Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 – Initial Thoughts

Between school and this website, I’ve been finding myself typing more and more recently. So under the guise of ‘health and safety’, I decided it was time to ditch the regular keyboard and spring for an ergonomic one. I picked up an OEM version of the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic keyboard 4000 from DirectCanada for under $30CAD. It was a pretty good deal, considering Future Shop sells the same keyboard, but with a nicely colored retail box for $80+. Having used regular keyboards, all my life, I thought it’d be nice to quickly provide some thoughts on the transition to a split keyboard while I’m still in the frustrating process of relearning my typing.

First off, let me make it clear that I don’t type properly at all. I don’t place my hands on the proper home position – in fact I don’t even use all my fingers when typing. However, I still type mostly without looking – my hands have developed a ‘memory’ for where the keys are. So this fact will probably mean more trouble for me than someone who actually types properly to switch keyboards.

Many of the keys aren’t where my fingers expect them to be on this keyboard. I didn’t realize just how improperly I type until now; I can type plenty fast, but I cross over the middle of the keyboard with my hands. Since this is a split keyboard, crossing over the middle to type, say a ‘Y’ results me hitting hard plastic instead. Using a by the seat of my pants estimation, I’d say my typing has decreased in speed by over 1/3 and it’s also substantially more inaccurate. I’ve only used the keyboard for a couple hours at this point so I’m optimistic that both speed and accuracy will improve. If nothing else, perhaps I’ll learn to type properly, as this sort of keyboard almost forces that.

Making up for the forced typing lesson, the keys feel absolutely spectacular. The Logitech keyboard that I’ve been using has fairly loud, clackety keystrokes. The Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000’s keys are much softer and nicer to the touch, in my opinion. I know many others feel just the opposite; some of the reviews I read before buying the keyboard mentioned soft, mushy keys as a negative. The only complaint I have is that the space bar sometimes ‘catches’, or doesn’t go down smoothly if you press it in certain spots, notably, the very top of the bar.

And perhaps the most important thing, the reason I purchased the keyboard in the first place – comfort. It absolutely without question feels more natural on the wrists with this keyboard and the palm rest is beyond anything I’ve used up to this point. I’m sure I’ll feel even more differences as I use the keyboard more. One thing I have noted is that my shoulders feel a little more tense than before due to the higher elevation at the front of the keyboard. Because the desk I’m using this on is already relatively high, compared to the chair I sit in, the additional raised edge means I’m raising my shoulders a bit higher to reach my hands over the keyboard. I’m going to try adjusting my chair to see if I can’t get my arms into a more natural position. My elbows form something around a 70 degree angle, as opposed to the 90+ degree angle most recommend.

I’ll be sure to write a review down the road when I use and familiarize myself with the keyboard a little more. So far so good though.

Logitech VX Revolution Review

Introduction

Barely a week after picking up the Microsoft Wireless Laser 8000, I was perusing the NCIX sales page when I happened on a listing of the Logitech VX Revolution for the low price of $30CAD. Granted, there was a $20 mail in rebate, but even including the extra taxes I’d be paying, it was a pretty good deal. Out came the credit card and the mouse was shipped by the next day.

The VX Revolution is a toned down MX Revolution, aimed at the laptop market. Previously, my only true laptop mouse was in the form of a BenQ M310 (check) that came free with a laptop bag I had purchased. Aside from being wireless and small, one of the greatest features was the storage space for the wireless dongle. For a laptop mouse, being small is one thing, but if it also means carrying around extra items, then it’s not really worth it. Unfortunately, I never grew accustomed to the size of the thing. I don’t have large hands, but they’re not that small either. Holding the BenQ for extended periods of time would lead to hand cramps, so when that mouse broke, I didn’t look to buy a new notebook mouse; I didn’t mind carrying around my Logitech MX500. Sure it’s big and wired, but that meant no hand cramps or the need to worry about batteries.

Obviously one of the benefits of having a laptop is being unwired, so I recently started looking for wireless desktop mice for my laptop. I picked up a Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 8000 and while I found it to be quite nice overall, the dongle had to be stored somewhere and I was about to go crazy over the non-tactile mouse wheel scroll. When I saw the VX Revolution on sale, aimed at notebook users, but not extraordinarily tiny and with a storage compartment for the dongle, I jumped on it.

