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Computer Productivity Tools

Computer Productivity Tools

Just when you thought you'd seen it all with the computer mouse, several peripherals manufacturers have released specialized versions that could help engineers use and design computers.

Microsoft's new Trackball comes in both Explorer (finger-controlled) and Optical (thumb- controlled) styles. By putting the rolling sphere on top, the device eliminates the need for a classic rolling rubber mouse ball and its mouse pad. Instead, the user palms a large IntelliEye(TM)trackball for better control and accuracy, the company says. An on-board DSP uses an optical sensor to capture 2,000 images per second of the patterned ball.

In a demo, the Explorer let a user easily flick a cursor across the computer screen, although it tended to over-respond to every hand twitch and heartbeat. Also, its sideways-mounted buttons can be hard to click if the user's hand isn't perfectly positioned. However, its scrolling wheel is great for replacing on-screen scrollbars, and its five buttons can be customized for tasks such as flipping browser pages forward or back, and cutting and pasting in Word documents.

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Another new device is the BioLink U-Match(R)Mouse, which boosts computer security using biometric authentication-it integrates a fingerprint scanner into a standard two-button mouse. After scanning a surfer's digit, it converts the whirls and swirls of your print to an algorithm, which is matched to your pre-set username and password. And don't be concerned about time-it takes just 0.13 sec to scan a 284x400 pixel print, and takes just 0.2 sec to verify a match.

To ensure privacy, it does not actually capture that fingerprint image, but creates a 500-byte secure template that cannot be reversed back into an image, the company claims. The BioLink Authentication System (BAS) 3.0 uses a digital safe called BioVault(TM)to protect the files on an end-user's hard drive. The company is developing a scroll-point version for future release.

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