Tags Posts tagged with "hardware"


Selecting keyboards for PCs
Image Credit: ©Depositphotos/rozelt

Keyboard manufacturers have quietly changed their keyboards and they do not make it easy to notice BEFORE you order it online or buy it and get it home.

Before you buy a new keyboard, here’s what you need to know:

Many are NOT traditional desktop size or layout any more. The default has changed to a laptop layout with flatter keys in a different place. The keys may also be smaller than you’re used to and the keyboard may be flimsy and have a totally different feel.

Here are the choices you have to make to choose the right keyboard:

  • Wireless, USB (flat connection), PS/2 (round, purple connector) or ADP jack (Apple) ~ Not sure what these are? See the images on this page.
  • Layout: QWERTY (what most of us use), AZERTY, QWERTZ, HCESAR or one-handed?
  • Standard (traditional desktop), laptop (flatter, smaller with the insert, home, end, delete, page up and page down keys in a different location than PCs originally used),
  • Standard, illuminated, lighted or backlit ?
  • Special keyboards; ergonomic, multi-media, gaming, “Internet”, membrane, glass, larger keys or larger print type



Not a computer geek? One thing you’ll want to know is the difference between commonly used cables. Originally, mice and keyboards used what are known as PS/2 connectors. The keyboard connection is purple and the mouse is green. See the image below:

Old style computer keyboard connection
jack PC keyboard with PS/2 connection ~ Image Credit: ©Depositphotos/jannyjus

Newer keyboards and mice and many other peripheral devices usually attach using USB connections. (See the image below.) A USB cable has a flat end and newer computers have many USB ports on them – sometimes on both the front and the back. There are also storage devices that plug into USB ports as do wireless keyboards and mice.

Newer PC keyboards have USBs
PC keyboard with USB cable ~ Image Credit: ©Depositphotos/eteimaging

Don’t worry if you don’t understand all of the above. Unless you or the person you’re buying for have special needs, here are some tips to help you:


  • If the person using it primarily uses a laptop they might want one of the new laptop layout keyboards so the keys are in the same place and the keyboard feels the same.
  • For a desktop computer user or someone who does data input or types for a living, avoid the new smaller laptop layouts and choose a standard size and layout with curved key tops.
  • Serious bloggers who spend a lot of time online and especially those who are over 40 might love a lighted, large print keyboard like the AZIO 3 color LED Bold x2 Large Print keyboard I’m typing this on.
  • If maximum productivity interests you and are willing to learn a new layout, consider testing a one-handed keyboard
  • Some swear by ergonomic and split keyboards, but most who try them don’t like them or end up sticking with them. More might use them if the cost of trying them out weren’t so high.

You can’t really know how you will like a keyboard until you use it. I had a friend pick up a replacement keyboard and that is when I found out that the default style had changed.


The new Logitech Wireless Combo MK360 is very different than a traditional Logitech. Even though it was obvious the layout was different, the size was smaller, the keys were flat and even the mouse was downsized, I thought I would eventually get used to it. I didn’t.

These smaller, flatter keyboards are harder to stay centered on so you make more typos. The little nub that tells you you’re on the right keys is less obvious so when you move the mouse and back you end up on the wrong key.

The smaller keys and mouse make my hand cramp – and I have really small hands. So I really doubt that men or anyone who types a lot would prefer this smaller size.

It is likely that many major brands will be defaulting to a laptop type keyboard, so if you use a desktop or type for a living you’ll want to be more selective. If you primarily use a laptop, you may want to scoop up this deal:

Logitech MK360 mouse keyboard wireless combo
Clearance Priced Logitech Wireless Combo MK360 at EGAGroupUSA.net


I almost didn’t order the AZIO keyboard because some of the reviewers did not like the difference in how the keyboard feels. It has a lighter, bouncier touch than the keyboards I usually prefer.

The keyboard having choices of three colors of lighting (blue, red, or purple) makes it easier on my eyes. Personally I prefer the blue, but reviewers have other preferences.

For me as a power user, there is no perfect keyboard because what
I most want is a lighted keyboard with curved keys, larger type,
and action like the original IBM and DELL keyboards had.

The only way you’ll know for sure is to try one – and they are fairly inexpensive, so if being able to type without other lighting on and read keys in less than optimum conditions appeals to you, I encourage you to take one for a spin.

My eyes and hands appreciate the one I have. The image below shows the three colors and the larger keys with big letters. Perfect for someone who needs reading glasses, but doesn’t wear them when typing. Click the image below for product reviews and more details.

AZIO Large Print Lighted PC Keyboards
Image Credit: SuperMediaStore.com ~ They have this keyboard at a great price.


If you’re buying online, you may have to look at many images to try to figure out which keyboards have flat versus curved keys and which layout they use (standard or laptop).  You can also read the reviews to help you decide. See my tips in Deals or Duds: How to Save Big and Avoid Getting Burnt.

