How to Wrap Cables

Wrapping cables is a regular activity for some of us, especially when travelling. If they're not coiled up properly, cables may develop kinks, which can lead to erratic performance, or, worse, break. Roadies face this task with audio cables each time they take down after a session, and they have a technique that may be applied to all items that coil, such as hosepipes, though I'd probably not try it out on snakes.

The method is best explained in a video:

RollerMouse Scroll Wheel Fixed

As with the other issue I mentioned before, Contour Design sent me a replacement part for the faulty component. In this case it was the scroll wheel, but because the fault could be a dodgy circuit board they sent one of those as well. I’m glad they did, because the problem was caused by the aperture into which the scroll wheel’s spindle fits, having worn loose after constant use.

Once again, I can’t praise Contour’s service enough. I’m a heavy user of their products and they stand up well to the punishment I give them. This particular RollerMouse was well out of warranty, but they reacted as if it were fully protected. You can’t ask for better support than that.

RollerMouse Red Left Button Fix

I mentioned earlier that I had a problem with the left mouse button and that Contour would send a replacement. They did. Following their instructions, I installed the new cover plate and it’s working a treat again. If you need to do this at any time, here’s the procedure I followed:

Disconnect your RollerMouse Red from any power source before proceeding with the following instructions.

Remove the wrist pad.

A simple twist in this notch here with the tool that came with the RollerMouse will remove the wrist pad. If you do not have the tool a flathead screwdriver is a good replacement.

These two middle screws need to come out from the underside.

Turn the unit over, and pry the button cover off with a flathead screwdriver.

Lift up the button housing from right to left as there are 2 plugs on the left side. Unscrew these 4 screws to separate the board from the buttons.

When placing the new buttons on, line up this notch just in between the scroll wheel and the post where it’s connected.

Make sure the wires are still connected, screw the board back on, making sure it’s nice and tight to reduce excess play with the buttons, snap the buttons back in place, and replace the screws on the back.

Evoluent Vertical Mouse

While waiting for my RollerMouse buttons to arrive (see RollerMouse Red Problems, I tried a spare mouse for a day or so before realising it was aggravating my RSI (repetitive strain syndrome). I decided to explore ergonomic alternatives and came across the Evoluent Vertical Mouse, model C.

As the video below explains, it changes the orientation of the arm while using it.

My experience to date is that it does relieve the strain. However, it's best suited to keyboards that lack a numeric keypad, as most laptops do.

My reasoning is that lateral movement still affects the upper arm as the mouse travels across the screen at normal speed.

In my case, I have a three-monitor setup, and the movement becomes excessive. To compensate, I've adjusted the speed to a high rate, so that less movement is needed. However, this reduces the accuracy needed when settling on a precise location.

When I finally revert to my RollerMouse, I shall transfer the Vertical Mouse to my laptop, where it will be most welcome.

RollerMouse Red Problems

I have two RollerMouse Red devices. One is relatively old; the othere is not yet four months old and bought through Amazon US, but they only allow two months for returns. One has a scroll button that operates erratically when scrolling; the other’s left mouse button is either loose or broken.

Unfortunately, there’s no repair facility in Australia for these products. I got in touch with Contour in the States and they’re sending me the spare parts to repair the devices myself. They say it’s quite straightforward (ha-ha!).

Bits and Bytes

A byte is a sequence of eight bits. A bit is a unit that can be set either on or off, represented by 1 or 0. In other words, it’s a switch, like a light switch.

One byte can hold an unsigned value up to 255 (technically, as all zeros counts as a value, that makes 256 values).

Units

Unit No. of bytes
Byte 1
Kilobyte (KB) 1000
Megabyte (MB 1,000,000
Gigabyte (GB) 1,000,000,000
Terabyte (TB) 1,000,000,000,000
Petabyte (PB) 1,000,000,000,000,000
Exabyte (EB) 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
Zettabyte (ZB) 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
Yottabyte (YB) 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Storage

These units are used for measuring memory and data storage sizes. Early computers had very little memory (I once programmed an ICT 1301 with the equivalent of 4K of memory, and an IBM 1440 with 8K of RAM. I’m writing this on a PC with 32GB of RAM).

For operations, computers work with multi-bytes. For example, Windows 32-bit uses a four-byte unit for its instruction set. Windows 64-bit uses eight bytes.

Telecommunication Units

Instead of bytes, data transmission rates are usually shown in bits per second (bps). For example, a download speed may be rated as up to 100 Mbps (100,000,000 bits per second).

Mbps vs MBps

The lower and upper case ‘b’ is important. MBps refers to bytes, not bits. When you see speed ratings, check that letter. MBps is 8 times the size of Mbps (e.g. 100 Mbps = 12.5 MBps).

 

Intuos 5 Installation Problem

I’ve had the Wacom Intuos 5 graphics tablet and pen for a few years and it’s worked a treat, but a few months ago, following a software update, it was left with limited function. I installed a later update but that made no difference.

To ensure that the hardware was not at fault, I installed the software on a Windows 10 laptop, connected the tablet, and it worked fine. I compared the Wacom  folder with the 8.1 folder and noticed that the laptop had an extra service. Clearly the issue was 8.1-related.

I reported the problem to Wacom, and over a few weeks followed suggestion after suggestion from their support team. Just as I was resigning myself to never using the tablet again on my PC, Wacom came up with the solution.

