Oh, have I found a store that I really need to avoid if I know what’s good for me…

7 minute read

November 4, 2011, 11:41 PM

So after I got home from work this evening, I went down to Micro Center in Rockville to get a new keyboard. I had been to this store one time before, about a month ago on September 27. But that was for work, and I was all surgical-strike about it, and was in and out in ten minutes. This visit was for me, and so I got to spend a little more time peeking around at stuff.

The reason I went to Micro Center in the first place is because my existing keyboard finally called it quits after a little less than five years – specifically, four years, ten months, and 19 days according to the Journal entry I wrote when I got the old keyboard, the date that the keyboard finally quit working (November 1, 2011, i.e. this past Tuesday), plus this date calculator to do the math. I said to a few folks about it, “It finally crapped out on me.” On Tuesday night, you see, I was working on whatever on the computer, and then keys started to type things that they shouldn’t have. Specifically, striking one key would cause a number of keys around it to fire. My reaction, via the Twitter (from my phone):

So I think my keyboard just freaked out on me. Seriously. #computerproblems
November 1 10:46 PM

Let me demonstrate what it was doing. I tweeted a statement from the computer to demonstrate what the keyboard was doing. Here it is:

Muy7 l=Lo-gei8ftrkeichu kekeiuy7bo-atr5d ei8s skeitr5ei8o-huysluy7 mkeisskeid huyp.
November 1 10:49 PM

I then picked up my cell phone again and translated:

That was how my keyboard said, “My Logitech keyboard is seriously messed up.”
November 1 10:50 PM

My father was visiting at the time, and he said that it looked like it was time for a new keyboard. I agreed. The keyboard seemed to be done for, but I wasn’t *too* broken up about it. After all, if I really needed to go online, I had my netbook, plus I have my phone. Plus keyboards are cheap these days. By the way, looking up tech support stuff online with a cell phone is less than fun. And I couldn’t find anything for my problem. “End of useful life” is the best descriptor, I believe. Then Wednesday morning, I started everything up and got the same thing, which confirmed for me that the keyboard was done for.

Dad went home on Wednesday, and then on Wednesday night after my usual hour-long pool workout in Olney, I headed over to Target to buy a new keyboard. Let me be the first to say, by the way, that Target has a terrible selection of keyboards. So I figured I’d pick up a cheap one to keep as a spare just in case anything happens to the main keyboard that I would still have to hunt for. This was a wired keyboard made by General Electric (yes, that General Electric – who knew they made keyboards!), and it cost me ten bucks. And I got exactly what I paid for. Take a look:

The world's cheapest keyboard

This is perhaps the cheapest and worst keyboard that a person could possibly buy. The keys liked to stick together (but I could at least type coherently). and the whole thing felt very flat (but not Apple-keyboard flat). Most annoyingly, it also wasn’t very sturdy. I tend to strike my keys like I mean it, and this keyboard bounced when I type. No way could I have that. I want my keyboards to take my typing “like a man”, and this was not it. So it’s going back to the store, since it’s so bad that it’s not even worth keeping around as a spare.

And thus I decided to go to Micro Center. As mentioned, I had been there once before to buy a computer part for work. So I saw potential. So I went over there this evening. Oh, let me tell you something – I loved this place. They had an entire aisle that was just keyboards. And the salespeople understood the importance of opening boxes and actually inspecting and testing the product. After all, if I’m going to have a keyboard for another five years (or longer), it’s going to be a good one. It’s kind of like speed dating, I suppose. So I looked for packages that had already looked like they had been opened before, and tested. I found a lot of cheapies, for sure. I found another Logitech that was nice, but it had a wrist pad built into it. I have my own pad and am satisfied with it, and so I don’t want a built-in one. I ended up settling on a keyboard made by Inland, which was wireless like I wanted, and felt like a good keyboard ought to feel. And best part of all, it only cost $20. And here it is:

The Inland keyboard

Note, by the way, the bigger Enter key, and the tiny backspace key. That is very different from the old Logitech keyboard, as well as the cheapie keyboard.

