Microsoft launched at this week’s Surface hardware product launch a new Bluetooth mouse that is made from recycled plastics.
Here, the mouse, known as the Microsoft Ocean Plastic Mouse, is made from the various items of plastic litter that are found in the bottom of oceans and waterways. This achievement has been brought on thanks to the involvement of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation who is a subsidiary of Saudi Aramco.
Some could see this as an attempt by Big Oil to greenwash but they are moving towards investing in plastic technologies due to reduced demand for oil as a transport fuel thanks to the takeup of electric vehicles. But this effort here is about using a significant amount of recycled plastic to build housings for consumer electronics and allied devices where the look does matter.
The Microsoft Ocean Plastic Mouse connects to the host device via Bluetooth and even implements Bluetooth 5.0 LE technology for this connection. This means that it does away with you having to deal with a USB receiver dongle that you could easily lose.
As an input device, this mouse is technically similar to other Microsoft mice released over the last few years and this includes the availability of buttons that can be defined by the end-user. For power, it can run one a single AA Duracell with a promised run-time of 12 months.
Microsoft is expecting to launch this mouse to the US market on October 5 and for it to cost USD$24.99. But it is a way not just of providing environmental credentials in a product’s design but also about Bluetooth operation.
In North America, the NFL Super Bowl is the penultimate final match for American “Gridiron” football. This also has the half-time entertainment with some big-time stars performing but it is also seen by the TV stations as the most valuable TV show there. It is thanks to many people watching it wherever they can on their TVs and this same football show ends up as a showcase of the best TV commercials that Americans have seen.
Most years I have highlighted and commented on consumer-technology ads that have appeared in this advertising showcase, incase you were overseas or were at a Super Bowl viewing party but missed that ad while reaching for that chicken wing or dipping those chips in that special dip. For example I had cited an ad for Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller with its focus on inclusive gaming.
This year, Logitech had joined the Super Bowl advertising showcase with an ad highlighting their current computer-peripheral product range in a creative context. Logitech is one of those brands I value due to their consistent use of Bluetooth as a wireless-connection option for all of their wireless input devices rather than just the dongle-based wireless approach. As well, the development of Darkfield technology has impressed me due to the ability to use suitably-equipped optical mice on glass surfaces.
Logitech had made so much money during 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus plague. This is due to them selling computer peripherals like mice like the MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouse I have reviewed, keyboards and Webcams for us to equip our home offices with. For example, a lot of these devices would have been used to build out a desktop workspace for that laptop as mentioned in this HomeNetworking01.info article. Some of the pundits were evens saying that Logitech could even produce and run a Super Bowl ad on the back of their profits of these sales.
The Super Bowl ad carved out a message about determination in the face of what may be perceived as logic. This may be due to Lil Nas X (Wikipedia article) and his life including coming out as gay and hitting out against homophobia in hip-hop music, or fusing country-and-western music with elements of the hip-hop style especially rapping.
The vision in the ad underscored the use of a wide range of Logitech input devices like mice, styluses and keyboards with differing computing devices for creative purposes. There wasn’t any highlighting of certain products within their latest product lineup but it was about showing the whole lineup working together.
It is showing a distinctive direction for tech-focused advertising where the technology is for use by everybody no matter who they are, along with the idea of running these campaigns during key sports events where everyone would be watching.
As part of a gradual upgrade to a new workspace centred around my new Dell XPS 13 laptop, I have decided to buy a Logitech MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouse. This is a very small portable mouse that is pitched for laptop use while on the road.
This mouse connects to the host computer via a USB-A “Unifying” receiver dongle. But it can connect to a Bluetooth-capable host, presenting itself as a Bluetooth human-interface device, which is the method I have preferred. This means that if your computer is equipped for Bluetooth like most laptops, all-in-ones and some low-profile desktops are, you don’t need to worry about using or losing a USB receiver dongle. That is infact a feature I look for with wireless mice and keyboards for that reason.
Low profile mouse
The setup routine for the Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse was very quick especially when I was wanting to use it via Bluetooth. Here, this was about pressing a button underneath the mouse to make it discoverable then having your Bluetooth host device “find” a new device in the form of this mouse, whereupon you select that device using the host device’s user interface.
