I love bags and backpacks. It had become quite an obsession in the last few years, and saw a lot of different options and manufacturers. I could tell within the first few weeks of using a bag whether it was going to be my primary bag for a long time, or if there were things about it that just didn't make any sense. Then came along the Evernote Triangle Commuter Bag. I am a fanatic user of Evernote, and saw this when it was first released on their site. I was skeptical, as they're not a big producer of bags. However, after looking at the pictures on their site, I decided to order one, as it looked like it had a lot of the features I would enjoy.
The bag is very well made, with quality materials used throughout. Very easy to use zippers that feel like they will last a long time, durable fabric outside and in, and a quality feel everywhere. Usually there's always a part of a bag that disappoints when it comes to the quality of what's been used for materials, or a corner that is cut that you find after a few days use, but I haven't found that here.
The best part of the entire bag is it's ability to stand up regardless of what you put in it. You can root around to find things in the bag, add and remove your laptop, and see everything in the pockets all without the bag moving a bit. The laptop slot is perfectly sized for my Lenovo Carbon X1 or MacBook Air, and still has a bit of room for some papers. Further inside is a deep area that you can segment with the included velcro dividers. This is similar to many camera bags, and is a great way of giving folks flexibility for various setups. You can lay down the velcro dividers in the bottom for storage so they're not in the way.
There are two small pockets on either end inside the bag, and then one larger and one smaller flat pockets right against the laptop section. These are great to store letters, checkbook and other random things. On the flap that folds down once you've unzipped things are two pockets to store loose items. One is mesh, and I use to store adapters and such, and the other is solid.
The storage inside this bag is deceivingly larger than what it looks like from the outside. The triangle shape gives you a lot more space in the bottom of the bag, and the fact that it won't tip over is amazing. Wonderful design.
The front of the bag also has a mesh-like leather pocket, but I've not used it yet. Evernote says you can use it for iPhone and other devices you need to get a hold of quickly. It does have a lot of room in it, and would be a good place for quickly needed items.
The bag is made for Evernote by abrAsus, not someone I'm that familiar with, but in reading various other reviews online, and using the bag for a couple of weeks, they sure have figured out how to develop an elegant bag.
Overall, this is the best bag I have ever owned, and that's saying a lot. I have had easily 50 bags in the last 5 years (maybe more) and always get frustrated within the first week. This one has shown none of that, and does even more than most bags could for storage, organization, looks, and functionality. And the fact that it's from Evernote is just icing on the cake.
You can see more photos here.
I finally had the opportunity to install something I purchased a while ago called CapsuleKong. It's a wonderful way to display Nespresso pods with a Donkey Kong twist. I use a Nespresso Lattissima Plus espresso machine, which I absolutely love. The CapsuleKong is made of anodized aluminum, and has details throughout that are amusing - besides Donkey Kong, the princess and flaming barrels all make an appearance.
It's pretty well made, and the pods fit in it very well. There are a few things that make it less than practical. First, if you fill it up with the advertised 50 pods, the weight of the pods above cause the final pod to get jammed. Secondly, for the same reason, pods don't flow down around the corners as well as they should.
That aside, it's a pretty fun way of storing pods,
More pictures here.
UPDATE: As of 10/15/2013 I've removed the Ubiquiti Edge Router from my network. After repeated instability during high traffic loads (50Mb/sec or higher) and then finally a complete failure of the hardware, I've gone back to using pfSense on a Soekris net6501 platform. So far I've seen faster performance, more stability, and more flexibility. Hopefully the hardware and software will become more stable in the near future.
A few months ago, I was looking for a low power, low noise solution for a firewall at home, and stumbled across the Ubiquiti Edge Router Lite.
I had moved to Ubiquiti's UniFi AP Pro for my wireless AP at home a few months before then, and was really impressed by their use of Linux and the overall product quality and configuration capabilities.
The Edge Router Lite is a relatively new product from Ubiquiti, and had a lot of negative comments in their forums about the initial versions of software being limited or unstable in various ways. However, the later posts for the software version I'm running are far more positive.
