The latest in the search for a better pointing device, Contour Design’s RollerMouse Pro claims to be the “World’s greatest mousing device” but how does it stack up in day-to-day use? Is it worth the steep $200 price tag? Contour Design offered me the chance to test-drive a RollerMouse Pro for a few weeks and here’s what I thought:

RollerMouse ProThe Device: The RollerMouse Pro doesn’t fit cleanly into any pointer device category I know. It’s not a track ball, not a touch pad, not a mouse, not a tablet. It has aspects of all these devices, but is truly its own device.

The long cylindrical roller is used to control a pointer. The cylinder spins up and down while sliding back and forth. A traditional left and right mouse button are complemented by a scroll wheel (with the standard functionality) and a centered double-click button. The cylinder can also be pressed down to accomplish a left-click adding further to the convenience of the device.

The RollerMouse Pro has two special function buttons (which are absent in the standard RollerMouse.) By default they act as a click-lock (click and hold) and scroll-lock (click and use the main roller to scroll.) A web mode allows the buttons to be used as forward and back in web browsers and the final mode allows custom software to be used to assign the buttons to additional functions.

If all that isn’t enough, the RollerMouse Pro is integrated with a wrist rest which improves keyboarding posture. The comfortable, high quality lycra wrist rest is removable for cleaning.

In use the RollerMouse Pro is highly functional with a comfort unmatched by any pointing device I have used. I used the RollerMouse Pro daily at work for several weeks prior to this review. For the first few days I found I needed to adjust the mouse tracking speed slower than I typically used with a mouse, but after just a few days of using the RollerMouse Pro I was back up to my typical (“twitchy” as many would say) high mouse speed with all the accuracy I have with a traditional mouse.

One of the RollerMouse’s claims is that since the user does not have to reach to their side the hand position is more ergonomic when mousing. While I am not an ergonomics expert I will say that while using the RollerMouse Pro I did find that some tension and aches I had in my right shoulder and lower neck absolutely disappeared.

The video below shows how the RollerMouse Pro sits below the keyboard so it can be used with only a minimal departure from the keyboard. To show how little movement is needed I have added stripes to the roller with some orange tape. During this video I moved the pointer all around the screen, from launching a web browser from the start menu, to selecting a link to Gmail, to scrolling around the page, to closing the window.

You can see how little movement of the cylinder was required for these standard tasks. While hard to show in a video, if you reach the end of the the RollerMouse’s movement before reaching the corresponding edge of the screen you can feel a click on the cylinder and it will continue the pointer movement to the edge of the screen. This behavior was easier than expected to get used to.

I found that using several fingers from my right (dominant) hand gave me the best control, but this second video shows how I was also able to control the RollerMouse Pro with just my thumbs (I used my left thumb to give some resistance on the cylinder while I controlled it with my right thumb.) This method allows the RollerMouse Pro to be used without moving the hands from the keyboard. I found this ideal when working in text-centric applications like word processing and shell sessions.

I used the RollerMouse Pro on both Mac OSX and Windows with no need for drivers on either platform. In both cases the RollerMouse Pro was recognized by the operating system as a standard mouse and all standard features were immediately available.

While there are advantages to being able to program your own functions to specific buttons it is invaluable that the first two modes mentioned above work without any additional software. I personally didn’t make much use of the two additional buttons between the main array and the roller cylinder. In the long run I might try to program them for copy and paste, but to me they neither make or break the device.

Conclusions: After setting up the RollerMouse Pro (which was a breeze) and using it for a few weeks I have found it significantly better than traditional mouses. It offers the advantages of a laptop trackpad (easily accessible with little or no movement from the home position on the keyboard) while offering a fast learning curve and outstanding range and accuracy.

While a price of just shy of $200 keeps me from recommending this to the casual user, for those who spend their work days at their computers the RollerMouse Pro has a lot to offer. The unanticipated advantage of the RollerMouse Pro was the liberation of a few square feet of desk space previously occupied by my mouse and mouse pad.

An ergonomic design, high quality construction, convenient placement, an integrated wrist rest and unbeatable functionality make the RollerMouse Pro a great choice for anyone who spends hours a day at their computer. It did take several days to get used to, but if you’re not sure if it’s for you there’s always the option of their 30 day free trial.

RollerMouse Pro or Classic? There are a handful of differences between the classic and pro versions of the RollerMouse (see the image below, pro on top.) The pro is only $10 more than the classic and features a larger opening for controlling the main cylinder, larger buttons and two additional buttons. All these features make it well worth upgrading to the pro version.

RollerMouse Pro and Classic


review, technology, mouse, pointer, hci, human computer interface

Here’s a quick and dirty method to compare the contents of a couple tables:

See all the rows in hr.employees which do not appear in oe.employees

SQL> select * from hr.employees
2 minus
3 select * from oe.employees;

EMPLOYEE_ID FIRST_NAME LAST_NAME
----------- -------------------- -------------------------
EMAIL PHONE_NUMBER HIRE_DATE JOB_ID SALARY
------------------------- -------------------- --------- ---------- ----------
COMMISSION_PCT MANAGER_ID DEPARTMENT_ID
-------------- ---------- -------------
210 Groucho Marx
gm@lifeaftercoffee.com 26-JUL-07 ST_MAN

And the converse can be done by switching the order of the tables:

See all the rows in oe.employees which do not appear in hr.employees

SQL> select * from oe.employees
2 minus
3 select * from hr.employees;

EMPLOYEE_ID FIRST_NAME LAST_NAME
----------- -------------------- -------------------------
EMAIL PHONE_NUMBER HIRE_DATE JOB_ID SALARY
------------------------- -------------------- --------- ---------- ----------
COMMISSION_PCT MANAGER_ID DEPARTMENT_ID
-------------- ---------- -------------
207 Jon Emmons
jon@lifeaftercoffee.com 26-JUL-07 AD_VP

208 Gwen Emmons
gwen@lifeaftercoffee.com 26-JUL-07 AD_VP

This can be very useful if you need to, say, determine what has changed between two different databases. I have been using this over a database link recently to compare tables in a development instance to the tables in a production instance.

