Das ist a nice keyboard!

OK, well I know that the last proper blog post (ignore the Facebook one) was about keyboards. Well, you’ll be excited to know that this one is too. Of course, you only have to scroll down slightly to find the “absolute bargain” with that Dell keyboards.. a little bit of spit and polish (rather, a load of Cillit Bang, and even more of those disposable blue cloths), and it was back up and running.

Anyway, Thursday, is of course, market day. I’ve mentioned this many times. Sometimes, I weep when I find a badly treated CD that I’ve been after, sometimes I laugh at the prices that some of the stall holders charge, and sometimes, I swear in disbelief at the bargains that can be had, when the person just doesn’t know what they’re selling.

So, I was on an early shift at work. It was sunny, and all of those two things combined mean that I headed off to the flea market. You gathered that, otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this now. The first stall is always a hive of miscellany. My eyes were immediately drawn to a box of records. No surprise there, but the next box along stopped me dead in my tracks. The records no longer had any significance. There were keyboards. and there was one that stood out in particular. A huge one. A single keypress immediate;y informed me that this was no ordinary keyboard, it was mechanical. The satisfying clack of the key. The overall look of the beast. The fact that it looked practically brand new.. There just had to be a catch somewhere.

I grabbed it instantly, and went over to the guy selling them. £2 each. What? Money exchanged hands, and I walked away with a keyboard. I had no idea if it worked. I walked through the town clutching this keyboard, I must have looked a complete wally., but I don’t care. A mechanical keyboard for less than the price of a pint.

It’s actually perfect timing. Some of you have noticed when I’m typing something that there are double characters especially Cs and Ys. It appears that those two switches are possibly on the way out. They might just need cleaning, or they might need replacing entirely. One thing I know is that it’s not easy to do, so I was sort-of hesitating over getting a different keyboard. I suppose this will have to do for now!

Right, so far, I’ve raved about my purchase. I do have a couple of reservations about it. It’s a touch-type keyboard, meaning that none of the keys have marks. It’s completely blank. One thing is though, I’m typing using it now, and the words are flowing like beer from a keg. There are obviously the odd mistakes, but they creep into my typing anyway. Using this might actually improve my already fantastic typing abilities. Ahem.

Another thing is that… I’m not sure it’s a genuine product. It’s by Das Keyboards. A name I’ve actually heard of. This one is apparently the MX3000. There is a Cherry keyboard of very, very similar design, though checking out the Youtube videos on it, It looks better made, I’ve had Cherry keyboards in the past that have had different branding on them, so it might just be a case of that.

Just look at how plain the logo is though.

I’m not going to rip it apart to find out to see if there’s anything more identifiable on the parts inside,, but I do know that the switches are Cherry branded

There’s also the fact that it’s an ANSI keyboard (American), as opposed to the ISO (UK) standard. It’s not much of a problem, but the smaller return key, and you can only get to the backslash by pressing AltGR and # as there’s no dedicated key for it. Seeing as I use the backslash key a lot MIGHT prove an annoyance, but I’ll wait and see.

I’ve been using this as my main keyboard since Thursday now, and I’ve had absolutely no other issues with it. I’m surprised how quickly I got used to not having letters on the keys. As I said, maybe this will improve my typing, maybe I’ll get sick of it and fling it in the cupboard with the other 5,000 keyboards that I own.

But yeah, no letters!

Something for nothing…. a “free” mouse…

I’ve always been one for a bargain, so when I see an offer that’s clearly too good to be true on somewhere like facebook, I’m a sucker, and I just have to have it. Well, that’s a complete lie. This is the first of these I’ve ever done, but who knows? Maybe there’ll be more. I doubt it.

Before anyone complains I’m jumping on some type of sponsorship bandwagon, I’m not. In fact, I’m not even going to name the site I got this from. Nobody gets free adverts from me. I’ll tell you, but only if you’re really interested.

Right, so, onto this free mouse then. Way back on 6th December I saw a post on Facey B for a free mouse. Just pay shipping from the US to the UK, all of $9.99. OK, it wasn’t free, I’d never heard of this website, I’d signed up to it using my “spam name”, I’d accidentally got my address wrong while ordering, and the site was saying that due to the amount of orders, it could take 3-5 weeks. Oh, well, this is going to turn up then, isn’t it?

I’d genuinely forgotten about it, but exactly 4 weeks to the day since I ordered it, there was a knock on the solid oak doors of Mercuryvapour Towers, and a parcel from Taiwan. A very flimsy package, consisting of a plastic bag, a zip-lock bag, some bubble wrap and the mouse. I’d show you the packaging, but I’ve lobbed it, but I was very, very surprised that it made it here in one piece.

