My bias lighting setup

It should be no news for any well informed geek that bias lighting is good for your eyes. I've just recently implemented my setup which was surprisingly easy to put together. It only needed a self adhesive LED strip, an AC adapter, a switch and some wires. Click on the album below for your viewing pleasure!

bias-lightingClick to see the album

Deck 82-Ice keyboard disassembly

I have mixed feelings about this keyboard. Although it's a solid build cosidering the robustness of the case, I cannot overlook the fact that the fonts look ridiculous, the layout is weird and the overall look is rather displeasing. Also, choosing PCB mounting over plate mounting is not fortunate because a drop of water can kill the electronics, not even speaking about the reduced robustness.

It seems that TG3 Electronics tried to play it safe and they've minimized the manufacturing costs to get some profit despite the moderate number of sales. This strategy shows itself in not only not having a plate, but using only a single custom manufactured injection molded plastic part that is the top part of the case.

PCB mouting reveals the whole electronics making an excellent PCB porn for your viewing pleasure. The board features dozens of MX switches, LEDs and diodes (full NKRO for the win) and a CY7C63413C MCU that makes things happen. Most of the parts are surface mount but there are some through-hole parts (where it made sense price-wise, I believe). The PCB looks very high quality, I couldn't find any glitches.

The "You've got a big Deck" slogan on the box of the keyboard is rather strange considering that it's clearly a small form factor keyboard. The User's Manual mentions that a PS/2 port can be installed and I've read on their site that additional LEDs can be added to the sides, making the Deck 82-Ice the most hackable board built so far.

deck-82-ice-keyboard-disassemblyClick to see the album

FC200RC/AB Leopold Tenkeyless Tactile Click Keyboard disassembly

First of all, I'm not about to go into an in-depth analysis about this board as the geekhack folks did. I'm just about to express some of my opinions and provide some PCB porn pictures.

There are only few keyboards that I consider solid builds. This is one of them. I've preordered this one farily early, got it about two months ago and happily using it since then.

There are several attributes that make a solid keyboard in my opinion. One of them is the materials used and the thickness of the walls of the plastic parts. The switches being place mounted vs PCB mounted is another big indicator. As for this keyboard, the plastic seem high quality and the wall thickness is about 2-3mm which I consider very good properties. It's interesting to note the similarity between the my Filco and this Leopold model. The case construction is pretty much the same except some minor details. As for its design, I rather prefer the Filco because the rounded edges of the Leopold don't appeal to me that much.

The use of Cherry keycap stabilizers has definitely surprised me because I thought that those can only be PCB mounted but these are clearly plate mounted and they seem less wobbly than the Costar stabilizers which makes me consider them superior. I've found a very bad solder joint that has been bridged to a nearby trace but apart from that the quality is very satisffactory.

leopold-tenkeyless-keyboardClick to see the album

I've replaced my glossy laptop display with a matte one!

I'm definitely not a fan a fan of glossy displays. Unfortunately, glossy screens heavily dominate the market nowadays which is a pain in my ass because it's a not pleasant experience to work with them in bright sunlight. Always working in the dark room is something I was fed up with. I've always wanted a laptop with a matte screen but given the many requirements that I have for laptops that was pretty much impossible and I finally bought my Acer Aspire 8935G-874G100BN laptop about one and half year ago featuring a big ass 18.4 glossy screen.

A while ago I started taking getting a matte screen more seriously and visited the largest laptop shop in my city, Szeged. They let me know that a replacement screen would cost me a small fortune and they eventually concluded that it's not possible for me to get a matte screen. I don't blame those guys because doing such a replacement is a rare feat and not so obvious.

I wasn't about to give up and asked for advice. From this point on, there was no going back. After I disassembled my laptop and got to know that my screen is the N184H6-L02 Rev. C1 model, I was searching for suppliers of the matte version of this screen. Interestingly enough despite some suppliers indicate on the product page a glossy screen, they can provide you a matte version of the same model. Fortunately, Bliss Computers had a last matte model on their stock which I've ordered from them and it arrived to me about one week later.

The replacement procedure is pretty obvious, except one thing. There's a glossy sheet that is part of the case in front of the actual glossy screen. That sheet has to leave forever if you wanna have a matte experience. Removing the sheet involves removing the glue that holds it there and without the sheet the assembled laptop will have a somewhat half-finished, DIY look but nothing too obtrusive.

Enough of words, let the images speak for themselves.

acer-aspire-laptopClick to see the album

As a final word you may ask whether it was worth paying $115 + $45 shipping for the alternative screen. My answer is that IT WAS A F*CKING BARGAIN! My user experience is so much better this way that I can hardly describe it using words! Some folks say that glossy screens provide sharper contrast but I'm not so sure at all. All I know is that reflection has gone, the image quality is stellar and that my glossy screen is officially for sale.

IBM Model M keyboard disassembly

The IBM Model M keyboard. A piece of history. A symbol of geekdom. A cornerstone of computing. Ok, I've gone too far but you must admit that this is the predecessor of almost every keyboard that we use in our modern age and it all started in 1984.

Although this model is manufactured around the end of '92, its quality is as solid as it can be. Around these times manfacturers have already flooded the market with dome switch shit and the next generation of users didn't have any idea about the keyboards of the golden age. I'm not saying that every people would have loved Model Ms because their noise can be disturing but I'm here to say that the construction quality is far more better than almost any other keyboards that are currently on the market. I can only think of Filco and Leopold as exceptions.

It's a very good sign of construction quality that the keyboard can be taken apart by anyone without breaking anything on it. The ABS plastic is top quality, feels very rigid, the walls are thick and the number of components used is no more than necessary. I love pretty much everything about this keyboard, even though I prefer Cherry MX blue switches because they require less pressure force which I think is more optimal.