The caveats: The two tables must have the exact same column layout. If they are close but not exact you should still be able to make this work by specifying all the fields which are the same instead of ‘*’.

If you want to exclude a field (like an activity date) you will need to specify all the fields you want to include from both tables. The types and order of the fields must be identical between the two select statements.

I describe this as “quick and dirty” because it is. You should not use a query like this in a production database without first looking at how it will affect your database. This will cause full table scans and could kill performance.

oracle, database, dba, database administration, sql

A coworker threw this acronym at me today and I can’t believe I haven’t heard before…

PICNICProblem In Chair, Not In Computer.

I’ve always liked the term PEBKAC, which describes the same problem, but I think I may have to adopt PICNIC just because it’s easier to say.

PEBKACProblem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.

Either of these acronyms describe a problem which despite initially being blamed on a computer/network/server/program is actually caused by the user, often by misuse or a complete lack of understanding of how the software is used. Preferred solution: remove user.

language, acronym, buzzword, terminology, technology

Don Burleson points out that Oracle has sent out some Cardboard laptops!

Oracle cardboard laptop


The outside of the laptop which showed up in Andy Armstrong’s mail July 5th read “We’ve taken the idea that the outside world is a dangerous place for unprotected content.” and the inside reads “And shredded it.”

Thanks to Zach for posting the full text of the interior which reads:

“To derive maximum benefit from your business critical content, you need to share it across a wide user base. But the more people who have access to it, the greater the threat of sensitive information leaking to your competitors. That’s just for starters; content proliferation also raises the risk of regulatory non-compliance and escalating management costs. You know you can’t live without your information, but you’d be forgiven for wondering how to live with it.

Oracle’s recently acquired Information Rights Management solution can help. A key component of our Document and Records Management portfolio, it enables you to share your information when and with whom you want – without fear of the outside world.

But it doesn’t stop there. Should the worst happen – and your laptop falls into unsafe hands – we can even scamble your content before anyone works out how to access it.

We’ll be in touch shortly with more details of how to shred your content management worries.”

So what’s the story? What bandwagon is Oracle getting on here? Only time will tell. Burleson thinks it may be another step in their “unbreakable” theme. I think it may be something with Application Express as a content management system. Something to do with enterprise blogs or wiki or some other web 2.0 kind of content management.

wiki, blog, web, web20, web 2.0, oracle, dba, rdbms, dbms, marketing, laptop

UNIX and Linux shells provide an abundance of useful built-in information that can be referenced in globally available variables. In order to see the information provided in a shell, the set command can be run as demonstrated below.

Here’s a partial output of the set command:

$ set
BASH=/bin/bash
BASH_VERSINFO=([0]="2" [1]="05b" [2]="0" [3]="1" [4]="release" [5]="i386-redhat-linux-gnu")
BASH_VERSION='2.05b.0(1)-release'
GROUPS=()
G_BROKEN_FILENAMES=1
HISTFILE=/home/tclark/.bash_history
HISTFILESIZE=1000
HISTSIZE=1000
HOME=/home/tclark
HOSTNAME=appsvr.mytec.com
OSTYPE=linux-gnu
PATH=/usr/kerberos/bin:/usr/local/bin:/bin:/usr/bin:/usr/X11R6/bin:/home/tclark/bin
...
PS1='[\u@\h \W]\$ '
PS2='> '
PS4='+ '
PWD=/home/tclark
SHELL=/bin/bash
SHLVL=1
SSH_ASKPASS=/usr/libexec/openssh/gnome-ssh-askpass
SSH_CLIENT='206.107.231.178 1379 22'
SSH_CONNECTION='206.107.231.178 1379 192.168.15.105 22'
SSH_TTY=/dev/pts/0
SUPPORTED=en_US.UTF-8:en_US:en
TERM=vt100
UID=503
USER=tclark
_=clear

The contents of a shell variable can be displayed by using the echo command and prefacing the variable name with a dollar sign as demonstrated below. Shell variables are referenced using all capital letters.

$ echo $TERM
vt100
$ echo $USER
tclark
$ echo $HOSTNAME ... $LOGNAME
appsvr.mytec.com ... tclark

There are also some special built-in variables that can be useful when creating shell scripts. Some of them are listed in the table below.

Built-in Variable Description
$# The total number of arguments passed to a shell script on the command line.
$* All arguments passed to the shell script.
$0 The command (script) invoked on the command line.
$1 – $9 The first through ninth arguments passed to the shell script from the command line.

These variables are provided by the shell and the names should not be used for other variables.

Easy Linux CommandsFor more tips like this check out my book Easy Linux Commands, only $19.95 from Rampant TechPress.

Buy it now!


linux, unix, system administration, sysadmin

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