A mighty mice biometric control

In July, office-accessory vendor Fellows Inc. introduced a mouse with a fingerprint-reading capacitor. Geared to notebooks but usable on most PCs with a Universal Serial Bus port, the $99 SecureTouch Optical Mouse is a reliable biometric control.

A handful of competitors sell similar mice, but I don't know how they compare. What I do know is the SecureTouch works as advertised.

The mouse performed flawlessly in my tests on a Hewlett-Packard Compaq nc4000 notebook. Software installation was quick and uneventful, and Windows XP Professional immediately recognized the mouse when I plugged it in.

It took only a minute to provide SecureTouch with eight samples of my left fingertip. From then on, the mouse rejected the Windows logon attempts of family members, but always admitted me in seconds.

You can scan all 10 fingers to improve accuracy and use the included OmniPass software from Softex Inc. of Austin, Texas, to set up separate fingerprint templates for multiple users on the same machine.

My only criticism is that the roughly inch-square box in the upper-right of the XP screen, which shows the scanned fingerprint and flashes red for reject and green for accept, should have some additional indicator that it has completed recognition, then plainly show the result on screen.

And be forewarned that if you're inexperienced with juggling multiple users' passwords, the tiny-print manual, though clearly describing step-by-step procedures, inadequately explains the big-picture process of setting up single sign ons, which would be a chief benefit of the software.

I'll keep my SecureTouch mostly for fun, but government agencies should consider it a serious option in their security arsenals.

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