Tag Archives: iPhone

Upgrading to the Keychron K1 V3 Mechanical Keyboard

the Keychron K1 V3 RGB

I’ve been working from home since returning from my last business trip to the USA in Feb 2020. It’s now the first week of June 2020, and I foresee continuing this WFH motion to continue for many more months. With that, I’ve decided to update my home office set up.

One of the first updates was the addition of the Samson Satellite USB microphone, which I’ve wrote a bit about here. Now, I’m updating my keyboard from an old Logitech K200, to the Keychron K1 that is pictured above. This post is typed out with the Keychron K1.

First, why the upgrade? The Logitech K200 had served me well for many years. However as I moved from Windows Vista (yup, the last PC I owned ran Windows Vista), to Mac, the keyboard didn’t really change. While I’ve figured out the few key mappings to use a Windows keyboard on Mac OS X, it has always been a bit of an annoyance. Especially when I switch from my work MacBook Pro, with a Mac Keyboard layout, to my Mac Mini with the Windows layout, it gets somewhat annoying. Hence the inner desire to change has been lingering for a while.

Looking for a keyboard nowadays is so much more than what it used to be. The last time that a keyboard caught my attention was the Microsoft Natural keyboard from 1998. There weren’t many mainstream developments that caught my attention. In recent years gaming mechanical keyboards had gain popularity and opened up a new segment. It took some research to understand what exactly are these keyboards and what makes them click (pun intended). Terms like Cherry MX came up frequently, and there are colours like red, brown, blue, yellow, etc. If you are also new to mechanical keyboards, here is what I’ve learnt.

Mechanical Keyboards

Traditional keyboards (before mechanical) are essentially membrane keyboards. If you have ever looked in one, you will see there is like a large sheet of rubber inside the keyboard and each key will press against a location that pushes the membrane in contact to a circuit board below. These keyboard typically give a dull feel to the keystroke.

Mechanical keyboards on the other hand have individual switches for each key. The membrane no longer exists. I believe the main drivers and advantage to move to such design was driven by gamers. Having individual switches allow faster keypress, touch feedback and more keys to be pressed simultaneously. Supposedly such keyboards can give gamers improved game play and hopefully an edge, especially with competitive gaming. Overall typing experience is also meant to be better, giving a good tactile feel. I do agree with this, the feel is more solid.

What’s with the Red, Brown and Blues?

If you search around, there is a very wide selection of mechanical keyboards out there. First, there are many different manufacturers, and each has several models, and typically each model will have different “colours”. Let’s touch on the colours, and their significance. The colours are referencing to the type of switch used by the keyboard. It’s an indication of the tactile feel of the switch, and not for aesthetics purpose. You can’t really see the colour unless you remove a keycap to look below. The most popular switch manufacturer is CHERRY, a German company that has been around since 1953. If you look around CHERRY’s website, you will find the characteristics of each colour, and an animation of the internal mechanisms of each switch type. Gives you an idea on how each switch differs.

Key characteristics for each colour are in the following areas:

  • Operating Force – indicates how “stiff” the feel is for each key. The higher the number the harder you have to press.
  • Pre-Travel – indicates how deep the key needs to be pressed for the keystroke to be registered. This varies, but it is typically this is around the halfway point of the Total Travel.
  • Total Travel – that’s the total distance each key can move downwards as you press. There’s always a bit more movement allowed beyond the “clicking” point.
  • Audible Click – whether that switch type generates a “click” sound as it is depressed.

There are other manufacturers for switches and from my brief look, they tend to follow the convention that CHERRY adopts, where the Red has the lightest Operating Force, with no audible click sound, and the Blue is the opposite with heavier Operating Force and has the audible click. There are several other colours, but I find that the red, brown, blue are the most common. I found the YouTube video (embedded below) by BeatTheVBush DIY to be really useful to help me decide (audio wise) which colour I’m comfortable with.

