For a while, the Windows computing side of my life has been spread across far too many versions of the pervasive operating systems with the list including 2000 (desktop and server), XP, 2003 Server, Vista and 7; 9x hasn’t been part of my life for what feels like an age. At home, XP has been the mainstay for my Windows computing needs with Vista Home Premium loaded on my Toshiba laptop. The latter variant came in for more use during that period of home computing “homelessness” and, despite a cacophony of complaints from some, it seemed to work well enough. Since the start of the year, 7 has also been in my sights with beta and release candidate instances in virtual machines leaving me impressed enough to go popping the final version onto both the laptop and in a VM on my main PC. Microsoft finally have got around to checking product keys over the net so that meant a licence purchase for each installation using the same downloaded 32-bit ISO image. 7 still is doing well by me so I am beginning to wonder whether having an XP VM is becoming pointless. The reason for that train of thought is that 7 is becoming the only version that I really need for anything that takes me into the world of Windows.

Work is a different matter with a recent move away from Windows 2000 to Vista heavily reducing my exposure to the venerable old stager (businesses usually take longer to migrate and any good IT manager usually delays any migration by a year anyway). 2000 is sufficiently outmoded by now that even my brother was considering a move to 7 for his work because of al the Office 2007 files that have been coming his way. He may be no technical user but the bad press gained by Vista hasn’t passed him by so a certain wariness is understandable. Saying that, my experiences with Vista haven’t been unpleasant and it always worked well on the laptop and the same also can be said for its corporate desktop counterpart. Much of the noise centered around issues of hardware and software compatibility and that certainly is apparent at work with my having some creases left to straighten.

With all of this general forward heaving, you might think that IE6 would be shuffling its mortal coil by now but a recent check on visitor statistics for this website places it at about 13% share, tantalisingly close to oblivion but still too large to ignore it completely. All in all, it is lingering like that earlier blight of web design, Netscape 4.x. If I was planning a big change to the site design, setting up a Win2K VM would be in order not to completely put off those labouring with the old curmudgeon. For smaller changes, the temptation is not to bother checking but that is questionable when XP is set to live on for a while yet. That came with IE6 and there must be users labouring with the old curmudgeon and that’s ironic with IE8 being available for SP2 since its original launch a while back. Where all this is leading me is towards the idea of waiting for IE6 share to decrease further before tackling any major site changes. After all, I can wait with the general downward trend in market share; there has to be a point when its awkwardness makes it no longer viable to support the thing. That would be a happy day.

Evaluating an ergonomic mouse

Recent hectic mouse work has left my right hand feeling the worse for wear so a recent opportunity to try out a work colleague’s Evoluent VerticalMouse 3 was one that I took up. I gave it a go for a day and it left me impressed enough to go out and order one for myself. It’s not a cheap item with some selling for a smidgen less than £60 and others selling for significantly more than this. Also, it is a handed item with the latest version being available to right handers like myself and an earlier one for lefties. It will work with Windows 2000 but the supplied software is for XP and later.

The idea behind the gadget is an intriguing one: rather than having your hand held parallel to your desk as with a conventional mouse, you have it almost perpendicular to it. The claim is that when you have your arm this way, it is less likely to get tired. The arrangment sounds as if it might not work but it does in practice: your thumb is the anchor for the hand and the little finger (lúidín in Irish) rests on a little ledge that stops it getting dragged along either the mouse mat or the surface of the desk. This arrangement does allow you to relax your hand on the mouse. You get the usual mouse functions plus extra buttons that you can use to go back and forward through web pages; even without installing the included software, you get these. However, I have observed drift of the mouse cursor across the screen of my home PC when the unit is not being moved around. At first, I wasn’t sure what is causing this but it now appears to be the mouse mat that I was using. I’ll continue to give it a go.

Update: a mouse such as this really needs you to rest your arm on the desk for it to be at its most helpful. That’s fine for work but my home set up had me stretching my arm and that leads to a lot of discomfort. That isn’t the fault of the mouse: it is actually telling me something useful. The primary cause is a pull out keyboard drawer that I have to use due to lack space on the desk itself. So, I raised up my full tower computer case a little from the floor and now use that as a platform for the mouse. I know that it’s an unconventional approach but it seems to be working so far and I can make further adjustments if needs be…