Mouse Trouble

For a long time I have used the Razer Naga Molten as my mouse. It’s been excellent. Recently though it’s had a little trouble moving about on the desk. It turns out that the slick plastic sliders on the bottom of the mouse have worn right down to the hard plastic shell. It was becoming awkward to use. And I can’t seem to find a way to just replace those parts.

I started investigating replacements and of course the first place to look was Razer. Here, the Naga was now in several versions, with the fanciest being the Naga Pro. This had the three swappable side plates (so normal configuration, 6 buttons and the 12 button like my Naga). It added wireless, including Bluetooth.

But the Razer software no longer supports OSX. Though I’ve never used the Razer software on my existing Naga. With my birthday coming up, I put in my request.

Success! Birthday came along and so did the Naga. It connected fairly simply to the iMac. Obviously the software wasn’t working but I didn’t think much of that until I tried to play WoW.

Here I came across the problem I didn’t face with the older one. The Naga Molten has a switch on the bottom. This manually selects the 12 side buttons as either the top number row on the keyboard or the number pad. Now I had always had it as the number pad. This worked great as I used the number row on the keyboard for my attack rotation, then the Numpad on the Naga as my interrupts and other more situational actions.

Well, that’s what the software does in the newer ones. That software that doesn’t work on OSX. Mapping the keys in WoW didn’t help because the mouse thinks its the number row. I did manage a work around as I made them all bound to SHIFT-number.

I was kind of disappointed, so I handed the Naga over to the Surface to work with. I do like that I can actually use it for multiple computers. I have the USB cable connected to the iMac, which works. And when I switch the BT on, the Surface connects to it.

Anyway, after some more research, I picked up a Logitech G604 for the iMac.

This is also a Bluetooth mouse (that was one of the criteria for my choice) and it has 6 side buttons. The Logitech software also works on OSX.

So this arrived and connected. It was really slow to move across my desktop (I have the 27” iMac and another 27” screen slaved to it). Then I got into the software and messed about with the settings. This helped.

I’ve also set up the keys when outside WoW as a bunch of short cuts.. cut, copy, paste, screenshot. Works well for that.

I have struggled a little with it in WoW, but I’ve also not played much so I reserve judgement on that side of things. I can’t quite seem to get the Logitech software to automatically switch profile as I thought it did. Again, I haven’t played with it much to be sure.

However, I have been having trouble with it even working. It will often lose the BT connection and simply stop. I’ve had to go through the reconnection steps several times. Switching it off, clearing it from the iMac’s BT list etc have eventually got it up and running.

The other trouble is that, well as I said, without the G-Suite application running, it’s really slow across the screen. At the OSX login screen (there are profiles for each family member on my iMac) its slow. And it remains slow even after login (or wake up from sleep) until the G-Suite kicks in. This can be several seconds. Or it isn’t until I actually open it. Or it just doesn’t.

This has all been quite frustrating. Sometimes it all gets back together, or I have to switch on the Apple Magic Mouse that I have, or I’ve resorted to plugging the Naga in (via its USB) cable. On one recent afternoon I had to dig out an old Apple Trackpad to get some response from the cursor on screen.

So in summary. Naga Pro isn’t great for OSX (well it’s not supposed to be). G604 seems really flakey. Apple Magic Mouse is good for general stuff, but not games, make sure you keep a trackpad around…

Anyone got an older working Naga they want to let go?

Oh and my old reliable Logitech M555 that I kept for travel seems to have died.

Marvel’s Agents of well not zzz

I have an apology to make. Way back in 2013 I posted my thoughts on the (at the time) new Marvel series. I wasn’t too impressed.

However, I’m deep into the third series, and while it’s not the best show ever (The Expanse is one of my picks for that), it is worth watching. So I don’t fully retract my comments at the time, but I’m enjoying it.

I didn’t like the lead hero, who turned out to be a bad guy (maybe I knew). And I kind of still don’t. It is still awesome to see Ming-Na (to the best of my knowledge the only Star Wars character, Marvel hero and Disney Princess – though technically the wife of a General doesn’t make her a princess).

