Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Raspberry Pi 'Gotchas' and new buyer tips

Summary: 7 key things to know before you 'simply' get a Raspberry Pi:
  1. Power supply may not deliver enough power ("5 Volts" might only deliver 4.6 Volts, and cause problems)
  2. Old computer monitor cannot simply use HDMI-to-VGA cable (needs powered 'converter')
  3. Keyboard and mouse may not be 'verified' (most work, but worth checking, and using a USB hub
  4. SD Memory card size/speed, corruption, and copying 'disk image' issues (see esp 4.3 below for extra 'mini-gotchas', e.g. special software needed to copy files from laptop
  5. Configuration settings are hard (cryptic, and unexpected format)
  6. Think clearly about the 'total cost of ownership'
  7. Know where to get help - especially the many user forums


The Raspberry Pi cheap-computer-on-a-board has taken the world by storm, finding enthusiastic uses among hobbyists, educators, pupils, geeks, developing nations, inventors, tinkerers, computer scientists, and numerous other communities.

"Wow, this is great for my child! I can just grab an old keyboard, mouse, monitor, memory card and mobile phone charger, and we're ready to go!" 

Whoa: not so fast.

Yes, the Raspberry Pi is an absolutely brilliant concept and fully-working product, and it is re-injecting a lot of energy and creativity into all the communities mentioned above. And the creators have never claimed anything like 'ready to go'.  But, people are treating it that way, and there are a number of hurdles that are not entirely obvious to the first-time buyer, i.e. so-called 'gotchas' (as in 'I've got you, I've gotcha'), so I thought it would be useful to enumerate them and provide a few pointers and links.  Remember, I am not trying to scare you off, or pour cold water on your enthusiasm.  I love this thing, but I hate to see people running around in circles when a bit of care at the beginning could pre-empt a lot of headache.  These remarks are especially aimed at those seeking to reuse common components already lying around the house (a great idea, and one of the attractions of the low-cost Pi). This first version has a number of Windows-specific remarks, but the general comments about hardware are relevant to all users.

In my opinion, if you do not address the following 'Gotcha List' right at the beginning your Raspberry Pi experience, you can spend a lot of time chasing false leads to fix problems that actually have a simpler root cause!

Gotcha ('got-you') List:

1. Power supply may not deliver enough power

Sub-standard power can cause numerous problems, including intermittent or erroneous keyboard and mouse responses.  The Pi uses a widely-available 'micro-USB' charge connector, which means that a spare mobile phone charger, or even an Amazon Kindle charger, will fit nicely.  It just needs the 'standard' 5 volts DC output.  But not all standards are standard!  Two of my chargers delivered only 4.65 volts, and that's not good enough (it is believed that 4.75volts or greater is sufficient, or more generally 5volts +/- 5%).  So you need a genuine decent-quality 5volt power supply.
[Technical followup]  [User forums]  

2. Computer monitor cannot just use 'adapter' cable

A simple HDMI-to-VGA cable is insufficient, and will cause intermittent problems and crashes. Many great monitors, including older ones around your house or office, use(d) the standard 'VGA' (Video Graphics Array) connector, which is an analog standard.  But the Pi outputs the modern HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface), which is a digital standard. There are cables to connect the two, but they not only cause a degradation of quality, but also (worse) draw far too much power from the Pi for it to operate in a stable manner, and the result can be very erratic and inconsistent behaviour in any number of ways that appear to have nothing to do with the display itself. You must (a) use a separately-powered HDMI-to-VGA converter, and (b) change your configuration settings accordingly (see section 5 below).
[User forum discussion on 'HDMI to VGA converter' issues]

3. Keyboard and mouse may not be 'verified'

All USB keyboards are not equivalent, and the same goes for computer mice. They can draw too much power from the Pi and, as above, can result in erratic or inconsistent behaviour.  In many cases, you can indeed just plug in a keyboard and mouse and you will be fine.  But please check the list of verified peripheral devices, and bear this problem in mind if you have trouble.  I advise you to (a) use a powered USB hub through which you connect the keyboard and mouse, and (b) double-check the list of verified peripherals.

4. Memory card challenges

The type of card, its vulnerability to corruption, and the challenge of resetting it are all worth knowing about.  Many experts call this aspect of the setup 'easy', but they have forgotten what it's like to be a real beginner.  Potential headaches are enumerated in sections 4.1-4.3below.

