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Mouse Pucker

An absolute in a relative world
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My main input device for the past couple of years has been a graphics tablet. I originally decided to try it out because I was doing a lot of intricate graphics work, and found the pen to be much easier and faster to use than my old trackball for this. But one thing I didn't know when I bought it was how much I'd come to appreciate the included puck.

The manufacturer refers to it as a "mouse", but it's really a puck. Whereas a mouse is only capable of sensing relative velocity, a tablet can sense the absolute position and rotation of a puck—it's essentially a graphics pen in the shape of a mouse. So when you're using a puck, there is a direct 1:1 mapping of points on the tablet to points on the screen. No need to ever search for the cursor—it's always right under your hand. And no matter how far you travel, you never have to lift up the mouse and move it over to get all the way there. Any point on the screen is always a single arm movement away. This might not seem like a big deal on a smaller monitor, but when you're dealing with larger amounts of screen real estate (I'm currently sitting in front of a 30" monitor flanked by two 24" monitors, all connected to the same system), losing your cursor becomes a constant problem.

The only drawback to the puck is that I can't use a different one. It's not terrible—it looks like your basic 5-button mouse with scroll wheel. But it's not great, either, and the included software for customizing the buttons is somewhat lacking in functionality. I'd love to use some other kind of mouse for the form factor, but I'm unwilling to give up the absolute positioning of my beloved tablet.

So, what to do? Well, the sensor in the puck is a passive device, so it requires no batteries. If such a sensor could be built into an adhesive label, you could simply attach that label to the bottom of your favorite wireless (or even wired) mouse, and voila! Instant puck. The kit would also include some thin felt for the bottom, for ease of gliding across the tablet surface. You'd need a special driver for the mouse that would disable its pointing functionality but allow you to customize the buttons (luckily, such software already exists).

If I could only use one of those crazy 13-button mice with my graphics tablet, I think I'd be in nerd heaven.

ytk, May 08 2012

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       My wife used to use a 9-button puck, about 18 years ago, now. It was from some crazy German graphics company whose name I cannot recall. Watching her at work was like watching black magic.
UnaBubba, May 08 2012
  
      
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