Upon first inspection, it didn’t feel too bad It’s covered almost entirely in that “soft-feel” stuff, except for the part where your thumb goes, that’s just normal dimpled plastic. There seems to be some type of scribbled circuit design with a swirl in the middle, and the letters “JWFY”. The cable is braided red and black, but nothing special.

What does it look like when plugged in?

Clicky Bigger

A mouse of many colours. I’ve never been a fan of LED-for-the-sake-of-it. RGB gaming and all of that type of crap can go suck a bag of disks. An LED simply for decoration is a waste of the world’s finite resources. I long for the days of beige keyboards, and beige PCs, where they’re heard, and never seen. Now they’re silent disco-balls, and the peripherals are no different.

The mouse is no exception. I’m not going to break it open, but I’d guess there’s 4 RGB LEDs in there, cycling infinitely through a range of colours. The underside is, as you’d expect… plain, with no model number or similar, just a patent number…

Onto the big question… how does it feel? Actually, not too bad. It moves nicely on a mouse pad. The usual features you’d expect from a gaming mouse are present. Backwards + Forwards browser buttons, mouse sensitivity button.

There’s one thing, after an hour of use, that is stopping me from liking this (and the fact I already have a gaming mouse that’s not near as garish as this), and its the mouse buttons. I have small hands, with short stumpy fingers, so this is less of a problem for me, but if you have long fingers, this mouse will give you PAIN. The ends of the buttons are incredibly sharp.

The photo doesn’t quite do justice how bad these are, but honestly, you’ll need to take a file to those bad lads before using it for any period of time. I just caught it while typing that last sentence and had to look to see if I drew blood. Makes me wonder about the legality of the safety marks on the underside of this thing. I mentioned the flimsy packaging it came in. After feeling those buttons, I’m surprised it never cut straight through it.

OVerall, this is a *really* entry level gaming mouse. The free promotion for these has ended, and the site is selling them for $15. they have another design of “free” mouse still available, but you can almost guarantee it’ll be the same circuit board in a slightly different case. For those of you who know which site I’m talking about and are still waiting on their mice, you will eventually get it.

Oh, and a quick thing about the “Spam Name”… If you sign up for a promotion that offers you free stuff, and you think the company are going to sell your details (no company gives something away for nothing!), just change your name slightly when signing up. I call myself “Jay”. That way, if you ever receive anything with that name, and it’s not your “freebie”, it can go straight in the bin without being opened!

Repressed childhood memories #186

Picture if you will. The year is 1988. I sit in school, in Mrs. Dawson’s class, staring out of the window, paying very little to no attention to what is flowing from the afore-mentioned teachers’ mouth, instead he stars across the playground, watching two birds peck away at the remains of another dead bird, when all of a sudden, the classroom doors bang. It’s the caretaker, and behind him he’s pulling the school telly! Of course, it’s a Rumbelows one, on wheels. The class erupts with excitement as she pulls out an ancient VHS tape out of her desk drawer.

This will be the only time in the entire school day that the class will have her full undivided attention.

“If you’re good, I’ll let you hear the music”, she says, bribing the class into facing the front, as she struggles to get the sun visor across the top of the telly in place, as it collapses hilariously at least once. Of course, we’ll hear the music because Mrs Dawson only knew one button, and that was the Play button.

In goes the tape, and she presses play. There they are. For me, the highlight of computer animation at the time. Yes, four spinning ITV logos.

We could have been waiting for a programme on making cardboard boxes (to be honest, we probably were), but as long as I got to see (and hear) that, I was content.

These “Schools” TV shows were always broadcast in the morning, so when you were off poorly, it’d be a special treat to actually see that animation on your own telly. And, of course, I’d be sat there with the tape recorder, grabbing as much as I could.. Sometimes you’d get more of the track than before, as the gap in between each program was different

At the time, we thought that this music and countdown clock was there to help teachers queue the programme up for the class. While this may be partially right, there was also a much more mundane reason. These were the days before the national curriculum, and different areas were allowed to show different programmes, meaning that one region could show a 14-minute programme, and the rest of the country could be watching a 12-minute programme, so for that extra two minutes, the rest of the country will see an extra two minutes of the spinning ITVs while they wait for that region to catch up. On very rare occasions, they would play the full track, if there was an especially long wait between regions.