4.1 Size and speed matter: 
The Pi uses a full-size 'SD' card - the kind found in many cameras.  But it requires a recommended 4GB (4 gigabytes), and older cards that operate at a slower speed may be insufficient (high-speed category '4' or higher is recommended, i.e. the kind used for storing movies on camcorders and cameras).
[Read about Raspberry Pi SD cards]

4.2 Frequent on/off or sudden removal may corrupt the card
If your Pi stops working, or has intermittent problems such as those caused by underlying issues mentioned in sections 1, 2, or 3 above, you may suddenly remove the card, or indeed take out the power adapter or just turn it off and on again to restart the Pi.  The problem is that the Pi may be in an 'in-between' state where it is in the middle of storing or updating information on the memory card, and you may end up with the card in a corrupted state which makes the Pi operate very erratically the next time, or not at all.  You therefore need to be careful, and in particular try to halt the Pi properly with the command
     sudo halt
before unplugging it or turning off the power.  Note that 'sudo' is shorthand for 'Super User Do the following command', and temporarily grants you the permission to execute that command; not all commands or users are eligible for this, but this command should work when you are logged in as the user called 'pi' as explained in the Raspberry Pi Quick Start guide.  You'll have to read more about Linux commands to understand more: a good place to start is to search the web for linux e-books or dummies' guides, and also look at the Raspberry Pi forums about this topic

4.3 Creating/restoring fresh memory card contents is harder than it looks
Even with Quick Start guides and other helpful manuals, there are some 'mini-gotchas' mentioned below that you ought to be aware of.

If you are just starting, or suspect that your card has been corrupted, you need to create what is called a fresh memory image (the 'image' is in effect a verbatim copy or snapshot of the ideal starting configuration for the entire operating system and associated files, all of which are the key ingredients that enable the Pi hardware to do things).  Assuming you are already a computer user of some sort, you will be familiar with the idea of copying files from place to place, including from a memory card to and from your computer's hard disk.  but with these image files, things are different. That is because the contents of these 'image' files cannot just be copied directly from one device to another as if they were Word documents or Notepad files: they need to be 'written' (saved onto the SD memory card' by a special tool.

There are three steps involved, two of which are explained in the Raspberry Pi Quick Start guide, but there are additional 'mini-gotchas' as described below:

a) Formatting the SD memory card - special format tool may be needed

(Gotcha 4.3a: Windows built-in formatting is insufficient if the card is already corrupted or has an 'image' file on it, since it may appear to Windows have only 56MB of memory in total, so you need a 3rd party utility such as SDFormatter, obtainable [here].

b) Obtaining the relevant 'image' file - 'unzip' tool needed

You can get hold of the entire 'card memory image' from

Look for the 'direct download' of Raspbian 'Wheezy', which is just the convenient name for one of the many different veriations of the Linux operating system... this one is deemed particularly suitable for beginners.

(Gotcha 4.3b: the file is compressed in the so-called 'Zip' format, so to uncompress it you need to have a way to perform an 'UnZip', so you need a 3rd party utlity such as WinZip or RAR which are easily found by searching on the web, or it may already be included on your computer)

c) Copying ('writing out to the SD card') the relevant file - special tool needed, not located where you think

Steps 3 and 4 of Rasperry Pi Quick Start manual explain how to do this using a tool called Win32DiskImager, but take note of the following:

(Gotcha 4.3c: if you go to the recommended site to obtain Win32DiskImager, you see the message 'No download files exist for this project')

You can get it here instead:

5. Configuration settings are hard

You will undoubtedly find, when you look around the web for help or discussions on the various Raspberry Pi forums, that at some point you need to edit one or more 'configuration' files, such as the one called 'config.txt' that is visible on your SD card if you put it back into your regular computer/laptop after going through all the setup steps described in the Raspberry Pi Quick Start guide.  In some cases you need to do this to make the screen layout more readable (or visible at all).  If you are happy that everything else described above is in healthy working order, then the main things to watch out for are these:

5.1 Proceed slowly and make small changes
Too many changes make it hard to do incremental 'controlled experiments' to figure out what has gone wrong.

