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The Microsoft Touch Mouse

The time came yesterday for a new mouse. The cordless mouse that I’ve been using, while faithful for some time, has been getting increasingly dicky. The rubber tyre on the mouse-wheel had stretched and scrolling and middle-clicking often yielded unexpected results and directions.

I eyeballed the digital rodentia at the local JB-HiFi store without the intent to purchase anything right away, but ended up walking out with a brand new Microsoft Touch Mouse ($100AUD). It was the largest mouse on the shelves, and my hands are large with long, slender fingers. Most of the rodentia on offer weren’t as long as my index finger, let alone comfortably large enough to rest a hand on.

Here’s the short version: Don’t buy this mouse. Do not be seduced by its apparent features and sleek curves, for it has a wicked design flaw.

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Dec 14 2011

A lot of Second Life users are wondering about a strange message that their viewer is spitting out with distressing regularity. The message generally looks like this: Translation failed: the parameter ‘appId’ must contain at least ’16’ characters Parameter name: appId

What’s happening is that – as you might recall – Google’s transitioned its translation API from a free service to a paid service. The mystifying message spits out every time your Second Life viewer tries to translate some text into your language. The new viewer defaults to Bing, and that’s the service that is generating the error – it’s complaining that you haven’t provided an appId for the translation service.

Making the message actually go away, though, is actually simple enough.

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Jun 25 2011

Human-factors designers use the term “gorilla arm” to refer to the vast gulf between cool design ideas and how they work in actual use-cases. At the beginning of the 1980s, touch-screens were just getting going, but gorilla-arm more or less killed off large-scale touch-screen research-and-development for many years to come. Only now, with portable devices and short-interaction kiosks are we seeing the resurgence.

But touch-screens aren’t the only technology that suffers from “gorilla arm.” Devices like Microsoft’s Kinect do as well.

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Microsoft really rather badly needed the Kinect to be a platform exclusive, I believe. The Wiimote and even the Sony Move work super well … at least when coupled with appropriate applications, and the Xbox – while still strong – has been showing some signs of flagging.

Having the Kinect as an exclusive device is something that Microsoft really needs in the gaming/media market – and it isn’t going to get it.

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