The other aspects of the keyboard

One of the top priority area to consider when picking the keyboard is the type of switch you’d like to have. The other common things to consider are:-

  • Keyboard Language – does it have layout you prefer, e.g. most common is the US101, but there are others that are geared towards different languages, like Chinese, Japanese, French, German, etc.
  • Keyboard Size – is it a full sized 104 keys with number pad, or one size down is the 87 keys, a.k.a. TKL (Ten Key Less), without the number pad, or even smaller, the 60%, that cuts out the column with home, end, pg up/down.
  • Keyboard OS – typically whether if it has the Windows or Mac layout.
  • Connectivity – is it USB wired, wireless with bluetooth or proprietary wireless. The older PS/2 and DIN connectors should be extremely rare nowadays.

Enter the Keychron K1

There are not many mechanical keyboards out there that have the Mac layout. As I was shopping on Lazada, the only one that came up was the Keychron keyboards. Doing some research, the Keychron do have some good reviews, especially for the K1. The others, K2, K4 and K6 look good as well, but they have a common complaint that they tend to be too thick. The K1 is designed to be thin, and it is indeed among the thinnest mechanical keyboards out there.

As I intend to use the keyboard with a KVM, it is essential that it must support a USB connectivity. The K1 meets this requirement as well. The added bluetooth support is nice to have. The K1 supports pairing up to 3 unique devices, they can be Mac, IOS, Windows or Android. I tested it with my iPhone 11 Pro and it worked nicely. The phone links up quickly once BT was enabled on the K1.

Price was also in the ball park I was prepared to spend. There were several other models my friends suggested, like the Ducky keyboards, but they are beyond my preferred price range.

I am also intrigued by the RGB option available with the K1. The control of the colour pattern is locally handled on the keyboard itself. There is a dedicated light key which will cycle through the patterns. Additionally, using the hotkey combo of fn+Left or fn+Right arrow keys will allow choice of colours for that chosen pattern, e.g. only red, blue, white, rainbow, etc.

The Keychron K1 looks to be really popular and as of this writing, V4 is about to be released in a few days. The one I have is the V3, ordered from Mecha.Store on Lazada.sg.

First Day Experience

Keychron K1 in the box with plastic wrappers removed

The K1 arrived a few days after the order was placed. Not bad during the COVID-19 period where there are significant logistics overheads.

The keyboard came out of the box with the Mac layout. 5 additional key caps are included to convert the keys to the Windows layout. A keycap puller is also included to aid the conversion process. USB-A to USB-C cable is also included and is reasonably thick. The included quick start guide and manual are pretty well written.

Sliding switches on the K1

The keyboard is pretty much plug and play, nothing less one would expect from a keyboard. There are two switches on the side, above the esc key to switch between Mac/iOS vs Windows/Android, and another with Cable/Off/Bluetooth settings. Functions are pretty much self explanatory.

The bluetooth labelling on 1, 2 & 3 keys

The bluetooth function is also rather simple to use. Pressing the fn+Numeric key 1, 2 or 3, will switch the connection profile to one of the 3. To pair, simply press and hold the key combo for a few seconds, and the bluetooth light will being to flash slowly, indicating it is in pairing mode. The usual motion to search and pair available devices from your Computer/mobile device applies.

I tested the bluetooth connection with my iPhone and encountered an interesting bit where shift+3 gave me a £ instead of #. I realised it’s because of the keyboard type I had set up on the iPhone to English(UK). That got resolved as I swapped the keyboard with English(SG). I’m sure English(US) would resolve that as well, but as Singapore follows the UK spelling style, the autocorrect with the US dictionary isn’t as appropriate.

One of the feature updates with the K1 V4 is that caps lock key will have an added indicator for the 87-keys model. Fret not though for the earlier models, recent firmware for the K1 allows enabling the LED on the caps lock key to operate independently from the keyboard light pattern. Meaning, instead of participating in the flashy light show with the other keys, the LED for the caps lock key will only be used to indicate whether caps lock is enable or not. This can be toggled using the hot key combo fn+caps lock+P. Holding the combo for about 6 seconds will toggle the function. You’ll know it has taken effect when all the keys flash red, neat!

Firmware Update

An occupational hazard I have is to always look at updating to the latest (and stable) firmware. That’s was what I did for the K1 as well. It is nice that Keychron provides updates, and I took advantage of it. There are update utilities available for both Windows and Mac, which is the least I would expect for a device that is designed to work across both Operating Systems.

The process worked exactly as how it was instructed on the website. With the last step to perform a factory restore of the keyboard. I was expecting the bluetooth pairing with my phone to be gone, but to my surprise, that remained. What got reset were like the setting for the independent caps lock light.

