Soft Touch

Bought a new laptop yesterday, a high-end Toshiba. No particular reason for choosing Toshiba — it has the features I want (wide screen, big hard drive, four USB ports), and the local Fry’s had it in stock.

Unfortunately, the touchpad is a piece of crap. It’s the kind of design that only a techie could love. Innovative! Goes over great in meetings with sales and marketing people! But for actual users — not so nice.

The left and right buttons, you see, are integral to the touchpad. They’re not separate, mechanical buttons, they’re just areas at the bottom of the pad. So here’s the result: You scoot the pointer over to the little icon that you want to right-click on, and then you lift your finger, move it down to the right-click area, and tap. But … oops! As your finger landed on the right-click area, it wasn’t traveling vertically, it was traveling at an angle. Your fingertip moved laterally across the surface as you began the right-click. And that caused the pointer to move somewhere else.

Congratulations — you’ve just right-clicked on the wrong thing. Why? Because the Toshiba Qosmio doesn’t have real click-buttons.

The two-finger scrolling is upside down, and it’s jerky. Annoying, but not a fatal flaw. Also, you dare not rest your finger lightly on what you think is the left button while moving the pointer with a finger of your other hand. In that situation, the Toshiba will think you’re using a two-finger technique. It may start scrolling the window. It may think you’re trying to do a pinch-zoom. Or it may just refuse to recognize that second fingertip at all, because it thinks you’re stationary in the left-button area.

Why? Because the Toshiba Qosmio doesn’t have real click-buttons.

I was looking for an excuse to take it back to the store. Thought I’d found one. But dang it, no. By default, a Toshiba laptop uses the Function keys for OS stuff — changing the screen brightness and so on. If you have any programs that use the Function keys, this is a big problem, because you have to hold down Fn while tapping the Function key to get at the normal behavior.

The User Guide cleverly does not tell you how to defeat this “feature.” But after a fruitless online search, I dug around in the utilities area and found the switch for reversing it. Too bad. If there had been no way to defeat it, I would have had an ironclad reason to take the computer back to the store and trade it for one with real click-buttons.


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