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Your Next Pointer Device?

Roblimo posted more than 14 years ago | from the sometimes-the-old-ways-are-best dept.

Hardware 185

Anonymous Coward writes "Replacements for the rodent on your desktop are regularly being introduced. Here's yet another pointing device for you. A pen connected via radio to your PC. Movement is tracked by measuring the rolling of a small ball at the tip of the pen. This means it works on any surface. Take a look here. No Linux drivers yet, and I'll wait for the USB version. But I like the idea of a pen."

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Not Really Practical (3)

waldoj (8229) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512106)

I've used pen devices. Granted, they were tethered, but the same problem applies: It's a pain in the ass to keep putting down and picking up a pen. Impractical for those of us that switch back and forth from the keyboard to the mouse frequently.

Great, now I can loose my mouse, too (2)

handorf (29768) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512107)

I don't know about anybody else, but I am ALWAYS misplacing my pens. :-)

And if I write for a long time, I get cramps in my hand which are just as painful to me as RSI. I think I'll stick with my Logitech Trackman Marble Wheel. Since I got that here at work my wrists haven't bothered me one bit (except for when I fell on one, but I don't think I can blame that on the trackball).

Real Purty, though. :-)
-- I'm omnipotent, I just don't care.

Is this new? (2)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512108)

Mac graphic artists have been using pens for years with their graphic tablets; I assumed these could be used as mouses as well.
If I use anything other than a mouse, it's going to be a Twiddler [] . Which is cooler than any mere pen, except possibly one that blows up when you click it three times.

Comfortable? (2)

kaniff (63108) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512109)

I think the mouse is probably the best general purpose pointing tool. It's a simple device you can flop your hand on and shove around, and for general pointering (not a word, I made it up) its accurate enough. What this pen would be nice for is for artists and the like. People who do online comics is the first idea that comes to mind. Holding a pen isn't a relaxed enough motion for me to ever use it for general pointering. (there it goes again)

Different tools for different tasks I guess. :)

Regardless, I want one.

kaniff -- Ralph Hart Jr

Off topic, but... (1)

ptomblin (1378) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512110)

Geez, and I thought web sites that required javashit for navigation were lame. This one appears to require Shockwave, for God's sake. Or am I totally misinterpreting what that thingy on the left side is supposed to be?

a pain to operate (1)

BorgDrone (64343) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512111)

I've read a review about these things in some computer magazine, can't remember which. they said they where a pain to operate because you had to press the pen down hard to get a good grip. so these things will make RSI even worse.


Pen Mice Have Been Around For Years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512112)

These things are not new; I first saw one about five years ago. They generally got very bad reviews from users. Apparently the small ball makes the whole concept unworkable.

Re:Is this new? (1)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512113)

Not realy.

As you say, there tablets, which by definition is a exacting pointing device. These replace mice, which are relative. Pick up your mouse and move it to another place on your desk. The pointer will jiggle when you put it back down, but it wont flt accrossd the screen like it would do with a puck/pointer and tablet.

These look like they conbine the advantages of a pen/tablet (ease of use, ergonomic wise anyway) and a mouse (price, and relitivity (which in some cases is a good thing (though I cant think of any right now (actualy I can, fps games)))).

This can add to the variety (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512114)

With all the repetitive motion problems we're having, perhaps the best solution is a variety of pointing devices. When your mouse muscles start to ache switch to a pen pointer, or a touch screen, etc.

Ergonomic devices breaking (2)

duras (34902) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512115)

Well, my nifty new radio pen rolled off my slanted ergonomic desk (it didn't alert the computer to that fact by radio) and I rolled over its nice ergonomic surface with my ergonomic chair... erg!

I lose pens unless I put them in my pen cup (an inconvenient place for a pointing device.) But my mouse always peeks out from beneath the junk piles on my desk, and its strung up by the tail to prevent it from straying too far.

yuk (2)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512116)

Yuk...for general pointing use a pen would be awefully. The reason your hand gets cramped when you write a lot is because it is not normal to scrunch it up into the awkward position require to hold a pen. The mere awkwardness of having to /hold/ something to point would be annoying. A mouse just sits there...if I want to move it I move it. I don't haven to pick it up and then put it on some surface to make contact. A cylander is just too awkard to use except for activities that require micro-motor skills (writing). A pen is no good for macro-motor activities.

Re:Is this new? (2)

Christopher Bibbs (14) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512117)

This is very similar to the Wacom [] tablets. They even have the cordless stuff available.

Pen/tablet systems are great for artists, but a mouse is still better for general use. If you don't believe me, feel free to plunk down a hundred or so for a Wacom (already available with Linux drivers) and see for your self.

Yes they are! (1)

Benley (102665) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512118)

I absolutely adore my pen. I have a Wacom Artpad II tablet, and I just keep the pen in my left hand all the time, even while typing. It works quite well, and there is absolutely no matching it for accuracy at doing design work and drawing.
On the other hand, I do have my mouse hooked up too, because pens just aren't as usable for applications like word processing where you don't use them much. And they are absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to use in fps games! Try it sometime, get into q3demo and try mousing around with a pen. It goes insane!

Cheap, Corded Serial version (2)

Joe_NoOne (48818) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512119)

IF you like this idea, try this : 21596955211819&cd=OU202

at only $18 and has DB9 connector, works for linux.

Anyone know how to convert PC keyboards/mice for sun boxes???

Sounds nice, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512120)

This sounds like a great idea and it could really revolutionize the way you interact with your computer. Unfortunately for the folks at FreePen, I hold the patent on "stick shaped object used for actual or simulated writing". They haven't contacted my people for permission yet, so who knows when this may actually make it to the US market.

Interesting... (1)

mikeylebeau (68519) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512121)

Straight from the page:

There were no repetitive strain injuries caused by the usage of the mouse until we got the PC.

