Archive for the 'Hardware' Category

Note: I've reorganized this site to use tags; the category archive remains to support old links. Only posts prior to April, 2006 are categorized. Tag Archive »

Micecapades

No one makes the mouse I want. If they do, I certainly can’t find it. For years, I’ve been an avid user of the Microsoft Intellimouse Optical, practically since its introduction. I use one at work and one at home. Now that I have Bluetooth support in my iMac G5, I’d like to use a bluetooth mouse. Apple’s single-button excuse for a mouse is a joke (come on Steve, get over it), which is why my Apple bluetooth mouse has never been unwrapped. Unfortunately, I can’t find a single bluetooth mouse that compares to my Intellimouse. I like it so much that when my old standby at home needed replacing (my fault), I bought two, just incase they stop making them.

Prior to first using an Intellimouse, I had already made the switch to scroll-wheel mice. Two buttons and a working scroll wheel are what I consider the absolute bare minimum for a useable mouse. The Intellimouse Explorer was the first optical mouse I ever used, and the optical performance was my original reason for switching to the mouse. Over time, a couple of other features have become just as important.

First is the shape. The height of the mouse feel perfect under my hand, as does the symetrical shape. More expensive Microsoft Mice with fancy ergonomic shapes, such as the Intellimouse Explorer for Bluetooth feel uncomfortable to me. Given that I’ve used the same mouse design for at least five years, I’m sure any new mouse will feel strange, but I;m certain I want a symmetrical mouse design.

The second important consideration is the button count. The fourth and fifth buttons are important to me- especially the thumb button, which I use as a web-browser back button. Any time I’m forced to use a mouse without this button I suffer an immediate drop in usability- it’s like suddenly losing one of your shift keys. I want at least four buttons on my bluetooth mouse, with the fourth being a large thumb-activated button.

I had hoped to find a bluetooth version of the Intellimouse, but it does not seem to exist. The only bluetooth mouse I’ve found from Microsoft is the one I linked above- Asymmetrical, and with the fourth and fifth buttons next to each other in a placement I find awkward.

Checking other manufacturers has proved fruitless as well. I’ve never been a fan of Logitech mice, but their MX 900 Bluetooth Mouse may be the current frontrunner. It is symmetrical, but the total of 8 buttons seems like overkill, and the dual thumb-accessible buttons don’t look comfortable. I’ll have to find one in a store where I can try it before I decide. Also, it comes with a horribly ugly charging stand/bluetooth hub. I don’t need a “hub” (my computer has bluetooth) and I don’t want a charger- I want a mouse with replaceable batteries like my Apple Bluetooth Keyboard.

DVForge, a company that appears to specialize in accessories for Apple products, has a nice looking contender called The Mouse BT, which would look great next to my Apple Keyboard. Unfortunately, it has only three buttons.

If you know of a bluetooth mouse with at least four buttons and symmetrical form factor, please let me know. This mouse cord is staring to bug me.

Return of the Camcorder

Here’s something I’m very past due on posting. Last month, I posted about my dead camcorder. The unit, a Canon ZR65MC has returned from Waranty-service land, and all is well. I’m impressed with Canon’s service.

I called the warranty service 800 number on Monday, Nov 22. The representative was very appologetic and helpful. The camera was shipped out the same day, to New Jersey (very fortunate, as I’m just across the Delaware River from Jersey). They returned the camera via FedEx, who tried to deliver it December 9. We missed the FedEx guy a couple of times, but finally received the camera last week. The note in the box confirmed that the CCD was replaced, and that the camcorder was also “cleaned and adjusted.” Very swift turnaround, and I’m quite pleased to have it back in time for Christmas (and in time for a pre-christmas video-editing project).

While reseearching the problem initially, I read a number reports on the web about others having the same problem (dead CCD) right before or right after the end of the warranty period. Sherri sent a letter to Canon, suggesting a recall might be in order. The day after we received the camcorder, I received a call from Canon. Sherri wasn’t home so I took the call. I couldn’t recall the details of the letter, so I didn’t ask about a recall. The woman from Canon asked if we had received the camcorder and if everything was okay. She also gave me her direct number, and asked us to call if we had any further problems with the camera at any point in the future.

