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    Testing the Ergonomics of Vertical Mice

    Sit up straight with your feet flat on the ground. Get a chair with good lumbar support. Adjust your monitor so that the top of it is as eye level. You've likely heard one or more of these kinds of tips for sitting at a desk and using a computer. They're all talked about in reference to computer ergonomics. UC Berkeley defines ergonomics as "the science of fitting jobs to people." And so by extension, it could be said that a major aspect of computer ergonomics is determining the best desk setup and computer accessories for people to use so that the experience is more natural.

    As it turns out, a traditional computer mouse may not apply good ergonomics. I want you to do a little experiment to realize it. First, rest your hand and arm by your side. Take note of how it feels, and the orientation of your forearm in particular. Now move your arm into position as if you were using a mouse. Do you know what is happening inside your arm? Put your other hand around your arm to feel the change. The bones in your arm twisted, and the muscles tightened in order to do so. The orientation of our arm when using a mouse isn't even close to a natural resting position. Putting your body into unnatural positions for long periods of time can cause physical strain, or even injury.

    Early last year I started looking for an alternative to your standard computer mouse. I switched from using trackpads on laptops to a desktop mouse after building my first PC, and it didn't take long for my use of a traditional mouse to start causing me discomfort, and sometimes minor pain, in my hand and wrist. (Before I go any further I'd like to say that myself nor anyone at Tested is offering medical advice. If you think you have a problem, please seek a medical professional if at all possible.)

    Do as I say, not as I do. I've yet to see a doctor about my joint issues. My problem is likely two fold. First, when using a traditional mouse I don't use the proper technique; moving primarily with your shoulder and elbow. I'll move my wrist side to side, and plant my wrist to use only my fingers. While this level of control is great for precise production work or playing first person shooters, it's also a fast track to a repetitive motion injury like carpal tunnel syndrome. Additionally, joint problems run in my family, specifically rheumatoid arthritis. That is very likely not doing me any favors. As a result of these factors I'm not able to use a traditional mouse for long periods of time.

    So I started usng a vertical mouse.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: The Minivan 40% Keyboard

    A standard keyboard has around 104 keys, but some smaller form factors might sport 80 or 60-ish. I'd lay good odds that your keyboard is somewhere in that realm, but there are enthusiast boards that make do with far fewer. So-called 40% keyboards are increasingly popular, and one of the most well-known is the Minivan from TheVan Keyboards. This keyboard is small, but it's more powerful than you'd think.

    The Minivan.

    A 40% keyboard has all the standard alpha keys, but many of the other keys are missing or smaller than usual. These boards all have varying ideas about what keys you need, but I think the Minivan is the best for a few reasons. Rather than use a full-sized spacebar and enter key, the Minivan uses a split space design that lets you have both space and enter on the bottom row. That frees up locations for function keys and mods in the Minivan's small footprint.

    The Minivan also has several keys that are programmed to have different functions depending on whether you press or hold them. For example, the Fn toggle on the right is the quote key if you just press it, but holding it down triggers the assigned function layer. Function layers are a big deal on the Minivan, as you'd probably expect. It doesn't even have a number row, so you'll need to flip between at least two different layers to access all the usual keyboard features. However, you can get extremely efficient with enough practice. Every keyboard function is accessible within no more than two keys of the home row, so you can dramatically cut down on hand movement with a Minivan.

    Like many custom keyboards, this one is fully programmable via the TMK firmware. There's an online config tool where you can visually define your layout and function layers. Flashing that layout to the board is a snap (as long as you've got the necessary program installed on your computer), and you can change it as many times as you want.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: GMK Double-Shot Keycap Sets

    There are many manufacturers of keycaps out there, but only a few have focused on the enthusiast community. One of the most popular manufacturers, and one you'll see mentioned a lot is GMK. This German company specializes in high-quality, thick double-shot keycaps. Many manufacturers have tried to emulate GMK, but its sets are still the gold standard for many keyboard lovers.

    A double-shot keycap is known as such because it's made in two "shots" of plastic. The first one includes a lattice with the raised legend you want on the cap. Then, another shot covers the lattice and forms the outer surface of the keycap, which is a different color than the text. That text will end up completely flush with the surface of the second shot. If done properly, the two appear to be one piece. You can do double-shot molding in PBT plastic, but most of it (including GMK sets) is done with ABS as it produces sharper legends.

