There’s an awful lot going on under the skin of a modern PC. To comprehend it all would be a feat quite beyond most users, so we tend to take our machines at home and at the office for granted.
We often forget that not too long ago most written communication took the form of letters and faxes, and the concept of being able to look something up on the Internet was as foreign to us then, as going to the library to do some research is to the teenagers of today.
Nowadays, the monitor, mouse and keyboard are as much a part of working life as pen and paper, yet many people work away on uncomfortable, cheap keyboards, because that’s what was supplied with their original machine. There are, however, quality alternatives around, which can improve your keyboarding life and ease your aching mouse wrist.
Microsoft’s latest offering – the Optical Desktop with Fingerprint Reader – is, as with most keyboards supplied with home PCs these days, awash with features. Star Trek fans will feel right at home, though mercifully the number of flashing lights is kept to a minimum and the likelihood of a hostile alien ship scanning your PC for life signs is pretty much zero.
What Microsoft hopes will sell this particular pack to frequenters of PC World and the like, however, is not its star-ship array of extra controls, but rather its spiffy fingerprint reader. The idea with this is that, instead of having to remember hundreds of different user names and passwords, you associate them instead with a finger print, avoiding memory and finger strain.
Using the reader is simplicity itself. Once you’ve registered your fingerprint(s) – a process that takes around a minute – the software allows you to log in to your Windows XP account simply by pressing your finger onto the small oval window to the left of the main keyboard for a second or two.
The really clever thing, though, is that whenever you come across a dialogue box or frequently used website that requires a username and password you can do the same. Just dab one of your registered digits onto the reader, fill in the boxes and whenever that logon presents itself again, all you have to do is scan your finger and the software fills in the username and password boxes for you.
The one major sticking point is that, because it’s a Microsoft product, the web functionality only works with Internet Explorer. We tried to log on to a Gmail account using FireFox and couldn’t get it to work.