Opening Salvo:

In the past, I’ve always been somewhat skeptical of Cherry MX Blue switches, as well as the clones of said switch. Not that I didn’t like them, but I just didn’t prefer them. Although they are the most popular of the MX style switches, and are well loved by peripherally-involved typists, the hard, weird core of keyboard arch-nerd-ery have sometimes been dismissive of them. “There are better switches!” goes the long and loud lament. “ALPS!” “Buckling Spring!” I get it. Non keyboard people, um, don’t. And that’s okay.

The Things That I Used To Do: 

For some time, my preference was for the brown switch. I still have a lot of good luck using the brown switch, and I believe that it does have its place. If you need a quieter ‘board, the brown will help you with that. I can always sit down and get a good result with the brown switch, without a lot of clumsiness or adaptation. I still use a DasKeyboard thusly equipped for my primary work keyboard. I’ve had it for 5 years, and though I’ve re-capped it, it’s otherwise stock and in just as fine a fettle as it ever was.

Yep. For a time, I was all about the Brown Switches. As I’ve tested more switch types, however, I’ve found that they are not the be-all-end-all. They’re a compromise, but they get the job done. Smooth enough. Quiet enough. Just enough actuation force that you won’t make an utter mess of things.

With the blue switches, I found that I didn’t have that same immediate sense of comfort. I liked them, but I would usually have to use them for a while to get used to their action. Not sure why. One thought about it is that I typically only used them when sitting in with someone else’s rig, and I just didn’t have enough mileage on them to get acclimated.

The Long and Crooked Road to Better: 

I tried putting o-rings on a blue-equipped keyboard, and that didn’t do anything good. Not at all. For me, the o-rings really hurt the typing feel with a Cherry MX type board. I’m sure someone likes them, but that person is not me, or anyone I’ve had try a ‘board so equipped.

After picking up some cheaper ‘boards featuring Outemu and Kailh switches, as well as stripping out the o-rings for my “real” Cherry switch keyboard, I found that I really began to warm up to the blue switch. The slight increase in weight from the brown switches seemed to help me be more accurate and have fewer accidental key presses. I acclimated to the sound, and it really grew on me.

Dress ‘Em Up: 

One thing, for me, became very clear. I liked all keyboards better with PBT caps on them, but with the blues, it made a big, big difference. Something about the sound and feel seemed to give the blue switches a big boost. Also worthy of mention would be the typewriter style keys, such as the ones made by Quisan. These, being built in a totally different manner, and having a lot of concentrated mass atop the keys, change their acoustics a lot. This takes a kind of “ping-y” keyboard sound and gives it a certain depth and fullness that even thick PBT conical caps do not confer. If you like that retro look, and can get used to the altered mechanics of a spherical key, they are also an option.

In terms of the variety of different blue switches, I like the Outemu best of all. I know, that’s weird. They’re the cut-rate brand. I just think that they have a neater sound, and the slightly heavier action seems to put them in the “just right” zone for me. The Kailh switches seem a bit smoother and a bit more subdued in terms of sound, but they are still really good. Strangely, my least favorite blue-equipped keyboard is my DasKeyboard with real Cherry switches and a beautiful set of bumblebee colored PBT caps. Ah, well. The amount of money spent doesn’t always equal the amount of enjoyment perceived.

Final Thoughts:

As a switch, apples to apples, I still think that the blue switch isn’t the equal of the Matias tactile pro (clicky). It doesn’t have that sense of absolute solidity of an IBM buckling spring. That said, if the blue switch is riding under some great PBT caps, that brings them up a notch or two. Not quite to the level of the Matias or the Unicomp, but those boards are louder, more expensive, and harder to customize. There are no cut rate models, short of finding an old one at a yard sale. You can order a blue switch keyboard from Amazon and have it in a couple days, for as little as thirty bucks or so. There are a million ways to customize them, as the market is flooded with stuff to work with for MX mount switches.

I know that I’ve talked some smack about the blue switch, and I’m here to say that I have changed my tune. They’re still too loud for some places you might deploy them, but they have a lot to commend them, and they’re a great value option for getting into mechanical keyboarding.

Cheers, and happy typing.

 

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Ease of Lathering: Very easy. This is one of the soap formulations that would be difficult to complain about in terms of ease-of-use. It loads onto the brush with no trouble at all, and doesn’t take any special preparation to get a solid lather. Not a surprise. This soap is well lauded, and with what we understand about formulations today, there’s no real need to have anything less than good performance.

