WhiteFox True Fox Keyboard

Finished Project

Nearly four years ago, I picked up a Nixie Clock kit with the plan to build it with my son. He wouldn't be born for another two months. To complete the Nixie Clock, I needed a soldering iron, and I wanted one that would be approachable and usable for a variety of projects, so I also picked up a Hakko FX-888D.

Shortly thereafter, my son was born, my time to work on projects evaporated, I took a new job, moved the family to Boston for a year, we found out we'd have another kiddo, moved to Seattle, my daughter was born, my time further evaporated, so on and so forth.

About 18 months ago, I jumped in on a drop on Massdrop for a WhiteFox keyboard. It delivered just about a year ago, and it has been waiting patiently since then.

I finally got a chance to break out the soldering station for the first time, and assemble the keyboard over the Thanksgiving break from work. The project was really fun, and I'm itching to do another one. My soldering skills improved dramatically simply through repetition, and it was a really fun learning experience[1].

Mid-assembly (on chamois!?)

The keyboard itself is much better than I expected. The gap between the right-modifiers and the arrow keys is exactly as my fingers expect, and it makes things like ⌘+← just as easy as on my WASD Code 87-key, or on my MBP's Keyboard for that matter.

Assembled WhiteFox

Add to that, Input Club has a really nice web-based configuration tool which makes key programming super easy. It means I can futz with the layout until I get it exactly the way I like it. For example, I just realized that I'd likely prefer the ~ key to be just to the left of Esc and all the other num keys right one. This will be no problem at all.

Layout

Of course, this isn't without its caveats. The current firmware (both Latest and LTS) have bugs with the LED functions. Not a dealbreaker, but frustrating.

Oh, that Nixie clock is still waiting. It's almost time.


  1. As an aside, I took the assembly picture while I was working on a chamois for some reason. It didn’t dawn on me until I was reviewing the pictures that a chamois isn’t ESD-safe. Everything turned out just fine, but talk about a noob mistake.  ↩

Modern Data Storage

Since earlier this year, I’ve been making a focused effort to ensure that my and my family’s important data is safe. It’s the closest I ever get to making a New Year’s resolution[1]. When I picked up my 2008 MacPro, a couple years ago, I built my own Fusion Drive, but also threw in a second, larger spinning disk drive for internal Time Machine backups.

Obviously, a single copy is not a backup, and for years I have kept all of my documents in Dropbox. That’s a second copy of most stuff. I signed up for BackBlaze earlier this year as well. That captures everything Dropbox does, plus the few things on my MacPro’s hard drive[2], that aren’t in Dropbox.

On-Site Improvements

I recently added a Synology NAS to the mix. On-site, large storage (with multi-drive redundancy), including multiple user accounts, various web services, and slew of other features made it very appealing. I picked the DS415play, because of the hardware video transcoder, and hot-swappable drives[3].

The Synology also allows each user account to sync their Dropbox (among other cloud storage providers) to a folder in their user home directory, it seemed like a nice way to have a second on-site copy of all of my and Lindsay’s docs.

In addition, the PhotoStation feature will help me solve the issue I’ve been struggling with: how do I make sure that Lindsay and I both have access to our family photos, consistently, effortlessly, and without relying on an intermediary cloud service. Neither of us are interested in uploading all of our photos to Facebook or Flickr just to share them. It also takes thought, effort, and coordination on our parts to get photos our of our Photo Streams give them to one another. I want to minimize that, while ensuring that these photos are well backed up.

Unfortunately, there’s no package to backup my Synology to BackBlaze, and Marco had an article that highlighted his issues trying to make that work, and he wound up settling on Crash Plan. I’ll likely do the same.

Expect posts in the coming weeks about how I’m messing with this stuff. I’ve found it to be a lot of fun, already, and I’m pretty impressed with the Synology. It’s a little fiddly for most people, but if you’re inclined to be a nerd - especially a Unix-y nerd - it’ll be right up your alley.


  1. I’m a big fan of the idea that if something is important to you, you should be doing it already.  ↩

  2. You might have noticed that I’m pretty focused on backing up my MacPro, and I’m much less worried about my rMBP. There are three reasons for this: first, My MacPro has all of my family photos in Aperture libraries that are too big to go into Dropbox; second, everything on the rMBP is in Dropbox, thanks to Dropbox for Business’ ability to sign the app into a work account, and a personal account. I symlinked ~/Documents/ to ~/Dropbox (Under Armour)/Documents/, but I stil have access to my personal dropbox at ~/Dropbox (Personal)/. The only things that aren’t in there are my Downloads folder (which could be easily, and arguably should be), and my ~/Sites/ which I really only use for Cheaters and as a repository for various software and configs routers, switches, WAN Optimization devices, and can be discarded at will.  ↩

  3. Synology’s feature matrix is a bit of a mess, but eventually I decided that hot-swappable drives was a must, which took me up to the DS415, and adding the transcoder was an additional $60, so that made the cut, but each person’s needs are going to be a little different.  ↩

Considering iPhones

Two great reviews of the new iPhones dropped in the past couple days: John Gruber's and Matthew Panzarino's. Both are thoughtful and fairly deep. And while they both touch on the software, they focus almost entirely on the hardware. Interestingly, their conclusions about the biggest (no pun intended) question about the hardware was very similar.

