Monthly Archives: April 2011

Tricky Terms, part one: RoHS

On just about every page on the Chester Creek website, you’ll see this phrase: RoHS Compliant.

Now, most people shrug that phrase off, assume it means something good, and move on. To be honest, before I started working at Chester Creek, I had never heard the acronym, either. In fact, most people in the US probably have either not heard of RoHS or haven’t paid any attention to it.

This is because RoHS stands for “Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive,” (the D must be silent) and directive doesn’t sound much like a US law term, that is because it’s not.  The RoHS directive is a European Union directive that took affect in mid-2006 in all the member states of the EU.  While Chester Creek is not based in the EU (think Minnesota), and our keyboards are not made in the EU, CCT has chosen to make it’s products available to EU countries.  Moreover, while RoHS is not law in the states, it does provide strict guidelines that Chester Creek has chosen to adhere to.

Ahh, now we come to the heart of the matter.  Just what are those guidlines, you ask?  Probably a good question, since we’re three paragraphs in, with nary a hint of the actual, practicable meaning of the term.

RoHS restricts use of:

These are substances that are found or have in the past been found in a large number of consumer electronics across a broad spectrum of devices, including batteries, lamps, paints, and vinyl.  Heavy metals like lead and mercury are widely known to be dangerous, but low-level toxicity results from use of the other restricted materials.  Chester Creek strives to produce only the highest-quality computer accessories, bringing you the safest, sturdiest, and funnest (if you know what I mean, how is it not a word?) products on the market.

Building a Better Mouse

Building a better mouse – that’s a large part of what we’re about here at Chester Creek: better mice, keyboards, and computer accessories for you.  That’s why our mice are designed so carefully, from the standard-sized ReaderMouse with its incredible comfortable grip to the ChesterMouse, designed for those who have the hardest time.

Our three small mice are the ChesterMouse, the LittleMouse, and the TinyMouse.  All three are sized to fit a child’s hand, which also happens to be just about perfect for many individuals with motor or dexterity struggles.  These mice are easier to grip, and the buttons are easier to reach.  Like the ReaderMouse, all of our small mice have optical tracking.  This means no trackball to clean or lose.  Smooth optical tracking makes use of a mouse even easier.

The ChesterMouse

The ChesterMouse is a favorite with parents and teachers of young children as well as special-ed instructors. The Chester features one large button, keeping confusion about left- and right-clicks out of the equation.  You’ll never have to worry about accidental right click changes.  Further, this mouse is both sturdy and extremely easy to use for those with dexterity issues.  In many situations, users are even employing the ChesterMouse as a more affordable alternative to a capability switch.

The LittleMouse

Next on our line up of small mice is the LittleMouse.  Chester Creek’s LittleMouse, as its name implies, is small, an easy fit for little hands.  With two buttons, its perfect for those learning to use a computer and for those who don’t want or need the distraction of a scroll wheel.  Featuring teacher requested color coding, the LittleMouse’s left click is “Green for Go,” while the right click is “Red for Stop,” making learning easier than ever.

The TinyMouse

Our final small-size mouse (as of now) is the TinyMouse.  Like the ChesterMouse and LittleMouse, the TinyMouse is half the size of a standard computer mouse.  It fits easily into the tiny hands of children, with buttons easily controllable for those who struggle with dexterity or arthritis.  The TinyMouse features both left- and right-clicks, as well as a smooth-rolling scroll wheel.  The color-coded buttons can be found on our TinyMouse as well, this time in bolder red, blue, and yellow, depending on the mouse.  That’s right, the TinyMouse comes in both black and white to match your computer and keyboard.

The FunKeyBundle

For even more fun, check out our FunKeyBundle; with a bright red case, fun, color-coded buttons, and a matching FunMouse to boot, computing has never been more fun.  Our FunMouse is just like a TinyMouse with even more eye-catching color.

As always, Chester Creek worked hard to bring you only the best in computer accessories.  All of our small mouses – the Tiny, Little, and Chester Mouses – feature rugged construction and a one-year warranty on home use (six months for institutional use).  Additionally, these mice are RoHS and CPSIA compliant, completely safe for your loved ones, young and old.

Summer Learning Loss

Summer is on its way.  Can you smell it in the air?  I can smell it in the fog rising off the lake.  Even out here in the Northland, the snow is all but gone and the first flowers are blooming, little green and purple surprises.  Accordingly, kids all over are feeling that anxious itch for summer vacation.  To be honest, I am too, even though it doesn’t mean vacation for me anymore.