There is an important thing to watch out for, that is warned on the website, is to ensure no other keyboards are connected to the same computer performing the firmware update. I decided to be extremely careful and disconnect my Trendnet KVM from my Mac Mini, and have the keyboard wired directly. Also, I removed the Logitech Unify adapter I use with the mouse, as that same adapter can also work with Logitech Keyboards. Meanwhile, I used my old wired mouse to during the firmware update process.

What I like about the K1

I ordered the K1 with blue switches. Do note that Keychron uses the Gateron switches. I don’t have any personal experience with other switches to offer a comparison, but I’m quite pleased with these blue switches. Having typed through this blog, I’m pleased with my choice.

The low profile nature of the keyboard also fits well with my preference. I’ve been working off my MacBook Pro for several years now and this allows a comfortable switch. I would guess the other models like the K2 could be too tiring for me.

The light show on the keyboard has many patterns to choose from. Although I don’t always look at the keyboard while typing, it just adds to a cool factor. The fact that I don’t need additional software on the computer to drive the LED is a bonus.

The print screen key works for both on OS X and iOS. On the Mac Mini, pressing the key is equivalent to a cmd+shift+4.

I really like that the Keychron team is continually innovating and improving the products based on feedback. Evidently from the new firmware which look to stem from customer feedback, and also the newer varieties of the K1.

Areas I feel can be improved

So far, the keyboard itself has been great and I have zero issues with it. What I feel that can be improved are the following areas.

Product labeling: since the K1 has had a few updates, it will be useful to also label that on the keyboard. E.g. at the bottom of the keyboard there is a print that says “K1 Bluetooth Mechanical Keyboard”; if it has a “V3” some where, it would have been perfect. Although I had ordered the V3, there was no easy way for me to determine that I have indeed received the V3. I had to do some detective work to search for images to compare. And with that, I could only tell that I definitely don’t have the V1 as the light key have moved since V2.

Firmware Checking: there doesn’t seem to be a way for me to check what is the running version of the firmware on the K1. Pretty much so I can easily tell if I should take the trouble to update my unit. The FW update tool is rather basic with just a “start” button. I had to read the FW releases and compare the features with what my K1 could do. At best my unit would have version 2.72. So it was worth attempting to update to the latest 3.7.

Website: the downloaded file for 3.7 firmware, interestingly unzipped with 3.6 in the file name. Doing a checksum comparison with the zip file for 3.6, they are actually identical. I’ve submitted a ticket for this. So meanwhile, I’ve seemingly have updated my unit to 3.6.

Wrapping up…

I’m pretty much very happy with the Keychron K1 V3. The feel is great, and I just switched to finish this post on my iPad paired with the K1. It’s working flawlessly over Bluetooth, with no apparent latency. The “clickiness” of the blue switch is to my liking. So far my family doesn’t find it disturbing at all. I enjoy the feel of the keys.

If you are looking out for a low profile mechanical keyboard. I certainly do recommend the Keychron K1. It is of reasonable value, and with V4 around the corner, the improvements are nice.

Solution – iPhone Apps are not syncing with iTunes after a restore

So you have got a new iPhone; you did a backup of your old iPhone and restored it to the new device. Everything seems to be working except that Apps are not installing. You try to re-sync with iTunes but nothing changes.

Looking at the Apps tab in iTunes shows that the Apps will be installed. So the question is when? Seems never right?

Well, it happened to me recently when I was doing just the same thing for an iPhone I was migrating. I even tried to restore a second time, but it didn’t matter.

I then stumbled upon the “Restrictions” settings, funny enough it was disabled. The original phone had restrictions turned on and Apps installation disabled. Just in the off chance of a bug here, I enabled restrictions, just to make sure all options are set to enabled, and turned off restrictions again.

Right after, I did another sync with iTunes, and all the Apps started to install.

There you have it, there’s a bug in the process. Maybe it was specific to my situation, where the source was an iPhone 4 with iOS6 and the target was an iPhone 4S with iOS7.

Nevertheless, here’s an experience I’ll share, in case if you encounter a similar issue.

Hello 2012!! The most >Geek< fun I've had in a while

ok ok, so this is really not at all keeping up to trying to post regularly. Got too busy, had a baby, etc.. excuses.

