I almost wrote a blog post today!

This isn’t a post, it’s just almost a post. I meant to write one, but I forgot what I was going to write about after being interrupted by a phone call. So, here’s a short post, for the sake of myself and anyone reading to say I haven’t abandoned my blog. I actually look at it all the time, and think ‘hmmm, what can I write about today?’

I’ve been pretty busy with other stuff, and when I think of something I want to write about, I usually forget by the time I get to a place where I could write about it. This tells me two things. One, I need to write things down when I think of them; and two, it might not have been worth commenting on if it wasn’t compelling enough to remember… maybe.

However, this blog is the underscore, so I don’t really write about things going on in the forefront of my world, right? When I find something that’s really worth talking about, it goes to my film work… theoretically that’s how this works.

So, I do have some random and generally unrelated stuff going on that I intend to write about later…

I’ve been working with maps and cartography a bit insofar as it serves to help me develop a story I’ve been working on. I’ve learned some neat tricks in Photoshop. Then, to give back to the community and play with some other video and 3d software, I decided to make a YouTube tutorial about the map style, and it’s fairly epic as far as tutorials goes. It will be a seven part, almost two hour long Photoshop tutorial. I’ll post that when it’s done and online.

I’ve been trying to create a new desk for my workstation. Then, I decided I’d build stands for the monitors and speakers and just have a simple small desk. Now, I fear the stands would look ugly, so I’m tempted to go back to a large desktop build… except I don’t want to pay for any of it! And rinse… repeat. I’m pretty sure I’m sticking with the ‘stands’ route, but I’m still working on a way to not make it look bad. I’ve been almost to a decision for like a year now, and I’ll post about that when I figure it out!

Until next time…

A History of Gaming: Part 24

After quitting gaming, I embarked on a lengthy series of posts about gaming. Today’s post is about one of the more productive things that came from gaming…

Addons and Mods

Gaming has its practical benefits. Hand-eye coordination, typing speed – good practice for stuff like that. It can be relaxing and stress relieving (also it can be the opposite). For me, it also helped me learn some programming.
Continue reading

A History of Gaming: Part 13

Mouse & Keyboard FTW!

Sometime in high school, my dad bought me a brand new computer – state of the art. 1.6 Gigabyte hard drive, you know. It was awesome. Technology! Anyway, that was when I started really learning about computers, how they worked, and so on. My first manual upgrade was when I ordered a blazing fast 32 MB ATI video card to help me do better 3d modeling and animation stuff. I used to make space ships, create basic models of them, and create big space fights in 3d. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today – it’s gaming!
Continue reading

The Switch Try Bag

Over at Deskthority, a keyboard enthusiast forum, members have collaborated on a project called The Switch Try Bag, and I recently took part in it myself. So exciting!

Mr. Interface (www.mrinterface.com/) manages several sinklists, which are essentially based on Open Sink. Each person, after receiving the item from the previous person on the list, sends it on to the next person on the list. In my case, I got myself on the Switch Try Bag sinklist.

But what is it, you say!? It’s a little bag with 9 mechanical key switches, key caps on each, and a few dampeners to try out. It’s not a huge deal or anything, but it was fun to check out.

The purpose of the bag is to give people a chance to try out the various types of mechanical key styles without having to actually buy keyboards with those keys. You might find one type of mechanical keyboard at your local Best Buy, but that’s about it. Thus, unless you want to order several expensive keyboards, a more creative approach is needed – enter the Switch Try Bag!

As part of the participation requirement, I had to do a little review on the various switches. I’ve copy / pasted it here, and it’s available on the original thread on Deskthority here.

My Key Switch Review

Hey everyone,

I’ve been playing around with these switches for an hour or two. Here are my thoughts…

First let me say, I am not that knowledgeable about different kinds of keys. I owned a Razer BlackWidow (MX Blues) for about a week, and I’ve used several Microsoft Wireless Desktop combos (rubber dome / membrane) over the years.

In general, I’m not a big fan of the clicky sounding keys, so I’m definitely biased away from those. I am posting these in order of least to most favorite.

