metaruss

Computing

Rainbow of Cherries

by on Feb.14, 2012, under Keyboards

My search for a mechanical keyboard that will be quiet enough for home use and yet comfortable to type on led me to geekhack.org. Filled with copious amounts of information about modern production mechanical keyboards, I decided to give some a try. Most of them produced today use switches from Cherry Corporation’s MX line. They use different stem colors to denote the different models. Mechanical keyboards have been coming back, thanks in large part to the gaming community. Four are commonly used switch types are:

  • Blue – tactile with a audible click
  • Brown – tactile with no click and lighter springs than the blue
  • Black – linear with heavier springs than blue
  • Red – linear with lighter springs (similar to brown)

There are lot of different brands out there with more coming all the time. In reality, there are only a few manufacturers making them. One of the best regarded, Filco, are made by Costar. Costar has been making boards for other brands using their reference design, which makes use of things like a steel plate that the switches mount to. In other words, you can get a “Filco” for much less than what a Filco-branded board costs.

Rosewill RK-9000BR with Cherry MX Brown Switches.

The MX Brown seemed the most logical one to try first. It was a quiet switch with some tactile feel. I opted for the Rosewill RK-9000, which has a full 104 key set. It’s a very nice, solid board and I am extremely happy with it for typing. However, for gaming I found the tactile feel somewhat distracting. The bump in the stem that provides the feel also contributes a rough feel to the movement of the key.

CM Storm Quick Fire Rapid with Cherry MX Red Switches

To address this, I picked up a CM Storm Quick Fire Rapid with MX Red switches. I find this to be much better for gaming. It’s not quite as nice for typing, but it is still better than the previous keyboard I was using at home (Saitek Eclipse II). It is a “tenkeyless” model (no numeric keypad), which is a little weird at first. It’s perfectly fine for gaming, though. It comes with some extra keycaps for the WASD and “super” modifiers. The overall look of the keycaps is somewhat obnoxious. However, it’s still a Costar with a metal mount plate and all that. It is a solid board that just needs some better caps.

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The Randomness of Unicomp Keys

by on Feb.13, 2012, under Keyboards

I was looking closely at my Unicomp keyboard, trying to figure out which keys are 2-piece and which are 1-piece. Based on the keyboards I have (1 1994 Model M and 2 Unicomps), the pattern that emerges is:

  • Normal keys and 1.5 unit keys (Ctrl/Alt, Tab, and backslash) are 2-piece.
  • Larger keys on the Model M (ones with the guide pin, space bar, etc) are 1-piece.
  • The 1.25 unit modifiers on the Unicomp keyboards are 1-piece.
  • The “notched” G/H/B keys on the Endura Pro are also 1-piece.

The bottom part of the keys are a grab-bag of colors:

keyboard-unicomp-keys-1

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IBM Model M Grease Mod

by on Jan.13, 2012, under Keyboards

 

IBM Model M 60G3571

I did this mod many years ago (probably circa 2003/2004) after reading about the “soft touch” version of the Model M produced by Lexmark. The main motivation was some grumbling from my co-workers (even though the guy right next to me also had a Model M). The grease suppresses the “ping” of the buckling spring without affecting the feel of the keyboard too much. It still feels tactile and still has a click. I did this to my 1994 Model M (which I bought brand-new back then).

keyboard-model-m-greaseAfter some experimentation, I found that placing a small amount of dielectric silicone grease into the springs, avoiding the sides of the barrel, works the best. Using a toothpick or paper clip, I dipped the end into the grease tube and twirled it inside of the spring. The goal is just to dampen the ringing of the spring, not to slug the movement of the spring in the barrel. I used a small acid brush to remove any grease at the top of the spring, which can prevent the spring from seating correctly back into the key. If some grease gets into the barrel, it can be removed with a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol.

Adding more grease gives the keys a softer, slower feel, which I didn’t like. Trying to fill the cavity of the key can render the key intermittent or even inoperable. Definitely avoid greasing any of the stabilizer pins/inserts on the wider keys and the space bar. Some grease on the wire space bar stabilizer is OK and eliminates any rattle that it may have.

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Silver lining to the Comcast DTA

by on Jan.24, 2010, under Linux

While the merits of Comcast’s Digital Transport Adapters are debatable, there is one useful side effect to their existance. Because the are so cheap, they lack a POD tuner. This means that the channel tables are broadcast in-band, which in turn means that a normal QAM tuner can find them. There is a tool called scte65scan that can find these tables using a regular DVB tuner (it also supports the HDHomerun).