While big box stores and Amazon are good places to read reviews and see all the choices, I encourage you to support your small local computer repair shop or independent online ecommerce store.

Amazon and corporate brands are cheaper because they squeeze their suppliers and retailers and keep the profits for themselves. This creates economic decline and eventually we end up with only businesses that are barely surviving or have already failed and jobs that do not pay a living wage.

Spend a little more and have the satisfaction of knowing you made the world a better place. You’ll also get better service and have someone to get assistance from when you have a computer problem.


Do you like watching television and movies online, but you hate watching them on a computer screen? Do you have a huge DVD library but find it inconvenient to dig through them when you want to find something to watch? Would you like to listen to your favorite music through the surround sound attached to your TV? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might be an ideal candidate for a simple home media center.

What is a media center (and why would you want one)?


A media center is basically just a computer that is constantly hooked up to your television. You use it to serve up media files or access media content online that you can view or listen to through your TV and other elements of your existing entertainment center (like the surround sound option mentioned earlier).

Why would you want a home media center? Here are a few things you can do with one:

  • Back up your current DVD collection to the hard drives. Then you can sort the files by genre, name, or anything you’d like and never have to dig through discs again.
  • Watch online video (such as through Netflix or Hulu).
  • You can even include a DVD or Blu-ray player in the media center to watch discs that you rent or borrow.
  • Put all of your music on one system that can hook up to your surround sound so you can listen to your favorite tracks and playlists easily at home.
  • Store your digital photo collections on the media center and show them off to friends and family that come by for a visit.

Why not just use your existing family computer or laptop for this? It mostly comes down to convenience. With a media center you don’t have to fumble around with cables, or lugging your laptop back and forth all the time. You can keep your computers in one room (like a home office) and have a media center permanently set up in your living room or family room where you tend to consume most of your media.

There’s also an issue of space. While a laptop may be a good portable solution as an extremely simple media center, it likely won’t have the hard drive space to hold an extensive video collection. Another consideration is that with a media center you don’t have to constantly adjust your monitor settings from computer screen to television screen, especially if you want to be able to work on your computer while using the media center at the same time.

What do you need to build a simple media center?


Now let’s talk about what you need to set up your own simple home media center. But be forewarned, you should only attempt to build your own media center if you know a thing or two about the inner workings of a computer. If you’re less tech-savvy, we’ll talk about another option for you soon.

A software developer I know recently put together his own simple media center. I asked him what basic components you would need to do the same. Here’s an internal shot of his media center and his suggested component list:

media center hardware
Media Center Hardware and Case
  • A computer case — Make sure the size will work for you (if you want it to fit within your entertainment center for example, you may need to get a case that works well
    horizontally rather than only in tower format).
  • Motherboard
  • CPU
  • Hard drive(s) — Make sure your hard drives have enough space for what you want to do. For example, backing up a large DVD collection would require much more substantial hard drive space than a media center for photos or music alone, or one designed to let you easily stream online videos.
  • Video card
  • CPU fan
  • A TV tuner if you plan to use the system as a DVR to record television shows to watch them later
  • A DVD player, DVD writer, and / or Blu-ray player depending on your preferences
  • A PC remote control or special mouse — This should be wireless and not require a solid surface to use it. It enables you to control your media center from your couch without a traditional mouse and keyboard. Make sure this works with your operating system.
  • Cables to hook your media center to your television (with HDTVs you can usually use a single HDMI cable for this)

You may be able to get some of these components together in kit form. And don’t forget about software. The developer I interviewed suggests using Linux if you want to build a relatively inexpensive media center, although Windows operating systems will also work. Other than that, you’ll need a media player. You can use different ones for different media types (such as using VLC for videos) or you can use an option like Moovida which allows you to control video, audio, and photos all from one place. Some media players are freely available and others require payment for more features. Make sure the media player you choose is compatible with the operating system you install.

When all was said and done, here’s the system he ended up with. Note that you do not have to include a computer monitor. Your TV is the only monitor you need. In this photo he hadn’t yet installed the media center into his entertainment center, but you’ll notice he chose a case size that will fit in his existing entertainment center / TV stand. If you want yours to be out of the way, you should keep those size constraints in mind when you choose your own case.

media center setup
Media Center Setup Example

What if you can’t (or don’t want to) build your own media center?


There’s a simple solution for you if you’re in this group too. Just use a separate pre-assembled computer or laptop. If you want the benefits mentioned above you just have to keep a few considerations in mind. For example, the case size would still need to fit in your entertainment center or wherever you want to keep the system. You would also have to make sure it has enough hard drive space, especially if you intend to back up your traditional media there. In that case a laptop is probably not your best option. This can be an ideal option if you’re looking for an out-of-the-box solution or if you have an older computer sitting around, not being used anymore, and the specs are still decent enough that it would fit the bill.

Did you build your own media center? Did you adapt a ready-made system for the task? Share your stories and tips in the comments below letting others interested in building a media center know what kinds of benefits and challenges they may come across.