Packaging

I like the packaging that Logitech uses for their mice. The color scheme is nice and attracts attention, and at the same time isn’t neon-colored or gaudy. As well, (not terribly useful for me since I purchased the VX online) the form-fitting plastic over the mouse allows a potential buyer to see how the mouse feels in the hand.

Logitech VX Revolution Box

Of course, the highly touted MicroGear Precision scrolling is plastered on the box, and with good reason, but I’ll get to that later. You can also see the wireless dongle.

Logitech VX Revolution Box

One peculiarity – I’m not certain if it happens during manufacturing or perhaps the packaging process, but I’ve read several reports of brand new VX Revolutions arriving with random scratches on the body. Mine wasn’t spared. The scratches are in relatively obscure places, like the dongle storage area and near the thumb rest. There’s no glaring issues with the top of the mouse so I’m not going to worry much about it.

Key Features

The highly touted MicroGear Precision scrolling is at the core of the product. If you find yourself scrolling a lot and that regular scroll wheel is getting tiring, this may be the solution. A quick flick of the finger and you could find yourself down towards the 40 000th line in an Excel spreadsheet. You can also just as easily use it for general web or document scrolling – the pages don’t have to be gi-nourmous. It is must smoother than any scroll wheel that I’ve used and therefore takes far less effort. You’ll want to stick to the ratcheted scrolling if you’re going through Powerpoints or switching weapons in a first-person shooter though; you can’t get the same precise control with the MicroGear set to free-scroll.

Logitech MicroGear

The ‘One-Touch’ search feature allows you to either open up your search engine of choice, or if you select a word or phrase, search for it in that search engine. It can be a very useful feature, although, personally, I don’t use it much. At the top left of the mouse, there is a zoom toggle that allows you to zoom in and out of documents, photos, and anything else you’d like zoom control over.

Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 8000 Review

Introduction

Up until about 3 months ago, I had always used a wired mouse. I was never happy with the slight ‘lag’ associated with almost all wireless mice. I played Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004 competitively for several years and my trusty sidekick was the Logitech MX500. Accuracy and response were very good. I tried using the Logitech MX900 for a while, but aside from the cool Bluetooth, it really didn’t impress me. Sure the ‘freedom’ afforded by the lack of a wire was nice, but gaming suffered. I could feel a significant amount of lag/skipping when I made quick motions with the mouse. I tried it for a couple days and went back to the MX500. The MX900 ended up in the living room with the HTPC. The range afforded by the Bluetooth connection worked well for the distance that the coffee table was placed at. I didn’t feel that wireless mice had that performance I required for gaming, so when the buttons started to break on my MX500, I paid no attention to wireless mice. I ended up buying a MX518; it was mostly an incremental upgrade, but since I was happy with the MX500, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with something similar.

I was at Futureshop about three months ago, looking for a new mouse for my laptop. I’d been using a somewhat busted MX500 with the laptop, but the left and right click buttons weren’t responding consistently anymore. I planned on getting a simple, corded notebook mouse. Unfortunately, all the notebook mice (logically enough) were small and my hands have a habit of cramping with them. Well, I ended up walking out of Future Shop with a Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 8000 in my hands. It just happened to be on sale and I liked the fact that it was a laser mouse (I’d never used a laser mouse before…) and used Bluetooth. As well, the Bluetooth adapter was small; I don’t like wireless mice that have a hub that needs to be placed on the desk; it just takes up precious space. I’ll be honest, I didn’t do the amount of research I’d normally do before buying something. What else is new about impulse buying?

Laser Mouse 8000

Packaging

The mouse comes in the typical Microsoft red packaging for much of their input hardware items. The plastic around the mouse itself is form fitting and allows you to ‘test drive’ the mouse before you buy it, although if you’re at a brick an mortar store like Future Shop, chances are they’ll have mice out on display anyways.