Now, I have a great reason to post!! I just finished a little pet project, tiny one.. but I’m quite excited about it as it’s something I’ve tried to do over 10 years ago, but the products were bad. Now, with newer hardware and software it’s a reality!

I had just succeeded to build my home SIP infrastructure. With a SIP client on my iPhone, I can connect to my personal PBX server, and make calls to regular phones via a SIP to PSTN router.

You are lost? I just built my own VOIP system, which I can make data calls over the air, from my iPhone, connect to my home based VOIP system, and call to a land line. What’s so big deal about that? Here in Singapore, the digital land lines are completely toll free! All outgoing LOCAL calls are free. With 3G and 10GB of quota a month, I can make a lot of phone calls this way!

I will share how I did it… and boy, it’s not easy. This setup is not for the faint hearted to even attempt to consider. Leave it to the real IT geeks *cough*

Here’s a glimpse on what you’ll need.

  1. Home broadband connection which has preferably unlimited usage (as we get here in Singapore)
    +the broadband connection must always be up (otherwise you cannot connect from outside of your home)
  2. Home wifi  network, if you want to make calls via your SIP client in the smartphone
  3. A Linksys SPA 3102 (retailing for about S$100 in Singapore) – this is a VOIP Router
  4. Asterisk – a free PBX Server – run this on an old PC, or a small atom machine, or a virtual machine
    (I run mine as a VMware Virtual Machine)
  5. A SIP client for your PC and/or smartphone
    PC – A good and free SIP client called X-Lite (http://www.counterpath.com/x-lite.html)
    iOS – many choices available, free and paid I use the free client from 3CX (http://www.3cx.com/VOIP/voip-phone.html)

Generally, each item is easy to get up and running, but to get them working together was not easy, especially when you don’t understand half the terms involved. This is one of the craziest situations where I was looking at pages of configuration items and they are mostly abbreviated.

In addition, there are few up to date guides on the net which tells you what to do. I found lots of guides for Asterisk, some very good, but are for older versions. I’m using version 1.8, and there are lots that are now redundant. After all I’ve done to get things to work, I must say it’s actually not a lot of settings we need to make.

Credits will be given when due. I will link to the sites which I found the most useful information.

 

iMessage how to use it?

The first question I had was, where’s the app for iMessage? I was thinking that there could be a dedicated app, and it’ll probably function like having another “whatsapp” like function. I was wrong. In face, iMessage is integrated into the orignal “Message” app. Yes, the one you use for SMS and MMS.

So, how to start using it? There are 2 parts to it. Part 1 is to setup your iOS device, and part 2 is how to send an iMessage.

Part 1 – go to settings, messages, then look at addresses. These are what your friends and contacts will use to send iMessage to you, as a form of identification (like a userid). By default, your mobile number will be one of them, and the other is the iTunes or iCloud account you used when your first setup iOS5. You can add or change more contact information. e.g. your work email address. Add all the form of “identification” you want and save it.

Part 2 – just launch messages, and here’s the cool bit. Just add the contact you like to send a text to. The app will then do a check if the recipient is already registered with iMessages. Remember what you did in Part 1? The recipient’s contact information in your phone book will be used to check for iMessage “compatibility”. If yes, your “send” button will turn blue, and the text box will have a faint “iMessage” word, otherwise it will have a faint “text message”, and the “send” button will be green.

It’s that simple!

Now, I’m just a little curious about the warning that popped up once or twice to warn of carrier charges for sms sent to activate iMessage. I wonder how many messages will that consume.

iOS Upgrade fail with error 23 – the workaround

So after trying iOS 5 myself, I’m feeling good to upgrade my wife’s iPhone 4.

Strange thing occurred that once I asked iTunes 10.5 to upgrade the iPhone 4, after the first dialog box that says something about backup, the next thing I get is error 23. Which actually means the phone has a hardware problem. Is there an underlying problem? I have no idea, phone seems fine.

So, what I did that made it work… or at least now it’s gone past that stage. Put the phone into recovery mode, and now iTunes 10.5 is downloading iOS5. Will know soon enough if it will work all the way.

*update* the workaround was successful!!

