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Review, Chasetac USB 3.0 ExpressCard

My cd drive broke. I hadn’t used it for ages (though suddenly missed it twice since – go figure) and realized it’d be better to connect my external hdd to it’s port (laptop,tight on that). Check if that’s really possible (yup, there’s even special docks shaped like a Cd drive for an extra Tb hdd or few 100 Gb solid state) and find people hooking up sound boards, desktop size pcie 1x contollers, graphics cards (barely, external power and tight bus) with the mPCI-e port you usually use for internal wifi and expresscard ports. I notice I have an expressport. Awesome! But.. too pricey. Decide to check what they want for the sata cabling, if I solder it from parts it should work but could be sketch. They have them, but around $15-20 and always in parts (lots for internal only). There were some separate sata controllers for the pci-e ins. And, cheapest of all at $12, a two port usb 3.0 card. I vaguely remember seeing that my external supported that. Sold.side

So after that run-around-y way of getting, there it is. I’m thinking this is kind of a niche product, but fortunately I’m it. It is (as you can see) a little on the large side – probably would need to be disconnected for moving. I already do, as it’s hooked to an external drive and it doesn’t move that much anyway. It needs power (can be from a a usb port which may be an issue plus losing a port, but no worries – I’m glad it follows spec and it can be fed with a random 500mA dongle instead of usb.closeup

Installation, however, was flawless. Plugged in, waited a moment, done. I’ve only (predictably) tried one device but it worked really well. Here’s data.smbetter

As you can see, I’m hardly bottoming it out here, it’s only a bit past what USb 2.0 should do in a perfect world. You can also see, though, that it very much was doing nothing of the kind. It’s a pretty cheap drive, so I’m thinking this is probably about what it’d do regardless of controller – the bottleneck is at the drive itself at this point. I’ve used another similar drive outside of the enclosure when it was failing and I was trying to rescue some data and while I didn’t really run benchmarks, it ran about like your average HDD, no slower or faster, even hooked straight to a fast SATA II.

Very satisfied with this gizmo all in all, hoping to carefully pick out and add another USB 3 device when I figure out what would be worth it. Do keep in mind to check what your machine has available when expanding or adding on – I’d never really considered anything but USB (1 and 2) figuring.. well, it’s a laptop.. but when it came down to it there’s *two* nice chunks of PCI-e and a whole SATA port for the unused CD player. I could hook up four more of these before there was any reason to consider the (crawling) speeds of USB and even then, there’s also an ethernet port (used, but a networked drive on the lan is still faster than usb2). A friend of mine mentioned doing something similar today and putting in SSD after realizing there was an mSATA port with some space on it. Could be the CD bays fate if I come into money.

Review: Logitech K400r Keyboard and touchpad


I got this keyboard a little over a month ago. I was using a full sized, wired 101 key (with the random extra button ever present now a days) but a little aging after a few years and nothing terribly fancy. I looked into mechanical switch ones for a while, leaning toward a red cherry switch one but I wasn’t really completely sold. It’s a lot of money and not really that massive of a gain, sure I type a lot but nothing that time critical. I hadn’t really considered anything less than a full size though. Despite using a keyboard on my knee or beside me a lot (space matters) my hands are pretty large. But after me not committing for ages, my wife insisted on getting me one (yes, she is that cool) but that I needed to pick since she’s also well aware of how picky I am. Looking, I saw this one.

It is a little smaller – individual taste if that’s good (in my case it’s a slight minus) with a touchpad. The keys have a pretty short span of movement but fairly ok for a laptop style keyboard. Usually I’d consider “wireless” a downside as well they’ve always sucked down batteries fast (lots of use) and never really seemed very reliable (from IR contraptions twenty years ago and up to yet another attempt about a year ago). Checking some reviews, it seemed to say this latest round of “modern, all better now” keyboard/mice actually are and after this month I’m prepared to perhaps believe it – I’ve had one hiccup with the drivers (understandable, I was poking at them to get all manner of other shortcuts and comforts to work) but never a disconnect. I’ve never had that happen before, hopefully it’s permanent.

The touchpad was the main point though. Much younger I stuck an external touchpad to a Microsofts Natural Keyboard (those wavy ergonomic ones) to make a similar key/pad combo like laptops now. I like the setup (with a mouse available on the side) since a lot of what I do is keyboard driven so reaching away for the mouse is just annoying. It’s nice to just reach a finger over instead and click whatever thing didn’t have a keyboard shortcut instead of fumbling further. It’s not as precise (by a lot) as a mouse, but who cares for clicking “OK” or “Confirm “? I wanted to try that again and the price was good ($30, so little that it was more of a for-fun thing – if it doesn’t feel right we’re not out much) so I gave it a shot.

