A while ago I blogged about buying “the clicker”, aka the Targus Wireless presenter tool. If you do not know what it is, let me explain. You know how sometimes when people are doing a Power Point presentation they walk away from their computer and just have that little gizmo in their hand that let’s them advance slides remotely? Yeah, it’s that thing. Mine was a chepo, plastic thing with a few rudimentary buttons and a built in red laser pointer.
All in all, it served me well for over a year. Lately though I started having problems with it. It would just stop working for me in the middle of the class forcing me to use the keyboard to advance slides. Students were slowly getting accustomed to the 5 minutes of extra time at the start of the lecture as I tinkered with the damn contraption. Sometimes I was able to coerce it to work. Other times, I had to stop messing with it and start the class.
Eventually I figured out what was wrong with it. The spring that holds the single AAA battery in place lost some of it’s “springiness”. It became less “springy”. It “de-springified” itself, so to say. As a result and the battery gained unexpected freedom of choice. It could choose to stay in place or slide slightly out of position. The battery cover was not designed support it, and it did not hold it in place. Instead it gave it just enough space to slip off the connector, but not enough space to rattle around. So you wouldn’t know the battery was lose, until you popped the cover up, and pushed it back in.
Any sudden movement had the potential of shaking the battery out of alignment again, forcing you to pop the cover again to restore power to the device. It’s actually very distracting when you are trying to teach something.
So I decided it is time for a new “clicker”. I also decided I’m not going to go for the cheapest thing available this time around. I believe that the Targus was pretty much the crappiest model available, and I’m actually amazed it lasted that long. It was sort of an experiment – I actually didn’t know I would use it so much. I ended up liking it, and now I consider the clicker/laser pointer combo to be an indispensable tool.
I believe that if you are going to be using something a lot, then it’s probably a good idea to invest a little bit of money into it. For example, I spend most of the hours in my day typing on a keyboard and using a mouse. I go to work, and I type and mouse around for about 8 hours. Then I go back home only to type and mouse around some more.
It is in my best interest to ensure that the keyboard and the mouse I use so much are of decent quality. That’s why I’m using the Sidewinder mouse and the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. Both are high end items that I paid premium for, but hey – it was worth it. You can save on other things, but these two items are essential tools that I use both for work an for play.
Same goes for the “clicker”. I teach once or twice a week, and I sometimes do get to present in front of people for other purposes. It is not an essential tool for my job, but it helps. So I picked the Logitech Cordless 2.4 GHz Presenter which was one of the higher end toys. I don’t think it’s top of the line, but it seemed like a good investment. Besides, I never really had a bad experience with Logitech products – their mice and keyboards are usually very dependable. So I was hoping they use the same quality control for their “clicker” things. Here is a picture for you:
Yes, it does look a little bit like an electric shaver/hair trimmer from afar. It’s smaller than that though. It is much smaller than that. Something that big would be impractical. Here is another picture, this time with someones hand so that you can see the scale of this thing:
As you can see, it’s quite handy. It fits well in your hand, and is larger than the Targus model, which is actually a good thing. You can get a better grip on it, and the sleek elongated shape makes it easier to hold while you are pointing at things. The USB connector slides right into the unit which means I won’t loose it or forget it as easily. It always annoyed me that the Targus model did not provide this feature.
One of the very crucial things with these presentation tools is that they absolutely need to work out of the box. I need to be able to walk into a classroom, plug it in and go. Installing drivers is out of the question since the school machines are pretty tightly locked down. I’m happy to report that this model worked flawlessly under Windows XP. I haven’t tested it under Vista yet, but I assume it won’t be much different.
And yes, it has an LCD screen. Why would it have and LCD screen? Well, it’s a timer which is what really sold me on this model. You see, keeping track of time has always been an issue for me. When I do presentations, I’m in full screen mode which means I don’t see the clock on the screen. So if I need to check the time, I have to look at my watch… Which is my cellphone. Yeah, I actually don’t own any wrist mounted watches that work – the batteries run out in all of them, and I have been to lazy to go see a clock-master-repairman-guy to perform the sacred ritual of battery replacement.
Yeah, I did replace my watch batteries once or twice but half of the time the operation involved me putting dents and scratches into the back panel, loosing the rubber insulation parts and not sealing the thing properly. So I’d rather give the nicer, more expensive watches to a professional. But I’m kindoff scared – there is an off-chance that I do in fact have latent superpowers (something that I have always suspected) and the watch-guy may turn out to by Sylar and he will remove my brain or something.
Ok, that was a Heroes Season 1 reference if you haven’t caught it. I haven’t really watched the show since then – I will need to catch up one day. The first few episodes of season 2 failed to capture my attention. But I digress..
Back to presentations, and checking time. Looking at my cell phone is probably not the best time keeping solution. It’s hard to do it discretely. I would sometimes take it out, and put it on the desk for easy access, but most of the time I forget and leave it on my belt clip. So if I need to check the time, I have to reach for my belt, un-clip the phone and push a button so that the front LCD display lights up. The Logitech Presenter tool has a built in timer that you can set yourself. It’s actually very easy one-button set up. Each time you press the “timer” button you add 5 minutes to the counter and it starts counting down back to zero. At any time you can glance at the display to see how much time you have left. When the countdown reaches 5 minutes it will alert you with a slight vibration. It will do it again at the 2 minute mark to let you know it’s time to wrap up. The signal is inaudible when you hold it in your hand. It can also be a bit startling at first. I knew it was coming, but it sort of surprised me during my first lecture. You get used to it though, and it is a very helpful.
This particular “clicker” comes with a nice little protective case you can slide it into so that it doesn’t get too bumped up in your backpack. The button locations are pretty good, and the laser pointer is bright and… Pointy?
I only used it couple of times, but so far it has been performing flawlessly. I must say I’m happy with the purchase, and I recommend it to anyone searching for a good presentation tool. The timer is a life saver, and it is worth getting it fro that feature alone.