Button underneath to select which host device the mouse works with or instigate Bluetooth pairing
Windows 10 even led me to download the Logitech companion software that provides extra functionality for the mouse. This software even showed me the features of this mouse and what I can set it up for including working across two different computers.
It also supports three-host operation so you can use it with three different host devices, no matter the platform. This will please those of us who run two or more computers or similar devices and want to use a mouse with them. A button underneath the mouse exists to select between the three different host devices you have set it up to work with.
Able to work on a glass table thanks to Logitech’s Darkfield tracking technology
This MX Anywhere mouse uses Logitech’s Darkfield optical technology which allows the mouse to work with glass surfaces like . That is compared to most optical-mouse technologies where they don’t work reliably with glass surfaces, be they having a glass top across an opaque material under that surface or them having a glass pane as the table or desk top. I have tested it with a glass coffee table which just has a glass top and have found that it works when I move it on the glass surface.
It is a very shallow compact mouse which fits under an adult’s palm easily. This also means that it can be stowed in your laptop bag or briefcase without taking up much room, making it more travel-friendly.
Scroll wheel and switch to select detented or smooth operation
The mouse’s scroll wheel has the feel of a Swiss watch’s crown and can provide a smooth feel or a detented “click-click-click” feel. This can be determined you you pressing a “mode shift” button on top of the mouse near the scroll wheel. There are also two buttons for horizontal scrolling or other functions you determine using the Logitech companion app.
USB-C socket to charge your Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse
The Logitech MX Anywhere mouse is powered by internal rechargeable batteries which means you don’t have to worry about buying many AA or AAA Duracells to keep it going. Here, you connect the mouse to a USB charger via its USB-C socket and it comes with a USB-A to USB-C cable for this purpose if you use existing USB chargers.
Here, I have found that I could get a few days of significant use out of the mouse before I needed to charge it up again. Then it takes just a few hours to charge it up. You may find that charging your mouse for the duration of, say, a lunch break may be good enough to get it back in order for the rest of your workday.
Limitations and points of improvement
I would like to see Logitech and others who offer input devices like the MX Anywhere mouse that are charged via USB to take this connection further. If the peripheral uses a USB-C socket, it could support full Power-Delivery compliance to allow for quick charging.
As well, the USB connection could permit wired operation so, in the case of this mouse, it can work as an ordinary wired mouse. That arrangement may be seen as being relevant where wireless operation of input devices is not really desired such as in aircraft or with secure workstations where use of wireless devices isn’t desired. It can also simply be a way to keep the mouse useful to you if the battery dies out while you are working.
If you are travelling with the Logitech MX Anywhere mouse, it is a good idea to make sure it is properly turned off using the slide switch when you have it packed in your laptop luggage. You then turn the Bluetooth mouse on when you intend to use it.
This avoids the risk of the battery depleting suddenly while you are travelling and you having to end up charging it before you intend to use it.
The small size and the use of Darkfield glass-compatible tracking technology makes the Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse a highly-capable laptop mouse. Here, you are not worried about what kind of surface you will end up resting that laptop on and using this mouse with when you head out and about.
Recently, Microsoft launched the XBox Adaptive Controller as an accessible games-console controller for people who face motion and dexterity-related disabilities. They even promoted it in a TV commercial ran during this year’s Super Bowl football match, which would have been considered to go against the grain for the usual sporting and video-game audiences.
This has been part of Microsoft’s step towards inclusionary gaming and I had written in the article about that controller not just to focus towards providing video gaming for disabled people. But I also called out the therapeautic value that some games can have for elderly people as well as disabled people with Microsoft offering a lower barrier to entry for independent game developers to create games that underscore that concept.
It has actually been underscored in a recent CNET video article about the XBox Adaptive Controller being used to help a US war veteran who lost some of his motion and dexterity in a motorcycle accident.
But Logitech have taken this a step further by offering an accessory kit with all the necessary controls for US$99. This kit, known as the Adaptive Gaming Kit, makes it more affordable for these people so you can have an accessible gaming setup to suit your particular needs without having to choose and buy the necessary accessories. Here, it is important especially if a person’s needs will change over time and you don’t want to have to buy newer accessories to suit that need.
