What I plug into my home Linux machine as far as peripherals go

June 14, 2015

While I've talked about the actual hardware of my home Linux machine, that's only part of a complete system. Today, for reasons beyond the scope of this entry, I feel like talking about everything else that goes into a complete system that you (well, I) can actually use as a desktop machine to get things done.

My current home display is a Dell U2412M and yes, I know, only one display may strike people as a little bit odd all things considered (I have dual displays at work). One part of it is that I kind of like not having an overwhelming amount of screen real estate at home so I don't try to do too much, and another part of it is that there is a whole chain of yak shaving necessary before I could actually really fit in a second display. The desire to avoid an overwhelming screen presence at home is also part of why it's only a 24" display instead of something larger.

What I'd really like here is a high DPI LCD panel (even with my concerns), but while they're starting to become available they're nowhere near what I consider a sane price just yet. I hope to not have to buy another display before high DPI display prices drop significantly.

My keyboard is the now out of production BTC-5100C mini keyboard. I love this 80-key PS/2 keyboard unreasonably; it's just right for my tastes. Maybe there's a better keyboard for me out there somewhere, but I probably won't find out for quite a while; I stockpiled some spares from eBay when I discovered that BTC had stopped producing it.

(I know that there are various mini mechanical keyswitch keyboards, which seem the most likely candidates for a replacement. Possibly a quiet version of one would be to my tastes and give me a better typing experience than the BTC-5100C, although I'm very acclimatized to its keyboard feel by now.)

My primary mouse is an old Logitech plain three-button mechanical ball mouse. Actually now that I look my current home one is a rebadged Digital mouse that we got at one point with some Digital PCs (which makes it something like fifteen years old; it is of course a PS/2 mouse), but it's a Logitech under the label. I am strongly attached to real three button mice, for good reasons. These days I also have a secondary mouse purely for its scroll wheel; the current one is a generic Lenovo USB one but basically any of them would do.

What I would like is a three button USB mouse with a scroll wheel on the left side where my (right hand) thumb would naturally rest; that would let me get rid of the hack of a second mouse. I don't expect to find this any time soon. In the mean time, I have a bunch of old PS/2 three button mice stockpiled for when my current ones wear out.

The weak point in both my keyboard and mouse plans are the need for PS/2 connectors. This means that I should stock up on some PS/2 keyboard and mouse to USB converters while they're still available, assuming that they still are. Otherwise, well, someday people are going to stop making motherboards with PS/2 ports and I will be in trouble.

(I have given up on what was once a stubborn opposition to USB for keyboards and mice. They work okay and they're basically inevitable at this point.)

I listen to random music (and YouTube videos) through some inexpensive computer speakers that are not particularly great and that I'm not sure I like the sound of (also, they buzz quietly, which is especially annoying to me because I like to listen to music at low volume, where the music doesn't drown out the buzz). I'd like decent speakers and a better way to switch in headphones if I want to listen that way (I have decent headphones but rarely use them because getting them out and plugged in and adjusting the volume and so on is too much of a pain as things are wired up today). Unfortunately there are a daunting number of choices in computer audio gear and so I never get anywhere with this.

(The deluxe solution would be an outboard USB DAC plus a headphone amp that can also drive typical powered computer speakers. I understand that this setup can sound very nice, especially with decent headphones.)

I don't have but should get a USB 3.0 external disk enclosure for backups (and at least one drive to go in it). My current solution for backups is sufficiently awkward that I only back up my home machine once in a blue moon (such as when I've been alarmed because one side of my RAID mirror is reporting problems).

My work machine has essentially the same set of peripherals (same keyboard, same sort of primary mouse, etc). The speakers are different, of course, because I basically wound up with some random speakers we had sitting around. I'm hoping they never die, because I'll let you imagine how likely it would be to talk a university into buying nice modern speakers for a sysadmin machine.

(The obvious plan is to take my current home speakers in to work if I ever get better ones for home.)

Comments on this page:

A three button USB mouse with a scroll wheel to the side? Well, there's exactly one I know of and I searched kinda hard.

It's called the "Contour Mouse" and I got it after being not-so-impressed with the other 3 button mouse I was able to source (the HP one). I'm very happy with it but there's one problem: it's insanely expensive, at least here in Europe (above 100 euros).


By cks at 2015-06-15 02:26:09:

The Contour mouse seems to be available somewhat cheaper over here in Canada, but it's still not cheap on an absolute scale and eg the Amazon reviews are somewhat mixed. Since I have a solution that works for me right now, I'm probably not going to bother trying one out until I have to.

(This may be a foolish plan if the Contour mice go out of production before I get around to trying them. Then I really would be stuck.)

If the HP mouse mentioned is this one (via Peter da Silva's page on this issue), I'd be interested in hearing what's wrong with it. Just cheaply built and erratic? Some Amazon reviews say they wear out and start reporting spurious double clicks sooner or later.

Some searching also turned up Getting a True Three-Button Mouse, which configures a Logitech Zone Touch Mouse T400. The contortions needed to get the Logitech working sound kind of eye-raising; I'm pretty sure I don't want to go there.

Waaaay back when, I held on to real three-button mice as long as possible, thinking this scrolling thing was silly. The modern web changed that. Now I'm often doing long scrolls to get to the bottom for new content or a "next" link. Too often the spacebar and page-down keys don't work (grumble).

My current mouse (Logitech Performance MX) turned out to have an unusable middle-click. Takes about a half-dozen tries to click it without scrolling.

But it has several extra buttons by the thumb. I use xmodmap to swap the middle-click with the "zoom" button. Took no time to get used to the change (though I was already used to using the forward and back buttons at the thumb from an older model).

Written on 14 June 2015.
« My pragmatic view of HTTPS versus caching
My view of NFS protocol versions »

Page tools: View Source, View Normal, Add Comment.
Login: Password:
Atom Syndication: Recent Comments.

Last modified: Sun Jun 14 01:06:19 2015
This dinky wiki is brought to you by the Insane Hackers Guild, Python sub-branch.