Mousing Around

Isn’t it about time for a radically new interface? How long have we been mousing around? Do you remember what it was like before the mouse? Everything was DOS style text commands. OK, I’m not saying that I want to go back to that, but when you think of either fast or futuristic interfaces, the mouse is nowhere to be seen. The fastest I ever go on a computer is when I am entering commands without using the mouse. The bigger screens get, the higher the screen resolution, the more difficult it is to use a mouse accurately. I’ve never been a fan, although I must admit that I have probably 6 different cordless mice and another 4-5 corded ones somewhere around the house.

The quest for the perfect mouse has led me first to cordless mice, but the early ones would not turn themselves off, and didn’t have an off switch (for traveling in the laptop bag). Then came a Kensington with an off switch, but it was too small to use, and didn’t work very well otherwise. Then there were a few Logitechs with off switches with various merits. Of course the off switch was important to conserve AA or AAA batteries while in your laptop bag. A truly ideal mouse would be rechargable and wouldn’t require swapping batteries. So I got a Logitech MX Laser 1000, which has all sorts of useful buttons, and is rechargable, but it’s too big, and more specifically, the charger is too big to carry in a laptop bag.

So, I have two mice, both are compromises. The big MX 1000 is great for home office use where there is a lot of desk space and the recharger stays plugged in. A generic small Logitech with a small USB transmitter goes in the laptop bag. The power cuts off when the transmitter is snapped to the bottom of the mouse for carrying.

Anyway, I’ve wasted hundreds of dollars on mice. You may have too. The mouse is your entry into the computer interface. Where would we be without it? Much farther along, I assume.

Take a look at this YouTube clip:  I ran into this in a post on comp.cad.solidworks. This is an interface that interests me. I want this developed not just into SolidWorks, but into a next gen OS. Its really time for a change in a big way. Heavy duty computer users are so disconnected with our hands. We don’t feel like there is a tangible connection between reality and cyber. The mouse is just another layer of abstraction that puts a barrier between our bodies and our data. I’m no Tron, but I’m all for being more interactive with the data in a more intuitive, even physical way. Star Trek Next Generation meets Minority Report (and of course Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony gave Tom Cruise’s motions a ballet-like poetry).

Zoom Spin Pan. Sketch Extrude Tug-and-pull. All with your fingers. Eyes and hands in the same place. Touch your data. Clean your screen, you slob. The Mass Media moves so slowly, if it were just about the technology, I think this is the kind of thing that should be developed sooner rather than later.

0 Replies to “Mousing Around”

  1. Matt,

    As usual, I’m a bit conflicted. I agree whole-heartedly with your point about the need for better documentation. I agree that the money spent on the press would be much better spent on hiring a couple of good writers for the help files. But I also agree with Matthew West; the reality is that what Marketing spends or doesn’t spend is never going to show up on the coding side of the business.

    In much the same way I agree with you about the kind of marketing fluff that passes for commentary from some of the CAD/CAE/CAM press. But I agree with Al Dean that you painted with a very broad brush there. Some of the professionals, and I include Mr. Dean among them, are truly professional in the job they do. I was very glad to see your reply to Al’s July 1 post. I hope you two get a chance to meet and talk it over personally in Barcelona.




    Right, I know there’s not a 1:1 connection between the two, infact the only connection is that both issues concern money for writers. One is the lack of it and the other is the excess of it. And when I sit one issue right next to the other issue, the result is pure irony.

    Of course there was a bit of hyperbole going on in that post too. Still, as you pointed out and Al himself has pointed out, there is a lot of fluff in CAD journalism, so it might have been hyperbole, but it wasn’t entirely baseless hyperbole.

    Not to compare myself to any celebrity, but Rush Limbaugh does not claim to be a journalist. He is an entertainer. The goals of the two are different, even if the means look a lot alike. I’m neither an entertainer or a journalist, just a guy writing a blog, looking for practice writing and expressing a range of ideas.

    Anyway, I’m sure Al and I will talk in September. I’m sure a lot of the rest of them won’t know or care who I am. Either way is ok with me.

  2. Matt, I think you’re wrong – you’re trying to connect two different things here – the cost of a press event and the fact that you feel slighted by SolidWorks because the documentation isn’t up to scratch. The two are linked, but not in the manner you seem to point towards.

    What offended me is that you have a genuine reason for grievance with SolidWorks, yet in addition to making a valid point, you decided to insult a group of people trying to do a job, many of whom do it well and there are many outstanding european magazines out there.