I still use it and like it. The ability to keep all controls close is still good enough that I don’t switch back to a larger one. In addition, it’s a multitouch touchpad so it can scroll by dragging two fingers (any direction), right click by tapping two, pinch zoom and allegedly some others that do not appear to happen to be possible for me except on rare occasions (some truly are disabled as I’m not using windows 8). This is very good in my opinion, I’m surprised more laptop owners aren’t using it (many do have the option just by updating drivers, a free and all software move) but I think it’s becoming more common as touch screen phones and tablets have won the mobile market and it is becoming more expected than unusual as a touch interface. The right click (two finger tap) is a little odd in some applications, but I think it’s mostly a driver issue (working on it) and the zoom can be hard to hit although that’s just ctrl-scroll anyway and I don’t use it much.

So what else is not so good? Well, having it be full sized would be nice. I’ve mostly adapted but a few specific keys still irk me. Most is probably the arrow keys, packed in with right shift and doubling as pg and home end with Fn. Much too easy to hit arrow up when going for shift or <> keys, and on command lines pressing up will often erase whatever you were typing and/or cause a major issue if over a not so working terminal interface to somewhere. A little too much putting the self destruction button next to the ok button (enter also gets mashed sometimes) and it would have been better to have them a little more spread out.side1c

This is somewhat all qwerty though, beneath the right hand is kind of command central on most layouts. The pad can also get a random click sometimes, but that may be a large hand problem and typing all fancy with my pinky up. The touchpad could also have been a little bigger and support fuller gestures. The T650 pad logitech is selling more heavily seems to do all those, but without a keyboard it sort of ruins the point. I’m not thinking either will really replace a mouse for tight tolerance work unless, and this may be a large future to ask for even though it’s all current tech, it could also function as a pen tablet ( watcom, monoprice, vt, etc), a 6×4″ of those with a keyboard would be cool. Price wise I’m sure neither were really in the target here, but perhaps I’m a little out of the market they aimed for – I would have paid quite a lot more. I usually use a keyboard at least a year or a few depending on when they break, so for ones lasting two or three years (>10000 hours, which is rare for even good ones to survive) paying a bit is ok – there just isn’t really a lot of options that aren’t mostly centered around mouse/keyboard or the hipper touchpad (pretty useless for desktop work – I don’t even want to reach for a mouse and certainly don’t want to reach up to the monitor constantly or hovering my arm there)..

Another slight gripe is the setpoint software. Now it’s not as large or clumsy as synapse (what I usually use with a naga 2012 mouse, perhaps appropriately part keyboard with 12 mappable buttons on the side), but it’s pretty large for a controller setter while still being super lightweight in features. Just remapping some of the function and hard keys, enable /disable (note: not remap) gestures, sensitivity, and that’s about it. The remaps possible are a bit restricted as well without 3rd party help, some aren’t possible and there is nothing for sequences or contextual per application or even (since you’re gonna chill there boot to shutdown with 10-30 Mb ram and an input interrupt hooked anyhow) mapping in other devices. Logitech is pretty big with gamers (or at least try to be, them and razer are usually the two I hear aiming for that side) so while this isn’t for that (unless as a keyboard / two mouse thing and even then not really) they do know stuff. Regular people are a little less forgiving with learning curves perhaps, but new keyboard or mouse is always one and they take to touchscreens and a multitude of different laptop keyboards well enough.

Since writing that part yesterday, I’ve noticed that actually the SetPoint folder is packed with xml containing *tons* of settings for everything I could want except other devices (and perhaps even that). Someone wrote a program for it, uberOptions, to map them. It hasn’t been updated since ‘12, but allegedly works – will test later and perhaps see if I can update it some or redo something else. All that should have been unlocked from the get-go, but I guess it’s at least there.

All in all though, I like it. It sounds like I’m complaining a lot, but there are many specific small problems and no real laundry list of features. The “pro” side is basically just two large things: 1) multi touch touchpad reachable close to keyboard, and a more zen 2) with this and a full keyboard with a beyond full featured mouse sitting next to each other (literally zero pressure to pick either, 100% up to me what to grab) I’ve noticed that I practically never switch to the full keyboard and only once in a while (1/10th of the time perhaps, naturally very dependent on what I’m doing) to a more precise mouse. I’m not 100% sure why, but it’s hard to argue with my own choices I don’t notice making. Unless things change the other keyboard will go (still need mouse). I also notice I’ve become more keyboard driven, doing more tasks with it that I might otherwise use a mouse for, and usually to a faster and more flowing result. I’ve (granted) always been a little unorthodox on input devices but this is kind of what I like, it appears. Some of the software and perhaps even hardware issues may warrant fixing, but as a concept I like it and nothing else in the (nearly empty) category jumps out at me.

Another new blog..

If you’re here already, congratulations I guess – at this point I haven’t pointed anyone here except for (I suppose) the people I set up the domain and hosting with. I have things I want to write about piled pretty high though, so with any sort of luck it’ll be more interesting soon. But who knows with these things?