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bstamour 04-30-2013 10:04 PM

I'm interested in purchasing a trackball to replace my mouse for ergonomic reasons, and I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions. I'm sure pretty much any model should work out of the box seeing as how much hardware the kernel supports these days, but if anyone has ever had a good experience with Slackware+trackball, please share :-)

bucove 04-30-2013 10:16 PM

I use logitech trackballs on all my Ubuntu machines. At the Music workstation I have little space for keyboards (pun intended) and mousetop space is nonexistant. The arched design of the "Marble Mouse USB" bridges buttons on underlaying surfaces and can be placed pretty much anywhere on an active command surface without spurious commands being triggered by it's footprint.

It has right and left buttons and the ball spins and thumb-breaks smoothly. the cursor response in Ubuntu is perfect and the sliver buttons along the top edges of the primary buttons default to "WebPage Forward" and "WebPage Back" in Firefox, which I have always found very useful.

TracyTiger 04-30-2013 11:06 PM

Thumb or Finger
I've gotten good performance out of various trackballs over the years (decades). I've found the most important question for me was whether the "ball" would be moved with a thumb or other finger.

I found I had better control and less fatigue when using the middle finger to move a larger sized ball with little resistance. Although I am NOT ambidexterous, I found this setup allowed me to easily switch between using my right and and left hand as required due to limited space due to other equipment being needed nearby.

My wife prefers a thumb based trackball over a mouse ... to each their own.

Other characteristics I would consider important are low rolling resistance for the ball and placement of frequently used buttons. Sensitivity is software adjustable.

The applications used may also influence your decision. When "drawing" (but not quite needing a digitizing tablet device) I usually switch to a mouse or a different computer rather than use a trackball for very long. I can draw faster with a mouse. I currently have one computer with both a trackball and mouse installed and switch between the two pointing devices as I desire.

Note that I'm not responding the issue of a Slackware specific device. I've only ever used devices with generic interfaces and not special drivers.

T3slider 04-30-2013 11:28 PM

I use a wired Logitech Trackman and everything just works (the trackball itself, left+right-click, scroll/click-wheel). I initially had both the Trackman and a mouse hooked up in case I needed the mouse for certain tasks, but it didn't take too long to adapt. Some things are initially more difficult with a trackball (gaming and drawing in particular) but I got used to it over time and have been trackball-only for quite a while. It is very nice having the trackball in the same position at all times compared to having to move the whole mouse around, and any pain I had when using a mouse for long periods of time (particularly in my wrist) is completely gone with the trackball. Additionally, while I still am and always have been a fan of keyboard shortcuts and such, to the point of using Vimperator with Firefox, I definitely use the trackball more than I used the mouse...I would still prefer the keyboard in most cases but it isn't as terrible an experience to move a hand to the trackball when needed.

gargamel 05-01-2013 03:46 AM

+1 for Logitech Marble Mouse. If you don't like the default setup, here's excellent documentation, how you can define, which button does what: Marble Mouse configuration. This very good article was originally for Ubuntu, but the example setups are actually working equally well for Slackware.

The ball is controlled with one, two or three fingers, and the device is symmetric, so you can use it with your left or right hand equally well and configure it accordingly. Unfortunately there is no wireless version of it, and the only good wireless trackball I found is for right-handers only, and forces your hand in a fixed posistion and to control the ball with your thumb. For a maximum of ten to fifteen minutes I found this comfortable enought, but then I wanted to change the position of my hand, which is not possible with this device.

So for long-houred sessions the Marble Mouse is a much more relaxed choice. I bought it, when a mouse stopped working, and only tried it because the mice on stock in the next-door computer shop were all rubbish. After about five years with the Marble Mouse I'll never buy a mouse again!


Cesare 05-01-2013 05:55 AM

I'm using a Kensington SlimBlade, a Kensington Orbit and a Logitech Marble Mouse on different computers. All of them work out-of-the-box on Slackware, but all of them need some tuning with "xinput" to work really well, e.g. acceleration, button placement or scroll wheel direction (if you're a lefty).

If you're a "finger" (as opposed to a "thumb") user my recommendation would be to get the Logitech Marble Mouse for a start, because it works well, is much cheaper than the Kensington SlimBlade (which is really nice, btw) and has more buttons than the Kensington Orbit (nice, but emulation can't really compensate the lack of a dedicated 3rd button).

I'm using the following script for button mapping on my left-hand Marble Mouse:


xinput set-button-map "Logitech USB Trackball" 1 8 9 4 5 6 7 2 3
xinput set-prop "Logitech USB Trackball" "Evdev Wheel Emulation" 1
xinput set-prop "Logitech USB Trackball" "Evdev Wheel Emulation Button" 3
xinput set-prop "Logitech USB Trackball" "Evdev Wheel Emulation Axes" 0 0 4 5

This will result in:
  • Left, big button: "left" button
  • Left, small button: "middle" button
  • Right, small button: "right" button
  • Right, big button: use marble for scrolling

bstamour 05-01-2013 11:24 AM

Thanks for the input everyone. I'm going to check out your suggestions.

speck 05-01-2013 09:19 PM

I used a Logitech Trackman Wheel for a number of years and then switched to a Logitech M570 when the Trackman Wheel was discontinued. They both work flawlessly in Slackware.

storkus 05-01-2013 09:39 PM

I use trackballs whenever I can: I don't like mice and I absolutely hate touch pads. I have had the Marble Mouse for years and I love it; I also have a couple of balls from these guys: The advantage to the latter is that the balls themselves are pool/billiard balls--8-balls are a popular owner mod when showing off!

From a Linux (and *BSD) perspective, anything compliant to USB HID or PS/2 will work. Bear in mind one drawback to USB is that it is uses polling instead of real interrupts like PS/2, which can be problematic in gaming applications; higher-end mice (and CST's newest trackball) use USB-2 with crazy polling speeds to get around this, at the cost of some real system load.

Oh, one last thing about the Marble Mouse: I don't know if it's still true, but at least for a while they would talk about USB *AND* PS/2 with just a passive connector changer. However, the internal components are not high enough performance for PS/2 to make a difference (at least on mine).


bucove 05-02-2013 02:20 AM


Originally Posted by storkus (Post 4943069)
.... one drawback to USB is that it is uses polling instead of real interrupts like PS/2...; higher-end mice (and CST's newest trackball) use USB-2 with crazy polling speeds to get around this, at the cost of some real system load..... Mike

Mike, this insight into the use of polling as opposed to real world interrupt driven events is significant. It's been many years since I worked all the way down at the metal, and I was unaware this arcane, clock intensive, brain dead approach to real world sampling has continuted to parasitize our precious silicon. Consumerism run amok. A case of market oversupply engorging demand. One might have hoped for more functional use of such an amazing resource as 22nm feature organized semiconducting crystal. Evolution works in strange ways, I guess....

Anyway, thanks for the insight. I'm planning some designs which this enlightening fact may impact upon.

David the H. 05-05-2013 09:16 AM

I'm a long-time trackball user myself. If and when my trusty old Kensington Expert Mouse Pro ever dies I'm going to be in real trouble, since there appears to be nothing like it out there any more. I guess I'll have to go with the traditional Expert or Slimblade. It'll have to be one that a lefty can use in any case. But I'll certainly miss all the extra buttons at the top!

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