My experience so far has been fantastic. It's super small, very light, and built very well. It has an external power brick, but that is expected given it's small size. It runs what appears to be a derivative of Vyatta Linux, and has a lot of features.
What I have been most impressed with is it's speed. I have a 100Mbit up/down Internet connection, and I can get almost line rate without going much above 10% CPU utilization on the router. It's really quick to boot up as well, and configuration changes are very speedy.
The dashboards and views into statistics are great as well. I can see near real time bandwidth usage which is much more granular than my 30 second polls from my PRTG network monitoring system. Our new Roku3's can fill up that 100Mbit pipe when first starting an HD video stream for about 5-10 seconds, which I rarely see in averaged stats from PRTG.
I have used the DHCP server, DNS server, have three different zones/ports configured, and some NAT's as well. All work as expected, and are pretty straightforward to configure as long as you research what you're trying to do on the Ubiquiti forums.
I'd have to say that would be my biggest complaint - very poor or non-existent documentation on the product itself. But that's not unusual for Ubiquiti, as I've seen similar things with the ToughSwitch Pro and the UniFi products as well (more details on those coming in later posts). They are known for having a thriving forum community as a replacement to all inclusive documentation, and that is a good thing in my opinion. It can be a little limiting when you're trying to setup a router, and have no access to the forums, but that is a 1st world problem...
One of the great things is how fast Ubiquiti comes out with new features and functionality. I've seen this on their UniFi line, and can already see it happening here with EdgeOS, the name for their software stack.
Overall I am very happy with the product, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a compact, full featured standalone router that is capable of high speeds.
The content on the blog is quite stale, but I will be starting it back up again! Lots of random things that I would like to write about...coming soon!
I am not a woodworker, so most of my modifications to Jammy where design is involved has been to remove something made of wood, and somehow mount an instrument, device, or otherwise with some sort of industrial setup. When I embarked upon re-doing my entire network on the boat to NMEA 2000, I made the choice to produce a better navigation station, including front panels. After searching around, I found Front Panel Express online, which just happens to be a local Seattle company. Several other folks had suggested them as well, although none of them had actually ordered anything from them.
The first step is to download their Front Panel Designer software, and then start designing your panel. It's pretty intuitive and easy to use, and even allows you to click a button and see how much the panel is going to cost you. I used a combination of manufacturer mounting templates and measurements to figure out how to get everything I wanted on my panel. This included my Simrad NSS7 chart plotter, Vesper WatchMate 850 AIS unit, mic holder for my VHF radio, Fusion WR600 stereo remote, NMEA 2000 connector, and three BlueSea Systems switches.
Once the design is fine tuned, you simply click on a button and start the ordering process, which takes just a few minutes, and you're done! They have a decent online system to check your order as well, and you can see it move through the process:
I chose 3MM black anodized aluminum for my panel. This is the first of three panels in the area, with the other two being far simpler. I am very pleased with how it turned out. The text is easy to read, everything fits perfectly and is held in securely. I like the black as it makes the instruments sort of float on the panel, and the switches will look great when I get power to them. It's also at a slight angle tilted back so that from the cockpit door, I can see the instruments without bending down too far.
I'll post some better photos in a few days - these are iPhone quality... sorry.
When building this panel, I took a cue from Steven Roberts of microship.com who has built panels and enclosures for his many adventures and systems, and always had a way to hinge them open for serviceability, something I am keen on as well. I haven't completed the mechanism for holding the panel in quite yet, but in the picture below you can see it hinging open. The cables inside are not completed yet either - I'm a bit of a fanatic about cable ties and neatness. I used a stainless steel marine hinge on the bottom with holes 2" on center. It was extremely flat, and allows for the panel to hinge out for access.
The panel is extremely strong, looks great, and fits all of my components perfectly. I highly recommend Front Panel Express for this sort of work. A few tips, though:
- DO NOT rely on manufacturer measurements or templates. Always start with their recommendations, and measure the real device. Several of mine were dead wrong.
