Charles Moore's Mailbag

Soft Touch Keyboards, Wireless Mouse Options, Loving SeaMonkey 2, and More

Charles Moore - 2009.11.18 - Tip Jar

Soft Touch Keyboards

From Jacob:

Dear Mr. Moore,

Because my review of the Internet suggests you are one of the world's preeminent authorities on this topic, I have a quick question that I hope you will be able to answer for me.

I'm a few months shy of 70. The wear and tear of years of typing manuscripts for books and scholarly journals, coupled with a childhood explosion that affected the fingers on my left hand, are now catching up with me. The pressure required to hit the keys on my Logitech MX 3000 keyboard is becoming painful. If you have a recommendation for a good keyboard that requires only a light touch, I'd be much indebted to you.

Appreciatively,
Jacob

Hi Jacob,

I would never presume to call myself an "authority" on keyboards (or much of anything else, for that matter!), but I guess I can safely say that I'm a more thoroughly informed than average layman with a particular personal interest in this topic.

The problem with making specific recommendations is that sensitivities and preferences when it comes to keyboard action tends to be highly idiosyncratic, so what works for one may not prove ideal for another. I can tell you what works for me.

The keyboards I get along best with are the ones in the G3 Series PowerBooks - WallStreet/Lombard/Pismo, and the ones in the metal PowerBooks and first generation MacBook Pros, which are nearly but not quite as good - so if you've ever used any of those, that will give you an idea of where I'm coming from on this. Those laptop keyboards are the standard by which I measure typing comfort of any keyboard.

The one I've found comes closest to ideal in freestanding computer keyboards is Kensington's SlimType 'board. It's one of the very few keyboards I can type on for more than a few minutes without inciting nerve pain in my arms, wrists and hands that lasts for hours. Happily, the SlimType is also relatively inexpensive, with a MSRP of $39.99. (It's also available for $35.73 from Amazon.com.)

The SlimType 'boards have about the same amount of key travel as the laptop 'boards I mentioned. For folks who prefer a slightly longer key travel, the DiNovo series of keyboards from Logitech offer it in a deluxe keyboard with a soft touch "PerfectStroke" design. These are premium priced keyboards carrying a MSRP of $99.99, but available sundry places at a discount. (Currently $79.15 at Amazon.com.)

I have not been able to test every keyboard available, so it's quite possible that there are other 'boards out there that would be as good or better, but for me so far the old Apple laptop 'boards and the Kensington SlimType have been as good as it gets.

Hope this is of some help to you.

Charles

Another Wireless Mouse Option

From John:

Hi, Charles,

I happened to see your Miscellaneous Ramblings column as I was looking for something else on Low End Mac. I don't know if you're familiar with the Logitech MX620 wireless mouse, but I've got two of them and really like them. They're expensive at retail, but I bought refurbs from Tech4Less.com for $19.99 plus shipping. I had some trouble getting them to go, so I'll share that here.

These mice use a small USB receiver, and I had trouble getting mine to sync. I called Logitech support and got a Mac tech, who told me that these mice are best paired with their receivers on Windows machines, then brought back to the Mac for use. The tech told me he had had success pairing on a Mac only about one time out of ten. Sure enough, though I tried several times, the receiver and mouse wouldn't communicate on our 2009 Mac mini.

Just to see what would happen, I went to my PowerBook G4 Aluminum 17" and tried it there. For whatever reason, the PB paired the receiver and mouse on the first try. I paired both of the MX620s that way, and then moved one mouse and its receiver to the mini, where it's been working fine now for a month or so.

This is a big mouse, with two programmable buttons and a multifunction scroll wheel. It has a nice ergonomic feel to it and response is instant. I'd recommend it to anyone who doesn't have to have a small mouse.

John

Hi John,

Thanks for the observations and workaround report. Could prove helpful for future reference.

I've never used a MX620 mouse, but have a Logitech V550 wireless mouse that I like better than any other mouse I've ever used. It also uses a RF wireless USB receiver. I've never had any problem with any of various mice (Logitech and others) getting Macs to recognize them (technically it's not "pairing" unless you're connecting via Bluetooth.

On the other hand, I've definitely found Bluetooth cranky at times with certain mice on my Intel MacBook, although never with PPC machines (other than the tedium of the Bluetooth pairing process itself). I'm not a big Bluetooth fan.

Charles

Hi, Charles, and thanks for the reply. Regarding "pairing," I used that term because that's what the Logitech rep called it. He said refurb mice have to be "paired" with their receivers because, unlike the retail products, which are "paired" in the assembly process, refurbs may be sold with either a Logitech receiver or a no-name receiver. In either case, the receiver has been packaged with the mouse, but not matched and tested.

