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Reasons I like the Matias Slim One more than the Logitech K760

April 16th, 2014

It seems I only post here about peripherals. We’ll see if that trend continues…

Recently I decided it was time to downsize my keyboard. The way I work with one hand on the keyboard and one on the mouse, I was finding the distance between my hands hurting my arms and shoulders. Time to hit the market. I could have gone with the standard Apple Wireless Keyboard, but with more interesting options around I decided to give the Logitech K760 a whirl.

Logitech K760 product shot

The Logitech K760 tries really hard to looks a lot like a standard Apple Wireless Keyboard, only with a big, light-absorbing forehead.

 

I’ve generally had good experiences with Logitech peripherals – I like their mice (since my last peripheral post, I’ve gone back to a Logitech mouse), and on top of the fact that this was a Mac-specific keyboard with solar recharging, this Bluetooth keyboard had a nifty little trick: the ability to quickly switch between three different Bluetooth devices. Perfect for composing text messages to my non-iMessage using friends, or entering tricky passwords on my iPhone without having to re-pair devices back and forth.

When it arrived I was super excited. It felt so much easier on my body to not have to spread my arms past cursor keys and a number pad to use my mouse, and being able to switch between devices quickly was divine. I discovered a few caveats, though, which I tried to overlook:

1. Keyfeel

The shape of the keys is subtly different from Apple’s, which I’m quite accustomed to. The keys are a bit smaller, and feel more square – it was simply harder to hit the keys, and required more force. The texture is also a bit powdery. Subtle, but I figured I could get used to it given the other features.

2. Minimal media control

The standard Mac keyboard has a few handy media control buttons that allow you to control media programs (chiefly iTunes) with one touch – one each for last track, play/pause, and next track. Because it uses the first three function keys for Bluetooth client-switching, The Logitech K760 has just one; for play/pause. If I had to choose just one, that would be the right choice. But the last/next track keys are more useful than I thought, and I didn’t notice that drawback while shopping. It was a disappointing discovery to make. Again, I figured I could live with this given the other strengths.

3. Dodgy key-chording

Another action the K760 doesn’t support is switching modifier keys while using key combinations. I noticed this the most while using Apple’s task switcher. Something most Mac users do pretty frequently is hit Cmd-Tab to switch apps. In addition, some Mac users might be aware that Cmd-Shift-Tab lets you traverse your launched apps in the reverse direction:

Screen recording of Mac OS task switcher in action

I do this a lot.

 

“No… problem?” I thought to myself.

But after about a month, the shine really started to wear off. The keyboard started to get unresponsive, and at times would spit out straight gibberish on my screen in place of my keystrokes. I checked for interference, I tried using other devices… all the standard checks. Still happened. Especially with the X, C, and V keys, which is awesome when you’re trying to cut and paste.

Even loopier, it would start to cycle through to the other Bluetooth devices. All of a sudden it’s trying to type on my iPhone when I’m trying to type on my Mac.

4. WARNING: Long customer support failure story about to follow. Skip ahead if you like.

“Fine,” I thought, “still within warranty.” I got in touch with Logitech via their online support. Their first reply was a standard form response asking me for the usual details, despite already having entered them elsewhere. NBD, I’m pretty numb to having to repeat myself with support agents now. But I was a little annoyed with their troubleshooting requests:

-It might be an encryption issue and we might need to establish a new connection:
copy and paste this link for the unifying software

http://www.logitech.com/en-us/support/software/6254?section=downloads

[extra steps deleted]

Um, this was a BLUETOOTH keyboard. No Logitech Unify receiver in sight. Totally useless, and possibly something that could have added more crap to troubleshoot.

-Plug in and test the device on another USB ports of the computer. If it is connected through a hub, try connecting directly to the system ports to verify the hub has not failed. 

Again, no USB receiver in sight. BLUETOOTH KEYBOARD, Logitech. Get with it.

-If you have multiple devices plugged into the computer, isolate the issue by temporarily removing other USB devices on the computer and test the device.

Facepalm. OK, fine. Just to be sure there are no device conflicts. Nope. 

-If it is possible, please try the device on other computer. This is to check if the issue lies on the USB ports of your computer.

Well, the beauty of this glitch was that it was taking care of this troubleshooting step for me by switching devices on the fly! Even so, I tried it on another machine. Still wonky. I requested a replacement, and sent all the relevant documentation. Hurrah, a favourable response!