The package comes with rigid and flexible mats with Velcro anchor points for the various buttons and other controls. The flexible mats can even allow the controls to be anchored around a chair’s arms or other surfaces while the whole kit can allow for the equipment to be set up and packed up with minimal effort. The controls all have their own Velcro anchor points and screw holes for anchoring to other surfaces.
Logitech used their own intellectual capital in designing the kit while working with Microsoft to evolve the product. Here, they implemented their own mechanical-switch technology that is part of their high-end keyboards including their low-profile switches used in their low-profile keyboard range. The large buttons have stabilisers built in to them so you can press them from anywhere on the button’s surface. This leads to them not reinventing the wheel when it comes to the product’s design or manufacture because of the use of common technology.
What I have liked about Logitech’s Adaptive Gaming Kit is that the idea of accessible gaming comes at a price point that represents value for money. This is compared to various assistive-technology solutions which tend to require the user to pay a king’s ransom to acquire the necessary equipment. It has often led towards the government or charitable sector not getting their money’s worth out of their disabled-person support programs due to the high cost of the necessary technology.
Welcome to the new age of making assistive technology become more mainstream, not just for disabled users but for the realities associated with the ageing population such as ageing Baby Boomers and people living longer.
Apple and Google have put up a simplified Bluetooth pair-up approach for commissioning newly-purchased Bluetooth headsets and other accessory devices with host devices based on their mobile operating systems.
This approach has the Bluetooth device sending out a short range “beacon” to compliant host devices, causing them to pop up a notification inviting the user to instigate the pair-up procedure. Google even had the ability to invite users to download and install any companion apps for devices designed with the “app-cessory” approach.
It is rather than having the user head to the Bluetooth menu on their host device and to make sure they choose the Bluetooth peripheral device they intend to pair to. This can be arduous where Bluetooth device names appear to be very confusing such as to only show a model number or the device is being set up in an area where other Bluetooth devices are being setup to be discoverable such as “always ready to pair” default setups like Alpine car stereos.
Now Microsoft is working on similar functionality that will appear in the next or subsequent feature release of Windows 10. In this case, Windows users will have the ability to enable or disable this feature and the notifications will appear as pop-up messages.
.. to make these easy to set up
The Windows 10 host computer would need to be equipped with a Bluetooth interface compliant to Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (Bluetooth Smart) standards for this function to work. It effectively makes the user experience for Bluetooth devices very similar to the “plug-and-play” experience that Microsoft achieved for peripherals directly connected to a Windows host computer.
Why would I suspect that a user be required to put a “fast-pair” Bluetooth device in setup mode?
One reason that I would see some manufacturers require a user to place a “fast-pair” Bluetooth peripheral device in a setup mode or specifically enable this feature on that device would be to conserve battery runtime on a portable device. Here, having a device broadcasting the beacon signal all the time may be taking power away from the device’s main functionality thus shortening the battery’s runtime.
It could also be a device security requirement to cater for environments where multiple compliant host devices are likely to exist and you want to make sure that your accessory device isn’t ending up pairing to someone else’s host device. It is an important issue with health and allied devices like fitness bands which work with your smartphone and these devices are dealing with very personal information. This can also be a user-experience issue regarding pop-up notificatiosn for other users’ devices.
What is showing up now is that a simplified user experience is being made available whenever you are commissioning a newer Bluetooth device.
You could be soon able to equip your existing laptop or 2-in-1 with the same kind of fingerprint scanner as the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2
An increasing number of business-focused Windows laptops are being made ready for Windows Hello which is the password-free login ability that Windows 10 offers. This allows for facial recognition or fingerprint recognition as an alternative to keying in that Windows password.
But what if you have that tower desktop, all-in-one or existing laptop that has no RealSense camera or fingerprint reader. Normally, you would think that you were cut out of this feature.
At the Computex 2016 “geek-fest” in Taiwan, there were two aftermarket USB accessories that bless these computers with Windows Hello login abilities. One of these is a webcam that is compliant to Intel RealSense specifications which opens up the path for facial recognition, while another of these is a USB fingerprint-reader dongle that is very similar to a Bluetooth or wireless-peripheral-transceiver dongle and plugs in to the side of a laptop computer.