- The designer is absolute down to sub-millimeter accuracy - add some slack for components that are harder to get in and out. Although you can use appropriate tools to shave off a bit, it's messy and can also mess up your anodization.
I have a few other places, including my cockpit navigation pod, that need new panels, and will be using Front Panel Express to create those as well. Now back to the NMEA 2000 network final tasks and wiring...
I've been working on finishing off my NMEA 2000 network for the last year or two, and one of the pieces I wanted to have in it was something that could slurp up all of the data on the network and make it available via TCP to other devices. I had initially decided that I would have to use something like an ActiSense NGT-1 and a Linux system to do this myself, but then I saw posts on Panbo about the Chetco SeaSmart.net gateways.
A few weeks ago I finally got around to getting one, and have been pleasantly surprised. There are still some rough edges that are being worked through, but overall the concept is a great one. In the picture above you can see my iPhone connecting to the SeaSmart adapter and streaming NMEA 2000 PGN's directly into iNavX. I can do this while on board, or based on my router/firewall configuration, while I'm anywhere in the world if I just happen to want to check on what's going on. You can check out more on how to configure iNavX with SeaSmart here on iNavX's site.
I've designed my N2K system to have a portion of the bus that is always on 24x7 for monitoring purposes. My end goal is to have some of this equipment, perhaps the SeaSmart adapter, monitored and scripted in such a way that I get emails when certain things happen - bilge pump goes on, fire alarm fails, etc.
The unit itself is compact and well made, and includes an indicator light to let you know when it's up and running and on your WiFi network, antenna, N2K connector (somewhat proprietary unfortunately) and a USB/Serial port for diagnostics and local use. Configuration is documented on their website, and they have great support in their forums.
Once up and running, I can see various instruments, as you can see from the below, as well as charts.
Here's an example of my iPad showing charts, including the plethora of AIS targets in the local area.
I'm using Navionics Gold charts with iNavX - I highly recommend purchasing the charts for iNavX instead of using the standard NOAA raster charts, as they require you change charts for clarity (just like flopping around paper charts) depending on the area you want to see. Navionics Gold charts can be acquired through X-Traverse.
Below is the SeaSmart main web interface showing some info from my Maretron battery sensor. You'll note there is still some adjustments to do to get everything happy. I don't think I have that many amps heading out of my batteries - if I do I'm probably in trouble!
I will be posting more in the future about my plans to stream this data back to a central place and analyze it, as well as updates and changes to the system itself. I also have an ActiSense NGT-1 connected to a Linux box that is streaming similar information, but that's a post for another day...
This weekend I am replacing all three batteries on the boat as a result of damage from a crappy battery charger. I'm taking the opportunity to replace all of the old battery wires, simplify things, and add some redundancy, which I'll hopefully post about here later. In redesigning the battery wiring, I came across a really great product from BlueSea called the Terminal Fuse Block. It comes in a single or double configuration, and mounts on the existing battery terminal, providing you with high current protection in limited space.
I don't have a lot of space where my house bank is located, and this is an absolute life saver.
The whole assembly is very well made, as is usual with BlueSea, and fits right onto the existing battery terminal. You can get marine rated battery fuses (MRBF) from 30-300 AMPs which simply drop onto the added studs, and are very easy to see - both the label and whether it's been tripped. As always, you should make sure you size your fuses and wire correctly for the application at hand.
The fuses have exposed conductors on the top and bottom that contact very well. The whole thing is protected by a rubber cover.
This will allow me to have appropriate fusing and protection with a huge amount of space savings.
Yesterday I made a trip down to the sailboat to do a few things, and when I arrived, I noticed that I didn't have any shore power. Additionally, the main A/C breaker panel indicated a reverse polarity situation. I immediately disconnected the A/C panel from shore power via the breaker, and went outside to the plug to see what had happened.