Thank you for contacting Logitech again and for the updates.
I have processed a replacement for you.
Your Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 for Mac will be delivered in 7 to 10 working days. ( Just an estimated period )
You are not required to return the faulty unit.
The replacement will continue the warranty of the original device.
If you will need my help in the future, just let me know, I’m just an email away.
I will be tagging your case as solved.

I decided to recycle the keyboard, and use my old keyboard until the new one arrived. A few days later, I received a less-favourable response:

Thank you for contacting Logitech and for the update.We are sorry to inform you that our warehouse did not release your replacement as they have confirmed that the device was purchased from an un-authorized reseller which means that it does not have a manufacturer warranty. Please contact the seller and claim for your replacement. We are sorry for the inconvenience.

Alas, the keyboard was gone, and the return period with the Amazon seller had passed. Given all this tomfoolery, returning to another K760 just didn’t seem all that appealing. I started looking again for deals elsewhere. Enter my old favourite Mac accessories supplier, OWC.

Screen capture of OWC's website

Not the prettiest site, but a wonderful company.

The Matias Slim One

Matias Slim One (Mac) product photo

Oh, hello.

I’m not sure why I didn’t consider the Matias Slim One initially. I can think of a few reasons it would have appeared less appealing: it supports one less device – one via USB and one via Bluetooth, instead of three via Bluetooth. It doesn’t have the solar panel/wireless coolness of the K760. I’d also never used a Matias peripheral before.

But a quick look around Matias’ other products on OWC’s site, and you’ll find some keyboards that look really well-crafted. And the Slim One’s function-key allocation makes a lot more sense. OWC had a sale on them, so I give it a whirl.

It just arrived today, and here are a few reasons I already quite like it:

1. Keyfeel

Not as good as Apple’s, but way closer.

2. Media control

I’m pretty fickle with musical choices. I work to music. Being able to skip (or repeat) tracks without switching contexts makes me happier and more productive (but not fitter, I guess).

3. Key chording is back

I made that video above using this keyboard.

4. It comes with an iPhone stand

MiniRizer product photo.

Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done and it’s adjustable for maximum glare-evasion. Sadly, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for a charge cable to plug in. A thoughtful pack-in for a device geared to people who have an iPhone next to their keyboard.

5. Search key

The Slim One adds a ‘Search’ function key that activates Spotlight on Mac or iOS, which makes the keyboard that much more useful on iOS – now I can launch apps.

In conclusion…

Getting the Slim One, in my brief experience, feels freeing and comforting after years with the standard Apple keyboard and my brief frustrating period with the K760. Here’s hoping it lasts!

A New Year’s resolution for the Internet

January 4th, 2014

Dear Internets,

It’s a bit late, but I propose we commit to a joint initiative for 2014:

Stop the hashtaggery.

Specifically, I think 2014 is a good year to take a moment to reflect and resist the temptation to create or consume hashtags in any of these contexts:

  • T-shirts
  • Ballcaps
  • Casual conversations
  • Formal conversations
  • Image macros
  • Sweatpants
  • Yoga pants
  • Non-hyperlinked text
  • Song names
  • Gallery names
  • Baby names

There are exceptions – for example, to inform people of a hashtag that is in use for an event – but I can think of few.

OK, admittedly, the internet has bigger issues. But surely this is an easy issue to tackle with little effort.

A few quick tips for sticking to this resolution:

  • Pronounce “hashtaggery” with the same intonation you’d use for “douchebaggery.”
  • Get grammatically creative, e.g.: “Don’t be such a hashtag.”

Sending the Evoluent Vertical Mouse home

March 31st, 2013

This is an overview of my thoughts on the Evoluent Vertical Mouse 4 for Mac, a novel ergonomic mouse exclusively offered at the Apple Online Store that I returned for a number of reasons – none of them a deal-breaker in and of itself, but the combined reasons led to me returning the mouse. I’d like to lay them out, both for my friends considering the mouse and perhaps so that Evoluent considers some improvements to an interesting product in a field that I hope continues to grow.

But first, background.

