Archive for the ‘Reviewed – Exemplary’ Category

When you spend a lot of time at the controls of word processors, spreadsheets, design software and 3D CAD, you may find that the pedestrian swill keyboards and mouse devices from the office supply and consumer electronics stores inadequate. I know I do. I used to go through a keyboard every year, and suffered from mouse fidelity issues (lack thereof). What I have found a superior approach is to using gaming interfaces. Gamers beat and pound away at their equipment, and subject them to real uses and abuses that office equipment is just not the equal of. Gamers also demand far more precision and consistent response. All good things for design uses.

The Keyboard

I beat the daylights out of keyboards. When you work with tools, you get used to exerting a certain amount of force in tool use. That means hitting keys a little harder than what soft handed office workers might exert. Meanwhile, I type a lot on any given day, frequently in excess of 4000 words. The wimpy blister switches under the keys of most keyboards are just not up to the task. They also have very little resistance to intrusion of dirt and grit that follows me in from the shop.

I also want to feel and hear the keyboard work, and not feel like some chintzy plastic thing creaking and clanking, as I put it through its paces. I’m an old school tactical feedback junkie.

So, after some time and several scrapped keyboards, I found Corsair Keyboards to be the top choice. Corsair makes keyboards for the whacked out gamers, who abuse their keys as much as I do. These are mechanical keyboards, which means they use actual individual switched under each key. These can be replaced if necessary, including swapping heavily used keys for others elsewhere on the board. You can get these in many different configurations. Options include different key stroke actuating distances, LED colors, key colors, etc.. The keyboard also includes a brushed, black anodized fascia, and the foundation is solid as a rock. The underpinnings of all the Corsair keyboards are generally the same, with a selection of key stroke lengths, and LED colors under lighting them. For my use, I don’t need a lot of the features they offer, so chose the K70Lux.

As an FYI, I don’t use wireless keyboards. The slight delay they impose, and the hassle of dead batteries is worse than dealing with a wire. Also, this is connected to an old school large format desktop machine, not a laptop. Lap tops have come a long way in power and processing speed, but are still not up to the same level as a good old box with standard size processors and memory cards cooled by fans.

A keyboard you can pound on. Perfect for responding to even the most aggravating internet troll!

The Mouse

The issue with mouse operation comes in three forms for me. The first is the fit in my hand. I need something that has a solid tactile feel to it that can be felt through bandages, burns, and callused finger tips. The second is tracking consistency, particularly when  using Illustrator or Solid Works, where the ability to hone in on one line or edge without having to play around with zooming in and out, is a real time saver. The problem is, office grade commodity mice have the resolution of less than the screen at 800dpi. The third is response time. Wireless mice are really neat-o toys, but for real CAD work, a wired mouse is still king. No delay time, no dead batteries in the middle of a project, and no changes in sensitivity to the tracking surface as the batteries fade.

Being happy with the Corsair keyboard, I dipped into the gamer well once more. Corsair mice are tough little critters. The Corsair M65, my personal choice, has an aluminum frame. There is also a weight system in the base that can be adjusted to change the way the device feels as it is moved around. It takes a little tinkering, but the result is worth it. An interesting bonus with the M65, is that you can get replacement Teflon glide pads for the base should they wear, rather than chucking the device into the trash.

The M65 resolution can be set as high as 12000dpi, so the issue of resolution is solved. There is also a “sniper” button on the thumb side of the device that changes the mouse response for this instances when you are trying to zero in on a tiny detail, or select a letter in a block of text, etc… The mouse is wired, so response time is instantaneous. Finally, the weight and the design of the device provides very strong tactile feel.

I also use a metal plate mouse pad, like those made by Alsop, as they wear well, and are easy to clean.

Who cares about building a better mousetrap, the hunt of a better mouse is far more important to me.

The Cost of it All

The performance of these interfaces eclipses all the junk I’ve dumpstered over the years from the office supply stores. The fact that these components actually carry a minimal premium was a bonus. While there are certainly $20 keyboards on millions of desks of unfortunate cubical drones, accompanied by $10 mice, I don’t consider those a legitimate baseline of comparison. CAD work demands more than what commodity mice provide. Regular writing work has been a matter of tactile interface that has caused writers to seek tools that fit them like an extension of their hands. From hand-made pens to typewriters, writers are a picky lot, and for good reason. If you feel good about the mechanical bits, the writing holds center stage, with less feeling of effort.