But the stories have evolved from what I felt was like a bad guy/alien of the week to a series of engaging story arcs. It does and it doesn’t link in parts of the movie series. I’m not sure yet if it relates to the Inhuman series as well (I’ve had the same with that… it was watchable, but I didn’t really get into the show).

So worth a watch if you’ve been watching other parts of the Marvel universe. And probably engaging even if you haven’t.

Surface Pro 7 – Review Update

Thought the device could do with a longer review. In the main, I’ve not used it nearly as much as I expected. Almost to the point where I think I would have been better off just getting a HDMI-Lightning connector for my aging iPad. But that’s being coldly logical…. but where’s the fun in that?

Whatever, it has worked excellently in the areas that I purchased it for. It has surprised me in areas that I secretly hoped it might work out (gaming). Overall I’m happy with it, though as it’s been about 10 years since I bought a PC, and more than that since I last purchased a PC laptop, I can’t really compare it to anything. Oh, except the heavy, large, cumbersome and slow work laptops I sometimes need to use. (Which reminds me, my new work laptop is due soon – wonder what rubbish that will be).

Gaming

Not really what I picked it up for, but anyway. Playing some scrollers, it is fine. Trine and Assassin’s Creed Chronicles : China seemed to run without much problem. I can hear the fan start up, so even these will have a effect on battery life. Remember, it’s only onboard graphics, not a discrete card. Massive slow down when I tried Rise of the Tomb Raider though, enough that I deleted it straightaway. Mechwarrior Online wouldn’t even start.

It does play Wow alright, at least for questing, I’ve not tried it in a dungeon. The Arc mouse isn’t great for WoW, as I usually use a 17 key Naga. But it’s workable. Enough to grind out some solo questing.

Office Work

It works well for this and I have no complaints. Being a full system, it has the full versions of applications. I find the keyboard pretty good to type on. It does have a little more flex than a standard laptop keyboard but not enough that its noticeable. The keys are well spaced for my normal man sized hands. I like the hot keys up the top, as they are used much more frequently than F keys these days. I really like the backlighting too, the first keyboard I’ve used with it.

I do have the Creative suite installed (well some of it) but haven’t had cause to use it yet. I imagine Photoshop will work well, but it might be a little slow when generating high def movies in Premiere, but I don’t know yet. I do most of my video work on my iMac.

Connectivity

Wireless and Bluetooth connectivity are excellent. GSM connection would be nice to have (I think the Surface Pro X has that option), but I just hotspot my phone. For that I use the USB-A, as it charges my phone as well and is more secure.

The USB-C I have a dongle left over from an Apple, that gives me USB-C to HDMI and that works well.

Discovered the nicely tucked away microSD slot. Massive expansion in storage if you buy a large card. Most of my stuff is cloud stored, so it’s okay. I do have to watch how many games I load though!

You’re not going to be able to connect a whole lot at once, but the USB-A, -C and microSD pretty much covers everything these days. You can get a range of USB-C dongles to connect other stuff even all at once. I haven’t been motivated to do that yet.

Battery Life

I’ve not really pushed this so far. Obviously gaming pushes the battery, I can probably play WoW for a couple of hours. Using it in class to play videos and put things on the screen, it happily goes all day and then some. Even while charging the phone. It would be an unusual day if I took my charger with me.

Tablet / Laptop Mode

It switches readily between the two. I sometimes find the screen a little unresponsive to my finger, but I put that down to the screen protector I’ve added. Keyboard folds readily underneath and you’re in tablet mode. Most controls are workable with your finger, but if I get stuck I just use the stylus.

Using the stylus in the little writing box mostly works well. I also haven’t actually done that too much, so I know some my feeling of being underwhelmed is about practice. The Apple Pencil on the iPad was the same (and needed an OS update or two).

Other Comments

I do like the face recognition for unlocking it. It works quite quickly even in darkness and opens the device.