A month or so ago, I noticed my mouse acting strangely. My workstation was acting as though receiving double-clicks when I had only single-clicked, or it would receive a delayed click at a random delayed interval. Some quick Googling revealed this was an indicator of the end of the line for my Logitech Performance Mouse MX. I was a bit peeved, having spent about $100 on it some 6 years ago. At the same time I was a little glad, as I’ve been feeling a need for something more ergonomic.

I started doing some research, and really, the market for mice that fit my needs is pretty small. I like large mice with lots of buttons – my favourite mouse ever, the Logitech MX1000 had 10 programmable buttons (if you include the side-tilt functionality on the wheel). I’ve tried trackballs and trackpads, and nothing so far has beat the total sense of control I feel when I’ve got a solid, many-buttoned mouse in my hand.

Feeling a bit spurned by the sudden failure of my Logitech, I considered the alternatives. First up: the Cyborg R.A.T. 7 Contagion. It’s scary looking, but I’d be willing to deal with the occasional odd look if it felt and worked right. Couldn’t find one to test, so I passed.

Cyborg R.A.T. 7 Contagion.

Cyborg R.A.T. 7 Contagion.

I remembered testing a friend’s Evoluent Vertical Mouse once and finding it novel and surprisingly comfortable. Turning a mouse on its side felt surprisingly natural. Why hadn’t this been done sooner? Seeing that the Apple Store was selling a Mac version exclusively (with Bluetooth, even! No dongles!), I decided to give it a whirl.

Evoluent Vertical Mouse 4 for Mac.

Evoluent Vertical Mouse 4 (side view).

I tried it out for a few weeks, and this past week, I mailed it back to Apple. Here’s why.

Battery life & power management

Battery life on the Evoluent was shorter than any wireless mouse I’ve had. Running on a single AA, I think I got two or three days of use out of it before it went dead. That wasn’t for a lack of efforts on the mouse’s part – it aggressively disconnected from my machine, meaning that quite often, after a several minutes working on an email that required some thought to compose, I’d have to wiggle the mouse and wait a few seconds for it to reconnect before I could do anything requiring my mouse.

Short battery life wouldn’t be a deal-breaker by itself, but for lack of…

Recharging options

The quick power drain on the Vertical Mouse made me long for a nice feature on the Logitech Performance Mouse MX. When the battery in the Logitech dies, I can plug it in via a Micro-USB cable and keep working while it charges. With the Evoluent, I have to swap it out. No spare on hand? Too bad. No mouse for you.

Driver

Evoluent has helpfully developed a Mac-native Preference Pane. Alas, I had trouble getting it to read my keystrokes properly to configure my buttons to control Mission Control. Emailing Evoluent got me helpful, timely support that solved my problem, but the actual workaround was rather cumbersome. Other drivers I’ve encountered (Logitech, Wacom) have handled this much more gracefully.

Accidental clicks

Ostensibly the motive for a new mouse hunt, this is probably the biggest reason why I sent the Vertical Mouse back. My work leaves little tolerance for imprecision. One wrongly-dragged file can cause a major headache.

Evoluent Vertical Mouse 4 (rear view).

Evoluent Vertical Mouse 4 (rear view).

I can understand why the Vertical Mouse’s buttons might have been made a bit softer than most mouse buttons – those willing to spend the time and money on an unconventional industrial design have are more likely to need a mouse whose buttons’ activation threshold is lower – but it simply wasn’t for me, and I found it created a problem for me that was compounded by the mouse’s novel industrial design.

Unrelated physical actions require orthogonality, i.e. performing one action should have zero effect on an unrelated action. By turning the mouse buttons on their side, the Vertical Mouse creates two undesirable situations:

  1. It overloads the horizontal axis of motion. Both cursor movement and button-pressing require the application of horizontal force.
  2. The standard lift-and-reposition action one performs at the end of one’s reach must be replaced with a rotational tip-and-reposition action, since gripping the mouse and lifting it would also trigger an accidental click.

#1 caused me to lose speed and precision while working, as I had to be careful not to click and move at the same time. At times, I performed a mouse-drag when I merely intended to move my cursor. Not good when organizing files, not good when managing code. #2 was just something I never quite got used to, and felt kludgy. Also, I found that depending on a host of factors contributing to the coefficient of static friction between my hand and the mouse’s surface, the grip force required to perform this action varied greatly.

Miscellaneous caveats

The Evoluent is significantly taller than any mouse I’ve ever used. In the first day or two of using it I knocked it over once or twice moving my hand quickly between keyboard and mouse.