Features

The Microsoft Wireless Laser 8000 is one of the top of the line Microsoft mice that incorporates a laser sensor (duh) and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. It is also rechargeable and comes with a charging base that sits horizontally on your desk. The charging base only serves that purpose and the Bluetooth dongle is what allows the connection to the computer. It also includes a nifty software feature called ‘Instant Viewer’ that allows a bit of desktop management, which I’ll discuss later. Design is also a differentiator, with a fairly nice brushed aluminum palm area.

Transformers Movie Review

All my childhood TV-watching has culminated in the Transformers movie which I had the pleasure of watching last night. People seeking lots of action and perhaps a twinge of nostalgia must see this movie. I never followed the original Transformers show terribly closely, so I can’t say for certain how accurate the movie is within that framework, but it was thrilling nonetheless.

Warning: Some spoilers from here on.

What do you get when you mix big robots, amazing CG, hot chicks (albeit a bit done up, if you know what I mean) and lots of explosions? Pure awesome-ness. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the Autobots and Decepticons battled it out in the less-than-cartoon environment. It is possibly one of the best movies I’ve seen.

And I can’t say it’s because of the amazing story of fabulous acting (there’s relatively minimal character development as most of the movie focuses on some serious ass-kicking). It wasn’t completely devoid of plotline, but you could easily tell the emphasis was on the action and the mere fact that the Transformers were. And I’m not complaining.

In the original cartoon, the Autobots were, well, automobiles and the Decepticons were typically more weapon-based machines. So the Decepticons already had a more bad-ass nature about them, even in the animated series. However, in the movie, the Decepticons’ coolness factor increased exponentially – Starscream ended up being a super F-22, Brawl a modified A1 Abrams tank and Blackout a Pave Low helicopter. Meanwhile the Autobots were… GM vehicles for the most part.

There were a few iffy things throughout, things that made you go, ‘huh, why’d didn’t/did they do that?’ For example, how did the kid manage to climb the building much faster than Megatron did? Why would they bring the All Spark to the city? How did the Transformers survive the heat of entry into the atmosphere, but crumble under a couple well-placed shots from the soldiers? There was also a hell of a lot of extremely close-up action. It added to the hectic mayhem that was occurring but also made it a little difficult to see which Transformer was which. You sort of saw the beginning of a battle and then the end with a victor and a loser.

Despite a few niggles, the movie was just fantastic. You know it’s a good movie when it makes you want to go back and watch the old Transformers shows. In fact, I have them and I think I will be doing just that. 😀 I’ve already heard people talk about the possibility of a sequel, and eventually a trilogy (they’re all the rage these days). I await with impatience for the next installment.

Oh and there were quite a few not-so-subtle digs at the current administration. Especially stay for the credits and you’ll see what I mean.

Cooler Master X Craft 350 eSATA Enclosure Review

I’m always between my permanent home and my temporary home whether I’m at university or on a co-op job. Consequently, I’ve come to find that an external hard drive is immensely useful. I store most of my media files on it so that I can easily take them with me, to use it with my laptop or desktop, depending on which setting I find myself.

Additionally, with media files getting larger and larger, it’s become increasingly difficult to store everything on my existing 200GB USB 2.0 external drive. I hate doing DVD backups (it requires so much time, not to mention the hassle of searching for the DVDs down the road) so the obvious solution was to purchase a new hard drive. Since I like carrying my media around with me, I decided to pick up a hard drive enclosure as well.

Initially, I didn’t really think much about the enclosure. Most people I know tend to pick the Vantec line of enclosures and the USB 2.0 version at that. However, remembering that I have an external SATA port on my ASUS P5W DH motherboard, I thought it would be nice to take advantage of the built in capability. A little research later and I settled on the Cooler Master X Craft 350 eSATA enclosure. I picked one up at DirectCanada for just under $40 CAD.

Package Details

The front of the packaging shows you what you’re getting. There are no aliens or robots here. Cooler Master uses their signature purplish colour quite liberally and some of the more important specs are listed in plain sight.

 box

Open up the box and you’re greeted with a well laid out package that includes:

The enclosure itself
eSATA to eSATA cable
eSATA to SATA adapter bracket
USB cable
AC adapter
2 risers for thin-type drives
User manual
CD with Windows 98 SE drivers and P&G Backup software

contents

Nothing really out of the ordinary for an eSATA enclosure.