Illustrated Keyboard Evolution

I have a really bad typing habit. It seemed I’ve always had it, but that’s not really true. It finally dawned on me: my fingers must be remembering something. But, what? It turns out our lack of a uniform keyboard character standard dates back to the 1920’s, if not earlier.

When I type contractions like isn’t, can’t, doesn’t or won’t, likely as not, I won;t type it correctly. It’s embarrassing. It looks like I just don’t care enough to proof-read my text. As my eyes increasingly reveal symptoms of old age, it becomes harder for me to spot my little mis-punctuations.

On a modern Mac or PC keyboard, the semicolon (‘;’) is adjacent just to the right of the apostrophe (”’). But I first became aware of my new typographical problem some time in my early Mac days. I’m not even a touch typist; I’m a hunt-and-peck artist, summa cum laude, at speeds up to 70wpm on a good day. What, then, were my fingers “remembering?”

I Googled search term “typewriter keyboard,” quickly learning that American typewriters, at least, were uniform as to letter key placement. But they were somewhat inconsistent on punctuation character placement. Most of the early mechanical manual typewriters placed the apostrophe above the ‘8’ key, or SHIFT-8.

My first typewriter as a kid was an awful old Smith Corona, literally not much newer than the one pictured below. My parents palmed it off on us kids, and bought themselves an Underwood – on which I stole hundreds of hours.

Smith Corona



My last typewriter was a state-of-the-art IBM Selectric. Note that its keyboard layout is identical to those on the modern Mac and PC:

IBM Selectric


But my first desktop computer was my Apple II, and it seemed clear some of the punctuation keys went “anywhere there’s room.”

Apple II











I’ve composed on modern Mac and PC keyboards since I bought my Mac Classic, around 1986. The keyboard layout had morphed back to the now “standard” Selectric layout, where key placement has largely remained on mainstream keyboards ever since.

Mac Classic










I used Keytronics keyboards for years on the PC. I’ve used Apple Extended and Logitech on Mac ever since. I close this riff with a photo of my Logitech. It’s solar powered, and really works, even in low ambient light. It has a standard layout, and may be the best keyboard I ever owned. But my fingers are still confused.

Logitech Solar






11,661 total views, no views today

Great First Impressions of iPad2

I ordered my own iPad2 on Wednesday October 5. I only found out later in the day that Steve Jobs had just died.

We’ve all had a chance to review his life on TV newscasts, TV specials, online articles and analyses, and tributes. The number of tributes exceeded anything I hoped for or expected. Even at news sources I normally distrust, coverage was positive yet balanced and told a remarkable story that will be retold many more times in coming decades. I think iPad2 turned out to be a brilliantly fitting way to launch the post-Jobs era. It embodies all the design elegance, under-the-hood power and user-friendly simplicity he devoted his life to.

October 17 NEW YORKERToo few of us read and enjoy The New Yorker perhaps, but as one dedicated fan of that magazine, I can recommend their October 17, 2011 online article “How Steve Jobs Changed,” by James Surowiecki. Surowiecki is an accomplished writer and financial analyst who writes the magazine’s The Financial Page. Read Surowiecki article

But this post is about my first impressions of my iPad, even though its rationale is for me closely connected to reading my weekly The New Yorker on iPad and, eventually, all my other periodicals.

I was introduced to my first hands-on iPad experience by a friend whose eyesight issues may be worse than my own. He bought iPad to help rectify that. I find myself limiting reading sessions with print periodicals, either because of poor-quality newsprint, or lighting and glare issues with high-quality glossy magazine pages such as are mailed to me by The New Yorker and National Geographic. My friend says he can’t read a regular newspaper at all any more. I get all my in-depth news online, and for free, at sources such as BBC, Huffington Post, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Scientific American, PolitiFact and MarketWatch.

I’m fine with reading news on computer flat-screen panels. But I never cared for being chained to a computer chair to read books or magazines at length. I’ve already started downloading my The New Yorker issues to iPad, and find them eminently easier to read and navigate than those paper editions. This is a vast improvement over early industry efforts to find a suitable ebook format for periodicals.

I ordered the basic 16GB Wi-Fi model iPad. I don’t have 3G on my Verizon account and I’m unwilling to pay the monthly charges for it. 3G is great for iPhone, perhaps, and for people always on the go. Even if 3G was free, my lifestyle is such that I’d seldom be in a location where I’d have any need for it. Obviously, if you are “mobile” – move around a lot away from home and take your devices with you – the Wi-Fi + 3G model would be best for you. Continue reading

1,030 total views, no views today

BIOS & Conclusion: Multiple Causes

Welcome to Comcast browser greeting

unwelcome Welcome to Comcast (click image)

This concludes the saga of “BIOS Won’t Boot“, a most unfortunate sequence of events occurring on April 1 (yes). The story was posted here April 8.

On April 11, Sunday afternoon, the second day of my return from Phoenix, you couldn’t tell there had ever been any issue(s) on my Castro Valley machines, and I didn’t have to spend a nickel to replace any hardware, either. It’s always nice to have the spare 3V CR2032 BIOS battery I bought for this occasion in Phoenix, wouldn’t you think? But I didn’t need to use it.
Continue reading

1,529 total views, no views today

BIOS Won’t Boot!

I’m in Phoenix at the moment, returning to the Bay Area tomorrow. I’m staring at my newly rebuilt Windows 7-64 PC, which is working great. It’s dawning on me that when I shut it down tonight I won’t need to say good-bye. Taxes are due in a week and my PC up north died.

