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Wednesday, 04 November 2009


Yeah I'm always dumping out the remains of cheese and crackers out of mine. When it croaks I'll just get another cheapie at Best Buy. As far a records go I put them in the category of me still insisting on developing B&W film. Why? Keeping the faith I guess.

when is somebody going to invent an un-dirtiable keyboard?

They have them. They are horrible to type on but they have them.

I vacuum out my keyboard every so often. Then I use a paper clip to remove the tufts of cat hair that is wrapped around the keys. (I cobble them into wigs. A good week's harvest in the shedding season is enough to make a quality merkin.) Just be careful. I once pulled about 8 keys from my laptop and had to recover them from the dyson.)

1) Verify that all of your songs are truly within the same "iTunes Music" folder. If not, manually move them there. The default location will be ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music unless you've specified otherwise within iTunes' prefs.

~ is shorthand your Home directory of course. Full path is likely looking like this:

Macintosh HD/Users/USERNAME/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music

2) Verify in iTunes' prefs (Advanced tab) that "iTunes Media folder location" matches. Again, specify the "iTunes Music" folder, not the Music or iTunes folders.

3) I have "Keep iTunes Media folder organized" and "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library" both checked. Some people don't do one or both because of fear or the need to keep the songs elsewhere such as on another drive or network. Just don't uncheck them unless you understand they WHY.

4) Quit iTunes.

5) Move the "iTunes Library" and "iTunes Music Library.xml" files to your desktop and launch iTunes. Location is ~/Music/iTunes. There should be nothing showing in iTunes - zero songs.

5) Drag the "iTunes Music" folder into your open iTunes window and drop it on top of the LIBRARY area in the upper left. Might need to aim for the "Music" icon. Doing this reindexes the iTunes Library and iTunes Music Library.xml files located within your iTunes folder.

Your keyboard woes reminded me of a recent experience I had with mine. My computer is an all singing, all dancing, 64-bit Windows wonder that I put together myself. It's paired with a big LCD screen and a fancy mouse. All are finished in high gloss black and silver. They really look the part (and work OK too). The keyboard, however, is a grubby, cream-coloured old Dell, at least 8 or 9 years old. It was one that was dumped by a big insurance company and still has their name on it. I use it, despite the comments I get about it, because it's such a wonderful thing to type on, with the heft and responsiveness of an electric typewriter (remember those?), and proper clicks produced by mechanical linkages rather than the usual plastic membrane that makes it feel like you're typing in porridge.

Anyway, one day I turned on my machine, entered my password and was told that it was incorrect. Repetitions, checks that Caps Lock was off, etc, all produced the same result. I was beginning to think I had some malicious software. So I tried a different keyboard and found absolutely no problems - my password was accepted, and everything worked as normal. Then I tried my faulty keyboard with an old computer and discovered that the "B" key had stopped working. My initial problem had arisen because, when I typed my password, one letter wasn't being transmitted and I hadn't counted the symbols in the entry box so hadn't discovered this.

I mentioned this to an acquaintance who said, without seeming to pause for thought, "Mmmm, I've been reading that there's a problem with bees." Sharp or what!

The happy ending to this tale is that I got three of the unwanted Dell keyboards, so I'm currently running on number two, and if the gremlins (or verroa mites) strike again I can fall back on the last one. I hope your keyboard arrives soon Mike, and has a long and fruitful life.

Mike get a grip man, the rest of us out here are only just hanging in there, for god's you're our rock we depend on you man so put a sock in it and get the Gf1/E-P1 review out and bring some joy into our lives.Now about the lawnmower let the grass grow and do your bit for the environment.All else fails you can always kick the neighbour's cat.

Try using a gallon of distilled water. Just pour it over the keyboard. I'm assuming you've done the usual - turn it upside down, shake, blow canned air into it, etc. Unplug it from the computer first (I hope that is obvious). The distilled water should dissolve the gunk and should dry without leaving deposits, etc. Once you are sure it is dry (upside down and right-side) then give it a try on an old computer if you have one.