As you can see from the picture, it's pretty clear why A/C power was interrupted. After a bit of sleuthing, I determined that the socket that the shore power plug was connected into was full of water. I believe the water caused a short which then resulted in what you see in the picture.
The main breaker in the boat did trip when this happened, so everything was safe, but it's a bit strange it caused so much damage to the plug and socket. It should have likely tripped earlier, so I'll be thinking/investigating the current boat-side breaker to see if there's a better solution.
The other worrisome situation was that my BlueSea VSM (used to monitor battery health, A/C power, and tank levels) was acting up. It also reported low voltage conditions on one of my batteries, which only a few days before had reported healthy. These were new in the last 2 years AGM batteries that should last a long time.
I decided to use the SmartPlug system when replacing my damaged plug and socket - specifically their 30 AMP solution that includes a new plug end and socket.
It took about an hour to install, which was mostly because my shore power cord is slightly bigger than normal, and getting the new plug on was an exercise in strength. Once that was set, I had A/C power back and waited while the battery charger started bringing life back to the batteries. Right around that time, the BlueSea VSM stopped displaying vital information and flashed on it's screen:
No firmware image found. Waiting for download.
So back to using the handheld meter to check on things. The rest of the afternoon and evening the battery charger worked long and hard and had the batteries back to their normal selves late in the evening. From other visual inspections of almost the entire A/C wiring (whew!) I did not see any other damage, and everything else on the battery side seems to be OK as well.
I contacted BlueSea on Sunday via email, and on Monday morning they returned the email saying they would be glad to ship out a replacement, and that this rarely happens, and they'd like to see the broken unit. Very helpful and quick - I hope to have the new one very soon.
I had read a lot about the SmartPlug system, but never really thought there was anything that wrong with my current system that warranted the $200 price for the plug and socket. I'm glad nothing was badly damaged, and can sleep soundly now that I've installed SmartPlug. It's a very well designed system, with little chance of a repeat of what happened. Sealed in several ways, positive locking, and a lot more metal on metal contact, it's well worth the investment, and I would suggest anyone upgrade immediately to prevent things like what happened to me.
For a long time I've wanted to document the various tools that I've found useful. I made a first attempt today with Mac Tools. I'm hoping to also document tools for Windows, Linux, and various web tools that I find very productive. If I have time, I would like to also include lists of tools and items in the physical world as well - electronics tools and more. I'll start with the computer world first...
My most favorite tool I documented today is Alfred. By far, it's the most useful little app in my entire toolbox. When Spotlight first came out for the Mac, I adopted the Command-Space key shortcut to search for applications and everything else. After evaluating Alfred for only a few hours, I replaced Spotlight's key shortcut with Alfred and haven't gone back.
One thing that is well worth the money is the Powerpack which adds functionality like file system navigation, result actions, and iTunes mini player. I use each of these three many times per day, and they save me using a mouse, and cut down on the time to do things significantly. I also love the global hotkeys that you can assign to particular apps - I've got my most used applications tagged with hotkeys so no matter what desktop I'm lost in, I can flip to the app I'm looking for without any searching.
The other great thing is extensions. You can find all sorts of add-ons to control various programs, or to do just about anything else you want. One of my favorites is Window Resize which allows you to use keyboard shortcuts to arrange windows. Amazingly helpful when you want to compare two webpages side by side, or arrange emails with other things you're researching. You can of course write your own extensions and use AppleScript to do just about everything.
It's safe to say that Alfred is one of the top 5 must-have apps in your OSX arsenal.
Just watched an hour long program on the BBC about how RBS almost ran out of money during the financial crisis.
It was very well produced, and had a lot of detail and interviews from former RBS executives. It's interesting to see how the sub-prime mortgage problems affected them so deeply.
The really disturbing thing was how clueless the bank seemed to be, or at least how much of a blind eye they turned to it and didn't want to admit that things were wrong.
I've seen some of the coverage of what U.S. banks and financials did during this time, but the footage in this program was mesmerizing - I couldn't turn away from it for the entire hour. And not mesmerizing in a positive way.
