Review: Logitech MX Master Mouse

Simultaneously working on a book while teaching and writing on my various blogs and projects has brought a lot of stress to my hands, experienced as twinges in my wrists and fingers. To counteract this, I bought a new mouse… and it has been fantastic.

Logitech mouseSimultaneously working on a book while teaching and writing on my various blogs and projects has brought a lot of stress to my hands, experienced as twinges in my wrists and fingers. To counteract this I’ve initiated several new habits, including regular drummer stretches (which work very well for people who spend too much time at a keyboard) together with the purchase of a wrist rest and a new mouse. Of all of these changes, the mouse was the most expensive component, but arguably the one that has helped me the most.

Designed in the same way the bodywork for cars was originally built – carved from a block of wood – the MX Master is a delight to hold, particularly, I suspect, for those with large hands (mine measure 8″ from the base of my palm to the tip of my index finger). All of the controls on the mouse are located in comfortable, natural positions, and are stable and quiet: the central wheelmouse can be switched between “freewheeling” mode and a more granular notch-to-notch motion.

The wireless mouse can work via Bluetooth or its own RF signal. The latter requires the use of a very small, low-profile USB receiver, which I leave permanently in one of my MacBook’s ports: it hasn’t wiggled free after weeks of use, despite being constantly brought in and out of the close protective sleeve of my backpack. In theory, the mouse can be switched to operate up to three different computers; I haven’t had the opportunity to test this feature.

The mouse does require its own drivers to perform well, which are supported on Windows and Mac. The associated application – Logitech Options – is small, lightweight, easy to use, and very well-designed. In theory, each button on the mouse can be given its own specific function on a per-application level.

Logitech Options screen

One unexpected feature that I’ve got a surprising amount of use out of is the side wheel, which is perfect for scrolling horizontally through large MySQL tables with lots of columns.

The surface of the mouse has a very slight texture to it, and appears to repel dirt and grime. The built-in rechargable battery endures about a week of constant use, with an on-screen warning showing up when battery levels run low. Very cleverly, the mouse is designed in such a way that it can still be used while it recharges via the (included) USB-to-micro-USB cable.

While it is not cheap, and arguably more than one should pay for a mouse – I bought mine for $100 (CAD) from Amazon – I feel that for someone who uses a computer 14+ hours a day it’s a very worthwhile investment.

Best April Fool’s Day Pranks On The Web, 2012

This year’s April Fool’s Day tricks were a cut above previous offerings.

Google, of course, came well prepared for the party:

  • The 8-bit rendering of all of Google Maps in the style of a NES RPG from 1986 was fabulous, and my personal favorite: I really want to know the algorithm they used to turn satellite imagery into blocky trees, rivers and mountains. Lots of Easter Eggs to be found, too. There’s a Tumblr devoted to highlights from the map.
  • Google also rolled out Really Advanced Search, a librarian’s dream come true.
  • The Google Analytics team came up with a novel little hack: you could play the daily visitor metrics for your site as a piano (or a sitar!). I actually think that kind of sense-remapping visualization will become much more prevalent in the future…
  • There was also a sly dig at Modernizr, Twitter Bootstrap and HTML5 Boilerplate with the release of Google Elegantizr. Related, although not by Google: The MoreCSS framework.
  • The Google Chrome developer group contributed Chrome Multitask, featuring dual-wielded mice for power users, while the gMail team proposed Google Tap for mobile devices

Microsoft and Ubisoft ported Assassin’s Creed to Kinect. Which actually looks pretty sweet… until you get to the part about crushing furniture as you attempt a jump.

Nerd store ThinkGeek offered the Star Wars Admiral Akbar Singing Bass, Minecraft Marshmellow Creeps and the Technomancer Digital Wizard Hoodie.

Finally, Canadian airline Westjet offered child-free cabins with the KargoKids program

April Fool’s Day On The Web is a site devoted to the best of the web on April Fool’s for every year… and it has a ranking system.

Gameify Everything: Merit Badges For Life

While the concept of task-directed reward systems is far older than electronic games, the idea of “achievements” is rapidly becoming part of many social constructs. You’ll even see it on this website, in the next incarnation of my blog. Achievements are distinct from the “points” earned with frequent shopper cards by the following:

  • Earned achievements are public, or shared with a select group, and afford some bragging rights. (For this reason, they’re most strongly associated with social networks or groups: think Scouts and Lions).
  • The visible nature of achievements causes participants strive harder: if I can see that person X has an achievement that I don’t, I will work to gain it.
  • Achievements relate to activity, rather than purchases. You cannot earn achievements by paying for them.Achievements abstract effort into “badges”, some of which can be quickly earned, and others that require significant amounts of work to gain. (The distribution of achievements has become a vital skill for game developers. Requiring too much activity to gain a reward – the notorious “grind” – results in participants giving up, while making achievements too easy to gain reduces their perceived value).

    Games – most especially MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft and casual networked games like Farmville – have used achievements to build community and earn billions of dollars. My modest proposal is to take that same activity and turn it into something useful: saving carbon emissions, rather than clicking on virtual cows.

    Most people can’t consider their effect on the environment: it’s too complex, and far too overwhelming, for most of them to think about. Few even know where their electricity comes from, or how much they are using, short of the monthly statement they receive in the mail. But increasingly, smart monitoring systems are making fine-grained data from individual outlets available wirelessly. Retrofit every home in a small city or several neighborhoods with such devices, and you start to gain several interesting possibilities to make positive change:

    • Imagine that each month your electricity bill contains not only a statement of your usage but also the average of your street or neighborhood, allowing you to understand where you personally stand in watts consumed. Do well, get a badge, or a discount.
    • Further, imagine each neighborhood receives an overall rank based on the number of kilowatts used that month, with rewards given for being in the top 10 (that is, the fewest average watts used per house). Neighborhoods would compete to achieve the highest rank; as they joined the program, so would cities.

    This concept can be extended to many areas. Health services in the US are using data from clients to inspire and motivate. The same could be done on a broad basis by distributing devices such as WiScales into homes, which measure weight and BMI wirelessly. Participation in community garden programs, having your pet neutered, driving fewer miles in your car: human beings have shown that if it can be measured and reported, we will compete over it. Doing so invisibly, making citizen’s everyday activities contribute data to a National Happiness Index that we could all take pride in, would result in a better world.

    Until that happens, I encourage everyone to contribute what they can… and if you desire recognition for your achievements, maybe buy and display one of these more tongue-in-cheek merit badges, some of which are shown in the banner image above.

eMail, Visualized

As it is my primary means of communication, I’ve been interested in graphing my eMail correspondence to find emergent patterns and relationships. It’s my intention to take this exploration far further and deeper into linguistic and text analysis in the future (and, once I have a similar amount of data, applying the same tools to Twitter) but for now here’s a very rough start.

The corpus used is correspondence to and from my gMail account, a total of 7823 messages from July 2006 to today, with the lower two graphs showing activity for the last complete year for which data is available (2010) with identities anonymized.

So far there are no huge surprises: I did have the wry observation that I send a lot of eMail after midnight.

I used Python with mail-trends for the analysis, and Cheetah to template the graphs. Obviously all identities other than my own have been anonymized.