New Apple Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad is surprisingly good, even excellent!

Recently, I’ve managed to render my beloved old Apple Keyboard (full-size, with numeric keypad) useless – accidentally pouring half a glass of tap water over it was sufficient, unfortunately (due to the mineral ions in the tap water; distilled water wouldn’t have conducted electricity and thus wouldn’t have shorted circuits; on the other hand, drinking distilled water would probably shorten your life, so please don’t consider doing this).

Luckily, I could temporarily use a similarly old, compact Apple Bluetooth keyboard instead. As I really wouldn’t recommend that keyboard for everyday work though (poor, bubbly typing experience, odd placement of keys requiring weird function key combinations, no numeric keypad), I had to order a full-size keyboard as a replacement again, so I ordered one of the new Apple Magic Keyboards with a Numeric Keypad (in Space Gray and I really like that, but the colour doesn’t matter in regard to the typing experience):

https://www.apple.com/ch-de/shop/product/MRMH2SM/A/magic-keyboard-mit-ziffernblock-schweiz-space-grau

(above is the Swiss German version, US version: https://www.apple.com/shop/product/MRMH2LL/A/magic-keyboard-with-numeric-keypad-us-english-space-gray)

I first thought that the even smaller lift of the keys (luckily with scissor and not butterfly switches) of this new keyboard would be very disturbing and that I’d have a hard time getting accustomed to it.

To my big surprise however I got accustomed to this new typing experience within a couple of hours already and now, after about 3 weeks of using it, I can confidently say: I love this new Apple Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad even much more than my previous, old Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad and wouldn’t want to switch back anymore.

Typing with it feels so immediate, so quick and so “raw” and “crunchy”, it’s literally almost addictive. I can type considerably faster with it than with the previous keyboard, let alone any regular IBM-type keyboards (although I like those too, for their build-quality, for the interesting history and stories behind them, for their customizability and standardization, for the bustling keyboard enthusiast scene around it). Further, typing for a prolonged time feels much less tiring for the fingers, hands and forearms.

It feels as if you had to work with a wobbly tool for quite some time, then all of a sudden, get a very precise and exact instrument, like e.g. skiing with racing skis vs. with allround skis. It’s pure joy!

The difference is difficult to describe, so I would recommend you rather go experience it yourself and judge for yourself. For me, it’s my most favourite keyboard so far.

I’m even thinking of getting one for the Windows workstation at work too, it’s that good.

How to repair a Logitech Laser Mouse G9x/G9 with a shorted cable

Recently, my beloved Logitech Laser Mouse G9x showed signs of a broken, i.e. shorted cable. This is a well-known problem with these mice – I had a Laser Mouse G9 before and it suffered from the same problem, and the forums are full of similar reports. It’s also well-known however, that the G9/G9x is one of the best and most wanted fingertip grip mice apart from its cabling weakness (and if you use a mouse for 14+ hours daily or if you’re a pro gamer, you won’t ever want to use any other grip (video)).

Unfortunately, Logitech doesn’t produce the G9/G9x model anymore – though they probably could have easily fixed this weakness in the next revision and even improved some other aspects, like reducing the mouse’s weight. One thus has to find a dealer that still has some G9/G9x mice on stock (and accept a high “connoisseur’s” price, these mice usually sell for around 250 USD – mind fakes!) or go with a not quite equivalent, but similar Alienware TactX mouse (which is based on the G9/G9x and produced by Logitech). Alternatively, one can try soldering and fixing the shorted cable or order a spare cable from China, which are both better options than throwing away an otherwise still working mouse.

I decided to order a replacement cable including mouse feet at LittleWStore through Aliexpress for roughly 15 USD including shipping (it arrived within 2 weeks, earlier than the 4 to 5 weeks I expected to wait).

