MaxKeyboard Blackbird

I’m not exactly obsessed with mechanical keyboards, but I do know that I love a great computer experience, so I’m attempting to make my home computer the best it can be.  That does include having decent peripherals.

After I built my computer I was using a MS Natural keyboard that I’d had from about 3 computers ago.  I liked it, but I wanted something better, so I “upgraded” to the newest version of the MS Natural.  These are decent enough keyboards but they’re hard to game on.  They’re great for typing and keep your arms at a comfortable angle and whatnot but I wanted something better.

I went to Microcenter and found a Razer BlackWidow on sale for $75.  Granted, this is much more than I’ve ever spent on a keyboard (I usually used the ones I got for free with a PC purchase or the aforementioned MS Natural that was cheap).  The BlackWidow has Cherry MX Blue switches and it’s quite heavy.  It typed fairly well though, so I was happy.  Or so I thought.

I started hanging out on Reddit quite a bit more and found a community for people who tweak their workstations called “/r/battlestations”.  I looked over it quite a bit and I noticed a lot of people had mechanical keyboards and there were quite a few cross posts to another community called “r/MechanicalKeyboards”.  So I started hanging out over there and reading reviews and recommendations and discussion.  I noticed that the community didn’t have a lot of respect for Razer (I didn’t know why then but I do now) and I started reading more and more reviews.  I figured I wanted to try a different switch as well as get a smaller keyboard.

I agonized over this decision.  I read review after review and decided that I wanted a Ducky Shine 3 TKL with Cherry MX Browns.  I could not find it anywhere.

I also looked at customizing a WASD board but they had no backlighting and I figured I might as well get something with backlighting so I can use it more in the dark.  Besides, I think backlighting looks cool.  Well, their CODE keyboard had backlighting but not the switches I wanted, plus it was sold out.

So I started looking for alternatives and stumbled upon MaxKeyboards.  They have a limited selection of switches (blue and brown for the board I was interested in) but the biggest plus for me was the fact that they didn’t have any software needed for their boards.  The Razer needed their Synapse software drivers to work and it was becoming beyond annoying to deal with that updating all the time.  I needed a board that would work with no problems in both Linux and Windows.

So I looked through the choices and picked out the Blackbird.  I’d never tried Brown switches before but I’d read about them and they were close to the Blues I’d been using but with a less audible click, more of a bump.

Anyway, I ordered it from Amazon and it finally arrived up at my mom’s house and I was able to pick it up this past weekend.  I’ve been using it a couple days now and let me say… Wow.

Well, before I get more into the review, how about a picture or a few?

2014-02-09 18.15.40 2014-02-09 18.15.57Here is the box and what comes in the box.  As you can see, it’s a really simple affair, with the keyboard, the wrist rest, and a info sheet about all the lighting options.

The lighting options are easy to understand and most are activated by hitting the function button and then the page up or down button (to change brightness), the insert or delete button (to light certain buttons like WASD and the arrow keys during a game), and the escape button to change the lighting timer on the board.

There are also some other options to control volume and whatnot that are activated by hitting the function button and F1 through F6.  This is great if you don’t have easy access to your speakers.  I do, so I don’t think I’ll be using them much.

Anyway, how about a quick compare between the Razer and the Max?

2014-02-09 18.18.03The Razer is on top and the Max is underneath.  The Max is much smaller than the Razer and I can easily hold my arms in front of me to type instead of having them off to the left a little bit.  This will hopefully help my shoulders and back and arms to not get fatigued while using the computer.

2014-02-09 18.20.06 2014-02-09 18.19.26 2014-02-09 18.20.35These next photos show the board on my desk.  Also, my shoe is there for Reddit and keyboard SCIENCE.

Anyway, you can see how it sits on my desk and how it’s directly in front of the chair.

Typing on this board is a dream.  It’s easy to actuate the keys and not totally bottom them.  Well I usually do bottom but I don’t have to thwack them as hard as I do a membrane board like the one I have at work.

There’s not a satisfying click-CLACK like there is with the blues, but I’m very happy with the browns.  I love the sound they make and they’re not mushy at all.  Also, it’s quieter than my other board.  I’m not sure if my upstairs neighbor could hear me (I hope not) but if they could I’m sure they’re happy that I’ve switched boards.

I’m not really missing the keypad on the right; it makes for a quick switch to the mouse when I need it.  The only issue I will find is when doing something with numbers, but I have the Razer that has a keypad on it so I can use that for that application.

Now I want to get a Ducky for work.  I want the Shine 3 but if I can’t find that, I’ll settle for a Zero.  I should also look into getting either Blacks or Browns and putting O-rings on the keys so they’re not as loud.

Anyway, I love this board and it’s a 5/5 for me.  No extra crap, no special drivers, works in Linux and Windows (and Mac for that matter), and it’s small and backlit.  Everything I need.  Nothing I don’t.

