Friday, December 11, 2020

Jumping into the Mechanical Keyboard Hobby

by Tony Thomas

I found out that I really love mechanical keyboards. 

However, after analyzing the mechanical keyboard hobby for a while, I am not sure that I am ready to jump off at the deep end.  If you don't know, mechanical keyboards can be a tremendously expensive hobby--a black hole where your Benjamins go.

While I now have a total of 9 (count 'em) mechanical keyboards, I don't consider myself a real enthusiast.  A few of those keyboards are entry level boards that I don't even use anymore. The other ones helped me find what I like in terms of form factor, switches, keycaps, ergonomics, etc. 

At this point, really don't feel the need to acquire any more keyboards just for the sake of having more. I have spent my time lately buying replacement keycaps and experimenting with a few different switch options. I may experiment with switches in the future. 

While a new build certainly provides an adrenaline rush, I am not into soldering, lubing switches, changing out stabilizers, or other fine details.  

Maybe my attitude will change if I give it time, but right now I'm pretty happy with what I have.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Keychron K6 with Side Printed PBT Keycaps - No talking

I decided to change out the ABS keycaps on my Keychron K6 to a side-printed PBT set. They are very thick and comfortable and a pleasure to type on. I got the smaller set and kept the original ABS keys for the extended keys, the right shift, and the number keys with legends since they are not used as frequently. It is something of a "mix and match" set but I think that it looks nice. What keycaps are you using on your Keychron K6?

Keycap set I used:

Larger 108 keycap set:

Music by Tony Thomas - Copyright 2020 - All Rights Reserved

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Friday, October 23, 2020

Keychron K6 with Side Printed PBT Keycaps


I decided to change out the ABS keycaps on my Keychron K6 to a side-printed PBT set.  They are very thick and comfortable and a pleasure to type on.  I got the smaller set and kept the original ABS keys for the extended keys, the right shift, and the number keys with legends since they are not used as frequently.  It is something of a "mix and match" set but I think that it looks nice.  What keycaps are you using on your Keychron K6?

Friday, October 9, 2020

Keychron K8 with Ducky Pudding Keycaps


This is a video of my new Keychron K8 mechanical keyboard with recently installed Ducky Pudding PBT double-shot keycaps. 

They feel great and are solidly built and are reportedly thicker than pudding keycaps from other manufacturers. 

Keychron K8 Mechanical Keyboard RGB w/Brown Switches 

Similar PBT Pudding Keycaps from HyperX 

Similar PBT Pudding Keycaps from HK Gaming 

Manufacturer's web sites:

Background Music Copyright 2020 - Tony Thomas - All rights reserved 

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Monday, October 5, 2020

The Wonderful World of Mechanical Keyboards


by Tony Thomas

After playing with a very inexpensive Red Dragon mechanical keyboard for a few weeks, I decided that I wanted something that was quieter so that I would not drive my wife crazy as I typed.  The "blue" keys in the Red Dragon have a high-pitched tactile click that is great for improving your typing speed but hard on the ears.

As a result I picked up a Techware "Phantom" TKL (ten key-less) keyboard that looks very similar to the Red Dragon but also includes RGB LED backlighting.  It looks so cool.  

Then, I started reading more and watching YouTube videos (very dangerous, BTW) and decided I need a keyboard that I can customize with different switches and keycaps.  

The recently released Keychron K8 arrived on my doorstep followed by a smaller Keychron K6 to use with my iPad.  I also picked up a few 60% keyboards and ordered a keyboard kit and some switches from China.  Plus, keycaps from several different places.

I am now in that black hole that is the mechanical keyboard hobby and my wallet is a bit emptier.  And yes, I paid for everything with my own money!  (It's only money, right?)

I can tell you that mechanical keyboards and addicting.  But, at least in my case, they have provided a needed productivity boost.  I love to write free hand and to dictate, but there is something about a mechanical keyboard that gets my juices flowing!

If you are interested, there are plenty of great YouTube channels that are devoted to mechanical keyboards (Taeha Types, Switch and Click, The Techne, and TaeKeyboards are standouts) as well as a sub-Reddit: r/MechanicalKeyboards.

The good news is mechanical keyboards have made me way more productive since they are a joy to type on.  If you are a writer or gamer, you may want to give mechanical keyboards a try!

Monday, September 28, 2020

Dierya/Kemove DK61E 60% Mechanical Keyboard


by Tony Thomas

The Dierya DK61E (also known as Kemove DK61E—the name of the parent company) is an affordable 60% mechanical keyboard that features a fairly standard layout, RGB back lighting, PBT double-shot key caps, hot-swappable Gateron optical switches, a IPX4 certified water-resistant circuit board, and down-loadable editing software.

Its compact form factor takes up very little desk real estate and facilitates easier access to your mouse than larger keyboards.  I bought the wired version, although a Bluetooth version (DK61 PRO) is also available at a slightly higher price.  I initially tried that version but experienced battery charging issues and returned it.  

The DK61E build quality is solid for a keyboard that typically costs around $50.  It sports a USB C jack and comes with a nice cloth-wrapped USB cable, key cap puller, switch puller, operation guide and a few extra switch samples (I received one brown switch and one blue switch—both tactile switches).  The case is flex-free plastic and it has a bit of heft for a keyboard of that size. I received one brown switch and one blue switch.  The software is available for download of the Keymove/Dierya web site.

The version that I bought has black PBT keycaps and Gateron optical brown switches that have a subtle tactile “bump” without the clicky sound of blue switches.  Versions with blue, black, and red switches are also available.  I found the keyboard to be very pleasant to type on and pretty low noise since I type lightly and don't tend to “bottom out” the switches.  If you are a heavier typist, you will hear a low frequency “clack”.  