    The point I’m trying to make is that its very well to insult people, but if you do, make sure the reason you do is valid. I have a perfectly good sense of humour, but when someone dismisses the work that I and my peer do, on a regular basis, it pisses me off.

    And yes, professional. You’re a consultant and an author of a book that you promote through your web-site, on that basis alone, I don’t think you class as an amateur in any way, shape or form.

    if you can handle people in a civil manner face to face, why not apply the same courtesy to this? Construct an argument, explain it and what the problem is and leave it at that – rather than trying to make yourself seem all important by belittling others work.

    Al Dean

    Al, I wish you had participated in the discussion several months back that Roopinder started about the differences and similarities between bloggers and press. There are serious differences between what you call writing and what I call blogging. Mainly, we have different goals. My primary goal, believe it or not, is for the blog to provide more of a creative writing outlet as opposed to the more constrained writing that I do for the books and other formats. So there is far more opinion, speculation, and just plain rabble rousing going on in my blog than in other places. It offers me balance, and feedback. Writing a book is a lonely job, and you don’t get feedback until its all over. The blog offers me some interaction.

    You may be doing me the disservice of taking this blog too seriously. Seriously. I’m pretty tongue in cheek, wink and a nod with it most of the time. I hope that comes through. If you ever meet me, and you don’t greet me with a left to the jaw, you might find that I joke around constantly, and that I don’t go around with a scowl looking for fights, as you may be guessing.

    I have had several offers to write for trade rags, and quite honestly, I haven’t accepted any. I don’t think I can do writing that editors in that genre would appreciate. I wrote a couple simple things for some magazine editors a few years back, and frankly was very unimpressed with what they did with the published articles. It’s just not for me, so I don’t do it.

    You do not need to look very far to find writing (by professionals) that is accurately described by my blog post. You’re taking what I said personally, when nothing personal was said or implied. I know the press is used to being on the other end of the microscope, so it might be a little uncomfortable for you (collective you, not you specifically) to be examined, even if it’s in a ridiculously overstated offhand manner. I haven’t read more than a couple things that you personally have written, but among those I’ve talked with you seem to have a good reputation.

    If I was belittling anything, I was belittling what I see as a style, or genre of CAD and more generally business writing which has a lot to say but conveys little information. You can’t deny that exists, regardless if you are personally responsible for it or not. I don’t doubt there are people doing a really great job in any government that you might name, even when there is little disagreement that the overall government is doing a poor job.

    Yes, you’re right. I’m juxtoposing two unrelated situations and pointing out the irony. I’m glad that I’ve communicated at least that much. I don’t have any information as to whether they are connected in any way at all other than by money.

    My blog is an aggressively amateur endeavor. Only by being an amateur can I write about what I want, like fishing trips and bluegrass music and whatever. There is possibly some cross over between the blog and my professional activities, but they are separate endeavors.

    I don’t consider myself a professional writer even on account of the books. I’m just an engineer who is fascinated with software that enables me to express geometric ideas that would otherwise exist only in my head. I want to help other people express those ideas as well, and writing is the main vehicle for doing that.

    And you know what? Not even the uptight types at SolidWorks Corp. call me or email to complain when I call them out on the carpet, even when I’m severely unfair to them. So lay off, relax, none of what I wrote has your name or your new endeavor’s name on it. Regardless of how you feel, you are not a target.

    I hope you understand me a little better and what I’m doing, and what I’m not doing. Thanks for reading.

  3. Matt

    I’ve been a long time read of your ‘work’, its entertaining for the most part, but sometimes, you miss the mark completely. Now, that’s fine for a quiet chat in a bar, or the occasional rant at work, but when you use a pubic forum (albeit, under your own control), to single handedly dismiss the work of the press, it tends to rile me somewhat.

    Its all very well to talk about how ‘we’ don’t know “SolidWorks from Synchronous Technology”, when some of the most inaccurate and poorly conceived commentary of Sync Tech I’ve read has been found on this very site.

    To claim that content is “regurgitated press release, none of which is even remotely useful for real users” is plain offensive and unprofessional. I’ll leave “a bunch of typewriter jockies” for another time.

    I’ve spent the last ten years writing accurate and honest articles about the technology used for product development and I know for a fact that many people find it interesting and helpful to their work, to help their businesses stay in profitability, and in some cases, in existence.

    And no, we don’t fill our web-site and pages with screaming vitriol, don’t concoct half thought out rants about things that we don’t really understand either. we think about what we’re writing and do the job professionally.

    After all, if you really have a problem with it, then don’t go – simple as that man. Just the same as your tirades against the 2008 UI, or sync tech – if you don’t want to use, then don’t. You have a choice.

