May 29, 2010

Apple Pro Mouse, Better Late Than Never

I call this: mac,tech — Posted by KP @ 3:39 am

This is an Apple Pro Mouse from 2002. It’s one of my favorite pieces of Apple hardware ever, in terms of design. It also happens to be a terrible mouse, even before you consider the fact that it only has one button and no scroll capability. That one button does have a wonderfully satisfying click, though.

Because I love it so much, despite its near-uselessness, I keep it as close as any spare mouse in my life, in a box under my desk, along with a Microsoft travel mouse (which is probably even older) which has two buttons and a scroll wheel, and is about as bad at tracking. These two very portable, very attractive mice are the ones kept at arm’s reach when a mouse is suddenly needed. My absolute favorite time to use it is when my PC is freaking out because one of my Razer gaming mice aren’t playing nice with the drivers. In my mind the conversation goes something like this.

PC: You have no mouse.
KP: Yes. I do.
PC: No you don’t.
KP: This is a $125 mouse. Why can’t you see it as a generic mouse without the driver?
PC: If your hardware is already connected, please install the driver provided by the manufacturer.
KP: That would be much easier with a mouse. Can’t I just use this one to select the file?
PC: This one what?
KP: This mouse that’s plugged in.
PC: You have no mouse. If you would like to install a mouse, click OK.
(rustling under desk)
(sound of USB connector sliding in)
Pro Mouse: Boom.
PC: Name?
Pro Mouse: Apple Pro Mouse connecting, please.
PC: (sigh) Um, OK. What do you do?
Pro Mouse: I have an X axis.
PC: Uh huh.
Pro Mouse: I have a Y axis.
PC: Uh huh.
Pro Mouse: I have a button.
PC: Is Button 1 a left-click, right-click, middle-click, or other?
Pro Mouse: I have a button.
PC: You have a button? That’s what you do, you have a button?
Pro Mouse: Yes.
PC: Are you lost?
Pro Mouse: Is this the PC that has a 7-button mouse connected and can’t see it?
PC: I don’t know anything about a 7-button mouse.
Pro Mouse: But you see me, yes?
PC: Yes. Your hardware is now configured and ready to use.
KP: Thank you.

Tonight I’m packing for the summer stock season, and having decided that any more gaming will be bad for my productivity, I’m packing my gaming supplies, including the mouse that drives not only my gaming PC, but my home entertainment Mac. So the Mac needs something to do the simple pointing and clicking involved in watching TV and ripping DVDs, so the Pro Mouse has been promoted for a few days.

This practice has been going on since, well, 2002, but I’ve never blogged about it before or properly honored the Pro Mouse, so here you go.

May 30, 2009

Razer Mamba Review

I call this: computers,gaming,pc — Posted by KP @ 3:50 pm

side1My birthday present to myself was the brand new Razer Mamba wireless mouse. ¬†How new? ¬†Well actually I don’t know, because last I heard it was supposed to come out on May 18, and then on like May 3rd I went to the website to see about preordering it, and there it was, “in stock.” ¬†I feel like Razer sends me a promotional email on pretty much a daily basis about some headphones or keyboard or some crap, and yet they never actually bothered to advertise via email or on the front page of their website that pretty much their biggest product release ever was now available for purchase? ¬†Razer mice aren’t always carried in stores, but I did find it on Amazon, which is where I purchased it, since I have an Amazon credit card and some gift certificates to spend on it.

First of all it should be said that the mouse costs $129. ¬†If you can’t see the value of spending that much on a mouse, you can stop reading now if you like, or continue reading for fun if you want, but I understand there are only a certain percentage of people for whom this product is intended. ¬†Those are probably the same people who have a keyboard worth $129, a joystick worth $129, and a set of rudder pedals worth $129. ¬†At that point, why should the mouse — the primary way to interact with most games — be given any less attention?

The big deal about this mouse is that it’s the first time that Razer has released a wireless mouse. ¬†Being the dedicated gaming hardware company that they are, they didn’t believe any wireless mouse could stand up to the needs of serious gaming, so they simply chose not to make one until they thought they could do it right. ¬†So it was with much fanfare that they announced some months back that they thought they had finally come up with something worth doing.

Despite the enormous potential for it to be a disaster, I decided that my lifestyle which will have kept me away from all the comforts of home gaming (big monitor, joystick, pedals, TrackIR, surround sound) for basically a full year deserves to be treated to the finest of the one peripheral I actually get to bring with me — the mouse. ¬†My current mouse of choice was the Razer Deathadder, which is a wired mouse in basically the same shape as the Mamba. ¬†In addition to being wireless, the Mamba also offers two additional buttons, placed kind of strangely in the upper-left corner of the left mouse button. ¬†They’re primarily intended to adjust sensitivity on the fly, but can be configured for anything.

