Unboxing the Razer Blackshark Headset

After babying my old Plantronics headset along for months with liberal applications of electrical and duct tape, it finally gave out a few weeks ago. Headsets don’t work well with one earphone hanging off the side. Plus, the duct tape kept sticking to my hair. Ripping out strands of hair every time I took off my headset was not my idea of a good time. I loved that headset. It was comfortable and had great sound.

Need a new gaming headset? Check out the Razer Blackshark!

Need a new gaming headset? Check out the Razer Blackshark! (image: razerzone.com)

So, I grabbed the Turtle Xbox headset back from the kids and plugged it in to chat with Trusty TorWars friends. This worked for speaking just fine. When I turned on the Christmas music, which includes everything from Michael W. Smith to Mariah Carey to Mannheim Steamroller to The Three Tenors to Messiah, I heard The Dreaded Hiss.

I loathe, despise, and otherwise bear negative sentiments towards hiss in music. I don’t cringe at the sound of nails on a chalkboard. Hiss makes me not only cringe, but also makes me want to rip my eardrums out with a pickle fork. This made the Christmas gift decision very easy for me. I suggested to the family that getting a new headset might even be an emergency in order to salvage my ear anatomy. Trusty Hubby smiled and nodded but decided no one was actively dying, so it would have to wait til Christmas when we got paid.

On Christmas Eve, we opened our gifts. I was delighted to see that there was a Razer Blackshark headset for me.

I love my family!

I love my family!

Pros

Razer products rock. I have an Orochi mouse (which replaced the Lachesis I wore out) and a Lycosa keyboard. I’m waiting, admittedly impatiently, for a lefty version of the Naga mouse. When hubby and I meandered around the Best Buy doing some Christmas shopping, we stopped by the headsets so I could drool. We both noticed that the Blackshark was made of metal, which would theoretically survive far better than the plastic on my Plantronics. Mind you, this requires that my daughter not do things like rip it off her head and drop it in frustration when losing an online match.

The headset is great. It’s heavy duty, the metal parts are sturdy, and the entire thing is very customizable. Even the mic has multiple adjustment points. Each side is adjustable to individual ear heights (mine are slightly different, being the asymmetrical person that I am). The earpieces swivel in several directions to make each one fit just right. It’s comfortable to wear for long periods of time, despite being a bit heavier than the Turtle. I’ll take the weight for the sound improvement any day.

Most importantly, the vast majority of the hiss is GONE! My music sounds a bazillion times better. The true audiophiles are going to want to spend the extra bucks for a very high end headset, but that’s not what this headset is designed for. It’s designed for gamers. When Razer says this headset is noise-cancelling, they aren’t kidding, either. I can hardly hear any external sound with the headset on and the music playing. Now, mind you, I don’t play Skillet, Kamelot, or Lacuna Coil at low volumes, so that might be contributing, but I’ve noticed that the family has to come tap me on the shoulder now to get my attention. However, this is still a significant advantage when my kids decide to have a debate on the plot points and art style of My Little Pony and I wish to listen to ANYTHING else that won’t liquify my brain. I’ll have to play Star Wars: The Old Republic with Mumble on so that I can hear hubby’s comments, despite the fact that we’re in the same room.

Cons

The biggest disadvantage to the Blackshark design is a lack of a control switch for the volume and the mic. I mute my mic a lot when I’m doing raids and operations. My mute button is now ‘unplug the mic from the back of the tower’. Since my tower sits on a table where I can reach the back easily, this is a simple thing for me, but it won’t be for others. I also wish it had a volume control. I didn’t realize how much I adjust my volume until I couldn’t. This is not a negative for me, but it might be for some others: it does not come with a USB connector. I prefer to use the jacks, anyway.

Unboxing

Setup is an absolute breeze. You plug it into the proper jack on your computer, and that’s it. It comes with an additional splitter cable if you want to use the microphone, too. In fact, the only setup difficulty I encountered was actually opening the package to get the headset out. This is not unique to the Blackshark. EVERY Razer product comes packaged in such a way that you need 18 five-year olds and a table saw (not together) to open it.

Like the Orochi, the packaging says ‘if you’re even thinking of shoplifting me, you’re never going to get this open in time before store security catches you’. This means it will take approximately an hour longer to open than to plug in and use. I have hand arthritis, which did not help one bit.

Just remove the tape, then rip the tabs off to get the top open, because the tabs are stubborn.

