Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Consultant Tools Series: Darkfield Laser Mouse

If you are a roving consultant, you've probably built up a set of tools, technologies, and tricks to help you work more efficiently in all sorts of situations. For the mobile consultant, you have probably had to work at a free desk during the rare visit to the office, or at random workplaces at client sites, airports and airplanes, and endless coffee shops in between. You may have had to pull files off of a floppy disk (remember those?), open an Access 2.0 database, open a 2GB text file, use VLookup on a giant Excel file, connect to a client VPN from a rental car in a parking lot, you name it. My favorite was having to sit on a milk crate and rest my laptop on a broken office chair while working at a client.

Well, I've certainly had to field alot of random requests in random places over the years, so I thought I would occasionally share some tools, tips, and tricks that I've accumulated.

This first note is about wireless mice. I've used 2 or 3 wireless mice with my laptops over the last 5 years, both Logitech for some reason. The first one was good, but had poor battery life. The second one had good battery life, but an annoying scroll wheel that was difficult to click as a center mouse button. And I remember I had one that would "fight" with any other wireless mouse in the room, moving the cursor on other computers, and vice versa. All have had an annoying USB 'dongle' that stuck out of my laptop that I was always afraid I would lose.

Those optical / laser mice typically worked fine and did the job, but have you ever been at a client who had a glass conference room table? Or any table with a smooth, shiny, monochrome surface? I had two clients who had glass tables, and I often work at a coffee shop with tile tables outside.

Other than using the frustrating touchpad on my laptop, my only solution was to find a piece of blank paper, stick the edge under the rubber feet on one side of my laptop to keep it from moving, and use that as a make shift mouse pad. (wow, remember mouse pads??)

Enter the Logitech Darkfield Laser mouse. This is the answer for the mobile consultant who must mouse on any surface imaginable. I don't know if any other mouse manufacturers are making a competing product--if so, Logitech must have better marketing.

I finally broke down and bought one recently--the Anywhere MX model. Based on my tests, it's pretty darn amazing.

I just grabbed a picture frame off the wall--literally. It works fine right on the glass. I've only used it a few times, but so far it seems to work on any surface, even the bottom of a DVD and my laptop LCD display.

And a very nice touch is that they reduced the size of the USB dongle to a tiny little 1/4" nub that can stay in your laptop USB port at all times.

I'm still getting used to the shape, buttons, and odd scroll wheel, but the new laser does seem like a pretty neat innovation.

Mouse away.

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