Saturday, January 13, 2007

wireless keyboards and mice

I've been trying (and going through) wireless keyboards & mice this past few weeks. I bought a Kensington "wireless desktop" at a Wichita CompUSA about two weeks ago. I needed something because the keyboard on my faithul Pismo is not doing well: some keys repeat themselves with one keystroke, while others have to be hammered at to get one character to register. And, of course, I hadn't brought a keyboard with me from home. What I really wanted to get was one of those roll-up rubber keyboards, something that I could take with me in my bag, but the only one they had was just the basic keys - no home/end/page up/page down keys, no arrow keys and no number pad. I need those keys, so that wasn't going to work.

So, I bought the Kensington. Not bad, at fifty bucks. Took it back to the hotel room, plugged it in and it workd fine. For an hour or so, then the mouse died. Tried it on the in-laws' eMac, no joy. Brought it home & tried it on the wife's B&W, no joy, ditto for my 'buntubox. Better yet, the keyboard was starting to go, too. Unless I typed slowly, deliberately and made sure to push straight down on each key, I was lucky to get every other character to register. I decided after about a day of that that it just wasn't accepable, so I went to the Omaha CompUSA, intent on swapping for a different keyboard & mouse. I'd read enough on-line to realize that the Kensington rig is flawed.

After spending an hour or so looking at their selection of keyboards & mice, I settled on the Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth. The box says it's only good on XP (and, I assume, Vista), but a quick gander at orderedbytes showed me that I could use it on a Mac, via ControllerMate. When I got it home and fired it up, it worked quite well, except that it'd drop connection with the keyboard or mouse every five minutes or so. I got tired of having to enter a 10-digit number every time I wanted to make the keyboard work again, but I found out that there's a "Favorite" option in the Bluetooth pref pane, whereby devices automatically re-connect. Sounded good and worked great, for a while.

Tonight, both the keyboard and mouse dropped connection, and wouldn't reconnect. Well, the keyboard reconnected, sort of. None of the keys did what they were supposed to do. Instead of scrolling down a page in Safari, the space bar would switch to System Preferences. If I hit command-tab to switch apps, the app switcher would endlessly scroll through the choices until I yanked the bluetooth dongle. Changed the batteries, no improvement.

I don't care for Microsoft's software, but over the years I've come to like most of their keyboards & mice. I've had four different Microsoft keyboards, and I finally had to toss one, after using it for almost seven years, then letting it set on a shelf in my barn/shop for another two years. I've also had two of their mice, and I like them, too. Just don't use the software Microsoft cobbled together for them.

Bottom line: Both the Kensington Wireless Desktop for Mac and the Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth are pieces of crap. It can't be an inherent problem with wireless connections - I've got a Logitech Cordless Optical Trackman that I've been using for the last four or five years on several different boxes with very little problem.

I'll be taking this latest piece of crap back to CompUSA & getting my money back. When I was looking around last week, I saw they had a 104-key rubber, roll-up keyboard for about thirty bucks. Maybe I'll get one of those.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I'm not picky, but...

Warning: language in this post may be (probably is) offensive to some. Do not read if you're easily offended.

This has been bugging me for a while.

How many times have you heard someone say (or seen in print) something like this:

"I'm not a racist, but..."

"I'm not sexist, but..."

"I don't hate gays, but..."

followed by something racist, sexist, anti-gay, or directly opposite whatever it was they opened with?

My classic example, on the Straight Dope message board a few years ago: a guy mentioned that he (a white guy) was dating a black girl, and they were getting pretty serious about it. His uncle felt the need to draw him to the side and say, "I'm not a racist, but you know people are going to have problems seeing the two of you together."

I posted that anyone who says, "I'm not a racist, but..." is a racist. I got a lot of flack over that, accusations of "using a wide brush" and the like. After a few weeks, I changed my stance on the matter, but after much thought on it, I feel now that I was wrong to make that change. I have never heard anyone ever start a statement with "I'm not a <insert bigot sub-type here>, but..." and not promptly follow it with something blatantly bigotted.

Let's finish those statements above.

"I'm not a racist, but those damn niggers don't know their place."

"I'm not sexist, but women have no business being out of the house."

"I don't hate gays, but we'd be better off if every one of the bastards were dead."

Maybe it's just me, but those three statements sound awfully racist, sexist and anti-gay. If you're going to be a bigot, you should at least have the balls to admit you're a bigot. But very few bigots have the balls to be honest. So, I guess cowardice is the companion to bigotry.

And have you ever read anything by racist/sexist/whateverist bigots? You can't tell who they're really more in awe of. For instance, white supremist racists. They'll go on and on about how the whites are God's Own True Chosen Master RaceTM, but then they'll go on about how the Jooz, the Blackz or the Mud People are running the world. Hey, Binky! If you're the master race, why aren't you running the show? If they're running everything, sounds like they're the master race.