Protection: Depending upon how you choose to lather this soap, you can have it somewhat thick, or very voluminous. While this might appear to be a rather facile and almost useless statement on my part, not all soaps lend themselves to this dichotomy. I’ve found that this soap doesn’t seem to need an enormous amount of water. If you do work some water into the lather, it will become voluminous. I mean, lather everywhere, like you’d get with a cream when you put too much into the lathering bowl. I find, though, that the best performance I had with it was with a little less water worked in. In this, a slightly thicker iteration, it protects wonderfully well. As in, I was emboldened to crank a Merkur Futur up to “6” while using this soap. For those who are not familiar with the Futur, setting 6 is the “imminent death” level of aggression. All went well, and so kudos to the soap maker.

Residual Slickness: I found that the slickness was just fine with this soap. When rinsing between passes, my wet hands slipped across my face with speed and ice-rink smoothness. As with any soap, if your face dries out, there will be no glide or slickness, but this one seemed to leave plenty of soapy goodness behind.

Scent: I like woody scents. I like lavender. This soap offers exactly what it says on the tin. Promotional literature indicates that it has lavender, ho wood, amyris, and West Indian Bay. Sure. Sounds good. I’m not a perfumer, so I don’t have a solid understanding of how all the interactions and synergies work. I can only tell you what it smells like to me. It smells woody, beneath a nice lavender. The scent strength isn’t potent, but it is present, and I am a fan. The scent doesn’t linger after the shave is over, so you needn’t worry that it will outstay its welcome.

Production/Value: In most cases, artisan soaps are a fairly good value. Because they produce so many shaves per ounce, even ones that are a bit more expensive tend to give you a lot of performance. In the case of LA Shaving Soap stuff, it is on the higher range of what I’d call “moderate priced” soap. Because I’ve seen a range of prices, I’m not going to quote you anything here. Suffice it to say that it’s somewhat more than a lot of the other artisans you’ll find. The performance and quality are good, though, and if you think that this scent, or another one in their catalog, sound like your cup of tea, the price shouldn’t be an impediment (Unless is is. I don’t know your financial situation.)

Notes: This is a vegan based soap. It can be said that, because I hadn’t really studied this soap before using it, I was in the dark and didn’t make any assumptions. I shaved several times before looking it up and finding that it was vegan. I’d been pleased with the performance, and had some inkling that it might be a tallow soap. That means that it was taking care of me pretty well. It also means that we can sometimes disabuse ourselves of our notions by simply using a product prior to looking too deeply into it. There are several ways to formulate soap, and several different paths to great success. This represents one of those paths.

I can’t say that the LA soap is an entire order of magnitude beyond any of the more value-priced offerings you can find. It does a great job, and smells nice. The same could be said of many others. Money for money, I’d take Razorock Essential Oil of Lavender. If money is not a prime concern, I would suggest you give it a try.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

 

I work in the IT industry. I have to take care of over 500 desktop computers at any given time, if not more. Everything about the equipment that large organizations use on a day to day is based upon hitting a price point. The cheapest one that’ll get the job done, most specifically. The mice and keyboards? Five dollar parts that are made to beat up and throw away. Not great. Not even all the way to good. Firmly mediocre.

Now and then, though, you’ll find a mass market product that somehow does just a little better, lasts a little longer. Maybe, just maybe, it’s good enough that is survives a few extra generations after the other stuff goes to the great trash heap of history. This here Compaq keyboard is one of those.

Here’s the story. 

One day, I needed a keyboard when I was fixing a PC in a computer lab setting. “We’ve got this one,” the lab attendant told me. “No one knows where it came from.”

I found in my paws a really beaten-up old PS/2 keyboard that didn’t appear to be something that the organization had ever used. Ever. I flipped it over, and yep, it wasn’t one of ours. It had somehow been brought over from the Transit Authority. Probably after having been sold at auction to some oddball who forgets keyboards around town. No one knows.

In any case, there are a few specific things that PS/2 keyboards do really well. One of those is to interrupt an auto-login command that’s hard coded into the registry of a PC. USBs can do it, too, but the timing is very exacting, and it doesn’t always work like you’d hope. Thus, even in the age that spurns these older connections, we keep a few around, just in case. Most PCs don’t have the right connection for them now, so their era is quickly fading, but hey, this story starts probably six years ago. Yes. This ‘board was old and tired and beaten to a pulp six freaking years ago. Shrug.

