Mouse Blues

January 14, 2005

For almost two years now my mouse of choice has been a Kensington Wireless Pocket Mouse Pro. This mouse was nearly perfect for me. The size was right in my hand, the scroll wheel had a positive notched feel has it turned without making any annoying click, and the USB dongle stowed neatly inside the mouse for travel. There were two slight drawbacks to the Pocket Mouse: the USB dongle was "L" shaped, causing it to partial block neighboring plug ins on the back side of my Powerbook. Even though the long part of the "L" swiveled it still got in the way. And the automatic power saver feature caused a significant delay when first using the mouse after it had been idle long enough to "go to sleep."

This past week the scroll wheel suddenly disengaged from what ever mechanism that made it work; turning freely and without effecting the computer in any way. I make heavy use of the scroll function, and have the wheel click set to Command-click; losing these functions ruined the mouse.

Fall Back Mouse
My fall back mouse is also from Kensington: a wired Pocket Mouse. This was the first USB mouse I purchased after getting the Powerbook two years ago. I was attracted to the retractable cord and plug storage built into the side of the mouse. Unfortunately the scroll wheel made a surprisingly loud click as it ratcheted its way around its axis. Also, the sides of the mouse were translucent allowing the flashing of the positioning laser to leak out. Having an intermittent flash of light in your peripheral vision takes some getting used to, and in the end I upgraded to the Wireless Pocket Mouse Pro.

A Quest for Bluetooth
Yesterday, while I was idling at home waiting for a new contract to bill against for work, I went out in search of a new mouse. My aim was to get a Bluetooth PC Card to insert in the heretofore unused PC Card slot in my Powerbook. Then, not only could I use a Bluetooth mouse, but I could (over time) upgrade my cell phone and perhaps PDA to models with Bluetooth capability and gain wireless synchronization for those devices. The Micro Center here had a BTMouseJr that I really liked the looks of, and they had a Bluetooth PC Card whose packaging claimed Mac OS X compatibility. $112 later I was on the way home with my new toy.

After 10 minutes with a sharp pair of scissors I had managed to destroy the impregnable packaging enough to free the PC Card, its install CD, and its "manual." The card inserted into the slot on my Powerbook and immediately starting flashing a "Here I am" blue light. However, none of the Mac OS X included Bluetooth utilities recognized that there was a Bluetooth device attached. The install CD was useless has it contained only Windows drivers, and the "manual", while printed in five languages, provided no help either. A few minutes with Google made it apparent that I wasn't going to get the PC Card to work. Apple doesn't provide a native driver for Bluetooth PC Cards, and the only open source one I could find provided limited functionality for 3com cards only. After fishing the blister packaging out of the trash and washing it off, I returned the mouse and the card to the store.

After leaving Micro Center my wife suggested that I try Comp-USA or Best Buy to see if they had any replacements identical to the wheelless Pocket Mouse. We struck out at both stores, but I ended up buying a Targus Bluetooth Mini Mouse with Bluetooth Adaptor. The adaptor in question is a tiny little USB dongle that sticks straight out of the port. The mouse itself is small. With the pads of my fingers on the buttons, the body of the mouse doesn't even extend to my palm. After the initial Bluetooth pairing process, the mouse seemed to work fine. Unfortunately, the scroll wheel isn't recognized at all. And Targus doesn't appear to offer a Mac driver either.

To add insult to injury, the mouse refused to bind to its own Bluetooth adaptor after the computer has been asleep. Repeated attempts to reconnect failed. So back to the store for it.

Having resigned myself to living with a dongle as antenna, sticking out of the back of my laptop, I am prepared today to return the $90 Targus mouse to Best Buy, and return to Micro Center to re-buy the MacAlly mouse I originally wanted, along with a third party USB Bluetooth dongle. While not as slick as using a largely internal PC Card, this combination will get me the mouse I desire, and open up the world of Bluetooth communications to me.

A note about trackpads
I considered abandoning a mouse altogether for the built-in trackpad. I have experimented with the trackpad ever since getting the laptop. My single largest complaint stems from my occasionally touching the pad while typing, thus moving the insertion point in the document. Not really the trackpad's fault but annoying in any event. I have been using the SideTrack driver from Raging Menace for a couple of weeks. It allows you to map portions of the trackpad to act as scroll areas, or right-, or double-click hotspots. On the whole I think this works rather well, but I can't seem to gain the second-nature comfort I have with an external mouse.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.