Following their instructions, I turned off the Malwarebytes Premium antivirus* and re-ran the install. This time it set up everything it was supposed to. The tablet is fully functional again.

* The strange thing is that the laptop also had Malwarebytes Premium running.

How Many CPUs Do You Have?

CPUs

Most people regard the central processing unit (CPU) as the square-shaped microprocessor that fits into a single socket on a motherboard. However, some chips contain two or four or even more CPUs. Each of these may contain separate processors.

To answer the question in the title, we will start by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc to bring up Task Manager. Select the Performance tab.

The image above shows that I have a single socket on my server and that it has two cores. However, if I go to Start and search for and select dxdiag, I see this:

So the Intel i7-4770K chip contains 4 CPUs. Or does it? Well, not according to the Device Manager. It says it has 8!

Logical Processors

To explain these variances, we need to understand Logical Processors. These are parallel threads that execute a single instruction. A CPU can handle two or more of these at the same time. Imagine a program that calculates a complex equation (e.g. a spreadsheet operation). It could process each step in a serial fashion, but by sending instructions via different channels (threads), the time taken to finish calculations is cut significantly.

In the case of the i7-4770K I mentioned above, there are four CPUs, each capable of supporting parallel operations. Theoretically, a program could make use of all 8 logical processors, but only if it’s designed to do so.

The extent to which a multiple processor such as the i7-4770K can be put through its paces is entirely up to each program, many of which still settle for a single processor. The ones that do exploit a multiple processor’s capacity are mostly games, graphics, and video apps.

Keyboards with Macro Keys

While it is possible to use special keyboard shortcuts for repeated functions or text, remembering them all can be a challenge. There are so many keyboard shortcuts in use anyway by different applications. Finding the right combination of keys that don’t clash with pre-existing shortcuts is not for the faint of heart.

Macro Keys

Enter the keyboard macro key. This simplifies things no end. For the past ten years I’ve bought only keyboards with macro keys. Initially Logitech G series, but more recently Razer, then my current favourite Corsair Vengeance K95 RGB. It’s expensive, as keyboards go, though I’ve seen it recently at around A$129 (about a third off), but it’s well worth it.

 

The three columns on the left are the macro keys, numbered G1 to G18. Three profile buttons, M1 – M3, enable these to be reused, making 54 available in total:

So far, I’ve managed with the functions in the M1 profile. It provides me with shortcuts for text strings I regularly use, like my email address, name and address, select all and copy (Ctrl-A Ctrl-C), and so on. I’m not a game player, but if I were, I could create another profile — M2 or M3 — for special actions. (Each profile can have different key colours.) All the profiles are stored in the keyboard, so using it with another computer doesn’t require reconfiguration.

The MR button is for recording macros, though these can be set up in the accompanying software.

Keys

Colours

As you’ll have noticed, the keys have different colours. They are backlit and the colours are individually configurable. Here’s my selection:

I’ve grouped them according to usage, the different colours helping me to distinguish between them.  The Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) software enables colours and effects, as well as macros, to be set up.

Characteristics

The keys are mechanical Cherry MX Red switches. They provide audible feedback, which I need, though some may think they’re too noisy.  I find the mechanical experience preferable to keys that press against a membrane. Without audible responses, I find I miss characters.

Conclusion

I have used the K95 for the past year and it’s never faulted. Though it won’t be to everyone’s taste — it’s advertised as a gamer’s keyboard — the tactile, visual, and audible feedback from this well-crafted piece of equipment is exactly what I needed.

Cleaning the RollerMouse Red

The Contour RollerMouse Red is a great piece of engineering besides being a boon to RSI sufferers. However, when dirt accumulates under the roller, the pointer's movement can become erratic. Cleaning it proved difficult, so I asked Contour for help. These are the instructions I received. I followed them to the letter and all was good again.

First, make sure the mouse is unplugged. Located on either end of the bar are two black caps. Push them inwards and you’ll hear them click. You should be able to pull them up and off now. Sometimes they can be a bit of a struggle, other times they come right up. Keep note which is left and right as they are specific to each side.

On the left side of the bar you’ll see a circuit board with a small ribbon cable attached, which is how the bar gets power. Be careful not to remove that. You won’t damage anything, but it can be difficult to set back in place.

Once the caps are off, you can slide the roller itself off the bar towards the right  side. You may get some resistance to moving the bar as it is held in place by magnets. I will usually take this time to clean out the inside of the roller as well. I use some air duster down the tube and a qtip with some rubbing alcohol on the inner rim at each end. Usually cleaning it this way will reduce the resistance but, If moving the roller is giving you some resistance after it's been cleaned, you can apply some lubricant in a similar method. A teflon based lubricant is preferred as it's not as messy as oil, such as WD40. Though WD40 is definitely more common, and can be used as long as it’s a very small amount.

With the roller off, you’ve exposed the sensor, which is that lens in the center of the bar. Even if you can’t see anything on it, it’s very sensitive and the smallest particle in just the right spot may cause it to fail. Use some air duster and blow out the area around there and hopefully any dust particles will be removed. If you wanted to wipe down the bar, again rubbing alcohol would be fine, just try to avoid any of the components.

Now replace the roller bar, and replace the caps. The little outside "feet" on the bottom of the caps should line up with two small notches on the plastic part of the mouse and the smaller feet will line up right on the outside where the red/orange plastic ends. After pressing them down, make sure to push them outwards towards the ends. You should hear them click in place, or the bar won’t be set correctly, which can cause it to lose proper function.