Mouse Troubles – Update

I gave up on the G604… it’s just super flakey on the iMac. I’ve been using the Naga, plugged into the USB. There’s probably no reason I can’t use it BT. I just haven’t got around to it. The 12 keys are mapped to the SHIFT-Number row. Seems to work alright.

The G604 is now on the Surface, though I’ve hardly used it, as I don’t normally pack it in the bag. The Arc Mouse is in the bag all the time and gets used instead.

Even more… the Logitech M555 that I thought was dead, wasn’t. Even though I thought I was resetting the BT to use it, I must have been doing it wrong. Turns out it is paired with the iPad. So I will keep that set up.

My other mice… Well I have my old Magic Mouse. I’ve paired that with my work laptop (a boring, clunky, overly large Dell – doesn’t even have a touch screen). That leaves the Magic Mouse 2 sitting here next to the iMac…. in case of, I dunno, … something??

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.

Short Ride – Watch Drama!

After messing about most of the Easter weekend with chores and other unexpected things, I headed out Sunday morning. I planned to head up to Colo and have a look through Windsor and other areas affected by the floods.

As I headed west, it was clear that there was fog about. Having spent a couple of hours on Good Friday giving the bike a thorough clean and polish, I just didn’t want it to get wet and dirty straight away. So I turned around and headed for the coast and the Old Pac.

It turned into my first chance in the new tunnel that links the M7/M2 with the freeway going north. For the first time, travellers can cut around Sydney and stay on freeway the whole way. Can’t believe it has taken so long.

The tunnel was nothing special, though long at about 7:30mins (at 80kmph). So soon I was up to the Berowa exit and the Old Pac.

I’m not sure when I last headed up this way during what might be a busy period. And it was busy (well I thought so, regulars might not). Dozens of cyclists were the main thing I hadn’t dealt with.

So I cruised down, took some photos across the Mooney Mooney bridge and dawdled up the hill. Busy, cyclists and double demerits, it wasn’t the weekend for time attacks!

I had a pie at the top, coming finally to the conclusion that their pies aren’t actually that great. Robinson Pie shop is a lot better, and I suspect there are other better ones nearby as well. But its handy and bike friendly.

I headed home, but as I rode through the tunnel I was surprised when a voice spoke over my Scala headset….

“Police, Fire or Ambulance?”

Wait, what…..? I was very confused and stammered out “Sorry, my phone has dialled this by accident, I’m fine.” They thanked me and hung up.

Shortly after my wife rang.

“Are you ok?”

“Yes, why?” I was getting more confused. My phone seemed to have launched into I’m in an emergency mode for some reason.

“Because I just got a message saying you had called emergency and your location.”

Again… “I’m fine, my phone is doing something weird. I’ll be home in about 20 minutes anyway.”

Once I was home I took a look at my devices. My watch had an alert that I had initiated Call Emergency mode. It was providing updates to my wife at about 15 minute intervals with my location, as she was my Emergency Contact. I cancelled the alert mode.

I poked about in the settings for the iPhone and the Apple Watch. Seems the watch had the option “Call Emergnecy Services if the crown (the rotating button) is held down”. So that explained why the watch had called emergency, but not what started it….

I realised that just before the Emergency people had started speaking I had felt a couple of alerts from my wrist. I had assumed that they were messages, and had tapped my phone (on its QuadLock holder) to see. But there was nothing there.

I think that my watch, my jacket cuff combined with a very still position (cruising through the tunnel) had held the crown down long enough to kick it into panic mode. I disabled that option.

I did enable fall detection though….

But a little gotcha for Apple Watch riders..

Review – Apple Watch

I feel like I’m late to the party, but I’ve finally gone out and joined the smart watch crowd. The main driver for me to be late is that many of the places I have worked over the past few years have bans on smart devices (along with all electronics) – either in particular areas, or in entire buildings. It was just easier not to have one.

But with teaching a watch is really useful. You know, for telling the time. For example, about 10 minutes before lunch starts, I need to ensure that some students are sent off to collect the lunches from the canteen. In one class I looked after, there were 4 clocks around the room – none of which were working.

I bought the 44mm Nike SE version. I plan to use it a lot as (drumroll) a watch (I know, crazy right). But besides that, as a teacher, being able to see incoming messages, and see my schedule without opening my phone are also a good thing. It’s a perception thing about being distracted by the phone, most especially when doing playground duty. A watch is less obtrusive.

Secondly it replaces the long dead Fitbit Charge 3 I had. Seriously, we’ve had 3 of these (paid for 2) and they last a year. 2 of the 3, the screen just went black. So the Watch becomes something to track my heart rate while running with the bonus of being able to have GPS and music without needing my phone. It doesn’t think that when I’m riding my motorcycle I’m doing 10,000 steps, 12 flights of stairs either, like the Fitbit would.

