FYI: No, I was not paid, nor given these freely, nor do I have any connection to Logitech at all.
A short video of the EX Ergo, the hardshell case I picked up for it, and some commentary about using it in different locations.
A few months ago I picked up a new trackball. It’s one of the multitude of pointing devices I use while working. Just to note, here’s the MX Ergo in its normal spot hanging out with my Apple Trackpad and Logitech m331 Silent Mouse.
I picked this up to replace the older trackballs that I used from Logitech previously, the wireless and wired trackballs had lasted me a solid 5+ years at the youngest of the devices. This trackball however has a number of additional features that dramatically increase the usefulness of the device. I’ll enumerate and elaborate on a few’
The scroll wheel doesn’t just scroll, but has a forward and back feature. Just push the wheel to the left or right with your finger and so goes the navigation.
There’s a metal tray that it sits on, and the angle can be changed from zero to 20 degrees. This position can really change the stressors on the upper arm, which makes for easier use during the course of work.
There are the normal right and left buttons, but also two buttons to the left of the left button, and two additional toggle buttons on the lower end of the left right buttons and on the left side near the ball itself. The toggle by the ball actually changes the speed, and thus increasing the accuracy of position of the cursor, it’s a strange but useful effect when manipulating images or such at a pixel level.
This device is also wireless, and has internal batteries that can be charged via the included USB cable. Standard USB connection required for the sensor for the trackball too.
A few shots of the pointing device all pretty and professional. Keep reading below the trackball gallery.
Why a Trackball
One of the issues when working remotely is that space is often constrained. When in a coffee shop, you don’t want to be the asshole who has all their laptop gear spilling over into areas beyond where you sit. Sometimes you may get lucky and the table space may be abundant, but often it is not. Using a trackpad eliminates the excessive space required for a mouse, as a trackpad just stays in the singular spot near the laptop that you set it.
You might ask, ok you have a trackball but why not just use the trackpad? Well sometimes you still can’t use the trackball, because the space is that limited, especially on a transport mode like passenger airlines. Even in first class you’ll be pretty pressed for space. On a Greyhound bus, if you feel like tempting madness, you have even less space than that and no first class to speak of! In these cases, the trackpad is all you can muster for use. But in cases where you have even a little space, the trackball can come out for use.
Why a secondary pointing device? What makes a trackball so great besides the minimal space it uses? A few things make a trackball more bad ass than most other options. For one, the movement can be more precise, with less training. One can train their thumb movement – or fingers if you want to use it that way – in a way that the arm movement used for a mouse just can’t replicate. Some may say, “oh but just use only your hand for the mouse”, well ok except that defeats the immediate ease of access for a mouse. The core notion here, is you can do this if you want to. Thus, you have reduced space use, reduced physical movement for yourself, you can increase precision, and with this particular trackball, you’ve even got macros and other programmable options for the button array that enhances the use of tools like Photoshop where that precision is a requirement for effective use!
For more reasons, more coverage of the hardshell case, check out my post on Transit Sleuth “Traveling Trackball, AKA “GSD Better!”” speaking solely to the traveling use of the trackball and the hardshell case.
All in all, a great device. Do I recommend it? Well, you’ll have to watch the video to see. 👍🏻
I’ve been doing a lot more coding, thanks largely to the discipline that Twitch has brought to my day. It seems almost surprising to me at this point because Twitch started similarly to the way Twitter did for me. You see, I thought at first Twitter was the dumbest thing that had happened in ages. Arguably, it’s come full circle and I kind of feel the same thing about Twitter now, but during the middle decade in between that (yes, Twitter is over 10 years old!) Twitter has brought me connection, opportunities, and so much more. I couldn’t have imagined a lot of what I’ve been able to pull together because of Twitter. It’s still useful in many ways for this, albeit I like all of us are at risk of suffering the idiocy of today’s politics and political cronies, and the dog piling trash pile that follows them onto Twitter.
I’m not leaving Twitter any time soon but I’ve definitely put in on a very short leash, and limited what impact it does or doesn’t have in my day to day flow.
Amazingly however a new social and productive tool, not that it intended both, has come into being. Coding on Twitch. Don’t get me wrong I game, I just don’t game socially or on Twitch, what I do is code on Twitch. With a fair dose of hacking, breaking things, and then figuring out how to make them work. All at the same time I along with others have created a pretty excellent developers community there on Twitch. It seems to be growing all the time too. Twitch, at this point has become a focal point that has the benefits without all the annoying garbage that Twitter does these days, while adding the vast and hugely important fact that I can do things, be productive, chit chat, and generally get shit done all while I’m Twitch streaming.
With that, let’s talk about some of the recent notes and information I’ve been working on putting together to make Twitch even more useful. My first motive with this was to keep track of all the things I was doing, hardware I was putting together, and related things, but then another purpose grew out of all this note taking. It became obvious that this repository of information could be useful for other people. Here’s a survey of the things that I’ve added so far, hope they’re helpful to those of you digging into streaming out there!
I added some badges to identify various elements of information about the repo in the README.md.
Is it maintained, yup, contributors, so far just me, zero issues filed but please feel free to add an issue or two, markdown yup, and there is indeed a Trello Board! The Trello Board is a key to insight, inspection, and what I’ve got going on in a number of my repositories. It’s where I’m keeping track of all the projects, what’s next, and what’s up in queue for the blog (this one right here). At least, in the context of the big code heavy or video reviews of sessions with code, extra commentary, and related content. If you want to get involved in any of the repos just let me know and I’m happy to walk through whatever and even get you added to the Trello board so we can work together on code.
