money, money, money

This was given to me by old friends many years ago…I think it was a Kris Kringle present but my memory is a wee bit hazy. Quite simply, this is a moneybox snail as well as being one of my brighter snails. I smile a little every time I look at it. It used to sit on the bookcases in my old loungeroom but these days resides with the larger snail collection.

moneybox snail

filmfest 2017 roundup

Another filmfest finished. I run out of puff toward the end and didn’t manage to write up film reviews for the final two days. I was also conscious of needing sleep as I anticipated a busy time at NLS8 the following weekend; in hindsight that was a very wise move as NLS8 was exhausting. I have a conference mode where I somehow assume the guise of someone vaguely extroverted and throw myself into things and chat to as many people as I can. However in doing so, sucks the energy out of me and I have felt rather fatigued in the days since.

Back to filmfest and I think I managed 28 films this time, slightly up on 27 from last year. It was almost 29 but I chose not to go to a 9.30am screening on the final morning and chose a decent sleep-in and a casual brekky. That film would have been a doco on NASA’s Voyager programme, The Farthest, which I gather was really amazing.

Some things don’t change, the app is still dodgy, the search is still dodgy and the website is still dodgy eg the app has several search options except title search. My partner and I have different android phones, and when she hit the back button to return from ticket to movie list, whereas for me the back button returned me to the home screen. The desktop version of the website only displays the search option if your browser is a particular width, too narrow and and it won’t work.

Tech issues aside, filmfest remained generally excellent and I think this was the first year I managed to avoid a dud film altogether, though Ms16 was less successful alas. This is a list, in alphabetical order, of all the films that stood out for me:

a puppet snail

This was given to me many years ago, and is one of my older snails. A family I used to hang out with in my church days, spotted it and had to buy it for me. In the early days I used to wear it as a puppet to entertain their kids. These days it sits in a bowl, looking out on the world.

puppet snail

playing with editions

I was a little late to the party on “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. It was first published in 2011 and I finally got round to reading it last year and the movie is coming out in 2018. It was a fun read full of 1980s pop culture references. I initially came across it because Subterranean Press released a limited edition in 2015 which quickly sold out.

Now I’m sorta wondering whether it’s worth grabbing a nice edition myself. The limited edition initially sold for US$75 from Subterranean Press and the cheapest I can find on abebooks is US$275 and they go higher, much higher. Curiously, I came across the first printing of the first edition on ebay and it was only US$125, however it’s not pristine and looks well read. I am amused the first edition is cheaper than the special edition. With that said, I’m not particularly interested in first editions myself (well unless they’re Biggles of which I have a bunch of first editions) and like to buy pretty editions, well bound with nice typesets.

A row of books on a shelf - Biggles.

It’d be nice to have a decent copy of Ready Player One but I reckon I’ve missed the boat and when the movie comes out next year, the prices will likely skyrocket. If I was in to making money, it might be worthwhile picking up a few copies now, even if they’re a little eccy and then sell them at substantial profit when everyone’s riding high on the movie release. But I’m not that sort of person and not into that whole investing thang. I like to buy nice books because I like to read nice books.

identifying data

Wednesday and time to respond to an identity challenge from Paul :-) 4 questions about me and computer gear I like and I suspect question 1 and question 4 are going to be the hard ones. As this is a personal space, I tend not to talk about my work, or at least not directly. My about page provides hints of past current jobs but that’s about it.

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is snail. I use my real name at work though even there I’d prefer to use snail but all the systems are based around official names not nicknames. Sadly. Many folk know me as snail except security and the switchboard so turning up and asking for snail ain’t gonna work :-) I am the Online Resources Specialist Librarian at the State Library of NSW and I am responsible for working with eresources, dealing with vendors, contract management, budget management, EZproxy, eresource troubleshooting and support, eresource subscriptions and digital archive purchases…and stats…and more stats. I am the Library’s representative on the NSLA eResources Consortium. 3 years ago I implemented a project for whole of domain web harvesting of all government websites under *.nsw.gov.au and I’ve been running that ever since…I’ll be commencing the primary annual captures today. I may have been blogging about the web harvesting stuff recently :)

What hardware do you use?

At work, I have a basic laptop running Windows 7 plugged into a 24″ widescreen monitor, along with a Das Keyboard Professional 4 mechanical keyboard and a Logitech trackball. I have a Jabra bluetooth hub hooked up to the desk phone which is paired to my mobile hearing aid loop, enabling me to hear telephone calls through my hearing aids.

laptops, tablet, phone ereaderI have a personal laptop, 2013 11″ Sony Vaio running Windows 10, which I use occasionally at work for external testing. At home, I have a mac mini connected to a 24″ widescreen monitor, with a Logitech G610 mechanical keyboard and a Logitech trackball. Behind the scenes I’m running a home server on a 4 bay QNAP TS-421 in RAID 5: each drive is 3TB for a total of 12TB which I’m primarily using it for backing all my machines, running my itunes server, and photo archive. I have a 7″ Nexus (2013) tablet, a Samsung galaxy s5 phone, and a Sony PRS-T2 ereader. Even a Psion 5mx that still works! I have several old keyboards too, assorted external hard drives and lots of USB sticks. :-)

And what software?