Um.. Well considering that when we got the PC, we got the mouse, I guess there weren't many mouse-related injuries...before the mouse. Ha!

But seriously, this mouse could be sorta nice for basic computing but when it comes to gaming and stuff you'd just need a mouse, hands down. So I'm happy with a regular ol' IntelliMouse Pro from now on.

Pens are great, but... (2)

httptech (5553) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512122)

I use a Wacom PenPartner 4x5 tablet-and-cordless-pen myself, and it is MUCH better than using a mouse.

I don't see that this pen would be an improvement over a conventional pen and tablet. If anything, I see these disadvantages:

1. Since there is no tablet, this pen works in "Relative" mode only, like a mouse. So you have to keep picking up the pen and bringing it back to center to move a large distance. It's just as annoying as a mouse that way.

2. The pens you use with most tablets do not actually touch the surface of the tablet unless you are left-clicking. With this you have to keep the ball rolling, so there's more friction (minute, but still there). Plus, clicking seems more like it would just be "pressing harder than you are now", which doesn't lend itself to great accuracy.

It's a neat idea, but I'll keep my PenPartner.

(Now if only there was support for it in gpm...)

Pens? Blah. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512123)

It would take one *hell* of a pen in order for me to give up my intellimouse explorer. Its the only M$ product I actually like. Look ma, no mouse ball, and I can run it on my pants! I haven't tried it on one of my linux boxes, but it should work -- You can use the generic mouse drivers on it, you just don't get access to the 2 extra buttons.

I'll leave using-a-pen-as-a-pointing-device to my Palm, thanks.

Re:yuk (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512124)

...a pen would be awefully. = ...a pen would be awful.

I don't haven... = I don't have...

A cylander is... = A cylinder is...

Man I need to get more sleep...

Sick, Jimmy! (2)

AngryMob (89923) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512125)

As a sometimes graphic-artist (read: I doodle on PS in my spare time), I think this is a kickass innovation. The mouse, as a drawing tool, frankly, sucks ass. I can render a human figure in perhaps three minutes with a pen, but with a mouse it takes endless hours of correction to get it right. Forget about subtle things like shading/cross-hatching or anything remotely artistically complex. Mice STINK for drawing.

Also lightpens are just as irritating, because if you don't maintain contact with the surface properly, you're screwed. I'd like to see something that's easy to control the motion of, like a pen. For most of you, precise control isn't that important - just gotta center the mouse on the button/url/whatever and click. If you want to draw a nice curve, though, mice are horrid and disgusting. I, for one, will buy this pen ASAP.


Re:Cheap, Corded Serial version (1)

Benley (102665) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512126)

I have one of these on a shelf in my basement (this product has been around for about 8 years) and while it's an interesting novelty, I find it completely unusable. The problem is that it has a metal ball instead of a more grippy rubber one. This forces you to push down REALLY hard in order to make it work properly, which causes wrist pain after less than an hour.

Carpal Tunnel here we come (2)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512127)

Ya know how your hand hurts from clenching a mouse too much? Think how it will be to hold a pen all day.

Touch screen would be a lot better. I don't know why they aren't more popular. You could use your finger for most things, like menus, resizing, moving windows. You would probably need a little pointer gizmo on a ring on the end of your finger for cut and paste, but it would be so easy to use, you'd forget you had it on.


Re:a pain to operate (2)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512128)

People have complained for a long time pain due to holding writing implements. It's called writer's cramp [] Actually, I see the mouse as a more comfortable version of a pen. A mouse is intended to detect the large hand motions, without detecting the detail from precise positioning with the finger tips.

Personally, I prefer my keyboard with the Touchpoint mouse in the middle. I don't have to use the large arm muscles to wave around a mouse or pen, and I don't have to move my hand away from the keyboard. The next best thing might be the foot-operated mice which have appeared on the market a few times...

Re:Not Really Practical (1)

slashdot-terminal (83882) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512129)

Considering the affinity around here with FPS games like quake I am sure mice will continue to have a long life span.

I wouldn't use this. (1)

churchr (24226) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512130)

Imagine picking up a pen every time you want to move your mouse pointer. The act of moving my right hand from keyboard to mouse and back is annoying enough. I would hate to have to actually pick something up and situate it in a proper writing grip.

Still waiting for a Data Glove (2)

adimarco (30853) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512131)

Neat idea, but not really useful enough imho to become a Big Thing (tm). The big obstacle to more effective computing right now (especially in the light of the portable/handheld 'revolution' going on right now) is human interface. We should be looking for faster, more efficient ways to interface with our computers, if you think RAM is a bottleneck, think about physical interface :)

What would not long ago have been considered high-end 3d technology (hardware in particular) is becoming more and more accessable for the home user. If I can play a high-demand game like quake2 in beautifully textured 3d space (complete with colored lighting, etc.) why can't my desktop and general interface with my 'puter look like that? The answer (again, imho) is the lack of a proper 3d interface device.

The mouse only describes motion in a single plane. Until we can use something more intuitive for 3d interface, such as a cyberpunk-ish data glove, we will have to wait for more effective and intuitive interface (and i [think/hope?] we'd all agree that humans more intuitively deal with 3d space).

Every time I read about someone trying to put together a 3d front-end for X, I look at the screenshots and what their goal is and think to myself "Wow, these guys are missing the point completely." A 2d window manager in 3d space is exactly what we *don't* need. There are larger issues under the surface here 'though, such as how we redefine interaction with the computer for 3 dimensions.

That will have to wait for a device to do it with...


Segmentation fault (core dumped)

The obvious 'How goes it re. Quake' (1)

layne (15501) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512132)

Ever want to sign a death warrant? This pen is mighty as a BFG! Write off your opponents with the red ink of Epitaph USB. Or send them a loving billet-doux with our new Optical Double Cross(TM) arena version!