Oh, and regarding the non-love for Razer that I mentioned above… I see why many people don’t like them as a company because their boards are… somewhat gaudy and light-covered.  Mine was not, but it was HUGE and I’m glad to have more desk space with the smaller board.  Also, some have had quality issues with their boards.  I’m glad I’ve not, but it’s always a possibility.  Oh, and they market to “gamers” so their boards are a bit pricier than they should be as well as having the lower quality.  So that’s a problem.  I still like my Razer DeathAdder mouse; it works well and I’ll be keeping it for awhile.

New Laptop Backpack

My Swiss Gear backpack ripped on the seam where the zipper is for the secondary compartment (the one where I stash my files/notebook).  I’m not sure what happened, but this shouldn’t happen.  Anyway, I’m going to see if my mother can sew it up and then we can donate it to Goodwill or something.  Because I’ve found something better.

Cue my trip to Microcenter to pick up a keyboard for my brother.  Well, I took my work laptop with me and started looking for a new briefcase.  My laptop is an HP Elitebook 8540w, which is a second-generation of the Elitebook line.  The model I have is a workstation CAD laptop and it’s heavy.  In the Swiss Gear, everything was heavy.  I think the backpack itself was heavy to begin with, and then adding everything I carry (laptop, charger, umbrella, files, notebook, mouse, etc, etc) it got really heavy.  Anyway, I wanted something lighter and initially I was looking for a messenger-style or briefcase-style.  I think they look more professional.  Well, I couldn’t find anything that I liked that was a decent price AND that fit my behemoth of a laptop.  What I did find was something that was $100 and it didn’t have all of the features I wanted.  I turned around to the backpacks and started loading my laptop into various bags (I’m sure I looked goofy to loss prevention) until I found the Everki Glide Laptop Backpack.  I tried it in-store, checked the price (under $80; score!) and decided to buy it by the virtue of my work laptop fitting it in and the pocket looking like it can accommodate a larger laptop (I’ll be upgraded to the 8560W which is slightly larger and heavier; hopefully I’ll have a decent additional battery too so there’s that addon the bag has to fit).

I took it home, cut the tags off, and started loading it.  It took everything I was carrying in my LL Bean book pack (from college!) except for my lunch and shoes.  It can carry my shoes but not my lunchbox, which is fine.

Anyway, how about a couple photos?

2014-02-05 18.31.39Here is the backpack empty and against my wall in the apartment.

2014-02-05 18.31.56

Here it is open and ready to receive my stuff.

2014-02-05 18.30.16Here is all my stuff.  The water bottle is substituted because I left my normal 20 oz one at work.  I also have an iPod Touch as well as a Nexus 7 and also usually a couple of pens and/or pencils.  Those are not shown because they don’t take up a lot of room and they fit in the pen/pencil slots.  The Touch was used to take the pictures and the tablet was forgotten, as it was charging at my charging station.  Anyway, from the top left:

  • Umbrella.
  • Laptop charger.
  • Water bottle.
  • Plastic bag (holds my shoes; I’m currently wearing boots into work because of all the snow).
  • Cloth bag with personal lady items, wipes, and some Shout wipes.
  • BigSkinny bi-fold cellphone wallet (I love it).
  • Portable mouse.
  • Tin with earbuds and charger for the iPod.
  • Zippo lighter (I don’t smoke but a lighter comes in handy).
  • Small day bag/purse in case we go out to lunch and I don’t want to be stuck shoving all my necessities in my pockets.
  • And my laptop.  It’s huge.

2014-02-05 18.34.49Here’s the main compartment filled up.  My umbrella and charger go on the bottom, the laptop in the sleeve for it, my notebook and tablet in the tablet sleeve, and nothing really in that zipper compartment.  I like to have options of where I can stash my stuff.  The shoes fit in my plastic Meijer bag and sit right in the center top between all my other things.

2014-02-05 18.34.55Here’s the organizer pouch thing and I have my wallet in there, the tin with the earbuds and charger in the flap pocket as well as the lighter, my small “personal item” bag in the bottom, and my cell phone in the pouch next to the wallet (you can’t see it because it goes all the way down!).  If I’d had some pens/pencils I’d put them in the slots next to the flap pocket.

2014-02-05 18.35.01 2014-02-05 18.35.12And with these two pictures, you can see how it looks when filled with all those things.  My water bottle goes on the outside pocket, as well as my small purse.  That outside pocket expands to fit everything you put in it.  I wouldn’t stretch it too much, but it does hold a lot of stuff.  I do suppose I could put my shoes in there, but I prefer them to be inside the bag.

2014-02-05 18.35.19Bag from the front when filled.

As you can see. this bag takes a lot of items and I hope it will last for awhile.  I’ve had it for about 2 days or so, so we’ll see how it holds up.  I’ve been carrying my laptop back and forth because of the snow.

