Confessions of an Input Device Fetishist

What can I say? I really really like input devices. I use a laptop day-to-day, it has its own keyboard and glide pad. Do I use them …. err, not often! I’ve always been quite particular about keyboards and mice, and since developing tendonitis in my hands and arms a few years ago, I’m fussier now than ever. Some of the stuff I have is really good though so I thought I’d show you around my collection.

I have two external keyboards that I use a lot, because I find even at a desk, they are way easier on the hands than using the laptop integrated one. My complete favourite is the Logitech UltraX Premium keyboard. It wasn’t expensive, it feels really robust, its supposed to be spillproof which will hopefully make cleaning it a lot easier (I do eat at my desk so my keyboards take a lot of this kind of abuse), and its got a proper layout which is very important for programmers. I once had a laptop with both slashes next to each other in one corner of the keyboard … its really not helpful! The other keyboard is a mini one, I often work from different locations and normal sized keyboards are too long to cart around whereas this one fits in my laptop bag. Its an A4Tech X-Slim multimedia keyboard and, while unexciting, it does allow me to type for more than a couple of hours when away from the office without seizing up! These are the keyboards:

Next up, trackballs. I have two, for years I used one of those Microsoft ones with the ball in the middle and the buttons on the thumb … it died about a week from my dissertation hand-in and I’ve never managed to find another I like as much. At the time I bought the thumb-ball Microsoft Optical Trackball Mouse, which is hard to use and doesn’t suit my hands – useful though if you need to keep alternating inputs as I sometimes do, and of course it takes less space than a mouse. I probably won’t replace it but I do think that the Trackball Explorer has a lot of potential I think. I’ve always liked microsoft mice, despite not liking much else they make :) My other trackball is a real favourite, a fabulous piece of kit! Its a Kensington Expert Mouse (on the right below) and although I don’t use it a lot now (I don’t use a mouse a lot), when I am working with documents or whatever its great. The ring around the ball spins and acts as a scroll wheel – very neat. I did find that this helped a lot with my hand pain too. The best thing about this though, is that it was a gift!

I have a lot of mice. Which is strange as normally, I don’t use one! As a kubuntu user who mostly writes code or documents, I actually don’t need a mouse to interact with my computer most of the time. I browse using Opera’s spatial keyboard navigation, and find that not having the mouse around means I don’t use that and strain my hands – it sort of removes the temptation. To lean over the keyboard and reach the glidepad on my laptop is fine for the odd click when needed, but discourages me from using a mouse when I can use a keyboard. Since I touch type I can then just sit with my hands on the keyboard all day and I don’t get such bad pains if I set up in this way. Anyway, mice! I’ll start with a long-term favourite, which really wasn’t expensive. Its my Belkin Ergo Mouse which was a panic buy in response to the onset of RSI pains. Its a great little mouse and fits my hand really well. I don’t really know why I like it so much but its put up with a lot and still works like a dream. I’ve also recently acquired a contour mouse, as a hand-me-down, which doesn’t have a scroll wheel but apparently that’s because scrolling is really bad for your hands :) It’s got a space to rest your thumb while you use it which is good as it helps stop the resting of thumb and wrist on the desk and then twisting to move the mouse. Finally, my new gadget of joy, my Kensington SlimBlade Media Presenter Mouse. Since changing jobs, I’m doing more presenting – both as a trainer and as a speaker at various events. Since my laptop has no bluetooth or anything, I’ve been restricted to clicking the slides along using the laptop keyboard which is awkward if you have bad room layout or want to walk around. This mouse is a really cute little wireless mouse, but when you flip it over it doubles as a remote control for media and presentations. I’ve used it a few times and love it although I’m finding it very unreliable under windows vista and their technical support has been anything but supportive. Maybe I’ll write more about that another time. Anyway, its a lovely gadget and I’m happy to have it.

So, there you have it, my input device confession. Does anyone else hoard things in this way? And do you have a favourite device that I haven’t mentioned? Comments please :)

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