30533574640_5de8d36502_nThe machine at work is on Windows 7 and has just migrated to Office 365. The personal laptop is running Windows 10 and tends to run Open Office variants, has a virtualbox running Linux Mint, and a few other odds and ends. The mac mini is running whatever is the current MacOS and the phone and tablet are running android. I’ve never been much good at this single operating environment malarkey :-) Some of my favourite software includes:

and more browser variants than I care to count including lynx.

What would be your dream setup?

I wish all my devices would talk better to each other, a universal standard for talking across different machines, operating systems and so on. More speed, more bandwidth and greater customisation options. I like things to look pretty, both the hardware and the software, and I don’t like it when fab looking customisations break things. I like working from home but like working near colleagues too and some way of merging the two environments would be fab. I want better ears to hear conversations and chit-chat.

board with keys

I spend a lot of my life in front of a keyboard. I have tried other sorts of things here and there but suspect I’m stuffed with anything other than a keyboard. A physical keyboard. I do not like the lack of physical feedback from virtual keyboards. I get by with phone or tablet, swiping + predictive text works well enough but awkward for composing slabs of text and editing. I am most at home with a full keyboard.

Keyboards come in all shapes these days including small ones, big ones, some with less keys, some with all the keys, some with colours and flashing lights. Keyboards even have their own culture and groupies, depending on where you hang. “tenkeyless” is a bit of thing at the moment referring to keyboards that don’t have a numeric keypad. When I was working vendor-side, I had a series of thinkpad laptops (initially IBM then Lenovo which took over IBM’s laptop division) and work supplied an external keyboard for the office. Both the laptop and external keyboards were decent; I still have the external IBM keyboard and used it recently and it holds up.

logitech wave keyboard
Logitech Wave

My keyboard of choice in recent years was the logitech wave. It was comfy, felt great to type on and had a really nice feel. When I find a keyboard I like I usually get the same keyboard for work and home. My current workplace supplies a basic keyboard which is good as far as they go but I replaced it with a wave :-) If you can get away with it, it’s nice to swap in your own gear at work.

For a long time now, I’ve been reading about mechanical keyboards. These hark back to olden days when office typewriters were actual typewriters and computer keyboards emulated this approach. I’ve been trawling through my saved articles (using pocket these days) and found this fabulous article by Justine Hyde on the love of typewriters. There’s something about the click clack of old school typewriters that appeal. I’ve been using computer keyboards since I was 12 and still have fond memories of learning to type on mum’s, or was it dad’s, portable typewriter.

Assorted keyboardsI used to think mechanical keyboards were a bit of a trendy thing, focused on the noise of typing and hipster, old school style…not to mention being expensive. Mechanical keyboards can be very noisy. Most modern keyboards are membrane-based where the board under the keys is a rubber membrane sending signals based on the character pressed whereas mechanical keyboards have a specific switch for each key. Modern keyboards are quiet and don’t disturb whilst everyone knows if you’re using a mechanical keyboard. Stories continued to emerge of how nice mechanicals are to type on but still, they’re eccy: the wave cost around $100 including mouse + wrist-rest, whereas a good mechanical keyboard is around $150+.

Recently I bit the bullet and went hunting for a decent mechanical keyboard. I have long admired Das Keyboard as dedicated keyboard enthusiasts, they even produce a keyboard with no labels for touch typists in pure, unadulterated style. I never actually learned to touch-type but suspect I would probably do ok on a blank keyboard. Instead I went looking for the Das Professional 4…with labels. The Das Pro 4 is regarded as the top end at around AUD$270 and doesn’t include a wrist-rest.

I popped in to Capitol Square in Sydney where there’s a nest of specialist computer shops but none had one and I eventually settled for the cheaper Logitech Orion G610 ($150) with Cherry Brown switches. A note on switches: these are the things that separate mechanical keyboards from typical membranes; each key has its own switch and Cherry is the top of the top of pile for switches. Cherry has several colours denoting noise and feel with Cherry reds generally being the loudest. My reading suggested Cherry browns are quieter while maintaining decent tactility. Competing keyboard suppliers use Cherry too but some have developed their own switches eg Logitech have developed Romero for their top end keyboards. I won’t get into the terminology of actuation points and so on as it can get a wee bit intense.

Das Keyboard Professional 4
Das Keyboard Professional 4

I set up the logitech g610 at home and oh my, it was orders of magnitude better than the wave. Noisy yes, but so so nice to type on. However what I hadn’t understood was just how much faster mechanical keyboards are to type on; I thought I was a fairly quick typist but am faster still on a mechanical. The g610 is beautiful to type on. Anyways I ended up ordering the Das Pro 4 (Cherry Brown) online and I set it up at work. While the Logitech G610 was an order of magnitude better than the Wave, the Das Pro 4 was that much better again and possibly quieter too. It was so much better than typing on the G610 that I’m now tempted to replace the G610 with a Das Pro 4 too. It’s all subjective: I was happy for years with the wave; I was happy with the G610, and now I’m even happier with the Das Keyboard Professional 4.