My main machine is now a Dell XPS 15, which I fought through to get Linux running on it, and now that I have it’s been an absolutely stellar machine. I’ve also added additional monitor & port replicator/docking station gear to get it even more usable. The actual page I’ve got the details listed on are in the repo on the Dell XPS 15 item on the hardware page.
Along with the XPS 15 I wrote up coverage of the unboxing via video and blog entry. After a few weeks I also wrote up the conflict I had getting Linux running and removing Windows 10. In addition to the XPS 15 though I do use a MacBook from 2015 as my primary Mac machine, with an iMac from 2013 available as backup. Both machines are still resoundingly solid and performant enough to get the job done. Rounding out my fleet of machines is a Dell XPS 13 (covered here and here with the re-review).
For screens I have one at my office and one at home. They’re almost the same thing, ultra-widescreen monitors, curved displays, running 3880-1440 resolution from LG. These make keeping an eye on chat, OBS, and all sorts of other monitoring while coding, gaming, or whatever a breeze!
The docking stations and/or port replicators, whatever one calls these things these days also bring all of this tech together for me. There’s a couple I have tried and retired already (unfortunately, cuz dammit that cost some money!) and others that I use in some scenarios and others I use in others.
My main docking station contraption, shout out to James & others suggestion the Caldigit TS3. I got to this docking station through the Dell TB16 which for Linux, and kind of for Windows, is an unstable mess. Awesome potential if it worked, but it doesn’t so I tried out this USB-C pluggable option (in the tweet) which had HDMI that was unfortunately limited in resolution. Having a wide screen made this – albeit it being super compatible with Linux – unusable too. So I finally upgraded to the Caldigit TS3 and WOW, the Caldigit is super seriously wickedly bad ass. Extra USB-C ports, USB 2/3 ports, power, and more all rolled into one. It even supplies some power to the laptop, however I keep it plugged in since it’s kind of a power hog when the processor start chomping!
I’ve replaced it with this. Much smaller, lighter, and slightly easier to use. Albeit the USB-C can’t power the laptop. pic.twitter.com/sy3L1fbUnH
After trying out this USB-C pluggable (the tweet) I got the CalDigit into play. It’s really really good, here’s a shot of that from various angles with the extensive cables that I don’t have to plug into my laptop anymore. Out of this also runs a 28 port USB powered hub too, no picture, but just know I’ve got a crazy number of devices I routinely like to use!
That’s my main configuration when using the ultra widescreens and all. Good setup there, very usable, and the 32GB of memory in the laptop really get put to use in this regard. As for storage, that’s another thing. I’ve got 1 TB in my laptop but another 1 TB in a USB-C Thunderbolt Samsung Drive which is practically as fast for most things. So much so I attach it via the TS3 via USB-C and it’s screaming fast and adds that extra storage. So far, primarily I’ve been using it to store all of my virtual machines or use it as video storage while I do edits.
There’s other gear too, check out the list, like the Rode Podcoster and other things. But that gear I’ll elaborate on some other time.
Another effort I’ve undertaken is recording meetups. To do this one needs to be able to stream things with several screens combined – i.e. picture in picture and all. To do this, one needs a camera that can focus on the speaker, ideally at least 1080p with at least some ability to work in less than ideal light. Then next to that, a splitter and capture card to get the slides! Once all those pieces come together, with a little OBS finesse one can get a pretty solid single pass recording of a meetup. An example of one of my better attempts was the last meetup “Does the Cloud Kill Open Source” with Richard Seroter. If you take a look at past talks in the Meetups Playlist you can see my iterative progress from one meetup to another!
Here’s the specific gear I’m using to get this done. At least, so far, and if and when it becomes financially reasonable I might upgrade some of the gear. It largely depends on what I can get more use out of beyond just streaming meetups.
Cords and Splitter – I picked up a selection of lengths and types so that I’d have wiring options for the particular environments the meetups would be located in. Generally speaking 25ft seems to be a safe maximum for HDMI. I’ve been meaning to check out the actual specifications on it but for now it’s more than enough regardless.
The splitter wasn’t expensive at all ($16.99), and kind of surprised me considering the costs of the cables. Picture to the right, or above, or somewhere depending on mobile layout.
I needed capture cards for this, one for the line out of the splitter that would capture the slides. The first I had picked up based on suggestions focusing around quality and that was the Avermedia Extreme Cap HDMI to USB 3 Capture Card. It’s really solid for higher resolution and related capabilities. For the USB 3.0 HDMI HD Game Video Capture Card I picked it up based on price (it’s almost a 1/3rd of the price) but not particular focused on quality. However, now that I’ve used both they are capable and seem fine, so I might have been able to just buy two of the cheaper options.
The camera, ideally, I’d have a much higher quality one but the Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder has actually worked excellently. A little less feature rich for audio out and related things, but it zooms in good and can record at the same time I’m getting the cam feed into the stream. So it’s always a nice way to have a backup of the talk.
At first thought, I made the mistake that just the gear would be enough but holy smokes there were about a million other things I needed to write. I created meetup.md to get the list going.
Jazz Influence Amidst the Heaviness!
As promised. Some music, not actually jazz, but heavily influenced by some jazz, progressive instrumentation, and esoteric, expansive, exquisite playing skills by the band. As always, be prepared. My music referrals aren’t always gentle! Happy code streaming!
I sat down and made a short video of my systems setup and related gear. I’ve always enjoyed seeing other peoples’ setups so figured I’d join the mix and show you all what I work with. Happy to answer any questions too, cheers!
In addition to the video intro I’ve created some additional repositories and related things that I use frequently that may be useful.
Ubuntu Dev Setup Repository: This repo dev-setup-ubuntu has some installation scripts and related collateral that I use to get virtual machines built in an automated way. The focus of this is for setting up development boxes and not for setting up servers.