TechieTalk: Computer Peripherals You Can't Live Without

By Roy Mathur, on 2013-03-18, for The Independent Daily, Mauritius

This week, we're looking at what computer accessories you should buy for your home computer.

Keyboards: If you are a heavy computer user, there is nothing more unpleasant than a cheap, nasty keyboard. There are quite a few technologies used in keyboard construction, but most are either of the rubber dome, scissor-switch or the older buckling spring type. Most keyboards in production today are dome keyboards, so-called because they use a rubbery dome to support the keys. Although undoubtedly there are a few good dome keyboards out there, because the vast majority of them are mass-produced rubbish, it is difficult to recommend a particular model. You would be better served in buying a mechanical keyboard with expensive though quiet scissor switches, as used by Apple, or with old-fashioned, noisy, but very comfortable to use buckling springs, (Unicomp, Steel Series, Razer etc...). At any rate, you would be well advised to buy the best keyboard you can afford as it will almost certainly outlive the next few generations of computer you own; I'm talking at least a decade, not 12 months. For example, I still use the same keyboard from my very first PC compatible computer. The computer itself eventually caught fire (seriously), but the keyboard lives on and on and on.

Mice and Other Pointing Devices: This is another area where you definitely want to spend a decent amount of cash. One word of warning is to never, ever bother buying non-optical mice, i.e. a mouse with one of those cheap, weighted rubber balls. There used to exist a few that pretty good, but their time has been and gone and you would be hard-pressed to find a satisfactory, purely mechanical mouse today. Luckily a good mouse or pointing device is not that difficult to find. For example, the fabulous looking Apple Magic TrackPad and Microsoft Arc Mouse is available everywhere. If you suffer from RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), a great device to consider is 3M's Ergonomic Mouse. It looks a bit like a joystick, has a handle for you to grasp and buttons on the stop that you press with your thumb. This is probably my favourite mouse and it cured my RSI very quickly. Unfortunately it is neither cheap nor easy to obtain other than online.

External Hard Disks: Given the size of internal hard disks today, an external hard disk drive is the only practical way for most of us to back up our data. Try and find one that supports USB 3.0. Any model from a big brand, i.e. Seagate, LaCie, Toshiba etc..., should be fine.

USB Thumb Drive: Buy one of at least 4GB, especially if your computer lacks an optical drive. You can use this to reinstall your operating system; something we will show you how to do next week.

Printers: Laser or inkjet? That is the eternal question and my advice is to buy a mono (black and white) laser printer which will suffice for most printing requirements. Aim for a big brand laser printer from a well-known company like Dell, HP, Brother, Samsung etc... If you need to print photographs: go to your local photography store. They will do a better job and you will spend less money in the long run. If you can't live without a colour printer, then good luck, but you are on your own. I long ago decided to boycott all ink-jet printers. They are complicated, break easily and the price of cartridges are extortionate.

Other Toys: Other nice peripherals that you might want to consider saving for (or getting people to give you as presents) include useful things like external optical drives, a powered USB 3.0 hub to connect all your extra USB toys and perhaps a flatbed scanner if you are into photography. Personally, I always wanted one of those wizardly plasma ball USB toys (my birthday is in September).

Conclusion: Please remember what I told you above about keyboards and mice. If your mouse or keyboard something costs MUR 500 (GBP 10 or USD 16) or less, it will almost certainly be dreadful. In fact, you would be better off using the keyboard as a bat and the mouse as a ball in an exciting game of office cricket.