leah blogs: June 2020

01jun2020 · 5 days with the MX Ergo

Five days ago, I got an Logitech MX Ergo trackball delivered. Here are some notes of me getting used to it and how I set it up.

I learned about the MX Ergo in Michael Stapelberg’s desk setup post and Puck also recommended it. My last experience with a trackball was with a two-button Logitech Marble Mouse probably 15 years ago and did not go very well.

Luckily, I get along with a thumb-driven trackball a lot better! I could use it almost instantly and after maybe half an hour of use I already had a good precision for common use.

The MX Ergo has a regular mouse-style 2 button setup with a clickable mousewheel in between. I feels so much like a mouse that you may find yourself trying to shift it over the table at first ;), but the solid plate will remember you to not do that.

There are two settings for the MX Ergo, either flat or tilted 20 degrees. I find the tilted setting more comfortable. The trackballs then lays comfortably in my hand.

I use the included Logitech Unifying receiver which works out of the box on Linux. I have not tried using Bluetooth yet, but I may in the future when I run out of USB ports.

There are two extra buttons (button 8 and 9) next to the left mouse button, which by default do browser history forward/backward. I don’t need that and reconfigured them as follows: the top button is assigned to my window manager to raise a window (this would require a keyboard shortcut else), while the lower button also does a middle mouse click: I find it more comfortable than clicking the wheel, and I use the middle mouse button heavily. Having a physical middle mouse button would have been perfect (e.g. like the Lenovo ScrollPoint mouse).

Remapping the mouse button can be done with xinput:

xinput set-button-map $(xinput list --id-only 'pointer:Logitech MX Ergo') 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 2 9

Now for the downsides: in my opinion, the scrollwheel is pretty flawed. It has 18 ratchets and no high-definition mode (at least, not one that has more high-resolution events). Compared to scrolling with a touchpad, it feels very slow in comparison. Unfortunately, Linux provides no way to speed up scroll wheels per input device (libinput does not do it at all, and evdev only seems to possibly slow it down). I would vastly prefer a free spinning mouse wheel, which many other Logitech products have.

As a work-around, I have now enabled “mouse scrolling” with the top button, so I can scroll with the ball as well. This is signifcantly faster and pretty comfortable, and it actually works for both axes at the same time:

With evdev, this is setup as:

xinput set-prop $(xinput list --id-only 'pointer:Logitech MX Ergo') 324 1
xinput set-prop $(xinput list --id-only 'pointer:Logitech MX Ergo') 325 6 7 4 5
xinput set-prop $(xinput list --id-only 'pointer:Logitech MX Ergo') 328 9

The MX Ergo is wireless, and thus battery powered. I did not charge it yet and it has been on 50% battery all the time (with probably more than 10h use daily). The battery is supposed to charge very quickly. Charging works over USB. It would have been nice if the trackball was just usable over this USB connection as well, as wirelessness is hardly necessary for a stationary device on the desk. For power saving purposes, the trackball turns off after some time, but it turns on very quickly when being used.

Touching the trackball will also wake up my notebook by default, but this can be changed by putting disabled into the associated /sys/bus/usb/devices/*/power/wakeup.

The MX Ergo is usable with the right hand only, which means I can’t recommend it to about 10% of you. There is no left-handed option available.

My fingers are pretty long, which means my whole hand doesn’t fit on the device, and the heel of hand is on the table. I will maybe acquire a hand rest to go with it.

I paid 74€ for the MX Ergo, which is on the higher end of what I’d pay for a pointing device, but it feels very robust and will hopefully last a few years. I certainly don’t regret getting it and would also recommend it to others.

NP: KRS-One—Sound of da Police

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