With that in mind, the cost of the pair of keyboard and mouse I use costs less than $170, tax included. Considering there are currently “ergonomic” mice on the market that cost more than the M65, and the number of $59 premium keyboards I have tossed, the return on this minimal investment is solid. The ability to repair the keyboard (although it does require some soldering skills) is a bonus, over just making more garbage to be dealt with in the waste stream.

So, while the only thing SSL about this product is the LED back-lighting used in the devices, I thought I’d share just the same. Cheers!

In 2010 we purchased our first 3D printer, a Dimension bst1200es from Stratasys. My intent from the off was to use it for making functional parts, over pure prototype uses. This meant that the traditional SLA process, which is very costly to own and operate, was not a consideration. I wanted parts made of a material that could stand being put into actual finished goods. This led to FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling). The material it prints is ABS plus, which is an excellent plastic for internal bits as well as structural components, within reason. I wrote a bit on this, with a video link during Week Thirteen of the 52 in 52 project that year. Since then, I have printed literally thousands of parts on this machine. I have guns fitted with stocks and stock parts made from the material, I have a motorcycle loaded with it in various uses, from fender supports to electrical housings. I’ve used it to make trade show light fixtures, sculptures, and holding fixtures for welding and vises on the CNC machining center (another 3D device). For more thoughts on 3D Printing, you can download a copy of  The Real 3D’s of 3D Printing, a presentation I gave on the topic to a 3D printing and maker group.

Recently, in the interest of lowering printed part cost and expand capacity, I added a second 3D printer. (more…)

When it came to setting up a lab with a proper precision meter for collecting and evaluating color (CCT) and color quality (CRI), as well as measuring transmission, luminance, radiance, irradiance, and illuminance of light sources and fixtures, I chose the Orb Optronix SP-100. This was done in partnership with a customer, for whom we set up a complete lab with goniometer we built for the customer, for testing their ongoing products as part of a design services agreement. In time as the customer grew in their own capacity, the entire rig, along with the data processing protocol we developed over several years, was transferred to the customers own facility, where staff was trained to complete their own tests in-house, where this is still in use today. (more…)

08285I have a fondness for the halogen lamp. From the little 20W bi-pin 12V burners to the 500W double ended monsters, the combination of light quality, simplicity, toughness, light density and versatility filled a special place in the hearts of lighting designers for decades. While there were also  larger iterations of the technology reaching 20,000W, even the most halogen crazed found them to be a bit over the top, setting them aside for special applications. In my own experience, the 20W through 75W 12V burners, 15W through 65W MR16, 35 through 50W PAR36 and 75W through 250W mini-can line voltage lamps hit the spot for a wide range of focused and unfocused lighting product designs. For my personal portable lamp works, the low voltage burners, MR16 and the PAR36 lamps were my favorites. I could create live-structures (where the fixture acted as conductor) using remote 12V power supplies, allowing sculptures to be simple to the extreme.

This simple bridge design was created using building and armature wire, a PAR36 halogen lamp, and a ball bearing counter weight.

This simple bridge design was created using building and armature wire, a PAR36 halogen lamp, and a ball bearing counter weight.

When LEDs arrived on the scene in the late 1990’s, I caught a glimmer of what was to come. By the year 2002, it was obvious that solid-state would be delivering something new, and that the properties of the source technology shared a great deal with the halogen lamp from a lighting perspective, with a huge advantage – far less heat, much tougher and resistant to impact, and very long lived. The only issue was, color quality was initially poor, consistency from LED to LED was awful, and light output per individual LED device was pathetic. This required designs utilize a number of LEDs mounted to circuit boards, wired to drivers that were clumsy at best. The complexity of LEDs in the earlier stages were compounded by the lack of available components, which meant one-off application of the technology was out of reach for anyone not up for custom electronics design. (more…)


The LR6 downlight is the best performing LED downlight product on the market today, new or old construction.

This is the Cree LR6 downlight retrofit. Producing a white light color of 2700k (Incandescent white – also available in 3500k neutral white) at 92CRI, these inserts produce 650 lumens, consuming only 12 watts. This is an unprecedented 54 Lumens per Watt, exceeding even the best Compact Fluorescent downlight products on the market today. The product is expected to last 50,000 hours to 70% of its full light output.

The product inserts into virtually any 6″ recessed downlight housing. Installation takes less than 10 minutes.

In the test application of this product, 4 fixtures were installed in standard Halo H7 housings, with addition of optional brushed nickle trims to compliment the stainless steel trim, which snaps easily in place after the retrofit body is installed.

Comparing the illuminance calculated using the company provided photometric data and actual measurements in the applied space were within 7% of one another, with the actual application being slightly better than predicted. After 9 months, there has been no measurable light loss. (more…)