Adesso MKB-125 keyboard review

Are you old enough to remember the amazing IBM model M keyboards?  I am.  And I loved mine.  I had  several of them as did my roommate from that time.

800px-ModelMI remember in the mid 1990s working for a consulting firm in central IL, and during that employment one of the tasks put to us was to install a network with new PCs.  Since this was a large company we were doing this for, they wanted to write off all of their items being replaced (or so I was told), so we threw the old stuff into a gigantic dumpster.  During that install, we trashed likely more than 100 IBM Mechanical “clicky” keyboards.  A few of us were devious enough to stow a few away. Several of us them for close to a decade after.

Now get in your DeLorean and head to 2013.  I’ve started a new job and I hear that unmistakable sound of a clicky-clack keyboard from some folks I work with.  It’s oh-so-familiar and I’m whisked away to a carefree time of gaming, learning Linux and BSD and drinking crummy beer around a table of nerds with computers.

Then there was an email thread about the keyboards.

I got interested again.

After a bit of googling around I found that there is a very, very large following for the clickey model M-style keyboards. And there is a lot of detail and difference between key styles.  Not surprising, they’re great devices and apparent;y far more diverse than I ever knew. So, I set out to find a reasonably priced, modern interface (read:USB) mechanical keyboard.  After much deliberation, I settled on the  Adesso MKB-125 keyboard.  It seems like a good compromise between function, form and cost and is available for about $60 from Amazon.

Now, I’ve been using an Apple “chicklet” keyboard for years.  Since they came out, actually, and I can say with confidence that I like it.  The tactile response is nowhere near as good, but after 6+ years, it’s muscle memory, and I knew the MKB-125 would be different in many ways.

That being said, this review isn’t really a “review” per se, it’s a detailing of the things that someone that has been using a very different keyboard would experience when switching to this device.  It should be said that I love this keyboard.  I’m going to buy another one for home to replace my apple keyboard there.  However, it is requiring a re-training of my habits.  Some of the things I experienced that I did not expect (but perhaps should have) are detailed below.

Lack of special apple keys.  I did not realize just how much I used the keyboard volume keys as well as the mission control stuff.  There are ways to re-map some of it (although I’ve not found a way to do the volume yet), mission control stuff is all available via hotkeys.  I’m still working through this.

Tiny space bar.  I didn’t catch this one.  It’s still annoying, but I purposely got a compact keyboard.  I should have seen it coming but didn’t.  My hands are slowly learning that the alt key isn’t the spacebar.

IMG_3895

Misplaced ESC key. This is irritating.  Again, I know I got the compact keyboard, but I never realized just how much muscle memory was there for that esc. key.  IMG_3894

No support for num-lock on mac? Have not figured this one out yet.  It doesn’t claim mac support, so who knows.  I have done zero investigation but I have lamented it a fair amount.

Lack of USB hub. Again, this could have been solved by getting the MKB-135B for roughly $15 more.  Perhaps I’ll get that one for home.

Noise.  These things are loud.  If you forget to mute on a conference call or video conference and start typing, everyone will know.  If you have little kids and want to work while they sleep in the next room, that’s a crap shoot.  They’re that loud.

All that being said, I love this keyboard.  The mechanical keys are audibly reinforcing and I very much like the tactile response.  It’s both nostalgic and useful.  It reminds me of being in high school around 1991 and learning BASIC on an IBM PS/2.

I would highly recommend anyone who spends serious amount of time writing code, prose or any other typing-intensive tasks to seriously consider a mechanical keyboard.  There are many guides out there to help you decide what is right for you and you’ll be surprised at how much you like it.

Why plex is everything iTunes should be and how to Install it on CentOS 6.5

If you’re not familiar with Plex, you should be. It’s one of the most flexible, well supported, useful pieces of entertainment software ever written. Oh, and it’s open source. That’s right, it’s free. And it’s cross platform. And it will run on just about any device. It’s quite amazing, actually. Plex also supports a myriad of plugins  and features such as Channels, DLNA and cloud sync as well as the notion of clipping existing videos such as youtube content for display on your television or other devices. This alone makes the package worth setting up. However, it also does some really amazing indexing of your media if it is named correctly.  As an example, I love horror movies, so naturally I have quite a few of them on DVD. Some of them are obscure. With Plex, this is not an issue as long as the movie exists in IMDB (or a few other sources for more obscure or foreign films).  If it does it will pull down all of the metadata on it and display it. Very, very slick:

Plex Cemetery Man Image

Obviously plex is a very versatile application. It has two parts, the client and the server. Personally I have not used the client since the inception of myplex, I pretty much just use a web interface, with the exception of my ipad and iphone, which have a dedicated client. You can also share your plex using myplex, and if you have a plexpass, watched status can be localized to each user. For example, if you share your library with a family member that may no longer be living in your household (say, a college student) when they watch a film it will not show as watched under your particular plex instance unless you have watched it* but will for theirs. This is a nice feature if you’re watching TV series or other multi-part shows.  It also allows for media sync when you cannot stream your media.