Unsurprisingly, there’s already a nice and informative YouTube video showing how to disassemble a Logitech Laser Mouse G9x, replace the cable and even how to repair a shorted cable (thanks to MrLiquidArrogance for the video – otherwise, I would have had to upload a video myself):

This allows me to only emphasize those points that deserve special attention:

  • Be aware that this repair requires advanced manual skill due to the somewhat unfortunate cabling inside the mouse and the not very maintenance-friendly attachment of the flex flat cable.
  • I’d strongly recommend ordering new replacement mouse feet as it’s almost impossible to remove the feet without tearing them, particularly if you’ve used the mouse for some years already. To remove the remaining glue, I used ethanol, but something hydrophobic (e.g. straight-run gasoline) might actually work better [Warning: Disconnect your mouse before doing this!].
  • I used my Victorinox CyberTool 34’s (video) phillips screwdrivers and it worked fine, but if you have thinner screwdrivers at hand, use those, as some of the smaller screws are a bit difficult to reach.
  • The most tricky thing to reassemble, in my view, is the mouse cable inside the mouse, which is laid out and bent in quite an odd (and scary) way. It’s also the reason why most of the G9x/G9 suffer from a shorted cable sooner or later. You have to bend and route the bundled wires in a way that they neither cover the hole for the screw in the bottom shell, nor the according plastic nut in the upper shell. This puts a lot of stress on the inner mouse cable and requires quite some manual force.
  • Other not so easy things:
    • Detaching the flex flat cable/ribbon (for the LEDs in the upper shell) without popping off the little latch (using a flathead screwdriver works though)
    • Putting the rubber grommet in place again (you need to apply quite some force and the grommet doesn’t really fit very well anyway)

For now, I’ve just quickly replaced the whole cable with a new one, but I will try fixing the old, damaged cable with my new Ersa i-CON1 digital solder station when I find time for it.

What I particularly like about the Logitech Laser Mouse G9x:

  • Its perfect geometry for finger tip grip users
  • Good quality of plastics, springs, buttons, wheel, laser sensor
  • Moderate weight (extra weights removed) as compared to the Mad Catz R.A.T. 7 (extra weights removed) – it’s still quite heavy though compared to other mice, this could be improved (if you intend to lift your mouse often, this is the wrong mouse)
  • Removable shells
  • “Hyper-fast scrolling” (this almost seems like a USP of Logitech – I like this feature a lot!)
  • Good, stable drivers
  • Has well-placed back and forward buttons with clearly defined clicking points
  • It’s a wired mouse, there’s thus no need to replace batteries, no risk of running out of battery in the worst possible moment, no added weight, no lag.

Alternatives might be:

Mad Catz R.A.T. 7:

– heavier

– no hyper-fast scrolling (I really miss that)

– less ergonomic forward and backward buttons

– terrible, totally unusable Mad Catz drivers (works well on Mac OS X though using the SteerMouse driver version 4.2.3 and newer – I tested a beta version of it – thanks, Yoshi!)

+ super customizable and adjustable geometry

+ handy precision-aim button (can also be programmed to show Mission Control or the desktop, for example)

+ handy horizontal thumb scroll wheel

Mad Catz R.A.T. 5:

If you can do with fewer or without customization options, the R.A.T. 5 or 3 will likely suit your needs as a fingertip grip user more as they’re lighter and smaller.

If you don’t care about (supposedly) durable, high-quality material, some of the other Mad Catz mice might be good alternatives too (e.g. the hard-plastic mice are generally lighter than those incorporating steel and/or aluminium)

Mad Catz R.A.T. Prox

This pro gamer mouse looks very exciting and promising for fingertip grip users – it looks like the perfect mouse to have, also for non-gamers with that grip. I really hope Mad Catz will dramatically improve their drivers though, as terribly bad drivers is currently their biggest weakness.

Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0

Many people, particularly gamers, still like this mouse a lot, despite its age. It has a nice geometry and is light-weight (best for palm grips, but suitable for fingertip grip users with big hands too). I once had and used this mouse too (also its predecessor) and liked it a lot. The sensor is quite outdated (but liked by some gamers for its 400 dpi resolution) and used to prematurely die from one day to another. Nonetheless it was the last good mouse produced under the Microsoft brand.

