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July 28, 2004

iPod Earbuds

Apple iPod Earphones

Apple iPod earbuds with their fussy little case.

Where I work, it’s like totally iPod Nation. It seems like everyone either has one or is thinking of getting one. I admit it would be fun to have one (and it would make a great place to store photos from the digital camera on field trips), but, really, I don’t have much use for one. I do listen to music, however, on the train ride to work using my laptop. One CD at a time, one track after another, in order. It’s good enough.

That’s enough background; we’re here to talk headphones. I had been using some old “open-air” headphones for a while, but the foam on these finally disintegrated. I switched to a set of earbuds that had come with a free radio. These were horrible. Not only did they sound tinny, but they weren’t very efficient—even with the computer volume all the way up, the music was just barely loud enough. What I liked about them, however, was their size; they took up almost no room in my backpack. Once I tried a set of full-size headphones on the train (Sony MDR-V6). They sounded great, of course, but they were obviously too big and heavy.

It looked like earbuds were the way to go, so I tried a friend’s iPod earbuds, and these sounded much better than my free earbuds and were plenty loud as well. They were more than good enough, so I ordered a pair. Note that the iPod earbuds that Apple sells as an iPod accessory are different from the ones that are included with the iPod, although they do come only in the same trademark white. For one thing, Apple provides three sets of interchangeable silicone elastomer earpieces so you can choose the set that makes the best seal in your particular ear. My initial experience was that the seal was anything but tight, and the sound was thin. I attempted to phatten it up by using the iTunes equalizer, but that only provoked distortion. After much experimentation, I found that the longest sleeves promised to provide the tightest seal, at least in my ear. When the seal wasn’t adequate with normal pressure, I just screwed the earbud into my ear with a firm twisting motion. (Owww! I hate when that happens.) That did it. I finally had a tight seal, and suddenly I had mega-bass. I actually had to roll it off a little to keep my skull from rattling—and that was with Mozart!

Even with the earbuds jammed in that tight, they were very comfortable to wear. You just gotta love a good silicone elastomer. The tight seal not only provides excellent bass response, it also seals out most of the ambient noise.... oops, I just missed my stop.

July 25, 2004

PAASUG Notes and Photos

I posted some notes and photos on the most recent Philadelphia Area AppleScript Users Group on my AppleScript page.

July 13, 2004

Can You Love a Keyboard?

Apple Extended Keyboard II

Old Reliable—The Apple Extended Keyboard II. Even with a couple of broken keys, it’s still a great keyboard.

I didn’t start out as a keyboard snob. The keyboard on my first computer, a Macintosh Plus suited me just fine. Hey, I didn’t know any better.

It wasn’t until I went off to college that I found a keyboard I actually liked. The IBM terminals in the library were a dream to type on; they had a marvelous light touch and made a happy clattering racket. It was a long time before I found the equivalent in a personal computer keyboard—and it was for a PC! Arghh. I bought an Avant Prime, which was recommended by Jerry Pournelle, who was quite passionate about keyboards. (It’s no longer his favorite, however.) That tank of a keyboard was the one thing that made using a PC bearable. In fact, I took this keyboard to work to replace the spongy nightmare that came with the company-issue Dull.

There was nothing like the Avant Prime for the Mac, but at least Apple’s Extended Keyboard II was a fine keyboard that I used happily for years. The Extended Keyboard II was never updated for USB, and Apple’s USB keyboards have never come close to the quality of the Extended Keyboard II. My keyboard had lost a couple of keycaps (see photo above), and had a non-functioning option key, so I was excited to learn that Matias Corporation had introduced an updated version of the original Extended Keyboard (which I’ve never used). They claim it “is built from the same premium keyswitch technology that Apple used in its original Apple Extended Keyboard, widely viewed as the best keyboard Apple ever made.” It didn’t take me long to decide to get one, but I wondered... Could this be not only better than the Extended Keyboard II, but as good as the Avant Prime? Well, the Matias “Tactile Pro” arrived today, and it is every bit as good as the Avant Prime. I am clattering away on it right now, and it feels great.


Matias Tactile Pro Keyboard for Macintosh

The Tactile Pro keyboard from Matias Corporation, a remake of the original Apple Extended Keyboard. In white with USB, so it matches the iMac at least. (Not even Apple makes a keyboard to match the G5. What’s up with that?) The keys sport legends of the characters you get with option and shift-option; cluttered, perhaps, but handy. About $80 wherever fine replica keyboards are sold.