Plex is all of the things that iTunes should be.

As a breif bit of history, a few years ago I decided that it would be a good idea to digitize my fairly good sized DVD collection like I had done with CDs, records and cassettes for music years before. I had enough disk to hold it and wanted to clear space on some bookshelves.  I bought some rubbermaid tubs and after a long process and some intimate time with Handbrake, I put all of my DVDs in my storage closet in my basement.  Once that digital library was all set up, and since most Blu-Ray combo packs come with a digital copy, I can unquestionably say that this was a good idea.  It’s funny, too, since I get a Blu-Ray combo pack, sock away the media and jam a digital copy on my NAS with the other media .

Now, on with the install. I went with CentOS because it’s easy to administrate for me.  I don’t really know windows well enough to comfortably admin a box anymore and I don’t want to spend the extra money on a mac just to run plex. I like to run things on minimalist systems if I can, and Linux is easy enough to tune down to a very small footprint. My plex media server actually runs really well as a VM. Lets assume that you have an already built CentOS 6.5 box. I chose minimalist install but this will work for any install option.

yum -y install wget
wget http://downloads.plexapp.com/plex-media-server/0.9.8.18.290-11b7fdd \ 
/plexmediaserver-0.9.8.18.290-11b7fdd.x86_64.rpm
rpm -ivh plexmediaserver-0.9.8.18.290-11b7fdd.x86_64.rpm 
yum -y update

You should see something like this:

[[email protected] buraglio]# yum update
Loaded plugins: fastestmirror
Loading mirror speeds from cached hostfile
 * base: centos.sonn.com
 * epel: fedora-epel.mirror.iweb.com
 * extras: centos.sonn.com
 * rpmforge: apt.sw.be
 * updates: centos.sonn.com
PlexRepo                                                 |  951 B     00:00
PlexRepo/primary                                         | 5.4 kB     00:00
PlexRepo                                                              12/12
Setting up Update Process
No Packages marked for Update

Now start Plex Media Server and tell it to start at boot:

service plexmediaserver start
chkconfig plexmediaserver on

Since mine runs internally, I disable iptables all together:

service iptables stop
service ip6tables stop
chkconfig iptables off
chkconfig ip6tables off

You can probably also add a rule to allow access [untested by me]

Add IPTables rules:

sudo iptables -I INPUT -p tcp -m state --state NEW -m tcp --dport 32400 -j ACCEPT
sudo ip6tables -I INPUT -p tcp -m state --state NEW -m tcp --dport 32400 -j ACCEPT  
service iptables save
service ip6tables save

Although plex does not listen on IPv6, I have it enabled on my network so I’m going to add a rule for it for future use.

Install and enable Avahi for local discovery

yum -y install avahi
service avahi-daemon start
chkconfig  avahi-daemon on

Now you just need to add your media via the web interface. Point your browser at the plex box: http://plex:32400/web/index.html

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 10.32.12 AM

After a bit plex will scrape all of the metadata from it’s sources and you should see a nice display of media detail. This works for Music, TV shows and Movies. It will also happily display photos and home movies. I have mine pointed at my iTunes library and my iPhoto library as well as having 2 dedicated containers for videos I’ve purchased like grappling, cycling and skate videos.

If your media exists on mounted drives like mine does, I would also suggest disabling the “Empty Trash” option in case the drives do not mount or become unavailable (suggestion via IcePick, who also is the one who introduced me to Plex).

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 10.14.53 AM

 

Now you can get the mobile plex for your iPhone, iPad, chromecast, Android device or any number of other devices.  Personally we use a Roku with the plex channel but when I’m traveling I will often use my iPad as a media player from my hotel room and play my own content directly from my house, sometimes even over a cellular connection if there is spotty wifi.  It’s like having netflix with my own content.  Win-Win.

* I have not tested this personally, yet, however, I would encourage anyone to pay for the lifetime plexpass. I plan to do so as soon.

** You may need to disable selinux.  I do it by default so I can’t say if it works with it on or not.