Physically, it slides nicely into my backpack.

Peripherals

I’ve added a glass screen protector and a case. The case is a Procase Cover. I liked this one as it covered the whole device, seemed moderately rugged and covered the fold out stand. I don’t actually use the Surface’s stand when its in the case. While some of the colourful or picture cases were inviting, I needed something more substantial, where if I’m carrying it about at school, I can relax about it. Been a solid cover so far.

The pen is still great. I use the buttons to open other apps which it does quite quickly. One press and I have OneNote open, two and Whiteboard opens. Handy. As above, more practice.

The Arc Mouse is a fine mouse, and it’s slim nature when stored is a big plus. As above, not so good for MMO gaming 😉

Battery wise both have lasted some time.

Screen Time

A mate at work had a pair of extra Quad Lock brackets he was happy to let go for cheap. There wasn’t anywhere spare on the clip ons that would let me fit the handlebar mount he had, and I wasn’t going to entertain the mirror stalk mount. Partly aesthetics, partly practicality and partly security to have it hanging out there in the breeze. It got me interested in the brand and I looked into the stem mount, but it would not fit on the hex stem that is common to Ninjas.

That was about six months ago. Now the other day, I was poking about on a Ninja 1000 discussion board when someone suggested a 1” ball stem mount they used, something specifically designed for the hex stem mount on Kawasaki. Something off eBay. They combined this item with a RAM 1” ball adjustable short arm. Then lastly, a Quad Lock 1” ball mount. I thought, I have one of those arms from my old Sony Actioncam set up. A search in eBay turned up a few of these stem mounts, so I’ve ordered one. I guess it will be a couple of weeks before it turns up.

In the meantime, I looked through the Quad Lock website (again). I bought the 1” ball mount and the case for my phone (with the “poncho” – a water proof cover). I also bought the car mount, I figured I could use it as well. The Quad Lock gear turned up within a couple of days. I’d barely had time to dig out the RAM arm. Fitted perfectly. Roughing it out, it looks like it should sit really nicely between the bar risers. I’ll just have to make sure I can access the ignition.

The case fits very nicely on the phone. It’s very slim and is less protection than my current Otterbox (another recommended brand), but I think it will be okay. The poncho slips on easily and looks to provide good weather protection. And the TouchID works through it as well.

So back to the mounting. The stem part arrived within a couple of weeks. Not bad I thought, as it came from the UK. It’s pretty simple. A 1″ ball with a hex driven bolt down the middle. There is a hex shaped nut on the other end. This has some petals coming from it and along the shaft is a washer (?) that expands the petal. Slide the shaft into the hole in the stem bolt. Tighten the hex bolt and the nut moves up the shaft. This pushes the petals against the washer, which forces them outwards and they grab the shaft of the slot. Done.

Then, connect the RAM arm and the Quad Lock mount and adjust to the desired angle. Job complete.

I haven’t had a test run, so will have to report on it separately.

Success!
Portrait mode
And Landscape.

Of course, the next step is to get power to the mount.

Well I may have something on that. Turns out there is a pair of connectors just under the left front fairing that have been provided for the factory heated handgrips. If they aren’t fitted (not fitted on my bike) there is a convenient, factory switched (so no battery drain) power supply right near the front of the bike. And would you believe Amazon has more goodies….

Like this dual USB and voltmeter. From what I’ve seen, people mount this into the dash on the bike. “Simply” cut a round hole in the plastic. I have seen a handlebar one that’s similar, but then I end up back in the same problem I had with the Quad Lock!

I swear, it’s not all because of the MotoGP trip planning!

Surface Pro 7 – Quick Thoughts

On Monday I worked from home as I didn’t want there to be any problems with the planned delivery of my Surface. The good natured teasing of my colleagues, talking about wrong deliveries and such did nothing to dampen my positivity. The only thing that did was that DHL was reporting 2 items out for delivery and not the third. Once again, the actual Surface was lagging behind.

