Search pages in Firefox with just one key

So here’s a nice little Firefox easter egg for vi users:

In Firefox (at least version 2.0.0.6 on the PC, I haven’t confirmed this on others) you can search for text by simply typing a slash (/). As long as you’re not in a text entry box the / character will open up the find dialog box just like control-f would.

For those of you who don’t understand the significance of this, in the popular UNIX command line text editor vi you search for text by typing /string to find. This is typical of how vi works: powerful, simple commands which are rarely obvious.

vi, unix, linux, firefox, web, internet

RollerMouse Pro Review

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

How not to test your potato gun

The funny thing about blogging is that occasionally the comments are as good as the articles. Here’s a comment from a reader named Scott who’s friend Shaun (who by Scott’s own proclamation shall remain nameless) demonstrates that the dangers of making a device like a potato gun go far beyond the obvious.

Scott writes:

(disclaimer) Do not try this at home, this test was performed by a self perclaimed perfessional tater gun tester!!!!!

My buddy Shaun who shall remain nameless for the entirety of this article, being of what he calls, sound mind and body he! he! he!, decided to make him one of those there tator guns, over the objections of his wife, who stated, you’re gonna put your eye out with that thing, to which he declared “what idiot could get hurt with a tator gun.” So from that point hopefully you all know where I am headed here, if not don’t try makin’ a tater gun without reading the rest of this story!!!

So the nameless fellow, refer to beginning of story, put all of his parts and pieces together, and perclaimed himself a perfessional tater gun maker, then atter that, nameless buddy decided to christen said tater gun, and perclaim hisself the new king of tater gun testers, by sticking his face over the soon to be designated tater launch area, and light off the former grill igniter while the PVC glue aroma was still quite fresh.

So at the unexpected report of da tater gun, all or the majority of his former eyebrows, and eyelashes perclaim his gun a success as they rushed by him!!! So the moron of this story, oops I meant the moral is, don’t be a testin’, or a lookin’ into that thar tater gun until after the put togetter stuffs has thuroly dissipated!!!

One for the record books, so please pass this around to all of your friends, so’s we can give my nameless buddy Shaun all the credit he justly deserves =), so in the words of good ol Bill Engvall, “Heres your sign Shaun ol buddy”

Thanks for sharing, er, sharin’ Scott. I’m more than happy to do my part to spread the word.

potato gun, make, funny, fun, accident, hazard, explosion

The Kancamagus Highway

Rocky GorgeA couple weeks ago Kirsten and I took a drive across the beautiful Kancamagus Highway which runs 35 miles through the White Mountains from Conway, NH to Lincoln, NH.

The drive is full of beautiful scenic stops, hiking trails and swimming holes. The best part about the Kanc is that much of it can be seen only a short walk from the parking areas. It’s great when you want to get outside without having to worry about wearing the right clothes, what you need to take for gear, etc. Just make sure you have enough gas and head over!

Most folks tend to drive from Lincoln to Conway, but my preference is to go the other way so the Woodstock Inn, Station & Brewery is at the end. It’s a great stop for lunch, dinner, or just a nice cold beer. They have a huge menu and they make great beer!

So if your vacation plans take you to central or northern New Hampshire make sure you check out the Kancamagus Highway. It’s a beautiful drive you could spend as little as an hour, or easily a day or more to do.


new hampshire, nh, scenic, drive

Compare table contents with the ‘minus’ SQL operator

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