This is a great example of customer service done right. After the camera first stopped working, I was ready to swear off Canon products- which is a shame, considering that I also own a Canon i960 Photo Inkjet which I love. Two excellent “personal” contacts (my initial call and their followup), plus the rapid turnaround and FedEx shipping of the repaired camera during the holidays, all adds up to a satisfied customer who will be both a repeat customer and a great word-of-mouth customer.

Can you see me now? Crap.

Several weeks ago, I got a surprise when trying to use my camcorder, Canon ZR65MC. After turning it on in camera mode, the image through the eyepiece was black, although the timecode and other overlayed information was visible. A quick check of the lens cap revealed that I had not, in fact, forgen to uncork the device. Opening the side-door view screen didn’t help… same problem. Some tinkering revealed that playback still worked. I thought perhaps I had somehow changed a setting, and spent several minutes trying to figure out how to restore the video. By the time I had given up, the event I wanted to capture had already begun.

Although I forgot about this for a couple of weeks, I’ve resumed my search for an answer. I could find nothing in the manual or online support website. Looks like warranty service will be needed. Fortunately, Sherri does a great job of hanging on to receipts, and I tend to keep boxes for exensive items. The camcorder was purchased last year on 11/29, so I’m still (barely) within the year’s warranty. I have to call an 800 number Monday morning to get shipping instructions. Oh, Joy.

Doing a little more digging, I found that I’m not the only one having problems. Seems alot of people with the ZR65MC, as well as the ZR60 and ZR70MC (the other two cameras that were on the market at the same time) have seen the same problem, and generally around the end of the warranty- some before, many after. At least mine happened before. I’ve been trying to see if anyone’s posted about this in Amazon’s review section, but Amazon is slow beyond use (yet again, but that’s another post). This year, Canon has a new crop of camcorders out- the ZR80, ZR85, and ZR90. I have no idea if they suffer the same flaws as their older kin, but if you plan to buy a Canon camcorder, I suggest you hang on to the receipt. I’ll post more here after I’ve talked to Canon.

Update: Canon repaired the camcorder under warranty, and I had it back less than three weeks after shipping it. Read the complete update.

Neat Trick

Just a quick link tonight: Making a WiFi antenna from a $5.00 chinese strainer. So cool. (via Hackaday).

Twice as Nice

My TiVo started acting up a few weeks ago, locking up and requiring a power cycle (unplugging) to recover. This isn’t the first time I’ve had problems, but this time it was chronic. Each reset would buy me a day or two before another lockup. The last time I had problems, I considered a MythTV setup, but I decided to check into a new TiVo first.

Glad I did. TiVo currently has a $100 rebate offer. I decided to buy two new 40 hour Series 2 TiVos- the rebate is good on up to two units. Total after rebates was $200. I doubt I could build a single MythTV unit for $200. For another $60 or so, I added a pair of USB wireless ethernet adapters. I now have a Tivo in the bedroom and one in the family room, each wirelessly connected to my LAN.

Why two? With both units connected via the LAN, I can transfer shows between them (Series 2 TiVos only). This means I can watch shows upstairs that were recorded downstairs. Plus, with two units, I can setup one TiVo to record my shows, and Sherri can setup the others for her shows. With show transfer, we can watch anything on either machine on either TV.

Another handy feature of having the machines networked used to be called the “Home Media Option,” and was $99 per unit (one time fee) when the Series 2 was introduced. Since that time, the fee has been dropped- thankfully, since I wouldn’t see paying for it. For free, however, it’s handy. It allows you to view pictures or listen to music from a PC on the network. The picture viewer is nice for showing everyone pictures from our digital camera (the only camera we use anymore).

I’ve had this setup in place for a couple of weeks, and I love it. A couple of tips for others trying to use a USB Wireless Adapter with a TiVo: First, while your TiVo can download program info over the web instead of dialup, you’ll have to hook up the TiVo to a phone line for it’s first call home. Secondly, many newer USB adapters (including newer firmware releases on common models, like the Linksys WUSB11) require a software update to the TiVo in order to be recognized. After your TiVo has made it’s first call home and finished updating program info (up to 4 hrs post-phone-call), use the setup menu to force another call home. This time, you should download the newest TiVo software. Once the call is done, you’ll need to restart the TiVo (again, setup menu). After the reboot, your adapter should be recognized.