I also occasionally encountered a problem where the reporting frequency dropped drastically so that my mouse cursor moved across the screen something like 30 pixels at a time instead of smoothly. As soon as I power-cycled the mouse, this would go away. At first I thought it was a battery power issue, but it repeated itself even with a fresh charge. It might be a Bluetooth issue, though my mousing surface and my machine’s Bluetooth receiver are no more than 2 – 3 feet apart, separated by a particle-board desk surface. Nothing extreme, and I’m not rearranging my workspace for my mouse.

Conclusion

I’ll fully admit that some of the problems listed above were not unfixable – power management or connection drop-outs, for example – but ultimately I didn’t feel it was worth my time to continue to figure them out, and I think most of my friends will feel the same.

For now, I’m going with the Mighty Mouse, enjoying its solid clickiness and gesture support. I’m also considering a lefty keyboard (which relocates the non-alphanumeric keys to the left-hand side, letting the mouse be closer to your centre of balance) and I’m hoping to try out a Contour Design RollerMouse, but their free trial requires you to cover shipping, so I’m holding out until I can try one in a store or at someone’s home.

Links.

Is it (Toronto) Christmas Yet?

January 28th, 2013

The end of last week was a tense day for Toronto municipal politics-watchers, as many of us waited expectantly to find out whether our mayor, Rob Ford, would be turfed under the provisions of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCOIA).

Rob Ford, for the uninitiated, was recently described by Gawker as “Insane, Terrible.” He’s gaffe-prone, right-leaning, and stubborn (and that’s me being diplomatic).

The legal proceedings have been complicated, with multiple possible consequences and at least a few murky areas, including one scenario that could have left Toronto with two mayors and no clarity as to which would be the one true mayor. There were questions as to whether Ford would be able to stand in a by-election, should one be triggered by his ouster. Torontoist drew up a handy flowchart to illustrate the possibilities.

Judge Charles Hackland ruled on November 26, 2012 that Ford had violated the MCOIA, with the automatic punishment being his removal from office. Judge Hackland also imposed a 14-day stay on the penalty, but that didn’t stop a number of people from treating the sentence as fact.

Ford, of course, launched an appeal, succeeded, and as of this writing remains in office. But in the meantime, there remained confusion both in the moment and, I anticipated, in the months to come. Many eagerly await the day they can celebrate the end of Ford’s term as Mayor, reminding me of another anticipatory site I’d seen a while ago, isitchristmas.com. There are others like it, like isthatcherdeadyet.co.uk.

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Toronto seemed ripe for a source of clear, concise information on the answer. How much more disciplined could one get than a simple, single-word, true-at-any-given-time, authoritative answer to cut through the noise? I registered isrobfordstillmayor.com and built the site in a morning a few days after Hackland’s ruling. I quietly launched it with on November 30, mentioning it on Facebook, G+, and Twitter (in #topoli and #fordcourt).

Is it (Toronto) Christmas Yet? continued »

The things I made in 2011

December 26th, 2011

As the end of the year approaches, I decided to do a quick survey of what I did this last year. Over the holidays, I’ve observed that it has been tricky to recap my year to friends and family. The work I do has been varied and hasn’t fit neatly into a single category. On top of that, 2011 flew by in a very busy hurry. I could scarcely remember everything I’ve been up to!

  • 3D and 2D motion graphics for a UNICEF video (soon to be released)
  • 3D and 2D motion graphics and titles for an Ontario Federation of Labour convention video
  • 2D motion graphics for a corporate social responsibility awards show
  • 2D motion graphics for a short website promotional video (soon to be released)
  • A website for a small Toronto-based consulting company
  • A website, visual identity manual, and communication strategy for a North Carolina-based farmworker justice organization
  • Several printed leaflets for federal NDP candidates
  • Tour videography for the Saskatchewan NDP during the 2011 provincial campaign

In March, I took on a part-time position at CFC Media Lab as a Technology Coordinator. It has been an extraordinarily active and fulfilling position. The work I’ve been able to contribute to has been varied and received some great feedback.

