Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Ultimate Keyboard #1

Today's market is flooded with many different models of rubber-dome1 keyboards. They come packed with (more or less useless) features such as media buttons, miniature LCD screens, backlights, glow-in-the-dark labels, built-in USB hubs and more. While some of these features have a limited usefulness, they're just bells and whistles2 added to make you feel you've been given more for your money (I call them 'geek magnets'). Who cares about the extra features, if typing itself is a joke? For example, I'm using a Logitech Internet 350 keyboard at work and it's disgustingly soft. The weight of a finger alone is sometimes enough to push a key. Shame on you, Logitech!

However, it wasn't always like that. Keyboards like the IBM Model M and Northgate OmniKey used buckling springs or micro switches which allowed for excellent tactile feedback as well as a much longer lifetime. Infact, many of them are still in use today which says a lot about build quality.

As a kid I learned to type on my mother's Peacock XT back in 1985. It had an excellent eighty-four key clicky keyboard and I learned to associate that clicky noise & feel with quality and sturdiness. When I got my first 486 PC about 10 years later, it unfortunately came with a cheap Cherry rubber-dome keyboard. I was stuck on those until late 2006 when I re-discovered IBM Model M. Immediately I went in search of one and in January 2007, Martin of Cyberpipe kindly let me have a fairly recent Model M (1996) that was lying in their storage. Thanks again!

- end of part 1 -

1 The term rubber-dome is used here to describe both, rubber-dome as well as membrane contact keyboards.
2 Nonessential features or enhancements intended especially to add commercial appeal.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Firefox 3 Download Day 2008

Download Firefox 3 and help set the record for most software downloads in 24 hours. Click here to download!

Download Day 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

Computers = a Bottomless Money Pit?

I've been building PC's ever since I got my first 486 about 15 years ago. That little beast was running an AMD 486DX 40 MHz chip on a VLB motherboard with 4 Megs of RAM and it was all nicely packed in a large AT tower case (mind you, I still have that case). My first real upgrades were a VESA Local Bus EIDE hard drive controller card and a Cirrus Logic 5428 VLB video card. I still remember the performance boost I got out of that HDD controller. It took a bit under 10 seconds to start Windows 3.11 CE and I considered that lightning fast. As years progressed I've owned four other computers which means each got about three years of use in average.

Since I couldn't afford to buy a new PC every year, I upgraded a lot. The reason I did that was gaming and the fact that I liked to fiddle with computer parts. Ofcourse most of the upgrades involved replacing the CPU, adding memory or/and replacing the graphics card. Over the years I spent quite an impressive sum of money on upgrades but I also pretty much maxed out each PC before moving on to the new one. Was it worth it? Well, yes and no. The problem is it never ends. In order to play the latest games, you have to upgrade your PC all the time. Sooner or later you come to the point where you need a whole new computer because the platforms change and the cycle starts over. This is as true today as it was then.

My current system is about 4 years old and as much as I'd like to build a new one, I don't really have to. During the last year or so I virtually stopped playing games effectively eliminating the need to upgrade. I'm still running Windows XP and this hardware allows me to do everything I need at the moment. The fact is, latest hardware (Core Duo etc.) is an absolute overkill for most home and office users who use the PC for web surfing, e-mail, movies and MS Office. It's kind of pointless, isn't it? All those CPU cycles going to waste...

Just in case you were wondering, my current rig is:
ASUS A7N8X-E Deluxe
Athlon XP2400+ Barton Mobile
TwinMOS Twister Pro 2x512MB PC3200 CL2
120GB Seagate Barracuda SATA
ATI All-in-wonder 9800Pro

Friday, June 6, 2008

Flea Market Finds #5

My last visit to the flea market resulted in two new additions to my ever growing collection: a Nintendo Game Boy (works, cosmetically as new) and another IBM model M keyboard (a bit dirty but functional). Not bad but then again, nothing spectacular. Stay tuned for another episode of Flea Market Finds!