Bog Roll ::

It's Not Magic, It's Work!

13 Jun 2020

Too many keyboards...

I switched to my new Filco TKL keyboard this week, so I thought I should put the old keyboard away to recover space. When I put it into the storage box I realised I've rather a lot of keyboards...

  • Three IBM KB-7953 models. Two are white and one is black - though I have swapped the key caps around so that two of them are bi-coloured black and white. They are about 20 years old, and were sold with IBM p-Series servers which we used at work. I took them home when the server's were scrapped about 8 years ago. They are rubber dome technology, have PS/2 connection and are pretty compact. Since I washed them, and added some foam to them they now clean and aren't too noisy. I still use one for work, the other two are now spare.
  • Two Logitech Y-SU61 Deluxe keyboards which came with a pair of systems I bought for home over a decade ago. One is still connected and in use the other has been in storage for quite a few years now and is very clean by comparison. Both are rubber dome technology with a PS/2 interface. Odd keyboard, rather curved and have a double height delete key and no insert.
  • Another Logitech keyboard, this one is white though the keycaps have all discoloured quite a bit. PS/2 connection and rubber dome technology. My mother used it and I think since it returned to me it's been in storage. A bit grubby but seems otherwise okay - like the above Logitech a curvy shape that isn't very compact.
  • A Logitech MK520 wireless keyboard that we use with the computer hooked up to the TV in the living room. It's useful but not really a good keyboard and I'd never use it as a main keyboard.
  • A cheap corporate HP keyboard, PS/2 interface and rubber dome technology. Very cheap, my father used it with a computer I gave him at one point, I think it was from work originally. Not very exciting. I've never used it.
  • A really cheap Viglen that came with a small computer I bought for my father. This one is ghastly, but does have a USB interface which is useful on a couple of systems which don't have PS/2 connections. I've not used it other than to set up the Viglen computer that it was for.
  • A Sun type 5, for my antique SPARC system. A superior quality rubber dome keyboard with SPARC keyboard Specification 1. In theory you can make an RS-232 to USB converter of you want, and then you can use it with a PC.
  • A cheap Rii bluetooth keuboard (ANSI layout) for use with my phone or tablet. It's not very good but it's much better than using the screen on the phone for more than basic things.
  • A new Filco Majestouch-2 TKL. This keyboard uses Cherry MX brown switches and has a USB interface that can also connect to PS/2 if required. This is my main keyboard for work and home use. Other than the wireless Logitech it's the only one I actually bought.

I'd give them away, but as I know live in France, there isn't so much demand for ISO/UK QWERTY keyboards here, as the French use the ISO/FR AZERTY keyboard instead - which is a pretty awful layout...


11 Jun 2020

Review: Filco Majestouch 2 - Tenkeyless

I recently bought a Diatec "Filco Majestouch 2: Tenkeyless" keyboard in ISO/UK layout from The Keyboard Company who are the European distributor for Diatec keyboards.

The Majestouch is sold as a premium mechanical keyboard for people who type for a living. It uses mechanical Cherry MX switches and has a minimalist design. It can be used for gaming but it does not have illuminated keycaps, fancy macros or extra keys.

The layout is a conventional ISO/UK layout, the ten key less design means there is no numeric keypad, it is otherwise a classic layout. The keycaps are single-shot black plastic, though heavier double shot are available from from the manufacturer or third parties. I replaced the Windows keys with Filco blanks. WASD keys and a small sub-set of additional keycaps are also available. In ANSI layout there are more options, but not in ISO.

The interface is USB, hardwired to the top centre of the case, and comes with a passive USB to PS/2 converter if you require PS/2. The cable is 1.5 metres long. The keyboard is NKRO but this is only available via PS/2, if connecting via a USB interface it is restricted to only 6KRO.

The keyboard is sold in three styles of switches: linear/silent (red), tactile (brown) and clicky (blue). My model has the brown switches which are less noisy than the blue and have a slight tactile bump as you press them so you know when the switch has closed without having to bottom out the key. The linear red are allegedly less noisy than the brown and have no tactile feedback when you press them. They style of switch is very personal, I picked brown as it's a sensible start, I don't want the extra click of the blues.

The keyboard weighs just under 1 kilogramme and has four evenly spaced rubber feet so it doesn't slip around on your desk, it doesn't flex or rattle and feels very solid.