So that’s what I plan to use it for. And after 4 days, it’s doing all those well. You can even scribble responses back to people and it’s not too painful. Slower letter by letter, but then I was raised on the old multi tap SMS, so it’s okay. The Strava app works well and is simple to start tracking stuff. having the “complications” on the screen are a bonus.

I discovered Nike Training app, and am experimenting with that. In this case, the phone app and the watch work together. I guess in a similar way to the new Apple Fitness (which I will try soon) apparently works together.

The phone and watch also work together when using Maps for direction. Alerts, with sounds and haptic feedback along with text work in sync with the directions on the phone. Its quite handy.

Battery life – well so far in what is probably close to a “normal day” for me, which included a Watch/AirPod only run, was at 50% by the end of the day. I don’t know how long that would take to recharge, as I just left it overnight. Perhaps a couple of hours? I’m not worried about tracking my sleep as I experimented with that when I had the Fitbit and didn’t find it particularly useful. I know why I’m tired. I go to sleep late, have to always wake up at least once in the middle, and then always wake early. Just literally not spending enough time at sleeping. Getting to sleep is no trouble. So leaving the watch on the charger is no worries. I suppose some long haul travel might run it down, but then you’re likely to spend plenty of time in airplane mode (so battery saver) anyway.

The SE misses out on the always on display, but that’s almost never been a problem in a string of fitness/running and now smart watches that I’ve owned, so its the same there. It is quite responsive to movements to wake up, or a tap.

Overall, really happy with it.

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).

My first laptop… almost

One of the first things I’ve discovered in my few casual teaching days is that some schools, the teacher brings their own (school issued?) laptop to the class, but this also means that when they aren’t on class, they may have the laptop with them. This means that I can be in a class and have no IT. This is certainly something that can be worked around, but isn’t ideal.

This was the last push that got me thinking about finally upgrading the iPad Pro 9.7 I’ve been using for the last 3 years or so. I would have preferred to stay on Apple, but until Apple has a touch screen, pen enabled, convertible (perhaps?) laptop (oh, they do, it’s called an iPad), then I think they miss out. The other factor is that NSW Public Primary schools are currently all Windows based. And of course, since they are super interesting, I’ve decided to buy a Surface Pro. So it’s almost getting a laptop that is still really a tablet?

Now it has been some time since I’ve had a laptop. And yes, I consider the Surface basically a laptop as it runs a full desktop OS, unlike Android or iPadOS. My first laptop was an Apple Powerbook 145B in 1993. Then we had some mid range Dell in about 2004, which we ended up giving to a friend in about 2005. Then nothing since the iPad in 2010.

It’s probably not quite the right time as I suspect sometime in the next 4-6 months they will announce an upgrade to the current Pro 7, but I might need this as early as next week, so I needed to do something.

I had seen them about 2 months ago at an amazing 20% off. But at that stage I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do (and I hadn’t had my first teaching day back then). So when I did decide, they could only go to 10% off and not off the accessories. I also found that the Microsoft website does 10% off everything for educators and students. But the Black Friday sales were only a couple of weeks away. I decided to wait.

Black Friday sales opened on Wednesday and both the retailers and MS were doing 20% off, with MS still doing the 10% off the accessories and throwing in a sleeve as well. I ordered off MS.

I had settled on the i5 8GB RAM and 256GB HDD version. It was more than I wanted to pay to get the i7 version, and even doubling the RAM was a little more than I was happy to spend, especially when you add about $500 of accessories (type cover, pen, mouse). I knew the i5 would be fine for my use, HDD space can be expanded with USB and cloud storage. And I’m fairly certain the i5 and i7 have the same onboard graphics. However the sales meant I could get an i7 16GB RAM with 256GB HDD for less than the original i5 price. Plus the accessories came down to just over $400 and a free zip up sleeve to carry it all in.

So order placed.

Shipping details arrive…. accessories scheduled for this Friday. Awesome. Surface itself, Monday.

Argh! Frustrating.

DHL let me delay the first deliveries, so I’ll stay home Monday and everything is scheduled for then.

Exciting.

It’s amusing to note that I suspect it will be a more powerful gaming rig than my desktop, which is a 10 year old 1st gen i7 (i7 850).

Tech updates

The NAS

The NAS has just received an upgrade. It now has 8GB of RAM, the maximum supported by the published info for the box, however, the web agrees that it can support 16GB. But as a headless backup server and NAS, it doesn’t need a lot. But FreeNas is happier now, with 8GB the published minimum (it was running 2GB).

There is a small rumour going around the house here that it might also see the additional role of Minecraft Server.

But if I can’t keep the Time Machine share stable, I’m not going to spend any time on that yet. And this has failed once already.

The PC.

Some time ago, I can’t remember when, and I can’t find a discussion in here, the SSD died. This led to the desperate rebuild with whatever was to hand… in this case an ancient 2.5in HDD that ran super slowwww.

