Sunday, 18 November 2012

Mechanical Keyboard

The right keyboard

Three main types of keyboard exist, cheap dome keyboards that most people use with desktop computers, cisors keyboards buit on laptops - and the mechanical ones, used by gamers and geeks - those, more expensive were the kind of gear built with old machines.

Membrane switches is what most keyboards are built with, consisting of plastic domes under each keycap. Each dome must be fully pressed down to make contact with the circuit board underneath. The computer recognizes the contact and registers it as a keystroke. They aren't very durable, the dome can handle from 1 to 10 millions strokes.
Below is one of the best membrane keyboard I found so far:
One of Dell's keyboard

Benefits of membrane Keys:
- Cheap
- Spill water on it with no regret

Scissors switches also use rubber domes, but a special plastic 'scissors' mechanism links the keycap to a plunger that depresses the rubber dome with a much shorter travel distance than the typical rubber dome (2 mm instead of 3.5 - 4 mm for membrane keyswitches).
The stabilizing scissor-like devices extend the lifespan of the membrane to as much as 20 million keystrokes, also they feel more solid due to less side to side movement during key travel. This type of keyswitch is usually found on the built-in keyboards on laptops.
Scissor-switch membrane keyboards are typically slightly more expensive and have a 'bouncier' feel to them, as the keys have scissor mechanisms to help them 'spring back' after you depress the keyswitch. They are harder to clean (due to the limited movement of the keys) but also less likely to get debris in them as the gaps between the keys are often less (as there is no need for extra room to allow for the 'wiggle' in the key) as you would find on a membrane keyboard.

Scissors switches
Scissors switch keyboards can also be found for desktop computers, I personally enjoyed using this Apple aluminum keyboard before I converted myself to Mechanical keyboards.

Apple aluminium keyboard
Benefits of scissors Keys:
- Last longer
- Quieter
- Stay clean longer

Mechanical swiches now, each key has its own physical switch. Once the switch is triggered, a signal is sent with the information of the key you just pressed. Seems similar to the membrane one but it does have benefits under the cover. On main difference is that on a membrane keyboard the fully press down is necessary to register the keystroke. On a mechanical keyboard, the switch handles it differently. The actuation point for a keystroke to register, for example is about 2mm on Cherry MX switches. Pressing down and “bottoming-out” on a key is about 4mm. This results in less fatigue and strain on your hands.

Switches - under the hood:

Cherry Brown - force 55cN - tactile non clicky
Cherry Black - force 60cN - non tactile non clicky

Cherry Blue - force 60cN - tactile clicky       
Cherry Red - force 45cN - non-tactile non clicky       

Resistance, membrane keyboards don't even specify the resistance of the keys - but with mechanical keyboards you get a range of switches which offer different resistance

Tactile, standard keyboards are all the same, needing a full press to register the stroke, typing indeed requires feeling the bottom of the key. With mechanical keyboards, the switch can either gives a feedback when the stroke is registered (mechanically), or give no feedback at all (smooth all the way down). Also, the feedback can be very gentle like on the cherry brown switches, or very strong like on the blue switches. Black switches are not tactile at all.

Clicky, some mechanical keyboards are clicky (often very loud) when the switch registers the stroke, the non clicky ones aren't completely silent but it won't trigger a click noise at key stroke.

Benefits of Mechanical Keys:
- Robustness
- Personalization
- Comfort

Mechanical keyboards offer a much better built quality due to their price mostly, and offer a wide range of switches to suits user's preferences. They are known to last longer than membrane keyboards. Each switch is expected to last around 50 million keystrokes. While a membrane keyboard lasts around 5-10 million. There is also a feature called, “N-key rollover” that is found in mechanical keyboards. This means no matter how many keys are being pressed at the same time, the computer will still register each one. This is made possible due to each key having its own switch.
Pressing a bunch of keys down on a membrane or scissors keyboard won’t give the same results...

A few great mechanical keyboards:

Termaltake Meka G1, owning this with black switches

Filco Majestouch

Das keyboard

Steel series 6v2

Credits to the animated images taken from Geekhack, also where I learned what I know about switches, great forum to get advice on gear in general

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Eighth Passenger

The design of the adult Alien, from initial descriptions, designs, and props.

