Apple Wireless Keyboard – Cheap Battery Warning

(See comments at the end – could this have been the result of mixing alkaline batteries from two different manufacturers?)

It’s always good if you can learn from your own mistakes, even better if you can learn from someone else’s. Now what follows might be a little obvious, but what caught me out is just how quickly something can go bad.

I have a Mac Mini in the lounge that’s now doing sterling service running Plex Media Server 0.9.0.21. First up, if you haven’t tried Plex, then this is what your Mac Mini, a TV and your video/music/photo collection were made for! Anyway, to get back on track the majority of my interaction with the Mac Mini and Plex is via the Apple Remote Control and I rarely have to use the keyboard or mouse. The keyboard is of course the all aluminium Apple Wireless Keyboard which came with my Mac Pro, but which I replaced with a Logitech diNovo ‘Mac’ keyboard as I find it both more comfortable and functional for heavy use on the Pro. The Wireless Keyboard was however fine for the occasional use it saw with the Mac Mini.

 

Cheap battery

Cheap batteries - you get what you pay for!

 

I’d loaded it up with three Duracell Ultra AA batteries ages ago – can’t even remember when – but inevitably I finally got the on-screen warning that the batteries were low and needed replacing. I only had two spare Duracell’s so later that day I picked up some supermarket AA batteries while I was out shopping, and then popped the two Duracell batteries in, followed by a Sainsbury’s Extra Long Life Alkaline battery and thought no more of it. Just four weeks later the low battery warning popped up again, so I went to remove the batteries to check. First problem was it was very difficult to remove the end cap from the battery compartment and as I did so I saw there was corrosion on it. Then I had a devil of a job removing the batteries, having to resort to hitting the keyboard on the carpet.

Luckily after about 5 minutes of careful bashing, all three batteries were out and I discovered that while the two Duracell batteries looked fine, the Sainsbury’s battery had leaked. The top third of the inside of the battery compartment was covered in this greyish white corrosion, as was the battery itself! I then spent about an hour carefully cleaning as much of the corrosion out of the end of the battery compartment as I could using a selection of long pointy objects, an old toothbrush, a torch and a can of compressed air. Hopefully the keyboard has been saved, and needless to say the supermarket batteries are being returned and I’ll stick with good quality batteries from now on!

If you’re tempted to use cheap batteries with the Apple Wireless Keyboard, then just take care you don’t suffer the same fate I did. Had I put the supermarket battery in first before the two Duracells rather than after them, then the keyboard would probably have been history.

 

Corroded

Corroded battery compartment

 

 

Household items

Lucky I had these to hand...

 

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Snow Leopard thaws my Logitech webcam mike!

Speak up... I CAN hear you!

Speak up... I CAN hear you!

While I’ve upgraded my Mac Mini to Snow Leopard 10.6, I haven’t yet taken the plunge on my 2008 Mac Pro. This is mainly because I am bug testing some iPhoto software for someone and it would be unfair to change the underlying OS half way through as it would most likely just confuse matters. However, I do now have my Western Digital Caviar ‘Black’ 1Tb drive and so with an hour or so to spare I removed the existing 4 drives and popped it in, just to see how a fresh install of Snow Leopard would run on a Mac Pro.

The installation recognized my Logitech MX Revolution Mouse and Logitech diNovo Keyboard Mac Edition (both plugged in using a Logitech wireless USB dongle), so it was simply a matter of answering a few questions and waiting. Once installed, a Software Update for Remote Screen installed itself, then I was left to play for a while. The Logitech Control Centre v3.0 software refused to install (there is a workaround), so I was unable to use any of the extended features of my keyboard or mouse, however there was some good news about another of my Logitech peripherals.

Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro

Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro

My Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro now works with Snow Leopard’s built-in speech recognition!! Under Leopard 10.5.x, the microphone in this webcam simply refused to work with the Mac’s built-in speech recognition software. It would work fine with other apps like Skype, iChat, etc., and your voice would even register in the OS X speech recognition window, but getting the Mac to recognize anything was impossible and it was a widely reported problem. However, under Snow Leopard I decided to give it another go and what do you know – it worked! Off I went, quoting the phrases on the calibration panel… What time is it? Quit this application. Open a document… and so on. Each one registered first time and I was then able to use speech recognition as I’d always wanted. I am now wondering if the mike will work with MacSpeech Dictate under Snow Leopard? Who knows.

Eventually the time came to stop experimenting and put the Mac Pro back to Leopard 10.5.8. Naturally once I’d put all the original drives back I tried out speech recognition with the webcam and it steadfastly refused to play ball. I am wondering if I upgraded from 10.5.8 to 10.6 rather than doing a fresh install, whether or not the webcam mike would still work with the Mac’s speech recognition? Maybe that’s an experiment for next week…

Logitech diNovo Keyboard, Mac Edition

Since I got my Mac Pro back at the start of 2008, I have been using the Logitech diNovo Edge (Windows) keyboard with it. I was a hang-over from my Windows PC days, and as a keyboard I was very happy with it despite the rather high price. My only real complaints were that I had a bunch of keys on it that I couldn’t use (the Mac simply didn’t recognize them) and the Logitech Control Centre software uses a couple of kernel tricks that break certain bits of software (like A Better Finder Rename for example).

So after a lot of deliberation I decided to splash out on the much cheaper diNovo Keyboard Mac Edition and it arrived this morning. I am now wondering if I shouldn’t be calling this blog “I spenddiNovo Keyboard Mac Edition my money so you don’t have to”? Ok, the first thing I need to make clear is that this keyboard shares the diNovo name and colour scheme with the Edge and that’s where the similarity seems to end. If you think you’re going to get the build quality and feel of the Edge, then either stick with the Edge or buy the diNovo Edge Mac Edition which for reasons best known to Logitech, isn’t available in the UK.