I plugged the keyboard in and did the thing I was there to do. Taking care of business, as they say. I thought to myself, “Ima keep this sumbitch,” or something to that effect. I needn’t have worried that anyone would try to steal the old thing away from me, as it appeared to have been in close proximity to bench grinder. Like, touching it. And it was dirty and gross. But I liked the way it typed, and I kept it.

All these years later, and all these hours I’ve spent thinking about the dynamics of typing, and what really works, and this remains the best rubber dome keyboard I’ve used. The old HP I thought was good, back in my age of innocence? This blows it out of the water. It can’t quite claim to be as good as a Topre keyboard, but those things are not, to my mind, in the same category at all. Not a standard rubber dome by the longest stretch.

Even after all these years (this thing probably dates from the 90’s), the Compaq still has light, even, and communicative typing feel, with some level of tactility and predictable return force. A perfectly useful typing tool. Probably a bit better than some of the less useful mechanical switch types (such as the Cherry Black, which is far better for gaming than typing).

Now, you may look at the picture and think I’m overstating the state of mankiness that the keyboard evinced when I picked it up. Know that, during a recent cleaning jag, I fully disinfected and scrubbed the old Compaq. It’s currently the best it can possibly look. The key caps actually came out really well, and outside of the actual physical damage, the case is all right.

Now, other than the quality typing feel, there’s nothing whatsoever to commend the Compaq. It isn’t built heavily. It doesn’t have any luxury features. It probably came with a workstation in its day. Not even a server. I’ve had plenty of experience with Compaq server keyboards of that era, and they’re a different model.

So, a score for the ordinary average guys of the keyboard world, the best of the Standard Joes.

 

Cheers, and Happy Typing!

 

For those who have been entrenched in wet shaving for a while, this one should be fairly familiar. The progression. The slow slide into the madness of gear acquisition disorder. The realization that you couldn’t stop buying shave equipment if you wanted to. The second realization that you have more stuff than you could use in a decade.

If you’re a shave hobbyist, there’s always a new tub of soap, always another aftershave or tonic or razor or blade. You reach into the back of the cupboard now and then, finding that you haven’t used a favorite product in months. Maybe even years. It’s something that could bring about shame, if we could feel such a thing, this deep into the psychosis.

From time to time, we will have a moment of clarity, or conscience, or simply look around our bathrooms and realize that we won’t be able to get in if we don’t start to dispense with some of our nonsense.

We begin to think of ways we can actually finish some of our older gear and, you know, make room for our new stuff. You know, the stuff we’re about to get. Through the mail. Any day now.

In the recent month or so, I’ve been happy to put paid to several products in my inventory, and I feel, well, accomplished somehow. The trick, I suppose, is to just keep going back to a product. Day in, day out, you have to keep the intractable urge to leap from one product to the next like a hyperactive ferret on crank. So, just the bottom edge of impossiblity.

Products I’ve used up of late:

A tub of Proraso Red. Yay! My first shave soap ever, and the last of the triple crown of Proraso tub soaps down. It languished in inventory for a long time, but not because of any drawback in its performance. It lathered well and protected, right to the end.

A 25-pack of Derby Premium blades: Good blades. Not wildly different than the normal Derbies, but a gentle, face friendly blade.

Lucky Tiger Tonic: I have to say, this stuff is the best non-alcohol splash I’ve ever used. Yes, even better than Thayer’s non-alcohol Witch Hazel. According to me. It’s going to be in the inventory again. No question.

Thayer’s Lavender Witch Hazel: Just finished that one yesterday. My favorite of the non-alcohol Thayers. I might get it again. Too soon to tell.

I’m getting pretty close to the end of a pump container of store-brand moisterizer, made to be similar to Aveeno. That’s an easy re-up, just as soon as it runs out.

So, a few products manfully used up. What now?

Well, I have a lot of samples to burn through, and so I’ll be working on them. Each of the small samples is good for about a week, while the larger, 1 ounce samples are good for quite a bit longer. Now, as I evaluate the different soaps, I’ll need to A/B test some of my stalwarts, just to remain grounded.

