WorthyD’s Great Keyboard Test

Everyone I work with knows I’m a mechanical keyboard nutcase. I’ve owned 4 mechanical keyboards and I’ve been tempted to invest and build the great and legendary ErgoDox keyboard. I originally purchased a mechanical keyboard because I kept breaking keyboards at work from heavy use and because of hand fatigue. I take credit for converting 3 people at my work for switching to mechanical keyboards. It’s not 100% true, but I have an ego to feed.

So what makes a mechanical keyboard better than an average keyboard? The standard keyboard nowadays operates with a rubber membrane that require a decent amount of force to press. Mechanical keyboards have (you guessed it) a mechanical switch behind every key. These mechanical switches require less force to press than membranes and last up to 50 million operations. WASD keyboards has a great guide page on mechanical keyboards. Check it out if you want to learn more about mechanical keyboards.

So what’s the big deal? Why aren’t all keyboards mechanical if the benefits great? Well it boils down to cost. A mechanical keyboard will run you between $80 and $200 depending on brand and features. Most people I’ve talked to freak out over the price. Think about it, you spend 8 hours a day typing if you are a developer. You’d drop $200 on a pair of Beats By Dre that you wear most of the day. Don’t you think you should put good money into the piece of equipment you interact with the most?

I’ve really been curious how much faster my typing speed is with a mechanical compared to other keyboards. I came up with a big super scientific test to see what keyboards I could type fastest on. I took a five one minute tests with each keyboard I could get my hands one. The tests were from typingtest.com and the same test was taken each time. There was a one day break between each keyboard.

The Contenders

Logitech G15 – $60-ish original retail – I really liked this keyboard. It’s non-mechanical, but has a lot of nifty features to make up for it.
Apple’s Keyboard – $50 – I really like the keys on this keyboard, but I don’t like the windows and alt keys being flipped. This keyboard actually uses a scissor switch membrane. It allows for a very thin key with a short travel distance.
Microsoft Comfort Curve 3000 – $15 – There are ton of these around now. I really don’t like them…..
Microsoft Comfort Curve 2000 – $20 4 years ago – There were a ton of these around several years ago… now they are going for 50 bucks on Amazon? You couldn’t give these away 4 years ago. It’s a great basic cheap (at one point in time) keyboard.
Razer BlackWidow – $80 my version – I have a very early run that has Cherry MX Blue switches. The new ones use a different, but still great switch. This was my first mechanical keyboard and I’ve gotten a lot of good use out of it. I currently loan it out to friends to try out. It’s clicky and really loud, but I feel like I can type really fast on it.
Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth -$150 – I have a Cherry MX Brown version. The backlit keys are awesome. Cherry Browns are much quieter than Blues. They have a bump instead of a click. They require less actuation force, but I feel like I don’t type as fast on it.
CM Storm QuickFire Stealth – $80 – I picked up two tenkeyless versions of this keyboard a couple of years ago and it’s my absolute favorite. The smaller travel distance from keyboard to mouse is very comfy and cuts down on a decent amount of work space.

It’s worth noting that there is actually a Cherry MX Switch shortage right now. Mechanical keyboard popularity has gone through the roof recently. Manufacturers have started using different switches and retailers are jacking prices up pretty bad on keyboards still using Cherry switches.

The Results
Keyboard Average WPM Average MPM Highest WPM
G15 69 5.4 76
Apple Keyboard 70 1.4 78
Microsoft 3000 69 8.4 75
Microsoft 2000 77.4 7.6 83
BlackWidow w/ Blues 82.4 6.4 86
BlackWidow w/ Browns 81.4 7.3 82
CMStorm w/ Blues 84 6.2 88

wpm – words per minute. mpm – mistakes per minute

I wasn’t really surprised by the results. I was happy to see that my current keyboard had the highest average WPM. Lets put this in perspective. There is 480 minutes in a work day. Lets say you’re actually typing for 75% of that (360 minutes). I would average about 25,200 words in a day with the Apple Keyboard. I would average 30,240 with my CMStorm with Blues. That’s a pretty large different when you are looking at productivity of typing in general. Coding involves a lot of numbers and special characters. WPM isn’t very accurate in measuring productivity in coding, but I still feel like it’s a decent base to test off of.