Summer has one downside, though.  Summer learning loss.  Studies have found that on average, students lose about one month’s worth of learning over the summer.  This number varies across demographics, location, and subject.  In fact, students tend to lose just over two and a half months of math knowledge.  Low income students tend to be set back about two months of reading.

Only about 9% of students K-12 in the US attend summer programs.

So how can you keep your students on track through their summertime adventures?  How about incorporating it into their daily life?  Learning doesn’t only happen in the classroom.  Have them pick up a book, and talk with you about it when they’ve finished reading.  Take them on nature walks and explore the wonder of the world around you.  You can learn together.  Educational computer games are fun for a rainy day, too.  Check out Chester Creek’s new educational software packs for computer adventures through science, logic, math, and more! Throw in a LessonBoard to teach them good typing skills while they’re at it – a skill sure to come in handy next fall, giving them a leg up over their peers.

Careful Where You Click

Every computer owner’s nightmare: a virus.  While more popular operating systems – especially Windows – are more frequently targeted, any user can catch a virus or be infected with malware.  The world’s first virus, Creeper, was relatively harmless.  Active on the ARPANET in the 1970′s, it was an experimental and self-replicating program that displayed the message “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!”  Now-a-days, infections can be much more damaging, even getting financial information from the victim’s computer.  Recently, the LizaMoon SQL injection attack has infected the code of over four million websites.  LizaMoon redirects victims to a new site and asks them to install an antivirus.  This “antivirus” actually does no good, by the way.

The good news is that most legitimate virus protection and internet security programs will defend against LizaMoon.

There are some things you can do to protect yourself against malevolent programs.

  1. Make sure you have good anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewalls.
  2. Don’t open email attachments unless you know and trust the sender.
  3. Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software updated.
  4. If a virus alert pops up on your screen, don’t even touch it.  Not even to close it.  Instead use ctrl+alt+del to open the task manager and close it that way.
  5. Likewise, don’t trust pop-ups advertising anti-virus software.  They’re usually up to no good.
  6. Avoid suspicious websites, and don’t download from questionable sources.
  7. Be incredibly careful about to whom you provide credit, debit, or other financial information.
Happy surfing, people.  Just wear a life vest.

The Wireless Problem

If you are like most individuals today, you own or use at least one wireless device.  In fact, current statistics show that nearly 1/3 of the world’s population, including individuals residing in third world countries, are internet users.  In the US, approximately 90% of the population accesses the internet via wireless devices.

As I speak, I am writing this log post from a personal netbook computer – like a laptop, but smaller, lighter, more portable.  I am posting from a private wifi network, while sitting next to me, a friend surfs the web on their own wireless device.  Meanwhile, a third wireless device, this one a phone, automatically connects to the networks for faster and constant communication.  Also accessing the wifi network, passively and constantly, are a printer, a gaming console, a dvd player, an ipad, television, a sleeping netbook, and an ipod.  You may be thinking that this is excessive, but what is becoming more and more common is a constant connection for instantaneous access to communication and information.  The wifi router – the device that makes the internet connection from a provider accessible to devices in the home or business – here is an N-router.  This is one of the fastest single antenna routers available.  The connection is a 12 mbps downlink cable connection.

don’t worry, I barely understand all that myself.  What it boils down to is that is this connected, private household, there is a fast, robust wifi connection available that can support the myriad of devices listed without considerable internet slow-down.

The reason I am writing this blog from a private wifi network in the first place is this: I could not load the page from the internet coffee shop down the block.  Because it is a public location, with advertised free wifi for customers, one would think that the connection available would be robust enough to support the needs of the users.  However, with ten customers sitting with their coffee, four on laptops or netbooks, and (let’s estimate) 9 of the 10 carrying smartphones that automatically connect to the internet, the connection was so bogged down that I could not load a webpage.  As a matter of fact, I couldn’t load any webpages for a while.

The router at the coffee shop is likely built into a DSL modem.  This means that the equipment comes from the phone company, is less robust to begin with, and is doing double duty.  It simply cannot support the needs of customers on an average Sunday afternoon.

This is a growing problem for the millions of wireless users that expect t to be able to obtain their content quickly and anywhere. The equipment is outdated and not up to par with the technology being used.  The wifi networks simply are not up to the task required by growing numbers of wireless devices.

Until such time as that changes, plan to pull internet from friends and family, not from cafes and coffee shops struggling to support growing numbers of users.  And you might want to consider a larger data plan for the a smart phone — the wifi connects just aren’t cutting it these days.