more thing to the growing list of “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature” nonsense I’m so tired of tolerating these days. Grumble, grumble.

those seconds

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