Notebook computers are starting to outsell desktops, but there's one thing that portable PCs never really got quite right: what's generically called the "pointing device," more commonly referred to as the mouse.
The closest to perfection was a "pop-out" mouse on an old HP Omnibook. It looked like a miniature version of the real thing, but was tethered to the laptop by a plastic strip, which mechanically transferred your pointing motions to the operating system. It was great, as long as you weren't left-handed; it couldn't be moved from the right-side of the computer.
The laptop I'm currently using - a Dell Latitude D810 (circa 2005) - has two pointing devices built-in. The touchpad in front of the keyboard lets you use a fingertip to direct the cursor; a Track Stick in the middle of the keyboard (a rubbery nub that looks like the top of a pencil eraser) offers another pointing option.
I rarely use either, preferring to stuff a full-size mouse in my slim travel bag. I've always preferred the feel of a mouse for pointing and clicking, mostly based on habit, I guess.
But I've been testing a new option that looks like it was built-in to my notebook: The MoGo Presenter Mouse PC from Newton Peripherals. Flipping open the computer, the MoGo Mouse is nowhere to be seen. That's because it's hiding in the PC Card slot on the side of the machine. Another version of the product is available for newer computers with the popular ExpressCard 54 slot.
The MoGo unit pops out and is the same size and slim rectangular shape as any PC card. But on the bottom, there's a small plastic easel that flips up to turn the mouse on and to position it at a comfortable angle.
There's no cable needed; it communicates with your computer via a Bluetooth connection (yes, the same technology that links your cell phone with a wireless headset). If your computer lacks a built-in Bluetooth radio, you can purchase the MoGo Mouse with a minuscule Bluetooth adapter that's about the size of a fingernail and plugs into any USB port.
You should only have to "pair" the mouse with your computer once; after that it's an automatic connection.
The MoGo mouse feels a bit unsubstantial in my hand, although it is approximately the same width as a traditional mouse.
There are two slightly recessed buttons at the front end of the MoGo; each features a tactile (but nearly silent) "click" for standard mouse functions.
MoGo engineers didn't manage to squeeze in a scroll wheel between the two mouse buttons. I don't know how they would have done it, but its absence is the main demerit I have for the product. Recognizing that shortcoming, Newton Peripherals does offer "scrolling software" as a free download. I tried it and still prefer the scroll wheel.
Because of its dainty dimensions, successful use use of the MoGo Mouse does take some practice. But I rapidly adapted to its quirks and found myself getting the hang of it after about 20 minutes of trial and error.
When you're ready to pack up, just tuck the MoGo Mouse in its laptop "garage," where it also recharges its battery.
The MoGo Mouse BT (for "Bluetooth") lists for $80; $70 if you already have the required Bluetooth adapter. It's easy to find the product for less online.
I think everyone has at least a little bit of "inventor" in them. You've probably seen those late night infomercials offering to help you market your great idea to the world.
But what if there were a way to find someone who was already waiting for the world-changing solutions that have been percolating in your brain? There is.
Innocentive.com has incubated a community of 145,000 "solvers" around the world.
Nikolay Barashkov - formerly a research scientist at Texas Tech University and the University of Texas at Dallas - was one of Innocentive's top "solvers" of 2007.
So how about you?
Do you think you could improve the efficiency of battery-powered household devices? The best answer to that question merits $5,000.
Perhaps you've got some insight into developing a "heat stable, shelf-stable food foam?" There's a $50,000 pay day waiting if you can come up with that solution.
The neat thing is that you can browse through the postings (from "seekers," as they are termed) like they're product listings on Amazon.
You never know what you might find, or how your knowledge could be just what someone else is looking for.
Watch every week on News 8 Midday at noon Wednesdays, or online any time.