Sidetrack for your PowerBook

Sidetrack for your PowerBook

I opened up my Powerbook this morning and I couldn’t use the trackpad to scroll. It felt like my computer was broken.

A few months ago I installed this tiny program called Sidetrack that lets you use the track pad to scroll by sliding your finger up or down the side of the pad. For a while I had been using an Apple bluetooth mouse with my Powerbook, after I got this utility I’d only use the mouse for very point-and-click heavy applications. This morning, when I opened my computer to start working, I tried to scroll through my email and nothing happened, the mouse just moved up and down on the screen instead of scrolling. Sidetrack installs itself as a kernel extension so I thought maybe something bad happened since I had a beta version (though I have had no problems with it) and I rebooted (switchers think rebooting cures all). When it came back up a few seconds later, I tried it again and still nothing. Starting to panic now. I open system preferences and go to Sidetrack and thankfully it says that the beta I was using has expired. A quick Yahoo search later brings up their website, I download the newest version, and immediately send them the $15 they charge to register (you don’t have to).

Now I am back to normal, scrolling away with my trackpad. I also have the top corners set to forward/back tabs and the bottom corners set to back/forward pages. Sidetrack has a lot of neat features, many of which I don’t even use. The real question is why Apple doesn’t ship this technology in the OS? I suppose it all goes back to the 1-button mouse argument. I sincerely wish that Jobs wakes up one day with an email from an engineer at Apple telling him about some great innovation in mouse technology that will allow them to get past it. What kinds of things could they do? Here are some possiblities:

1) Mouse with trackpad-like programmable surface. To the average user it is a one-button mouse. To the power user it is an entirely flexible interaction surface.
2) Mouse and trackpad gestures. This would be similar to what Sidetrack does, but with any arbitrary gesture possible.
3) A powerbook with no trackpad, but the entire non-keyboard surface is a big tablet that you can modify as you see fit.
4) iSight-based eye-tracking system. No mouse, just follows your gaze on the screen. I’m not sure if this would tire your eyes or not, nor do I know how accurate it can be. I do know that humans can follow a persons gaze with unbelievable accuracy.

Perhaps they will just stick with the one-button mouse… I mean, its lasted this long.