It depends on the problem of course, but I've repaired a few this way after people dumped soda on them. My last mac keyboard had to be replaced, though, since nothing would save it. It is amazing how many food particles two kids can drop into a keyboard over the course of a few years.

Problems with iTunes? But the Mac Guy in the ad says Macs "just work"! Can this mean TV commercials are lying to us...?

Back in the days when I used to listen to music on my computer, I used WinAmp. Easy to use, and with great plugins that made music sound awesome, even on my crappy teeny-weeny computer (loud)speakers. Sorry Mike, did I just make you cringe? ;-)

Good luck getting you luck back. I can assure you *I* don't have it, because I only just regained access to my computer at work—our tech guy started working on it at 9:00am this morning (it's now 2:15pm). Seems there was a Hungarian cyber-pirate hacking into it. Maybe a broken keyboard is no big deal...

You're still lawn mowing ?
I thought there'd be about 2 feet of snow up there in Wisconsin already.....

I just recently learned that St. Isidore of Seville is the patron saint of technology. It seems he did early work in database theory in the 600s. Who knew ? While St. Izzy may not appreciate goat sacrifice, perhaps he would hear some minor prayer you might throw his way. When it comes to matters technological, we all need help from time-to-time.
Reference: http://www.scborromeo.org/saints/isidores.htm

Any moderately active computer user of a certain age should have a basement full of keyboards, mice, monitors, USB cables and 5 1/2 inch floppy disks. Are you one of those insanely neat people that throws perfectly good stuff away just because it's not being used?

FYI, as a former record collector myself (who still has 4500 LPs to show for it ... yikes!), I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but the fact that a record is shrinkwrapped is no guarantee that it's new and unopened.

Many used-record stores have shrinkwrap machines in the backroom and although you can usually identify the rewraps by the type of shrinkwrap material that was used or the lack of wear on it (or wear visible on the jacket underneath it), there's always the possibility that even a record that clearly has vintage shrinkwrap on it isn't actually new, but merely a record that was rewrapped many years ago. This often happens when one used-record store buys the inventory from another one that's gone out of business (a common occurrence these days, I imagine.)

If it makes you feel any better, it can be surprisingly easy to be fooled and I've personally been caught out by this many times over the years.

Are you on a Mac? I've had the mouse refuse to activate a link and I've had keys on the keyboard stop working in Photoshop.

Taking the USB out and in again cures it....

I should move to Wisconsin (my twice removed in-laws live there) and live next-door so I can help with your tech problems. Small price for your blogs! (Says a techman from California.)

Yep, always something. I just bought a new Mac Mini and attempted to transfer the files and preferences over from my old PowerMac G5 with an ethernet cable. Turns out it's not that easy if your older mac is running Tiger and the new one is Snow Leopard. No I have to get a Firewire 800 cable! Somehow in the process of doing this I trashed by wireless network. Not looking forward to sorting out this mess after work!
That sucks about your jazz records. My local vinyl emporium always takes back scratched records so I've been lucky.

Mike, with your status as a professional scribe you need to have a backup keyboard on hand. Just saying :).

You can put your keyboard in the dishwasher. Put it in the upper tray and be sure and use the drying cycle. Let the keyboard sit upside down in the event of any excess water is there and then you will have a sterilized keyboard. I do this all the time and have never had a problem.


I made the mistake of buying a "Honda" Craftsman as well. One possible cause of the failure to start may be a lack of gas in the fuel line. If the mower has been serviced or not used for a long time, the line and carburetor are empty and since Sears opted to not have a primer pump(or thottle!) there is no easy wasy to prime the line. I usually open the air filter and pour a small amount of gas into the carburetor; once or twice is usally enough to get thing going. As a side note: be prepared to have every cable on the mower break within a few years.

Mike, can you ditch iTunes in favour of Spotify in the States yet? If so, would strongly recommend.

