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    Counterpoint: After years of ThinkPads, I’m far happier with my M1 MacBook Air. It was like having a veil lifted on what a laptop should be. No parlour tricks or half-baked gimmicks (i.e. bay batteries) or things that just aren’t useful anymore (i.e. media bays), just straight up portability - hours of battery life for years with great performance. Is the keyboard not the best? Sure, but it’s perfectly usable and I never think “oh, this isn’t good” (That, and my ThinkPad keyboards also weren’t spectacular to begin with either. They’re good at best, but not exceptional, and the quality varied a LOT.

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      What I really like about the mac (I don’t use one anymore) was the ability to have home/end/pgup/pgdn functionality associated with the cmd key and the arrows. It is so natural to me that I think it should be pretty standard to have say the fn key (usually there is one) and the arrows do that functionality. Insert is useless to me*, Delete can be substituted by fn-backspace.

      * unless it is a full keyboard, then I can use ctrl-ins, shift-ins, and shift-delete.

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        What I like about thinkpads is the robustnes. I just grab the thing by the screen or something and take it to kitchen to make pizza and read or watch stuff on it, then shove it into a backpack and go away for a week with it, and I never worry about damaging it.

        Granted, I never bought a new thinkpad. That may be part of it.

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          What I like about thinkpads is the robustnes. I just grab the thing by the screen or something and take it to kitchen to make pizza and read or watch stuff on it, then shove it into a backpack and go away for a week with it, and I never worry about damaging it.

          This might have been true for X220s or other models from this era but you cannot do that with Lenovo Ultrabooks like an X1. In fact, the X1 shows a lot more chassis flex than any MacBook.

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            Hell, the thick models of the time had severe chassis flex. I have a T42 that bends like a willow tree if you pick it up by a corner - enough it would cause damage to the GPU on the board.

            Not to mention that the plastics on the X220/T420/etc were prob the worst of any ThinkPad. My X230t feels like it’s falling apart plastics wise.

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              Chassis flex is part of what made them so robust. Like modern cars vs the steel death traps of yore

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                That is also true. I haven’t had a chance to have a new ThinkPad (whether it’s the T or X series). I always got myself a used one. Which is probably another reason I felt ok with abusing them.

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                I am actually thinking about a new laptop. I primarily use a desktop these days, but use a laptop on go. It is an old macbook air (2013) running windows only - great performance still I have to say, but it has limits and there is a screen cable issue with it.

                The framework laptop looked interesting, but not sure if I should.

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                  I’m still using a 2014 Macbook Pro that’s holding up ok, but the battery (replaced once) is giving up the ghost.

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                  Macbooks are pretty sturdy overall, I don’t think that’s a thinkpad-specific thing. The thinkpads look more robust, so maybe that adds to the impression though

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                The M1 is huge for me. I’m at a desktop most of the time, and use barriers for it to work alongside, and it is great. I haven’t had it long, but the battery life and lack of heat are such a relief. My previous laptop got hot, was loud, and had poor battery life (x1e). It took me a while to get it setup to my tastes, but UTM virtualized linux is amazing. It cut compiles of aarch64 stuff I’m working with from 3 hours to a bit over 10 minutes. I don’t love the keyboard as I use a split ergo day to day, but I’ll survive. The m1 solves some of the basic problems I’ve had with laptops for the past few years, and I’ve had previous apple laptops and I have one from 2014 still in use with only a battery replacement. I’ve used lenovos over the same period and I don’t remember them ever being without their own issues. The author mentioning the pinebook is confusing. The limited RAM and CPU would rule it out for me. I tried to use an 8GB RPi as a desktop and with a web browser it just wasn’t realistic for me. I thought I was limping along until my laptop was repaired and realized just how bad it was and how it cut my productivity.

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                  I refrained from buying this thing because I thought all the comments were an exaggeration, but the M1 is indeed a shocker. It’s the first Mac device since probably the early Macbook Airs that feels great in all the areas that matter, with none of the useless gimmicks in between (butterfly keyboards, the single-usb-port ones, touch bar, etc). Really glad they got “back to the basics” with this one

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                  Plus, if you’re a Vim user (or use an editor that supports Vim emulation), HOME/END/DELETE/etc aren’t even desirable keys on a keyboard; they’re just wasted space.

