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Marc Wandschneider is a professional software developer with well over fifteen years of industry experience (yes, he really is that old). He travels the globe working on interesting projects and gives talks at conferences and trade shows whenever possible.

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Mar 15, 2009 | 19:53:09
A mouse most unmighty indeed
By marcwan

As a child, my parents were very much of the train of thought that if you can’t say anything nice, it’s far better not to say anything at all. This leads me to frequently try to mute my (lack of) enthusiasm about various things I encounter, to varying degrees of success. And so, with the purchase of an iMac a few months ago, I’ve been constantly biting my lip, saying only wonderful things about it. But I can continue this charade no longer. It must be said:

The Apple Mighty Mouse sucks. Spectacularly so. Were it not for the pretense that this is supposed to be a semi-serious blog that semi-serious people will read and use to judge me in my professional activities, the length of the stream of invective that would come forth from my mouth (uh, fingers) would be surpassed only by the creativeness of the language chosen.

This is an assertion that didn’t just come overnight, either. I decided to overlook the fact that the mouse looks and feels like a Mentos suffering from gigantism, as well as the fact that the cable is about as flexible as a three day old corpse, as long as a cotton swab, and has a penchant for sticking up in the most annoying possible ways.

Indeed, even the stunningly annoying right mouse button that requires you to lift your finger from the mouse in an-RSI inducing manner before pressing it again so that it registers as a right click (with a failure rate of about 30%, I’ve found) is something that I was willing to tolerate. I pretended that the two side buttons, which work so poorly that that one scratches one’s head as to why they’re even there, don’t even exist.

The straw that broke the camel’s back? The mouse thumb roller ball. At first, it doesn’t even feel like a ball, but instead some sort of rubber nubbin thing that just registers vibrations and follows the motion. But appearances are deceiving: It’s just a little rubber ball with tiny pins inside that track its motion.

Remember how computer mice used to all have rollers in the bottom before everybody decided they massively suck and moved to optical systems? It wasn’t because of cost or construction – it was because that every single piece of dust, fuzz, or body hair that got within 10 feet of it would immediately be sucked inside the mouse and gum up the rolling pins. Consumers had to spend time every month disassembling their new fan-dangled computer equipment to remove the human detritus that had been gathering on their desk.

So, why did Apple decide to not only include a roller inside their new mighty mouse, but include one so delicately placed and finely tuned that it was guaranteed to gunk up within a matter of weeks? The mind boggles. What’s that? You live in a dusty climate that doesn’t resemble Silicon Valley? Hrm, we hadn’t thought of that one. I lost the ability to scroll vertically after 3 short weeks of ownership.

It gets better! Not only is there a mouse roller ball with pins and loads of goonk inside their mouse that requires constant cleaning, but they made the mouse impossible to open and clean! Yes, they super-glue the assembly together so that the only way to open it is with a very sharp blade, some equipment to pry it open, and the very real risk of serious hand injury. Never mind that you effectively have to destroy your mouse as part of the opening process.

Once you’ve got the thing open, there are two delicately placed cables that require disconnecting – open the mouse too quickly, and they’ll rip. And you’re not done yet! Then there are some screws to remove, and finally a plastic snap-on cover that requires lifting. Pull out the 0.5g plastic pins, clean them, try not to drop and lose them, figure out how to put them back in, and then put the whole thing back together, ignoring the fact that the plastic ring at the bottom is now wrecked and cracked from all the prying you had to do. I didn’t even care that, post repair, only vertical scrolling worked properly and horizontal was acting all weird and wiggly.

Of course, you could take it to the Apple Store (provided you’re lucky enough to live near one) for some service, but – really? Do you really want to have to make a trip to the repair centre (and wait for who knows how long) every few weeks for your computer mouse?

Thus, four weeks later, when my computer mouse once again started acting up and I lost the ability to scroll through pages vertically, I did what I should have done when I first bought the computer:

I went to the local computer market and bought a real mouse. It’s glorious. It just works.

(And apart from that, I love my new iMac. It’s blazingly fast compared to my old laptop, and it’s wonderful having large and fast hard disks again. The only downside is that I suddenly have to worry about power failures again, something I have not thought about in nearly four years.)

Posted By: agitatedString Jul 01, 2009 10:01:35
Posted By: agitatedString Jul 01, 2009 10:15:01
I keep my Mighty-crappy-Mouse roller balls limping along by administering a few drops of ETOH onto the roller ball once or twice a day. My Apple mice have all developed drinking problems within a few months. Guess I would rather have functional drunk for a mouse than teardown and rebuild that mouse every few days.
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