Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000

Right. So this will be a review of sorts for this keyboard.

I'm at work pecking at the keyboard for a good 12 hours a day and my wrists are pretty much crying for relief. The main culprit here is of course the nasty office keyboard made in hell. Designed to give your wrists the fullest amount of torture possible, they are mass produced and are shipped globally with all new pc's.

Light typing is fine but when you face your pc for long hours every day, you begin to realise that your fingers and wrists aren't made up of bendy bits of rubber and they sure can't bend it like Beckham can. Nor is it as straight as the rows of alpha numeric keys on the keyboard. Take that and compound it with bad keyboard habits (pressing and holding the control key with your pinkie comes to mind) will kill your wrist faster than you can type whodunnit.

Enter the world of ergonomic keyboards. They're designed to suit the contours of our hands and can range from a couple of bucks to hundreds (Kinesis Countoured Ergonomic Keyboard comes to mind). Trawling the internet for ideas, I narrowed down my choices to two, the Logitech Wave and the Microsoft Natural Keyboard. I was initially leaning on the Logitech as I wanted the unifying dongle seeing as I already have a Logitech mouse. 2 peripherals and one dongle equals one more usb port (hurrah!). But a quick visit to the local tech store in Low Yat Plaza yielded nada. They weren't in stock. Not a single store there had them. And you're supposed to be able to find just about any IT peripheral there. How about that?

In the first shop I entered, I saw the whole range of Logitech products on display except for the Wave. Asked the sales person and I got was a blank look. Perhaps he couldn't comprehend the word ergonomic. Maybe if I told him I wanted the most expensive keyboard money could buy, he would've been more helpful. Who knows?

After searching for a few more minutes, I threw in the towel but on the way out, I decided to stop by the Microsoft section to try my luck once more. Again the sales man there wasn't very helpful. All he knew about keyboards were if they were wired or wireless. Where do they get these people?

But then I saw it. Tucked away in the lowest shelf was the only ergonomic keyboard there. Unfortunately, there weren't any demo units to test. So there's no way to actually find out if the spacebar is that difficult to actuate (it is. but it depends on where you strike it). So I made a mental note of the price so that I could revisit it in the event I couldn't find an alternative. A couple of stores later, I found the same model selling at a slightly lower price than the first shop but with the Wave nowhere in sight, I decided to take it home with me. Stiff spacebar or no stiff spacebar.

Got back, opened the box and man, is the keyboard huge. Its substantially large than my current one at home. It comes with a wrist rest which is rather handy as you can use it to elevate it so that you're typing at the correct angle. The keys feel kinda mushy though. There's little feedback from the keys and the keys don't register until you reach the bottom of the keyboard (bottom out). I suppose that's why some people go for mechanical keyboards. Plenty of short cut keys on the keyboard with a next to useless zoom rocker in the middle. Who uses that anyway? (a quick hack turned it into a more useful scroll rocker instead. thanks unknown keyboard warrior!). And the spacebar is a wee bit stiff but its not all that hard to use. Its not like you need a hammer to actuate the spacebar...

Overall, the design is pretty good but the real test will be done in my cubicle. Whether or not paying top dollar to reduce wrist fatigue remains to be seen but I remain hopeful...

Yet another family gathering

Another family gathering at my place.
As usual, I pulled out all the stops for this one since my gears were close at hand. :D
Experimented with several lighting setups and camera placement and as usual, the low light caused the camera's auto-focus to misbehave. I'll probably have to find a permanent solution to this but for now, I'm stuck with having to pre-focus before shooting.


Defying gravity.


Power punch!


Power split!


Ryan putting on his cute face.

Bengwara - Lights

After putting up with driving at night with dim head lights, I decided that I couldn't take it anymore. Something had to give. So I turned to the interweb and found three solutions: i) Change the bulbs to aftermarket ones which are brighter but have a shorter lifespan (RM120) ii) Replace the halogen bulbs with HID ones which are waaay brighter (RM160) iii) Retrofit projectors into the headlamps (RM480) Now, the first option is the cheapest but for a wee bit more, I can get a HID kit which is brighter than the any of the aftermarket halogen bulbs. But there is a problem. HID kits which are fitted into normal headlamps are glaring to oncoming traffic and it is a known fact that the local enforcement (JPJ) are on the lookout for this type of modification as it is illegal. So the only feasible option is to retrofit the headlamps with projectors.

CCFL in action.

After more hours of research, I decided to go with EA Autowork's retrofit due to the competitive pricing and their reputation. Similar retrofits can go as high as RM850 and although they use a higher quality projector, in my books, the price gap does not justify the difference. Plus their projectors are bi-xenon with CCFL lights and the price is inclusive of the HID kit.

The whole process was pretty simple. Dropped Howie of EA Autowork a personal message, set up an appointment and rolled in to get it retrofitted. The whole process took about 1.5 hours as the headlamps needed to be opened. No modifications was done to the stock headlamps so I can return it to normal if there is a need to.

By the time the retrofit was done, it was already nightfall. The best time to test out the new projectors then. :D The lights now are significantly brighter and with the high light on, I can see even further than before. Perfect for those dark roads and annoying pikeys with glaring headlamps breathing down my neck. I'll just let them overtake, switch on my high light and follow behind them.
Have a taste of your own medicine!

p.s. Workmanship was top notch. Everything was sealed back perfectly as there was no condensation in the lamp on cold mornings.