I’ll be packing the car tonight for the drive north. In addition to the usual travel stuff,  I’m packing (1) a CR2032 3V Lithium CMOS battery, and (2) this PC. I just lugged this PC down here to Phoenix last month. Since I’m moving here soon anyway, lugging the PC back north with me just seems counter-intuitive.

Yes, I also have a fast Mac Pro up north, but all my tax stuff is on the PC.

Usually, when I post one of these “this happened to me” articles, there’s a moral to the story. In this case, I don’t know what it is yet. The PC failed just when I had to get a night’s rest for an early morning drive south. If I had to guess what the moral of the story will turn out to be, NOT forcing Windows shutdown with the Power Button would be high on my list!

Here’s the story (or what I know of it so far), excerpted from a letter to a friend. There’ll be a follow-up post once I do the diagnostics and fix the problem with whatever it takes.

I have a new Windows7-64 up north too, and I love it, but I may have to do all that over again too, if not very lucky, as soon as I get back next Friday.

Less than 12 hours before I had to leave for Phoenix, I was on the phone with Comcast cable/internet to get them to reset my new modem again. Some browser intercept feature of theirs was hijacking my browser on all 3 CA machines – a Mac and two PC’s.

Their tech guy reset the modem, got customer service to update something or other that should make the “hijack” screen go away, and he had me shut down and reboot the machines. This fixed the problem in the Mac and the old XP machine. The Win-7 machine refused to shut down. After several minutes, I forced it off with the 5-second Power Button trick. I don’t like to do that, and normally don’t.
Continue reading

1,069 total views, no views today

Use Wireless Router as “Repeater” Station

I had seen mention on the internet that it was possible to use a wireless router on your home network without replacing the existing wired router-firewall and CAT5 installation. Most of my machines are already wired into my “blue cable” ethernet LAN (which is much faster).

Unlike an earlier experiment a few years back, this router had excellent range. It’s an ASUS WL-520GU broad range wireless router I picked up on the cheap on a whim at a NewEgg sale, but I never spent the time to try to work through the setup. Continue reading

2,293 total views, no views today

Mac Pro – Impressions II

After a week and a day with my new Mac Pro, I’m more delighted than ever. Highlights:

  • More software added: BBEdit, Photoshop Elements 8 for Mac
  • In the mail: Dreamweaver CS4 for Mac (crossgrade)
  • Win-PC networking fixed (issue on PC side)
  • Installed HP P1505N networked printer for all machines
  • Upgraded memory to 7GB (+3[2GB] SIMMS + 1 existing 1GB) – removed two 1GB’s to fill 4 slots.
  • Added 1TB Hitachi SATA for backups and music

Continue reading

882 total views, no views today

Mac Pro – First Impressions

Mac iconI’m really impressed. Five Star ratingfive stars. Let me state up front that this Mac exceeds my wildest expectations. It’s everything I wanted, runs incredibly faster than any PC I’ve ever owned or built, and the software is everything you expect from Apple, if not more.

Having jumped ship from a Mac Clone to PC’s in 1997, I have a lot of investment in home-built PC’s, a huge software environment, and considerable PC “learning curve” acquired in the last 12 years.

But I’ve always wanted to install a test server right on my own box. I’ve been uploading drafts to test regions on my server for years and testing them there. Of course I do a lot of WordPress nowadays, a great, no-brainer web-based solution for blogs and entire websites. But, of course also , I still customize with Perl and HTML, I’m starting to use PhP, and I’m thinking about jumping into Ruby/RAILS.

Continue reading

1,243 total views, no views today

Overheating CPU’s


Arctic Cooling aftermarket CPU cooler

This Old House Dust

AMD CPU retail boxes have always come with generic cooling fans, and, if you’re not overclocking – I’m not – I have found them adequate in the past. So I quit looking for the “perfect cooler” like the Swiftech MCX462, which I experimented with in 2002. (I yanked it, because it sounded like a NASA liftoff. See the preceding link to my article).

So when the alarm went off last week, I searched this room in the apartment until I found the ceiling smoke alarm, and its 9V battery indeed was shot, but when I replaced it, the alarm didn’t stop.
Continue reading

1,307 total views, no views today

Third-Party Printer Inks

Many of my friends make hardcopy prints of their photos, but I have too many images and almost never print them. But three years ago I felt an almost panicky need to buy a color printer. I found some treasured photographs and printed glossy 8×10’s so I could surround myself with framed reminders of a lost loved one.

The printer was an Epson PHOTO R340 (now discontinued). The prints were utterly stunning – I can’t tell the difference bewteen them and a Kodak enlargement. And they are a great comfort and source of happiness to me. Since then, we can bring in a camera card or USB thumb drive and order all the color copies and enlargements we want, at Long’s, Walgreen’s or elsewhere, on a few hundred thousand dollars of professional image printing equipment. Mostly these services promise 1-hour printing. This might have been a better option for me.
Continue reading

782 total views, no views today

CoolerMaster Cosmos 1000


Cosmos 1000Well, I can say one thing right away about the CoolerMaster Cosmos 1000 case. It’s BIG – measuring 23-1/2 x 10 inches, including helicopter-style landing skids.

Another thing: it’s QUIET. CoolerMaster really soundproofed this design well. It’s even quieter than any laptop I ever owned. I can hardly hear it at all.
Continue reading

2,232 total views, no views today