Hardware Reviews


CM Storm Xornet Mouse
by The Other Squid


When it comes to the world of video game graphics, I'm pretty new, so during the production of MushRoom Bounce, I had to pick up a couple of standard pieces of equipment for production (the other piece of which was the Kanvus Life H85 graphics tablet), so that I still had wrists left by the time production was over. A standard, cheap, "normal" mouse is not very conducive to graphics production, and so I started window shopping for new mice.

I picked the CM Storm Xornet because, aside from being anywhere remotely in our price range, it also had remarkable reviews. Evidently, it's a pretty quality little piece of hardware. Higher DPI was what I wanted, and the Xornet has three DPI settings, up to 2,000 DPI, as well as a nice, bone-saving, ergonomic design. Did I mention, "bone saving"? It also has nice, rubbery sides that are much more comfortable than the usual hard plastic!

Now, in the gaming world, it's recognized that different people have different "grips" ... and for those of you who, like me, had never heard of this before, it means the way in which you hold your mouse. Various gaming mice are designed to accommodate those different grips more perfectly than non-grip-specific mice would. So if you get the wrong kind, it's probably going to drive you nuts. Well, evidently I use "claw" grip, and the XORNET is a "claw grip" mouse. This means that if you have a claw grip, this mouse will pretty much feel like it was poured into your hand. Which is absolutely awesome. Definitely an improvement over the odd-shaped blob of plastic I was trying to draw with before.

I've had the Xornet for a while now, and I really love this mouse! My Kanvus tablet is great, too... when I'm using software that actually recognizes tablets. But as I only have one program or so that does, and it's not my graphics program of choice, I'm left using this mouse for nearly everything but hand-drawn artwork. Which, since I've already started work on our next TwoSquid game, has been nearly everything. It was definitely money well spent!

So I highly recommend this mouse! It's a great fit for so many groups: starving artists, less-than-rich gamers, anyone sick of the standard mouse design, anyone with a "claw" mouse grip, and anyone looking for a mouse that won't cost you your grocery money for the week. And if you're a die-hard penguin legionary just looking to get rid of anything with the Microsoft logo on it... try the Xornet!

Here are the technical specs for the Xornet mouse:

Model Number: SGM-2001-BLON1
Available Color: Black
Material: Rubber Grip / ABS Plastic
Dimensions: 107 x 75 x 35 mm / 4.2 x 4 x 1.3 inch
Net Weight: 142 g / 0.313 lb
Sensor: 2000 DPI Storm Tactical Optical Sensor
Maximum Tracking Speed: 160 IPS
Maximum Acceleration: 23 g
Polling Time: 1.0 ms
Speed Measurement: 2600 fps
Onboard Memory: 8 KB
Form Factor: Right Hand Ergonomic
Button Assignment: 5 mouse buttons+ 2 fix function buttons
Weight System: No

Raspberry Pi
by Matthew

Pretty neat little machine! 

Very capable for something so cheap. $50 for the fully functional computer plus a power adapter and case. You can do without a case technically (but it might get damaged). You can always make your own case out of wood, plastic, cardboard, etc. And if you have a 5V phone charger that can put out 1 amp, you can pass on the charger. It's just a standard USB charger. 

For a "hard drive" you use any SDcard, 4 GB or higher. A super fast 16 GB one sells for about $13. I have one of those on the way. I am using my old, slower 8GB one for now. A lot of people own these for their digital cameras, smartphones, and tablets. 

The software is free. Just copy some files you download from raspberry pi's website onto the SDcard. No special program is necessary to do this. The software you put on the SDcard is called NOOBS. 

Insert the SDcard in your machine, plug in the raspberry pi (there's no power button), and watch it boot up! Click a few buttons, and BAM! you have a working PC. 

I can't believe how easy it was. I wasn't asked any difficult or technical questions. They let you pick whatever OS you want, but Raspbian is recommended. It's a special version of Linux tailored for the Raspberry Pi. It's based on Debian, one of the more popular Linux distributions. 

This thing can do HD 1080p video playback. I tested out the video playback performance and it passed with flying colors. It has quite a powerful video card built-in. The Pi has 512 MB RAM, which is enough to run most programs. In fact, I had several File Explorer windows open, a couple terminal windows, and a browser with 10 windows open and I still had 230 MB of RAM free. With that 230 MB of RAM, I was able to launch and play MushRoom Bounce with no problems (which, as you know, is not exactly a small game).

And it only consumes 5W of power!  It has built-in Ethernet networking, and you can connect a wireless USB adapter if you want to use WIFI. The device has 2 USB ports, which can be expanded with a hub. 

It has HDMI output, but you can use a HDMI-to-DVI adapter so you can use it with most monitors. It also has a yellow RCA output jack, so you can output to any TV! Most monitors today have DVI plugs, and some newer ones have HDMI plugs. I already owned a HDMI-to-DVI adapter, but normally that would cost you an additional $4.40. 

It also has built-in sound. 

For me, the Internet "just worked" right out of the box. I mean, we're taking MAC easy here. What a great device for $65 total. I'd recommend it for any geek. It makes a great Internet browsing machine. You could run this thing off a 12V battery with a small solar panel. The only problem would be powering the monitor...

Here are some convenient links, if you're a geek (or you have a geek in your life -- I know, I posted this a bit late for Christmas! hahaha  Oh well, there's always Valentines Day.) 

All of these items are not necessary -- it depends on what stuff you have already. If you have a USB hub you don't need to buy one, for example. And with 2 USB ports you technically don't *need* a USB hub anyhow. One for keyboard, one for mouse. If you already have an SDcard from an old phone or digital camera, you can borrow that one. Etc. 

I put in bold the stuff most people would need. 

Basic kit with Model B Raspberry Pi, clear case, and power adapter for $49.95: 

4 GB class 4 (slower) SDcard for $5.95: 
(4 GB is the minimum size recommended. It's actually quite a bit of space, unless you want to put more than 5 full length movies on it.) 

8 GB card for $9.75: 

RECOMMENDED - 16 GB card for $12.68:
(Most bang for the buck. You can always use it in your camera, etc.) 

SDcard writer/reader for $9.99: 
(do you already have an SDcard reader/writer? If you can write things to an SDcard today -- by connecting your phone to your PC, for example -- you're all set) 

4-port USB Hub (to give you extra USB ports) for $6.99: 

Wireless Ethernet adapter (WIFI USB dongle) for $9.99:
Only if you want WIFI *and* you don't already own one. 
(Apparently this model works well with the Raspberry Pi, though most others should work too. Linux has good driver support these days.) 

HDMI to DVI adapter -- here's the one you'll need for your existing DVI monitor for $4.40: 

These items are for those who really want to splurge. They are QUITE optional. I didn't buy any of these. 

Mini wireless keyboard with mouse trackpad for $20.99: 

3.5" flatscreen color LCD monitor (for car use, etc.) for $17.55: 

7" color LCD monitor that swivels around for $29.90: 

32 GB class 10 (faster) SDcard for $21.95: 
(Remember, these can be used in tablets, smartphones, and cameras as well. 32 GB is a TON of storage for a device like the Pi. For one's entire movie collection?)