Luckily, you can still find the Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 on Amazon.

[Edit 20150201: Fixed some typos, clarified some things, added a warning]

ASRock E3C226D2I Mini ITX motherboard and “Host is powered OFF or is in Sleep Mode.”

The ASRock E3C226D2I motherboard has great features for a nice Mini ITX SOHO server or NAS (more details to follow in a later post), but it also has its quirks when it comes to the two RAM slots.

So, if you encounter the following error message when accessing the remote console (using the Java applet):

Host is powered OFF or is in Sleep Mode.

Or if you see no output (a blank screen) at boot-time on a display connected to the VGA port, check that the RAM DIMMs are sitting correctly in the RAM slots. This is a bit tricky as first, there’s usually not a lot of maneuvering space in a Mini ITX case,  so applying pressure is difficult, second this motherboard’s RAM slots are particularly tricky to handle.

My advice is to unplug the device, unlock a RAM slot, then try inserting the DIMM (in correct orientation, check the notch!) smoothly with low and equal pressure on both sides. Once it’s more or less equally placed in the slot, apply firm pressure on the top of the DIMM at the side opposite of the slot’s open lock until you hear a click sound of the DIMM snapping in. Then apply firm pressure on the other side of the DIMM till that part snaps in with an audible click too (the lock will close).

Sounds pretty standard? It actually is, with the exception that this board’s RAM slots require a lot more pressure for the DIMMs to snap in than with most other motherboards out there.

Got a Zeppelin Air? Upgrade its firmware now.

All in all, after several months of using it, I can strongly recommend the B & W Zeppelin Air. It’s a truly great iPod/iPhone speaker, filling even larger rooms with quite impressive depths and crisp heights. And in contrast to its competitors (e.g. think of the lousy hardware of the otherwise innovative Sonos speakers – what a pity!), you can see, feel and hear its excellent build quality. It’s been engineered by the guys who equip the famous Abbey Road Studios, supply the audio system for Jaguars and invented extravagant speakers like the Nautilus, after all.

The only thing which wasn’t satisfying so far, is the Zeppelin Air’s buggy default (software) implementation of Airplay, i.e. that the Zeppelin Air lost the Wifi connection after a while in stand-by mode. As I finally found out, all that’s needed to fix this is a firmware upgrade to version 2.00.24 [updated 20120930]. At least, my Zeppelin Air hasn’t ever lost its Wifi connection anymore since. So, if you experience Wifi connectivity issues with your Zeppelin Air (likely), don’t hesitate and upgrade the Zeppelin’s firmware now, although it’s somewhat cumbersome (you need a suitable USB cable, e.g. from an external hard drive or printer, as this isn’t included in spite of the Zeppelin’s upmarket price). It’s well worth it!

Zeppelin Air firmware download at Bowers & Wilkins Support.

HP 48G: How to fix the “Warning: Invalid Card Data” problem

Recently, my good old HP 48G calculator (one of the best calculators ever built and my longtime personal favourite till today) started displaying the following message whenever I switched it on:

Warning: Invalid Card Data

Which seems a bit odd at first, considering the 48G model has no card slot (only the 48GX model has one). Luckily, there’s a simple solution: Execute the PINIT command by typing “PINIT” (without the double quotes) and pressing the ENTER key.

There’s a great, detailed explanation of this problem and the according fix in the “invalid card data at my hp48g” thread over at the independent HP calculator museum. If this warning message appears on a HP 48GX and the problem persists after applying this fix, take a look at step 3 described in the  article titled “Message, Invalid Card Data, is Displayed when the Calculator is Turned On” on HP’s support forum.

Wouldn’t it be a pity if a company with such a great history and so many great hardware products ceased to be a hardware company?