Working in the study I can hear whenever our front gate opens and with the windows open for the breeze, even the few vehicles passing are easily heard.

I was deep in the middle of painting some Battletech minis when I heard the distinctive sound of a diesel engine idling along and a glance out the window confirmed a DHL van rolling along the street, clearly looking at house numbers. I went out and watched from the gate. There was no chance I was going to let them just “fake deliver” and just drop a card.

I felt a lot happier as he drew THREE boxes from the van and walked towards my gate.

And then it was here.

So I contained my excitement as I carefully packed away the minis and paints. I didn’t want any chance of spilling Waargh Flesh Green on the new Surface!

I ended up with the i7 16GB 256GB, along with the MS Pen, the Signature Pro Type Cover (not with alca… that cloth finish), an Arc Mouse and they threw in a free STM branded case (not a brand I’ve heard of). This case turned out to be more like a small laptop bag, rather than a snug sleeve that I was expecting. It was free, but it’s likely to sit unused in the cupboard.

First impressions. It’s a lot heavier than I expected, especially when compared to the iPad Pro 9.7 (it’s nearly double at 770g vs 440g). Larger, clearly (at 12.9″), but the aspect ratio seems nice for laptop (in landscape) and table style reading, note taking (in portrait). The weight and the lack of protection (I did already have a glass screen protector waiting to install) has meant that I’ve ordered a folio style cover for it. This will let me relax a little, carrying it about in class or at school. I’m also trying to find a nice vinyl overlay as that might look pretty cool.

A collection of software updates followed and a few installs and copying data around occurred for the next couple of hours. However, with most of my data in the cloud (in this case – OneDrive) that’s not so much of an issue these days.

I fluffed about putting a bunch of documents on the cloud and having them available offline on the Surface. This is quite smoothly done and so far space on the Surface has not been an issue, though on the smaller 128GB I had planned it might have been. I’ve added a few games, though being Tomb Raider: Guardian of Light and Trine 2, they aren’t asking for much. I will likely put a more recent TR on it as well, just to see.

And it compares very favourably to my PC performance wise, but then that’s a 2009 vintage i7 1st gen, so not hard. It worked fine on everything I threw at it. Sometimes the screen seems to need a firmer press than my iPad, but I think the screen protector may be a factor there as well.

But how does it go for my work? Well it was tested in real life today. I wouldn’t say this one YouTube video I had to show a class meant that the Surface paid for itself, but it’s put in its first payment. So again, this school has the teachers using their own (some were school issued, but you could BYOD as well) and so I arrived in the class with the teacher walking out with the laptop. She had passed me a lesson plan that used a YouTube video…

As luck would have it, she had a Surface Pro as well. So, a USB-C dongle was waiting that was already connected to the class display AND she had a Surface charger there as well. Sweet. Plugged in and connected to the screen without any button presses from me. Nice.

I did have some hiccups connecting to the network, but that was around my unfamiliarity with the school’s setup and not to do with the Surface or Windows. In the end, I hot spotted off my phone. The video was played and the lesson continued.

Some specific details below before my final thoughts.

Pen – The writing seems a bit clunkier than the Apple Pencil. In OneNote, it will take more practice to get smooth with it. Additionally, like iPadOS, prior to v14, using the Pen outside of a drawing function, that is, as a way to “write” text is awkward to say the least. On the plus side, in OneNote at least, you can convert Ink to Text. I am going to have to practice with this. But the Pencil was the same when I first got it…. it took more consistent use of it before it became “normal”.

Arc Mouse – I really think this is cool. Flat and slim, you “bend” it and it switches on (it’s Bluetooth). This also puts it in a shape that replicates the curve of a mouse. It has a smooth touch sensitive panel that acts as the left/right button and scroll wheel. I think this works very well. The only gripe is that I will need to learn a slightly different grip as the “sides” of the mouse are just air, so it feels like there is nowhere to rest your thumb. Overall, I like it.

ON and OFF.

