A Stylus Gift — Robin <[email protected]> recommends Wacom input tablets not only for artists but also for people with repetitive strain injuries. "Although it is a great tool for graphics, it’s also a great alternative for a mouse. I have both a mouse and a trackball, but my arm still gives me problems. To keep things moving, for a couple hours a day I switch over to my pen and pad. Wacom offers an online guide to help you pick the ‘right’ model for you. I took the quiz for fun, and sure enough it picked the own I own (the Intuos 6×8)!"
Turbo-Charge Your Input — Also keeping an eye on sore wrists, Keith Holzman <[email protected]> and Derek K. Miller <[email protected]> suggested two Kensington input devices. Keith reports: "I strongly recommend the Kensington TurboBall. It’s a USB trackball with four programmable buttons plus a scroll wheel. It has considerably eased minor arthritis pain and costs only about $60."
Derek’s Kensington choice brings USB support to a design recommended by several TidBITS readers over the years. "I’ve been waiting since the release of the iMac in 1998 to be able to make this recommendation: a Kensington Turbo Mouse (or other large-size Kensington trackball) in either USB or ADB flavours. The original ADB Turbo Mouse went through five versions and won many awards, all of them well deserved. My experience using one at my office is that it’s built like a tank, works smoothly, and is easy to clean. People have been wondering over the past two years when the company would release a USB version, and now there are several. It’s expensive, with a suggested retail of $110, but worth the price, in my opinion."
"For those who prefer even more gewgaws," he continued, "there is the Expert Mouse Pro. It’s the same as the Turbo Mouse ADB, but adds a bunch of programmable keys and a scroll wheel above the trackball itself. Oddly, it is cheaper than the Turbo Mouse ADB/USB at $100, probably because it is USB only. It works on both Macs and PCs."
If You’re All Thumbs… The Logitech TrackMan Marble Wheel offers another variant on mouse-less input. TidBITS Talk contributor List Kreme <[email protected]> writes, "It is the only pointing device that allows you to keep your entire arm completely stationary. No wrist, elbow, or shoulder movement. In short, no scrubbing with your whole arm. Your thumb moves the ball and the barest of finger movements clicks the buttons. ADB versions are no longer available, but there are both standard and cordless USB varieties."
"One note: the provided software works, but Alessandro Levi Montalcini’s shareware USB Overdrive works just as well and allows you to specify different button mapping sets for separate applications, a functionality that Logitech abandoned along with ADB."
Embrace and Extend Your Mouse — Mike Cohen <[email protected]> recommends Microsoft’s mouse offerings: "I’ve used Kensington mice for many years, but right now my favorite mouse is the Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer. I really like having a scroll wheel, plus the thumb buttons are excellent for navigating in a Web browser." You might also check out the various mice Warren Magnus wrote about a year ago in "Pointing the Way with USB Mice."
More Gigs on the Go — Richard Wanderman <[email protected]> found an elegant way to boost the storage capacity of his PowerBook. "Because I travel with my computer and make presentations to large groups, I need to carry a complete bootable backup with me at all times. I finally broke down and bought a VST Expansion Bay Hard Drive (the 8 GB version, although they have much bigger ones). Even though it was expensive and only works in a PowerBook, I’m extremely happy with it. It uses Apple’s drivers and Apple’s Drive Setup, it’s hot-swappable, and it mounts immediately after you put it in. Backups of my 2 GB main partition take about 3 minutes now, compared to the longer times of my old system of using Zip media, and of course I can more easily boot from it should my main hard disk have problems."
Holiday Spirit Is in the Air — Juan C. Santiago <[email protected]> is looking out for the elves in his holiday workshop. "I plan to give my 50-person technology company an AirPort Base Station. It’s a great way to give Apple some visibility while providing an incredibly useful and productive function. Many colleagues already have wireless networks at home and hate being tied to their desk in our rapidly changing work environment. Most will be surprised to learn that Apple’s $300 AirPort Base Station works with Windows laptops using any of the wireless cards already on the market, taking the place of base stations focussed on use with Windows and costing $700 and up."
Wandering about Music? Glenn Fleishman <[email protected]> writes, "The Nomad Jukebox is the current ultimate incarnation of an MP3 player: it stores over 100 hours of compressed music (at the right quality, according to Creative.com, the manufacturer), weighs under a pound, comes with two sets of rechargeable batteries (about four hours of play time per recharge), has Mac and Windows software for transferring files over USB, and is about the size of a regular portable CD player. Its secret? A tiny 6 GB hard drive and very little RAM. The downside? It costs over $450. Early adopters should adopt it now. Those who like to wait a little while will certainly be rewarded: the sales of this unit and the continual drop in hard drive prices could shave hundreds off the price (or make it readily available in used form) within months."
The Paperless Office Recedes Again — Edward Reid <[email protected]> recommends picking up a more physical solution for working with your data. "Buy a used laser printer. Many people who are making do with inkjets would really prefer a laser printer. The older LocalTalk printers are going for about $25 to $75 at auction. For non-LocalTalk Macs you also need a Farallon iPrint, going for around $35-$50 at auction. Some of the older printers have parallel ports and work with PCs as well as Macs. The printers in this category are mostly straight 300 dpi – text looks great, but photographs do not print well. You can get toner cartridges cheap too – new ones, usually ones that have been sitting on the shelf for a few years."
"You might also know someone who has a laser printer that’s gathering dust because it needs a repair that’s predicted to cost more than the printer is worth. In that case, fix it for them with a kit from Laser Service."
Making the Switch — Kevin van Haaren <[email protected]> writes, "Just did a little Christmas shopping for myself. The Linksys EtherFast 10/100 Mbps 5 Port Auto-Sensing Switch ($70) is the biggest sticker shock I’ve had for a while. I remember just a few years ago when a five port 10/100 Mbps switch would have cost $1,000. Instant gratification on my home network: most of my Ethernet cards are already 100 Mbps, I’ve just been waiting for the price of a real switch to drop down."
Mike Cohen <[email protected]> also recommends a Linksys device. "I have a Linksys BEFSR41 cable/DSL router with built-in 4-port switch ($160 or less) and I love it. I’m using it to share my cable modem connection between my blue-and-white Power Mac G3, iBook, and a Compaq 5340. It’s my favorite piece of hardware that I purchased in the last year and it works beautifully. I highly recommend it to anyone who uses cable modem or DSL. One especially nice feature for DSL users is built-in support for PPP over Ethernet (PPPoE), so you don’t have to install any connection software on your computer."