Maybe "pair" is a term like "Coke," which in the states sometimes is used generically to mean a soft drink.

John

Hi John,

I suspect that you're right about the term "pairing" entering the popular vernacular as a generic as wireless peripherals become more widely used.

However, that Logitech tech was being sloppy about terminology. I'm really not a stickler pedant about these things, and I'm serene about the evolution of popular English usage, but on the other hand, I'm a sailor, and while landlubbing folks often have the impression that the use of proper equipment and procedure terminology by sailing folks is an affectation, it's actually pretty important at times. In an emergency situation it's not much help to holler "free up that rope over there" when what's needed is to slacken the jib sheet. There are lots of "ropes" (technically lines with different names depending on what they do - "rope" is what you find on a coil at the chandlery) on a sailboat. ;-)

While proper terminology around computers doesn't have the safety gravitas that proper usage does on sailboats, it's still helpful for more precise communication. Officially, "pairing" is definitely a Bluetooth exclusive term. A few references.

ZDNet Definition for Bluetooth Pairing:

Establishing a connection between two Bluetooth devices. For example, to pair a headset with a phone, the phone is configured to "Discoverable" mode and the headset is set up to pair by pressing one or more keys for some number of seconds. The headset finds the phone and establishes a connection using an assigned passkey, which is typically 0000 (see Car Whisperer).

Wikipedia:

Many of the services offered over Bluetooth can expose private data or allow the connecting party to control the Bluetooth device. For security reasons it is therefore necessary to control which devices are allowed to connect to a given Bluetooth device. At the same time, it is useful for Bluetooth devices to automatically establish a connection without user intervention as soon as they are in range.

To resolve this conflict, Bluetooth uses a process called pairing. Two devices need to be paired once to communicate with each other; the pairing process is typically triggered automatically the first time a devices receives a connection request from a device it is not yet paired with. Once a pairing has been established, it is remembered by the devices, which can then connect to each without user intervention. When desired, the pairing relationship can later be removed by the user.

Another good definition from Palm:

Bluetooth Pairing happens when two Bluetooth enabled devices agree to communicate with one another. When this happens, the two devices join what is called a trusted pair. When one device recognizes another device in an established trusted pair, each device automatically accepts communication, bypassing the discovery and authentication process that normally happen during Bluetooth interactions.

Charles

RadTech BT600 Mouse

From Dan:

I'm glad you brought up the BT600 in your Mighty Mouse alternatives post.

I have a BT600 from back when it was a much lower DPI tracking. I had issues with the feet coming off and the BT connection lagging in tracking and buttons sticking. I loved the customizable user panes, and when it worked, it was great.

You probably never see it in stores, since you never see RadTech's stuff in stores - part of their business model. Fortunately for me, their HQ is on my drive home from work, so I've been known to pop in when I want something. In fact, when I brought my trouble mice in, they usually said it was a "flaw in the manufacture quality" and just threw a new mouse at me. They even gave me spare feet the last time. Great service. I may have to go check the tracking on my new desk vs. my previous gen. Mighty Mouse and ask for a new replacement if it has tracking issues again. Might just score me a 1200 DPI upgrade ;-)

Hi Dan,

Thank you for the report. Always delighted to hear of good service experiences with hardware suppliers. I think the BT600 I tested here back in 2006 would have been the lower resolution model.

Charles

Multiple Mouse Input Bug in OS X 10.5.8

From Danielle in response to Multiple Input Device Bug in Mac OS X 10.5.8:

Hello,

I apologize for emailing you directly, but I've searched for a follow up to this article and haven't been able to find anything. I also use a multiple mouse/trackball setup to help with my fibromyalgia and am experiencing the exact same mouse issues that you describe.

Have you upgraded to Snow Leopard and, if so, did it fix your problem? I am wondering whether to move forward or backwards in versions, because I need to have the same mouse functionality I had before my recent upgrade.

Thank you for your time.

Danielle

Hello Danielle,

No apologies necessary. I welcome questions on Mac topics.

Unfortunately, I've found no workaround for the problem introduced with version 10.5.8. I suppose I've accommodated myself to it to a considerable degree, but it's still very frustrating and annoying.

I have not upgraded to Snow Leopard, at least partly because I've been told that the problem still persists up to at least version 10.6.1. I haven't had any reports on whether they addressed it with the 10.6.2 update introduced last week.