Re:yuk (1)

Gurlia (110988) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512133)

On the contrary, I think a pen would be awesome for drawing things on the computer!!! Actually, I agree that a pen would be really awkward to use for general things that the mouse is currently serving (ie. point-and-click operations). However, I've never been able to draw properly while holding a mouse... what would be really nice is to be able to switch between mouse and pen -- then you can still use the mouse for "courser" activities like point-and-click, and switch to a pen when in the GIMP or something, to get extra precision for sketching.

RSI from touch screens (2)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512134)

Touch screen would be a lot better. I don't know why they aren't more popular.

Because supporting the weight of your arm for hours at a time, day after day, also causes problem. First you get very sore and cramped. If you manage to keep it up for weeks at a time you overdevelop a couple muscles in the arm - and end up unbalanced WRT the other arm.

It's called "gorilla arm".

Wacom Graphire (2)

Zach Baker (5303) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512135)

I love my Wacom tablet, though I won't be disconnecting my mouse anytime soon. Even though tablets are cool, it's hard to justify a full-blown tablet setup if you don't do much GIMP work. Now Wacom has introduced a nice USB combination tablet, Graphire [] , which has both pen and cordless mouse input for the PC and Mac.

It came out about a few months ago for $100 US ($75-$90 street price). It's a consumer-level product, not for hardcore GIMP, Photoshop or Painter users like the Intuos, which means it costs less and has less (a mere 1015 DPI) tablet resolution. The Wacom XInput page [] says it's supported, but I don't have one (yet) to test it. Check it out.

Useful (2)

Hermetic (85784) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512136)

This may be useful to some people...
But not me, I fear.

I have used mice. Trackballs, touchpads, touch screens, and a joystick once or twice. I have navigated with the keyboard and with voice controls.

All this crap, just because using a mouse is like pointing with a potato.

You know what? I still use the mouse. It is universal, so I don't feel wierd when I go to someone else's desk. (I have one luser who insists on using a touchpad on his desktop PC :( )

I hate to admit I like the mouse, but it is so useful in a basic sense that I would dread using anything else.

It does look cool, though. And would almost be worth it for the shock value. :)

Re:Carpal Tunnel here we come (1)

Kyrrin (35570) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512137)

> Touch screen would be a lot better.

As a carpal tunnel sufferer myself (recovering from the second half of the surgery, which was done on Friday) I just don't see touch screen ever catching on. It's a smaller area of contact, and I find that after about half an hour of using a touchpad my hand starts getting cramped and sore, mostly from the postion you have to hold your hand at for clicking. If you meant a touchscreen that was the monitor itself, it would involve too much holding the hand and arm at an unnatural position and place far too much strain on the shoulder and elbow to hold the hand/arm up to touch the monitor.

My ideal input device at the moment is a trackball -- Kensington Orbit, to be precise; the things are beautifully designed and fit my hand perfectly -- but input devices are much more of an individual thing. There's far too much variation on hand side and shape to state that there is "One True Way". All of the ergonomic studies that I've seen state that a solution should be individually tailored and that any solution involving input devices should include frequent rest and occasional change-of-input-device to vary the stresses placed upon the hand and body.

I can see the pen being a godsend for artists -- an artist friend of mine uses a tablet for her drawing, and she adores it -- but again, as a CTS sufferer, I couldn't use one. I haven't been able to hold a pen/pencil for about two years now, and don't expect that the surgery will radically change that.

Big stick (1)

Kaa (21510) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512138)

Can somebody, please, find out this guy and, using a big stick, persuade him not to do this again?


RSI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512139)

"There were no repetitive strain injuries caused by the usage of the mouse until we got the PC." From the maker's page. Huh? there was no mouse until we got the PC. unless you worked at Xerox PARC

Re:a pain to operate (1)

slashdot-terminal (83882) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512140)

Why can't people just use a hand operated one? The only way you could use anything acurately enough for finite motions like that would be if you had ballet lessons. There are certain activities that one cannot do if one is not endowed with ability and the use of various limbs. If you don't have eyes chances the possibility of effectively playing something like quake would be nil. Unless you have effective, subjective methods of auditory display. ex..

You see someone off in the distance you pull your machine gun from it's strap. You fire into your enemy. He fills with bullets and then sinks to the ground in a pool of blood.

nope.. (1)

semiriot (99245) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512141)

Sorry, but a pen just ain't gonna cut it when I'm skewering somebody with a railgun. I also have the nasty habit of slamming my mouse on the desk when i miss or get killed. I'd probably bust that pen. Even so, it could be used for games like Civ2 or AOE2...hmm...

The idea of a pointer itself isn't *that* great. (2)

Hanno (11981) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512142)

As others said already, the idea of a pen-shaped pointer device isn't exactly new. This particular device seems to be different because a) it is wireless and b) uses an extremely small ballpoint.

However, this pen has a big disadvantage like its predecessor - you have to pick it up, hold it and later lay it down while you use it. For people who touchtype, this is a very repetive (and thus over time more and more uncomfortable) task.

A mouse or trackball does not require that you really have to pick something up, you just grab and move it. It's a tiny, yet important difference...

Anyway, I am not sure if the current idea of a "modern ui", the user interface based on the movement of a pointer device that is used to navigate windows, pull-down menus etc., is *such* a great idea.

Most computer-illiterate people still have problems to understand the metaphore and very complex software actually makes the use of a pointer device even less impractical than the proponents of the idea claim - don't say you've never spent minutes of idly clicking and searching through multiple levels of pull-down-menus?

I am still hoping for a user interface that is completely different. Speech processing is good enough now and modern processors can handle it. When will there be the first true window-less, speech driven user interface? I can't wait to see it.

"Computer: tea, earl grey, hot."


Touch screens have problems too... (1)

BrianMertens (31169) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512143)

1) Keeping your arm raised in front of you all day is tiring.