Here comes the Flickr set which you're welcome to browse through for your viewing pleasure.

ibm-model-m-keyboardClick to see the album

My first Mini-ITX box is up and running

I've just set up sundevil, my first Mini-ITX box which serves as my home server. OpenWrt wasn't enough for my needs anymore because I want to heavily encrypt all my data and I don't wanna make so much compromises.  I plan to use this server as a NAS and file sharing box and I'd like to have another one soon for a different location where I frequently stay.

This box is a rare combination of power efficiency and lots of horsepower featuring:

  • D510MO Mini-ITX mainboard with integrated dual core Intel Atom processor
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • WD20EARS - 2TB big ass HDD
  • 12V 80W power supply
  • PicoPSU-80 - 12V super-tiny, super-efficient DC-DC ATX power supply

That's all.  It's not worth buying a Mini-ITX enclosure because they're tiny and relatively expensive.  Most of them cannot even house a 3.5'' HDD.  It's better to grab a used ATX box.

I'm very satisfied with this server so far but I was having much headache when setting it up. Booting from USB wasn't possible because of some BIOS bug. I considered netboot install but it's a pain to set it up so I finally bought a DVD writer for this purpose (it almost costs the same as a reader). Another caveat that is worth mentioning that I couldn't boot Ubuntu after installation. Turns out that the GUID partition table that was the default option of the alternate Maverick boot CD probably wasn't supported by the BIOS so I had to chose the traditional MSDOS partition table.

A picture is worth a thousand words people say, let alone a dozen of them.

mini-itx-sundevil

The CPU has more than enough juice (2 threads per 2 cores).  Thankfully, I won't have to upgrade it for a while.

# cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor	: 0
vendor_id	: GenuineIntel
cpu family	: 6
model		: 28
model name	: Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU D510   @ 1.66GHz
stepping	: 10
cpu MHz		: 1666.654
cache size	: 512 KB
physical id	: 0
siblings	: 4
core id		: 0
cpu cores	: 2
apicid		: 0
initial apicid	: 0
fpu		: yes
fpu_exception	: yes
cpuid level	: 10
wp		: yes
flags		: fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx lm constant_tsc arch_perfmon pebs bts rep_good aperfmperf pni dtes64 monitor ds_cpl tm2 ssse3 cx16 xtpr pdcm movbe lahf_lm
bogomips	: 3333.30
clflush size	: 64
cache_alignment	: 64
address sizes	: 36 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management:

processor	: 1
vendor_id	: GenuineIntel
cpu family	: 6
model		: 28
model name	: Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU D510   @ 1.66GHz
stepping	: 10
cpu MHz		: 1666.654
cache size	: 512 KB
physical id	: 0
siblings	: 4
core id		: 0
cpu cores	: 2
apicid		: 1
initial apicid	: 1
fpu		: yes
fpu_exception	: yes
cpuid level	: 10
wp		: yes
flags		: fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx lm constant_tsc arch_perfmon pebs bts rep_good aperfmperf pni dtes64 monitor ds_cpl tm2 ssse3 cx16 xtpr pdcm movbe lahf_lm
bogomips	: 3333.38
clflush size	: 64
cache_alignment	: 64
address sizes	: 36 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management:

processor	: 2
vendor_id	: GenuineIntel
cpu family	: 6
model		: 28
model name	: Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU D510   @ 1.66GHz
stepping	: 10
cpu MHz		: 1666.654
cache size	: 512 KB
physical id	: 0
siblings	: 4
core id		: 1
cpu cores	: 2
apicid		: 2
initial apicid	: 2
fpu		: yes
fpu_exception	: yes
cpuid level	: 10
wp		: yes
flags		: fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx lm constant_tsc arch_perfmon pebs bts rep_good aperfmperf pni dtes64 monitor ds_cpl tm2 ssse3 cx16 xtpr pdcm movbe lahf_lm
bogomips	: 3333.40
clflush size	: 64
cache_alignment	: 64
address sizes	: 36 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management:

processor	: 3
vendor_id	: GenuineIntel
cpu family	: 6
model		: 28
model name	: Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU D510   @ 1.66GHz
stepping	: 10
cpu MHz		: 1666.654
cache size	: 512 KB
physical id	: 0
siblings	: 4
core id		: 1
cpu cores	: 2
apicid		: 3
initial apicid	: 3
fpu		: yes
fpu_exception	: yes
cpuid level	: 10
wp		: yes
flags		: fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx lm constant_tsc arch_perfmon pebs bts rep_good aperfmperf pni dtes64 monitor ds_cpl tm2 ssse3 cx16 xtpr pdcm movbe lahf_lm
bogomips	: 3333.37
clflush size	: 64
cache_alignment	: 64
address sizes	: 36 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management:

Filco Majestouch Tenkeyless Tactile Touch (FKBN87M/EB) disassembly

I have this board for a while so it was time to shoot some images to show its guts. It is currently the best keyboard on the market in my opinion, except that I prefer blue switches. I ordered browns this time because I wanted to try them out.

This board is constructed in a much sturdier way than the Das. You won't break anything when disassembling it because Diatec used thick plastic everywhere without any overhangs.

The brain is the HT82K94E USB Multimedia Keyboard Encoder 8-Bit MCU which is the big brother or HT82K95E which was used in the Das. I'm not sure whether breaking out the MCU was a practical move or a smart sales tactic (to differentiate between the price of the NKRO and non-NKRO version) but it's an interesting solution.

filco-majestouch-tenkeyless-keyboardClick to see the album