Surface Pro Type Cover – Easily attached, nice feel keyboard. Happy with it. Make a good cover when folded closed.

OVERALL – I think it will work well as intended. My current teaching (mostly session by session in different classes) means that I am not writing day or unit plans and taking notes about things, so that side hasn’t been tested. The pen will take some more practice (just as the Pencil did).

Its a very nice laptop and a good tablet. Sure the Windows interface is a little less tablet than iPadOS but the tablet side has been built over the top of the many versions of desktop OS before it and it shows up all over the place. But a few clicks with the pen if your finger is too fat and it’s fine.

I am being positive about it meeting my needs, but I will say that after using iPad since the first one in 2010 I am a little set in my ways. It is going to take a little more than I thought to get used to Windows as a tablet/pen combination (as opposed to a desktop/keyboard/mouse).

Custom Nike

Running is a long way from being my favourite exercise. I don’t mind running around work as I get to run in the bush, and the views and terrain are interesting. For years I have run in a range of minimalist shoes, starting with several pairs of Vibram FiveFingers, and more recently in Merrell Trail Gloves. The common feature of these is basically zero cushioning.

However, I think partly due reduced fitness and regularity but probably also age, I’ve been feeling like going back to “normal shoes”.

Aside from these shoes, I’ve always worn Nike. I’m just stubborn that way, so my new shoes were always going to be from Nike. Currently for some models you can custom design a pair, just for you, for just an extra $20, delivered. Its a pretty cool system and you can save designs. You can change an enormous amount of the shoe and get some really wild designs. Took about 3 weeks from placing the order.

So that’s what I did and here are my bright red and black Air Pegasus 37.

(The red is more crimson than orange in real life).

But I am struggling a little in these shoes. They feel really tall and bouncy. But that’s no surprise.

The other problem is that after about 2-3km my feet ache a little in the arch. I put it down to three things…. I’ve not really gone for a run for several months. I’m running on concrete and asphalt (as I prepare for my annual run test) instead of my usual bush trails. And these shoes have actual shape in the soles, so an arch etc which the previous nearly 8 years of shoes did not. So I’m hoping after a couple more runs (it’s only been 2 so far) my feet will adjust. I still have a few weeks before my test, so I will have worn my shoes and my feet in by then.

I would love to sing the praises of these shoes, but it’s probably almost never since I had actual running shoes (that weren’t minimalist) so its hard for me to say. I am positive about them and that my feet will get used to the different style soon.

Review – Minecraft Dungeons (Switch)

It’s the 26 May. That was the release date on the website, on all the advertising. And we still waited.

And waited….

We’d been waiting for a couple of months. We’re not massive Minecraft players in our house, especially since the girls moved to Roblox. But we all thought that this looked interesting.

But it wasn’t until 11pm on the 26th that you could actually download it. So I had a little play around midnight before bed. I played a little more the next night, before revealing its existence to the girls.

So we’ve all had a go now. Miss 12 is the furthest through, almost finished the first run through. Miss 10 is having a go as I type. Miss 12 and I had a 2-up game as well.

It’s quite fun, not massively difficult and very Minecraft themed, without ANY building. None at all.

I did read it described as Diablo crossed with Minecraft. And the total of 20 minutes of Diablo I’ve played, that seems a fair assessment. It has the same 3rd person iso view and you basically run about killing Minecraft mobs in a Minecraft themed world.

Chaos ensues.

This isn’t a disappointment to be honest. I wanted something the girls might enjoy – I’m struggling through Witcher III on the Switch as a my penance (I’ve not played it before on any system). And wanted something I could have fun with, or we could all play together. And that’s what we’ve got.

The base camp you return to. Here you can purchase equipment and select missions. Also there are target dummies.

There isn’t any building – that’s probably the surprise. There are drops of equipment that you can upgrade yours with (very World of Warcraft, or very anything really). You can enchant this equipment which gives it bonuses and allows some customisation, giving your gear extra powers. In groups, some of the gear drops are tagged to a particular player to make sure its more fair.