Reminds me of the joke of a guy's first day as a waiter. The Maître D tells him; "W(h)ine for table three". So he goes over and reads them your column ... (Grin)

Sorry you're on the gods' bad side, Mike. Others beat me to some good advice. I assume if that if the connector cable were replaceable you'd have tried that.

Something to be said for wearing something out, though. I have a couple of obsolete keyboards--perfectly good, made like they used to make them--but incompatible with the USB generation of PC's. Too good to throw out, useless to keep.

I've never seen a sealed keyboard that I'd want to use for more than five seconds at a time.

Maybe you should refrain from consuming copious amounts of Bavarian Pretzels and Sheboygan Bratwurst, while tapping away on Ye olde keyboard.

You ever think of that, huh?

Always blaming the equipment...

I think we as readers have angered the gods, not getting the epic comparison review ;-)

I have fixed many a cruddy dirty keyboards by running them through the dishwasher.

Run the dishwasher with just the keyboard and NO SOAP.

Mike, the next time your keyboard breaks just write down your blog entries in pencil, take a picture with a macro set up, develop the film in the darkroom, make a print and then scan the prints into the computer. Problem easily solved!

Aye, I feel your pain with dirty keyboards and bad lawnmowers. I really hate lawnmowers. I wish we could get rid of the necessity to have lawns which (I guess?) make/made sense in England but have no place in many areas of the US. Plus, they are horrible for nature- no insects or birds use them for food and they take the place of the food-plants insects and birds evolved with. Replacing native environments like praries with foreign glass plants is a horrible thing to do to the environment. Not to mention the cost to the environment of running lawnmowers every week.


Since your problem isn't from a power-surge I would think Zeus might not be the appropriate god to try to assuage. I would suggest appealing to Hephaestus (crafting, building) or Athena (wisdom ... the foundation of computers?)

The aluminium keyboards sold by Apple may look suspicious to one used to traditional keyboards, but they are actually surprisingly decent to type on and much more crumb-resistant than their older cousins (and easy to wipe clean too).

As for iTunes, I have been using that program since the beginning of times (iTunes times at least) and never experienced that. Inspecting your Preferences may help -- or visiting the Apple discussion forums and give more details about your configuration.

If it's mechanical, I either don't have a problem or I can repair it. If it's electronic - forget about it!

Once when I was working Offshore, the electronics tech got a call to the Superintendents office. My keyboard's not working he said. The tech said when he got to the office it looked like somebody had upset a scrabble set over the desk and the keyboard was lying in pieces. A faulty keyboard can be very annoying


About the records. While in the Army on Okinawa in the late 1960's a friend on TDY to Taiwan brought back some current records which turned out to be locally pirated copies.
They looked ok but would hardly play. The surface noise (I wonder how many readers know what that means) was dreadful and there were a ton of clicks on them.
Maybe you got burned at the used book store by a similiar scam.

For what it's worth, my electrical engineer friends recommend putting your keyboard in the dishwasher, yes, the dishwasher, and running it through a normal cycle.

Let it dry for a few days and it should be right as rain.

A goat would be over the top for keyboard problems, at least on a PC (dunno about Mac sacrifice conventions; I get the impression they require sacrificing a PC user sometimes, so I keep my distance).

A goat will handle most SCSI-chain problems, for god's sake! Wasted on a mere keyboard.

I've just about banned iTunes from access to the shared music library at home; it messes with things when people say they "didn't do anything". I get files missing from album directories, and sometimes complete duplicate sets of files (with a "." added at the beginning of the filenames). It seems to be nothing but trouble. I think the basic problem is that, deep down inside, it believes it owns all your music.

Bad sh*t always comes in threes. I think that you're safe for a while.

Tom and Tony both give good advice re: keyboards. The undirtiable ones are hell to use. The good ones are worth their weight in any commmodity, they weigh so much. Some classics are still made in new names. Specifically, the old Northgate Omnikey keyboard is now the Avant Prime, and the old IBM ModelM is now made by Unicomp. If you buy one now, it will most likely wear out sometime when Zander is in his Golden Years. The key action on both is substantially different from each other, so I wouldn't recommend one. It amazes me that for all people spend on their PCs, they use the crappy keyboard that comes with it, which has an OEM cost of ~$1.00 or less. Mike, you're a writer. Buy a writer's tool.

