First Looks and Nifty Gadgets - by Chris Wright
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TX97 Monitor, by TIME Soft.

Location: Hobbes
Price: Freeware

If you have a new motherboard, chances are it is equipped with an on-board thermometer that can measure the heat that your CPU and your Motherboard are putting out. This can be a very useful thing, because in this day of incredibly fast processors (Intel claims it will release an 800Mhz Pentium III by the end of this year... the clock is ticking) cpu heat can be a big problem. When the Pentium was first released, it had a tendency to burn holes in whatever motherboard it was sitting in. In this day of heat sinks and internal fans and extra cooling systems, that problem has been alleviated somewhat -- but excessive heat can still significantly shorten the life of your CPU... not to mention cook other delicate computer parts.

Last year I managed to bake my hard drives not once, but twice in a row, destroying all data on it and leaving me thoroughly depressed for many, many months. I had no idea at the time that anything was wrong, but an internal SCSI cable had managed to insulate my hard drives, preventing their heat from dissipating efficiently into the rest of the case. The first time I tried to remove my hard drives after they fried, I burned my hand because of the heat.

In the windows world, it seems there is plenty of software available that can hook up to the motherboard based thermometer and display the MB/CPU temperatures... but there aren't a wide range of tools available for OS/2. There are a few, however, and the one I use is the TX97 Monitor.

The TX97 Monitor is a very simple, very tiny PM program that will read your motherboard thermometer and display the results in a window. It will display both your motherboard and CPU heat (in either Celsius or Farenheit), the motherboard voltages, and your Chassis, CPU and Power fan speeds (if those peripherals are able to plug into the motherboard so they can be monitored.) While I have a few minor quibbles with this utility, I think it's very useful and worth the download if your motherboard supports it.

When I first started TX97, I was quite startled to learn that it claimed my CPU was running at a blisteringly hot 65 degrees Celsius. I know from experience that, with the case off, it runs at 45, not 65, and I wondered where the extra twenty degrees was coming from. It turns out that on the sttings panel, you can adjust the CPU Temperature in order to tune the utility to your specific processor. A few examples are shown in the readme file. The program starts with a CPU Temp. Adj. Of +20, I deleted that and it reported my normal temperature just fine.

It allows you to set alarms to report when your CPU temperature and/or your Motherboard Temperature rises above a certain point. I had to modify these to match the settings in my computer's BIOS. Not only will it flash a message box when your temperature goes above the threshold you set, you can also have it play an audio file.

The only bug I noticed is that it reported the information on my CPU fan in the Chassis Fan field... I know this isn't right, because the CPU fan is the only one that can hook into the motherboard and be monitored. That's really a minor issue in my opinion, but to someone how has their CPU, Chassis fan, and Power fan hooked up to their motherboard it could potentially lead to confusion...

All in all I find this a very nice and useful little utility.

Microsoft IntelliMouse with IntelliEye, by Microsoft

Location: CompUSA and other computer stores
Price: it depends on the model, but it's expensive. Can cost as much as $80 (US).

I have this problem. An addiction, really. I buy mice. It drives my wife crazy... every other month I'll be using a new mouse, or a new digitizer tablet, or a new trackball, or a new touchpad, looking for the perfect pointing device. I think I've found it, and it's made by our ancient enemy.

That's right, it's a Microsoft mouse.

What? How DARE that company sell what very well may be the best mouse ever created??? It does seem insulting, however I must declare that the Microsoft IntelliMouse is probably the single best mouse I've ever used, bar none.

The mouse has become the de facto pointing device for the computer, but for people who do graphics work all the time, it has a few problems -- the biggest being that the internals of the mouse are constantly getting gummed up with the detritus of the outside world. There's nothing worse than trying to draw something complicated, or trying to move an object the tiniest little bit, only to have the mouse suddenly stop moving because one of the little rollers inside the mouse is too gummed up to turn.

Because of this, a lot of people who do graphics work on a computer use drawing tablets instead -- and so do I occasionally, but I find I'm uncomfortable using them for other tasks. A pen and tablet just don't make the best point and click tool for me, and I feel a bit awkward using them to select and move text in a document. Many other people have managed to grow accustomed to using the tablet as their primary pointing device, but I still feel the mouse is the best general-purpose pointing device around... except for the fact that it gums up and starts sticking.

That's why I love the IntelliMouse.

For at least fifteen years there have been mice with no moving parts... "optical mice" that track a pointers position by using a light instead of rolling ball. They were very common, for a time, on some Unix machines. The mouse would rest on a special mouse pad that had a very fine grid pattern on it, and the mouse would move whenever the light passed over one of the lines in the grid.

The problem was that usually, the movement of the pointer was jerky and unsuitable for precise work. Also, you were stuck with using one of those special mouse pads -- you couldn't, for example, simply place the mouse on your desk and use that surface instead. This took up space, and it also required that you take care of that mouse pad! If it were dented or nicked, it could distort the movement of the mouse.

The IntelliMouse is a refinement of the old optical mouse. It is, essentially, an optical mouse that works as well and better than a traditional mouse. It has all of the advantages of an older optical mouse -- no moving parts, so the parts don't get gummed up -- but none of the disadvantages.

The sensor that tracks the light is so sensitive you don't need a specialized grid. You can use it on most standard surfaces, like a desk, and the mouse will track as if it were a "real" mouse. And it tracks very smoothly -- I don't notice any difference between the IntelliMouse and a standard mouse.

This makes it a wonderful general purpose pointing device for someone who also needs to do graphics with some level of precision. It's not an absolute pointing device, so it's unsuitable for CAD work, and it doesn't have a pressure sensitive tip, but you can use it without fear of the mouse catching on something when you're trying to nudge a graphic to the right just a little bit.

There are a few surfaces it won't work on (like glass) and it doesn't work as well when the surface it's going over is wet. But regular mice don't generally work on wet surfaces either.

The mouse itself is pretty sturdy, but it feels a bit flimsy. What I mean is, it seems like the plastic is a bit thin, and I always feel like I need to carry it gingerly when I pick it up. It hasn't broken, though.

Also, it has five buttons. Actually, four buttons and a scroller. Two buttons on the left-hand side, two buttons on the top of the mouse, and a scroller between the top buttons. The scroller doubles as an extra mouse button, though, if you press down on it, so that makes five buttons total.

The IBM scrollpoint drivers don't support five buttons, unfortunately, so the two buttons on the side don't do anything under OS/2. The top two buttons and the scroller can be used normally, though, and Xit can treat the scroller as a third mouse button when it's clicked.

Probably the strangest thing about the IntelliMouse, though, is that it's a USB mouse by default, but comes with a PS/2 adapter so that it can also be used as a PS/2 mouse. I've never, ever, ever seen that before.

The biggest problem with the IntelliMouse is that it's incredibly expensive. I don't know many people willing to shell out $80 for a mouse, even if it is a damn good one. Still, the thought of having a mouse that doesn't need to be dissected and cleaned once a month may be too a big temptation for many people... it was for me.

If you're looking for a mouse that doesn't gum up, that can be used reliably for a lot of of graphics tasks, I heartily recommend the Microsoft IntelliMouse. It's not cheap, but it's distinctive among Microsoft products -- it does what it's supposed to do, perfectly.

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