If you don't absolutely need version 10.5.8 for specific software support, certainly one provisional solution would be to downgrade to an earlier version of Leopard. I have been tempted to do this, although it's such a pain and time consumer to reconfigure everything after a system downgrade that I haven't given in yet.

I'm still planning to update to Snow Leopard, but I'm in no particular hurry. Aside from the multiple mouse support issue, version 10.5.8 has been very satisfactory for me.

Charles

Up-to-Date Browsers for PowerPC Macs

From Peter in response to The Future of Up-to-Date Browsers for PowerPC Macs:

Hello, Charles:

You've touched on a topic I've given a lot of thought to lately.

I believe the lack of updated browsers accelerated the abandonment of OS 9. Sure, old applications still run fine, and much hardware still works well with it, but if people can't surf the Web or get their Web-based email, they'll need something else. For many multimedia-savvy folks, this also includes Flash updates - I think the loss of Adobe Flash updates helped accelerate the process.

I see the same thing happening eventually to G4 OS X versions. I think the platform's got 2-4 years left in the Internet game, tops. Sure, these boxes will still run all the apps they had prior, but again, folks will be compelled to walk away if their web applications aren't available. The thought saddens me, as it seems my Gigabit Ethernet G4 should still have a few more years in it, and still has some expandability left. That's the way things are, though. Some folks who stayed with their G4s due to budget constraints may not have the luxury of running out and buying a new Mac - they may buy some cheap Windows box instead.

If the open-source Flash player Gnash were to be back-ported to G4 OS X versions, I think that might help stall the demise of the G4 as an Internet user's platform (it sure would be nice to see it ported to OS 9 as well). Outside of miracles like that, I give the PowerPCs 2-4 more years before you see 'net addicts retiring them in droves.

Pete

Hi Pete,

I agree entirely with your analysis. The lack of a decent up-to-date Web browser certainly accelerated my departure from the platform. Indeed, if there were a viable browser application for OS 9, I might still be using it for some things (and, in fact, I still do use it for some production chores running in Classic Mode under OS X 10.4, but not for Web work of any sort).

I was pleased to note that Apple released a Tiger/PPC version of Safari 4.0.4 last week, but I'm inclined to suspect that there will never be a PPC version of Safari 5. Two to four more years might be optimistic.

Charles

Hello again, Charles -

Your response jogged my brain a bit, and I thought I'd check the Mac profiles page for something. It looks like the last of the Power Mac G5 machines shipped in 2006. With some companies still religiously sticking to 5-year refresh cycles, I'd imagine Adobe/Apple would be leery of leaving customers in a lurch without software support. With some luck, we might have updates for the PowerPC platform through 2011. That still falls within your suspected timelines, though.

- Pete

SeaMonkey 2: I Love It!

From Michael:

Hello Charles,

Very good article on SeaMonkey 2! I love it too! It seems much more snappy than v1.1.18, doesn't it?

I think SeaMonkey is frowned upon in the Mac OS X community because of it's vast replacement of Apple applications, such as Address Book, email, password manager, and composer.

Of course, this doesn't bother me. I use SeaMonkey always and appreciate the Mozilla community for their support for older versions of Mac OS X as long as they did (Panther) when Apple dropped support. Of course, also, I'll be upgrading all our Internet Macs to 10.5 via Family pack here shortly to keep up with security and compatibility (As much as possible that is)

Next stop, Intel Mac mini (2011-ish)

cheers!
Michael
http://mac4ever.wordpress.com/

Hi Michael,

Thank you for the kind words about the review. Yes indeed, version 2 is definitely a lot zippier than version 1.x was. I'm even using SeaMonkey 2.0 on my Intel Mac for a while as an alternative to Firefox, and am liking it quite well in that environment too. I don't think it's quite as fast as the Firefox 3.6b2 beta, but it's certainly no slouch, although a public preview of Chrome, which I'm also using, blows them both into the weeds speed-wise.

I don't really use very many Apple applications, and frankly have never been much of a fan of Apple software other than the OS itself. The last Apple branded application that I really liked was HyperCard, and of course Steve Jobs killed that off a dozen years or so ago. Even back in the System 6.0.3 days, I used Microsoft Word 4 and 5 for word processing, and, come to think of it, they were the last Microsoft applications that I had any affinity for.

Safari is a half decent browser these days, but it's probably my fifth or sixth favorite of the ones available, and the speed of Chrome is quite addictive.

I usually keep at least three browsers up and running, and currently the roster is Chrome 4.0.237.0, Opera 10.01, and SeaMonkey 2.0.

Charles

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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