*update 2* to get the iPhone into recovery mode, do the following

  1. have your computer running iTunes 10.5, and the iPhone sync cable plugged into the computer
  2. don’t connect the sync it to your phone yet, and shutdown the phone
  3. after the phone is off, press and hold the home button (don’t let go of the button)
  4. keep holding the home button, and plug the sync cable into the phone (still, hold on to the home button, don’t let go yet)
  5. when you get to the recovery screen, you’ll see the iTunes logo and the sync cable show up on the phone, you can now let go of the home button
  6. iTunes will detect and report that the phone is in recovery
  7. Follow the wizard to proceed with the upgrade

iTunes 10.5 can sync 2 devices simultaneously

Things have been different, and I didn’t have anything good to write about. Until now…

I’ve just updated my iPhone 3GS then my iPad to IOS5. The sync was taking quite some time and I decided to try to sync my 3GS while the iPad is being restored. Searched around a bit and found some old posts saying that Windows iTunes can’t sync simultaneously. Yea, that post is a little old, from 2009.

So now, I’m trying it myself. It works!! The improvement now is that for music, videos and app sync, the device doesn’t stay in the lock screen anymore. It’s more like a background process.

There’s more to be discovered with iOS5, hopefully some more good stuffs to write about!

Update to my Manila SUN Cellular Experience

My earlier post was basically highlighting that if you are purchasing a Sun Cellular prepaid SIM for internet usage, you’ll have to get it activated before trying to apply and SBW load. Otherwise the load will be wasted, which was what happened to me.

The follow up experience to that was that I did get my GPRS (data) access activated within the 48hrs as mentioned by the call center help agent. There was no automated notification, I just had to keep trying to send “activate” to 2300. When it works, it will reply with the activation message.

Then I applied the SBW50 load and I was immediately online. The next thing I tried was tethering with my iPhone 3GS. The tethering didn’t work. In fact, the tethering option disappeared from the iPhone menu.

So what I did for the rest of the trip was to just use my E5830 to provide Internet access to my laptop and phone over WIFI.

I noticed for the E5830, in most places, there are good 3G signal, but for some reason the device will fall back to a slower speed. So I just forced the device to only use WCDMA to keep to the constant good speed. The drawback on this is when the 3G signal quality was bad, Internet access will be miserable.

IOS Devices : Automatic App Installation On All Devices You Own

I didn’t stay up to catch the Apple WWDC, but it’s the first thing I checked out when I woke up today. One of the new features which has got all my thumbs up is the ability for your devices to automatically download purchased content. More details is in this Mac Rumors posting.

I haven’t tested this yet, but what I believe it’s suppose to do is this; Say you have an iPhone and an iPad. If you’ve purchased  content, Music/App/Book, from the Apple Stores, it will automatically make it available on both devices. That sure takes the hassle out to trying to keep both devices in sync.

Without this, I’ve been maintaining synchronization using iTunes, or just manual re-download. Now it’s all automatic! That’s cool!

The best part, you don’t need to wait for IOS5, all you need is the currently available IOS 4.3!

mifi world!! pocket hotspot on the go!

huawei i moa week ago, I picked up my newest gadget, the Huawei E5830. This is a personal wifi hotspot, something similar to the Novatel MiFi, available with Verizon (US) or M1 (Singapore).

My sister has the MiFi from M1 and she complains the same issue that many users have; the unit overheats. When it gets too hot, it just shuts down without warning! For my sister it seems to get to that point in 5mins of usage.

So, together, we picked up the Huawei E5830. In Singapore, there are 2 ways to buy that device. 1, with a contract with Singtel (one of the major telco), or 2, from 3rd party resellers.

The Singtel option is costly, and also did not apply for us as we have existing contracts for our data plan. The alternative is 3rd party resellers. Just about all of these 3rd party resellers sells the unlocked model from 3-UK. So it seems that the 3 UK could be the best provider in the world that offers the device with a nice pre-paid data plan. This makes the device available at a pretty reasonable price. In addition, some people have got their hands on the unlock code for the device and managed to unlock the devices and even change the firmware.

With the unlock and firmware upgrade, this device becomes usable with any 3G telcos in the world. It’s easy to find many people trying to sell this on eBay. For us, we found someone in Singapore who have brought in a large quantity of these devices and selling them at a slightly higher price than we can find in eBay. For the higher premium, at least we’ll get a better chance of some sort of “warranty” if we find any problems with the units.