It's also pretty strange how much footage the BBC was allowed to record of the RBS buildings, headquarters, and other internals. I suppose that it is a positive thing in some ways - coming clean and trying to move forward.
I didn't realize that RBS was so close to completely running out of money because of the ABN-AMRO purchase combined with the rest of the financial problems. Extremely scary! I can't imagine how crazy it must have been for people who had their savings and money with them.
- British Museum - I've been here a few times, but there's so much to see, it's worth going back.
- Imperial War Museum, London - I've been here once before as well, but didn't see everything. The below ground floor with the history of World War I and II is well worth the visit.
- Churchill War Rooms
- HMS Belfast
- National Maritime Museum - I never got a chance to go here the last time I was in London, and hear that it's pretty good. Given my sailing background, I'm sure I'll find something interesting here.
It's been a while since I posted anything here. Been meaning to for a long time, but have just been so busy that I haven't found the time to take care of it.... hopefully that will change.
Strangely enough, there is a decent amount of traffic that still traverses the blog every day, mostly on old pages and reference information.
I'd like to write more about the tools and software that I use to make my life easier. God knows that I spend enough time playing with them in my spare time that I could probably do nothing but that :)
Look for some more posts coming soon!
On Saturday, it looked really nice out on the water near our place on the island, so I decided to go out in my dinghy for the first time this year. It just so happened that it was opening day of boating season. There was a small craft advisory up, but nearly ready to expire, and the water was very calm as far as I could see in my sailing area. Further up the channel there were whitecaps.
My dinghy is an 8' Walker Bay with the performance sail kit, which includes inflatable RIB pontoons on the sides of the dinghy. I sailed it a bunch of times last season, and was always able to get out of any problems I got into, and ended up sailing pretty fast a number of times.
This time around, it wasn't so fun. After departing the beach, a friend was watching me, and I got out a couple of hundred feet when the wind kicked up a bit. I adjusted the sail, and dropped the centerboard in, got down in the bottom of the boat to drop my center of gravity, and got ready to work the boat upwind - the wind was coming from the north.
Before I could even get settled, a huge gust caught me - I remember seeing the water and really tiny ripples everywhere with water flying off of the top. I let the main sheet go and started leaning to get the nose pointed into the wind, but it was too late - the wind kept getting stronger very fast.
I don't remember which way the boat tipped over, or which way the sail was pointing - I just remember doing everything I could to keep things from getting worse, and when I knew there was nothing left to do, I got myself free of any lines or part of the boat and got ready to get wet.
The water was about 46 degrees, and it was about 50 outside, so it didn't really feel that much colder when I hit the water. I was wearing jeans, three shirts, rubber boots, and a life vest. I did get hung up a bit in the mainsail as the boat went over. It ended up going completely over and the mast hung up on the bottom - even though I was about a 1/4 mile out from the beach, it was still shallow. I could see the bottom and the sail stuck in the mud, and the boat was relatively stable, albeit upside-down.
My friend on the beach was asking if I needed help, and I said "yes" after trying to move the boat around a bit. I knew the tide was still going out at least for another 30 minutes, so I was worried things would be stuck for a while. He immediately ran up the beach and started to get his kayak ready to come out to me. Meanwhile, the rudder popped loose and started floating away, so I rescued that, and then climbed up on the hull of the boat and hung onto the centerboard, resting a bit and waiting for my friend to arrive.
Once he arrived, I transferred the rudder to him, and then after moving the hull to point into the wind, was able to get the mast un-stuck from the bottom. It was fairly easy to get it back upright, but the boat was filled almost to the top with water. Really the only thing keeping it floating was the RIB pontoons. I jumped in, secured a bunch of stuff floating around, and started to bail using my boot.