2) You can't read a screen while it's covered by your hand and forearm.

3) Fingers are too fat for fine-grained selection. (Your fingers may vary.)

You know what we need? A hookah pointer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512144)

(Man, this makes me sound like a stoner. "Man, my ferret loves it when I play 'Sugar Magnolia'!") What about a cigarette-like holder held in one's mouth? The tongue could be used to manipulate the tip (I guess the tip could be large and concave, so that the tongue could fit inside and move all four directions, or perhaps a ball-like mechanism could be used; clicking could be done by biting, or perhaps a keyboard mechanism). There'd be no hand switching! Along with the electrical cord, a tube could carry oxygen (or "tobacco"). Of course, each person would need to carry around his/her own mouthpiece to plug in. Truly, this is something we need.

FreePan (1)

SpacePunk (17960) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512145)

Actually, this type of thing is nothing new. I got a pen-type thing back when I had an Apple //gs. It was a pain to use (had like a small ball in a box on the end, darn hatch kept popping off). On another note, I guess it really is a free pen... their online buying form doesn't have prices listed and amounts come up as 0.00.

strain injuries ... (1)

Destacona (13613) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512146)

They bill this device as allowing the user to "Avoid irritating and painful working postures." It seems that it would be just as bad for strain as any other hand controlled device when used for hours at a time.

I'm holding out for retina controlled pointer devices. Or better yet - psychic!

Tape it to my shaven head (1)

./ (13859) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512147)

Finally! A sight-driven cursor! I can tape this to the top of my head and look where I want to click. There'd have to be some sort of chin strap that could be used to push the buttons on the pen...... and some sort of pr0n mode where you can look at one thing and click something completely else.

Won't catch on. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512148)

Oh please... how could you possibly play a decent game of Quake with that?

Sticks vs. Rocks (2)

dublin (31215) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512149)

I believe it was Ted Nelson that said something like, "Thousands of years ago, our ancestors discovered that it was much easier to draw with sticks than with rocks. The stick prevailed until just recently, when we inexplicably began to draw with rocks again." (bad paraphrase, I'm sure)

He has a point. Sticks are easier, and allow you to input non-trivial things. Try feeding a handwriting recognition program or drawing a picture with a mouse.

Pens can replace mice, but not vice versa. User interfaces that take advantage of this can be very powerful, but then the best user interface for things like browsing (where the chief function is selection of a specific area) is the touchscreen, which outside the PDA world has hardly taken off at all.

I don't think it's going too far to say that it's the touchscreen feature of PDA's that makes them so darn easy, quick, and useful, and is largely responsible for thier success. Given that touchscreens and browsers work so well together, why don't we see the combination more often? (This raises interesting points for UI designers, who, whether they intend to or not, may wind up with something that looks very much like the heirarchical swooshes of the screens on Star Trek.)

Since it's likely that there will be mutiple kinds of input devices in the future (I think touchscreens to augment mice are more likely than sticks, but I like sticks better than mice), UIs will have to take this into account.

Other than the possible integration of character recognition, and the ability to more effectively use the display resolution (touchscreens have a notable weakness in that regard), what changes in UI would result from the widespread availability of sticks?

Re:RSI (1)

Alton (80146) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512150)

More to the point, writers cramp has been around for centuries. The pen is no easier on your hand than the mouse is. The only real selling point here is that the pen is a more familiar tool for new computer users. The pen style interface is not new either. My Commodore 64 had a drawing program (Koala Paint I think) that came with a pen and a tablet. And that was in the early/mid '80s.

Nothing new... (1)

Snarfvs Maximvs (28022) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512151)

...except that it's cordless.

But my CalComp Creation Station is cordless, and batteryless, too (just like my old Wacom ArtPad II that croaked a few months back).

And although I have severe RSI in my right wrist from past mousing, I get no pain from using the pen 10+ hours a day. My only complaint is that I have to keep putting down my pen to type on my shiny new Kinesis kbd (my employer likes to splurge on ergo stuff for me, I guess).

Y'know, I still don't know why I can't get a workstation built like the helm on NCC1701D. The touchpanel tech is available...the screen tech is available...just drop a keyboard on the thing for tactile feedback and I'd be going to town. Instead, we seem to be stuck in this paradigm of keyboard/pointing device/monitor as separate units.

Hell, I don't even need the tactile feedback, just a few "home row" depressions/bumps so I know where to start...

How about a Wearable/Tablet to go with it? (2)

IQ (14453) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512152)

This is cool but i Need a tablet to go with (or without) it. Any suggestions? I want to run Linux on a Tablet or wearable, but it needs to have a reasonable display (prefer touch screen...). Networking will be teathered. Industrial applicaton... Thanks for any suggestions.

Been There Done That (Cross Pen) (1)

twjordan (88132) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512153)

I got a cross pen tablet about three years ago. Although at first I was VERY happy with it, I soon became frustrated. 1: it does something really weird to the com port and ties it up. 2: My Ricochet interfered on RF frequency with it. 3: after about 3 months it started to skip around. I would go into photoshop and press down witht he pencil tool in the same spot. I got marks ALL over the screen. 4: No linux support.
I guess the tech just wasn't ready yet.
Interestingly, I never noticed a problem with switiching from mouse to keyboard. What I am waiting for is retinal tracking or whatever. Where you look and the mouse follows and you do something (stopping down the pupil? blowing in a tube?) to make it click.
Another posibility could be those little things that quadraplegics use to move the wheelchair around. I just don't want to use my hands at all!

Why have an external pointing device at all? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512154)

I still think that a touch sensitive monitor is a better idea. Obviously, current GUI designs wouldn't work very well with this method (buttons would be too small to accurately press sometimes), but you really can't beat it for simplicity. There's no external device to lose, and you couldn't possibly make it any easier to use. (Try watching a child or elderly person use a mouse for the first time. It's very frustrating watching them mis-click nearly every time.)