Right, let’s start with the construction. As I mentioned, the colour scheme is the same but the Plexiglass of the Edge is replaced with glossy black plastic.  The aluminium palm rest at the bottom is still there, and although the spec says it’s aluminium, it feels like painted plastic. The keys themselves are the same dimensions as on the Edge, and have a similar feel to the Edge, but the first thing I noticed when I started typing is that the keyboard sounds different. The spacebar has a nasty ‘clack’ to it, reminiscent of the old IBM keyboards from the nineties. On the subject of keys, the layout and spacing is almost identical to the (wired) aluminium Apple keyboard with the numeric keypad, except that the styling of the Apple keyboard makes it look and feel less cluttered.

Caps Lock LightWhat about the rest of the keyboard then? Well the neat ‘features’ of the Edge are all gone. The diNovo Mac Edition has a small green power light which illuminates when you switch it on and then goes out after ten seconds, presumably to conserve power. There is also a small orange light on the Caps Lock key to indicate whether it is on or off, although you can disable this in the Logitech software (and have the Caps Lock status shown in the OS X menu bar instead). That’s it… gone are all the nice touches of the Edge, but then that’s a reflection of the fact that the diNovo Mac is a lot cheaper – on Amazon UK it’s currently £58.98 + postage vs. £94.96 + free postage, a saving of around £30 ($50).

On the subject of downsides… the diNovo Mac Edition uses a Logitech 2.4GHz wireless dongle rather than Bluetooth, thereby taking up another of your USB ports. What’s more, the keyboard isn’t compatible with Logitech’s new ‘Unifying’ receiver (bang go my thoughts of running this keyboard and my MX Revolution mouse through just one dongle). Also the batteries are not rechargeable via the dock arrangement the diNovo Edge has, although they say these batteries will last three years (I’m two years and 364 days off confirming that figure!). And for the Health & Safety guys out there, this keyboard is not adjustable in any way – the angle of the keyboard is fixed unlike the Edge which had little retractable feet to change the angle of the device.

There must be some plus points, yes? Well yes, the keyboard is fully ‘supported’ by OS X so you’ll have the Ctrl, Alt and Cmd keys in their proper places as well as the full range of (programmable) function keys, where on the Edge the function keys were, well just there. Some of them did what you expected (as their Mac equivalents), and some of them… errr, didn’t. Also, you now have more configuration options via the Logitech Control Centre (LCC) software rather than it simply telling you there’s a keyboard there and not letting you configure it, which is what it does with the diNovo Edge. The LCC software will let you:

  • Program function keys 1 thru 6 and 13 thru 19. (F7 thru F12 are fixed).
  • Toggle the Caps Lock status between the OS X menu bar and the little orange light on the Caps Lock key itself. Interestingly you have to switch the keyboard off/on for the change to take effect.
  • Display the Caps Lock status on the screen, rather like a Growl notification.
  • Toggle the function keys between standard and ‘fn’ by using the fn key on the keyboard. This effectively doubles the number of function key assignments you can have.

In the past I’ve had an issue with the Logitech software. To get the @ and ” keys assigned correctly for UK users, you had to load the Logitech UK Intl key map. That was fine except that the kernel extension it used to make it work would break some software. If I had Logitech UK Intl enabled, I was completely unable to type in the input boxes used by A Better Finder Rename, but switching to the default British (Apple) key map, it would work again. PublicSpace (the Better Finder Rename developers) were very responsive and helpful in helping me pin this down. Anyway, the diNovo Mac Edition has the correct key map for the British (Apple) layout, so that’s a problem solved.

Take your pick...

Take your pick...

So what are my conclusions then? Well it’s early days as I’ve been using this keyboard for less than a day. So far I have to say that I still prefer the diNovo Edge from a comfort perspective. As I type this I find I am resorting to the ‘hunt and peck’ style of typing, rather than using all my fingers as I had managed to do with the Edge. That’s probably more to do with the keyboard being new and very slightly different rather than anything else and will hopefully improve with time although it’s fair to say that the diNovo Mac Edition feels more cramped than the Edge. Will I keep it and grow to like it, or will I get frustrated and donate it to a good cause? (My step-mother may be getting a Mac Mini and will need a keyboard). Can’t really say at this stage. In a perfect world, Logitech would sell the diNovo Edge Mac Edition in the UK, rather than what is essentially a re-badged diNovo Keyboard for Notebooks. But it’s not a perfect world and so I shall persist with this for a while at least.

If you like the Apple aluminium ‘extended’ keyboard with the numeric keypad, and wonder why they don’t make a wireless version, well the diNovo Keyboard Mac Edition would probably be what you’re looking for, if you can live with the cheap and noisy spacebar. If you’re after the experience the diNovo Edge gives you, then you’ll probably feel disappointed as only the elusive diNovo Edge Mac Edition will fill that gap, and it’s even disappeared off the Logitech’s US website now.

Finally, if you’re a little confused by some very similar sounding keyboard names, then blame Logitech. There’s the diNovo Edge (essentially the Windows version), the diNovo Edge Mac Edition (a proper Mac version of the Edge), the diNovo Keyboard Mac Edition which I’m looking at here, and the diNovo Keyboard for Notebooks which is what this Mac keyboard seems to be based on. Their marketing men must be laughing all the way to the bank!