Well the replacement was ordered with the NAS RAM and that got installed tonight. With a downloaded fresh copy of Win10 (I can still use the Win7 key that I upgraded back when Win10 was released, amazing) the PC was up and running in about 30 mins. Crazy how easy this kind of task is now. I remember it being hours, updates, drivers etc… then the software install.

Throw in the Office 365 supplied through the various uni subscriptions that me, the eldest and Mrs Mab (who is about to commence study as well) and we’re all set up in amazing short time.

Add Roblox. Chrome, Antivirus. That’s a few minutes each. Oh, I suppose Minecraft will have to be reinstalled too.

I really should look at replacing this thing. Seriously, it’s an 1st gen i7 860 with a 9800GT in it. These are at least 10 years old! (And it’s outlived at least 1 SSD now!).

Other Tech…

Err, nothing to add. Really.

Rebuilt the NAS

Some time ago, maybe more than a year, I realised that my NAS4Free NAS was out of date, and to be honest, I wasn’t using it much. Instead of just updating it, I decided to rebuild it as a Linux machine.

Which I did. Then, when I had it up and running, I couldn’t actually think what I wanted to do with it, so I switched it off. And there it sat for many months, gathering dust in the cupboard.

This year, I’ve been running a GoPro on my bike helmet, pretty much every ride. And that’s been really nice, except, as most would know, HD footage takes a lot of space. More space than my 1TB iMac could deal with as the footage slowly built up.

So it was time to rebuild the NAS.

This time I went for FreeNAS. Partly as it looked a little nicer, partly as it seemed a little easier to expand as well. And partly as I hadn’t tried this one.

So with a bit of time over the weekend, I found myself creating boot USB for the FreeNAS iso and setting up the server again.

So the old N54L Proliant I use only has 2GB of RAM. FreeNAS recommends 8GB, however it did install and it seems to be running well. It’s only a NAS so it isn’t put to task very hard. I’ll pick up some RAM soon and expand it.

One of the things I really wanted to get humming along is backups. This was problematic on NAS4Free (because I didn’t update it mostly). I’ve got one share set up as a Time Machine target and at the moment its working well. I have the iMac backing up to both the current USB HDD and the NAS. Eventually I’ll remove the USB drive, once I’m happy its stable.

Later I’ll investigate backing up the PC as well, though this is less critical.

But the main use for the NAS is meant to be as a file storage for the raw GoPro footage. I can’t seem to get this running properly yet. It’s a permission thing, either the iMac is connecting as the wrong user, or I don’t have the permissions on the second share set up properly. Or, as I suspect, a little of both. I’ll spend some time over the week messing with it to see. At this stage, if it ends up with me deleting storage pools and the like, I’m not worried as it’s not the primary backup yet.

But it will be nice to free up a USB slot in the iMac, have a more reliable (and larger) backup storage as well as having all that extra room to store stuff.

*EDIT – Found the permission problem. I wasn’t checking the box against APPLY USER, after choosing the new user in the permissions interface for the storage pool.

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

2018 in Review

I haven’t written last years review yet, so here goes.

About Bikes

Well a good year for the bikes, finishing on a dramatic change. Most of the year was commuting to work, with the odd day ride squeezed in occasionally. I managed to get my little ones out for a ride and they both enjoyed it.

Of course, there was the big adventure to the MotoGP, only 11 years since the last time. I found some fun roads, I had some great weather, I enjoyed the challenge and the solitude. The Daytona performed excellently for a bike being asked to do something the designers NEVER intended. However well it went though, it wasn’t as easy as it would have been on the VFR so I finally made the decision that was 4 years in the making.

And seemingly fate gave me the chance to swap the bike for the Ninja which I did. Though by the by the end of 2018, I was very uncertain if I had done the right thing. The Daytona was gone and the Ninja sat unridden in the garage, looking dirty and tired.

About babes

The kids… well one finished primary and is off to high school this year! They had a great year, probably they would both count the Japan trip as the highlight, I would put it a tight second after the MotoGP trip. They both enjoyed their ride around the block on the bike too.

About bytes

Well the computers this year have been almost exclusively workhorses, with my study and my girls work as well. I did tuck in to BattleTech and love that. Oh, now that study is on hold….

Oh, I did get the new iMac didn’t I – it seems like so long ago. That was like changing to a new car without even realising. It just doesn’t break down all the time like the old one, but otherwise everything looks the same. And to be honest, I don’t really notice the faster start up etc, because everything is usually open.

The Playstation got retired (faulty wireless board, still works with USB), the Wii got passed to a relative and the kids picked up a Switch. Cool little device that.

About Study

I would love to be saying I’m done, but I have one prac unit left before I graduate. And no certainty of when I will get to do it. Hopefully when I write the 2019 review I will be able say done.

BUT the main thing is that I LOVE IT. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it had it been my thing straight out of Uni, but I think that time in between and the life and experience in that time will set me on a good path to this new career, whenever it is that I actually get started.