Anyway, what I really like about this bag is that it holds all that stuff, but it’s light!  It doesn’t seem to weigh as much as my Swiss Gear ever did.  The straps seem to fit my back and shoulders better than the other one did.  It carries closer to my body and is easier to walk in.  Also, its slimmer than the old one and it fits through the turnstile door a lot better; I have no fear of getting stuck.  The interior is orange, so it’s easy to find what you’ve stashed in various pockets.  The inside of the Swiss Gear was grey, and seemed to swallow and lose things.

For right now, I’d give this bag a 4/5 for fitting most of my stuff (doesn’t fit my lunchbox), for being lightweight, and for being slim so I can carry my things in less space (and not get stuck in the door!).  I really like this bag and it looks different from the other ones everyone else carries, with the black main color and the orange trim.  I really like the padding on the back between my back and my laptop, as well as the corner guards that are built into the bag.

I will probably revisit this review in a few weeks to give an update.  Right now I really like it and it works.

I’d recommend this to anyone looking to carry a large laptop for work as well as its charger and other things and your files/notebooks.

 

 

 

 

HP Chromebook 11 Update

As many of you know, the HP Chromebook 11 had a problem with its charger.  Essentially, the charger ran hot (which is kind of normal; this one ran SUPER hot) and could potentially cause a fire.

After all the jokes about a fire sale and how the Chromebook was “too darn hot” I started looking toward Google to find a replacement charger.  I filled out the form that I got from here and figured that I wouldn’t see it til after the holidays.

I had a couple emails about this, but I figured that I wouldn’t get it anytime soon, so I forgot for awhile.  Imagine my surprise when the following arrived today:

I also was absolutely floored when I also pulled out a $25 Google play gift card.

I knew Google was awesome but I was unaware as to how awesome they were.

Thank you Google.  I also have a nice little note for you in the box I’m sending back to you.

Computer Fiddling

I’ve had a heck of a ride the past week.  I decided to install Xubuntu.  I did a backup and then tested everything on the liveCD and everything worked so I installed it.  Wahoo, everything was quick and nice… except things were really quiet when I tried to play my music collection.

So I investigated and… lo and behold, Xubuntu shipped with a faulty sound indicator.  I tried the various hacks to get it working but nothing worked.  Apparently Ubuntu changed the way the indicator worked or something and the fallback indicator didn’t work at all in Xubuntu.

I got frustrated and shut everything down and decided to deal with it later.

Later came on Friday night.  I wanted to give more room to Windows to accommodate my expanding Steam library, so I booted into an Ubuntu disc and ran gParted.

And promptly started messing around with my partitions and accidentally deleted everything.  I didn’t panic because my stuff was all saved on my external drive, but I was bummed that I’d have to reinstall everything.

And so it went.  I repartitioned my drive so Windows would have about 520 GB of space, and Ubuntu would have 475 GB of space, and I’d have about 5 or so of swap.  (Honestly, I could skip the swap because I have 8 GB of RAM but I’ve been conditioned to have swap.  Five GB is probably not enough but oh well.  I’m not going to run out of RAM anytime soon.)

I installed Windows, did the reboot, and then had a small panic attack because I didn’t have any internet connection.  After finding my motherboard driver disc and installing the drivers, I had internet and could start getting everything else installed including my GPU.  I have most of my “stuff” back, but I need to get things off of the external hard drive which seems to not like to play well with both Linux and Windows.  Annoying.

After getting WoW, D3, and Steam installed, I called it a night.

Cue this morning.  I got breakfast and started on my Ubuntu install.  It takes almost no time to install Ubuntu it seems, especially compared to Windows (even though Windows doesn’t take long to install at all; it’s the drivers that are a pain).  I now am back up in business with my dual-boot system and I have more room for Windows and my games.

Ubuntu currently looks like this:

Ubuntu Screenshot

Ubuntu Screenshot

I cannot remember where I got this wallpaper from; perhaps deviantArt?  If you’re the artist, send me a link and I’ll credit you; I apologize that I can’t remember where I got it.  I basically shrunk the launcher down and changed the wallpaper and put the programs I like in the launcher.  Simple and effective.

HP Chromebook 11

My Macbook Air is having a drive problem right now that can’t be solved until the SSD drives are available for repair.  It’s kind of crappy for Apple to tell a customer when she tries to update that she needs a new hard drive and then not ship those hard drives to the repair centers.  So, I will be going back to Microcenter again when they come in to get the repair actually done.  It’s under a recall so I don’t have to pay for it.

In the meantime, because I can’t use the Macbook, I picked up a stop-gap HP chromebook.  I’m not sure how this will fit into my computing arsenal once I get my Air back, but we’ll see.