These peripherals would be a step in the right direction for small businesses and consumers if they were sold at reasonable prices and were made available at most electrical stores, computer stores and the like, rather than just being sold to value-added resellers that cater to big businesses.
A solution I would like to see especially for desktop users or people who set up primary workstations would be a fingerprint reader integrated in to a keyboard or mouse. This could be offered as a differentiating feature for business and gaming peripherals. Similarly, a standalone desktop fingerprint reader could be offered as a way to have your existing workstation or “gaming rig” working with Windows Hello. Similarly, a fingerprint reader could be offered as a “short-form” device that can be integrated in to the PC cases that tend to modified by gaming enthusiasts.
Similarly, more manufacturers and resellers could contribute to this class of device in order to allow more of us to benefit from Windows Hello.
The Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth Headphone Adaptor – OLED display to show time or details about what’s playing like the SteelSeries Rival 700 gaming mouse
Regular readers may have read my review of the Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth headphone audio adaptor which implements a monochrome OLED display to show the time or metadata about what what’s playing. Sony has also implemented this concept in a few previous personal-audio players as well as this Bluetooth headphone adaptor because of the fact that this display technology doesn’t take up much room in the device itself and could be best described as a “VFD display for battery devices” where it offers the same brightness as a vacuum fluorescent display while drawing minimal current.
SteelSeries Rival 700 gaming mouse – OLED display
SteelSeries have taken this further by implementing a user-customisable OLED display on the Rival 700 gaming mouse. Here, this mouse uses a special program to copy over game stats or a user-defined logo to appear on the display courtesy of the USB connection. Here, it is proving the idea that an OLED display can earn its keep on a small portable device even if the device is powered from another host device.
The Rival 700 gaming mouse also implements tactile feedback during gameplay so you can benefit from that convincing game effect but it is achieved in a manner to avoid disturbing your gameplay. As well, the mouse is designed for increased durability so you can subject it to intense gameplay or office work and SteelSeries offer it as something to equip your gaming rig or workstation for AUD$100.
Bluetooth could be the preferred way to go for all wireless keyboard and mice applications
A lot of wireless mice and keyboards offered at affordable prices and pitched for use with desktop computers are implementing a proprietary wireless setup which requires them to use a special USB transceiver dongle.
This is compared to some wireless mice, keyboards and games controllers that are offered for laptops and tablets where they have integral Bluetooth support. This is because the laptop and tablet computers are the main computers that come with Bluetooth on board. It is compared to desktops, mainly traditional “three-piece” desktops, that don’t have this feature and require the use of a USB Bluetooth dongle to gain Bluetooth connectivity.
The typical easy-to-lose dongle that comes with most wireless mice
A reality that is coming crystal clear is that the laptop computer along with the all-in-one desktop computer is being seen as a viable alternative to the traditional “three-piece” desktop computer for one’s main computing device. This is underscored with laptops that are taken between work and home along with myself seeing quite a few computer setups where a laptop computer is hooked up to a traditional keyboard and mouse and one or two desktop-grade monitors. Some of these setups even run the laptop’s screen as part of a multi-screen setup.
Bluetooth shouldn’t just be for mobile keyboards
To the same extent, most of the “all-in-one” desktops are being equipped with Bluetooth functionality as a matter of course. This is more so where the goal is to compete with the Apple iMac range of “all-in-ones” or make this class of computer more impressive.
It also applies to a significant number of low-profile desktop computers that are being equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This is to maintain their appeal for desktop-class computing that conveys a sense of elegance in this day and age. A good example of this would be the Intel “Next Unit of Computing” midget computers and similarly-designed computers which are about small size.
The Bluetooth advantage does away with the need to install a USB wireless dongle for that wireless keyboard or mouse or the risk of losing one of these dongles. For traditional desktop users, they can use and keep one Bluetooth dongle which works well if you want to move a Bluetooth keyboard and/or mouse between a secondary laptop and the desktop computer. Similarly the same Bluetooth dongle can support multiple devices like a keyboard, mouse, game controller and multipoint-capable Bluetooth headset.