The original terror. Written by Dan O’Bannon after his space comedy, Dark Star, with further revisions and drafts by producers Walter Hill and David Giler. Designed by artists Ron Cobb, Chris Foss, and HR Giger, with some minimal artistic input from the famous Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud. Directed by The Duellistshelmer, Ridley Scott. Alien received a mixed critical reception upon its 1979 release but was lauded by fans. The critics quickly followed. It remains a rarely matched watermark in science-fiction and horror history
Read full article on Strange Shapes

Sunday, 30 September 2012


I would rank headphones number one among the list of tools a developer needs - Some people don't even have anything to put on their ears but many have some sets which don't even deserve to be manufactured:

Bad sound quality - uncomfortable 

Here are some more fancy but equally bad headphones:

Great looking but expensive for the sound quality

I don't understand why those Dr Dre gadgets are so popular, I agree they look good, but sound quality wise I keep being disappointed when trying them on.

So what to use ?

My criteria:

- Great sound reproduction
- Sound isolating
- Confort 
- Built quality

Here is my first choice:

Sony MDR V6
These are simply the best sound product I ever touched. I own it and I can't think of any alternative making me switch to another model. What's surprising is its price, those can easily be found for about £50-£60 brand new. 

They reproduce sounds as they come out of the amplifier which is what makes those the perfect choice. All that matters is to have the right source (not some lowly encoded mp3). 

Professional DJs use headphones belonging to this series and it's not shocking, they don't distort sounds, they don't amplify or covers bass, they just do what they are meant to do: reproduce sounds.

The MDR-7506 model which was made to replace the V6 are meant to be more 'professional' they ship with some gold connector, and the magnet is meant to be made with different material but the frequency response is a bit narrower on the 7506 (not going higher than 20k), I doubt normal ears could notice the frequencies above 20k but I don't see any proof that gold connectors improve anything and the magnet change is not proven (nor claimed) to bring anything better. So the V6 to me is a better choice as it sells at a slightly lower price.

These headphones have flaws though:

- They could be more confortable, the ear-cup is not very large, bigger ears would not fit in, I don't have this problem but still would have preferred having more room. Also, the material they used for the ear pad is terrible, some sort of fake leather that does not feel good after an hour of use. This was easily solved as I purchased some compatible replacement pair made of Velour from beyerdynamic

- The cord is ridiculous, way too long and curl like the cord of the home phone my grand ma still uses.

- The built quality is very good, but I do regularly get my fingers stuck and squeezed in the intersections on the ear-cups hooks  

I won't talk about the positives because everything else is perfect, I can't think any equipment delivering better sound - there might be dozens of models having deeper bass but these then struggle to throw clear mediums and high. I never had a chance to experiment some very high ends sets ( > $1000) but I'm sure with such budget one expects something else than a a pair of headphones to casually listen to music.

Those Sony MDR-V6 are the best choice, they are relatively cheap, solid, covers most of the surrounding sound.

Step up alternative:

The Denon D2000 also are a great choice, now owning and making use of both the Sony above and these, they offer a "deeper" sound, with a stronger accent on the bass.

They are much more expensive but at this price you get great level of comfort with real leather used to make the earpads. The cable this time was designed intelligently, as thick and straight. Also, this will fit bigger heads.
They are becoming harder to find, as I believe they were discontinued - pricing around £200 I think it's worth putting the money in when listening to hours of music every day.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Password Reset Facility

Very good article, details on everything you could think of when resetting a password when it comes to Security

Monday, 21 May 2012

12 Lessons Steve Jobs Taught Guy Kawasaki ... ?

I did endup watching this to the end, let's summarise it and see if everything makes sense. I got to agree this guy has some charisma, but this talk is a great example of subtle bullshit, some very nicely made crap hidden under what appears to be facts.

1) Experts are clueless:

Of course they are clueless, then what, listen to yourself ? I believe paying the right gym coach (supposedly an expert) will prevent me from injuries, and that I would get better results than if I do not follow his advice.
A good Entrepreneur will filter out all the crap people say.

One need to rely on experts simply because one cannot build up an expertise in every field. It is their responsibility, though, to juge the pros and cons in order to make the final decision.

Same with execution, Jobs initially teamed up with Woz who was an expert to do the work.