Biggest problems with touch monitors that I can see:
Shoulder pain from reaching over your desk
Smudges/fingerprints all over!

The shoulder pain from reaching can be fixed by making monitors closer, and possibly lower. Maybe slant them backwards a bit, making them more like an interactive keyboard. The smudges I have no good solution for. (Well, other than wearing gloves.)
In the end, you'll still need a mouse/trackball for games.

Re:Still waiting for a Data Glove (1)

jwang (61010) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512155)

We should be looking for faster, more efficient ways to interface with our computers, if you think RAM is a bottleneck, think about physical interface

I find that there is an easy solution to the aforementioned "problem" - shell scripting. That's the idea behind automation; if you need to do something repetitively schedule the job and have the computer execute the task for you. I've also found that I know my setup well enough to be much much faster then the computer can respond; sometimes I can be as much as a second or two in front of the computer. And when I'm on old hardware.....

and i [think/hope?] we'd all agree that humans more intuitively deal with 3d space

Perhaps, but I would not want to deal with a computer workspace in 3 dimensions. I find that with two dimensions, I can't misplace anything, whereas my desk is a mess of papers. Whenever I need to find something, I have to hunt to find that one paper buried under all the others. I really would not want to deal with that on a computer. At least I can find everything fairly quickly on my system.

Hell, REAL hackers use the command line. :-) GUIs are for wussies...

Jonathan Wang

new UI (1)

uninerd (79304) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512156)

Hey, here's and idea:
We could combine the pen and touch screen, so folks could just write where they need the information input- no more relative position of the pointer. To combat the problem of raising your arm out at an oblique angle (not too good ergonomically, is it?) have the monitor screen in the desktop horizonally, or angled well away from the user like a drawing board. I like my mouse too- but i have a problem with the vertical screen. Just my two bits

Optical mice are best! No balls to get gunked up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512157)

Remember them? Usually seen on CAD workstations. The mouse had no ball, no rollers, no moving parts of any kind, just an led underneath, and the mouse slid over a mouse pad that had a coloured grid pattern on it. I still use mine. Lint and dust problems are non existant. My mouse is always accurate even for pixel by pixel movement. I can never go back to mechanical mice. I can even print my own gridpad if necessary and in fact have a laminated gridsheet the size of my desktop so mouse placement is a non-issue. Why they faded into disuse is beyond me. I think Mouse Systems is the only company who still makes optical mice (link in lower left scrollbox) [] . Try one. You'll be hooked too. They cost more, but will last forever. And yes, they work with Linux.

I don't think I like the idea. (1)

Cyberllama (113628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512158)

A couple of problems spring to mind quickly: 1. Since the pen has the same type of ball as a normal mouse does, it should in theory gather dirt in the same manner. However, in this case, the ball is so very small that I wonder if cleaning would even be a remote possibillity. Perhaps a pen mouse with an electronic eye (such as the MS Explorer mouse). 2. The ball being so small would seem to cause problems. Wouldn't you have to either adjust the thing to be supersensative or go all the way around your house to move around your desktop. I suspect they would almost certainly have to do the former, and that could cause some annoying uncalled for mouse movements. Just my $.02

Re:Off topic, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512159)

It's more than what I saw here. An area in the middle of the screen with a picture of the pen and some ad copy. This was surrounded by a field of nothing.

I suppose it's better than, though ... :)

Re:Comfortable? (1)

jwang (61010) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512160)

flop your hand on and shove around

"No time for sex tonight, gotta get a first post."

Did anyone else grimace when they saw those two excerpts?

Jonathan Wang

With a product description like that... Hell No! (1)

Biff Cool (18858) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512161)

There were no repetitive strain injuries caused by the usage of the mouse until we got the PC.
Gee who'd a thunk that... there probably weren't too many car accidents before the invention of cars either.

Three programmable buttons make it easier and quicker to use the Internet
That'll go perfectly with my P-III.

Conscience is the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking.

Re:FreePan (2)

avdp (22065) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512162)

Try selecting a currency first (top left select list) to see prices. If I recall it's about US$70

It could replace something else, too... (1)

tukka (43211) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512163)

It's funny how when an article about a pen as an input device comes up, the first thing that leaps to peoples' minds is that it'll replace the mouse (or that it won't replace the mouse.)

What it could also manage to replace is the keyboard. Afterall, keyboards are used mainly for inputting text, which is what pens are also for in the analog world.

I mean, to me, if you're going to replace the mouse, with a pen, you should replace the keyboard with it too. I don't know about you guys, but my mouse is posistioned to the right of my keyboard. It would be very awkward if I had to reach to the right and angle my wrist whenever I wanted to point. Of course, if you get rid of the keyboard, you have a lot of free space in front of you.

My guess is, however, that none of these newfangled input devices will take off, at least not for PCs, and not for a long time. We're getting to the point where the average person can probably type faster than they can write, and I've never heard anybody complain about mice being too hard to use.

Plus, mice work fine as they are. The new MS mouse works on any surface. I'm using a fairly cheap Genius NetMouse without any special surface (using my wooden desk, no mousepad) and it works fine. I don't use it for gaming, but for ordinary navigation, it's great.

I don't really see why people are going through all the effort. I think I remember seeing something on TV that lets you navigate with your eyes... just silly stuff. The mouse does its job well. If that isn't cool enough for you, voice recognition is rapidly becoming more viable. I'll still be sticking with a classic keyboard/mouse combo.

Re:Optical mice are best! No balls to get gunked u (2)

avdp (22065) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512164)

Our friends at Microsoft came up with one of those not too long ago. An "improved" optical mouse actually - since it does not require a special mouse pad/tablet unlike the competition.

No idea about Linux usuability but in theory it should work since it's a PS2 mouse.

