Input This

As part of the continual and obsessive updating about my office, please see for your own pleasure the new input devices: A Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000, which takes care of my need for keys that are not so sticky and clunky, and a Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch tablet, which I am testing as a mouse replacement in a general sense but which I also got because I do all that crazy Photoshoppery that I do.

The gamers among you will say, sure, that’s a fine solution if all you want to do is typing, but what if you want to do some gaming? Well, see that’s the magic: Because the new keyboard is bluetooth enabled, I can keep the other keyboard/mouse plugged in for when I want to do some zombie killin’. Right now they’re both in a drawer, awaiting the moment they are needed. Waste not, want not, I always say. And the other short term benefit is that it keeps the desk decluttered, which as you all know is something I’m aiming for these days.

I know. Gripping stuff. But, hey: Sometimes you get me blathering about controversial topics, sometimes you get me burbling on about keyboards. That’s part of the excitement around here, such as it is.

40 Comments on “Input This”

  1. I’m a big fan of my Wacom Bamboo. It’s fantastic for drawing and photoshop-type stuff, but it’s also kinda nice as a kind of enormous trackpad.

    The one thing I don’t like about it, though, is that you can’t assign it to just one window — it’s the whole screen or nothing, which means that I keep accidentally clicking on stuff I don’t want. I talked to the guys at a Wacom booth, and they didn’t know how to change that. So if you figure it out, I’d love to hear about it. :)

  2. I had a bad experience with my wireless Dell mouse and keyboard. Not bluetooth – just some proprietary short-range wireless product they sell.

    My problem is that the batteries go dead annoying quickly, especially on the mouse. The keyboard seems to last much longer, but that mouse would die every few weeks. Only, it didn’t die quickly and suddenly like a Zombie hit by a bazooka. It was painfully slow and intermittent. Right before I replace the battery, it starts working fine. Then when I need to click on the TicketMaster “buy now” button to get those Iron Maiden tickets before they sell out, nothing happens and my mouse gives me that “do I know you?” look like it does.

  3. And a phone right near your hand, for easy picking up-age!

    I just got a new Windows 7 computer and I must say, I like the shiny.

  4. I recently bought an old-school keyboard from Unicomp, who took over the manufacturing process of the old IBM Model Ms.

    It clicks, it doesn’t feel like you’re typing on oatmeal, you could kill a man with it, and there are no Windows keys. Aside from the USB connection, I could have bought it in 1987. So it’s basically perfect. (If you like Windows keys, you can get one with them. They have various other options too.)

  5. Kevin Ron @ 4:

    It clicks, it doesn’t feel like you’re typing on oatmeal, you could kill a man with it …

    That’s convenient, if you’re feeling nostalgic for poison pen letters.

  6. Kevin @4:

    It clicks, it doesn’t feel like you’re typing on oatmeal, you could kill a man with it, and there are no Windows keys.

    We used to say about the old IBM keyboards that you could beat someone to death with one, then plug it right in and use it to type his suicide note. Those things were indestructible.

  7. For those times when one must shoot zombies, I’d suggest looking at the dedicated left-hand keyboards. I like the Logitech G13, but I’ve heard good things about the Belkin, Wolf King, and Merc entries.

    They don’t take up as much drawer space, among other things.

  8. I had a similar experience to yours when I started using a netbook all the time. At first the keyboard took a lot of getting used to, but once I was used to it, my full-sized PC keyboard just seemed too big and unwieldy–and yeah, sticky. Like a broadsword to my netbook’s rapier.

    The wireless keyboard I use at work is my new favorite thing because a. it’s small and b. I can set it in my lap without worrying about cords, which keeps the pinched nerve in my forearm from taking out my last three fingers in a dramatic murder-suicide.

    Do you mind a question about your monitor? I’m in the market for a new one. Is this the same one you posted about that swivels into portrait mode? If so, are you still happy with it/would you recommend it?

  9. I worry how this sudden burst of organization will affect your productivity, John. I mean, you did some pretty amazing things when you were neck deep in chaos, man.

  10. In the interests of less clutter, have you considered mounting the LCD on the wall?

  11. I have the same phone. The only problem with it, is the select button is annoyingly easy to hit. I also have the Wacom tablet. It’s pretty great. Unfortunately, I still have the clutter that you seem to have completely gotten rid of. Still working on that one.

  12. How does the keyboard feel and respond. I was actually looking at this model on Amazon for an iPad keyboard. The one negative I saw is a lot of people reported slow (5-6 seconds) wake up times.

  13. Guess you need the landline out in the boondocks? Call for help when the snow is 12 feet high? Looks good. Now get to writing. Really. I’m down to like 15 books to read.

  14. Ninja mirror?

    ben@11: I have two different internet feeds and three cell phones at my house but I keep the landline for reliability. Utility regulations require the landline phone service to have all kinds of backup power and stuff. In a disaster cellular base stations get swamped by spectators calling Aunt Martha to say “you should see all the dead bodies! It’s awful! And nobody’s called the fire department yet!”

  15. My desk hasn’t been that clean since the day I purchased it.

  16. Burbling on about keyboards is fine. I just got myself a wireless mouse and I’ve been raving about it to complete strangers. (I see above that the battery may become an issue, but hey, no cord!!!!!!)

  17. Hey John,

    my personal favorite keyboard is the old Logitech G15 (not the refreshed thing) with the many many programmable keys. It´s great for everything involving typing, programming (I´m a student of IT in Germany), and of course blasting zombies, combine or whatever you wish to call the thing you aim at.
    Your desk has style, but for me it is a big desk to clutter and the floor. I am very fond of my alternative order systems (others call it controlled chaos…) and I am actually much more productive if not everything is well ordered. I need my clutter around. Hope you manage this lack of disorder better than me!