                  Personally I like the tradeoffs modern laptops offer: more portability when you need it, and when you’re at home, you’re presented with a wealth of customizable keyboards (down to the switches) that modern standalone keyboard manufacturers offer.

                  If you’re really crazy, the Moonlander is even portable!

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                    Speak for yourself. I’m a vim user and I still prefer to use PgUp/PgDn - but I am actually ok with the placement left and right of the up arrow. It’s not ideal, but ok.

                    Also I use enough text input in non-editors, so looking at only and IDE is kinda useles.. What about terminals, I scroll back all the time there?

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                      What about terminals, I scroll back all the time there?

                      Are you aware of ^A and ^E?

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                        I find that highly unergonomic and not a proper replacement.

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                      The Moonlander is absolutely gigantic compared to some DIY travel split keyboards!

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                      Counterpoint: After years of ThinkPads, I’m far happier with my M1 MacBook Air.

                      I wanted to write the same. After working with an M1 machine I cannot return to x86 laptops, the MacBook Air is so much better than any ThinkPad I used in the past (including X1 Carbon’s) that it is almost unfair to compare them. Also, I know what I’m getting with the MacBook, with a ThinkPad on the other hand, it’s like playing the lottery. Especially displays on ThinkPads ranged from garbage to adequate for the same model. But as a customer you had no influence on which display panel would eventually be built in, it might be a decent one, maybe not. The same goes for SSDs.

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                        The inability to get >16GB RAM in a MacBook anything drove me back to ThinkPad in 2018, after holding out for almost 2 years past the point where I really should have purchased a 32GB laptop, in hopes they’d be introduced on the Mac side.

                        Especially displays on ThinkPads ranged from garbage to adequate for the same model. But as a customer you had no influence on which display panel would eventually be built in

                        This has me unlikely to re-buy a ThinkPad on the next round. (I’m still living with my 2018 model.) I lucked out with mine compared to a coworker. And by all indications, it’s more of a lottery now, for both keyboard and display.

                        I’m still not certain to return to the MacBook universe. But I’m probably done with Lenovo unless things really flip. I feel like I’m on borrowed time with a 4 year-old T480 and I’m really hoping it continues to serve my needs long enough for me to see what Framework does with their second gen and (hopefully) like it.

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                        That, and my ThinkPad keyboards also weren’t spectacular to begin with either. They’re good at best, but not exceptional, and the quality varied a LOT.

                        Not sure which you tried, but I think people praise the last generation of non-chiclet Thinkpad keyboards way too much. The generations before that (ending with X201/T400) are the ones truly worthy of praise. The 7-row thing isn’t even that important to me but I find the tactility and sturdiness of those keyboards puts them in a class of their own.

                        Some other benefits of old Thinkpads for completeness:

                        • They cost about 1/10 what MacBooks cost, which makes me worry much less about losing my backpack or getting mugged. Also makes it practical to have multiple laptops in different locations or as backups.
                        • Nice flat surface to write on when the laptop is closed
                        • Taller screen means less hunched posture
                        • Much broader software compatibility
                        • More secure for certain threat models

                        There are of course a lot of draw backs and overall increasing downside as the good generations get older and computing demands increase.

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                          I used an X201 as my daily driver for a few years, plus I have many older models. So I’m a little tired of the default narrative of /g/ et al.

                          I can’t address all the claims because of how specific/ they are, but I will say: The X201 is fine, but it’s not noticeably better than say, my X230t’s or my X40’s. (My X40’s is a bit weird feeling in the era around the enter key, which I chalk up to age/abuse in its former life, so I won’t hold that against it.)

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                            personal preference I guess. FWIW I think the X40 keyboard is at least as good as X201.

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                          I like my MacBook too! The author is mourning the dearth of high-end laptops that come in many different shapes and sizes though. It’s not that complicated: Apple has the sales volume to essentially monopolize the entire high-end laptop market, because it owns the chips and the OS preferred by most high-end users. And Apple only makes a few models at a time.

                          Some day, another company will challenge Apple in the high-end laptop market – maybe Samsung since they have the chip and OS expertise, or Microsoft since they already came pretty close with the Surface. And then there will be some variety again.

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                            I don’t think that’s quite the correct assessment, because workstation laptops absolutely exist and sell well. As have gaming laptops, which took off and can usually be built on the same platform as a workstation. I suspect he’s chuffed that they don’t have things like media bays anymore, when the situation and context around laptops have changed significant to discount them.

