Fly Your Linux Box by Gyromouse

Reclaim your desktop space and explore new possibilities with a Gyromouse/compact keyboard suite.
Getting the Feel

Let's talk about in-air technique. I should have had the video camera going the first time I picked up the Gyromouse--I definitely was a geek looking doofy. I picked up the mouse and squeezed the trigger button. I started waving the thing around, and the cursor went from one side of the screen to the other. It was a little tough to move the cursor and then release the trigger.

After a few minutes I got the hang of it. Double-clicking the trigger keeps the move function engaged, but don't unleash this feature in a presentation unless you've practiced for a while. Everyone in the audience will think you've had 14 cups of coffee, because the cursor will be shaking all over the place.

The best way I've found to use the Gyromouse in-air is to hold the mouse in my right hand (I'm right-handed) and brace it against my right hip, with my thumb and pinky finger resting lightly against my hip bone. I then can hold the trigger button down and swivel the mouse in the direction that I want the cursor to go. I also can release the trigger at the end of the stroke, move my wrist back to the beginning position, pull the trigger and move again if I need to go further. At the same time, my thumb can click the left or right button and spin the wheel, without too much effort.

Using the mouse on the desktop is natural, like any other optical desktop mouse, except that you absolutely don't miss the mouse cable. Now that you're up to speed on setting up and using the Gyromouse, let's see how we can use it effectively on your Linux machine.

Air-Mousing with OOo Impress

By far, the best use of the Gyromouse is during presentations. Doing presentations while un-tethered from the laptop gives the presenter much more opportunity to connect with his audience.

During a recent presentation for AITP (Association of Information Technology Professionals), I found myself running my show from the middle of the room at the projector table. I didn't want to stretch a huge VGA cable across the floor to the lectern, so I had the laptop sitting on the table with the projector. This setup made it hard to face the audience all at once, however. Sure, I was out there in the audience, but for part of the time my back was to one section or another. Fortunately, the audience was gracious and didn't grumble much. This kind of problem is no more, now that I can take the mouse and keyboard anywhere in the room.

Don't forget that geek appeal factor during a technical presentation. People generally look at presenters as experts. Believe me, using cutting-edge technology, such as the Gyromouse, absolutely enhances the expert image.

Ether Surfing

How does it work for everyday Web browsing? As a writer, I scan many, many Web pages during the day searching for things. I read daily news sites, vendor pages, other articles and so on. Anything that can speed up the process means I can get down to my real job--writing.

Using the Gyromouse makes life much easier when I have to cruise through all those pages. The in-air mousing capability reduces my movements as opposed to pushing a regular mouse around the desktop, and it lets me fly through pages at twice my normal speed.

Everyday Uses

The product is right at home on the desktop. It is completely optical and senses patterns on whatever surface the mouse happens to be sitting. When you need to go airborne, simply pick it up and it automatically starts moving the cursor when you pull the trigger button. It is a little awkward at first, mousing in air and clicking with the thumb and then mousing on the desktop and clicking with the finger, but you get used to it.

I've even started using the compact keyboard with my laptop. It sounds funny, but I like the feel of the Gyromouse keyboard much better than my old laptop keyboard. Plus, it lets me back away from the LCD a little bit. Now that I'm over 40, doing this helps me focus on the screen better. It's also easy to put the keyboard on my lap and lean back in my chair.

Another way I've effectively used the Gyromouse is with x2x, my laptop and two other Linux lab machines. x2x lets you use one keyboard and mouse to control all three machines, kind of like an X-based KVM. Simply wave/roll the mouse over to the left monitor and you have control of that screen. Wave/roll it to the middle monitor and you can type there. The same goes for the right-hand monitor. Couple that setup with the wireless Gyromouse/keyboard combination, and a sysadmin could clear two keyboards and mice off his or her desk. You even could work standing up for a change of pace. And I haven't even started exploring the possibilities with multi-headed displays.

For you war drivers out there, the Gyromouse works pretty well in the car, because it doesn't need a surface to roll around on. The only drawback I've had is that when I put it down to punch on the keyboard, it sometimes moves the cursor as the optical sensors become active.



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The CTRL key is in the WRONG place

Anonymous's picture

This keyboard will drive you crazy.
It has the seldom used function key where the ctrl key should be.
Alt is confused with a useless windows key.

Totally worhless

Re:[Don't] Fly Your Linux Box by Gyromouse

Anonymous's picture

Purchased the keyboard and mouse for a MythTV based home theatre PC. While mostly acceptable for use in low duty cycle applications (such as a home theatre PC), it certainly is unacceptable for regular use.

I find the mouse problematic on Mandrake 10 (it sometimes simply does not report movements unless the base unit is power cycled by unplugging it and plugging it back in, then reloading the USB module stack and restarting X). What's most strange is that the keyboard still works just fine with the same receiver when the mouse is non-functional. The mouse issue may be related to the 2.4.25 kernel I'm running or some X configuration issue because it did seem to work reliably when I used it on another box running SuSE 9.0. I find the keyboard is too cramped for serious typing when compared to a standard desktop keyboard. The keyboard is also difficult to use with games (it's basically the same style keyboard you would find on a typical laptop). I suspect, based on experimentation and prior experience with RF (I'm an EE and have designed RF receivers) that the receiver is regenerative and is thus very prone to interference. To get any range (even say 10'), expect to be looking to find ways to place the receiver a good distance away from your monitor, TV, etc. To make mine work in my living room reliably, sitting 6' away from the TV (and where I would have liked to have placed the receiver), I had to add a USB extension cable to get the receiver far enough away from the HTPC and TV to make it work. The receiver now sits on top of a speaker in the corner of the room about 8' away from the TV.