Back Complicated Nonclicky Alps
This one isn’t too bad. It’s not super loud. It does seem to have a lot of resistance, which I’m not a huge fan of.

Cherry ML
I like the low profile of this key, but it’s more like a laptop key to me. It actually looks similar in size to the navigation key array on my Microsoft Comfort Keyboard 4000 (except the ML is mechanical of course!). I’m not sure if I’d like typing on the ML long term, though I’m sure it seems comfortable for its size.

Grey Clicky Alps. Matias Tactile Pro 1
Physically, I liked the feel of this key. It wasn’t hard to push, and had a bump that felt decent – maybe a bit too initially resistant. The click combined with the loud bottoming out sound was too much for me though. I can’t have it that loud.

Cherry MX Clear
This key has a really strong bump – too strong for me. It almost feels like I’m pressing a two stage key. It was quieter than some of the ones above, but not my favorite by far.

Cherry MX Black
While I liked the linear feel of this key, it seemed like it wanted way too much pressure. This might be good for someone who hammers on their keys while gaming or something like that. That doesn’t really describe me, so…

White Complicated Dampened Alps
I liked this one at first, but after comparing with some of the others, it didn’t come out ahead. I like the tactile bump, and the overall quiet sound. It seems like the glide is not really smooth. I know it’s a very short distance to travel, but that’s the only thing I can think of off the top of my head to describe what I don’t like about it.

Cherry MX Blue
I really like the overall feel of this key. It feels fast, light and easy to move, but it still has a solid tactile bump. My main drawback on this key is just the clicky sound. It’s not always that bad – especially if you add a dampener ring to it, but the final two keys reviewed aren’t as loud.

Cherry MX Red
I really liked the feel of this linear key. Honestly, it seems like a toss up between this and the MX Brown right now, but I think the brown is barely ahead. The red is smooth to push (linear) with no bump and I actually dig that feeling. I don’t like the bottoming out sound, though you don’t have to bottom out to activate the keystroke (right?).

Adding dampener pad helped the bottoming out sound a lot, so that was pretty nice. It seems almost the same as the Brown with the dampener.

Cherry MX Brown
I think this ends up as my favorite. The bump is pretty light, which makes it feel almost like the red, but it still has tactile bump to let you know you hit the key. I really like the glide (however short) after the bump. It seems like somewhere between red and blue (without the clicky of blue).

With the dampener, it’s even more quiet, which I really like.

Conclusions
I think if I made a keyboard I would use the Cherry MX Brown or Reds and use some kind of dampening. I like backlit keys though, so I’m not sure how the dampening would work with LEDs. I might have to find some clear soft plastic to use.
I might use Browns for parts of the board and reds in other sections – I’m not sure.

Thanks very much for letting me take part in the switch try sink list! I’ll get to work on sending it to the next in line!

Kindari

Hardware: Razer Naga Mouse

The jury is still out on keyboards, and even if I want one, the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth is out of stock – it is only purchasable directly through Razer’s online store.

For now, I thought I’d talk about my trusty Razer Naga MMO Mouse. It’s pretty expensive, $80 for a computer mouse, or $130 for the version with a detachable cord that puts it in Bluetooth mode.

Some of the stuff I’ll talk about today aren’t aspects I put a lot of thought into before, but I am paying more attention at the moment for the sake of making the post more thorough.

How I found the Naga

I had become pretty used to spending $50 on the Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer series, but as I’ve mentioned about their keyboards, Microsoft keeps changing their designs, which breaks things that weren’t broken. So, a couple years ago, I went to Best Buy with the intention of spending $40 in gift cards toward buying the current Microsoft Mouse.

My wife’s family doesn’t ever know what to get me for Christmas. It’s not their fault; I’m hard to buy for, and I am really picky even about the stuff I am looking for, if you can’t tell already. So it seems they just all get me Best Buy gift cards. This works out for me, because I can usually find something to spend them on, and several small gift cards add up quickly!