I originally picked up a mechanical keyboard for the durability and comfort, but I now know that I can get more work done while using one. My purchases have been fully justified! Now the real question, when are you going to switch?

2014 in Review

We’re a month into 2015 and I haven’t given much time to look back at 2014.

Project Related

I really can’t go into specific detail, but I got to do some pretty cool stuff.
I got to do work on the Bella Vista Animal Shelter’s website. We upgraded their old web experience into a responsive build with a CMS. We spent an afternoon out at the shelter doing volunteer work. It was really great building an emotional connection with the organization.

I also wrote three applications using AngularJS. This has to be the highlight of the year for me. I’m fairly confident I published the first Angular app in the company. It wasn’t the flashiest, but it caught a several people’s attentions.

I got to work with one of our larger development teams. I frequently solo and occasionally double team projects. I actually got to spend a good part of the year working closely with 5 other developers. I introduced a new project branching model with them and we worked out the kinks before preparing it for the rest of the company.

In December, I got to participate in a Rapid Innovations Workshop at our Dallas office. I haven’t gotten to go down there to see the team in over a year and it was really great to catch up with them. The workshop was fun and a lot of great things came out of it.

I sneaked in an published my first app a couple days before the new year. It’s for Windows 8 and not really something to submit for contests or whatever. As a developer, you get ideas on an hourly basis and you have a giant pile of “side projects” that you do in your spare time. I’m really excited that I got it published. It’s a Steam Achievement Tracker for seeing achievements in Steam games.

Skills I Learned or Polished.

I made a really big effort to increase my productivity this year. The two big things I did was make a large effort in improving my VIM and console capabilities. I started using Git through the command line.

I did a lot in the JavaScript world. I spent about 3 months in Angular, most of the year learning the ins and outs of Grunt, and played around a lot with other frameworks like HandlebarsJS.
A developer that stops learning new stuff will become obsolete in a matter of months.

Other Cool Stuff

I participated in the Extra Life gaming marathon. A bunch of coworkers and myself gamed for 24 hours straight and we raised $804 for Children’s Miracle network hospitals.

I built a lot of cool stuff for our new house. I made a 6′ by 4′ table, a mega L desk for my computer, a bed for Lily, a toy chest for Lily, a Tardis bookshelf, some shelves in our bathrooms, a bunch of garage storage stuff and installed a fire pit. I’ve acquired quite a few new gadgets over the last year too.

I’m really anxious this year. I’m planning on participating in the Rockfish Probono work, doing the Extra Life marathon again, and bolstering more of my development skills.

Improving my console skills

I read The Pragmatic Programmer twice in 2014. It’s a great book that focuses on improving your general development skills. I took on two goals for 2014 after I read the book. I wanted to improve my competency in VIM and improve my skills in the console.

I’m heavy into Windows. The console has always made me nervous. I always feel like I’m going to execute the wrong command and break something. GUIs are my friend. I’ve used the command line for two things in the past: Mercurial/Git and xcopy for deployments. The last half of 2014 was spent “playing” with the console. I installed Console2 and I created a bunch of .bat files for shortcut cd commands, launching random apps, and other small commands.

I really wanted to get proficient in Cygwin this year. I gave it a try for a day and really struggled with it. A coworker of mine recommended using PowerShell instead. I had better luck with it than Cygwin. Things were going just OK until Scott Hanselman saved the day… like he always does for me…. He’s done a bunch PowerShell blog posts with tools.

There are tons of other tools and utilities to enhance PowerShell. I’ve been really excited to dive into it. I’ve managed to change several 5 minute GUI based mundane tasks into PowerShell scripts that execute in seconds. This has saved me HOURS at work over the last few weeks alone.

Becoming proficient in the console sounds like a really boring thing to study and become good at, but you will eventually pick up some really cool tricks that will make it all worth it.

