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Choosing a Mouse or Pointing Device - Part 3

Posted on September 13th, 2013 by Emily

 

In the final post of our series on mice and pointing devices, we focus on size and ergonomics and the choice of wireless or wired devices.

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We’re adding two more points to our list of what to look for when you’re purchasing a new pointing device – the size and ergonomics of it, and whether to buy wired or wireless – and you’ll see why they’re just as important to consider as everything else.

  • Size and Ergonomics

This might not be something that leaps instantly to mind, but the size and ergonomics of a pointing device really do matter, especially if you’re going to be using the device for extended periods. We’ll be looking mainly at mice, but the same rules apply to any device.

Mice come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some small, some large. The most important thing is to buy one that’s going to be suitable for the person who will be using it. A lot of mice available now with more functions are truly huge – making them unsuitable or uncomfortable for people with smaller hands. Similarly, micro mice are incredibly fiddly and almost impossible to use by people with larger hands. The best thing you can do is go and try out a variety of sizes and see how they feel before buying one, then you’ll get an idea of the best overall shape for your hand.

There are shapes that fit left handed and right handed people, or some that can be used by either. Left handed mice are rare, though, and you’ll probably have to purchase online if you want one specifically designed for left handed people.

Whatever you go for, it’s important that it feels comfortable in your hand, doesn’t cause discomfort with prolonged use, and suits the way you prefer to use a mouse.

  • Wired vs Wireless

The main reason to choose a wireless mouse is really to be rid of a wire from the tangled mess that usually goes to the back of our computers. Without a wire, there’s no drag on the mouse, you can’t accidentally pull out the cable, and you can’t snag the cable on something accidentally. It also means you are not restricted by cable length on the positioning of your device. The connections at either end can’t be worn out either, as there are no cable connections to come loose.

There are drawbacks however, one of which is that the devices needs to be powered, usually by batteries. While there are a few mice out there now that can last on a single AAA battery for a whole year, you can probably expect to have to change the batteries every couple of months or so for a device in frequent use. When the batteries in the device are no longer providing enough power, often the device can begin to act strangely or stop working altogether. There are devices now that come with a rechargeable battery inside and a charging dock (plugged into the computer, doubles as a wireless receiver) that you can place it into when not in use. These tend to come at a higher price, but can be worth it in the long run.

If you’re in an office with a lot of electrical equipment trying to use a wireless device, you can also suffer from interference problems. If there’s another device working on a similar frequency nearby, it can cause the wireless device to malfunction or behave strangely. This is unusual in a standard desk setting however, as the device and its connector are usually close enough together that they have a strong enough signal to ignore any interference.

A wired mouse will have greater reliability and no need for batteries, but a wireless mouse offers greater freedom of positioning and no drag or snagging cable.

There’s certainly quite a few considerations to be made for purchasing a new pointing device, (perhaps more than you might think really,) but we’re confident that if you consider all of these points before you purchase, you’ll have a better, more comfortable experience overall. If you’d like to see any other kind of equipment covered in these articles, please do let us know at the address below!

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If you need more information about mice and pointing devices, or guidance on choosing one that’s right for you or your business, or if you’d just like to chat to us about anything else IT-related, get in contact with us!

Call us on 0845 234 0580 or email us at info@geek-guru.co.uk

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Choosing a Mouse or Pointing Device - Part 2

Posted on September 11th, 2013 by Emily

 

Continuing in our series of blog posts about mice and other pointing devices, this time we’re looking at the different device types and connection options.

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The type of device you use and the connection method are two other things you’ll need to consider when purchasing a new mouse or pointing device, so this time we’ve gone into a little more depth about the types of device available, how they connect to your computer, and why considering these things is important.

  • Touchpads, Trackballs and Tablets

The reason we’ve chosen the term “pointing device” rather than just “mouse” for these articles is because while most users will be using a mouse, some will choose to use a touchpad, (especially on a laptop), a trackball or a tablet. There are other options you can use rather than a mouse, if you prefer!

Touchpads are becoming more advanced, with the ability to use multi-touch and gesture commands on them to perform advanced functions such as scrolling and zooming. The advancement of touchpad technology means that touchpads now are becoming extremely useful, reliable and sensitive. While they do take a bit of getting used to, they’re now a good, easy to use replacement for a mouse on mobile devices such as laptops, and there’s no longer really a need to take a bulky mouse along with you. While it’s rare to find a touchpad attached to a regular desktop PC, some tablets (which we’ll discuss later on) now offer this type of functionality, so if you’re really a fan, that’s also a possibility.

Trackballs are not particularly popular, although some people still prefer them as they involve moving the fingers instead of the whole hand. They are basically an upside down mechanical mouse, you use your fingers or thumb to roll a ball which sits on rollers or inside a bay with LEDs which judge the distance, direction and speed of your movements. Most of them also have the buttons of a regular mouse, plus a scroll wheel. They take quite a bit of getting used to, although they are better for maintaining a neutral arm position and reducing stress on the wrist than standard mice, and so can be helpful if you suffer from RSI. They also don’t need a special surface or lots of room to track on as you’re just moving the ball and not the whole device. Those who use them extensively often say they offer improved control over a regular mouse.