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                          Tadpole SparcBook, ha. Those things sold for around $10,000+ when they were new, and that was over 20 years ago! Especially with inflation, laptops have gotten cheaper.

                          The article also mentions the Pinebook Pro as an example of a good laptop, and that’s pretty funny to me. I have one, it works very well and I love it… but you can’t even put it to sleep if you have an M.2 SSD. It’s a bit unpolished, to say the least.

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                            “One of my mates realize me that a lot of people grown up even without ever using the INS/DEL HOME/END PGUP/PGDN layout.”

                            To take a different perspective, I see this as a tradeoff, not a loss. The tradeoff is better touch-based manipulation (indirectly via trackpads and directly via touchscreens) facilitating more natural ways of viewing content. There’s also been more content-derived methods of paging through content (e.g. the headings sidebar in google docs, cmd+t, cmd+p shortcuts in coding editors, etc.). It’s arguably more modal (i.e. less obvious) than dedicated buttons but more precise than a fixed-length approach of ‘pagination’ that could be argued as more of a skeumorphism back to physical paper.

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                              better touch-based manipulation (indirectly via trackpads

                              I had Macbooks for years, and the more I had to hold my fingers in the unnatural two-finger scrolling claw pose the more strained my hands felt. I was glad to eventually give up multi-touch trackpads completely. On the other hand, I never felt like the Page Up/Down buttons were giving me repetitive strain injuries.

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                                Were you using your thumb and pointer to scroll? I use my pointer and ring fingers, and they just fall in the right position to scroll. Easy peasy, and certainly no stress. (Macbook Pro Retina 15” 2018.)

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                              I read it with a laughing and a crying eye. Much of it is true. that said:

                              • with the bug going on, I do not commute, nor travel by plane or train any more, but by car, so no mobile working on the run any more.
                              • being 50 y/o now, I hate to look at tiny displays (even if I maximized the screen estate by using i3wm), I love the crisp fonts on my 32” monitor at home.
                              • also being 50 y/o now, I want a proper keyboard.
                              • a laptop has webcam and microphone always attached. on a desktop system I can unplug it.

                              So, I’m looking for a portable case now… Or I have one custom built, so that I can take my “desktop” with me to the cabin, to the hotel, to the garden allotment for the weekend. DIY is probably needed, much like in the case of decent keyboards.

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                                FWIW, I got tired of wearing eyeglasses and tilting my neck down and realized there’s a tradeoff between tiny displays and having them closer to your face - so after my laptop died I went with a ‘raised tablet’ setup: https://www.reddit.com/r/ErgoMobileComputers/comments/s6k1qr/raised_tablet_pc_setup/ . So it’s bulkier yet enabled more pandemic-time outdoor usage, HiDPI screen has crisp fonts, and somehow ended up with a small-but-mechanical keyboard.

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                                  Nice setup, but I don’t understand how you see anything on that monitor while outdoors like that?

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                                    Notice how the tablet sits over the keyboard and trackpad closer to the face - the reduced distance between display and face has made for less glare - like when you walk up to a window to see inside. I usually work outdoors where there’s some tree cover or some shade canopy to help - so far it’s been good enough to manage ~4-hour sessions of work.

                                    I’m someone who spent all sorts of time looking into eink and high-brightness screens and this setup made me realize I may not need such innovations. Only other tradeoff is battery life so I’ve caved into carrying around an external battery.

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                                  Have a look at the louqe ghost s1. Its suuuper small, but fits a lot of hardware if you’re careful about your choices. Fits in a backpack.

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                                    There’s a surprising amount of “small-factor” PCs around, a cursory Google gives me this result

                                    https://www.pcmag.com/picks/the-best-windows-mini-pcs

                                    I personally purchased a used NUC from work, which runs as a server at home.

                                    I think the biggest (ha!) issue is the screen. Most screens are not designed to be easily portable.

                                    As an aside, if you haven’t looked at terminal glasses (spectacles) I suggest you do. I’ve worn glasses all my life but I now have 2 pairs, one being a dedicated terminal glasses pair. I find them useful for all sorts of close-up viewing, such as home DIY.

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                                      Most laptops have a light indicating that the camera is on, so you can tell if someone is spying on you.