The Huawei E5380 is slighly bigger than the first generation HSDPA USB modem. As it has a rechargeable battery inside, it weighs a little bit more, but still fairly light to carry around easily. Opening up the unit to slide in the SIM card is very similar to most mobile phones. To operate the unit, there are 3 buttons, power, wifi & 3G connect.

  • Power – toggles the unit on and off
  • wifi – toggles the wifi served on and off
  • connect – gets the unit to establish a connection to the internet

The unit is pre-configured with WPA encrypted wifi out of the box. The WPA key is on a sticker next to the SIM card slot, so make sure to take note of the key when inserting the SIM card.

Once we power up the unit, give it about 30s to 1min to boot up, and when the “W” icon lights up, the WIFI is on and you can get your notebook, iPad, etc.. to search for the signal. Follow the standard way on your device to connect to a wifi.

If your unit has the firmware that has web management capabilities, just launch your favorite browser and point it to http://192.168.1.1. Login with the default credentials and it will take you to the web administration portal. For Starhub users, there’s actually nothing much to do, the unit will just work straight away. If you are a M1 or Singtel user, you’ll need to make some changes to the APN profile. Likewise if your provider requires some unique APN setup, this will have to be done.

One nice feature is that you can configure the unit to connect to 3G manually or on demand. Manually, means you’ll either need to press the button, or get into the web portal and click the “connect” button. On demand means that the 3G will auto connect once there’s a request from a client device to access something on the internet. It can have a time out setting which will disconnect the 3G connection after some time of inactivity. This probably can extend the battery life since the unit don’t have to maintain a permanent connection. On the similar note, the wifi signal can be set to auto-off after a period of inactivity also. This further saves power, but to re-enable wifi signal, you’ll have to press the wifi button on the device.

I’ve been quite happy with the performance of the unit, by specifications it is capable up to 7.2Mbps downstream. In reality, with Singtel as my provider I have reached up to 3Mbps, which for me is very much good enough for internet access on the go.

In addition to the wifi connection it provides, you can use the unit like a USB dongle as well. It has a standard mini-USB jack, and once plugged in, you’ll get the usual virtual CD-ROM drive that contains the connection manager installer. If you’ve used 3G USB dongles before, this will be a familiar ground for you. I have read before that some units will disable 3G when the USB is plugged in. This is not the case for my unit. So, this means that if you are sharing the device with others, and the battery goes low, you can just connect the device to your notebook to charge it up.

In the overall, I’m very pleased with this little investment. It is the perfect companion for iPad users, for people who work on the go, and to share with peers.

If you’ve read about my exploration of MyWi before, I’ll rate this unit to be a much better choice for a few reaons

  1. on top of the list – this device operates in Infrastructure mode (which mywi only works in ad-hoc)
  2. the E5380 offers many more features than MyWi, which one can argue is not critical just to get some internet connection on the go
  3. Since this unit works independently, it takes away the strain from my iPhone
  4. I can easily pass the unit to my wife for her usage, which otherwise I would not be able to do so with my iPhone

True, there’s a higher cost involved compared to just buying MyWi, so, it really comes down to individual situations and preferences.

DROPBOX – keep files in sync and have a backup copy in the cloud

I’ve been using this nifty little tool for many months now, and it works like a charm!! I first got introduced to it watching Tekzilla, and I’m now hooked!!

What Dropbox does is that you identify a particular folder in your computer that you want to be kept in sync between computers. For me, this is my desktop, notebook & netbook. Everytime your computer is on the internet, it will keep all the files sync’d in this folder. So, no matter which machine you are on, you have access to all the files in that folder. Update the file any where, and the rest will get the updates too. To make it even more awesome, you can access these files on your iPhone or Android device.

Dropbox installs a small client on to your computer, and gives you 2GB of free space at the start. With some successful referrals, your free space goes up to 10GB!!

I use it to keep my frequently used files in sync between my computers. I’ve read other usage as to keep iTunes libraries in sync between computers, some others use it to keep emails sync’d between computers, and much more. The possibilities are endless.

So, wait no more!! give it a try and use my referral link here =)