Anyway, so there I was at Best Buy, $40 of free spending cash just burning a hole in my pocket, and I kind of wanted a new mouse.

I started looking at the Naga, and was sort of interested. At the time, I played World of Warcraft and led a raiding guild. I figured I was used to spending $50 on a mouse, and with the gift cards, I’d only really be spending $40… see how I just convinced myself there of spending way more than I normally would?

I figured I could always return it, so I would be careful about how I opened it, not break any seals and so such, just to make it that much easier to return if I decided I didn’t really like it.

First Impressions / Overall

I do remember liking the overall look and feel of it. Much like the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate I recently reviewed, it just had a pretty sleek look to it – mostly black or dark colors, soft finish that was comfortable in my hand, and its a fairly long mouse, meaning my entire hand can rest pretty comfortably on the body.

This is one of the reasons I previously gravitated so much toward Microsoft’s Intellimouse mice (which they later changed into a shorter bodied variant that was no longer comfortable to use). I have long fingers and most mice are too short.

Overall, I was impressed by the mouse, in general, but the huge 12 button grid on the side was a bit intimidating (more later).

It seemed pretty responsive, definitely more so than my wireless mouse.

Main Buttons

The main buttons have a slight concave shape to them, so the entire curve of my fingers connect with the surface of the mouse. I don’t know if that’s supposed to make it more responsive or something, but it feels nice. They are also an extension of the palm rest, not isolated buttons. Thus, to press a button, you are bending the end of the surface instead of moving an entire “plate”. It results in more fine response so it requires less finger pressure to click. I like it.

Scroll Wheel / Button 3

I practically never use the scroll-wheel-as-button feature on mice because I am used to the continuous scrolling style of the Intellimouse. This style is great for scrolling pages of text. The Naga is designed for gamers, however, so the wheel uses the step-scrolling method where you can feel each click of the wheel for more accurate scrolling. I hear the Logitech G500 mouse has both modes and switches between them.

The physical feel of the wheel is appropriately nice.

The main feature of my Microsoft mouse that I missed was the tilting scroll wheel. This is another feature that Microsoft appears to have abandoned, and that’s sad. Sure, maybe they sat there one day and said, “Who cares about scrolling sideways!?” Maybe you wouldn’t if you’re just browsing the web or scrolling through a Word document, but I used it ALL the time.

Most production software is configured with a side to side timeline view for scrolling your project linearly. Just about every piece of audio or video software uses this, and the tilt-wheel was like a built in jog-wheel. I loved this feature, and I still miss it… but not enough give up the other cool features of the Naga mouse.

Buttons 4 and 5

On my old mouse, these were on the side, easily reachable with my thumb. This was the reason I went to the Intellimouse in the first place – more buttons. For a long time, I didn’t much like the positioning of these buttons on the Naga. They are at the front left of the mouse on the top – essentially cut out of the front left corner of mouse button 1. This means I hit them with my index finger. One is pretty easy to deal with, one requires more deliberate finger movement to press, and sometimes I find it causes me to inadvertently move the mouse while trying to get to it. I make the easier one my “back” button, and the harder one my “forward” button, since I rarely need that anyway.

I usually justify this to myself with the idea that I can ignore these completely and assign two of the side buttons to the same use. More recently, I’ve started using them both more for production software and I’ve kind of re-discovered their usefulness.

The side grid

What makes this mouse ridiculously cool is the 12 button grid on the side. It would be nice to have a more ergonomic layout, although I don’t know what that would be. For me, I effectively use 9 of the 12 buttons. One of the rows is a bit hard to get to, kind of like the “forward” button I mentioned earlier. This is pretty minor though, I’m still gaining 9 buttons to do whatever I want with, and this rocks! I think part of the idea is to learn to use the 5 or 11 key as a home position, so it’s kind of like 2 banks of 6 keys, but I just go from the 5 key for everything.

At first, these buttons had one serious drawback – they weren’t arbitrary buttons to be assigned to whatever. They duplicated the functionality of the number keys on the keyboard. A switch on the bottom of the mouse could swap them from acting like either the top row of numbers – 1 through 0, -, and =, or the number pad. For gaming, it wasn’t so bad. It essentially meant the keyboard’s number pad was strapped to the side of my mouse and I didn’t need to take my hand off the mouse to get to those keys.