The gap I am drawing attention to is the lack of traditional-sized keyboards, trackballs and mice fit for use with desktop computers, including novelty mice like the “model-car” mice, that work using Bluetooth. Manufacturers could offer a range of traditional-sized input devices that work with Bluetooth, preferably having Bluetooth LE (Smart) support, as part of their product ranges to cater for laptop-based and all-in-one-based personal computing setups.
Having Bluetooth LE (Smart) support would benefit this class of device because users shouldn’t need to be changing the peripherals’ batteries frequently which is something that can affect Bluetooth setups.
As well, there can be an effort towards improving responsiveness for Bluetooth keyboards, mice and games controllers to maintain Bluetooth’s appeal to the gaming community. Here, this would also be about working with other Bluetooth device clusters such as in a LAN-party environment where toe goal for gamers is to frag each other out rather than being “trampled on” by the enemy.
What really should be looked at is to standardise on Bluetooth as a way to wirelessly connect input devices like keyboards and mice to computer equipment.
An Alienware gaming laptop that bridges performance and portability
Gaming on the big-screen TV isn’t just restricted to the likes of the XBox One or the PlayStation 4 consoles. You can engage in these games using your PC especially if you are using a laptop or dare to bring the tower-style gaming rig in to your lounge area. This is more so as the regular computer platforms i.e. Windows, OS X (Macintosh) and Linux still maintain a strong level of open-frame software deployment and become more the areas to try out gaming ideas.
This is brought on by the increase in the number of portable computers that have performance-computing chops whether in the form of mobile workstations or gaming laptops is making this kind of gaming more real. The manufacturers see this as a valuable niche for people who value performance and portability for work or play.
Dell Precision M2800 – a mobile workstation that also bridges performance and portability
This will apply to those of you who are at home or at a friend’s house because you could bring your gaming computer in to the living room or games room and play that game on the big screen from the comfort of your couch. Those of you who are staying at a college dorm (university residence hall) or similar location can use the big-screen TV in the common lounge area for playing that epic game on your gaming laptop.
What do you need?
TV and sound system
The TV or home-theatre system would need to have a spare HDMI connection for you to plug in another video peripheral.
Here, you are relying on HDMI as your audio and video connection and the equipment must be able to play the sound from an HDMI connection rather than just be a switcher. Recently-made home-theatre receivers will most likely be able to satisfy this requirement but beware of lower-end equipment that can’t achieve this goal.
One of the big-screen TVs that is worth playing games on
If you are buying a newer large-screen TV and you expect a regular computer to be connected to it, you should look for sets that have a high refresh rate like what would be expected for most well-bred monitors. As well, if your gaming setup is of a temporary nature, I would recommend that the equipment concerned has an HDMI connector on the front panel for a home-theatre receiver or similar device or on the side edge of a TV so that it is easily accessible without you needing to shift the equipment out or grope around the back whenever you want to play games.
In the case of an HDMI connection on the side of a TV, a short HDMI extension cord can come in handy if you find the side connections difficult to gain access to.
HDMI connection on a laptop
The HomePlug powerline adaptor – a no-new-wires network with gaming chops
The computer should have HDMI as a video output option and be capable of directing the sound through that output. This is to achieve the goal of one cable between the computer and the TV or home-theatre receiver rather than worrying about many cables, with this cable carrying a digital audio signal along with the high-resolution video signal.
When you set up the sound, make sure that you know what your equipment can handle at best. If you use a home-theatre system, make sure that you set the audio output for Dolby Digital 5.1 bitstream or a similar codec that your equipment handles so you can take advantage of games that implement surround sound.
As well, it may be worth paying attention to an article that I wrote about multiple sound devices in Windows. In this case, you have to make sure that the sound device you are using for your game is the “display audio” or “HDMI audio” device associated with the graphics infrastructure you are using. Here, it’s about preparing and passing the sound through the HDMI connection to the TV’s speakers or the home-theatre receiver in a manner these devices can handle.
Games that require frequent interactive activity would benefit form a console-type controller if you are leaning back on the couch. There are some wireless controllers out there but you can use an XBox 360 or XBox One controller that works with Windows courtesy of an adaptor that is sold for “pennies worth” by Microsoft.