  18. Pretty for a PC. However, it still runs Windows – no way to escape from that drawback, except going to Mac or Linux.

  19. Dave H @ 16: It is true that the phone company supplies the electricity necessary to send you dial tone (and has back-up generators). But if the phone itself requires electricity to work, it’ll be useless when the power goes out. You need an old-school slimline in case of emergency.

  20. If your current clutter reduction tactic fails, you could always get rid of the desk and use a laptop 100% of the time.

    No desk. No desk clutter.

  21. Old school dial telephone, slimline, trimline, princess, futura, or desk phone for when the power goes out. I got a wall-mount trimline, installed it in the garage at the entrance point; when the system goes wonky, unplug the house, plug in the old phone. If it works, the problem is in the house phones or wiring. If it doesn’t, the problem is in the line leading to the house. Makes debugging phone problems much simpler.

    One of the great failings of the win-tel pc is a flaming lack of input devices and input device control and allocation. My 1986 Amiga can handle two keyboards, a mouse, a trackball, a tablet, and a light pen all at once without problems, and provide better response to all of them at once than the modern win-tel pc can for a mouse.

    And don’t get me started on focus control and system demanders.

  22. Cyan@21:”You need an old-school slimline in case of emergency.”

    Quite right. I have two. One in the kitchen for just such an emergency and one in my room for when my fiancee and I sit up all night talking. (I had a cordless phone go dead during such a session.)

  23. Once you use a tablet for Photoshop, you’ll never want to go back. It’s so much nicer.

    One cautionary note: If you are the sort of person who gets hand cramps from using a pen for long periods of time (such as signing sessions), consider training yourself to hold the stylus in a different position.

    When I first got a job that required full-time tablet use, I figured out that I’d get carpal tunnel if I held the stylus the same way I held a pen because I get very intent on what I’m doing and forget that it hurts. So I trained myself to hold the stylus between my first two fingers rather than with my thumb. It took a small while to get used to, but now it’s automatic— and I’ve never had palm or wrist pain from it. It’s also a bit gentler on the nib and you won’t have to replace it as often.

  24. Cyan — if the dial works and the touch-tone doesn’t (or vice versa), you can report that as a line fault to the telephone company. It’s actually converter fault, but it’s their problem (and yes, it happens — rarely.)

  25. In what game does John Scalzi kill zombies in? L4D/2 or something else, also Feed is great!

  26. John Murphy @6: Exactly why I got one. Well, not actually to beat someone to death with it. But I was tired of keyboards dying on me.

    Saw an interview with the owner of Unicomp, that makes them now; he was saying that one of their problems is that they don’t get a lot of repeat customers, since once someone has one (or one for each of their computers), they’re not going to need any more.

  27. Oh, and on the topic of cordless mice. I jumped on that bandwagon almost 10 years ago when I was in college. Had cordless mice for the next few years, but eventually went back to corded. I wasn’t getting much advantage out of the cordlessness, and they just ate batteries (even rechargables). Plus the batteries added unnecessary weight (insert link to Dilbert book Still Pumped From Using the Mouse here…).

    One random story I remember: I often laid in bed while using the computer in my college dorm; and I would occasionally drop the mouse on the floor and have to get out of bed to pick it up. I started IMing a friend and, before I could think of what I was saying, said that I wished I had a string or something to attach to my mouse so I could retrieve it easier. To my cordless mouse.

  28. Salutations !

    My pet peeve about keyboards:

    Every one I’ve seen, from typewriters made back in the 1920’s to those on the shelves at Micro Center yesterday, has keys set .75 inch apart, on center.

    Back when the Average American Typist stood 5’4″ in her high heels, this made sense, perhaps. But in the 21st century, when guys of six feet hight and big stubby fingers to match are expected to do our own typing, ‘twould seem there’s an unfilled market niche for keyboards about 20% bigger (to match the ‘body-proportion’ difference), with keys set 9/10 inch apart on center, instead.

    Should you know anyone in computer-peripheral manufacturing or purchasing, please pass this on. Thanks very much!

  29. At a previous job, when I first started, I got the castoff computer until a new one could be ordered for me. The keyboard they gave me was a Model M.

    Eventually, the IT drone shows up to swap out the clunker I’d had for a couple weeks with the shiny new computer. He goes to take the keyboard, and I say “If you try to take that keyboard, I shall beat you with it”. He is confused. “This is a Model M, the finest keyboard ever created, and I will stop using it when it breaks, which will never happen, because it’s indestructable”.

    The kid says “Wow. You sure know a lot about keyboards”.

    I says “Dude. I TYPE for a living.”

  30. I see you dropped over $1000 on your 30 inch monitor. I actually prefer dual 24 inch monitors myself. Cheap and more screen space. Well untol the 30 inchers drop to $500/each, then its time to upgrade.

    If I was a writer I would want a monitor that pivot so I could put the wide screen up to get more words on my page.

  31. If you want a compact keyboard with full sized, sculpted keys and a good feel (tho’ not “Model M” style clicky), try the Happy Hacker keyboards. Nice size, with the layout and feel of the good ol’ Sun type 3 K/B.

  32. re Matthew in Austin @ 2 logitech wireless keyboards and mice have decent battery life.

    re Dave H @ 16, I lived in NC in 2001, had a land line, could not call home (DC area, also a land line) in that emergency. just sayin.

  33. With regard to the wireless mouse discussion, when I bought my Acer netbook I found the touchpad buttons to be rather annoying. They are hard to press and generally slow me down.

    So I picked up a Logitech V220 optical mouse for it. It comes with a USB dongle that slides into a slot on the underside of the mouse when you’re not using it. More importantly, sliding it into the slot slides the power switch to the off position to save battery life.

    I’m not saying this is the best mouse out there, but the batteries are still good after a year…

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