5.2 If possible, make the changes directly on the SD card 

In other words, make these changes while working on the Raspberry Pi, using the simple supplied editor called nano.  To edit the file config.txt for example, you need to know that from the Linux point of view it sites in a directory (i.e. folder) called 'boot', and the command to start the editing is as follows:
     sudo nano -B /boot/config.txt
  • 'sudo' is 'Super User Do' as explained above.
  • 'nano' is the command to invoke the nano editor
  • -B is a special flag to ensure a backup is created, in the case called /boot/config.txt~
  • /boot/config.txt is the actual file you will be editing
The nano editor displays relevant commands at the bottom of the screen, with the symbol '^' used to signify the Control (CTRL) key on your keyboard, so ^X means CTRL-X, i.e. Control key and 'x' at the same time, which is how you exit nano.  [Read more about nano]

5.3 If editing via Windows, use a true plain text editor like 'Notepad++'
Powerful text processors such as Word, and even ordinary 'Notepad', may display and/or save files in the wrong format (e.g. the conventions for end of line are different in Windows and Linux), so it is often preferable to use a 3rd-party tool such as 'Notepad++' which does the right thing.

5.4 Try to understand what the settings actually do

This is not easy, and is beyond the scope of this article.  But here are three links to help you out:

6. Think clearly about the 'total cost of ownership'

This point is merely to remind you that there are going to be some worthy 'extras' involved, and you could do worse than reading the online article "The true cost of the Raspberry Pi - essential accessories for new users"

7. Know where to get help - especially the many user forums

Searching the web and especially the forums will be crucial for finding answers to common problems.  Here are my personal favourites:

That's it, folks! Now go and explore, and enjoy! 

Please feel free to re-use any/all of the above comments, but attribution by linking to
would be appreciated.  Comments and corrections are also appreciated.

-Marc E, 16th April 2013

Logitech bluetooth keyboard, iPad touch typing

As an experienced high-speed touch typing user with years of iPad use, I thought it would be useful to report on how I'm getting along with the iPad both with and without an external keyboard (article continues below photo).

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard/cover for iPad 2

Summary: on-screen typing 'good enough', but still frustrating even after 3 years; Logitech is great.

Now for a few more detailed remarks...

Touch typing directly on the iPad: For short emails and general browsing, it's 'good enough', especially since having the iPad as an instant-on go-anywhere device is hard to beat.  One tip I would suggest is to force yourself NOT to look at the keys, and look at the results instead: this will help improve your accuracy over the long run, especially for awkward key combinations that you keep missing.  To be 100% honest, even though I absolutely love my iPad, typing on the screen is still a source of frustration after several years of regular use!  I'm forever correcting keystrokes, and even if you're only correcting 10% of the things you enter, that is WAY too much.

Touch typing with the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard (bluetooth): In one word, hallelujah!  I've typed long emails and multi-page documents on it with no problem.  It doubles as a cover (OK, not as thin as the iPad's own smart cover, but hey, life is full of tradeoffs), and makes bringing my iPad instead of my laptop a no-brainer for short trips, holidays, etc.  Forget about using your iPad as a laptop replacement: it's never going to do that, and it doesn't need to (I'm typing this article on my laptop, which in fact is configured more like a desktop, with a large external monitor and my favourite keyboard, the Das Keyboard with blank keys - but that's my preferred way of working whenever feasible).  The main virtues of the Logitech keyboard are as follows:

  • Good layout
  • Super thin
  • Doubles as cover
  • My accuracy as good as desktop keyboard
  • Comfortable viewing angle
  • Works for me on table or lap (others don't like it on lap) 
In a nutshell: highly recommended!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Which laptop for students? [Updated January 2012]

[Update 8th January 2012: I use my iPad all the time, but everything I wrote below still applies... I've added a link for anyone looking seriously at iPad or tablets as a writing solution]

My friends often ask me "which laptop should I get for my son/daughter, and where?". So, assuming you have done your due diligence, and already read my 'Laptops Considered Harmful' posting, here goes:

SHORT VERSION: if you and/or your child are already familiar/comfortable with a Mac, then stick with that, otherwise go with a commodity brand name (I happen to like Dell and HP, and have had great experiences with both); in the UK, I always buy from one of 3: (a) John Lewis, (b) PC World, (c) Dell Direct because of decent prices and good return/replacement policies... John Lewis generally gives better extended warranties. NetBooks/iPads: great, but stay away if you want to do extended writing (more below). Be sure to test drive your choice for an extended period in the shop - take it to a table if possible to see how it feels! Don't forget to count software into the cost (e.g. student discounts for Office, required after the bundled one expires in 60 days), and since RAM is ridiculously cheap, get lots.