2) Customer can't tell you what they need:
Sure, but it's a good start.. thanks, we won't try to obey to customers, because.. we are experts. explained in point 1)

4) Design Counts:
Ok I give you that one, design does count, the problem though is that people can't design well, Jobs was talented, not only in appreciating good design, but in finding and hiring people who can make good design. Did he teach you how he did that ?

5) Big graphics, big fonts.
Yes, Jobs was great in communication, his slides were bare titles to what he could verbally explain and demonstrate the right way. Did he teach you how he did that ?

6) Jump curves, not better sameness.
Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Dell all did what was already there, but they did it better, I don't even think they did it twice better, they simply made it right, they took what already existed and shaped it to fit what people really want.
Kawasaki, I would love you to fund the revolutionary Time Machine I'm working on...

7) If It works or doesn't work, that's all that matters.
Yea of course, paying a fee to Adobe to play Flash on the iPhone had nothing to do with the phone looking stupid when accessing flash only websites.. work or doesn't work ?

8) Value is different from Price.
Hmm this statement didn't apply to Jobs when seeing the value for its customer to play Flash ? OK Value is different than Price, but surely marking a product correctly is a bit more subtle than this.

9) A Players hire A players.
Some guy asked you the question at the end, then who hire B players ? "I don't know" is enough of an answer to you ?? just skip the Q/A thing altogether then,
And I give you the answer: People hire the best they can get.
If the statement was only to explain that A engineer want to hire B engineers to stand out, then explain to us how Jobs did to prevent his engineers to do that.

12) Some things need to be believed to be seen.
I do believe in my Time Machine, do you see it ?

Skipping the other things Jobs taught you as really this was becoming silly. Surely he did teach you to use your charisma to convince people to believe you whatever comes out of your mouth.

I'm happy you take your children to Cinema using some great unique website who obviously oblige theatres to sign some abusive exclusivity contract - but this is not innovation, this is using anti competitive strategies to make money offering a very simple service, which by the way customers did know how to tell that they wanted it.

Thanks Kawasaki, but entrepreneurs will need to continue to learn by themselves how to run their busyness.

Monday, 12 March 2012

How Badly Do We Want a New Java Date/Time API?

Java World posted one of those recurring questions... No mention to Joda-Time in the article, as if there were no existing alternative to java.util.Date to manipulate dates in Java.

Who codes only using the core libraries of a language ?

How Badly Do We Want a New Java Date/Time API How badly should you learn to use appropriate third party libraries when needed ?

I did get irritated by the java.util.Date, consequence was the lost of hours of my time (necessary to realise how terrible its design was, unless someone had told me).

But see where it live: util.

I believe the lang package is core, its classes are now the only ones I blindly use. Anything util could arguably not even be part of the standard library.
Maintainability concerns already tell us that java.util.Date will always exist, and will remain there.

I wrote an advanced Java application by only using 5 of the 40+ top level classes living in the the util package. But I would still be writing this app right now if I only allowed myself to use the standard libraries.

No we do not even want some new Java Date/Time API at all. Don't only deprecate most of the Date class though, adds mentions in the class itself warning students that this is a very good example of bad design, it will:

1) Save their time.
2) Allow them to ask their lecturer to justify the fact that they are being forced to manipulate the Date object to complete their coursework.
3) Prevent new projects from picking this stupid Date which is not even a date.

Adding a new Date API (say merging Joda-Time in standard library) would only take you that far, try to implement the UI date picker showing as the picture of this post - without a third party lib - enjoy.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Tucker & Date Vs Evil

I didn't expect much from this movie but was happily surprised!

One need to like goof movies I suppose, but that one is particularly well done.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Virtualization like a charm

VMware guys are great, installed a few virtual machines on Fusion, it just works !

After an effortless OS install, Windows runs with no extra steps. Check macinstruct if really some step by step tutorial is needed, but it won't be.

Forget 3D DirectX games though, despite claims that 3d games are playable, we are not yet there.

I can tell that various 2D optimisations are taking place, so virtualization is the way to go to quickly test cross platform development.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Posts way too long

Posts are too long. People write too much stuff.
I will eventually write some endless text, but hopefully not soon !

Keep it short, nobody has time, including you.


For whoever endup on here, looking for something (including me) or googled lost, Bienvenue.