Upside-down, cordless devices take the clutter out of computing

BUILDING A BETTER MOUSE

July 01, 1991|By L. R. Shannon | L. R. Shannon,New York Times News Service

Mice clutter the desk and demand a fair amount of free space, and their tails, the cords that attach them to computers, often get in the way.

One solution to some of the problems is a trackball, an upside-down mouse that stays put. A solution to the tail problem is to get a mouse from the farmer's wife.

The Cordless Super Mouse works the way the remote control for a television set or videocassette recorder does. It sends an infrared signal to a combination receiver and charging stand. The stand itself, but not the mouse, attaches to the serial port of the computer with a standard cable.

Of course, a cordless mouse still requires room to move around. It also requires an unobstructed line of sight between mouse and stand, so you can't pile up books or disks between them any more than you can change channels when someone is blocking the television set.

An additional problem with a cordless mouse is that it is powered by a battery, which must either be replaced or recharged. Super Mouse handles that situation neatly. It comes with two batteries.

One goes in the mouse, the other in the stand. While you're wearing down the one in the mouse, the one in the stand is recharging.

When the juice finally fails, you simply exchange the batteries. At day's end, put the mouse on the stand, and both batteries should be recharged the next morning.

Each battery is said to provide about eight hours of power, so unless you work 16-hour days, electricity should be no problem. (The stand gets its power from the computer; it doesn't have to be plugged into an outlet.)

The software accompanying the Super Mouse lets you adjust both how far and how fast the cursor moves in response to mouse movements.

There are also 10 menus that let you use popular programs that do not otherwise recognize mice, and provision is made for writing menus for other software.

The Cordless Super Mouse, a product of the Z-Nix Co. of Pomona, Calif., is offered by retailers in several packages. The mouse alone, with its software and cable, has a list price of $164.

Bundled with Windows 3.0, it is $282. Those are official list prices; you can probably do better.

*

Other mouse makers have not been idle. Microsoft, which sets the standards, has introduced a nicely redesigned mouse and, more recently, a mouse-trackball unit that clips to the side of a portable computer.

A three-button Logitech mouse is attached to the 286 machine behind me. (Most mice have two buttons; the Macintosh mouse has only one.)

Mouse Systems has introduced PC Mouse III, an optical unit that measures movement using light reflected off a special mouse pad. Mouse Systems also has the Little Mouse, another optical device, which is noticeably smaller and lighter than the mouse Apple supplies with the Macintosh.

*

Que is the biggest publisher of computer books, Peachpit Press one of the smallest. Que is a division, through several intermediate steps, of the Maxwell Communications Corp.

Peachpit is a little outfit in Berkeley, Calif., operating out of four bedrooms and the basement of the publisher's five-bedroom house. Now they have two books in the bookstores with the same title: "The Little Mac Book."

Peachpit's "Little Mac Book" ($12.95), by Robin Williams, is a light-hearted treatment of Macintosh essentials, from "K's, megs, and disks" to "help."

It appears to be more suitable for the beginner than the Que offering and was discussed here last December. It is not as widely available as the later entry from Que, but may be ordered directly from the publisher by calling (800) 283-9444.

Que's "Little Mac Book" (also $12.95), by Neil J. Salkind, is a kind of companion to its "Big Mac Book."

It is an alphabetical listing -- from "alarm clock" to "zoom box" -- of Macintosh methods and strategies. There is a separate section on some noteworthy features of the new System 7.

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