I'm a very long-term user of both PC and Mac, since the 'very earliest days' of both... which in one sense doesn't help readers a lot, but in another sense at least I can give a great un-biased perspective. I even use both in a hybrid form when suitable (running Windows within the 'Parallels' environment on my Mac... works fine), but generally prefer to use each on its own dedicated machine.

I use them in somewhat different ways, but my opinion is that you should:

a) place physical comfort (hands, eyes, back), speed, and familiarity (which keystrokes can you do without looking) much higher on your list of priorities than most people acknowledge (both PC & Mac are so good and powerful these days, and both have their 'down and dirty configuration weirdness', so that's really not grounds for discriminating!)

b) test drive if at all possible

The reason I mention (a) is that long-term laptop use can be tougher on your hands, eyes, and back/neck than a lot of people realise... and the 'keyboard feel and layout' is really extremely important to me. [As you can probably tell from the other postings on this site I feel very strongly about this, and advocate using little 'laptop stands' with a separate keyboard... but most students would find that horribly embarrassing, so worry about that next year.]

I absolutely LOVE my MacBook, and do lots of web browsing, iTunes/iPod/iPhoto/iPhone sync, browsing, publishing, and general emailing on it... BUT when I have some mission-critical spreadsheet, lengthy document preparation and/or high-security (virtual private network) tasks, I simply prefer to do those on my Dell Latitude or HP Paviliion laptop! [NOTE: in 2010 I migrated from a Dell Latitude to an HP Pavilion laptop running Windows 7, chosen entirely because the HP Pavilion had a decent keyboard and the shortest distance from my eyes to the screen while sitting in a comfortable typing position!].

The Mac is a more 'pleasurable' experience in the way that driving a really nice car feels more rewarding than driving a bog-standard nondescript 'vehicle'. However, there are a handful of things I can still accomplish much more quickly on a PC, and even though the 'virtual PC' on the Mac does in fact allow me to have both very nicely in one compact machine (which I do), if my life depended on it I would (reluctantly) grab my Windows laptop. I say 'reluctantly' because it's less fun, less cool (they're working on that), less pleasant - but hey, if your life depends on it, what can you do?

It's like playing electric, folk, and classical guitars... you can really 'get into the groove' with any of them (a better analogy would be something with slightly different fingerings, e.g. saxophone and clarinet), but if you're purchasing a new one you need to think clearly about which groove you want to be in.

The reality is that both (PC commodity laptops and MacBooks) are so good that for me the deciding factor is which keyboard combos and eyeball-distance-to-screen match best with the mood I'm in... they are infuriatingly incompatible in subtle ways... and if I have to do an urgent 3-hour spreadsheet job, I'm simply much faster using Excel on Windows, even though Mac Excel is perfectly good. So it depends what you want to do and what you're most familiar with.

I've mostly emphasised Mac-vs-PC and test driving, because the 'technical specs' are all pretty good, essentially, as long as you have enough memory to run things (typically 2GB-4GB RAM these days). Extra memory (RAM especially) is always good, and a ridiculously cheap investment these days. You always need more...

NetBooks/iPads: Stay away from those cute little NetBooks if you intend to use them for actual writing that lasts more than 20 minutes: you will spend more on RSI (repetetive strain injury) treatment than you've saved on the cute little NetBook. I've been through a few of those too (the original Asus Eee, a Fujitsu 'LifeBook', and a Dell Mini), and I love 'em, but they're really for niche usage (travel/kitchen/etc!) and not for long-term use. Most niche uses have been superseded by my iPad2 anyway: regarding iPads and tablets, I have long extolled the wonders of this form factor for consuming content (see my article 'Truth About The Tablet PC' from 2004). The iPad is a ground-breaking improvement on the tablet concept, but only as a 'third or fourth computer' in my opinion (laptop, smartphone, iPad-or-tablet, desktop - in no particular order, depending on your needs), and definitely not for long-term writing or content creation! I like the 'up-close' reading capabilities of the iPad/tablet form factor, but if you do a lot of typing, even with an external keyboard, you may get annoyed, and I don't think it solves the problem of 'Which laptop for a student?' However, if you want to seriously consider the iPad or a rival tablet for serious keyboard use, take at look at Walt Mossberg's video review of iPad keyboard/case solutions, and be sure to test-drive everything!