Just remove the tape, then rip the tabs off to get the top open, because the tabs are stubborn.

Inside the main box are a series of other partial boxes and lots of plastic. Think Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls, except not as cute. Razer helpfully labeled a tab ‘Open’ for me, but it was sealed too tightly for me to actually pull the tab ‘open’.

A helpful tab labeled 'open', which I had to rip off to open.

A helpful tab labeled ‘open’, which I had to rip off to open.

Once I’d performed a bit of rough surgery on the box, I found, yes, EVEN MORE PLASTIC.

Once you've removed the helpful 'open' tab, and open the box, there's more to open!

Once you’ve removed the helpful ‘open’ tab and open the box, there’s more to unlock!

This is what the inner box looks like when you finally get it off.

This is what the inner box looks like when you finally get it off.

The headphones were packaged in yet more plastic, and it’s that rigid, form-fitting stuff that locks the item in place so that it cannot move. It works so well that if a nuclear explosion hits, this headset would survive far better than Indiana Jones did in the lead-lined refrigerator. Steven Spielberg should definitely consider this for future movies.

But wait! There's more!

But wait! There’s more!

Having had the experience of the top popping off my Orochi mouse when I tried to remove it from this same kind of plastic packaging, I had nightmares of one of the earpieces popping off as I tried to extricate it from the plastic. Fortunately, I was prepared for Razer this time and had a Jaws of Life on call in case I had an emergency. The pièce de résistance was the twisty tie holding the cord in at the bottom of the plastic package-and/or-safe. When all else fails, and you absolutely, positively, MUST secure it, use either duct tape or a black twisty tie.

Because we just had to have a twisty tie in there somewhere.

Because we just had to have a twisty tie in there somewhere.

The pile of packaging

The pile of packaging

Razer was so careful about security that they put plastic around their quick start guide. It had to be sealed for our protection, you know.

Even the user guide has to be removed from its packaging

Even the user guide has to be removed from its packaging

Once everything was unwrapped, I plugged it in, fired up iTunes, and put on music. It sounded great. Razer even included a handy registration card and a cute Razer logo sticker.

The Razer registration card, with the handy logo on the back.

The Razerzone information card, with the nifty logo on the back.

The registration card also serves as a handy coaster.

The Razerzone signup card also serves as a handy coaster.

The sign up process is so easy, even a cat can do it.

Good thing I don't have a touch screen monitor.

Good thing I don’t have a touch screen monitor.

Packaging issues aside, I enjoy my new headset very much. If Razer comes out with a mute switch/volume control add-on for the Blackshark, I’ll be first in line to buy it.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter! My handle is @JaeOnasi.

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Geeky Kitchen Gadgets

We spent Labor Day weekend laboring in the kitchen. Trusty hubby finally had enough of the light-brown-striped wallpaper, and decided it was time to paint. I had chosen a nice sunny yellow, and told the family I was planning on doing cobalt blue accents. The kids then found a TARDIS cookie jar–cobalt blue, of course! This started a discussion on whether or not the kitchen should have a sci-fi theme, because, after all, we ARE a geeky family, and this could actually be a serious consideration.

The well-dressed sci-fi kitchen goddess begins here! (1)

While I did eventually decide that we’ll have a sort of French-country-kitchen theme with some cobalt blue fleur-de-lys stenciled onto the soffits, having a few sci-fi accessories are Good Things.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Star Wars cookie cutters. Williams-Sonoma has a variety of cookie cutters and pancake molds in the Star Wars theme, perfect for those of us who need something out of the ordinary for Christmas.

Darth Vader has never looked so yummy. (2)

They also offer spatulas that can be used to remove those cookies from the baking sheets.

Helmets come in handy for handling hot cookies. (3)

One of my son’s favorite gadgets, which he originally found at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum gift store, is the Enterprise Pizza Cutter. Since we make a universe of pizzas, this cutter could help us explore new worlds, and new toppings, and boldly go where no cheese has gone before.

The lasers could theoretically cut through even the thickest pizza. If not, a few photon torpedoes can do the trick. (4)

Just in case you need some drinks to go along with your pizza, Star Trek also offers you bottle opens that suit many needs, from Romulan Ale to prune juice.

Use the Bird of Prey to open your blood wine, while the bottle opener can help with that prune juice! (5)

Everyone agrees that the coolest geeky kitchen item is the Tardis cookie jar. This is chiefly because if it really is bigger on the inside, it will naturally hold more cookies. Plus, it would just look cool on the kitchen counter.

