Tuesday, July 08, 2003


I can't decide if I like this new keyboard or not. Keyboards hold kind of a religious fascination for me, and I'm constantly on the lookout for the perfect one. Nothing I've found as of yet beats my IBM Model M - you'd think 20 years of innovation in PC's would yield some real improvements but alas, all anyone seems to be able to think to do is stick some extra buttons on these stupid things. I don't care about extra buttons; I want to type and be comfortable doing it. Northgate made a split, ergonomic keyboard with mechanical keyswitches similar to the IBM Model M and with a built-in touchpad, and I figured that'd be my holy grail. A guy I know picked one up on Ebay though, and it still wasn't quite there - the touchpad is a serial device and barely works, the keyboard's feel is a bit light to my taste and his broke after literally about a week. Oh well.

Anyway, this new one I picked up is actually for my home entertainment PC (or HTPC as the insider lingo goes), and it too is built by IBM, though it uses the now-standard crappy-ass rubber dome keys that feel like typing on mashed potatoes. Et tu, IBM? Well whatever, it's wireless and fairly small and that's the important thing - and it has a built-in pointing device (though not a real trackpoint stick like my Thinkpad - I would have preferred that). A wireless keyboard and mouse are a must if you're building a HTPC, and as far as I'm concerned you've basically got two options in that area unless you want to turn your coffee table into a second desk with the bulk of a full-size keyboard and mouse. Those options are the Gyration keyboard/mouse combo, and what I'm typing on now: the IBM Wireless Navigator Pro.

I've now tried both and they both have their pluses and minuses. The Gyration keyboard is a laptop keyboard stuck in its own little case. This is not a terrible thing, mind you, as I actually prefer the feel of a good laptop keyboard (like my Thinkpad) to a bad desktop keyboard (like, well, pretty much all of them these days). But it does mean the keys are a tiny bit smaller (or at least they feel like they are), and they definitely have far less travel than a desktop keyboard. But they're nice and springy so they feel ok. The real star of the Gyration combo, though, is that weird-ass mouse that you just wave around like some sort of magician to control your pointer. You either love or hate this thing; me, I hate it. I use the mouse way too much to be constantly picking this thing up, waving it around, putting it down to type, picking it back up, waving it around, etc. Now, with a HTPC, you don't type all that much, although I find myself using this PC (yes, I'm using my HTPC right now) as much for stuff like web browsing as I do for TV or video (especially considering I haven't even gotten all that working yet). For efficiency's sake, it's just a bad idea to be constantly taking your hands off the keyboard to point at stuff. As a sort of remote control, though, the Gyration is an ok, if odd, device.

The basic concept behind this here IBM is more to my liking but its implementation seems a little bit off so far. Obviously, there's the aforementioned feel of the keys - which I'll forgive IBM for here, as I doubt I'll be writing novels on this PC. The pointing stick, though, is just strange to use - and I'm a big fan of the concept of integrating the pointing device into the keyboard. Maybe I'll get used to it like I got used to the trackpoint device (which I can now use much more efficiently than a touchpad), but for the moment I can't ever seem to get my pointer to stop where I want it to. The "mouse" buttons are also really weak, and their design seems reversed - the default left mouse button is about half the size of the right mouse button. Weird.

On the plus side, this was literally $50 less than the Gyration combo, and in all this typing (last two posts) it hasn't dropped a character yet. So I can't really complain.

About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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