Don't forget to count software into the cost. You can get along fine with Linux and OpenOffice (which has improved greatly and does absolutely everything you need), but if you are already familiar with the Microsoft Office suite, then stick with it (student discounts available everywhere... but note that the 'bundled' version supplied with discount laptops usually expires after 60 days). Frankly, it's a political decision now rather than a technical one: If you want to support the open source / free software movement, then use OpenOffice! [But as 'compatible' as OpenOffice is, it simply is not the same as Microsoft Office which I overwhelmingly prefer].

So there you have it... this posting was written originally on a MacBook and finished off on my Dell Latitude laptop connected up to a big-screen monitor with external keyboard! In 2010 I migrated to an HP Pavilion laptop running Windows 7, chosen entirely for the best keyboard/screen-distance 'feel'... and I'm still using the same big-screen monitor and external keyboard.. the famous Das Keyboard with no lables, that I mentioned in an earlier posting.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

CoolStand Laptop Stand Review - using laptop as a desktop

Here on the left is a freshly-unpacked CoolStand (just Google for nearest dealer - I got mine via a third party listed on Amazon.co.uk).

Below is a Dell Latitude X1 slotted in at the 'fully open' position (i.e. laptop fully open, CoolStand set with the 'scissors' position almost entirely closed.

This gives me maximal screen height - I plug in an external keyboard and mouse (OK, so there's a bit of 'desktop wiring clutter'... who cares?), and I get the best computer desktop posture for the money, as long as I sit upright. This is all part of my campaign for better laptop posture to alleviate the curse of persistent back pain, as blogged previously.

Personally, I would rate this CoolStand as "10/10": perfect. Cheap, effective, no fuss, trivial to set up, keeps the laptop cool, exactly what I expected it be, no surprises, and the only one I found that is infinitely variable in terms of the laptop sitting angle. I don't know how it copes with super-heavy laptops (though reviews elsewhere suggest it is fine with this). Also please note that MacBooks may be unsuitable for the CoolStand because you can't open the display fully flat the way you can with many PC laptops like the Dell in the photo.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Review of Logitech Ultra-flat Keyboard

I'm busily re-arranging my work environment so that my posture-killing and back-pain-inducing laptop sits on a stand and I can use an external keyboard and mouse. I picked up this keyboard via Amazon.co.uk - one-day delivery, pretty good! Normally, it's completely idiotic to buy a keyboard by mail-order... you REALLY need to test-drive these things... but if you're desperate, you're desperate, so what the heck...

UK keyboards are inherently brain-damaged in the first place, due to the fact that ENTER/RETURN key is one extra place further to the right of your little finger (in comparison with US keyboards). Generally, I've learned to live with that, though in the past I've gone to the trouble of insisting on US keyboard instead or even buying replacements. You then suffer with crazy '\', '~', and '£' layouts instead, but for day-to-day typing it's worth it. More on that another time... what is this Logitech Ultra-flat keyboard like?

Although TestFreaks.co.uk gave this keyboard 7.3 out of 10 (average of 34 reviews) and Amazon.co.uk reviewers gave it 4* out of 5* (average of 14 reviews), I guess I'm a little fussier.

Yes, it is cheap, stylish, and 'does what it says on the box' (what keyboard doesn't?), but I'm missing the combination of featherlight touch and tactile positive feedback that a great keyboard gives. So, if you're trying to blast along at very high speed, you can feel a little bit like you're stuck in molasses. Not good... it means that with this layout I've swapped back troubles for wrist/forearm troubles. Nevertheless, it is 'good enough' for the short term use I've intended. Maybe that's what 7.3/10 or 4*/5* actually means... fair enough! It means that I'll use it, won't send it back, am happy with 'value for money' (hey, it's cheap), but wouldn't recommend it to my best friends.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Laptops Considered Harmful