It also came with a mouse, but it was a really junky mouse. But no worries. The keyboard seemed worth $20 on its own, so I didn’t care if the mouse was terrible. Plus my old Logitech wireless mouse, a “Cordless MouseMan Optical” that I bought in 2002, still worked just fine. And yes, I’ve had the same mouse for almost ten years. I did, however, go searching for a new mouse while I was shopping, but I discovered that even with an aisle that is nothing but mice, I couldn’t do better than my current mouse. Just as well.

Then I started going down a slippery slope. See, this was truly a geek’s kind of store, and I definitely fit that mold to an extent. I loved it there. So many variations on products. While Target will have a selection of about five keyboards, Micro Center easily had fifty different kinds of keyboards in a dedicated “keyboards” aisle. So I thought, let’s go see what they have in the way of memory… and they had the stuff that fit my computer. So I got memory. Talking to the salesman, I correctly realized that I could put a serious hurt on my bank account if I stayed in the store. I was thoroughly enjoying my time at Micro Center, and could easily drop a lot of money on computer stuff in there. I could totally see this becoming like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. So I headed straight to the checkout, paid, and then left before I could spend any more money.

And then, of course, you get to install this stuff. Keyboard was easy. Just plug it and go. Memory required shutting down and opening the computer. No problem, as I’ve done that before. Still, I photographed. If you ever wanted to see what a Dell Dimension E521 looks like on the inside, here it comes.

This is what my computer looks like with the skin off.
This is what my computer looks like with the skin off. For those of you who have never seen inside a PC before, a quick tutorial for you: DVD drives upper left, power supply upper right, hard drive lower left, video and wi-fi cards lower right, motherboard is the green thing in the back, processor approximately center, and memory right above that. Kids, don’t try this at home. I’m trying this at home, but I also know what I’m doing, you see. And so don’t touch any of this kind of stuff unless you know what you’re doing, or if someone who does know what they’re doing is supervising.

And this is the memory. There are four memory slots on this computer. Two have the RAM that came with the computer in them, and two are empty (for now).
And this is the memory. There are four memory slots on this computer. Two have the RAM that came with the computer in them, and two are empty (for now).

And four sticks now in place.
And four sticks now in place.

Then I fired the computer up. Rather than getting the big “DELL” logo on screen, I got three beeps. One long beep, and two shorter ones. And the “3” and “4” lights were lit on the front. Not too promising, since the computer didn’t normally do that. So I turned it off, waited ten seconds, and started up again. No beeps this time, but the lights were the same, and I didn’t get a startup. Off again. Beeps again. Time to go look something up. I found this document, that explains what the beeps mean, and what the lights mean. Memory failure. After a little troubleshooting, I discovered to my dismay that I had one good one, and one that was a dud. With the dud out of the way, the computer fired right up. Good. So this is what I ended up with:

So I had three filled slots, and one still empty.
So I had three filled slots, and one still empty.

And this is the dud, which is going back to the store tomorrow.
And this is the dud, which is going back to the store tomorrow.

One more peek before I close it up...
One more peek before I close it up…

And done.
And done.

So tomorrow I’m going back to Micro Center to return the defective RAM, and get some memory that actually works. Hopefully I’ll have enough self control to properly limit my activities to just the memory, and not come out with any other computer stuff that I wasn’t planning to get. And I’m looking forward to having 4 GB of RAM. I have the one new stick in there now, and I’m definitely feeling a performance boost from having 3 GB of RAM vs. just 2 GB this morning. Having 4 GB will be very nice, indeed.

Web site: Micro Center

Song: Unrelated, but I'm trying to get the hang of Georgian-style swimming. Basically a butterfly kick by itself with arms to the side. Very challenging to do.

Quote: Then in the process of writing this entry, I discovered that the keyboard is slightly too high, and causes me pain in my hands when typing for an extended period. So I think that the keyboard is going to need to go back as well on account of being slightly too tall, and too much of a reach for certain keys. But no worries - I'll find something else.

Categories: Computer, Retail