Regarding the size question, here's Gruber:

  • If you simply want a bigger iPhone, get the 4.7-inch iPhone 6. That’s what it feels like: a bigger iPhone.

  • If you want something bigger than an iPhone, get the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. It feels more like a new device — a hybrid device class that is bigger than an iPhone but smaller than an iPad Mini — than it feels like a bigger iPhone.

And here's Panzarino:

The iPhone 6 Plus is a great option for people who don’t have or want an iPad — or simply don’t want to carry it. Where the iPhone 6 is a great upgrade to the iPhone line, the iPhone 6 Plus is a fantastic ‘computer’.

I fall decidedly in the camp that doesn't want to carry an iPad. I've had iPads since the first one. I loved it. I've carried an iPad Mini for the past two years, and I love it ad a device. But I live on my phone. If I can get more room on my phone, I think I can give up my iPad. The idea of a new, The iPhone Plus is closer in size to a paperback than the iPad Mini is, and I'm quite comfortable reading a paperback at length. I read and send significantly more email from my iPhone than from my iPad. I more frequently use my iPhone to SSH to routers, switches, and my computers to help in troubleshooting. It seems very compelling to get more screen size, higher resolution, better battery life, and a marginally better camera all on the device I most often use, while trimming the number of devices I carry by one. When I need more oomph, I'll get my laptop out.

On the other hand, my wife doesn't have a computer, and she uses her iPad nonstop. She saw the cutouts I printed at work, and decided she wanted my 5s, and willingly offered up her upgrade. I think that's largely because she's very happy to use her iPad at home, and her iPhone while she's out of the houe. Where I "step up" to a MacBook Pro, she steps up to an iPad Mini.

I'm kind of rolling the dice. I haven't held the phone in my hand (or to my head). The closest I've gotten is holding a paper cutout that approximates the phone to my head. But, hey. Worst case scenario, I decide it was a mistake, and replace it in two years.

A Watch Guy's Thoughts On The Apple Watch After Seeing It In The Metal

Benjamin Clymer:

Will anyone be trading in their Lange Double-Split for an Apple Watch? Certainly not. But, will the average Lange owner buy an Apple Watch, wear it on the weekends, and then, after a great workout with it, decide to leave it on next for a vacation to the beach, and then maybe on casual Friday to the office? It's possible. Apple products have a way of making someone not want to live without them, and while I wasn't able to fully immerse myself in the OS yesterday, what I saw was impressive. So while certainly not direct competition for haute horology watchmaking right now, the Apple Watch is absolutely competition for the real estate of the wrist, and years down the road, it could spell trouble for traditional watches even at a high level. When you realize you just don't need something anymore, there is little desire to buy another.

This is basically how I'm thinking about the Apple Watch. It's another watch to add to my (small) collection of mostly inexpensive but nice looking watches. I may find that I love the features it brings with it, and I may wind up wearing it a lot.

I still think the 3D emoji are butt-ugly, though.

Circuit Stickers

Jie Qi, Co-Creator of Circuit Stickers:

I hope that after making something with circuit stickers, people will feel like circuits can be just another art and craft material, like paint and canvas. Except now, in addition to colors, we can tell our stories with light, sensing, and interactions

I love this. Things like this and 3D printing mean that kids growing will have an entirely different concept of things like electricity, circuits, and material objects in general. So awesome.

Android Beat on the new Micro USB 3.0 Connector

Did Apple get things right with Lightning? When they first showed it off, I thought it was the stupidest thing in the world to do, to introduce a new proprietary connection. But now I’m convinced Apple’s people saw this new microUSB connector and cried tears of blood.

It sounds brutal, but then you see what the damn thing looks like.

It Finally Clicks With Acer's CEO

Acer CEO JT Wang:

We will shift our strategy to improving profitability from pursuing market share blindly with cheap and unprofitable products.

It's arguable that Alienware went this route with their hardware, but Acer would be the first non-niche PC manufacturer other than Apple to start aggressively trying to produce high-end products. Who knew that producing quality, profitable products and selling them to customers might be a good business model?