    I just hope you show a little more respect for the people of Barcelona and those attending the press-conference in person. It’s all very well to sit in your ivory tower and speak forth, but at some point, you have to sit and face the people you’re dismissing with so much ease.

    And as I’ll be in Barcelona, I’m keen to see exactly how you handle that my man.

    Al Dean, Editor, DEVELOP3D

    All I can say is “prove me wrong”. I’d love it if the press stepped up to the plate and offered something more than inane platitudes 6 months late. I’d love it. So do it.

    Ok, I thought you might have been a little tongue-in-cheek by calling an amateur blogger “unprofessional”, but I guess you’re serious. I thought brits had a better sense of humor than that.

    I suppose you have reciprocated by missing the point of my blog entry. I’m not angry about the “press”, they are easy enough to dismiss. I’m angry that the documentation in my software is going south because of a questionable trade off. That and the irony of blowing all this dough on a bunch of writers on one hand and complaining about how expensive it is to hire a different sort of writer on the other hand. Get with it.

    Al, I wasn’t born yesterday, and I didn’t start confronting people yesterday. I handle talking to people face to face in a civil manner. Hope you can do the same. If you and yours feel insulted, tough titty. It was one of your crew, if I remember correctly, that compared bloggers to chimpanzees, so the stage is set. Get over it, suck it up, and start writing something meaningful about SW09.

  4. Uninvited for expressing your opinion? It would take a lot more than that. Maybe insulting Jeff Ray’s mother to his face or something. That would probably get you booted. And maybe result in fisticuffs.

    Yeah, it costs money to launch a new product. Press events are a cost of doing business, unfortunately. I saw that Siemens recently had an event at the CN Tower to announce their new Synchronous Technology. That seems odd for a company that’s now laying off 17,000 people, but yet they did it anyway. You need publicity to sell product. And that means inviting the press.

    I come from a Very Big Fortune 250 Corporation that would never even dream of inviting bloggers to an event like this, and I think that it’s incredibly cool that guys like yourself get invited, even though the powers that be know full well that you could slag the whole event. Your opinion matters, just like Josh’s opinion matters, or Mike’s or Jason’s, or Devon’s. That’s why you guys get invited–to get those in-the-trenches perspectives that you won’t get from the regular “press.”

    So yeah, you’re not going to get uninvited for stating your opinion. In fact, I’m actually somewhat jealous–I’m not even on the invite list for Barcelona, and I work for the company.

    Just remember to pronounce your soft c’s as “th.”

    Matthew West

    What’s the opinion? SW is not using screen shots of the interface in the documentation. Fact. SW is flying a bunch of writers to Barcelona, Spain. Fact.

  5. Matt,

    Never a truer word spoken. This happens more and more this days. Company’s/Bosses complaining furiously about slackness or employees not working hard enough etc etc then on the other hand blatantly throwing money around that is a total waste and a direct contradiction to the argument 5 minutes prior! This is a classic case you listed here.

    PS. not scrolling smoothly. You wouldn’t by any chance be using an LCD? If so, then its simply a technology flaw thats more noticeable with light on dark and refresh rates. 🙂

  6. Matt: BTW, the new Vista-style interface of your blog looks cool! and the side effect is I felt when I scroll up and down it’s not as smooth as the old version. Nice graphic always come with slower performance , right? Just like SW2008 and SW2009////

    Thanks, I thought it was time for a change. I’ve got a little work to do to fix it up. Yeah, it doesn’t scroll smoothly. hmmm.

  7. Matt:

    Totally agree with your points.

    Regard the SW2009 Beta what’s new PDF, another good example is the explanation of Custom Property Builder in page 15, without a piece of screen capture, no one can really understand what does it talk about.

    I think even the SW2007Beta what’s new PDF is better than this one, as it come with some interactive animations in the PDF file, I can understand the new function even without touch the SW software itself. maybe the nice guy who wrote this document had left SW since then.

    Yeah, that’s the silliest description I’ve ever read in any kind of documentation. A description of a graphical interface that enables you to create a graphical interface that doesn’t use any pictures to describe the functionality. That’s crazy.

  8. Matt,
    I love the honesty, and the fact that you are still going. I agree that the documentation is severely lacking. I would add though that most of the frustration comes from the fact that there are portions of the documentation that are wonderful (with pictures, videos and useful examples) and yet others that contain 3 sentences and a couple of bolded titles. I hope to hear lots of great insight after the trip, it’ll be nice to compare your take on things to the MSM coverage.

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