It’s generous with health, giving you a recharging healing potion, and 3 lives. When in a party, a dead member can be revived by another player without subtracting from these lives. This makes it more playable for the younger ones but even then you can be overwhelmed, even in a party.

I did read in one review that they were happily introducing their kids to terms like kiting that many of us in MMOs and such are well familiar with. I’ve noticed me doing that as well. Or sometimes we’ll split into ranged and melee.

Tips so far

  • You can’t pause, and you can still be attacked when accessing your inventory, but also the game menu if you are on a mission!
  • When a player is revived by another player they have almost no health so HEAL UP straightaway!
  • When you create guest characters in a person’s game, they are still there all levelled and geared up next time you join in.

Review – Fitbit Charge 3

Dear Fitbit,

Look I know it’s an activity tracker, not a full on sport watch/GPS thingy, but I have a few concerns.

First up – I need a way to pause or turn off the tracking. I ride a motorcycle and this gets detected as a 35km “outside bike” in 30 mins (with no change to heart rate mind you!). This even happens when I’m not wearing it and have it in my pocket or in my backpack. Heck this would be a pretty awesome “exercise” to have stored, but it also adds floor counts and there is no way to “fix” all this data, skewing my stats for 5 days a week. Never mind the time I rode nearly 200km and this was counted too…. the Fitbit was in my bag the whole time!

Second concern – So I went for a run. It was about 10mins into the run and nothing visible on the device that it had started tracking (I later discovered it had tracked an exercise, but not the GPS). So I manually started it (and it tracked the GPS this time). And at some point it turned this off automatically. And then started to automatically attempt to track on and off a few times, I gave up. Very inconsistent.

On the plus size – it’s small, light and not too hard to read (when I have my glasses on, which isn’t when I’m running) and I like the sleep tracking (though with the earlier problems, I’m not sure it’s accurate anymore).

I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone even half serious about exercise (I’m not sure that counts me in) and more for someone who needs to get up and do something and this would be a good device to track that.

It has been an interesting foray into smart devices and made me more keen on the Apple Watch I will likely replace this with soon.

Thanks

BattleTech – a longer review

Battletech – I promised a review later, and it’s now later.

I am only a little way through the story, and I know that there are many who have finished. I do not know how long the story is, I think I am up to about the 4th or 5th story mission (called Liberation:Smithon). At the moment I am leaving that mission aside as I train and gear up my lance.

My first impressions of a faithful recreation of the table top game, along with decent graphics and AI are still pretty much unchanged. The first, that its a faithful recreation of the table top is for me a real positive. I think that has made it easy for them in that balance and such have basically been play tested for 30 years. The great big positive for me is that turn based copes very easily with random interruptions. I can stop and sort out life stuff without stressing about what the enemy are up to. I know it isn’t everyone’s favourite way of playing, but I don’t mind it.

The graphics look good on my iMac. I imagine there are more impressive games and on more capable systems there are more impressive games. But graphics aren’t everything.

The story is fine. It’s very similar to the really old “MechWarrior” game, where you are a merc with a story and the intent is to carry out some contracts until you’re geared up enough to finish the story. What I do like in this version is that the story engages you as you go. In the old game every time I headed back into the story I was arrested and the game ended. I gave up and just set about getting awesome mechs and lots of money. Turns out I should have gone back at that stage.

Anyway, the game does get a little slow during some combats when there is a lot of actions queued up. The random number generator can be a bit vicious sometimes, but it works both ways. Sometimes a game will be tough, sometimes its not.

The rounds can take quite a bit of time, an hour or more. But I don’t find that a bad thing 🙂

So overall I am very happy.

One word

and it’s not Avengers, it’s Battletech.

The new Battletech from Paradox (also available through Steam) is excellent.

And personally the best news, its ON THE IMAC as well. So I can play it.

And its really interesting and really well done.

 

I’ll do a longer review with pics in a bit. But if you’ve ever been a table top player, then I think you’ll enjoy it.