Four keyboards and two pointers.

(Once again) too long ago (a few months) I augmented my selection of input devices. The MacBook Pro has a built in keyboard and touchpad. The keyboard has a necessarily tight arrangement and no numeric keypad. The touchpad works pretty well, especially the two-axis two-finger-scroll. However, it’s only convenient from the built in keyboard.

When the keyboard on my old computer starting getting some soft keys, I bought a basic USB keyboard, figuring it could carry over to a new computer. I found that I had some mistypes on that as well, however. It’s now serving as USB hub (it had two built in ports) I should probably get a real hub some time.

After years of running across people praising the old IBM model M keyboards, I finally figured the only thing to do was put it to the test. I didn’t go looking for an antique however. Unicomp still make keyboards based on the basic technology. I believe I have a black Customizer, although they keyboard itself doesn’t actually say what it is. It’s a basic USB keyboard; I looked at some of the ones with integrated pointers, but they were PS/2 only, and/or out of stock. On the whole it’s a solid keyboard with good response, and keys spaced out enough to avoid accidental key-presses. It does fulfill the reputation for being load however, so it’s not a good choice if you are, say, taking notes from an podcast or recorded presentation.

The other ‘keyboard’ is a CyKey, a chord keyboard based on the MicroWriting system. It lives up fairly well to the claim of being easy to learn. However, proficiency will take some time, and it seems that either I’m writing something long, for which it’s yet too slow, or programming, for which I’m not yet bold enough to try, with all the cursor movement and odd symbols. Dual-wielding the CyKey and a pointer might alleviate the cursor problems – I suspect I’ve gotten use to keyboard navigation to avoid moving a hand to the pointer. Unfortunately the CyKey is set up for right-hand (it has a left-hand mode, but all the chord documentation is set up for right, and they recommend learning that before flipping) and that’s also usually my pointer hand. Probably easier to learn pointing on the left.

On the pointer side, I got a Kensington Expert Mouse, basically an updated version of the serial trackball I have for my old PC. The basic concept still works well, but there are a few catches. The old trackball, augmented by it’s driver, had a very nice scrolling mode; press both buttons to toggle into scroll mode. The model has a built in scroll wheel around the trackball, which has perceptible clicks. It’s not as smooth as the the actual trackball. And special functions are kind of a lost cause – the MouseWorks driver software that enables special functions makes the computer unstable (I’ve forgotten exactly how) so I have to get by with basic functions. OS X can assign all four buttons, but doesn’t include the copy and paste functions I would have liked.

Posted Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 under Review.

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