Which all reminds me of how much I think Apple is diluting their brand by ignoring the physical interface e.g. all Macintoshes now come with a crappy chicklet style keyboard that is hardly the keyboardist's friend.


Dear Mike,

Your keyboard failure is a godsend. The paper you meant to write is a GF1 vs. E-P2 comparison:

Click here to see the new E-P2 on The British Journal of Photography



"I wonder if I've angered the gods lately?"

Yes. And so have I. Misery loves company.


PS: And why won't Typepad remember me?

If you do any amount of typing on a computer, it's worth getting a quality keyboard, preferably with mechanical keyswitches, but there are decent rubber domes out there too. You can find them new or used, $$$ or cheap. Tony's Dell is one example. The Dell AT101W models pop up on eBay once in awhile for reasonable prices.

If you search for EliteKeyboards and Filco, you'll find some keyboards that won't let you down. I now own a few. If you feel like geeking out on all this keyboard stuff, give GeekHack a visit too. (I'm not affiliated, I just love this stuff.)

That really sucks about your records. That's sort of the thrill about shopping (online or off) though. You get the highs of scoring a deal, and the lows of find "issues". If you don't mind a little work and you've digitized your records, there's software (some free) that'll take care of the fuzz, clicks, and pops.

A Honda motor is a Honda motor. Especially if it is "emblazoned" on the unit. This is a typical story made up by entry level techs to distract from the fact that he didn't get it right the first time for whatever reason. If it were truly made to lesser specs, you can bet Honda's name would be nowhere near and there would be some sort of Craftsman/Kenmore/etc logo in its place. In my shop (auto repair)the saying is "it's not a mistake if it hasn't left the shop" which is why everything is double-checked and test driven extensively after repair. The tech should be apologizing for the inconvenience to you instead of making up excuses for his incorrect work. Sorry for the rant, but I really dislike smoke screen style excuses...

Hey, Speed. They were 5 1/4" floppies. I just checked one of mine.

As for mowers that say Honda, well, my wife grew tired of me stopping to look at the stainless steel deck Yard Man mower with Honda engine at Costco a couple of years ago and told me to either buy one or stop looking at it. So I bought a big chrome H emblem for my '91 HRX 3-spd and now we're both happy.

I learned (learnt ?) long ago, after a bad bad experience, to accept NO upgrade offers from iTunes.
Not worth the risk.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Paul Mc Cann

There is a rollable rubber keyboard. Absolutely no way for crumbs and dirt to lodge underneath the keys. I've got one somewhere around here and keep it just because it seems such a good notion, but I have no idea how it is to work with. Probably like those old Spectrums. :-)

"To this day, don't know why keyboards don't come equipped with a crumb tray...."

The keyboard is the crumb tray.

Thanks to those who recommended keyboards. I actually use a pretty good one, although it's not mechanical--the Microsoft [making sign of cross with forefingers] Ergo 4000.

When the new one comes I'll try putting the old one through the dishwasher. That should be interesting. [g]


My keyboard is filthy. My dishwasher just broke. My D200 died in the middle of a shoot. But my mower will welcome the apocalypse well after I'm gone.

Ah, the dishwasher. I've never yet had a keyboard die going through the dishwasher.

And I've actually run a keyboard through the dishwasher. It worked afterwards, once I was sure it was dry.

They DO make keyboards that don't have places for gunk to hide. They also rolls up conveniently. But they're not all that nice to type on.

Jon: I often see birds all over lawns. There are over 100 geese on the lawn out the window at work right now. While I'm not a big fan of lawns, and they don't provide as good habitat or as much food, or variety, as native prairies or whatever (I'm in Minnesota, prairie is actually native in parts of this state) it's obviously (easy observation in any city) untrue that "no insects or birds use them for food".

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