Anyway, I picked this up for $279.  Unexpected, but I really don’t want my Air to get damaged beyond repair and ruin any of the internals (I’m not sure if that can happen or not but I’m not taking a chance).

Also, NaNo is going on right now and I’ve missed the first week but I might be able to salvage part of the month with a new story that I’ve been thinking about.  I might work on it through next month too just because.

ANYWAY, I have some unboxing photos.

Firstly, the box.

HP 11" Blue Box

HP Chromebook 11″

I got the blue one, which is the only color they had.  The poor guy that was trying to help me couldn’t get the drawer open on the display and I felt bad for him.

Anyway, that blue stripe slid off to reveal a plain white box:

With the blue stripe off

With the blue stripe off

This is actually pretty classy packaging and it reminds me of the Macbook Air box that I did not have an unboxing for because I unboxed it at the airport.  Anyway, this is simple and without a lot of extra flair.  I like it.

I pulled out my knife and cut the tape and opened it up:

Box Open!

Box Open!

Wow simple.  I like simple.  The white is very clean and the stripe at the top is very understated.  My Macbook Air has more “flair” on it with the glowing apple on the lid.

And now for a pic with all of the stuff out of the box:

Everything out of the box.

Everything out of the box.

There’s the chromebook, a charger, a quick start card, and a guide that has several languages.

I was able to plug it in right away and boot it up.  The cord is a hair short; I’ve gotten used to the Macbook cord that has the brick with the removable extension.  Anyway, I logged in using my google account and most of the stuff I needed right away was there.  I had to add dropbox and a hangouts extension as well as an IRC program but I pretty much have a functional computer on par with what I had on the Macbook.

Some first impressions:

  • The keyboard is nice.  Really nice.  It’s not quite as good as the one on the Air and it’s nothing like my mechanical keyboard, but I sure can type on it, and fast too!
  • The trackpad is… usable.  It’s at least plenty big and supports two-finger scroll but the surface is a little rough.  Granted, I’m comparing this to the trackpad on the Macbook which are top of the line trackpads, but for the price, this is decent.  I turned off tap-to-click and reversed the scroll.  It’s actually pretty good for this price point.
  • The display is gorgeous.  Wow.  On par with the Macbook Air, clear, clean, bright.  Love it.  Shiny, but still usable.  I’d probably get a screen cover if I had to use it in direct sunlight.
  • There are a lot of apps available.  Don’t pay attention to the reviews that say there are “no apps”.  Go to the app store for Chrome and look.  There’s plenty; you just have to figure out which ones you can use on or offline and adjust accordingly for your particular usage.  Many of the reviews are from windows or mac power users that can’t fathom living in the cloud for more than a few files in dropbox.  Granted, I’m kind of that way as well but I’ll just have to adjust to this thing for the time being.
  • I like the way everything seems to work together: Android phone, Android tablet, browser on windows/mac/linux, and now this cloud computer thing.

Basically this is a great little machine to keep on the couch to look up information on or IM while you’re watching TV or blogging.  It’s not going to work if you don’t have access to the internet for a prolonged period.  If you don’t have access to the internet, I’d download your most precious files to a flash drive and then you can edit them offline and then re-sync later.

I will most likely go back to my macbook when it is repaired (because it’s more functional than this) but I will keep this around for when I go somewhere on vacation and might want to type up something.

Verdict: If you need something cheap and decent and not a lot of local storage and can deal with living in the cloud, get this.  If not, get an ultrabook/Macbook Air.  If your Macbook isn’t working right, get this as a backup and work in the cloud til it’s fixed.  It’s a recommend from me for specific uses.

The Saga that is My Graphics Card

So.

Somehow my graphics card stuff got bunged up.  Again.

This time I am using the Xorg-Edgers PPA, and things seem to be running smoothly.  I added the repo, ran “sudo apt-get update” and then closed my terminal and opened the “ubuntu software center” and downloaded and installed the fglrx driver.  Did a reboot (with all my appendages crossed) and lo and behold, it worked!  Now I’m happy and I think I’ll even be able to play Steam games on my desktop under Ubuntu.

Yay for PPAs in Ubuntu.  Seriously, I’m so happy there are people that make these fixes and then put them in an easy to update package that I can just add to my repository list.  It’s great.

Fix catalyst driver in Ubuntu 13.04

gamerchick02:

This is great and I want to be able to fix my Ubuntu ATI drivers after the kernel updates again.

Originally posted on xpressrazor:

1. Introduction

I found lots of people struggling to get catalyst driver work in Ubuntu 13.04. This issue has been persistent for some laptops, ever since Ubuntu 13.04 came out, specially for Intel, AMD dual graphics setup. For people, who have been looking at catalyst drivers ever since http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1930450 post was published, should not be that hard to find the solution, but for those who are new to Linux, or don’t have time for these kinds of issues, this might be a show stopper bug.

View original 1,804 more words