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Input Devices

Mouse or Trackball? 627

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the one-for-the-wife dept.
Loconut1389 writes "I've been an avid mouse user for years, but lately all of the wrist movements have added up and combined with a desire for some added precision when not using my tablet in photoshop, I decided to purchase a large trackball. Logitech makes a few with a small, thumb controlled ball, but it looked like you'd get a tired thumb and have no added precision. After searching around, it seems that the only large one really available is a Kensington for about $90. Only CompUSA seemed to even carry the kensington in-store (and had none in stock). After ordering one online and using it for a few days now, I don't know how I ever lived with a mouse. The trackball has better precision, less wrist movement, and even gaming is pretty cool/easy with it (can spin it to whip around real quick, etc). All that said, it seems like trackballs have all but vanished except in medical fields (sonograms, etc) and perhaps graphic arts. I'm left insanely curious why trackballs haven't resurfaced now that optical technologies have fixed the main problems of old trackballs (and mice). Do you use a trackball? If so, are you in graphic design?"
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Mouse or Trackball?

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  • Trackball (Score:5, Informative)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @11:01AM (#20072169) Homepage Journal
    My favorite input device has been a Kensington Turbo Mouse. It's a large trackball, a design I have been using for years going back to the original 1.0. They are great in reducing Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and allow more precision in control which is important for digital imagery work and image forensics.

    For a traditional mouse, Apple's Mighty Mouse is pretty good, but it simply does not have the robust reliability that the Kensington track balls have. For most of the Kensington trackball's history, they used high quality bearings which were nice and robust, but dirt could get trapped in between stalling the cursor movement. Recently with the Expert Mouse however, they have gone to a glass/plastic? bearing with an optical tracking mechanism that is far superior to just about anything else on the market.

    It is interesting that the trackball has quite a long history. I first saw them, other than Missile Command ;-) of course, on satellite imagery workstations back in 1990 and had to have one for my Mac systems. Unfortunately I had to endure a mouse with just about all of my SGI systems as the trackballs for those systems were either unavailable or just did not work as well as the mouse of hockey puck and digitizing board.

  • by Squiffy (242681) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @11:03AM (#20072215) Homepage
    I use my fingers and arm more than my wrist when moving the mouse around. Never have any problems.
  • by toolie (22684) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @11:05AM (#20072255)
    Do you mean a trackball or a spaceball? Spaceballs are used widely with modeling software such as Catia and UniGraphics.
  • by jnaujok (804613) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @11:06AM (#20072277) Homepage Journal
    ...try looking at HAPP controls http://www.happcontrols.com/trackballs/trackballs. htm [happcontrols.com].

    Admittedly, they make them for the video gaming world, but they are just USB (or PS2) trackballs. You can mount them directly into a table top. Nothing like a 3" trackball to work from.
  • Excercise (Score:4, Informative)

    by Stringer Bell (989985) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @11:10AM (#20072389)
    I'm a professional programmer, and spend about 50 hours a week typing, between work and home. I've found the best way to keep from having hand/wrist problems is to get regular exercise. I haul my ass to the gym 2-3 times a week like clockwork to lift weights and run. Since I've started, my hand problems have cleared up completely.

    I like trackballs too. It's a mystery to me as well why they're not more widely available.
  • by gardyloo (512791) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @11:11AM (#20072411)
    Forgot to mention that Logitech's driver for them, though, is a piece of shit. Consistently crashes Windows XP, and is outrageously huge. If you look carefully, you can find their old driver versions posted here and there on the web (which actually work, and aren't 45MB downloads).

          In linux, though, I just have

                    InputDevice "LogitechMarble" "CorePointer"

        and

      # The following is for the Logitech Marble Trackball:

    Section "InputDevice"
            Identifier "LogitechMarble"
            Driver "mouse"
    # Option "CorePointer"
            Option "Protocol" "ExplorerPS/2"
            Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
            Option "Buttons" "9"
    # Option "SendCoreEvents" "true"
            Option "Emulate3Buttons" "true"
            Option "EmulateWheel" "1"
            Option "EmulateWheelButton" "8"
            Option "EmulateWheelInertia" "5"
            Option "Emulate3Timeout" "50"
            Option "ChordMiddle"
            Option "XAxisMapping" "6 7"
            Option "YAxisMapping" "4 5"

    in my xorg.conf file. Works perfectly. Wish I could get the Windows behavior to be the same!
  • by Genevish (93570) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @11:13AM (#20072447) Homepage
    Although I would have to consider myself a "Mac fanboy", Microsoft does occasionally get something right. I'm very happy with the MS optical trackball ("Microsoft TrackBall Explorer Optical Mouse") I've been using for several years. The layout is very odd (you use your thumb to right and left click, on the left side of the mouse), but works fine once you're used to it. I used to use a Kensington trackball and liked it too. Can't really remember why I went with the MS one when I replaced it.
  • Trackballs in MN (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @11:15AM (#20072497)
    Where I work (General Nanosystems in Minneapolis, MN) we carry several.

