Wednesday, October 21, 2009

So, Apple has a new mouse

I am wondering why people still need a mouse, especially on a notebook. A quite common scenario I see is someone brings a laptop into the meeting, and then spends the next five minutes plugging in the charger and the mouse and then booting up. With all those cables, the laptop is no more a mobile computer!!

I have not used a mouse for the last thirteen years, that is, since I got my first notebook, a Compaq Armada 4100. It has a touch-pad. Between 2000 and 2004 I was using the Compaq M700 and that has the stick. The stick was tough on the finger due to the force required.

Even the stick is better than the mouse. For the very simple reason that it takes less than one-tenth the time for your hand to leave the keyboard to reach for it. So I can do things ten times faster than a mouse user.

The touch-pad is still the best pointing device as it requires the least effort for a lazy person like me. A well-tuned touch-pad would allow me to move the cursor across a 1600-pixel wide screen by moving across just half the pad.

I compare myself to colleagues sitting around me who still insist on using the mouse. I get screen work done at least ten times faster than all of them on average. It is frustrating every time I go to their PC to see something they are showing me. It's a snail's pace compared to what I normally experience on my PC. And when they come and see something demoed on my PC, it's a smooth flow of activities, so fast that they sometimes get lost.

Another reason for my speed is that I use the pointing device for only a small fraction of the time. I have no hard data, but it's something like for 80% of the occasions other people are using their mouse I am simply using the keyboard. Basically I don't use the touch-pad if some key will do. Hence the speed difference is easily a few hundred times, two to three orders of magnitude apart. For example, I take five centi-seconds to hit a key, you take half a second to move your hand from keyboard to the mouse, two seconds to move it to a menu item, and another second to come back to the keyboard.

All you need is to spend a diligent five minutes learning to use the touch-pad after tweaking the drivers. And you will never touch a mouse again.

What I am looking forward to is a touch-pad that is located between the H and J keys on the keyboard. This will reduce the travel time even further whenever I have to use the touch-pad.

The disadvantage of the touch-pad? Every time I have to use someone else's PC, I suffer from a major handicap as performance is down-shifted by a few notches.