Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: Logitech K400 vs Shintaro Wireless Multimedia Keyboard

I was tossing up between a Logitech K400 and a Shintaro Multimedia (trackball) keyboard for my HTPC. I got the Logitech first for $35, but wasn't entirely happy with it so I got the Shintaro as well ($38+postage) for a comparison. These are their stories...

Shintaro Wireless Media (above) and Logitech K400

My initial reaction was that the Shintaro has a much more solid build than the Logitech. The mouse buttons were clicky and "alive", compared to the gummy feel of the K400 buttons, where you're never quite sure if you've actually pressed it.

The key layout was also much better, and almost for that alone I'd take the Shintaro. The placement of the right shift key and up arrow buttons on the Logitech continually annoyed me. The Shintaro is closer to a "normal" keyboard layout.

Shintaro positives:

  • Solid feel and nice clicky buttons, has a quality about it.
  • The keyboard layout is close to a regular desktop keyboard. Minimal pressing the wrong key when reaching into the shift/enter/arrow key area.
  • I think I prefer the trackball to a touchpad.

Shintaro Wireless Media keyboard

Shintaro negatives:

  • Size of the USB receiver. That thing is enormous. I ended up connecting it via a USB extension cable from the back of the case, because it looked so precarious hanging out the front.
  • Wireless connectivity can perform really badly. Even with a direct line of sight and less than a metre distance, having the keyboard sitting in the wrong place on your knees can mean up to 80\% dropped characters. When it was connected it was fine, but I still haven't quite worked out what positions will cause it to go bad. (Even a direct line of sight < 3m sometimes drops the occasional character when typing).
  • The board "goes to sleep" really quickly. Spinning the trackball doesn't wake it up either, you've got to press a key. I'm so used to bumping the mouse to wake up a computer, it takes a bit to get used to.
  • While the build quality is nice, it is quite bulky.
  • I sometimes had trouble getting into the BIOS with this keyboard.
  • It has a "sync" step you have to perform by pressing a button on the receiver. I seemed to lose sync occasionally, but this may have just been the wakeup problem noted above.
  • Takes four AA batteries, and with an estimated 3 month life, probably falls short of the Logitech in that respect.

Logitech positives:

  • Rock solid wireless connection. I was typing thing in another room with no line of sight.
  • Tiny USB receiver and no need to sync. Just works.
  • Size-wise, the keyboard is nice and compact.

Logitech K400 wireless keyboard

Logitech negatives:

  • The flimsy build quality and gummy feel of the keys and buttons. It just felt really cheap, and was difficult to know when you'd clicked a button.
  • Keyboard layout was problematic. In particular, the Right Shift key is much smaller than normal, with the Up Arrow taking up the space. This means the Up Arrow is easily pressed when searching for the Shift key. Doing any command-line stuff during installation, this was infuriating.

The lengths of the lists don't represent who won in my test, since the negatives to the Logitech K400 and positives to the Shintaro were really big factors in my decision to keep the Shintaro.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Case Fan Review: Antec TrueQuiet Pro, Aerocool SharkFan and Coolermaster Sickleflow

I started on a vendetta to try and get my computer to run a bit quieter. Although I think the main culprit of noise levels is the stock CPU fan, the case fans in the Corsair 300R were making some noise, so I bought a few other fans to try out.

The fans were:

  • CoolerMaster SickleFlow 120mm ($8)
  • Aerocool SharkFan 120mm Blue Edition ($13)
  • Antec TrueQuiet Pro 120mm ($20)

CoolerMaster SickleFlow (left) and Aerocool SharkFan (right)

I don't have a dB meter -- quantitative testing isn't how I roll -- so I was just going by the ear test.

The CoolerMaster SickleFlow was the cheapest and was pretty loud, louder than the stock case fan.

The Aerocool was initially really loud as well, but then I realised the "extension lead" in the packet for a voltage reducer. With this fitted it reduced the noise to about the same as the stock fan.

The Antec TrueQuiet Pro had a physical switch for adjusting the speed. At full speed it too was louder than the stock fan, but when switched down to low speed it was quieter.

Spending the extra for something like the TrueQuiet Pro is worthwhile if noise levels are important.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

NFS Mount Hangs on Network Between Two Linux Machines

I was trying to set up NFS on my local network to transfer some stuff between two machines. I thought this would be pretty easy, but there seem to be a lot of guides out there that are either out of date or more complicated than they need to be (maybe they include some advanced features, not sure).

The main problem I had was that the mount command would hang when I tried to connect the client to the server. I tried everything I could think of, and in desperation tried reversing the client<-->server direction. At that point, it worked without a hitch. Still don't know exactly what the issue was (some conflict in the setup or configuration of my server machine?), but I was ecstatic at that point it worked at all.

Here are the steps (use ifconfig on each machine to find out their IP address, or use hostnames if you've set up hostnames):

On the nominated "server" machine

  • $ sudo apt-get install nfs-common nfs-kernel-server
  • Edit /etc/exports and add the following line (assuming here that the client IP address is and the directory to be made available is /tmp):
  • $ sudo exportfs -ra
  • Check that the entry just added to the exports file is okay with: $ sudo exportfs
  • $ sudo service nfs-kernel-server restart

NFS server daemon processes should now be running.

On the nominated "client" machine

Assuming the server IP address is and /files/remote is the directory which we will be mounting to:

  • $ sudo apt-get install nfs-common
  • $ mkdir <local-directory-to-be-mount-point>
  • $ sudo mount -t nfs /files/remote

An entry to automatically mount can be put in /etc/fstab, but since I will only be using the NFS connection on an ad-hoc basis, I haven't done that at this stage.