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                                        Depends how much control “someone” has over the firmware.

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                                          I’m pretty sure it’s hardwired so that the camera can only receive power through the LED, making it impossible to bypass.

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                                        I’m in the same situation and at some was researching if there are modular cases where i could fit the peripherals of my choice, the focus being on keyboard and screen, durability and modularity. Unfortunately didn’t find anything - either my research was bad or this is a niche to be filled. Please let us know if you find a solution.

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                                          I think I will go with a custom built case. The bulkiest things which the worst packaging issues for now are power supplies for all the stuff.

                                          A monitor can get pretty decent flat package, if it is without it’s own case.

                                          https://www.acmeportable.com/industrial-workstations

                                          but they are expensive. and 17.3” displays are to small for my taste

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                                        It’s harder today to find a car (even used one) that is reliable, cheap in maintenance and also with engine not crippled by for example EURO 7… Ah yes, becuase emission standards on ICE vehicles are checks notes bad.

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                                          Ah yes, becuase emission standards on ICE vehicles are checks notes bad.

                                          EURO 7 is about more than just emissions standards, and there’s plenty about it that’s objectionable, but since it will go into effect in 2025, the assertion that it’s made it hard to find good used cars seems a bit overly dramatic

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                                          Those who do not know the oldschool modular laptops with 7-row keyboards are kinda born in a cage. They pick their MacBook or latest ThinkPad X1 Carbon machines with island keyboard layouts and believe that these are the best possible choices. Its was not always like that.

                                          I grew up with laptops with 7 row keyboards and I used those keys and now I use a MacBook with 6 rows and… frankly I don’t care. My brain reprograms itself so quickly with different keyboards, that I stop noticing after a few days. On the other hand, they could pry Touch ID from my cold dead hands. Having Touch ID on my laptop and on the external Magic Keyboard is fantastic. I use it for my password manager, SSH authentication, etc.

                                          The M1 and M1 Pro (I had an M1 Air and now an 14” Pro) are better in every way than any other laptop I had before. They keys click nice. I have 10 cores, making compiles as fast as higher end Ryzen workstations. I can build large projects like PyTorch in no-time. The CPU fan is barely audible and only spins up after a few minutes of multicore work. The laptop battery lasts for ages. The screen is absolutely stunning (and larger, because the notch eats out of extra screen space).

                                          I loved the old ThinkPads and I liked how well they ran Linux and BSD. But for me, the M1 Macs are miles ahead of any laptop I had before. If I didn’t need CUDA, I wouldn’t need a headless tower workstation anymore.

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                                            While I enjoyed the walkthrough of different laptops (I’ve been issued a few like them myself) the article doesn’t mention a parallel trend - the slim “executive” laptop. These were generally smaller, less powerful, but more stylish and expensive, and were issued to “the boss”. What has happened is that a convergence of technology has enabled everyone to have a laptop in an “executive” form factor - making it even easier to bring home everyday and work overtime! (pre-pandemic, of course).

                                            All kidding aside, a smaller slimmer lighter laptop is generally more desirable, and laptops are a shrinking pie in the computer market. It only makes sense that the only form factor that’s still being manufactured is the one that appeals to the most people.

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                                              laptops are a shrinking pie in the computer market

                                              I’m not sure I’m buying that argument. We used to say that about desktop computers as well (and there I believel it). But I think this is only true if you take phones and tablets as part of the “computer market” and I think that’s disingenious to a degree - most office jobs can’t get work done on a tablet/phone, and I’d see “personal entertainment” not necessarily as part of this market. (In other words, if the same amount of laptops are sold, but the pie gets bigger…)

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                                                I do count phones and tablets as part of the market. The reason is that they have usurped role of the “home laptop” for a lot of people.

                                                Office workers are basically the last bastion of the laptop market - or computer market in general, apart from gaming.

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                                              7 row, 6 row.. meanwhile some people only need 28 keys total. I think that’s a bit too minimal for desktop use, but that’s still the right direction. Bunches of unused single-purpose keys are not good. There is no need for more keys, just customize your OS with chords/layers and whatnot. Give me a column-staggered or at least ortholinear laptop, most importantly! The traditional row-stagger is stupid.

