Monday, December 20, 2010

My Kingdom for a Simple Keyboard & Mouse

When I bought my DELL last year, it was a special deal, sort of a package. I was able to make some customizations, but not everything was negotiable. One place where they stood firm was on the keyboard and mouse. I really just wanted a plain old DELL keyboard and a wired USB mouse. Nope - not an option. All of the choices included wireless keyboards and mice. I have had good enough luck with wireless keyboards. In fact, I'm typing this on a wireless Logitech keyboard right now. The mouse sitting here beside me is wireless, too. But these are legacy devices. As they say, "they don't make 'em like this any more." In fact, I had to special-buy these antique devices from a company that refurbs them because they're no longer made.

My experience with newer-made devices hasn't been nearly as good. I find they're unresponsive and laggy, have poor battery life, and the "bluetooth" mice go all wonky whenever somebody runs the microwave. But, I was out of luck - I could take the wireless accessories that came with the package, or I could pay for more expensive but equally wireless models, and those were my only choices. Grrr.

I did try them. I can't remember why I disliked the wireless keyboard, but I didn't care for it at all. I think it was just too slow. I'm a fast typist, and I rely on the text appearing on the screen as soon as I hit the key, otherwise it really messes me up. So I went out and bought just about the cheapest wired keyboard I could find to replace it. Sadly, I didn't realize until I got it home that it was a "compact" keyboard, which put some of the keys in different places and generally put them all closer together. Now I haven't mentioned yet that this isn't my primary "fun" computer that I'm talking about - this is my work PC. The one that I use for nothing except writing, writing and more writing. And for the last year, I've fought with this keyboard, constantly hitting the wrong keys and all the while tenaciously refusing to spend another dime on a new keyboard. "I'll get used to it eventually," I'd tell myself. Well, I never did.

I also used the wireless mouse for the last year. It was almost good enough. Its only issue was that sometimes it just wouldn't do quite what I told it to. It would take a second to "wake up" and go where I told it. It wouldn't track smoothly when I was trying to do detailed work like selecting a single character or dragging across multiple lines of text. I eventually decided that it might be that the mouse was having trouble tracking on the plain black plastic mouse platform attached to my keyboard tray. I put an old mousepad, back from the days when I used mouse pads about ten years ago, on top of the platform, and it almost seemed to help. For about a week. Now I'm not sure whether it really helped at all or I just imagined it, but in either case it didn't last. I tried changing the batteries and other remedies, but nothing could fix the fact that it was a crappy wireless mouse when what I really, really wanted was a nice, reliable wired USB mouse.

So last week I broke down and replaced them both. It cost me about $35 to get a new wired keyboard and mouse, and boy do I wish I'd just spent that money a year ago. The hours, days or even weeks that I've taken off my life with stress and frustration dealing with unrelenting typos from that wee little keyboard and fighting with the recalcitrant mouse pointer that wouldn't quite point where I wanted it to is worth $35 many times over. It took me a couple minutes to tear out the old stuff and plug in the new, and then everything was just suddenly... better. All better. No worries, no complains, no swearing, no frustration. I could finally, for the first time, really focus on my work without the input devices being a distraction. The lessons here are several:

1. Sometimes package deals aren't all they're cracked up to be.
2. Newer and more expensive isn't always better.
3. Sometimes you do need to double-down and just spend the damn money now, rather than waiting a year.

As I get older, perhaps I'll get wiser and these lessons will truly sink in. I can hope, anyway.

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