One place Microsoft’s designers get things unquestionably right is in the form factor of their home electronics units. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been playing around with a unit they sent my way to have a look at, and I’m really enjoying it. This little black wireless unit, the Arc keyboard, is created specifically for home use, and is perfectly sized to tuck away into a drawer, or simply sit on a side table in the living room without looking like some nerd has left his toys lying around. The piece is perfectly contoured to fit a lap, which is something I felt was lacking in the Apple wireless keyboard we had been using. My favorite detail about the piece is a tiny four-way cursor key, which seems a perfectly-thought-out replacement for the four keys we’re used to seeing. Setup is simple: Insert the tiny USB piece connecting the machine to the computer into a USB port, turn on the keyboard, and you’re done.
Wacom, makers of one of my favorite tools, has finally found a way to render their Intuos4 tablets wireless—I’ve been waiting for this I don’t know how long. The Intuos4 is sleek, and noticeably more detailed in its capabilities that the previous Intuos3. Where the Intuos3 had 1024 levels of pen sensitivity, the new intuos4 has 2048, plus a completely redesigned tip sensor, which makes strokes with less pressure than the previous version. This means the unit delivers a beautifully smooth stroke in Photoshop, Painter, FontLab, or anywhere you need to paint or create calligraphy.
All Intuos4 units have at least six assignable keys (I use mine to trigger AppleScripts to skip entire albums in iTunes, something that would take a four-fingered somersault with a keyboard) and a control ring (it’s the same action we already know from controlling iPods’ click wheels) allowing scrolling, zooming, volume controls, or whatever you can assign to it. Wacom tablets, as far as input devices go, are pretty spendy—$399 for the smallest size. However, it’s worth it; the units are solidly engineered and built. In all my years of using a Wacom, I’ve never had one need repairs of any sort, nor have I heard of anyone needing to replace one.
And while you’re enjoying your new-found wireless freedom on your couch, let’s talk about that horrible Slanket or Snuggie (or whatever you call it) that you got for Christmas the year before last. Burn it. Look into something from these folks instead: Vík Prjónsdóttir is a fascinating design collective in Iceland that creates soft goods. They make warm, cuddleable blanket and pajama-like constructions.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have about ten hours of back-to-back Twin Peaks episodes to re-watch from the ’80s. Just found my old VHS copies from the original broadcast. Bonus: ’80s ads!