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                                                I have an Atreus. I mostly use it with a desktop machine, and it makes a great travel keyboard too. With a USB-C to USB-C cable, it can drive my phone as well, because writing anything more profound than LOL or thx on a touchscreen is infuriating.

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                                                While I feel that some of the old ThinkPad keyboards are OK, for laptops, I can’t share your nostalgia for the Dell D630. I had to use one of those for a couple of years, and it was easily my second-least-favorite laptop ever. (First place goes to an unbelievably terrible Sony Vaio from the early 2000s.)

                                                The screen was godawful. I’d used powerbooks that pre-dated it by 7 or 8 years that were easier on the eyes. It had coil whine when on AC, and could barely run 4 hours on batteries by the time it was a few months old. The pointing device on the keyboard was useless. (I’ve happily used the red pointing device on thinkpad keyboards. I don’t dislike those.) The trackpad was, like the screen, a huge step down from a powerbook 7 years its senior. The spinning rust drive was loud and slow, even for its time. The keyboard had a nice layout, but it was not otherwise nice to use. The space between the keys with those slanted keycap bezels was weird, and the keys were just enough off standard that I never managed to adjust. From day 1 to day 1200, I was never as accurate on that as I had been on every powerbook or thinkpad I’d ever used, or on every keyboard I’ve used since. Some of that might also have been due to the flexible, mushy feel. (I think that contributed to weird repeats toward the middle of the keyboard, also.)

                                                I’d take any system I’ve used since over that machine.

                                                While I think keyboards used to be better on some laptops, and I did also like easily replaceable batteries, I’m not sure the good old days were ever that good. I never purchased enough external batteries to keep a machine going as long as a current macbook runs, and the amount of context I can usefully display on a modern screen is significantly larger than it ever has been.

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                                                  If the author wants a nicer keyboard, that setup at the end isn’t optimal. Better option with an external keyboard:

                                                  1. Get a 2-in-1 laptop and fold the keyboard out of the way so the real estate isn’t lost
                                                  2. Use a tablet. A lot have trash specs, but the Asus Flow Z13 preview at CES 2022 should more than cover one’s portable needs and who knows if it could lead to a trend.

                                                  I do #1 any day I work from home to use my 75% keyboard, but I’m also on Linux whose compatibility with laptops is better than BSD. As a bonus these screens are touch-enabled so you can skip a mouse in many scenarios. But even still, my 13” has all the listed keys just like my 75%.

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                                                    Some may wonder why I use INSERT so much? I got used to copy-paste with SHIFT-INSERT and CTRL-SHIFT-INSERT shortcuts – this is the guilty one I suppose.

                                                    Might have been easier to learn Ctrl+V than Ctrl+Shift+Fn+F12.

                                                    Is this even about cursor manipulation? To me the Latitude E7280 keyboard was the holy grail. The HOME/END PGUP/PGDN block was on the cursor keys accessible with Fn. Thus putting Fn in the same hand- & mind-space as Ctrl for cursor manipulation. It’s the first keyboard that got me to use them. It made too much sense I guess.

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                                                      Depends on the application.

                                                      When at PuTTY terminal or at xterm(1) the CTRL-V will not work while SHIFT-INSERT will work.

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                                                        On Mac, you can just use Command+V instead. On gnome-terminal, Ctrl+Shift+V also works, so I never got used to Shift+Insert.

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                                                          I can’t believe this doesn’t bother enough people for no fix to exist. Especially Linux folk should insist to make their software work for them. Anything better then Ctrl+Shift+Fn+F12

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                                                            I used SHIFT-FN-F12 to ‘do’ SHIFT-INSERT on Windows only.

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                                                        I’m also annoyed by unnecessarily squished keyboard layouts… not quite as much by lack of modularity / replaceable batteries. The form-fit pouch batteries that everyone uses these days really are lighter and fit more power into the same space; my laptop (which is a rather overpowered i7) runs for long enough on a single charge that just seeing the battery gauge in the lower 50% is a surprise, but then I hover it and it says “3 hours 30 minutes remaining”.

                                                        We’ve kind of settled on MicroSD and USB as our removable media formats these days, and they don’t need a whole bay to themselves, we’ve still got M.2 (for the most part) to permit hard drive replacement/upgrade (luxury systems even allow mounting two of them), and while soldered RAM is sadly replacing socketed on laptops… well I guess I’m just glad that I have enough money these days to buy the max available soldered.