In my larger soap tubs, I’ll have to pick the next one to put on maximum burn. I believe that I might begin slamming through my Derby Extra blades, too. I have a few razors that work well with that blade. Razor Blades, to me, have become an element I don’t need to worry about any more. I have a few blades I really like. and I’ve kind of put that comparo to bed.

Razors? I’ve got one or two I still think about buying, but honestly, I’m getting such great shaves from my revamped Gillettes that I have no compelling reason to chase that ghost any further, either.

Soaps, though? Aftershaves? Shrug. Ain’t no stopping on those. The soap makers and fragrance pros in that field keep kicking ass, and I’ll keep slurping up the mail order awesome. Just sayin’. It’s shave madness, after all.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

Review: Quisan Retro Keycaps

Posted: October 21, 2017 in keyboarding
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UntitledHere and there, you’ll see a mechanical keyboard with the old style, typewriter keys on them. Most of the time, these fetch a tidy price, and are considered a bit of a niche item.

Having tried a lot of the frequently-available key types on my mechanicals, I had never tried out a set of these round, metal-bound keys before. Buying a keyboard already thusly-equipped was certainly an option, but I had other plans.

Here’s what I did:

I purchased two identical keyboards, Eagletec KG010N models. I kept one of them bone stock, while I stripped the other of its stock keys and installed the Quisan aftermarket models. One thing to note here: the Quisan keys are not the cheapest caps in the world. Even through Amazon, they fetched about $30 for the set. The keyboard they were going on only cost $37, so the economies are a little out of the ordinary there.

That said, i couldn’t find any keyboard equipped with oldy-woldy keys for the aggregate price, so I call it a win.

Packaging:

Quisan, in my experience, doesn’t really waste a lot of the capital you give them on the package. Perfectly serviceable, but they know you’ll discard the box about nine seconds after getting it.

One really nice inclusion with the package is a layout board, which is a thick piece of plastic with cross-shaped protrusions cooresponding with the layout of a full-sized keyboard. This not only made it easier to apply the keys as delivered, it can be a tool for laying out a custom format at a later date. Trust me, fishing the keys out of a bag and trying to find the “7” key in amongst crap tons of loose caps isn’t fun.

All the keys came in good condition, as did the box.

Installation:

These keys are circular or oblong, but conform to the position and size of the standard key layout for a Cherry MX ‘board. Quisan employed ABS plastic for these caps. The external surround may be metal, but I suspect that it is plastic with a chrome applique. The legends purport to be double-shot, but I have reservations. I think they’re more likely laser ablated, as I seen no evidence of a double shot mold on the back side of the keys.

Installing the keys is fairly straightforward, although the round edges sometimes require a bit more careful effort to get lined up. It should be noted that the stems on these keys are rectangular, rather than being round. This doesn’t seem to have any direct impact on performance or fit. It didn’t impede my progress, nor did I encounter any confounding situations during the installation. Provided that your keyboard has a standard layout and key size, they should work.

In Use:

The popular conical, square edged keys gained their market share for a reason. For one, they are reasonably easy to produce. For another, they have well-delineated edges that make it easy to get your fingers into the right spots while typing.

They’re not the only way to do it, though. There are spherical keys, as well as these, the pure round syle. When you first put your hands onto a keyboard sporting this retro style key set, you might feel a little bit out of your element.

Quick typing is still possible, however. You just have to take a few minutes to get your bearings. I found that things settled down and started to get comfortable after a few hundred words. These keys aren’t dead-flat. There is a perceptible dish on each one, so that your fingers can still find their way home after zipping around.

Are these keys quite as easy to type on as the standard? Maybe not. Not at first. Any high-style piece will have small concessions that need to be made. I didn’t find that I had a massive uptick in mistakes or lack of efficiency, though.

Being higher above the switches than the average key cap, this set will increase the total height of the ‘board. They’ll also make it a bit more succeptible to impacts from the outside of the ‘board. I would say that placing these on your “traveler” keyboard may come with some concerns. For home, no worries.

I found that these keys yielded a change in the sound of the typing inputs. They still sound like the clicky blues that they are, but it is a bit less clacky, and carried a bit less of the high frequency tizz you’ll sometimes hear, especially from the Otemu brand. Still, they’re a lot louder than the normal office setting would approve of.

Downsides?