Re:Sick, Jimmy! (1)

spencerogden (49254) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512165)

I don't think this would solve you're problem. This pen would still operate in relative mode. Definitly counter intuitive if you are expecting it to act like a real pen. Something like crosshatching would require a rapid application of downward force, movement, then release, the movement and so on, all the while maintaining contact with the desk. I don't think drawing with this device will be significantly easier than a mouse, although small precise movements might be easier.

TrackPoint Forever (1)

Chip Salzenberg (1124) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512166)

I'll never go back to mice etc. now that I've used a TrackPoint. And I can explain my reasons in two words:

Home Row.

And TrackPoints don't have that irritating accidental-thumb-drop problem that plagues touch pads.

IBM input hardware kicks butt. Again.

Re:Optical mice are best! No balls to get gunked u (1)

jwang (61010) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512167)

I know Microsoft makes an optical mouse [] that doesn't require a gridsheet. (Yes, their software sucks, but their hardware isn't half bad)

Jonathan Wang

Does MS opto mouse work with Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512168)

It's gotta have 3 buttons for X too.

Pen-mouse Bad for lefties (1)

griffjon (14945) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512169)

One advantage us lefties have had in this harsh and cruel right-handed centric world has been the keyboard-- most of the best letters are located on the left side of the keyboard, giving us a slight advantage. MEanwhile, our less-used right hand slips over to the mouse (and can hit the number-pad Enter button with ease from there). This gives us a wonderful interface. Now they want to take our good hand away and place it on a pointing device and force our weaker hand to use the keyboard? P'shaw. I'll stick with the mouse.

Re:Carpal Tunnel here we come (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512170)

eek, second surgery? That's to bad. When I started getting pains, I grabbed an ergonomic kb, a tray, and a trackball (logitech trackman, though I'm sure the Orb is just as good as I've heard when you get used to it). That somewhat helped, plus therapy relaxed very stiff muscles. Best thing was when I bought a laptop, I don't use desktops ever anymore, and with a good sized laptop keyboard its great. Haven't suffered a bit, cept maybe numbness if I sleep the wrong way (I've noticed ever since I started getting pains my hands get numb very easily if I sleep the wrong way)...

but definately, a pen would be horrible as a replacement for people with CT. All that gripping... even voice isn't great for people (I believe I saw this in Computer Currents). Till virtual reality, because we already sit on are arses (sometimes I just love using the british terms) to much as it is.

What About Video games? (1)

DaPhreaker (33196) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512171)

I know most of you probably use gamepads for 1st person shooters, but as far as I am concerned you can't beat the free-mouse look in games like QuakeII, Unreal, and Half-Life. I don't think apen would work quit as well. Still, sounds niffty and all, but I think i will stick with the good ol desk rodent.

Even better... (1)

semis (14252) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512172)

A camera that sits on top of your computer (like a web cam, but most likely higher quality and greater refresh) that TRACKS YOUR EYES.

Where your eyes move over the screen, the camera tracks the movement and moves the cursor to where you are focussing. If you change position in your chair, you can quickly "refocus" the device by training it with a physical mouse. (ie: if you move around too far, you will lose your connection, and have to retrain the camera by moving the mouse around with your hand and following the cursor with your eyes) Smarter versions of the camera will tolerate a greater movement of the viewer.

This device would be lightning quick, and let you operate the pointer while having BOTH HANDS on the keyboard.

I would imagine that games would also be enhanced, for example playing quake!

Ok.. so who's gonna build me one of these?!

Re:Optical mice are best! No balls to get gunked u (1)

spottheastroturfer (61320) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512173)

I think you're talking about the Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer [] . It's an optical mouse that doesn't use a special pad - it actually has a little camera that takes about 1500 pictures a second and compares one with the next in order to determine how it's tracking.

It's actually a USB mouse, but there is a PS/2 adapter that comes with it.

It works pretty well for day to day tasks, but it does have drawbacks. You can't use it on glass or reflective surfaces (despite this, the in-store displays they shipped have it sitting on a mirror), and doesn't work well on repeating textures like halftone prints. It also doesn't work very well on the hardtop type mouse pads. It works best on hard woodgrain slightly textured surfaces in my experience.

There seem to be a few manufacturing defects in the first generation of them (the ones out right now). A lot of people are complaining that the left button malfunctions frequently - double clicking where you meant to click and hold, and dropping stuff as you click and drag around.

It's also not the best mouse ever for gaming. It seems that you can move it too fast and it loses track of where it is - really bad if you want to suddenly spin and blast the person you hear sneaking up behind you in Quake III.

Otherwise, it's a pretty decent mouse. I'm willing to bet that within a year or two or so most mice will be based on this idea rather than ball type. I'm personally going to wait a bit before shelling out the cash for one (the one I used was a friends). By that time the technology will have overcome the shortcomings (I hope, I'm sick to death of cleaning out all the negative karma built up on the rollers of my mice).

Kensington trackballs are the best!!!!! (1)

Lantheaume (44396) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512174)

I use a kensington expert mouse - Anything else just doesn't compare if you have to point to something (I prefer keyboard overall) []

1. It's the best for games (like centipede all over again)

2. It's got 4 programable buttons

3. You use your hole hand instead of a thumb, or a wrist - each finger independantly - cuts down on hand cramp.

4. Really small footprint, and I don't have to clear a space for it when I want to use it.

I have so much crap on my desk that now my hand kinda hovers above the trackball. Quite comfortable.
(Plus you can drop any pool ball in there instead of what comes with it - so it's fashionable too.)


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~

How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Re:Off topic, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512175)

Add to that an excessive numkber of frames. I counted eleven frames.

Trackpoint Keyboard (3)

jetson123 (13128) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512176)

For nerds and touch typists, I don't know of any better input device than the IBM Trackpoint. That's the same input device IBM uses on their laptops. It lets you type and mouse around without reaching for any kind of input device.