Will it be bigger on the inside? (6)

Share your favorite sci-fi kitchen gadgets and anything you’ve made with them! I’d love to see what other folks use! Feel free to follow me @JaeOnasi or on Facebook.

Image sources: (1) TheChive.com, (2), (3) http://www.williams-sonoma.com, (4), (5) startrek.com, (6) thinkgeek.com

Preparing for Hospital stays, Geek Style, Part 1

It’s been a crazy few months for us, and even Geeky Moms have their limits in what they can handle without needing to escape to game, chat with Trusty Friends and fellow church members via Skype/Facebook, podcast about E3, rock out to Skillet’s new album ‘Awake’, or role-play, which is what I’ve done. I’ve played Dragon Age, Star Trek Online, Pokemon (don’t laugh until you’ve tried it. It’s gaming crack, that’s all I can say), and D&D online via Skype. I also role-played in some of the RP stories on Lotus Fleet, did simulcasts with Trusty Friends Lynk and leXX during E3 presentations, and chatted. I’ve learned more about Andorian birthing than I ever thought was possible given that it’s an imaginary alien species from a 44 year old TV show. Still, I had a good time role-playing how my ship’s doctor helped save a pregnant zhen, and the pleasant diversions are very welcome. This may sound totally corny and tremendously Geeky, but some of my online friends are as close, if not closer, than some of my local friends. You all have helped me in many ways with prayers, good wishes, and warm thoughts, and I treasure you all.

My sister’s cancer diagnosis has been rough on the entire family, complete with all the attendant emotional ups and downs that come with such a devastating diagnosis. The good news is that the chemotherapy has been tremendously effective, and her prognosis has improved from ‘about 5 years’ to ‘you’ll get to see your children grow up’.

We’re still dealing with the roller coaster of feelings, and the family dynamic challenges. Trust me, when you get a cancer diagnosis in the family, the dynamics NEVER improve. The best you can do is keep them from going down the crapper completely and creating the family equivalent of Mt. Vesuvius, and/or something that belongs on the latest hot TV reality show.

In more cancer news, we learned a few weeks back that my sister-in-law, Glenda, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. They caught hers very early, and she did fantastic in her surgery last week. She had no lymph node involvement on initial pathology results, and we’re waiting to hear for the final results, but all indications are that she’ll have a complete cure. She says she’s very glad to be rid of the cancer.

We have also had the challenge of dealing with my daughter’s ADHD diagnosis and different medication changes associated with that. This is one of the Parental Challenges of the Century. At one point, we were trying a dose of medicine that was way too low and just made the symptoms worse, and by worse I mean, “if the pediatrician doesn’t fix it Right Now, the house will explode.” I told the pediatrician “I don’t know who you’re going to have to peel off the ceiling first–her or me.” I briefly thought banshee training would be of great benefit to her as a career choice. I spoke with the Banshee College of Shrieks, and after they listened to her one time, they determined she’d test out of their PhD program and asked if in fact they could invite her for a guest lectureship. The medium dose of the medication seem to be working better, however, so I think we’ll hold off on any career scream plans for the time being. Just to add to the fun, we also learned yesterday that she’s still allergic to dairy after all, and also allergic to soy. Ever try to find margarine or shortening with no dairy or soy in a conventional store? Good luck with that. Soy and dairy are 2 of the 8 top food allergies. You think some major margarine manufacturer execs somewhere would say to themselves, “Hmm, maybe we should make something without dairy and soy and sell it in major groceries. We could make a ton of money from the people who have these allergy issues.” Nope. It hasn’t happened, though I have been assured by Earth Balance that I can find their soy and dairy-free spread at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market if I am willing to drive 35 miles.

Some good news–we found an absolutely delightful dog at Safe Harbor Humane Society, who we have named Sparky. We missed Lucas, we all needed a new dog in our lives, and the shelter had several available. His previous owner had to relinquish him because he lost his job and had to move to an apartment that wouldn’t allow dogs. I don’t know who the previous owner is, and I’m sure he was heartbroken at giving up such a wonderful dog after having him as part of the family for 5 years. I’m proud of him for doing the right thing and not just throwing the dog out on the street for animal control to find. I just wish I could let him know how happy his dog is with us and how we’re working hard to take good care of him and love him.