Tablets, until now have been the realm of the graphic designer and the artist, but with touch devices taking off so much recently, and with improvements in handwriting recognition, they are gaining a new niche market from people who prefer to hold a pen or use them as a giant touchpad to perform everyday computer tasks. Not all tablets perform the role of touchpad, though, this is restricted mainly to Wacom’s Bamboo Pen and Touch range at the moment – although the ones that do support touch have a number of programmable buttons and support multi-touch functions and gestures to scroll and zoom, etc. They do take a bit of getting used to, and some older non-touch models have a battery in the pen that needs replacing sometimes, but if you are comfortable with using a pen and like the idea of using one to control your computer, you may like to try one. Definitely something we’d recommend trying out before purchasing – but our design geek wouldn’t be without one!

  • PS/2 and USB

PS/2 is considered a ‘legacy’ connector, (meaning it’s technically out of date and has been replaced by newer technology,) but many computers still offer PS/2 ports. PS/2 connectors are small, round connectors that were the predecessor to USB connections on keyboards and mice – purple port for keyboards, green port for mice. However, in some instances, they can still be pretty useful. If your organisation needs to disable all the USB ports on their machines for security reasons, (for example to avoid flash drives being plugged in), then the PS/2 ports mean that the machines are still useable with most standard devices – a converter can be purchased to convert a USB device into a PS/2 device if necessary.

PS/2 devices can have less delay since the signal is not sent into the operating system via the USB port but instead handled directly within the hardware – however this kind of delay should not be noticeable to the average user.

With so many devices being connected via USB now, there may be a lack of ports on your machine, this is another scenario where a PS/2 port may be useful – they are specific and can only be used for certain types of device, which means you can free up a USB port for use by another device.

The great thing about USB, though, is that the basic functions of USB pointing devices will usually work if you just plug them in (this is known as “plug-and-play”). It also requires very little hardware knowledge – Most people know about the small, flat sockets on their computer, and it would be a challenge now to find a computer without a USB port – which means if it a pointing device has a USB connection, you can probably use it on your computer (depending on compatibility with your operating system of course). A lot of desktop computers also have additional ports on the front now too, so if you don’t like messing around at the back of your computer to plug in a device, you don’t need to.

 

Next time, in the final post of this week, we’ll be taking a look at the sizes and ergonomics of mice and pointing devices, and weighing up the good and the bad points of wired and wireless devices.

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If you need more information about mice and pointing devices, or guidance on choosing one that’s right for you or your business, or if you’d just like to chat to us about anything else IT-related, get in contact with us!

Call us on 0845 234 0580 or email us at info@geek-guru.co.uk

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Hard Drives - Part 7 - Protecting Externals

Posted on May 06th, 2013 by Tim

In this series of mini-blogs we’re looking at hard drives. What are hard drives, why do they fail and what can you do to extended their life and prevent data loss?

Why Protect External Drives

Just like their internal cousins, external drives are reasonably fragile. They contain numerous moving parts and are very susceptible to damage when they are spinning. This is compounded by their usage which often sees them hanging from a laptop when powered meaning they tend to fail far more often than both desktop or laptop hard drives.

Whilst the chassis of an external hard drive offers some protection they are  still far more fragile than a drive safely housed inside a PC or laptop. A standard external drive may have a few millilitres of plastic around the drive but that doesn’t offer a great deal in terms of shock protection and  provides almost nothing if the drive is spinning and then dropped.

How to Protect External Drives

  • Don’t move external drives when the are connected.
  • Sit them carefully on a solid surface when they are connected and treat them with care to avoid knocks and bumps.
  • If you are using an external drive as a backup on a server. Disconnect the drive and wait 5 seconds before moving it. Don’t pick it up whilst it is still connected.
  • If you are worried about a drive getting damaged in transit – Chose a model that offers some physical protection such as rubberised case or bumpers.
  • Would a USB pen disk suit you better – These are solid state (i.e. no moving parts) and are therefore less unacceptable to movement damage.

Next Time – Data Protection

With so much data stored on an external drives, data protection quickly becomes an issue. Check out our next blog entry for some great tips on protecting the data stored on a drive.

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Hard Drives - Part 6 - External Drives

Posted on May 03rd, 2013 by Tim

In this series of mini-blogs we’re looking at hard drives. What are hard drives, why do they fail and what can you do to extended their life and prevent data loss?

What are external drives

External drives are in many cases exactly the same technology as their internal counterparts – indeed often the exact same drive. Internally a hard drive is mounted in either a laptop or desktop PC drive cage and then connected to the motherboard via its on-board interface (usually a SATA cable). With external drives the same drive is mounted in a plastic case which is then connected to some form of intermediate interface – usually a USB or eSATA connection. The important thing to realise here is the drive within the plastic case is exactly the same as the drive in your computer and is subject to the same mechanical issues as those drives.

External drives comes in two flavours:

  1. Portable Drives – Contain a 2.5″ laptop drive; are smaller and lighter and do not require a separate power supply.
  2. Desktop Drives – Contain a 3.5″ desktop drive; are larger in physical size and data sizes and cheaper per MB but usually require a separate power supply.

External hard drives have numerous uses in the business including:

  • Bulk storage for data that is not used frequently (such as music or movies).
  • Backup of laptops, desktops and even servers.
  • Bulk movement of data around the office.
  • Bulk movement of data between offices / home / clients etc.

Next Time – Protecting External Drives

Because of their flexibility we find external drives in use throughout most of our clients. However, by their very nature external drives are subject to even more risk that their securely housed internal brethren. Next time we’ll be looking at the various options to protect your data.

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