Today I lay to rest one of the great computing legends, the OmniKey keyboard. In a time when computer hardware was made to last and most
software had to be written by hand, a $150 keyboard didn't seem that crazy. Though many never had the opportunity to enjoy the tactile feel of your mechanical switches and nigh unbreakable construction, those of us that did will miss you forever. Rest in peace.
I know what you're thinking. Northgate died as a corporate entity back in the 90's, right? You would be correct. Northgate was a fairly unremarkable computer company with one remarkable product: the OmniKey. Thankfully when the company went bankrupt, an equally unremarkable technology consulting firm picked up the OmniKey design and carried on manufacturing it. A complete tragedy was averted, as Northgate's singular significant contribution to computing carried on under the Avant name.
Creative Vision Technologies was that company. They simplified the OmniKey's myriad versions down to two: the Avant Prime and Avant Stellar. The former sold for $150 and the later for $190. The Prime used a standard 101 key layout with the function keys on the top, while the Stellar added an additional set of function keys on the left while still retaining the top function keys. Both were fully programmable and every key could be remapped or have a macro assigned to it.
Sadly, CVT was absorbed by yet another tech consulting firm this March, with nary a mention of what would happen to their wonderful keyboards. I can only speculate, but given that their keyboards had fallen out of stock over the months proceeding their acquisition, it's safe to assume that they will no longer be made. This time, it appears, the venerable old OmniKey design is well and truly dead.
My old OmniKey 102 (pictured above) was manufactured in 1991. It's older than a number of the college students that I deal with during the week. I've abused it mercilessly for a good chunk of its 20 years. Despite that, it still works. Sure, it needs at least one adapter (sometimes two) to run on anything these days, but it works.
I bought an Avant Stellar a couple years back to give the OmniKey some company. It's pretty much identical with the addition of the double set of function keys. The macro functions were quite useful when I played World of Warcraft, and the heavy-duty construction serves pretty much any game I play quite well. It will most likely still be serving me well in another 20 years.
Thus ends the reign of the king of keyboards; the almighty OmniKey and its modern clone, the Avant Prime/Stellar. A few can still be found floating around ebay, but that number is likely to dwindle. Fortunately, there are many alternatives for sale these days if you still have the desire to experience the joy of mechanical typing. Overclock.net has quite an extensive guide posted here.
Oh yes... this article was typed up entirely on my Avant Stellar.
Seriously? What could possibly convince me to approve a random comment asking for help identifying random files suspected to be viruses (to which I would reply by telling you you're an idiot) sandwiched between lines of text reading "iphone 4 unlock" and variants thereof. Not everyone is as stupid as you are. Not many, sadly, but not everyone.
No game expansion is released without a good dose of player bitching. Such things can be an entertaining read while waiting for a patch to install, so I perused the EVE forums tonight to get my QQ fix.
I was a WoW player (and forum participant) for years, so I’ve seen all types of QQ, but I read a few tonight that really caught my eye. EVE isn’t very taxing on a PC, from MMO standards.
I’ve got a pretty basic gaming rig, and I’ve had to change settings during a 25-man raid from time to time; never in EVE, though. Most of the time, it’s smooth sailing. Despite EVE’s basic system requirements, there apparently are some people who just can’t squeeze the power out of their computers to handle the latest expansion, Incarna.
Incarna requires players to have shader model 3 support. This means that your computer must have installed a graphics card that was manufactured within the past five or six years. These are still quite lenient requirements from a game standpoint, yet there are people who are griping about their crappy computers no longer being able to run EVE. Canceling subscriptions, in fact.
One particularly whiny EVE player complained that he had no idea about the new graphics requirements until he went to install the patch. That’s what patch notes are for; they tell you all sorts of things, like system requirements! Yet, despite the vast amount of information that’s been released about this expansion, this particular player was blindsided. Maybe his computer also couldn’t handle the EVE forums.
Listen up here, people. A crappy $400 laptop with integrated Intel graphics is good for Farmville, not any other type of game. Same goes for the 8-year-old Dell Grandma gave you, or that e-machine you got on special at Wal-mart with your tax return a couple of years ago. If you want to play MMOs, you are going to have to invest in a computer that can handle them.
MMOs are games you play with other people. This means that other people are going to be depending on you to do your part in group play. You can’t perform your role if you don’t have the equipment sitting on your desk. You’re not just getting annoyed yourself; you’re affecting the game experience of the people around you (Might make a good PVP target though, but I digress).
Stick to Farmville and Pogo. I’m sure that netbook will do just fine.
The venerable MyDoom worm is still alive and kicking, even though security companies issued anti-virus signatures to catch it over seven years ago.
Yes, there are people on the Internet running security software that's seen nary an update in all that time. These folks purchased a computer in 2003, and never bothered to change the trial anti-virus that came pre-installed. Or, they're running no anti-virus at all.
Neither option is excusable, because there are plenty of free security programs available for download. Seriously. Norton 2004 won't do jack squat against any virus, Trojan, worm or cookie that's been developed since then.
I really shouldn't be surprised, since there are still people who use dial-up Internet access and AOL, who think that they will suffer a terrible fate if they don't forward chain e-mails and who open every e-mail attachment they receive.
You can protect against all sorts of online threats, but it's pretty darned hard to protect against stupidity.
I dropped into the local Firehouse Subs today for lunch and discovered an interesting contraption in place of the traditional soda fountain. It was a tall and skinny machine with a single tap and a large touchscreen display on the front. A sign above it proclaimed it offered more than 100 different varieties of Coca-Cola product. Sure enough, when I went to select the basic "Coca-Cola" I was presented with no less than eight options. Regular coke, vanilla, lime, raspberry, cherry, cherry vanilla, orange, and lemon. I stood there for a second dumbfounded by the vast array of options at my disposal. I eventually selected Coke with lime, as I'm partial to that flavor and it's nearly impossible to find locally. If this is the future of fountain drinks, I'm all over it.
My intrigue with the machine didn't end there. Being a geek, I had to find out more about it. It turns out the machine is called the "Freestyle." It's an appropriate name with a little bit of marketing flair. The technology behind it uses a system developed for precisely measuring liquid medicines in the medical industry. Instead of the giant five gallon boxes of syrup that traditional fountains use, it has 46 ounce, RFID-enabled cartridges. The machine is also internet connected so it can tell Coke information about sales and presumably keep track of supplies for shipping restocking orders.
Been a while since I did one of these, but this one was too good not to post.
Today's approval attempt is brought to you by cold, brutal honesty.
Hahahaha. Im not too birhgt today. Great post!
No, no you're not.
PC video cards are an odd thing these days. The console explosion with the current generation of hardware has generally stagnated the hardware requirements for PC games. I've been using a Radeon HD 4850 for the past three years and it's managed everything I've thrown at it. It wasn't the highest end card of its day, and besides The Witcher 2, it could probably go on running games for another year. There are a few new games coming that might make it worth it, though. Battlefield 3 definitely looks like one of those.
As far as the card itself... it's fast as hell, and actually quieter than my old 4850 when idling. It's a double height number, but that's not a problem for the monolith case I have (aka an Antec P182). Under load the fan definitely becomes noticeable, but it's by no means offensive. Determining if it's worth the money or not... that'll depend on what comes out the rest of this year.