Vincent's blog

GNU/Linux, tech and thoughts

My new Youmouse Trackball

Until recently I was enjoying to use my Logitech Trackball for many years, one of the most comfortable trackballs I have ever tried. Unfortunately it is now broken, and clicking sometimes doesn’t work, which is not very convenient. You can imagine when I’m playing Unreal Tournament 2003, and I aim to an enemy, then click, but the rocket doesn’t fire… it just feels like my weapon is broken… that’s frustrating :-D

Logitech Trackball

Logitech Trackball

So I decided to buy a new trackball. Instead of buying the same Logitech model again, I took a look at other existing models in Taobao, the Chinese Ebay. Unfortunately, there is not much choice, and many trackballs don’t look comfortable, because their ball is on the middle instead of the side. After some research, I found the Youmouse company (in chinese 优鼠) which sells trackballs in China, and also to other markets like USA and Europe, according to their website. I am a little surprised to find it because it seems that trackballs are not common at all in China (at least here in Shanghai), and most of the people never heard of trackballs before. Anyway, I am glad to see that some companies are trying to improve this market, and by the same chance provide me with a shiny new trackball :-)

I bought the USB “Hand-held Trackball Optical Mouse” from Youmouse. Here are some pictures I made:

youmouse1

Youmouse trackball

youmouse6

In trackball mode

As you can see you hold the trackball with the ball on top and use your thumb to roll it. The left and right mouse buttons are on the right side of the ball. The device also has a scroll wheel, but its position is not between the two mouse buttons as usual. It is situated on the part below the ball, right under your thumb. This means that you can’t use the ball and the wheel at the same time.

The trackball itself can also be used like a regular mouse. For this, it has two separate optical sensors, one for the ball, and one the part that can slide on a flat surface.

youmouse2

On the table, like a regular mouse

youmouse4

Optical sensor for mouse mode

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Mouse mode by moving, trackball by rolling the ball

Holding the trackball feels alright, but is not especially comfortable at the beginning. It takes a few seconds to take it in the hand, find the right position for your finders, and get used to it. This is not convenient when you need to often switch between mouse and keyboard, so it can slow down regular desktop use. This problem applies to both trackball and mouse mode.

Both optical sensors are hardwired in a way that creates a conflict between each other: it means that if you roll the ball and move the mouse at the same time, even in the same direction, the first one that moved has priority over the other, there is no accumulation of the movement. One issue I have met is that from time to time the mouse pointer doesn’t respond to the ball and stays stuck, especially if I put it on a surface. This might be related to this conflict, as the mouse-mode sensor might have detected some very small movement while I was using the ball.

Also, the two optical sensors seem to both send the same signal USB-wise, and it is not possible for software to distinguish between ball rolling and mouse moving. If that would be possible, one could use 4 axis of movement instead of 2, which would be a nice feature for gaming and for multi-mouse/multi-pointer applications, similar to what the Multi Pointer X server and CPNMouse are achieving.

Logitech Trackball and Youmouse Trackball side by side

Logitech Trackball and Youmouse Trackball side by side

The Youmouse Trackball looks and feels more like a gaming device, compared to the Logitech one. From my experience, it is actually very suited for gaming, and also as a remote control (with laptop linked to TV), and any situation where you always keep the trackball in your hand. I especially like to use it when I lie down on my bed, lying on the side, and surfing the web :-). In this position, it wouldn’t be possible to use a regular mouse.

Lazy Vincent using Youmouse Trackball

Vincent in "lazy mode" using Youmouse Trackball

With the Logitech Trackball, since it is right-handed, I could only lie on one side (the left one), because it must stay flat for the ball to roll properly. The Youmouse Trackball, like I said before, can be rotated in any direction, and the ball can still roll properly, so it can be used by lying on any side.

To sum up, the Youmouse Trackball doesn’t feel to me as good as my previous Logitech Trackball. But even though it is not very convenient to use it for desktop applications where you want to switch between mouse and keyboard, it is still a great device for gaming, as remote control, and also for “bed surfing”. :-)

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