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Unraveling Comcast digital cable “upgrades”

by on Jan.22, 2010, under Linux

At some point we will become another victim of Comcast’s digital cable “upgrade” plans. We’ve been an analog cable customer of theirs for about 8 years. The only reason we’ve stuck with them is because they are the only provider that can give us good ol’ NTSC on our coax. That is the only way to have all of our cable programming on more than one TV without paying extra each month for each. In addition to the 3 TVs we also use MythTV for our DVR system, which has 3 NTSC and 2 ATSC/QAM tuners.

We are still getting the analog feed, but last week I finally installed the new digital equipment. Their marketing B.S. is confusing and intentionally misleading, but here is what I have learned from the experience:

“Extended Cable” customers are being migrated to the “Digital Starter” package. You get one standard digital cable box, which comes with their “On Demand” feature, and up to two “Digital Transport Adapters”. They give you the impression that the DTAs are you help make up for the loss of analog service on your other TVs, but this isn’t really true (more on this later). After the migration, you will supposedly be left with your primary local stations and a few other useless cable stations like QVC on analog channels 2-17. The rest are only available as digital QAM channels.

This is where it gets ugly. A subset of our old cable lineup is available as unencrypted QAM256 channels, but the others are all encrypted. Some are flagged as encrypted but are actually clear while the rest are fully encrypted. They also sit on random QAM channels/programs that don’t correspond to how they appear in the lineup on the cable box. Comcast is free to move the channels around and play with the encryption whenever they please because they can just reprogram the cable box and DTAs remotely. This makes using your own QAM tuner frustrating, especially since you can’t receive arbitrary basic cable stations due to encryption (like Discovery Channel in my case).

The DTAs are a joke. Comcast makes sure that the channel lineup is only a tiny subset of the lineup you are paying for. They want you to rent real cable boxes, which makes them no better than DirecTV or U-Verse. The DTA will mainly just tune in your “extra” local digital stations in standard definition, but they do NOT tune in your main local stations. For example, if you have a local broadcaster on channel 10, they transmit high-def over the air on channel 10.1 and also probably broadcast a few extra programs on channel 10.2 and 10.3 or more. The DTA will let you view channel 10.2 and 10.3 on your old NTSC TV, but it won’t tune the main channel 10! Comcast provides those as standard def analog stations, but the DTA can’t tune those and the DTA won’t act as a pass-though when it is off like a VCR would (in fact, you can’t turn DTAs off at all). So to watch channel 10, you need an A/B switch on your antenna to switch between the main cable feed and the output of the DTA. The other stations besides the locals that the DTA will receive are fairly useless (more QVC-like stations, Lifetime, and one or two others I’ve never heard of).

So unsurprisingly, Comcast continues to offer less for more. If they provided basic cable stations on unencrypted channels that would be one thing. The only good news in my eyes is that they offer nothing over what you can get from other communication carriers now. All I have to do is put an antenna on the roof.

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nedit_5.6~cvs20100114-rknize1 released

by on Jan.15, 2010, under Linux

Release a new CVS snapshot for nedit, mainly to ease installation on top of the snapshot that comes with Ubuntu 9.10.

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notifier-applet 0.3-1

by on Jan.12, 2009, under Linux

Version 0.3-1 of notifier-applet has been released.

Changes

  • Add length field to message format 1.
  • Update notifier.pl example with message format 1 support.
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helper-scripts 0.18-1

by on Jan.08, 2009, under Linux

Version 0.18-1 of helper-scripts has been released.

Changes

  • Bundle debian-helper-scripts 0.12 and subversion-helper-scripts 0.6-1 and call it 0.18-1.
  • Create ubuntu-helper-scripts to tune debian-helper-scripts for Ubuntu.
  • Import cleaned-up versions of some scripts from rknize-tools and make it into a new package: rknize-helper-scripts.
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notifier-applet 0.2-2

by on Jan.07, 2009, under Linux

Version 0.2-2 of notifier-applet has been released.

Changes

  • Add README to explain the message parser.
  • Add very primitive message parser to allow more control over notifcation.
  • Fix bug with empty messages.
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site-upload 0.6-1

by on Dec.15, 2008, under Linux

Version 0.6-1 of site-upload has been released.

Changes

  • Only check the checksum if the modification time changed.
  • Really fix stamp updates when there is an upload failure.
  • More stamp updating/checking cleanups.
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