This wasn’t what I originally hoped for, and in production software, they became much less useful. If I wanted to assign Naga side button 5 to a certain task, that meant “5” on the key pad would also be assigned to that, but I used the keypad on the keyboard to actually type numbers.

For a long time, I just didn’t use the side keys except for gaming. It took about a week to get used to the sheer number of keys, but the trainers combined with the tactile guide bump on key 5 and 11 (like the F and J keys on keyboards) made it pretty easy to get the hang of.

Then, when I first started checking out the BlackWidow, I realized a driver update had changed that functionality and now the keys worked exactly as I always wanted them to, in fact, it was even better!

Just like the BlackWidow’s M keys, the side grid on my Naga could be fully programmed to do just about anything I wanted it to do. Freaking awesome. Love it. The utility here is great.

The cord

Reader: Really? It gets its own section heading?
Me: Yep.
Reader: Why? It’s a cord!
Me: Well…

I usually have reasons behind every decision I make. And there is one here.

My first “expensive” mouse was a wired Intellimouse Explorer. I loved it, but it broke after a while because the cord became damaged right where it enters the body of the mouse. Too much side to side swiping I guess. This is actually what led me into the world of wireless mice and keyboards (and subsequently I’ll blame my entire obsession with a clean wire-free desktop here, just for the fun of it).

So after using a wireless mouse and keyboard combo, I was reluctant to get another wired mouse. I had a few wired mice fail in exactly this same way, so there’s some justification here.

The Razer Naga (all Razer Products I’ve used) has a heavy nylon mesh cord shroud, which apparently means it’s a heavier duty cord. I don’t know – maybe it’s a $2 gimmick that raises the price $10. However, after two years of heavy use, the Naga’s cord is still solid.

It’s also really long. It’s so long, I coiled part of it up with a zip tie behind my monitor. This is okay, though. I like having the option if I really needed it.

Back-Lighting

I didn’t buy the mouse for this feature, but it has it. It looks kind of neat, but it’s not really a big deal. I doesn’t add any actual functionality to the mouse save for being able to read the keys in the dark. After two years of using it, I don’t need to look at the side keys any more.

Longevity

After about a year and a half, I started noticing the right mouse button started double clicking all the time. It made it really hard to open the context menus in Microsoft Excel. I just sort dealt with it for a while, and then I decided to see about fixing it. I thought the mouse had a 1 year warranty, but it actually has 2. So I e-mailed their support site and asked for some kind of official instructions on taking the mouse apart to implement a fix I saw on you tube. I figured it was worth a shot.

I was surprised when they told me to just send them the mouse for a warranty RMA, and went ahead and did that. The process was smooth, and took about 10 days from shipping it out to receiving the replacement.

/cheer.

Responsiveness

In short, this mouse seems very fast, very responsive. There are some options for acceleration, polling rate, and its DPI / sensitivity. I actually keep it pretty low, because it’s more than enough for me. I’ve been really happy in this regard. When I sent my Naga back to Razer for the RMA, I used my old Intellimouse as a temp. It was amazing how different they felt. I know newer wireless technology is a lot more responsive, but the difference was huge.

Configurator

The Razer products all use a similar style interface for configuring their devices. You can configure several profiles an switch between them via the system tray icon, and it can also automatically switch when you run certain programs. Sometimes I switch profiles between different software sets as I get more and more into using the side grid for production software. It’s been really useful so far. With the recent discovery of the fully programmable feature set, I feel like I’ve just rediscovered how powerful this mouse really can be.

Bottom Line

I really love this mouse. It’s fast, responsive, fully customizable, has a ton of buttons, and it’s built for gamers who can be pretty rough on their gear. Even if I had been out of warranty on the right button issue and had to buy another one, I would have been okay with it. I’ve gotten a lot of use out of this thing, and I’d definitely buy another.