Mavericks would be great, if it liked my keyboard


Screenshot of the Keyboard preference pane in System Preferences on Mavericks

I promised myself I would never run a GM or .0 release of software again, but despite all my previous experience and logic centre pleading for sanity, I upgraded my production machine to Mavericks on Tuesday. All seems to be great, with the exception of my PC keyboard.

In a nutshell, there's usually a nut

I'll spare you lots of what you're already read before. The new Finder tabs are wonderful and long overdue. Skeuomorphism didn't bother me, but the new app designs are classy, even if still a little visually inconsistent with the standard system. The new Dock design is pretty, as too is the redesigned System Preferences which maintains its usability advantage over the post-XP Windows Control Panel. I'm not sure if I'll ever get into Finder Tags, but we'll see.

Under the hood, we have the 2.x and 5.16.x streams of Ruby and Perl respectfully, which really brings OS X into 2013. Unfortunately, we're still stuck with ancient versions of tcsh and rsync; I guess its back to building from source and tapping homebrew/dupes again.

Overall, it feels like a solid release. There's just one problem.

Why art thou scared of PC keyboards?

Since 2009, I've been the proud user of a Unicomp SpaceSaver, a buckling spring keyboard made from the same machines that manufactured the legendary IBM Model M. As is to be expected, its a 104 key PC layout, though I've since modified the Windows and Alt keys to be Option and Command respectfully.

My wording there was very deliberate. PC keyboards lay out their keys as Control Windows Alt. On the Mac, its Control Option Command. If you use a PC keyboard, this can be corrected by going to Keyboard in System Preferences, and swapping the Option and Command modifier keys. I blogged about this procedure in 2009.

Unfortunately, Mavericks doesn't store these settings persistently. If I unplug my MacBook Air, then return later, I have to reconfigure the keyboard. Worse still, sometimes the machine will just revert the layout back, leaving me with a trail of characters on my screen instead of the Command-Something shortcut I wanted.

It's a shame this bug has persisted into the GM. At present the other features are enough to keep me here, though if it gets too frustrating I might have to switch back to Mountain Lion.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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