Ten years of Halo 2

Where were you ten years ago? We’re asked frequently in job interviews “Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?” This is a really hard question to answer. I like thinking of where I was ten years ago and see how far I’ve come. Gaming has always been an important part of my life and I occasionally like to think “What was I doing in gaming ten years ago?”

Ten years ago, my life was FULL of gaming. I was working for GameStop. I was a seasonal hire. I was hired in October and my position was over a week after the New Year. I just had a four month spurt of unemployment and was in the middle of my junior year of college. I wouldn’t say I was strapped for cash or anything. I was working weekends at a local paintball store. I ended up being the only holiday hire out of six to be offered a permanent position. I ended up passing and going to work for a local grocery store chain.

The fall of 2004 was an amazing time to work for a video game store. Fable was released a few week before I started. There was a lot of negative feedback due to the game not living up to expectations. We had a lot of trad-ins of the game my first week. I got to experience the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 and The World of Warcraft releases. These games were milestones and set the standards for the games of that generation. World of Warcraft is still a very relevant MMORPG. San Andreas recently made it to the hand held market and KOTOR eventually evolved into an MMORPG that couldn’t live up to the reputation of its predecessor. One game topped all of these for me and it set the standard for my preference of games ever since.

Halo 2 was the only game that was released in the fall of 2004 that had a midnight release. The game was released on November the 9th 2004. There were roughly one hundred and twenty people hanging outside the store at 11:55pm and just about everyone had paid for the game in full. This event was the easiest shift I ever worked. Everybody was excited for the game and we were ready to serve. I took a hint and picked up an XBox the next week.

I tried to do things right. I played through the original Halo and this was extremely challenging for me. Goldeneye and Perfect Dark were the only FPS games I had experience in and the dual control stick layout took some getting used to. Halo was conquered over a weekend and Halo 2’s campaign was destroyed shortly after that. My gaming preferences were drastically changed after this experience.

I’ve never been big into the multiplayer experience. I was much more into the story. The Halo franchise has a very detailed universe and Halo 2 introduced the players to the other side of the story. The first game involved the super soldier, but the second game put you in the shoes of the enemy of the first game, the Covenant. You learn about the different species of the Covenant and experience the tension of the defeat from the first game. I had never played a game with this type of story telling. A lot of people didn’t like the fact you didn’t play the whole game as Master Chief, but I thought it was brilliant.

Over ten years, I’ve played all the Halo games, read most of the books, watched the TV series, and watched a lot of Red vs Blue. I can’t say Halo 2 was my favorite. It was the game that caught my attention and made Halo my favorite game series of all time. Halo: The Master Chief Collection comes out tomorrow. It crams Halo remastered, Halo 2 remastered, Halo 3 and Halo 4 into one game. I don’t own an XBox One, but I anxiously await the day I do so that I can re-experience ten years worth of awesome gaming.

Bootstrap – The framework you hate for all the wrong reasons.

Disclaimer: The thoughts in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of my employer past, present or future.

I’ve been sick in bed the past few days. I tend to do a lot of reading when I’m down and I stumbled on a several articles criticizing the Bootstrap framework. (I also got going on Single Page Web Applications, but that’s for a different time.) I got pretty motivated to express my opinions from my experience with the framework.

I’ve been utilizing the Bootstrap framework for over a year now. I’ve had a lot of success with it and it always amazes me how much hate it gets. I’ve spent a lot of time in their source code and I have a really good understanding of how everything works. I’ve done a lot of responsive work outside of Bootstrap and I’m pretty comfortable arguing for or against it.

This is one of the tag lines from Bootstrap’s web site. Do I believe it’s true? Yes, I do.

Designed for everyone, everywhere.

Bootstrap makes front-end web development faster and easier. It’s made for folks of all skill levels, devices of all shapes, and projects of all sizes.

There is one big thing that gets overlooked a lot when looking at Bootstrap. Bootstrap is trying to do two big things. It’s a responsive grid framework and a responsive UI framework. The UI part of the framework provides styled static elements like inputs and buttons, and also has a set of interactive components that work well on a smaller screen.

So what’s with all the hate? I have a few reasons I’ve heard and theories I have.

You have to use a bunch of random classes to get it to work.

