WireWeightsReview date: 3 September 2004. Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
Oddly enough, some heavy computer users don't seem to care very much about the interface devices with which they're, uh, interfacing, for all of those chair-polishing hours.
If you only use your computer to check your e-mail twice a week then sure, go ahead and use a cruddy $5 keyboard (the AntiBucklingSpring), a serial mouse with a thick layer of peat on the rollers, and a $10 eBay-special 15 inch monitor flickering away at 60Hz.
Putting up with stuff like that for more hours a week than you spend sleeping, though, is not a rational act.
The purpose of Mouse Cable Gadgets is to stop the cable of your mouse from dragging on it. With a Gadget, you need use pretty much the exact same amount of force to move the mouse north on the mousemat as south, and the cable never snags on anything.
The first and most famous of these things was the Mouse Bungee, which I reviewed back in 1999. It's still selling; here in Australia, Aus PC Market have Bungees in white and black for $AU38.50 including delivery anywhere in the country. That's about $US27.60, as I write this, but Australians are unlikely to be able to get one cheaper by ordering it from the USA, which the main Mouse Bungee site isn't set up to do anyway. In the States, that site sells Bungees for only $US9.95 plus $US4.95 shipping. Bargain.
Why not just use a cordless mouse?
Well, back in the day, cordless mouses were emphatically not the choice of champions. Few of them could recharge their internal batteries, all of them were pretty heavy compared with corded rodents, and all of them also felt more or less "laggy", compared with a direct-connected mouse. This was partly because of delayed movement processing by the cordless hardware, and partly because they had a cruddy sample rate - the number of times per second the pointer position updates. Check out this review for the state of play in brand name cordless mouses a few years ago.
All that has changed. Modern cordless mouses like Logitech's popular MX 700 (reviewed here) respond as snappily as corded versions, and have battery-charging cradles. They still generally weigh more than corded versions, but a lot of people like that.
If you don't really need cordlessness, though - and if you're not a pathological cable-hater or someone who needs to use their input devices from the other side of the room, then you don't - a corded mouse with a cable-holding widget really does feel pretty much the same. And has no possible problems with flat batteries, interference, privacy or pranks.
So. Cable gadgets. Like the Mouse Bungee, and like...
They're WireWeights - heavy two-part cable-clampy things that screw onto the wire of your choice, and act as a paperweight for a cable. I got one black zinc finish and one bright chrome finish WireWeight for review; they make a matte-silver nickel plated one as well.
They each cost $US11.95, plus $US3.85 for US shipping for one Weight. If you order more than one, additional Weights ship for an extra $US1.90 each. Shipping outside the States costs more, of course, but USPS air mail to me here in Australia was only $US11 for two Weights.
Pay extra, and you can even get customised Weights.
WireWeights are easy to attach...
...and easy to set up, as well. You just clamp the Weight on with a decent amount of cable between it and the mouse, then position it so that cable's reasonably slack, and you're done. The Mouse Bungee is a bit more fiddly to configure.
The WireWeight cable slot's about 6.2mm in diameter (a hair less than a quarter of an inch); that's quite wide enough for any mouse cable, and for various other kinds of wires. The cable in the above photo's a FireWire cord; it fits quite snugly. This means you can use WireWeights to anchor other things on your desk, as shown in the first of the manufacturers' pictures of the gadgets in use. Memory card readers, USB hubs, USB or FireWire extension cords; if it wants to slither annoyingly away into the cable jungle behind the desk, a WireWeight will keep it in place while still allowing you to move it when you want to.
Under the plating, the WireWeights are made from smooth-finished turned brass, which makes them pretty slippery little pucks on a desk surface. They've got more than enough friction for the job, though; properly set up, they'll have to resist very little pull from either side.
The Weights are pretty much exactly the advertised 1.75 inches wide by 0.75 inches tall (I measured 44-and-a-bit by 19-and-a-bit millimetres), and the manufacturers say they weigh eight ounces (about 227 grams). Mine weighed in at less than 225 grams. I don't think this is grounds for a lawsuit.
They are rather weighty little suckers, for their size. That's because typical brass is around 10% denser than ordinary steel. Should I have occasion to hold a WireWeight in my hand and hit someone, I imagine the punch-ee will be at least 20% less likely to laugh heartily and then kill me than they otherwise would.
The most engagement the WireWeight screw can manage is about three and a half threads, over about three quarters of the circumference it'd have if that slot weren't cut down the middle, which means the thread physics ain't that good. So I wouldn't build any bridges using these things as fasteners if I were you.
Apart from that, though, the WireWeights are neat. The threads are smoothly machined and engage well, with minimum stickiness from the slot and the plating; the finish is good, as well, with minimal character marks from the lathe and none of the nasty gouges and nipples I carefully engineered into my high school metalwork turning projects as evidence of their handcrafted nature.
I put one WireWeight on my mouse cable and kept the other one loose as a fiddle-toy; with a drop of oil on the threads, it spins shut like the breech of a cannon. It's a pleasing object.
Wait a minute, I hear you say. This is a neat idea, but couldn't I make much the same thing from, uh, some kind of clip, and a random heavy object?
Yes. Yes you could.
Clothes peg, sticky tape, rock. Or, if you're feeling more creative, about one car worth of wheel weights, melted in a tin can on the stove (turn on that range hood, brain-damage-avoiding amateur metalworkers!), with a bulldog clip half-drowned in the metal before it solidifies. Or any number of other options. All would have a purchase price closely approaching zero, and most would require no more than ten minutes of your time.
They wouldn't be as cool, though, would they?
Strictly speaking, I don't think anybody needs a WireWeight. Heck, you wouldn't even need a weight and a clip to duplicate most of the WireWeight functionality; just tape your mouse cable to the desk, and you've got the core benefit right there.
That's not what WireWeights are about, though. They do a simple thing in an unnecessarily spiffy way, and that's rather refreshing for those of us who're normally surrounded by tediously utilitarian technology.
The tediously utilitarian stuff is, of course, cheaper, and it's not necessarily hideous. And even when it is, a lot of people don't notice. We PC enthusiasts have a peculiar aesthetic sense.
It's not so much that we're completely blind to the concept of stylish design - although the impenetrable Wall Of Beige we have to deal with most of the time would suck the core out of anybody's artistic sensitivities, and the teenage ooh-shiny brigade don't do much for the team.
No, I think it's more that we're just a bunch of geeks who, on the whole, have the same natural appreciation for the stylish and tasteful as the average cat.
But the closest almost all modders come to making something really slick, as opposed to merely "striking", is by transplanting PC gear into Mac cases.
So. If you can see the point of a $US12 device that does nothing more than weigh down a cable, and is well enough made that you'll be able to pass it down to your grandchildren (who will not know what to do with it, because nothing will, by then, have cables), then you will probably very much like a WireWeight. I think they'd also make good gifts for those impossible-to-buy-for Nerds Who Have Everything.
If, in contrast, you reckon the plastic snow-globe your aunt gave you will do just as well at stopping your mouse cord from slipping, or if you just don't care whether it does or not, then I would surmise that you're not part of the WireWeight target market.
Review WireWeights kindly provided by WireWeights.