After (a) witnessing a colleague stricken down with a neck vertebra injury; (b) falling victim myself to a herniated disc (lower back); (c) informal observation; (d) judicious web searching; and (e) putting 2 and 2 together, it is now blindingly obvious to me (and many others) that long-term laptop usage is seriously bad for your posture, and hence your back, your neck, and your long-term health. But it's worse than you think, precisely because of the deadly combination of
  • the seeming innocence of it all
  • the ease with which that "5-minute email check" turns into 2 hours, unnoticed
  • the cumulative nature of persistent bad posture
  • how debilitating it can be when your spine is really affected
If you think of laptop usage as "just one more cigarette" instead of "just one more email" you'll get a glimpse of the magnitude of the impact. Why isn't this more widely reported? Actually, it is! We just don't notice it, because we love our laptops. For example, check out this report from the UK's Daily Telegraph:
Laptops are crippling millions with back problems

Booming sales of laptops have led to a surge in the number of computer users with back and muscle problems, experts have warned. Girls as young as 12 are being diagnosed with nerve damage caused by slouching over screen...

(Read the full story)

And the 2006 story, "Ergonomic Nightmare of the Week: Laptop Computers" in which the image at the top of this posting appears (thanks!):

Ergonomic Nightmare of the Week: Laptop Computers

Regular use of laptop computers in fact violates the Center for Disease Control’s ergonomics guidelines.

There are three main reasons why laptops fail miserably in ergonomic performance:

  1. The monitor and keyboard are attached. This means you are forced to crane your neck down to see the monitor rather than keep a neutral position
  2. The keyboard is too small, causing the elbows and forearms to pronate inward at an unnatural angle
  3. ...

(Read the full story)

Scare-mongering? Like I've said in my previous posting: Do the maths. DUH!

There are easy solutions (including laptop stands, that I'll be reviewing later).

Monday, 25 August 2008

Three golden rules

1. Learn to touch type: beg, steal, borrow a teach-yourself program. Do the maths: think how many hours you are going to spend in front of a keyboard for the rest of your life, and the productivity gain from typing 2, 5, or 10 times faster than you do now. DUH! I'll try to add some touch typing tutor reviews eventually, but for my money, KAZ overwhelmingly takes the prize for doing what it says on the tin ("Learn in 90 Minutes") with no-nonsense. (Disclosure: I know the guy who wrote it; BUT I only know him because I wrote an unsolicited rave review to the company after trying about 20 rival products, and we met afterwards!)

2. Sort out your desk: chair, keyboard, screen, the works. Do the maths: compare the cost of a decent back-friendly chair with the cost of repeated visits to the back-injury clinic, MD, physio, or chiropractor. DUH!

3. Forget about "just checking my email for 5 minutes": it's the well-known "gambler's fallacy" ("just one more bet and my luck is bound to improve"). Do the maths: what's the true average length of your so-called "5-minute" sessions? Time it! And set a quitting or a pause/break time... DUH!

Confessions of a keyboard junkie, and my credentials

 OK... I'll admit it, I've owned every gadget on the planet: Macs, PCs, PDAs, smartphones, webtablets, you name it. The good news is that I consider myself genuinely neutral about "which operating system", because I use them all, and simply don't care. Instead, I want to provide some long-term user reviews of various keyboards and related software from the standpoint of 'good practice' and productivity, and removing the dangers of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and a number of back pain and neck pain injuries that I see creeping up upon us all, especially caused by poor posture during laptop usage.
I'm motivated by the observation that a manufacturer trying to save a few dollars by using a cheaper keyboard is like Mercedes-Benz opting to install hard-to-reach gas pedals in all of its cars: how annoying would that be?
I'll cite my three strongest credentials (my conventional CV, much as I'm proud of it, is irrelevant to this activity, IMHO, so here's what really counts:
1. I've been a speedy touch-typist (80-100WPM) for over 40 years.
2. I'm a long-term users of the nerdiest keyboard on the planet: Das Keyboard (shown in the picture above... no labels!)
3. I have no allegiances: no employer allegiance (I'm retired, as you may have deduced from my 40+ years of typing experience), no operating system allegiance (I use them all as mentioned above), no form-factor allegiance (I use laptops, desktops, PDAs, phones, tablets, etc in different combinations), no brand allegiance (I use everything from low-spec clones to high-sped Big Brands).
4. OK, OK, so here's a fourth: yes, I've (very selectively) "read the literature".
Right... that's it for my first posting... I hope you find some value in what I've got to say!
Happy keyboarding!