    Double-shot keycaps are not unique to GMK, but it's arguable that GMK's quality is the best. Interestingly, GMK hasn't been at this for very long—it only started making these sets in 2011. So how can it make the best double-shot sets? Before GMK was on the scene, famed switch maker Cherry was in the business of making double-shot keycaps. However, it stopped producing the sets and sold all its keycap tooling to GMK. That allowed GMK to pick up where Cherry left off.

    How To Keep Action Cameras Warm on RC Vehicles

    You all know that I like to put action cameras on my RC vehicles to record first-person video footage. I've recently had a little trouble with that because of the low temperatures here in Buffalo. The cold was making my cameras shut down in the middle of a flight or drive. The good news is that I've found a simple and cheap DIY solution!

    The Problem

    My current onboard camera of choice is the RunCam 2. I have two of them and a few extra batteries. All of this equipment gets used frequently. Until my recent experiences using the cameras in cold weather, I've found them to be quite reliable.

    When operating my RunCam2s in freezing temperatures, their performance is unpredictable. Everything is usually fine if the camera is on a tripod of other static mount. But all bets are off once you strap it to something that moves it through the air. Unlike other action cameras, such as GoPro Heroes, the RunCam2 does not use a protective outer case. The camera body is directly exposed to the frigid atmosphere. Vent holes in the body also allow the cold air to reach the electronics within.

    The RunCam2 is my favorite action camera to use onboard my RC models, but mine kept shutting down in cold weather.

    I suspected that the root cause of the problem was the camera's battery. LiPo cells just do not work very well when cold. In this case, the LiPo battery was getting so cold that it couldn't keep up with the camera's demands. I began placing microwavable heating pads in my camera bag to keep the batteries warm until right before I used them. While the cameras ran longer, they still shut down in flight.

    The Fix

    I needed to find a way to seal the vent holes in the case and also provide some degree of thermal insulation. Whatever method I used would also have to be lightweight and low-profile. After exploring a few potential options, I decided to borrow a page from the cosplay handbook and use EVA foam.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: The Zeal60 PCB

    At the heart of most custom keyboards is a PCB, or printed circuit board. The PCB determines how you program a board and what switch layouts it supports. The Zeal60 from ZealPC is one of the most popular PCBs for a compact custom keyboard project right now. It does not come cheap, and that's not just because of the pretty purple color. It runs powerful firmware with one of the most advanced lighting setups available in a DIY keyboard.

    A keyboard's PCB is roughly analogous to the motherboard in your PC—it's where everything connects to make your keyboard work. In a high-end custom board, the PCB includes a microcontroller with user-programmable features. In the case of the Zeal60, it's an ATmega32U4 chip. Unlike many PCBs, this one is not part of a full kit (case, plate, switches, etc.). If you buy a Zeal60, that's just the start of your keyboard adventure. However, it's compatible with a wide variety of parts.

    You'll need to work some magic with function layers if you build with the Zeal60. It only supports 60% layouts similar to the popular Poker 3 and HHKB2 boards. That means you don't have arrows, an F-row, or a number pad. All those actions still exist, but they're in function layers. For example, the arrows are accessed via Fn1+WASD in the default configuration. Many people prefer 60% boards because they're compact and require less hand movement.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Input Club Hako Switches

    You might not give much thought to the keyboard under your fingers, but there's a community of dedicated enthusiasts who spend a great deal of time thinking about their keyboards. The custom mechanical keyboard community can be confusing and downright imposing, but there are some genuinely cool things out there. In the Keyboard Spotlight, we seek to show off the coolest things happening in the custom mech scene one switch, keyboard, and keycap at a time.

    This week we're taking a look at the innovative new Hako switches from Input Club and Kailh.

    These switches are basically an alternative to the Cherry Browns or Blues with which you're most familiar. There are also similar switches from companies like Gateron and Kaihua (Kailh). It's become increasingly common for keyboard designers to create custom switch designs and have them produced by one of these manufacturers. The latest to do that is Input Club, which is responsible for creating keyboards like the WhiteFox and K-Type.

    The Hako True (salmon stem) and Hako Clear (white stem) are both based on Kailh's new BOX designs. These switches have a standard Cherry-style cross stem inside a box-shaped frame. So, they work with standard Cherry-compatible keycaps, but the switch housing is "self-cleaning" and IP56-rated. Dust and moisture can escape out the bottom through drainage holes, and the metal contacts are in a separate compartment from the stem—see below for a detailed shot of the Hako Clear.