One of the coolest things about the Mamba is that it can convert pretty much instantly from wireless to wired mode and back. ¬†The transmitter has a dock built into it that the mouse can rest on when it’s not being used, and it charges over USB. ¬† If you’re using the mouse and start to run low on the battery, or simply want the reliable performance of a wired mouse, you can pop the cable out of the transmitter and plug it directly into the mouse, and voila! you have a wired mouse. ¬†The delay is only the time it takes for Windows to recognize a mouse being unplugged and then plugged in. ¬†I have found that sometimes it seems to take a little longer for the connection to become stable when switching to wireless, but it’s still about 30 seconds. ¬†I wouldn’t recommend doing it in the middle of a firefight, but it’s easy to do during a quick break from action.

Here are a couple shots that illustrate how the cable is removed:

On the underside of the mouse are a few buttons. The latch on the upper-right is the release for the USB cable. On the lower right is the pairing button. I don’t find it generally necessary, but there’s one on the mouse, and one on the transmitter — I guess for when they get confused, or perhaps on a new install. And on the left side is the power switch for the mouse — it’s turned on for wireless mode, and off when charging or when wired.

The two little gold dots are the charging connectors.  The mouse docks on the transmitter, kind of like a pedestal, like so:

charging1Of course if you’d rather play than stare at your beautiful mouse, you can just use it wired, and it will charge as you continue playing.

Mamba vs. Deathadder
As you can see in the photos, they are really pretty much the same size. The changes are very subtle, and from what I can tell, all seem to be good adjustments.

I’ve found the adjustment from the Deathadder to be pretty seamless. ¬†The Mamba is a bit heavier because of the battery, but the teflon feet are much smoother, so I don’t notice the weight. ¬†I’m also not the kind of gamer who really has to lift the mouse that often, so it’s not a big thing for me. ¬†Another small difference is in the area of the side buttons. ¬†The buttons themselves have a thin layer of rubber on them, which feels nice, and there is a more generous rubber area below the buttons, which makes it a nice comfortable place to rest your thumb when you don’t want to hit the buttons accidentally. ¬†There’s also a very slight lip towards the back of the mouse which gives a little more grip and control in the thumb area, especially if you need to lift the mouse a lot. ¬†The cord, should you choose to use it, is woven, not rubber like the Deathadder. ¬†A lot of people prefer that because it moves a little more freely.

Any gaming gear strives to be both functional and sexy. ¬†The Mamba has the standard blue LED style going. ¬†Some people think blue is too clich√©, but I don’t mind since it happens to match the lighting on my keyboard and joystick. ¬†The Mamba has less lighting than the Deathadder — just two narrow strips of blue on the mousewheel. ¬†However, the charger/transmitter has blue lighting on the bottom, and around the button on the front of it.

Another good thing is that like most of Razer’s mice, the settings are saved on the mouse itself so when you plug it in on another computer your keymapping and sensitivity settings travel with you. ¬†I believe that requires the drivers to be installed on each machine. ¬†That’s fine with me, since I primarily need it when switching between my home computer and laptop, it’s nice to know that any changes I make to the settings will be up to date when I switch machines.

Rant On
One thing I absolutely hate about Razer is their driver software. ¬†They packaged this thing like it came right out of the dark side of Cupertino (the packaging would take up a post more complex than this one — feel free to google, I’m sure you’ll find lots of unboxing videos and photos). ¬†I swear, I have never seen a product packaged this well from Apple. ¬†And yet their software is absolute crap. ¬†Look at this mess:

mambaNot only is it ugly, I don’t know what shenanigans they have to do to make the edges do that, but whatever it is is totally non-standard and refuses to pop up when I alt-tab out of a game. ¬†Like it can’t overlay against a 3D game or something. ¬†If they had just made it a regular damn window it would be fine! ¬† There’s a lot of shenanigans going on in their software. ¬†Like why is it when I plug in my Deathadder on my Mac, before choosing an OS, it goes backwards? The X axis is reversed!¬†See most fancy mice, when you plug them in to an unknown computer, the computer’s like, “Oh, that’s a mouse.” ¬†And then you install the driver and the computer’s like, “Wow, that’s a really fancy mouse!” ¬†Well with most Razer mice I’ve owned, you plug it in, and the computer’s like “WTF is that?” ¬†And then it does the hardware detection thing, and slowly gets the idea, and the mouse starts working, and then you install the drivers and it starts working well. ¬† But right out of the box, it’s not actually a mouse. ¬†And that pisses me off. ¬†Every time they release a new product I hope they’ll change all this crap and stop acting like, “Hey look at this cool interface we coded in our dorm room — it has jagged edges,” and act like the professional purveyors of pwnage they otherwise present themselves to be. ¬†Whoever designed the packaging for the Mamba needs to bitchslap whoever designs their GUI, and get them on the same page. ¬†Rant off.

Overall I’m very happy with it. It hasn’t changed my life, but even as a wired mouse it’s a step up from the Deathadder. When gaming I like to have the mouse directly in front of the keyboard, but the wire usually gets in the way when I need to type. This is the biggest change I’ve noticed in usability from being wireless –I only need to worry about where the mouse is, not what the cord is dragging over.