It takes a few days to get used to it, but once you are, it's a really efficient way to move the mouse pointer around.

I think a lot of people don't like the Trackpoint because they tried the knockoffs by Toshiba and HP; their "eraserhead" pointing devices don't work anywhere near as well as the IBM one. The trick to making those kinds of pointing devices work comfortably is in getting the mapping from force to pointer movement just right, and IBM did many years of user research and performance testing to improve that (even between IBM's different trackpoint models, there are noticeable differences: Trackpoint 4 is quite a bit more efficient than the older models).

You can get several desktop versions of the Trackpoint keyboard from IBM. I bought Trackpoint 4 keyboards in "Stealth Black" [] for all my machines.

Touch-sensitive keypads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512177)

Hmm, yes - a completely flat entry panel and you just touch the relevant bit lightly with your finger. Sounds like that horribly cheap keyboard Sinclair put on the ZX81. No key travel, no tactile feedback, no rubber keys - just a flat surface. I would hate to use such a keyboard for typing at any speed at all (of course, on a ZX81, the limiting factor is the speed of the CPU, not the keyboard, so that doesn't apply).

Re:Still waiting for a Data Glove (2)

adimarco (30853) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512178)

Hell, REAL hackers use the command line. :-) GUIs are for wussies...

Oh my, I hope I didn't come across as pushing for the end of the command line :) Let it be said thusly: He who takes away my command line will be hunted down and killed.

(in other words, I couldn't agree with you more)

I find that there is an easy solution to the aforementioned "problem" - shell scripting.

While I certainly wouldn't want to downlpay the sheer beauty of shell scripting/cron (couldn't live without them either), I was less talking about repeatedly performed sequences of actions and more talking about a way to describe/define 3 dimensional interaction with the computer.

Really, honest to god, all I want out of computers in my entire life is to be able to do that scene from Johnny Mnemonic (yeah yeah, it sucks, i know) where Johnny puts both hands above his head, fingers extended, like some electric bird of prey and says menacingly "I can crash your whole board from here, man."

I'm willing to support whatever it takes to get to that point :)

Segmentation fault (core dumped)

tongue mice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512179)

there are tongue mice designed for paraplegics, but I think they require a custom fitting, like a retainer.

Re:RSI (1)

Cobalt (1294) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512180)

This brings up a question.. ARE there any new computer users? Maybe in the third world but those people might not be all that familiar with a pen either...?


Sounds like a relative of Digital Ink (1)

don.lindsay (32797) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512181)

and click on the "Digital Ink" button.

Cleaning the ball? (1)

ctucker (106081) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512182)

I have enough fun cleaning my traditional mouse/trackballs of finger crud, crumbs, and spills, now just imagine scaling down everything but the crud 10x and cleaning it. I'll pass, thanks.

a small objection (1)

criticalrealist (111008) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512183)

I have a small objection to input devices based on radio wave transmissions. With the right scanner, your input is easily read from remote distances. If you have national security concerns, then conceivably the ultra-powerful scopes of Echelon can track your mouse movements. Otherwise maybe it's just a nosy neighbor.

Of course, who would care where you clicK?

Sticks and Stones (2)

Industrial Disease (16177) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512184)

I did a little work with touchscreens for some kiosk development a few years ago. Touch screens are really cool -- for a few minutes. You don't want to hold your arm straight out in front of you for any significant length of time. I will agree that sticks are better than rocks for drawing. And when I'm drawing, I do prefer to use my graphics tablet. However, most of the things that I do with my pointing device aren't very much like drawing. I pick things up. I put them down somewhere else. I slide things around. For these actions, I'm more comfortable handling a rock than a stick. Rocks are, as someone else said in another thread, better for switching back and forth with a keyboard; I'd rather grab a rock that's right where I left it than pick up my stick again every couple of minutes. I'd rather tap a button with my finger (even after moving the image of my hand around for a second) than with the end of a stick. And I like the little wheel on my rock; I don't know where you could comfortably and safely place such a control on a stick. Also, button placement on a stick seems much more personal, depending more on hand size, on a stick than on a rock. Maybe the stick and touchscreen interfaces would work a little better for a horizontal display/input surface than our current vertical ones as a sole interface. The desktop-style panels on Trek don't look to bad, but just thinking about the wall-mounts make my shoulder ache. I have never been as comfortable writing on a wallboard as a desktop. Besides, even as the last of the hunt-and-peck programmers, I am more comfortable with a keyboard than with a pen for long stretches of text, and I want tactile feedback from my keyboard while I'm at it. I'd love to see a keyboard that integrates well with a horizontal LCARS panel, but can't imagine a layout where one wouldn't get in the way of the other.

Re:Even better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512185)

Must be really anoying to have the cursor covering up the text u are about to read :)

Keeping the screen clean (1)

jedrek (79264) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512186)

As a professional graphics designer I have enough problems keeping my monitor clean to start fondling it with my fingers.

Heck, I spent the better part of last month convincing the cleaning crew to stop 'cleaning' my screen.

Pressure sensitivity? (2)

Industrial Disease (16177) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512187)

So, does this pen support variable pressure sensitivity? Doesn't look like it. For most operations, I prefer a mouse, but I do like my Wacom tablet for graphics applications, especially those that support variable-pressure input. In fact, I'd hate to try using a natural-media paint program without a pressure-sensitive device.

Slightly off-topic, but: How much support is there for variable-pressure devices in the Gimp? All my graphics experience has been in Windows (I know -- boo, hiss -- get over it), but I'm starting to take an interest in the Gimp as well. For that matter, does the Gimp (or any other Linux graphics software) have any type of natural-media functionality?

blah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512188)

Movement is tracked by measuring the rolling of a small ball at the tip of the pen. This means it works on any surface.

