Razer's gaming stuff: Disappointing support

2011-11-10 20:54

Okay, I gotta say. I like the hardware as such. Nice hardware. Good feel on the keyboards.

But these “programmable” things simply can’t process, save, send, or otherwise deal with a number of standard key codes. And this dramatically reduces their utility. One of the neat things about the USB spec is that the number of 100% standard keys is larger than the number of keys on most real keyboards. Of particular interest are F13 through F24, which are standard parts of the USB keyboard interface spec, but usually not already in use. This makes them great choices for keybinding.

Razer’s mouse programming software simply can’t process these at all, so far as I can tell. No recognition of the events, no ability to program them into anything, no ability to generate them, can’t load them from files.

Their keyboard software is weirder. If you hit one of these keys while recording a macro, they DO record the key event. They even display it correctly. But as soon as you try to save your settings, they mysteriously fail to record those events.

The support people are pretty useless, and their first response to a bug report was to close the ticket on the grounds that they have an ironclad policy against reading suggestions. WTF. A policy against reading suggestions does not make sense. There are plenty of reasonable ways to avoid the mythical legal hassle over these, and claiming to be serving a market while ignoring their requests is… well, a bit weird.

But the real point here is: This isn’t a “suggestion” for a new “feature”. This is a bug report. Here are 100% standardized fully supported documented USB key events. Your software fails to process them.

You might wonder why this is a big deal. Here’s the thing. The point of extra programmable keys is to let you, well, use them. Ideally as keys that are distinct from the other keys which you were already using. Thing is, the standard PC keyboard is a landmine of keys with special meanings; alt+F4 instantly closes apps under Windows, for instance. Many other strange bindings exist and can be very hard to change, or impossible. Typically, a gamer type will already have stuff bound to, say, number keys, or keypad keys. So what’d make extra mouse buttons SUPER USEFUL would be if they could generate events other than the ones that are easily gotten from the main keyboard. What would make them even better would be if they could be, say, logically related in some way.

I might as well add that their Mac drivers have caused some of the only kernel panics I’ve ever seen.

So if you’re looking at these gizmos as a possible source of nice, responsive, hardware? Good kit, worth the look. I think they may be worth the price, especially if you have sensitive fingers and care about that sort of thing. If you’re thinking “all the buttons on that mouse could provide me with an additional input channel that’s not already in use”, that’s gonna be much harder to pull off.

(Note: Some PC games also ignore those keys, but only some. Other games handle them fine.)

Peter Seebach

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