I see a lot of this. There is a trade off though. Many single class elements end up with countless rules that get over ridden based on it’s parents elements or the current media query. It’s a trade off. Do you want more rules in your style sheet or more classes on your element?

It’s bulky.

The full CSS library is around 130kb and the JavaScript library is around 30kb. Is this heavy at a glance? Yes, but there are three things you can do if you don’t like this.

    1. Utilize a CDN – There are several providers that serve up the full Bootstrap package over a CDN. A CDN will provides speed by caching the content and your browser will download it faster because it’s on a different domain
    2. Build your own Bootstrap package – This is the less obvious choice, but you can really slim down the package by using their tool. You can also download their source code and create a custom build yourself.
    3. Do both 1 and 2 – There should be other static assets in your project. You might as well invest in the service.

It’s trendy and people only want to use it because “Bootstrap” is a buzz word right now.

There is a lot of truth behind this statement. Bootstrap is extremely popular right now because it’s fairly new. jQuery had a similar buzz around it after it hit mainstream.

It’s not not suitable for large scale applications.

I couldn’t disagree more. Bootstrap’s consistent naming patterns make it ideal for large teams working on large projects. A fully custom responsive implementation requires a lot of documentation and communication across the team. The likely hood of a class being misused is pretty high. With Bootstrap, everyone can easily know how the grid works and work through new pages quickly. I’ve seen a large number of backend developers wire up pages using Bootstrap with ease. This introduces a level of efficiency that can be extremely challenging to replicate with a custom responsive implementation.

All Bootstrap sites look the same.

Did you expect to use Bootstrap and not have to code your own CSS? Checkout Wrap Bootstrap and see if you can tell if the sites are “exactly the same”. I roll my eyes at this comment a lot. It is very common to come across websites that look stamped with the Bootstrap CSS, but imagine what these sites would look like without it.

Web Designer: I don’t want to design for it.

Ok, that’s nice. Don’t want to be limited to 12 columns? That can be changed by a couple keystrokes in a LESS file. Don’t like the default buttons and inputs? A little custom CSS will fix that. The only thing we can’t do is recreate a design based on a non-grid layout. Most CSS responsive frameworks have limitations when working with non-grid based layouts. Just do whatever you want. Clever front end developers will figure out how to do it.

Front End Developer: I have spent a lot of time learning to be an expert on responsive.

Don’t worry about this. I personally know several SQL developers that panicked when Linq to SQL/Entity Framework came out. They thought that they would be out of the job because anyone who knew C#/VB would be writing their SQL for them. This is 100% not true. A framework can get you 90% there. Knowledge and experience will get you the rest of the way. The experience you have in the core technology is always relevant. The same can be said about jQuery and JavaScript. jQuery made JavaScript 100Xs easier to write. CSS precompilers can be thrown in this boat too. jQuery and Linq also introduced ways to write really bad JS and SQL if you weren’t careful. Bootstrap is no different. It can help you write simple and quick responsive elements, but can also create overly complicated and complex elements. As an experienced FE Dev, it’s your responsibility to identify the right and wrong ways.

You’re old fashioned and boring

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I really hate LESS. I’ve been using it heavily for a year now. I just hate it. I see too much bad code, improperly named global variables, hundreds of media queries that could be consolidated, and excessively over qualified selectors due to nesting. Bootstrap contains the ONLY LESS files I’ve seen that do something cool. They create loops for generating the CSS for the grid layout and calculate out exact widths with it.

I feel like I have much cleaner and better performing CSS without LESS, but it takes me a little bit longer to do. You could say the same about Bootstrap. A lot of people said the same thing about JavaScript with jQuery and SQL with LinqToSQL. These tools and libraries get widely adopted and we can’t avoid working without them. I’ve seen a lot of bad JavaScript due to jQuery and several websites crash due to bad Linq statements. Why do I continue to use LESS, jQuery, and Linq? Efficiency. I can code with or without them. It doesn’t matter. I want to be versatile and quick. I can get stuff done a lot quicker with them. The same can be applied to Bootstrap. It’s a new tool that introduces a lot of efficiencies. It can also introduce potential inefficiencies much like the tools above, but a good developer should catch these before they become a problem.

