A menagerie of Microsoft Mice

Way back in the mists of time (2002 to be precise) Microsoft were doing an interesting deal on their new optical mice, trying their best to make us not buy ball mice any more. To qualify for this you needed to

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post them a mouse ball and in return you got £10 cashback on a Microsoft Intellimouse USB.

11 years later I’m finally replacing that mouse with a Microsoft Comfort 4500 mouse. Let’s see if I get 11 years of usage out of this one. It’s a good chunky size, so fits nicely in my hand.

I’ll stick the Intellimouse in a box as my emergency backup mouse. It can live next to a selection of Apple USB mice that I also own.

My mouse is magic… ish…

They claim this mouse to be mighty
I suffer from that expensive disease known as “being an Apple owner”. A disease that I blame on borrowing my sister’s 1 gig iPod Shuffle, those things are serious gateway drugs. Anyway, my Mac Mini came with a Mighty Mouse which has a pleasing rounded shape and a fun little nipple to twiddle. And a confusing and highly irritating left/right click mechanism. For the uninitiated, the whole mouse is hinged to produce a left click, but right clicking involves removing your left finger and pressing the right one. I found this failed to work pretty much every time I clicked the damn thing and made playing Minecraft impossible.

If Harry Potter owned a Mac, he'd use this
So I got a fancy so-called Magic Mouse to replace it. Despite being smaller and having a slightly annoying angular shape it works so much better. Maybe the Mighty Mouse I owned was faulty (although we also own a wired version and that is equally bad, also being confused by the pattern on my desk) but it just didn’t feel like a nice mouse to use from the second I held it. There seemed to be a strange lag between moving my hand and the cursor doing something useful, it felt like there was someone else with a mouse trying to take control of the mouse pointer.

The Magic mouse has one slightly confusing feature – the touch sensitive top. Press it and you get a left click, press it on the right hand side and get a right click (which actually works properly. Well done Apple, you made a mouse that can right click reliably… just like Microsoft have done for decades). If you gently stroke the top of the mouse it’ll scroll things for you, like web browsers. This scrolling thing is great and means there’s no nipple to get gunged up, but it does cause some odd brainfarts if you’ve also used a Mac laptop with touchpad.

I just spent a few confused moments trying to move the mouse pointer by sliding my finger on the top of the mouse. It took a while before this whole new concept of “move the whole mouse!” slid into my brain. Seriously, it was like the apes from 2001 learning to hit things with bones.

PS, hold onto your obsolete Apple products, once the aluminium on the planet is used up we’ll be rich! The same goes for the titanium oxide in the shiny white plastic.

Car Boot Goodies: Apple Pro Mouse

It is Sunday, that means it’s car boot day, and since it was dry the car boot was quite large. Amongst the junk I managed to buy an Apple Pro Mouse for £3.

The Apple Pro Mouse has two major failings; 1) It has one button and can only function with one button and 2) Its cable is really short. I am right handed, the USB ports on my Macbook are on the left. The cable reaches, but only just. In OSX problem 1) can be overcome by pressing the control key for left mouse (but you still don’t get a scroll wheel, leading to comical stroking of the mouse) and 2) can be solved by not moving the mouse very far from the computer.

It has that crap Apple cable that gets all kinked inside. I don’t know how Apple make cables, but they all kink in horrible ways. I saw my cousin’s Macbook charger melt its cable after it became twisted inside to the point where the outer covering came off.

Coming soon in the short series “people’s crap I bought from the car boot” – Some 70s “How things work” type books and a 1940s army infantry guide that says I’m forbidden from publishing its contents. I also gained another Amiga (when the economy collapses, I hope these become legal tender, I have quite a few now) and a new cordless phone. In return I got rid of a mini fridge and some breakfast bowls. I can also get rid of a table and weird Ikea shelf thing.

Right, I’m off to learn how to prepare a minefield and what the correct way to do a beach landing is.

Your computer is crap

Xerox Alto
Xerox Alto

And now I have your attention, I will explain why.

The computer you see in this image is a Xerox Alto, a prototype computer that contained a graphical user interface, pointing device called a “mouse”, full A4 screen with a virtual “desktop”, it was connected to other computers using “ethernet” and could display print quality documents on its screen.

And it did this in 1973.

Now look at the computer on your desk. It contains exactly the same things, and does exactly the same thing. You control it with a mouse, it can display print-quality documents on its screen, is networked using the same ethernet. The only difference is in the looks and speed of the device.

The mouse was invented in the 1960s, as was the concept of hypertext, as demonstrated by Douglas Engelbart.

Then let’s look at the software we use on our computers. Our main pieces of software are wordprocessors and spreadsheets. The first spreadsheet was Visicalc on the Apple II, created back in 1979 and looks like this:

Visicalc on an Apple II
Visicalc on an Apple II

 If you compare this to Microsoft Excel (because all the other spreadsheets such as Lotus 1-2-3 have died off) it’s remarkably identical. OK so Excel contains half a million extra features, and Windows Vista/Mac OS X has the benefit of 30 years of research and development, but the initial concept and idea are identical to those first prototypes created in the 70s.

We’ve not advanced at all. We’re just making variations on a theme, polishing innovative ideas until the sharp edges are all blunt and “user friendly”. We’re using 30 year old ideas and every year re-releasing them while claiming the latest ideas to be the next thing in computing.

SQUEAK

This morning I noticed one of my pet mice had died. The poor thing was lying in its enclosure in a distinctive ‘I am dead’ way. It’s now in the garden helping my plants grow.

Dead mice are weird. They go all stiff and hard and sort of deflate, moulding to whatever they’re lying on. Having long tails is a definite advantage too.

My other mouse is happily running around its wheel being very much alive.

Genius Laser Mouse

Tired of pushing my finger across the trackpad on my Mac laptop I bought a mouse yesterday. It’s a Genius Traveler 525 Laser Mouse. The main feature that made me buy it was the £12.99 price tag and its insanely high 1600dpi resolution – supposedly caused by the laser in the mouse. If there is a laser it’s not a visible light laser since I can’t see anything out the bottom.

The mouse is quite good really. There is a “4D” scroll area on the top that senses the direction my finger is moving, allowing documents to be scrolled horizontally and vertically. There are two special buttons on the top of the mouse that switch applications and do something Internet Explorer specific.

Genius, makers of the Laser Mouse have evidently seen an Apple Mighty Mouse. The top of the Laser Mouse has no left or right buttons. Instead the whole shell tilts either left or right depending on which mouse button is desired. This means you can either click with a finger, as usual, or tilt your entire hand, or use any finger that’s on the correct side.

The mouse isn’t very large, and the cable is quite long and thin, and the blue light on the 4D touch pad is somewhat distracting. However, for £12.99 I can’t really complain.