I remember getting this on audio tape, and I played it that much, the tape snapped. The music was surely lost to obscurity. This animation ran every school morning from 1987 until 1993. By then, the national curriculum was fully in place, and eventually there was no need for long breaks between programmes.

In 2002, I made a brief post about this animation and a site I’d discovered which had far too much technical detail about this. Sadly, the site no longer exists.

However, I did manage to find out who did the music. It was by someone named James Aldenham. Except it wasn’t, because that name was a pseudonym for Brian Bennett, the bloke out of The Shadows. It turns out that both of the pieces of music were released on CD, and due to their rarity, were stupidly expensive. They were on the “Music House” label.

“The Journey”, which is the long bit of music was released on “Atmosphere 12 MHA-!2)” and “Just a Minute”, unsurprisingly, the countdown clock music was on “That’s Entertainment (MHE-15)”

And, thanks to eBay, at under a fiver each, I have them both. Another part of my musical journey (pardon the pun) over.

EDIT 5/7/17: Here’s a little bit of extra information for those playing along at home. For the entirety of its run, both tracks were only ever aired in mono. During the initial introduction when the schools broadcast started for that day, the first minute of “The Journey” would always be played, before fading out to the clock. This recording was of a fixed length, and the audio was taken from the left channel track, and every other broadcast would be played from the right.

The reason for this, is that the left channel had slightly less instrumentation around the intro, so it could be made to sound more “peaceful” to start the day.

‘Running through Russia” is a joke of a game…

Or rather, it’s a “joke game”.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a fan of Steam, the PC gaming “platform”, for want of a better word. I’ve made no secrets about it, leading to many a good long argument with old work colleagues (“DOWN WITH STEAM!”), however, there was one game that caught my eye, thanks to an article that popped up on some facebook group, and as you should have worked out by now, it’s name is “running through Russia”

Firstly, onto the gameplay…. Jump. Avoid bears. Collect bottles.

Secondly…. er, everything else. At the start, I mentioned it’s a joke game, because that’s exactly what it is, and the author actually states this in the opening screen. It feel like it’s been knocked up in half an hour, as the first tutorial in some really badly written game editor. No effort has been spared with this one.

Maybe it’s a two-fingers up at Steam’s policy on indie games or achievements, I don’t know, but it’ll be difficult to find a game where you unlock so many achievements (4,096 of them) for doing so little.

Every time you jump, (which is the whole premise of the game), you unlock an achievement. Jump 10 times, 10 achievements. as you can see from the screenshot above, they were streaming in. All you need to do is jump over 4,000 times, and you’ve unlocked the achievements.

The game has progressed since its initial release to add some “skill” element (collect 10 bottles in 1 run, etc). Not sure why these were added, as they’re also extremely easy, and if you do decide to play to unlock all of the achievements, you’ll inevitably get them anyway.

In conclusion…

Is it worth the 63p I paid for it? No.
Would I recommend buying it? Unless you like watching steam achievements pop up every second, no.
Do I feel like I’ve wasted 102 minutes of my life unlocking all of the achievements? Absolutely. But then, I spent 117 minutes of my life watching Ant-man at the pictures.

Goodbye Maplin (Teesside Park)… I hardly knew ye.

One of my favourite haunts for “tech stuff” is closing its doors very soon. In fact, assuming I finish and publish this post on 21st May, it’ll be “today”.

I’m not sure where to start with this post I’m sorry to see it go. I’ve bought so much stuff here over the years. My desk drawer is full of those little screwdrivers they sell at the counter, because they’re so cheap, and I’m always losing the little bits out of them, and whenever any work needs doing on my PC, I’m searching all over for *that* Philips bit that’ll undo that weird screw holding something in place.

My condolences go out to the staff, and the poor bugger who had to put this up in the window, sealing his fate. Rather like what happened to me back in 2012 when I (and my colleagues at the time) saw other people doing our work.

On a side note, there are absolutely no bargains to be had. There a re a couple of “50% Off” bins near the counter, containing weird shaped fluorescent tubes and ink cartridges, but nothing of any relevance.

I did intend to type a whole long rambling post about what I’ve bought in there over the years, but, quite frankly, I can’t be bothered. Any chain of stores that thinks it’s reasonable to charge £25 for a CD wallet doesn’t deserve my custom. There, I said it.

EDIT: As promised, and seeing as I’m at Teesside Park right now, snaffling free Wi-Fi, here it is. All closed down

EDIT: MARCH 2018 – It’s sad news that the entire chain are closing all of their stores, and will disappear off “the high street” altogether. As a commentor mentioned below, the nail was in the coffin when it turned into a glorified toy store.