Bootstrap is a very capable front end framework that makes responsive easy and quick to implement. This is much like what jQuery did with JavaScript. Is Bootstrap something I’m going to implement on every one of my projects? No, but it will be my goto framework when a project fits the mold and I can save time. It’s another tool to add to my toolbelt that will allow me to be innovative and more versatile.

Debug your AngularJS app with AngularJS Batarang

I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to start working on several AngularJS applications and I can honestly say I haven’t had more fun geeking out on a project. They are internal projects so I can’t really show them off and brag about them, but I am really happy with my work. It’s not perfect, but I feel like they are pretty good for the first few runs.

On this last project, I hit a really big snag on performance. I was working on a grid with inline editing that required specifically formatted inputs. I cannot deny I’m an Angular rookie, but I really wasn’t sure where I should start with debugging the issue.

I stumbled on AngularJS Batarang while looking at a couple of Chrome extensions. Long story short, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for and more. Check out this video that shows the features.

Checkout this extension if you are new to Angular or are looking to optimize your Angular app. It’s really easy to use and extremely helpful.

So you want to program for a living?

I love coding for a living. I’ve done a lot in the job market since I started working. I’ve worked at a video game store, a paintball field, several small business, several grocery stores and other random jobs. Nothing can compare to coding. I get to build really cool stuff and it’s never boring.

I’ve really wanted to be involved in this part of the computer industry for as long as I could remember. I’ve always loved video games. In 3rd grade I wanted to be a video game tester. I got a VHS tape from Nintendo Power that showed the testing process of Donkey Kong Country. I thought this would be the coolest job in the world. This is essentially called “QA” for Quality Assurance. I didn’t know that this has very little to do with making games and I didn’t really want to do this. I eventually realized I wanted to actually program the video games. It’s been a real long journey that had taken many delays, but ultimately led to the greatest career I could ever dream of.

I get shadowed by a lot of high school students who are interested in the programming industry. The number one question I get asked is “How do I get started?” This is a very loaded question that doesn’t have an easy answer.

The first and most important question you need to ask yourself is: “Do I have the right personality to be a programmer?” Wanting to make a video game or making the next big iPhone application isn’t enough. This breaks down into several smaller questions.

  • Do you have good problem solving skills? You’ll spend a lot of time looking at a blocks of code that don’t work and you will be expected to fix them in a timely manner.
  • Are you good at working behind the scenes with other people? Programmers are more like roadies than rockstars. We make sure everything is working and setup correctly. The rockstars are the ones who sell what you work on to clients and present your projects at conferences.
  • Are you wanting to do this for the fun and excitement of the industry? A programmer’s compensation varies severely due to many different factors. What region of the country do you work in, what is the demand of your technology, what is the quality of your work?
  • How do you handle pressure? There is no room for procrastinators here. Deadlines are very important. Pushing them back isn’t always an option.

You have the personality? Great! The next step is to learn to code. My recommendation is to start early. I took Visual Basic in the 11th grade and C++ in 12th (this may not be early by today’s standards, but it was for 2000). I had picked up a little HTML along the way too. I learned about project planning and databases in college. I had a small amount of knowledge in a large number of fields. I see this as really the best way to go. You will have professionally trained instructors who are available to help you out. This may not always be an option for everyone. You can get similar instruction now a days from online courses. Code Academy and Microsoft Virtual Academy offer great courses to get you started.

You need to have an idea of what you want to program before trying to get into the job market. Coding a video game isn’t always a direct hire situation. It’s frequently a hobby thing that turns into a real job if you are really good and lucky. iPhone and Android programming is very targeted and you may have difficulty finding a good job in it right off the back. Most iOS and Android devs that I know got started in server or web development. Learning a flexible language like Java or C# will make you versatile enough to be able to apply for many different types of programming jobs.

I think getting hired at your first job is the hardest part of wanting to be a programmer. Most places want several years experience. How can you get experience when no one wants to risk hiring a greed developer? The easiest answer is to find an internship when you are in college. The second is to freelance. A lot of developers I know love to freelance. It’s not for me.