    The Art of Custom Mechanical Keyboard Keycaps

    We meet a 3D artist who models and 3D prints custom keycaps for mechanical keyboards! Robert, who runs Clackeys, explains to us how he designs unique keycaps inspired by video games and pop culture, treating the surface of a key as his canvas. We about talk his approach to printing these designs and the amount of complexity he can get from an SLA print.

    Quick Look at LG's 43-Inch 4K Monitor

    How big is too big for a desktop computer monitor? Norm lives with LG's 43-inch 4K monitor for a month, and shares his experience using it for daily web browsing, photo editing, and gaming. The extra screen real estate of the 43UD79-B takes getting used to, but there are some tradeoffs.

    Tested: HTC Vive Deluxe Audio Strap

    Jeremy reviews HTC's new Deluxe Audio Strap for the Vive virtual reality headset. We think it's an essential upgrade for HTC Vive users, improving the fit and comfort of the headset and adding good built-in audio. This is what we wish the Vive shipped with last year!

    Show and Tell: RIVER Mobile Power Station

    Simone and Norm have a new gadget at the Tested office--a massive mobile power pack by EcoFlow. The RIVER has a capacity of over 400Wh, and can output 500 watts over AC and DC. We put it to the test by plugging in some heavy duty electronics and tools from around the office!

    The Best Gaming Mouse for Most Gamers

    The right mouse can make the difference between a won or lost game where valuable skill points are on the line.

    After spending over 15 hours scouring the internet for gaming mouse reviews and with over a decade of competitive gaming experience, we feel comfortable recommending the Logitech G403 as the best gaming mouse for most people.

    The mouse has the best sensor on the market, solid buttons suited for MOBAs and FPS, a wired and an actually good wireless version, and a size and shape that will fit most hands. At $62 bucks for the wired and $80 for wireless, we feel the mouse is worth the higher-end price.

    Another great mouse that works for a large variety of games is the Razer DeathAdder Elite. The DeathAdder features an iconic ergonomic design, a responsive sensor and buttons also suited for MOBAs and FPS.

    The DeathAdder isn't the pick for a couple of reasons. The mouse is a little too large for the average hands and Razer has had a few build quality issues. Those two things put it just short of a recommendation in comparison to the solid Logitech G403.

    We felt comfortable picking a right handed mouse when factoring that 90% of the population is right-handed. A lot of left-handers use right handed mice anyway.

    No mouse is perfect — there's no such thing as one mouse fits all, so we've written a guide on what to look for and provided some alternatives for different priorities.

    Everything You Need to Know About Custom Mechanical Keyboards

    Mechanical keyboards come in all shapes and sizes, many of which you can find on Amazon or via some other retailer. If you need a new board, buying a pre-built one is the cheapest and easiest way. However, building a custom keyboard gives you the chance to choose everything from the case material, to the switches, to the keycaps.

    A WhiteFox with GMK Hyperfuse caps

    The popularity of custom keyboards has exploded in the last few years, making it a confusing and intimidating hobby to pick up. Let's break it all down.

    Layouts and firmware

    One of the things you'll notice about custom keyboards rather quickly is they tend to have unusual layouts, and they're often tiny compared to the standard full-sized 104-key layout. There are tenkeyless (80%) boards that lack a number pad, but also 65%, 60%, and smaller. A 60% is fairly common these days—these boards have only the main alphas, number row, and modifiers. The arrows and other keys are accessible via a function layer. A 65% board adds back the arrows and a few extra keys, but 40% boards go the other way with the alpha keys and a just a few modifiers. Then there are various split and ergonomic boards, like the Ergodox.

    Some of these are available as niche pre-built keyboards, but there's one main difference between those and a truly custom board. A custom board is programmable, meaning you can have any of the keys do whatever you want. This is extremely important when you're dealing with fewer physical keys because you will need at least one robust function layer to fit in all the standard keyboard commands.

    A RedScarf II with DSA Overwatch caps

    The firmware on a custom keyboard offers much more power than the desktop clients many fancy "gamer" keyboards use. After a board is programmed with your preferred layout, it doesn't rely on any software on a computer. It works exactly the same no matter which device you plug it into. The things you can do are also much more advanced. Some boards include advanced macro support or the option to control the mouse cursor.

