swirl swirl

I need a good mouse.

Allow me to share a picture of my favorite child:


He's 7 years old. Like most children, he's loud and filthy, but he's still my favorite. This thing is built like a battleship. It will probably outlive me. Assuming there's a USB-to-FuturoWhizPort adapter (or whatever replaces USB), future generations will still be able to drive their officemates insane with the sounds of its clicking.1

Meanwhile I manage to break a computer mouse every 12 months like clockwork. What's the deal? Here's the body count from the past few years:

  • Logitech Performance MX - The buttons stopped working consistently, the rubber grip is worn through, and pads on the bottom are nubs. I know the pads can be replaced, but I kind of need working buttons. I liked this mouse. I was dragging its corpse around my desk for probably way too long.
  • Razer Deathadder - Scroll wheel no longer scrolls.
  • Steelseries Rival (original model) - The rubber grip is completely destroyed, which was a known defect in this model. I could live with that, but the middle mouse button also randomly double-clicks.
  • Steelseries Rival 300 - New model of the one above. It has a broken sensor which makes the cursor lag and/or jump around the screen.

Good thing my keyboard is already dressed in black for mourning.

I get that keyboards are much simpler than mice. My keyboard is a bunch of big clunky mechanical switches. But isn't that kind of what a mouse button is too? Or could be? I've gutted each of the mice above, trying to repair them or at least prolong their life, and the switches are microscopic little brittle plastic things. No wonder they break.

And I don't know what crappy plastic mouse bodies are made of, but I wear through it like a river forming a canyon. The coloring goes, then the plastic wears through and suddenly I'm gripping a piece of plastic sandpaper all day. Meanwhile I've been banging on my keyboard for 8 years straight and it's pristine. It looks like the letters were painting on the keys yesterday. Why don't they make a mouse out of that plastic?

I used to buy whatever Logitech mouse had the most buttons and whirligigs. After murdering my way through five of them, I started going simplistic, working on the theory that fewer working parts means fewer things to break. But it doesn't seem to make a difference. I've actually had less luck with the lightweight 4- or 5-button "gaming" mice than with the 20 lb. Logitech flavor of the day.

I just ordered this thing. It looks solid? I guess? Reviews don't usually discuss durability very much. Is it assumed that a mouse is a throwaway piece of hardware? Is it planned obsolescence?

  1. You can buy Unicomp keyboards here. I get nothing for promoting them other than the joy of spreading clicking noises across the world. 

Thoughts on AlphaGo: We've Lost Something

This week, Lee Sedol, the famous 9 dan professional Go player, was beaten three games to zero by AlphaGo the Go-playing computer. This surprised everyone, because computers kind of sucked at Go until about 3 months ago, and now suddenly it seems we have a computer that's nigh-unbeatable.

I'm a programmer, and I also play Go (badly). One would think that my feelings would be mixed, something like "Yay programmers! Too bad, Go players!" But in fact I find that my feelings are all sadness. I feel like we've lost something.

Continue reading...

Burning out. Or not.

Hello, world! It's been a few years since I've blogged regularly. What's up with that?! This post is about burning out. And then un-burning out.

Blog → Book

I started my old blog fresh out of college, back when I knew nothing about anything1. I liked to use it to explore topics I was interested in. "Explore" here means dumping an idea onto the internet and seeing what happens. Sometimes I'd write something useful for people at the same stage of exploration as myself, which was a great feeling. Just as often, I'd write something super-wrong and hordes of people would show up to tell me so.

I consider both outcomes positive. My goal is learning and self-improvement. Being wrong is OK, it's how you learn. And I feel like I did learn a lot by blogging. Sometimes just the act of writing something down and explaining it to others has a miraculous way of making it clear in your own mind.

I've always tried to make the tone of my blog a bit silly, so that people don't show up thinking they're getting good solid info out of this. Rather, they're getting some guy wandering around in public who occasionally bumps into something useful.

My blog brought all kinds of positive things into my life. For example, people would read it and email me and say "Hey, wanna write a book?". So yeah, I helped2 write a book. And then things went a bit downhill.

Continue reading...

  1. Unlike today, right? Eh? Eh? 

  2. I say "helped write" because the book was largely the Chas and Christophe Show (with special guest star Brian). Those guys are in another league, and did most of the heavy lifting.