Fastest way to piss off a white-supremist racist? Accuse them of being a black-supremist or a jewish-supremist. After all, if they're claiming the blacks/jews/whatevers are in charge, they must think the blacks/jews/whatevers are the master race.

Oh, and in regard to the title, I guess I am picky.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

The switch from K/X/Ubuntu to openSUSE

I've been using K/X/Ubuntu (mostly Kubuntu) for about the last three months or so, switching over from a Mac (22 years, there). Why I made that switch is for another post, though.

I've been using openSUSE for somewhat less than 24 hours. Obviously, I've got a lot more 'buntu experience. Why this switch?

I've had two running problems in 'buntu: printing, and using a LightScribe burner.

I had a Samsung ML-1210 monochrome laser for the last few years, replaced at Xmas with a Konica Minolta magicolor 2530DL color laser. I could get the ML-1210 to print easily enough when directly connected to my 'buntubox, but couldn't share it with other computers (a B&W Mac, a Mac Pismo PowerBook and an IBM ThinkPad 570 running 'buntu 6.4 and 'buntu 6.10). When connected to one of the other computers, I could not get the 'buntubox to see it or use it, no matter how I set up printer sharing on the host computer.

Like I said, I got a color laser for Xmas, which was even worse. At least I could easily set up the ML-1210 to print when directly connected, but not the 2530DL - no drivers for 'buntu. The 2430DL is a network printer, and it took all of five minutes to get the two Macs to see and print to it. No joy with 'buntubox.

The 2350DL has rpm-based drivers for linux, and specifically notes that it'll run with Fedora and openSUSE. There is software to translate rpm to deb ('buntu is a Debian spinoff), and instructions on how to translate and install such software. I couldn't find specific instructions for my version (Kubuntu 6.10 - Edgy Eft) and this printer, but I found something close enough that should have worked. No joy.

The other problem I had was with my LiteOn SHM-165H6S DVD burner. It burns just fine, but I couldn't get the label-burning side to work. Not a failing on my part - it doesn't work with 'buntu 6.10. There is a workaround posted that entails setting up a 6.4 install, under which the LightScribe software does work, but I didn't feel like going to that much effort.

Since both the printer & LightScribe drivers claimed to run on SUSE, and I happen to have a SUSE install disk on hand, I decided to install SUSE & see how it works.

As far as my two problems, it works alright. It took about ten minutes and I had the printer working on direct USB connect (and the Macs still work fine with network printing). It took a little longer, but I also got the LightScribe software to work.

I'm going to have to work on that some more, because the workaround I've got now doesn't work worth a damn. Oh, it works. Work up a label on the Pismo in Discus, then print to pdf, open the pdf in GraphicConverter & save it as a jpg, copy the jpg to my flash drive, plug the flash drive into the 'buntubox, open 4L-gui (the LightScribe software) & burn the label.

It works, but it works worth crap. Somewhere in the label to pdf to jpg to 4L-gui to disk process, the text quality goes to hell.

I tried the newest version of Discus, but it's still in Prerelease, which is a pain in and of itself. I bought it the day after Xmas, to go with the color laser printer, but didn't bother using it until today. First thing it tells me is that it's outdated, and I should download the newest version. OK, I download the newest version, only to be told that my Discus art file is outdated, and I need to download a copy of that. Go to the download page, and I'm not finding the art file. Go ahead & run the outdated version, since it's got an export as jpg option. Of course, that option doesn't work, because it'd outdated, or it's not yet implemented. OK, now I'm starting to get irked. Fire up the old version of Discus, which works, & work up the label. Print to pdf, convert to jpg, etc.

I really need to find a disk labeling program for linux, or put the burner in a FireWire case & run it off the Mac - the nice people at MagicMouse (the Discus people) told me that they were going to add LightScribe functionality to Discus real soon now.

Of course, if I do that, then I've only got one reason to use SUSE. Solve the printer problem, and I can go back to 'buntu. Of course, by then I might decide I like SUSE enough to keep using it. I'll see.

edit I've got the LightScribe working. I e-mailed the folks at MagicMouse & got the page for the latest prerelease and downloaded the complete package. With the new version of Discus, with the new version of the art fire, it all works. I worked up a label, saved as a .bmp, copied it over to the susebox (can't call it the 'buntubox if I don't have 'buntu on it, now can I?) and burned it onto a disk label with 4L-gui. Works good, even great, but at 15+ minutes a disk, it'll put a major bottleneck in my backup plans. Guess the sharpie still has its place.