For that matter, XBox One controllers are now able to work directly with your Windows-based computer via USB and the newest XBox One wireless controllers including the XBox Adaptive Controller can work via Bluetooth. This means you don’t need to buy a Microsoft adaptor to link your controller to your computer as explained in this article about achieving this setup.
These Bluetooth keyboards also earn their keep on the couch when gaming in the lounge
If you are needing to use a keyboard or mouse, it may be preferable to use wireless peripherals so you avoid cable clutter. Personally I would prefer to use Bluetooth equipment because you only need to use one transceiver dongle across them all and if the computer has integrated Bluetooth, you don’t need to worry about any of these transceiver devices. Sometimes a wireless keyboard or mouse pitched at tablet use can work as a wireless keyboard for gaming use.
It is preferable to have an Ethernet socket in the lounge area but this may not be a reality. For your home or a friend’s, you may find that setting up a HomePlug AV500 powerline-network segment may work well in these circumstances.
Some college dorms and similar places may have an Ethernet socket connected to the premises’ network and Internet service not far from the common lounge area HomePlug AV500 or HomePlug AV2 may work well in using a no-new-wires setup to bring the connection closer. In some cases, this connection may be locked down for specific devices and uses and it doesn’t hurt asking the staff about whether the connection is a “general-use” connection or can be set up as such.
At a pinch, you would need to use Wi-Fi wireless and make sure you have a reliable Wi-Fi connection at your computer. Wi-Fi networks that use Web-based login can be tricky to use and may require you to keep the “login successful” Web page minimised while you play that online game.This is best done with a Web browser that doesn’t take up much memory space.
Similarly, if you are playing against multiple computers across a public network, it may be difficult to discover the opponents’ computers because these networks are most likely set up to provide client isolation.
There are some things you will need to be sure of when you are setting up for gaming in the living room or other lounge area.
One would be to use a rug to cover long cables that travel between the computer and the TV or home theatre so as to avoid the situation of people tripping over the cables. This is important for situations where the area between the couch and the TV equipment is part of a thoroughfare.
A tray-table or bed desk is also a good place to position your gaming laptop or to use as a mouse mat. On the other hand, you may want to use the coffee table for that same purpose. This is to assure stability. Even those “Stable Table” trays with integrated cushions can come in handy as a mouse mat.
As for online game managers, Steam is the only such platform that provides a “big-screen” mode courtesy of their “Big Picture” mode. This will allow you to manage it while viewing the display from a distance. But when you are actually playing the game, this may not be a problem. It is due to a default approach by many games using the whole of the screen as their display canvas.
Once you know that you can game on with the big-screen TV and your gaming rig or laptop computer, you could be able to add that bit extra to your solo or group gaming experience.
This article will undergo continual revision as knowledge of newer technologies that can affect regular-computing gaming on the big-screen TV comes about.
12 September 2019 – Identified the “display audio” sound device that is used by your computer’s graphics infrastructure for passing your game’s soundtrack via the HDMI port.
9 September 2020 – Newer knowledge about connecting XBox One controllers to your Windows 10 computer,
14 September 2020 – Reference to a newer article about bed desks as a gift idea for laptop users
Microsoft previously released a universal keyboard pitched towards those of us who use smartphones and tablets. This Bluetooth keyboard is designed to be operating-system agnostic so you can use it with your iPhone, iPad, Android smartphone or tablet or your Windows Phone or tablet. This is facilitated with a hardware switch that allows you to select between different devices and keyboard layouts.
Now they have issued a variant of this keyboard that folds up like a book. They haven’t neglected the keyboard’s intended use and working around the problems associated with this. Rather, the Universal Foldable Keyboard is designed to be durable so as to allow for frequent and heavy “on-the-road” use which also involves throwing it in to backpacks, handbags and other similar personal luggage. The key pitch and keyboard switch design makes it similar to most small notebook computers, thus allowing for accurate touch typing.
At least this is an example of a keyboard that isn’t just about catering to an iPad or an Android tablet. Rather it is one that can even cater to a lot more devices that have Bluetooth connection for input devices, including desktops equipped with USB Bluetooth dongles or smart-TVs, games consoles and other video peripherals that have Bluetooth functionality and support use of Bluetooth keyboards. It is also about something that is neat and compact and ready for travel with your mobile devices.
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