The stabilizers are pretty nice for such a low priced keyboard and I suspect they are factory lubricated and clipped.  Although the switches are hot-swappable, you are limited to using Gateron optical switches only.  MX compatible switches from companies such as Cherry, Gateron, Kailh, etc. will not work.  That said, you can find a pretty wide variety of Gateron aftermarket optical switches in blue, red, brown, black, and silver.

As with most 61 key mechanical keyboards, there are no dedicated arrow keys, so you have to use the function key along with the adjacent CTL, menu, ALT, and ?/ keys to access the arrow keys.  

The function keys, navigation keys, delete key, and multimedia keys also reside on the function layer.  The RGB lighting effects are very impressive and there are a variety to chose from.  You can also edit them via the available software.  The keycaps are see though and my biggest criticism of them is that the legends for the function layer are not that visible without ample ambient light.

In summary, the Dierya DK61 is an impressive budget mechanical keyboard that will serve both gamers and typists quite well.  I really love mine and find myself using it often.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

My Chromebooks Keep on Ticking

by Tony Thomas

Tick...tick...tick. Can you hear that sound?

That is the sound of my Chromebooks approaching their expiration date.

Unlike many other computers, Chrome devices have an expiration date baked in. For older models, it is five years after the date of introduction (not the date of sale). Newer models get a date of 6.5 years.

That means that if you were an early adopter of the Chrome platform like me, chances are that time is running out for your Chrome devices.

What happens when that day arrives? According to the Google AUE (auto update expiration) website:

“Chrome devices receive automatic updates regularly that enhance both the device itself and the software on the device. However, advances in hardware and technology eventually make devices out-of-date; and as time goes by, we cannot indefinitely ensure that older Chrome devices will receive updates to leverage new OS features.”

“When a device reaches Auto Update Expiration (AUE), it means that the product model is considered obsolete and automatic software updates from Google are no longer guaranteed.”

That doesn't mean that the devices will suddenly stop working. It just means that they will not get any more updates or new features. At some point, they may cease to function correctly as new web technologies are created and added to Chrome. More troubling is the fact that security updates may also cease when the expiration date is reached.

Does this mean that you should discard a perfectly good device? Not necessarily. If you are technically inclined, you can install Linux on the device by reflashing the device to wipe ChromeOS and replacing it with SeaBIOS. However, that is not for the faint of heart or anyone who lacks some serious technical chops. In addition, this will only work for devices with Intel CPUs (not ARM).

A simpler solution is to enter developer mode on the Chrome device and install Linux via Crouton (Chromium OS Universal Chroot Environment). It is a much simpler process and is easily reversible as it does not make any permanent changes to the device. Crouton gives you the option to install a number of Ubuntu variants and update them as needed. If you install Chrome on your Linux distribution, it mirrors much of the functionality inherent in the Chrome operating system while also enabling you to run Linux applications such as Libre Office even while not connected to the Internet.

If you are buying a new Chrome device, it would be wise to check the AUE expiration database To find out how long the device has before it reaches its expiration date. There are many older Chrome devices (especially used ones) still on sale that are close to or even beyond their expiration date. Buyer beware!

Here is a link to Google’s AUE database:

And a link to the Crouton GitHub page:

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Are Chromebooks Getting Pricier?

by Tony Thomas

When they were introduced, Chromebooks were seen as a low-cost alternative to a notebook PC.  How things have changed.  

I visited my local Best Buy yesterday and noticed that the prices of Chromebooks are moving on up.  At the very top of the line is the Google Pixel - the flagship of Chromebooks.  Even with its impressive specs, at $999, I think the Pixel has very limited appeal unless the buyer is a Chromebook fanatic.  

Bolstered by the high price of the Pixel, other manufacturers, like Samsung, Asus, and HP, are coming out with new Chromebooks in the medium-price range of $500 to $750.  At the lower end of the pricing scale, there are fewer offerings to choose from.  I think this is because the recently introduced Android functionality requires more RAM and storage space to be used effectively.  

Personally, I find the dependence on Android troubling as I am a big fan of the offline native apps on Chrome OS that have apparently been deprecated.  Google will be adding Linux functionality which may help to fill in the gap between mobile apps and more powerful desktop computer programs.  They are also betting heavily on Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) that are beginning to appear but have not gained much traction or acceptance yet.

The problem with the more expensive Chromebooks is that they lose their advantage of being a low-cost solution and have solid competition from lower-end notebooks and tablets like the iPad.   And, speaking of the iPad, I will be watching with interest how well the new ChromeOS tablets will do compared to Apple's new affordable base model.  

In any case, ChromeOS is still a strong option for anyone looking for a secure web-based computing solution.

Check out my YouTube Video:

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Teknet Laptop Cooling Pad

by Tony Thomas

I recently purchased a Tecknet laptop cooling pad from to provide cooling for my aging Lenovo T410 14” laptop computer. The Tecknet pad is made out of plastic but seems to be solidly built. It houses two 110mm cooling fans which seem to do a good job of providing needed cooling to the bottom of the laptop. The fans are illuminated and provide a cool looking blue glow. It is slightly angled to make typing more comfortable. It supports laptop sizes from 12-16”. At $21, it seems to be fairly priced and has received a lot of good reviews.

Power is provided via an available USB port and there is an extra port available for another device. It only seems to pass power and not data so it cannot be connected to a USB drive or other data device. I was able to successfully run it from an open port on my unpowered USB hub so it does not draw much current.

Since I installed a 7200 RPM hard drive, it had been running pretty hot -- as high as 60-70 degrees C. Using the cooling pad, I have been able to reduce my temps by 15-20 degrees. I am very pleased with the performance of the Tecknet laptop cooling pad and highly recommend it to those who need additional cooling.

Buy it at Amazon:

Check out the YouTube video:

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