    I know we have the Logitech and Microsoft ones but I think we might have a couple of the Kennsington ones, too. I'd say we have about in between 7-10 different models.

    http://www.generalnanosystems.com/ [generalnanosystems.com]

  • by stewbidasso (768984) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @11:22AM (#20072663)
    I have a happ 3" trackball in my MAME arcade which uses WinXP and Mame32 as it's front end, so the trackball gets plenty of use as a mouse in that machine. The only real problem with it is that it's not very handy to use it one handed (the precision and feel is great, they are super quality track balls, much heavier feeling than most so you can get "momentum" going on a roll). With the buttons mounted above it, you pretty much have to have one hand on the trackball and one hand on the buttons. It works good in my arcade, but I wouldn't want to have to work like that...
  • Re:Trackball (Score:5, Informative)

    by toad3k (882007) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @12:52PM (#20074441)
    I've been using logitech trackman marble since I was a pretard (10 years). My first came when my parents bought one of these on a whim for our first computer. I reacted hostile initially because all my experience with trackballs up to that point were crappy wheel based ones.

    There are good points and bad points.

    Good:
        It has always been as accurate as the best mouse, even before mice went optical.
        The cord never ever gets in the way of your movement, because it doesn't move.
        Doesn't require desk space. My screen is flush with my desk, my keyboard sitting snugly on an open desk drawer.

    Bad:
        You can't hope to achieve smooth 360+ degree rotation on an fps. You have to move your thumb at some point.

    But the main advantage, and the reason why I will never go back to using a normal mouse is that I can place a trackball anywhere. Before I started this note I was reclined all the way back in my chair with my trackball on my chest navigating slashdot in complete comfort. I tend to use it on my knee alot too.

    Also another advantage is no one wants to use it. So no one is using my damned computer when I'm not around. Also the ball is perfect for flinging at your coworker.
  • by COMON$ (806135) * on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @01:11PM (#20074789) Journal
    Try using a laser mouse instead, optical mice are good and cheap but if you want control and accuracy get a high res laser mouse and put it on whatever surface you want.
  • Re:Outta my yard (Score:4, Informative)

    by Oliver Wendell Jones (158103) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @02:59PM (#20076507)
    And almost every one of those "mouse pads" had a fabric surface that, get this, collected dead skins cells, dust, food crumbs, etc. and transferred them into the moving parts of the mouse and built up residual crud around the "feet" of the mouse (those little slippery plastic dots on the bottom of the mouse that it slides around on).

    There were very few mouse pads that were actually good for your mouse, and often times you were better off using a flat, smooth, clean surface of your desk.

    I think it was 3M that made a mouse pad that was paper thin, had one of those "tacky but not sticky" backs and a very finely textured surface that was perfect for use with a traditional "ball mouse" and the printed pattern even made it suitable for use with an optical mouse... too bad they didn't catch on with more people...
  • Re:Trackball (Score:3, Informative)

    by SLi (132609) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @03:44PM (#20077267)
    I switched from mouses to trackballs some 7 years ago and my wrist problems vanished. I had a Logitech Cordless TrackMan Wheel [logitech.com] since quite recently, and was fairly happy with it. I chose it because it felt so nice in the store. It took two months however to became used to it, and I think my thumb never got quite as accurate as I was with a mouse. Most importantly I felt it (the thumb, not the device) became less accurate after years of using it.

    Now I'm using a Logitech Cordless TrackMan Optical [logitech.com], and I've been happy with it. I got used to it in a matter of days at most, and I can do more precise work with it.

    To a mouse I'm not going back. I don't do graphics design.
  • Re:Trackball (Score:2, Informative)

    by Nexx (75873) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @04:30PM (#20077933)
    I used to use the Logitech Trackman Marble (with the thumb-controlled ball). I used it through college, but near the end of my terms, I began to feel a bit of pain near the base of my thumb. To this day, I still feel that pain, even though it's been a few years since I swapped back to a normal mouse.

    It was nice when I used it, but now, I have to use a normal mouse for my hands.
  • Re:Excercise (Score:3, Informative)

    by exhilaration (587191) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @10:19PM (#20081063)
    I've found the best way to keep from having hand/wrist problems is to get regular exercise.

    Mod parent up! Curls, tricep extensions, and especially wrist curls completely eliminate my wrist and elbow pain. I'm sure everything else helps, but arm exercises undo the damage I do my joints each week.

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