Sparky

Sparky is mostly a black Labrador retriever, possibly with a bit of pit bull or boxer in him, since he’s got a massive head, very strong jaw, and quite stocky body. He’s collapsed 3 tennis balls since we got him, so we finally got smart and bought Kong toys, which are much tougher. He takes tremendous joy in playing ‘fetch’, and we now take tremendous joy in playing ‘throw’. He has a very sweet temperament and adores tummy rubs. He did well in his introduction to our cat, Joey. The two now sniff each other often. I suspect they’ll be doing some playing in a few more weeks as they learn each others’ boundaries.

In addition to all that, I’ve been dealing with my long-term knee problem, and I’m actually having a total knee replacement for it next week, which brings me to the actual point of this post–how Geeks prepare for a hospital stay. As a Geeky Mom, this involves multiple things, not the least of which is blogging about it.

First, you’ll be happy to know that not only does my surgeon do nothing but knee and hip replacements, he also has a website, and he’s actually tweeted a surgery. I suspect that actually someone typed for him while he did the surgery. I’ll ask him next week for sure. Inquiring minds want to know.

I have a list of things needing to get done around the house prior to surgery because I’ll be maneuvering on a walker and/or crutches for several weeks after I get home from the 3 day incarceration in the hospital. I’m hoping for crutches, because walkers really make me feel old beyond my permanent 29-ness. In fact, I informed the ortho that I would use it if he forced me, but I would feel the urge to decorate it with visually obnoxious items, such as pinwheels, a loud shiny horn, and neon reflective Jar-Jar Binks stickers.

Anyway, the list of tasks includes:

1. Asking my hubby for the 9th time to please put the back seat back in the van. I have been asking this since, oh, last March. I’m tired of chasing cans of kidney beans around the back of the van when they roll out of the bags. Here’s a hint for those of you guys who hate being nagged: if you do something you say you’ll do the first time, we’ll never have to ask you again to do it. Just a pro-tip for husbands, there.

2. Not killing my daughter when she does her best banshee impression about having to clean up the mess in her room.

3. Playing STO and doing RP in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.

4. Creating playlists in iTunes in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.

5. Teaching Trusty Friend jovani how to use Audacity in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.

6. Making a long list of things I need to bring to the hospital in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.

7. Obtaining a raised toilet seat per doctor’s orders. This adds to my feeling of youth about as much as a walker does.

8. Getting the dog neutered and my daughter tested for allergies the week before surgery, because I don’t have enough stress in life, and I’m making the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.

9. Mourning over the fact that Trusty Friend N’Eligahn is not going to be hosting a D&D session this Saturday, thus preventing me from making the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute. Never fear, however, I’ll find something to do instead, perhaps play more STO, write another RP post, blog, or jam with the family on Lego Rock Band. I’m very creative in avoiding house-cleaning.

10. Preparing menus and doing a mass cooking marathon in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.

One of the things I did today was check out the hospital website to get information on my stay there. I found out important things like “as a patient you’ll be given a gown to wear” (more like a half a toga), “no cell phones” (yeah, right), and “we have 24 hour security” (so the psych patients stay in psych). Since I’m going to be an inmate for 3 days, and living without internet is not my idea of A Good Time, I decided that one of the first things I, as a dedicated Geeky Mom, should do is check out internet availability. To my great delight, I found out the hospital has this cool thing called Skylight Access Interactive Patient system. It comes complete with a “wide array of services” such as cable tv, INTERNET, health videos (that’ll put me to sleep for sure), ‘healing music’ (read, New Age interpretations of bad elevator music versions of Simon & Garfunkel songs), INTERNET, the ability to order my meals from the kitchen and extra toilet paper from housekeeping, and, INTERNET. The internet includes a wireless keyboard. My guess on why the keyboard is wireless is Skylight’s lawyers feared that those of us under the influence of Good Drugs might do something with the cord that would involve lawsuits against them. This is in spite of the fact that someone like me will be a. attached to a machine that will move my knee around pretty much all the time, and b. we’re all attached to IVs and assorted other medical things with odd, unintelligible Greco-Roman names.

Now, you may ask why on earth I’d want to be on the internet hours after having chunks carved out of my thigh and leg bones and pieces of titanium hammered into them for my new ‘bionic robo-knee’, as Trusty Friend Dath Max calls it. I mean, we’re talking power-tool heaven for Mr. Fix-It types here. The answer: Because that’s what Geeky Moms do. I may only be online for about 2 minutes the first night, provided I’m not drugged into oblivion by pain killers, and for limited times the next day or two after that, but by God, I actually have the opportunity, and that’s the important thing.

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