Quick review of the Logitech ClearChat Stereo headset

My new Logitech ClearChat Stereo headset just arrived. Here’s a quick review of it:

Plus

  • Low price, less than 30 CHF/USD (= budget class headset, don’t expect too much)
  • Fits well and is very light-weight (unlike those heavy headsets for gamers etc.). Can thus be carried in hand luggage etc.
  • The cable is attached to one side of the overhead band only (which is more convenient and facilitates the overall handling)
  • Good cable length (2 m, just about the right length so you can use the headset both for laptops and desktop computers)
  • The adjustable overhead band is very handy (There are still many budget headsets with fixed overhead bands). It’s also comfortable when wearing glasses (in contrary to most neck band headsets).
  • The size of the (open) earbuds is comfortable and they don’t warm your ears too much (like those cushioned closed earphones)
  • Sound quality of the earphones is okayish (= sufficient) for Skype, Internet telephony
  • Sound quality of the mic is also sufficient for Skype etc. (but not for singing Karaoke and the like)
  • The in-line controls for the volume and mic mute are very handy (else you’d need to adjust these things in Windows/Mac OS X/Linux)
  • Uses simple plugs, not USB (lighter, cheaper design, compatible to almost any computer or audio device)

Minus

  • Sound-quality-wise, you get what you pay for. Don’t expect high fidelity sound. It’s clearly a headset for Internet telephony only.
  • Not recommended for gamers (too low-fi and the open earbuds don’t protect enough from environment noise)
  • Not recommended for listening to music (lacking “crispness” of the sound, lacking frequency linearity, lbass frequencies are rather dull, dito for the heights) or for watching a film (dito).
  • Microphone can be rotated vertically only (which is sufficient for most people, but some would probably like it to be horizontally adjustable, too)
  • Microphone is on the right, not on the left (which is not necessarily a disadvantage, but is somewhat unusual as most headsets have the mic mounted on the left)
  • It’s not a very solid headset. Better don’t smash it to a wall. And yes, it will definitely blend (though nobody has tried that yet ;)

All-in-all: Recommended for Internet telephony, not recommended for gamers, audiophiles and cineasts. Which is pretty obvious, considering the low price.

Easy user navigation on mobile GUIs

Getting mobile UIs right

BTW, I have a rather unconventional (but probably the more interesting) idea how to make user navigation on small, mobile devices (such as mobile phones) much more user-friendly. Particularly in those cases, where current approaches lack the most (e.g. with mobile web browsing). And guess what, it doesn’t even require any new sensors or any other hardware that isn’t there already :) (Contact me, if interested.. ;)

Jingproject, screencast.com and Logitech G9 Laser Mouse SetPoint 5.0

I’ve just installed the free (as in ‘free beer’) Jingproject client by that allows to capture screenshots or screen videos and store or upload and share them (e.g. on screencast.com). It’s amazing, how easy and convenient it is to use – good job! There are clients for both Windows and Mac OS X (which will likely be important for me very soon as I intend to buy a new MacBook Pro with LED backlit display and a Penryn Core 2 Duo processor). The only thing missing is a Linux client (but we’re used to that, aren’t we? ;). Jingproject is provided by TechSmith, the creators of the well-known (and also great) SnagIt screen capture application.

Here’s an example of a screencast I just recorded (no sound, though):

Logitech G9 Laser Mouse SetPoint 5.0 German

It shows the great variety of configuration options you have for customizing your Logitech G9 Laser Mouse using SetPoint 5.0. The Logitech G9 Laser Mouse is Logitech’s latest “gamer” mouse and the best and most accurate mouse I ever used. I bought it though I’m not much of a “gamer” actually, but the form factor, features and its high quality convinced me. It’s quite a small mouse compared to other mice, but that’s intentional as you move it with your fingers rather than with your wrist or arm. This makes it a very user friendly (and particularly gamer friendly) pointing device as you’re much quicker in pointing and clicking while using less energy. The small form factor however might be a problem for you if you have really big hands (check it out in the next hardware store before you buy!).

Further, it’s a mouse with a cord, so you don’t need to worry about batteries, lag or interferences. So in short, I highly recommend the Logitech G9 Laser Mouse. For me, the only minuses are its rather high price and the fact that there is no SetPoint for Mac OS X (let’s hope Logitech will port it soon).

9 out of 10 points from me.