At this point, I figure I had been in the water for about 10 minutes. It wasn't too cold yet. The wind was still gusting, and I was able to get the sail loose so I didn't go over again, but the bigger problem was the waves and the fact that the boat was filled with water. I transferred a 10lb anchor to my friends kayak, and continued baling. After doing this for a while, with him yanking me in a bit, and eventually just rowing for a while, I was able to get to shore. Dumping out the water was pretty quick, and then securing the sail completely only took a few minutes. I would estimate I'd been in the water and in the water in my boat for about 20 minutes by now.
We were a few hundred feet down the beach from our house, so I walked the boat back through the water (I was already wet anyhow) and helped secure it along with help from my friend. I got up to the house and immediately jumped in the shower - probably at about 30 minutes now, and definitely shaking a little bit from the cold water. I warmed up over the next hour, but was very worn out after the adrenaline and working to get things secured.
Here are a few things I'll be doing differently the next time I go out:
Better floating radio - the radio I was carrying wasn't attached to me, and although it floats a bit, it isn't designed to be underwater as long as it was while the boat was overturned. I have also never been able to get it to stay attached to me no matter what I do. I have a different radio on my big sailboat that floats much better, and can be attached better as well. I'll be using this from now on so I can make sure I can get in contact with someone in the even this happens in the future, and a friend isn't standing on shore!
Less layers and better boots - the layers of clothing I had on were quite heavy while I was in the water, and didn't really help when they were dry. I've tried to find a better lightweight sailing coat of some sort, and now I'll definitely investigate a better solution. The boots I was wearing were 12" high or so, and useful for getting off of the beach without getting wet, but were nearly useless while in the water. They kept coming off.
Whale pump in the boat - I used to carry one of these, and couldn't find it for the last few outings. I'll always make sure I have one from now on in case I need to empty the boat.
One thing I'm still considering is the life jacket - I had a kayak-style lifejacket on which doesn't require any inflation or the like. However, it was a bit restrictive when trying to move around and get the boat righted. I think I'll look at some newer designs that might be easier to move in, but still be as bouyant as the existing one.
The only "damage" was the socket that the main mast was in popped out of it's mountings, and bent some plastic, which I was able to push back together - everything looks solid and stable. I of course, lost a little of my pride, and got a little cold, but I'm glad I'm safe! I'll try again next weekend!
I'm back in London for work, and it looks like great weather this week. Today I spent the day wandering around Southbank, where my hotel is, and then crossed the river and wandered through Westminster, Trafalgar Square, and other places.
I also found an awesome spot on a bench near St. Thomas's hospital about 100 feet from my hotel to sit and read a book. You can't beat the view!
I'm here to finish selecting a contractor for a work project and will be here all week. The rest of the week will be spent at work during the day, but hopefully I'll be able to explore a bit more in the evenings. I fly back on Saturday - a long week ahead!
I'm surprised at the quality of the coffee available in London - when I was last here in 2004 it was a big challenge. Now, it seems that there is a small shop on every corner. Of course the ubiquitous Starbucks are everywhere, but that's not real coffee IMHO.
The best one I've come across so far is Taylor St Baristas - it's very much like Macrina or Fiore back in Seattle, including the wonderful pastries and fresh food available, as well as the ambiance, free large seating areas, and wifi access. The closest one to my hotel and the office is here - literally 2 minutes from the office - you can see it down the road.
The picture above includes some wonderful banana bread, lightly toasted with butter. They were out of the porridge and honey, or otherwise that would have been present :)
I haven't been to London in at least 5 years, and this time around I was able to schedule things over a weekend so I have one day of my own time to look around. Every time I've been before I have had work committments and never had the opportunity to do much outside of that.
I've had suggestions from many people as to where to go, what to see, and what to eat. I haven't made up my mind about any of them - I just hope the weather cooperates - looks sort of like Seattle weather right now...
I gave a friend a bread of the month club subscription - I'd make whatever bread she asked me to once a month - for christmas this year. So far it's been pretty rocky - I'm not living up to my subscription as best as I could.
This weekend, I was asked to make Honey Beer Bread, which looked really tasty. It turned out pretty good!