No it doesn't. It would actually work on less surfaces than a mouse does. Try writing on glass.

Re:Sick, Jimmy! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512189)

Pen Partner ( works like a real pen, and is positioned absolutely - you have a pad and wherever you put the pen down on the pad, your mouse cursor appears in the analgous position on the screen. Tap it against the pad, and you just clicked. A side button allows you to right-click or double-click (programmable)

I use it all the time for drawing purposes.

The best thing about it, though, is that you can use it in conjunction with a mouse (for all your pointer needs).

wireless keyboard & mouse (1)

josech (98417) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512190)

I've been using a Silitek K-7100 keyboard with an integrated joystick-like pointer which is outstanding, the only problem is that it works with IR light so you can't work with another of these keyboards next to you.

I stand (sit!) corrected (2)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512191)

I use a trackball myself, ITAC (who I think has gone to pot) and Kensington. I like the big trackballs as opposed to those dinky Logitech ones.

I hadn't thought about holding my arm up so much. I mostly move the arrow into an xterm and leave it there for a while, sometimes click while testing web pages. But I agree now that I think of it. Thanks for the feedback :-)


Sounds nice, but... (1)

Snotboble_ (13797) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512192)

.. it's not worth it. I got one of the first ones that were produced, and the radio link was quite alright - if you were in a radio wave free environment - but most people aren't. I've heard that there's a new version out where this is significantly improved (it actually works now).
But the claimed improvement of ergonomics are simply not there. In order to register movement, you have to hold quite tight onto the pen to press the ball in the end down to make it roll, hence you tighten your fingermuscles for as long as you move the pen.
It was recently tested by a danish consumer magazine ("Tænk", I think it was), along with several other pointing devices. It wasn't the worst, but it came pretty close, along with mice in the price range of $5-$10.
How you like it is of course a matter of taste, but I can in no way recommend it. If you really do not want a mouse, my personal (non-sponsored) recommendation is the Logitech Trackman Marble FX; it feels like wearing a glove - if you stretch your hand in front of you - in a non-turned, relaxed state - and let it drop to the table, that's how the Trackman Marble is handled and is to your wrist.
No left-hand version, though..

Re:Pens? Blah. (1)

bendawg (72695) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512193)

I use it on my Linux box, and it works great.
Everything works (including the wheel) except for the two side buttons.

Re:Is this new? (1)

jafac (1449) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512194)

I DO think a pen makes for an awful pointing device. I DID buy a Wacom, and tried to use it instead of a mouse. It just wasn't as comfortable. The pen is great for sensitive applications, where you need fine control and pressure sensitivity, but for pushing windows and widgets, the mouse is the way to go.

I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said "Information wants to be free".

Actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512195)

I work in my university's computer labs. We have one for adaptive students (special software/hardware for visual impairments/quadlapelgics/etc) We do have a device that is worn on the head, tracks the head movement by an infra-red box sitting on top of the monitor, and converts it to cursor movement. The clicking is done with a wand, which does have a chin-strap support.

Convert PC keyboards/mice for sun boxes? (1)

StenD (34260) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512196)

One solution is the Sun Interface Converter, part X465A.

nope. YUM! (1)

Mr. Nedd (105230) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512197)

Not at all. After my first brush with mouse-induced wrist pain, I ran right out & got myself a Wacom tablet, and I use it all the time for general pointing & clicking. It's actually quite nice & natural feeling, and MUCH easier on my wrists than this stupid mouse. The only down side is that I lost the little stand you keep the pen in when you're not using it, so I'm constantly playing 'find the pointing device'

Remember the Power Glove for the NES?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512198)

I think the subject speaks for itself, but frankly, that thing sucked ass.

It has three buttons. (2)

generic-man (33649) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512199)

On wheel mice, pressing the wheel down is the same as pressing the middle button. However, I don't know whether the tracking works under Linux just as it does in Windows.

Used a "sonic pen" in 1989 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512200)

Nothing new under the sun I guess.

To, of all things, position "contacts" on a the output from a sidescan sonar.

Seriously, best "mouse" I have found is the kinsington expert mouse (really a trackball but with a big pool size ball). There are just so many ways to role that huge ball I never get twinges of RSI as I do on a traditional mouse.

Mine would go missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512201)

I chew my pens, Normal ones only last about a week around here.. Hmm.. with this one though I guess I wouldn't have the INK problem :p Seriously though, that would be a good thing for an artist, sucky for a non-artist..

Re:Optical mice are best! No balls to get gunked u (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512202)

Georgia Tech used to have a bunch of Suns that used those optical mice and they sucked. Only a few of them still worked accurately. The others would jump around because they wouldn't keep a constant read on the grid.

My next pointing device will be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512203)

a Smith&Wesson together with a laser targetting
add-on. Every time somebody pisses me off, I'll
shoot them at point blank. Insane in the membrane
any questions?

No Way, harder to use! (1)

BadlandZ (1725) | more than 14 years ago | (#1512204)

Look, your typing, as people often do, and then you reach over to slide your mouse down and get to another spot, and continue typing....

But a pen, you have to pick it up, and set it down each time. It's not at constant "stand-by" waiting to be moved into another position like a mouse is. A mouse sits where it sits. You give it a nudge to the right or left, and that's it... You don't have to pick it up, then slide it, then set it back down.

Extra movements needed by this pen thing are NOT an improvement. The only thing it might have going for it is precision for like graphic artists or something... Dunno. I just can't see rushing out to get something that would be a total pain in the ___ to have to use on a daily basis.

Re:Big stick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1512205)

Even better - report him to the admins at ispeed or coolshell and maybe they'll boot him off. Spam is generally against the rules at most companies, and this is most definitely spam. I'd like to make sure that even if this guy does get his 10,000 clicks, he doesn't get his "free" shell account :) Make sure you reference username kazoz in your complaint.
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