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06 June 2010

User Interface Zen

Before Apple made pretty screens on cellphonesand album art that you could flip through, there was Synaptics. Have you ever seen someone drawing on a pad bound to a laptop in a coffeeshop? Synaptics. Have them you ever done a 2-fingered scroll? Synaptics. I was a perennial hater of laptop touchpads. Imprecise, too much work. A mouse gives wide sweeps, high precision. Then i slowly worked myself up to almost-full-time keyboard usage, a long barrage of shortcuts that i could fire off without ever lifting my fingers, frame after frame of text editor, browser, google scholar, google maps, and back.

I've always really *liked* keyboards, and now i absolutely depend upon them. Re-enter the 2.2 pound netbook. That's right - the 1kg laptop. Alright, it has an annoyingly small battery compared to a very slightly larger 2.8 pound laptop, and the weight gain is more or less obviated by the more frequent need to carry a 0.3 pound charger. Whatever. It still lasts for twice as long as my "real" laptop (a thinkpad t61 that i would *never* put in my lap, whose screen and keyboard i nonetheless adore ).

Point is... The touchpad has come a long way. So far, in fact, that touchpads are now officially cool, as far as i can tell. With 2 fingers, i can now give a *lot* of information, while moving my fingers less than a mouse. The secret, from my point of view, is synaptics, and more specifically, synclient. Under ubuntu, the following sets thresholds of two finger motions, adds rules for "two finger tap as middle click" (Xwindows paste), and disables end scrolling (otherwise known as the devil). I'm using an Asus 1005HAB (N270, $250 @ Best Buy with WinXP, after some deliberation, and some pretty aweful "the customer is a retard" corporate customer service.

As an extended sidenote, do yourself a favor and remove the "rescue partition" before it wipes your computer clean with a random, unconfirmed hard drive repartition when you accidentally boot into it with grub). It's the model with the little bumps on a touchpad that is flush with the case. I'm surprised at how not-annoying the bumps are. After turning up the sensitivity, it's, um, magic? I think "scroll down" and it suddenly happens. The wonders of multitouch. The happiness of the not-a-huge-tome laptop!

Here's my multitouch script: #!/bin/bash ## synclient EmulateTwoFingerMinZ=5 synclient EmulateTwoFingerMinW=10 synclient VertTwoFingerScroll=1 synclient HorizTwoFingerScroll=1 synclient VertScrollDelta=75 synclient HorizScrollDelta=100 synclient JumpyCursorThreshold=100 synclient VertEdgeScroll=0 synclient HorizEdgeScroll=0 synclient TapButton2=2 synclient TapButton3=3