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July 30, 2004

Pointy Clicky

Ah, meese, the boon and bane of our existance. Pointing devices have come a long way since the first "soap bars with buttons". Still, many leave a lot to be desired, especially for lefties and people with RSIs.

I usually use a trackball, like the Orbit Optical Trackball ($30) from Kensington, or Marble Mouse ($20) from Logitech. I loathe ordinary mice, because holding them makes my hand hurt in short order. The older Kensingtom Orbits were a bit of a pain to clean, but the Optical Orbit has no tiny, hair gathering moving parts. This is an improvement in movement.

On one job, I got to use the Roller Mouse, by Contour Design. It would figure, the most expensive gadget ($190!) would be my favorite! I no longer had to fumble for wherever the thing had been put this time (like on the wrong side of my keyboard by some helpful idiot), because its base went under my keyboard. The only thing that grumped me a little bit was trying to clean off the wrist rest pads without soaking them. The thing didn't come apart well for cleaning, and, well, I sometimes eat lunch at my desk...

If I am dealing with a laptop, I dislike having to plug in a pointing device. I hate having too many dangling cords. But I will if it has one of those awful "zit" type things like on the IBM ThinkPad. You want to talk about finger cramps! Touch pads are good, except for the face that I keep hitting them as I try to use the keyboard. It encourages good wrist elevation, I suppose. I prefer it if they have buttons instead of just relying on the "tap to click" idea.

However, I have never been able to draw with any of these things. It's like trying to draw portraits with oversized kiddie crayons. One of my current co-workers has a nice little Grafire Tablet ($100) from Wacom. Problem is, we haven't been able to get it working in absolute mode (e.g. the upper left corner of the table is always the upper left corner of the screen) in Linux (RH 9). This is too bad, because the thing could perhaps enable me to again entertain the illusion that I am an artist. The drivers and documentation aren't ready for prime time yet.

Oh, a final point on soap bars standard mice: scroll wheels are not neccessary if you use a trackball. You also wouldn't have to try to clean the stupid little wheel when it clogged up with hair and crumbs.

Posted by ljl at July 30, 2004 06:53 PM