The type of environment you work in is very important. I like to work with a lot of other developers in a relaxed environment. Not all jobs are like this. You may have to wear a suit and you are the only developer in the company. You may have to work in a cramped cubicle farm with fifty other developers. Make sure it’s in a environment you are happy with. You wont produce quality work if you aren’t happy where you are working.

Your resume and interview are extremely important too. Don’t bloat your skills on your resume. I read a lot of resumes and it’s pretty easy to spot. You can’t have 9 years of relative experience in a programming language if you just got out of high school. Separate out your academic experience and what you feel is truly professional experience. I outlined my academic programming languages in my interview with my current company (COBOL FTW). They greatly appreciated the modesty and asked a lot of questions about the work I did in the classes. These turned into discussions about my passion to code and build applications. Modesty goes a long way in interviews. Focus on your passion for code and don’t boast about being a code “rockstar” or “ninja”.

Ok, so lets say you scored that awesome first job. Welcome to the club, now it’s time to keep the ball rolling. This industry never stops and you can be kicked out quicker than you got in. You don’t want to go from coding to sacking groceries because you spent 15 years coding a legacy language and not ever learning anything new. You need to build a reputation for yourself and prove your long term worth. You can do this by expanding your knowledge in new programming languages, networking with other developers and most importantly, learn how to do your job the absolute best way possible.

My journey to this point in my career has been pretty amazing. I’ve gotten very lucky with the opportunities put in front of me and I’ve been very fortunate to work with some very inspiring and talented people. I wouldn’t say it was perfect, but I tried to fail forward the best I could. Your career is ultimately what you make it.

So, do you think you have what it takes to be a code monkey?

I am a Web Developer

I am a web developer, and we could be the most complicated and strange people you have or ever will interact with.

We grew up building LEGO models asking ourselves the question, “How can I make this bigger?” We played videos games thinking, “How can I build this?” We were fans of both Star Trek and Star Wars, because we knew the only thing they remotely had in common was the word Star. We wore bow ties before the Doctor said they were cool.

Now we work in the dark corners of our offices, ruling over the kingdom that is our code. We take other people’s ideas, bring them to life and at times lack the ability to explain how it works. We find it difficult to integrate with our co-workers because our interests are typically polar opposites. We try socialize, but it usually ends in awkward situations.

We use different web browsers and read news from different sources. We see viral videos before they went viral; we bought the latest tech gadgets before they were announced (and we never show it off); and we already know which console will be the best in the next generation.

We frequently fix bugs with descriptions of “It’s broken,” and we still somehow manage to find and fix it. We work off general ideas and play the guessing game instead of working with structured documents telling us what to build. We are left off the ending credits, and we don’t mention it. We celebrate with other developers and brag amongst ourselves.

We thrive off complex problem solving and we do not have an off switch. We go to sleeping thinking about what problems we left at work and wake up eager to get back to make it better. We fight internal struggles to throw our work out the window and start from scratch to make it perfect. We don’t ask, “How can this make more money?” Instead, we ask, “How can we make this better?” We don’t ask, “Why?” We ask, “Why not?”

We don’t get always along with other developers. Our code is our art and we think our own art is perfect. Our brains are answering the same questions with different paths to the solution. Some of us code for scale, some for maintainability, and some for complexity. We always feel that our way is the right way. We will bang our heads on our desks for hours and not ask for help because we are too proud. We will say “Oh yeah” or “How did I miss that?” when someone walks over to us and bravely asks us “What’s up?” or “Can I help?”

Some of us try to get ahead by boasting abilities and using the terms “Ninja”, “Guru” and other technology buzz words. The humble among us know that our work speaks volumes above the words on our LinkedIn profiles. None of us know everything, but all of us are eager to learn as much as we can.

United, developers can do anything. They will build a global e-commerce platform and then build you a social network capable of handling millions of users. We don’t care if it reaches that number, but we do care that it can.

We are here to build what you need, and we patiently wait for the next challenge.

Disclaimer:
My right eye was swollen shut when writing this. Please be sympathetic on spelling and grammar