  • I developed and delivered an introductory, multi-day web technology workshop.
  • I interviewed Amon Tobin, AntiVJ, Sol Del Rio, and Tristan Perich (soon to be released) at MUTEK.
  • I was technical lead for an EEG biofeedback-powered interactive narrative, The Quetzal.
  • I proposed, designed, and developed the Media Lab’s holiday e-card, an homage to Angry Birds featuring Media Lab staff as unwitting projectiles (you can play a slightly feature-reduced version of the game here if you have Flash Player 11 installed and a fairly modern computer).

What’s coming in the year ahead? I can’t comment on everything ahead until it’s formalized, but 2011 was definitely a year where I gained a great deal of experience working in 3D workflows (mainly with Unity 3D, Cinema 4D, and After Effects). I expect that to continue (hello, UDK!).

I’m continuing work for freelance clientele in the motion graphics and web design/development arenas as well.

If you’d like to see what I’m up to on a more regular basis, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@aylwinlo). And let me know what you think of the work you see!

Update 2011-12-30: I forgot to cover VJ gigs! I had a great time throwing up visuals alongside the likes of Your Pretend Boyfriend at NXNE and DJ B# at Naco (RIP) and Bike Pirates. For 2012 I’m looking forward to some engagements with Yamantaka // Sonic Titan and hopefully more musicians to come.

Also, a big shout to Leslieville Creative Partners, with whom I performed much of the motion graphics work listed above.

Realizing equitable solutions in workplaces

February 27th, 2011

Screenshot2011-02-27at10.01.00PM-2011-02-27-21-49.png

I probably first met Narina, the principal of Nagra Consulting, about 10 years ago, when I was a volunteer at the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, and she a newly-hired Volunteer Coordinator. I’d always had a great amount of respect for her as a fellow activist, and when she approached me a few months ago for some help with launching a website for her new consultancy it was an honour to accept the project.

Nagra Consulting offers training and support that “facilitates learning and development about diversity, inclusion and workplace violence from experienced non-profit professionals, by realizing equitable solutions in partnership with non-profit workplaces.” That’s a mouthful and a difficult area of work in which to prove competence, so there are plenty of client testimonials included throughout, and room for Narina to show off the resources she creates for her clients.

Working with the solid visual identity work laid out by Meera Sethi, I wireframed, designed and developed an easily administered, Drupal 6-based site for Nagra Consulting.

This is also the first site I’ve launched using WebEnabled’s development hosting platform; I’d highly recommend it to fellow developers!

Tons of change afoot

February 13th, 2011

Well, I know I’ve been silent on this blog and on Flickr, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting on my hands, oh no. This would be a good time to mention that Twitter has pretty much taken over how I post updates on what I’m up to; it’s much easier to carve out a sliver of time to text something or post a link than to compose something longer-form.

But hopefully, soon, I’ll have much more to blog about, including a few website launches (such as the small Drupal site I just did for Nagra Consulting), some workspace changes, and more!

A new place to find Green, Union made, and Canadian made promotional products

May 20th, 2010

Back in my days working in electoral politics, a familiar part of our job was to seek products and services that fulfilled the Party’s official mandate to prefer Canadian, Union-made products. A number of other organizations have similar purchasing policies, such as unions, governments and schools. Locating promotional products that fit the bill can be tricky, so it’s a good thing that companies like Union Pride exist.

A new place to find Green, Union made, and Canadian made promotional products continued »

Alright. OK. Perfect. Fantastic.

April 4th, 2010

In my experience, in any language, fluency – or at least the illusion of it – leans on knowing how to wield some basic low-significance words. And sounding like a local means knowing the local slang. Argentines have a litany of their own. Overhearing others’ phone conversations, I’ve gleaned that I can fill awkward phone moments and the stereotypical gringo serial “si”-speak by adding in:

  • Bárbaro
  • Buenisimo
  • Dale
  • Perfecto
  • Claro
  • Che

Personally, I’ve become fond of using buenissimo – it fills more time and I can drag it out to emphasize my imitation of the Argentine accent. But nothing tickles me like bárbaro. I haven’t looked it up yet, but it sounds so different from anything else I might expect to hear that I can’t help but smirk to myself when I hear it.

Holiday in Argentina

March 24th, 2010

Back in Buenos Aires today – it’s a national holiday, the Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice. In 1976 on this day, a military coup overthrew Isabel Perón’s government and began an 8-year period of repression that involved torture and disappearances.

The city’s quiet (though some are still working, more than on a typical Sunday) – I think I’ll go out for a bike ride and see if any photos are to be taken.