05 November 2006

This post brought to you by the letter...

I have been using the Auravision eluminX black/sapphire lighted keyboard since it came out... they don't even make the S-002 and since I got it 'hot off the rack' in 2002 it has been a stalwart companion.

Geeky Coolness!
Looks good in the dark, too, which has always had that necessary 'geek factor' to it. And for the amount of pounding it gets it really has stood up quite well, looking even 'cooler' as the black lettering has worn away from the keys. But, like all good electro-mechanical devices it is showing the effects of age, and a few letters, like the 'm' are getting to multiple hits to get a single letter. Just a few other letters are starting to show this problem intermittently, which I often blame on the typist.

Now I could disassemble the critter, clean it out and see if there are any electrical contacts amenable to some Stabilant-22A, but my guess is that the traversing mechanism of the keys are the problem, not the contacts. And as cleaning tends to move dust and debris around, a can of compressed air to just blow things out will help... or so lodge particles in new positions and places as to mess things up. In theory it should work, in practice a bit more tricky.

So I have been perusing keyboards looking for more durable types that will not succumb to keytravel problems over time. And, yes, I have tried some of the Logitech models previously, along with IBM and others and they suffer keytravel problems far faster than the eluminX has. I know, I have a few as 'backups' each with different key problems and some of them also just proved to be uncomfortable over time. So the eluminX, being pretty flat, geeky and having survived would get my first attention and the prices have come down for them since I originally got this S-002, but in the $70 range these days for a non-lookalike as not all lookalikes WORK alike. A bit of searching can pare that price down, just a bit, but probably not by much.

Thus we will start way out of my price range and work down.

Clark Kent Needs This!

This little item is the Stealth Computer Stainless Steel fully environmentally enclosed panel mount keyboard. The cost is a mere $1,195 and for that I expect it would last a lifetime, if not longer. I like to think of this as the 'Clark Kent keyboard'.... I mean the guy has 'Ten times the power of normal men' and, as Larry Niven points out, this makes life difficult when everything is made for weaklings. "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex", indeed! The guy has to frequent leather goods stores just to get handkerchiefs (that is if he is allergic to anything, heaven forefend!). So you need something like this just for his casual typing. In the 'good old days' he could have gotten any old, unmaintained Underwood with all sorts of gunk in the mechanism and typed all of that out and gotten it in working condition in about a week's worth of typing. In two weeks he could either sell it as 'mechanically reconditioned' or put sludge laden oil into it. Later he could use titanium steel springs and finally get a model to last a year... but with computers? The plastic we use on them would be melting under his normal typing speed, not to mention crushed keys and keys jammed right to the desk. He could justify one of these keyboards, but I can't. Perhaps one of their lower priced models, yes... and 'environmentally sealed'... mmmm... no, even $295 for their lower end, full size model is a bit much for my taste. Great idea, though!

Thus onwards to further geekiness.

for mere mortals
This little number uses good old Aluminum: the HiPer Clavier Aluminum Alloy keyboard (Reviewed at Phoronix). Lovely! Brushed black aluminum frame, looks to be pretty sturdy plastic keys. Flat. And can be found for about $37 from the seller of your choice. Just yummy! And since I don't care about 'multimedia keys' they will sit unused, just like they did on my Logitech. So this is definitely in the running along with the eluminX. Aluminum vs. eluminX. Ahhh! Only in America!

Onwards and up in the price range is the futuristic stuff.

for mere mortals

That is the HAL 9000 interface...

Oh, no... so sorry! Your pod bay doors are safe to use!

This is the Bluetooth Virtual Keyboard that projects onto a flat surface for your use. Currently available at ThinkGeek.com for $180 or so. Two problems, really, with this for me. First is the fact of it being Bluetooth and my needing to get an adapter and install it, which is no mean feat on my machine. So the cost now goes up by that. And second, is its need for a non-reflective surface to work well. That I could do with a very thin piece of foam rubber with some sort of cloth coating on it, which is something else that would need to get purchased. So it is utterly 'futuristic', but for the mobile market, really. But I would NEVER have to worry about keytravel and electromechanical problems again! Sensitivity for typing, OTOH, might be something else again.

So, backburnering *that* lets take a look at something else that is ridiculously interesting.

Das Kool!
That is the Das Keyboard! Clicking on the image takes you to the company. Rugged plastic, adjustable mechanical traverse for each and every key and no key letters to ever wear off because they AREN'T THERE! Now this took a real genius to finally realize that the letters on the keys actually HINDER touch typists as the mental force to look *down* in a moment of forgetfulness slows one up no end. And, since it has all those wonderful control capabilities you can get by with a 'feather touch' on some keys and a mighty push on others. And the more used keys are designed to better fit your fingers! This is really a marvel to take all the 'lessons learned' from the mechanical era, add them to the good practice of 'touch typing' and reinforcing that, and then putting in the wonderful geekiness of absolute adjustability for keytravel. Wow!! I read someplace that these were given away by the company as 'freebies' to customers who bought other equipment and that those customers started to beat a path to their doors for this. Plus the Mean Time Between Failure is OVER 80,000 hours of use!

My sole gripe with this keyboard is the clicking. If it was an SFX that you could get rid of, well it would be a sale as that is 10 years to a 50/50 chance of failure (the center of a bell curve) or about 1 billion key depressions if I read their material properly. But clickage really is *not* something I want, as I enjoy the quiteness of soft clatter of keys. Now if it were environmentally sealed I wouldn't care as that is then fully resistant to life on this planet.

This all gets put on 'hold' while I think about the cheap and sleazy compressed air and taking the back off to clean out the eluminX I currently have. That can either cure it completely or kill it and then put me on a backup.

So the choices now stand at:

Auravision eluminX at the $70 range
HiPer Clavier Aluminum Alloy in the $35-40 range
Das Keyboard II at $90 flat, shipping included
And I still wish that Logitech would make their marble trackman just a little bit larger in the same form factor. Hate the big marble thing and am absolutely addicted to the 'rest the hand on the trackball' non-motion. But that is another gripe for another day.

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