I've used the keyboard for a week now, and find I'm getting used to the feel of it though I'm still making mistakes as I get used to it. Compared to my previous IBM rubber-dome keyboards it doesn't rattle or click with a loud hollow sound, nor does it creak if it's twisted or has pressure applied. It does make a noticeable noise when being used though, it is not silent.

I'm not sure that I've made my mind up on the keyboard yet, it is possible that I would have prefered the Cherry MX red switches, but I don't know... I do like the fact that the keys are precise and don't wiggle and there is gentle feedback as you press them, so you don't have to bottom out the keys to know you've connected.


How many is too many?

How many typefaces or fonts does one person actually need. As I said last year not that many. It's a pity that so many get installed and then clutter up your menus.

I mostly use sans-serif typefaces, at the moment the IBM Plex family is my favourite. I've previously uses Source Sans Pro for several years before that. I used Myriad Pro, which comes with most version of the Adobe Acrobat Reader as well which I rather like. At work there is the usual mix of Arial, Verdana and Calibri that come with Office/Windows but I don't use them at home.

For mono-spaced fonts, I currently use IBM Plex Mono but previously used Source Code Pro. Though I don't use Fira Mono I have used Fira Code for programming as it comes with fancy ligatures for programming which are fun.

I pretty much don't use serif typefaces at all. They just look ugly, but perhaps with a higher resolution screen (when I eventually buy one) they may look okay.

So to answer my own question, very few!

While my home PC looks like "mine", my work work is most dull corporate except my SAP screen where the ABAP developer screen uses Solarized (sic) colour scheme which is most uncommon, even if the type face is dull.


08 Jun 2020

TKL

I learned to type on a Commodore 64, which used Mitsumi KSR mechanical keys, with a spherical keycap double-shot keycaps. I even got used to the three-key cursor keys which were actually great once you got used to them! By the standards of PC keyboards that followed it was actually quite a better designed and built keyboard...

At University I used a selection of OEM keyboards attached to Elonex and Dan PCs. I didn't like the rattly ones but I did like the silent ones which some people called squidgy. I also used various Sun keyboards, which were rubber dome keyboards and pretty silent and of the squidgy nature. Most of these were rubber dome technology, and cylindrical keycaps rather than spherical of old. Some would have been double shot, but most were moving to single shot plastic key caps.

My first PC had the Dell SilentKey keyboard, which was rattly, ANSI layout and I never liked it. It was beige, ugly and also very large and took up far too much desk space. I swapped it for an IBM rubber dome keyboard several years later.

My next PC had a cheap Logitech keyboard with rubber-dome technology. It was okay but not great. There was a double height delete key and no insert key...! It was curved and a bit flimsy compared with the Dell and over time the markings on the keycaps have worn out and some keys have taken on a very shiny finish. I used it instead of the Dell until I swapped to the IBMs later on.

When I was able to swap the Dell ANSI for an IBM ISO keyboard I put the Logitech in storage and started to use the IBM. For most of the last ten years I've used a black IBM or later a white but otherwise identical IBM keyboard for work and home use. I also swapped some of the keycaps around on them to create a black and white ANSI style bi-colour layout. My wife complained that these IBM keyboards were very loud, as I often bottomed them out and the hollow case amplifies the noise quite a bit. While not IBM Model M quality, they were okay, though over the years some of the markings have worn. They are very square in shape shape and have a smaller desk foot print that the Logitech and noticeably more compact than the old Dell. On their last clean, I repaired the circuit trace on one of them that had failed and fitted some sound deadening foam to them all which does make them less noisy.

Today I've started to use a Filco TKL, ISO/UK layout keyboard. It uses single shot but high quality cylindrical keycaps, on Cherry MX brown switches. It's heavy, compact, has big rubber feet and has no numerical keypad, so it doesn't slip on my desk and has a tiny footprint while having full sized keys. The Cherry browns require less pressure to actuate than the old rubber domes on the Logitech or IBM keyboards and as long as I don't bottom them out they don't make too much noise. It's also the first USB keyboard I have if you exclude the really horrible Viglen I have (but never used), all my keyboards are PS/2 except the Sun which uses a proprietary Sun serial interface.