Well, I suppose that I must hit the space bar fairly hard, because I can feel the raised rim of the bar on my thumb every time. It isn’t painful, but it’s a feeling that lets me know that I’m hitting a hard corner. If I typed for several hours at a time on it, I can foresee that I might start to feel like things were getting less fun. The race between backside and hands being the first thing to give out, though, might mean that it would never rise to the level of real annoyance.

Final Thoughts:

Let us not fool ourselves. Getting a set of caps like this isn’t primarily for their perfect ergonomics. It isn’t for absolute comfort, either. It’s for the looks.

I got the white-face keys, and they look really sweet on the black-anodized brushed aluminum on my keyboard. Is there an element of being on the verge of hipsterism? Oh, yeah. Most definitely.

The good news, though, is that these key caps work pretty darned well, and can fit on any normal ANSI layout keyboard without much difficulty. You can have your style and still get some work done.

Even if you don’t have a mechanical keyboard kicking around, you can still get into the game with a cheap one and these keys for something like $70 and a few minutes’ work. My kind of party.

Cheers, and happy typing.

Quick Take: Razorock Gold

Posted: October 18, 2017 in Shaving Articles
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Last Razorock soap for a while, I promise.

Performance: 

Again, we see good performance from the soap, with easy lathering, voluminous results, and clean rinsing. The upshot of all of this is that, if you like any of the RR croaps, chances are that you’ll like any of them.

Scent: 

The Gold scent, to my nose, strikes me as one of those moderate priced cologne scents that are popular with the young dudes. Not a bad scent. Rather forthright. Nothing too challenging, nothing too old-fashioned. It isn’t a scent I feel will become one of my daily picks, but it smells nice, and is certainly not the topic of any buyer’s remorse on my part. I’d call it leather, a little spice, a little musk. A warm scent.

Overall:

For a different shaver, perhaps a guy in his late 20s or early 30s, it might key into his scent preference better. For me, I tend to like citrus-based or spicy products a bit better, with the occasional foray into woodsy scents and fouger.

Anyway, the soap is good, and available for a reasonable price. It basically conforms to all the good things I’ve seen in all the other reviews of RR soaps. I’ve A/B tested RR soaps with tons of different brands and price ranges, and rarely found that they were thoroughly outclassed by another soap. Sometimes bettered in some areas, but not rendered obsolete or undesirable.

I’ve read that other people do not have this experience, and find that most of the RR soaps leave something to be desired for them. I’m sure that their points are valid, as everyone has a different skin composition and level of sensitivity to various chemical components. I have frequently handed a soap that I have great luck with to someone else, only to find them far less impressed. And that’s okay. There are so many products out there. The journey IS the destination, and some just have to look in different places.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

I make no apologies to anyone. Razorock soaps are the most numerous in my stable. Why? Because they work well for me, come in at a great price, and allow me to try a lot of different scents. Also, Italian Barber has always treated me right in terms of getting the stuff to me on time and in good condition. I have no direct relationship with the IB people. I’ve never spoken directly to them, and I am provided no promotional considerations. Everything I review here was purchased for normal cost.

I am a big fan of sandalwood scents. That said, my tastes run to a woody scent without too much musk or foofy cologne scent along with it. Proraso Red or Captain’s Choice, for instance, are my ideal examples of what I like.

Santal Royale is…different. It’s a good scent. A complex scent. It might be just a bit pungent for me. This isn’t an issue with the soap itself. The transitory nature of a soap scent will typically not cause an issue, even when stronger than normal. This is the case with the Santal Royale.

I found that, though there is a component of sandalwood here, there are so many other elements at play that it doesn’t quite give me that “thing” I am looking for. I would call the scent more of a “dark” cologne scent than exactly a sandalwood. I get the sense that there is some similarity to the Oud scent profile you might find in “The Stallion”, but it isn’t quite as powerful as that particular soap.

Performance of the soap is up to the standard for this line of products, and I have no complaints about it.

Overall, this is a recommended product, as long as you’re not looking for the Proraso Red style, or the Taylor’s style sandalwood. It is very different from Proraso, and far more potent than Taylor’s. This is all related to how my nose works. You may have much different feelings about all of this.

I ended up PIFing this soap to a friend, as I have a number of scents that I prefer over the Santal Royale. Particularly with the companion aftershave, I just found it a bit too pungent for my taste. We try things. They don’t always suit us. It’s part of the game, and part of the fun (provided that you’re not spending yourself into the poor house.)

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!