If I had to make the decision to buy this product again for a similar application, I would not.

also own and am a fan of the fly mouse

Anonymous's picture

After a week of fiddling with this usb keyboard and mouse combo I can say its a pretty well done deal. Sadly support under linux is a little sketchy (works fine on a knoppix livecd tho)--I need to have another usb mouse plugged in at boot to have the gyromouse detect--though the keyboard picks up quite nicely. The transmitter is tiny--fraction of a pound--and gyration just opened a recall for some defective transmitters (an RMA I applied for and got because the first transmitter didn't do jack).

Anyhow another interesting point about the device that I think was over looked is its gaming potential. Though overly sensitive at first the gyromouse can change the way that games are played. Immediate issues facing gamers looking to check out a 3d mouse, 1)because of the gyro leaning back is up and forward is down aka airplane controls 2)clicking--the position will kick for each click--real 1st person problems =) 3)finally the mouse pad of no mouse pad. Overall it is a daunting task faced with relearning how to play a game and really how to be accurate with a pointing device.

Best of luck and I do recommend -- though the full size keyboard of course


Re: also own and am (NOT) a fan of the fly mouse

Anonymous's picture

I wish I could share everyone's enthusiasm, but I've had nothing but trouble with the full-size version since purchasing it about a year ago. I too got one of the bad receivers, and it took several phone calls to gyration and two mailings by them before I had a replacement. And this was AFTER no one responded to my email to tech support regarding why the device was working so poorly. Shortly thereafter I experienced a marked decrease in battery life. Gyration sent me another battery, no questions asked, but its life is just as poor. For example, I started using a fully-charged battery on Monday and it died Wednesday afternoon; the large majority of that time it was simply idle.

I purchased this suite because of the claimed 25 foot (or is it 30? The box says 30 ft, but the back of the mouse says 25 ft!) sensing range. However, to achieve near 100% reproducibility, I have the receiver about 2 ft from my desk. I'm using the suite on a PC used to control 4 industrial robots, and even this distance is too far when the motor amplifiers are turned on. Changing channels makes little difference.

Finally, I find the keyboard to be a little stiff. I'm sorry I spent so much money for such a frustrating product, just glad it wasn't my $!

Re: Hotpluging Mice

Anonymous's picture

You'll find that you have nicer experiences with swapping mice if you used the following line, then no need to restart X:

InputDevice "PS/2 mouse" "SendCoreEvents"
InputDevice "USB mouse" "CorePointer"

This means you can wack a mouse in any time - I do this for my usb mouse/dock for my laptop.

Re: Fly Your Linux Box by Gyromouse

Anonymous's picture

I own this mouse and keyboard combo myself. While I definitely like the mouse for couch-surfing and presentations, I would not recommend the mini-keyboard for extended periods of typing. As a presentation and web surfing keyboard, the mini serves its purpose. But the tactile feedback is poor (it feels like a laptop keyboard, but flimsier) and the keyboard is very cramped and the keys are in strange places. It's taken me well over three weeks to get fully adjusted to it, and when i go back to regular keyboards I find my hand curling up to hit the Ctrl-Alt keys when I shouldn't have to.

Re: Fly Your Linux Box by Gyromouse

Anonymous's picture

I just did a SuSe 8.2 install on a box that was formerly running windows 2000 and using one of these mice. Sometimes it boots fine but sometimes it hangs when trying to start USB. If you unplug the USB cable it continues to boot but then you have no mouse support. Other then that I love it.

Re: Fly Your Linux Box by Gyromouse

Anonymous's picture

I saw one in the store today, but opted for the logitech wireless optical mouse instead, at much less cost. For presentations, I use a little ACOM Data wireless mouse/laser pointer combination. Very comfortable and effective. But I am intrigued about this Gyromouse...

The real point to this post, though, is you don't have to kill X to get it to recognize a properly configured USB pointer. Just switch to a different virtual X terminal. On my laptop, (Mandrake 9.2) X is on virtual console #7. If you switch to 8 or 9, and then back to 7, it will re-read the devices, and USB pointers start working (as long as the drivers and XConfig is set up for it). Ctrl-Alt-F8, then Ctrl-Alt-F7, and you're all set. In Knoppix, X runs on VC 5, so it's Ctrl-Alt-F6, then Ctrl-Alt-F5.

Hope that saves you a bit of trouble...
John Locke
Open source solutions for small business problems

How big is the usb radio receiver?

Anonymous's picture

I'm not happy with any of the regular laptop mouse devices and would consider the gyromouse. But how portable is it? If the USB end of the device is bulky that's a definate downside. The other question would be how much power the device requires for it's USB end. Wouldn't want to run down the batteries instantly.

Re: How big is the usb radio receiver?

Anonymous's picture

The receiver is a little larger than a deck of playing cards, but it's extremely light weight. The cable can actually lift one side of it up if you try to bend it too sharply.