    A smaller keyboard layout can be much more efficient than a full sized one. By relegating some commands to a function layer, your hands don't have to move as far while typing, and your mouse stays closer to your hands. True, some people can't get by without a full layout and number pad, but most people who think they do are wrong. It's much easier to scale back the size of your board than you think.

    Tested: UE Wonderboom Bluetooth Speaker Review

    Here's a short and sweet review--we test the newest Bluetooth speaker from Ultimate Ears, the makers of the Roll 2 and Mini Boom. This new Wonderboom speaker is waterproof, sounds great for its size, and pretty durable.

    First Look at Dell's Canvas 27-Inch Display

    We get up close to Dell's Canvas, a 27-inch touchscreen and Wacom-pen enabled display that's meant to be used in place of your desktop keyboard. Here's how Dell expects artists to use the device in Windows 10, how it works with their rotating dial, and why they think it's different than a Wacom Cintiq.

    Tested: Tactic Wrist Monitor for FPV Systems

    I love interesting gadgets and the Tactic FPV Wrist Monitor ($50) certainly qualifies. It looks like a smart watch, or maybe something Dick Tracy would wear. When you flip out the folding antenna, it's easy to imagine that you're a high-tech spy sending an urgent status update to your secret underground headquarters. The actual functionality of the wrist monitor isn't so clandestine. Its primary function is to receive and display video signals from RC models with a FPV system.

    The Tactic FPV Wrist Monitor integrates a 2" screen and 5.8GHz receiver into a tiny wearable package. What applications can you think of?

    What It Is

    The heart of the wrist monitor is a 2" (51mm) LCD screen. It displays in full color with a resolution of 480x240. Overall dimensions of the monitor housing are 2.2" x 1.9" x .5" (56 x 49 x 12mm). Weight with the wrist band is 2.2 ounces (61.5g).

    The unit has an integrated 5.8GHz receiver with the aforementioned folding antenna. Most FPV activities currently use 5.8GHz signals, so there are plenty of compatible video transmitters available. The receiver can pick up 32 different channels divided among 4 bands (A, B, E, and F). A button on the side of the monitor allows you to choose your desired band and channel. There is no provision to input a wired video signal. Nor can you record or export the receiver's feed.

    Its primary function is to receive and display video signals from RC models with a FPV system.

    A built-in 300mAh LiPo battery provides power for the monitor. A full charge will provide about an hour of operation. Unfortunately, there is no battery status indicator anywhere. You'll know the battery is dead when the monitor shuts itself off. The battery is charged via a micro-USB port.

    The included wrist band is a simple rubber unit with a metal buckle. Like the footprint of the monitor itself, the band is wide and beefy. The band is obviously sized for larger wrists. I think I'm an average guy I use one of the smallest settings on the band. Anyone with smaller wrists may have trouble getting a comfortable fit. Even if you poke extra holes in the band, the girth of the monitor could become a factor at some point.

    Show and Tell: SixKeyBoard Custom Keyboard

    For this week's Show and Tell, Patrick stops by (our old office!) to share this custom keyboard set by TechKeys. The SixKeyBoard is a programmable keyboard with yep, just six keys. But instead of requiring desktop software, macros and shortcuts can be saved right to the keyboard to work on any system.

    In Brief: Pebble Announces New Watches, Core Accessory

    Even though Apple reportedly corners half of the smart watch market, Pebble is pushing forward its lineup with new watches and an interesting accessory on the horizon. The Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2 are the logical follow-ups to the low-power watches, adding heart-rate monitors, extending battery life, and expanding the screen size by 50% in the color model. But the more interesting product looks to be the $70 Pebble Core, a display-free pocketable puck that has GPS tracking, Spotify streaming, audio out (including Bluetooth), and even 3G sim card support. Steven Levy examines why the Core may be a smart move for Pebble on Backchannel. Pebble is also once again turning to Kickstarter for early bird pricing pre-orders--pay in 35 days and you'll get a new watch by the end of the year.

    Tested: Mechanical Gaming Keyboards

    What makes a good mechanical keyboard? And why are peripheral companies releasing new gaming keyboards so frequently? Patrick and Norm discuss the state of this essential accessory, and how the switches in new keyboards from Corsair, Razer, and Logitech compare. Which type of switch do you prefer?