Keyboard Mapping – Using a Microsoft Keyboard with an Apple Computer

by Stephanie Rewis on September 29, 2005

Due to the gazillion hours I spend at my computer, I had begun to develop a little tendonitis in the outer part of my right wrist. I'm certain many of you relate to this all too well. My work area is ergonomically pretty good. I have a actual office desk and chair, my dual monitors are on risers (I'm rather tall and I found myself scrunching down to read everything causing upper back pain), I have a padded mouse pad, and a wrist pad for my keyboard. But still, there was the wrist problem.

I did a little research and finally bit the bullet and purchased an ergonomic Microsoft keyboard (with cordless mouse). After the initial couple days of repeatedly whacking the wrong keys, I adapted and I find it to be a much more comfortable typing position (my wrist seems to be getting better as well which makes my volleyball partners much happier).

After our recent visit from hurricane Ophelia, the power spikes and outages required me to do some computer maintenance to get several programs running again. No problem. I know how to boot into single user mode (I have a dual G4). I can use the console to run the /sbin/fsck -fy command to run directory repairs and such. No, I hadn't done it in a while, but a quick glance at my MacAddict Cheat Sheet gave me the key commands.

Problem was, no matter how many times I started up holding down Cmd-S, I kept getting the Startup Manager — allowing me to choose a startup volume. But once chosen, I couldn't continue the boot in single user mode. This made no sense. I called a couple friends who are Unix geeks (Tom Pletcher and Andrew Jeffery – thanks guys!) to get their take on it since my main programs were not usable till these repairs were made. We went through the whole scenario together and finally surmised that it might be related to the whole master/slave linking of my two internal drives. I went under the hood and disconnected the slave drive as well as some fun little things like resetting internal memory and such. But nothing worked.

Finally, at my wit's end, I had a brainstorm (isn't that always the time?). Since holding down the Option key is what is supposed to bring up the Startup Manager, could my Microsoft keyboard be confusing my system? (This had not occurred to me before since I am the keyboard command queen. I constantly use the Alt key on this keyboard — to the left of the space bar — for the equivalent keyboard shortcuts I would use the Command key on my Apple keyboard for. And that's the same key I had been using here.) After several hours working on the issue, I knew I was clutching at straws, but I was willing to try anything at that point.

I pulled my Apple keyboard out of the box, plugged it in, held down Cmd-S and booted directly into Single User mode. Ack! Hours of wasted time — due to a foreign keyboard. (Why the same key that maps to the equivalent of Command when doing things like Cmd-Q or Cmd-V maps as Option on startup, I have no clue. These are just the facts as I found them.) If there is another mapping I need to use with the MS keyboard on start up, I don't know it (please leave me a note if you do). But I thought I would get this out into the public arena. Perhaps my frustration won't be wasted if it saves you a little troubleshooting time. Meanwhile — keep your Apple keyboard close by.

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