It tasted just like beer and honey, but not in an overpowering way. I think the beer we chose had too much yeast in it, or it wasn't warm enough when I used it, because things turned out a bit more dense inside the bread than I would have liked. Still really good on a cold day like today!
We also made the second part of the recipie which involved grilled cheese, dijon mustard, and caramelized onions. Super tasty once they were grilled panini-style.
I definitely would try the bread again - perhaps trying to find a milder beer, and maybe increasing the temperature during cooking to get more of a crumb on the outside and less dense inside.
More pics here.
For the longest time I have been plagued by motion sickness doing various things. Sailing, one of my favorite things to do, makes me sick if I go belowdecks when there are even moderate waves.
Riding in a car and trying to look at a map, or reading will end up making me terribly sick.
Flying on airplanes is just as bad.
For the last few years, I've been using the ReliefBand which is a watch style device that uses two small metal contacts to send a shock into the nerve cluster near your wrist. This has worked amazingly well.
I'm still very tired when I fly, even a short 2 hour flight. The worst time is when we slow down to land and my body realizes that things aren't as fast as they had been. The ReliefBand helps. The second worst part is the car/taxi/bus ride afterwards since its another speed to adapt to.
One great thing is how much easier this has made actual in flight experiences. For instance, right now I am writing this from my iPad, on a plane from Burbank to Seattle via gogo inflight wireless. A year ago if I tried this, I would have made some very unhappy seat mates.
There are exercises that I used to do a year or two ago that helped with inner ear development (yes k I know I owe you these) and I want to reconstitute those as well in the hopes that I might be even better when flying.
Oh yeah, and the in flight wireless is sure fun to play with. Crazy how it can work...
I recently had the chance to use a new keyboard at work - the Smartfish Engage. It's main feature is the ability to change angle and spacing at various times to reduce fatigue and RSI.
I have had problems with my right hand for a year or so as a result of doing too much on computers at work, and have tried a bunch of things to help. I've tried a bunch of different keyboards from all the major manufacturers, and more specialized folks like Kinesis. Most of them helped a little, but I always seemed to go back to the usual Microsoft curved keyboard.
So when I saw the Smartfish Engage, I was very interested, given that it looked like it had the same Microsoft curve, and it was built to help reduce fatigue and RSI.
I got the keyboard around the beginning of January, and used it for 3 weeks before writing this post.
The keyboard is very well built and pretty heavy - after all, it has motors inside that change the angle of the keyboard, and move the two halves of the keys away or towards eachother. I really like how it all runs off of the same USB connection as is used for data.
You can adjust how frequently the changes occur - useful if you type fast (like I do) and don't want it changing so frequently. It only changes after a certain # of keypresses, so you can be assured that it's not changing when you're in a meeting.
The moving motors experience gets easier with time - the first few times the motors fire up it will be quite surprising - there's no warning when it's going to happen, and the motors are not quiet. I can now even continue typing as it's moving, which is sort of a fun game.
While the motion definitely helped in the fatigue area, the keyboard keys themselves caused me more fatigue than a normal keyboard. They didn't always fire when I pressed them, and they took more pressure than many of the other keyboards I've used in the last 5 years. This meant that by the end of the day, I was actually more tired than if I didn't use the Engage. Disappointing.
There were also some strange placement choices for keys which caused me to hunt for things more than I would have liked. Most keyboard manufacturers get creative with some of the less used keys, admittedly, but there were a few on this one that were just too obscure or mixed in with other keys.
I think as a concept, the Engage is a great idea, and I look forward to further refinements in the future with the keyboard keys themselves, and perhaps other competitors trying to do something similar.
The nice surprise was the Smartfish Whirl mouse, which I also have been using. I really enjoy this mouse, and it's definitely helped my hand/wrist fatigue. It's super easy to use - no changes or training required. So far I have not found a single thing wrong with it. I am surprised more folks haven't developed similar products. Very natural feeling compared to a normal mouse.
Overall I think Smartfish has some great concepts, and look forward to more great products in the future.