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That’s It

April 11th, 2007

Apple regularly demonstrates genius in design. Their laptops inspire comments of awe when people first see them. Their consumer desktops are emulated industry-wide and decorate desks of innumerable computer users on TV shows and movies. iPods rule the music-player market, and the iPhone is a thing of beauty. So why is it that Apple can’t build a mouse that doesn’t suck big huge hairy ones?

Ever since the beginning, Apple’s mice have never been good. Attractive, often yes, but not of any quality that would make people want to use them. Remember the hockey-puck mouse sold with the first iMacs, the one which, since it was round, your hand accidentally rotated it so it wouldn’t respond properly? Who the hell designs a circular mouse and doesn’t see the design flaw in three minutes? Then Steve Jobs got stuck up on the idea that a mouse should have a surface unbroken by seams, and hasn’t been able to get over it since. It took forever for Apple to finally release a two-button mouse, and longer still to fit a scroll wheel into it.

Well, today I am officially retiring my Mighty Mouse. After having used it for six months now, it has proven to be nothing but a pain in the ass for me. I know there are people out there who like it, but I am not one of them. I tried, God knows I tried. But the damn thing just sucks.

I went over some of the major reasons four months ago. The scroll wheel was hard to handle, the rocking left-right clicking mechanism doesn’t work well, and the side buttons are very badly designed. Well, I eventually got used to the feel of the scroll wheel, and still do like the flexibility of 360˚ scrolling, but then I discovered a new common flaw: it gets gummed up after a while and stops working properly. This should have been obvious to a skilled designer: after all, the whole reason we switched to laser mice is because the sensor wheels that drove the old ball mice would get gummed up by hand grime. It was a pain to have your mouse always become less and less functional, and to have to remove the ball every month or so and clean the rollers with your fingernails or some other sharp object. So what does Apple do? They create another ball-controlled object on their new laser mice, except that this one can’t even be removed for cleaning! Instead, you have to take a cloth with cleaning solution and roll the ball with that, and hope that it cleans the works sufficiently. Every month or so. Sorry, I gave up on ball mice to get away from that crap.

The left- and right-clicking mechanism is something I never got used to. I still have trouble with it, so that every 10th click or so is the opposite of what I intend. Message to Apple: put a goddamned seam in the thing like every other mouse maker on the planet, so the buttons will work properly for everyone.

And the side buttons are even worse than I thought. Aside from being hard to activate as I reported before, I found that they will activate for the wrong reasons. One mouse move I often make is when I am clicking-and-dragging and I run out of desk space before I get the cursor to where I want. When that happens, I lift up the mouse while continuing to hold down the left mouse button (such as it is), put the mouse down in a new position with more room, and then continue to move in the same direction. Doing this requires you to hold on to the sides of the mouse tighter in order to keep the left button depressed–which then activates the side buttons, with whatever function you have assigned to them, whilst simultaneously losing your click-and-drag. Bad, bad designing.

But it gets worse. The batteries run out all too quickly, and there are three different annoyances associated with that. First is that the Bluetooth software on the Mac OS is designed to flash incessantly in your menu bar to warn you of a low battery in your mouse and/or keyboard. I tried to turn this off and couldn’t get it to work. Bluetooth prefs allow you to turn off showing Bluetooth status in your menu bar, but mine would not frakking go away, even after restarting the computer. And I despise things flashing on my screen. What’s more, the flashing would start a good two weeks or more before the actual battery failure, so if I followed the warning immediately I’d be throwing out batteries with a good deal of juice still in them.

Then comes the problems associated with changing the batteries. The Apple mouse has an on/off switch which is badly designed. It doubles as a cover for the laser sensor, but because of the way it’s designed, it is virtually impossible to close the cover and turn off the mouse without accidentally clicking the mouse a few times before it turns off, thus screwing up wherever you left your cursor.

And then, when you put new batteries in and turn on the mouse again, it is not recognized immediately by the Mac. The first time I did this, I waited ten minutes for the computer to recognize the mouse, and it didn’t work. I tried turning the mouse off and on again, putting it closer and further away from the computer, I tried leaving it turned on in place for five minutes–nothing. (And yes, I had Bluetooth set to Discoverable, and the mouse was in the Favorites list.) Instead, I had to use Bluetooth File Exchange to browse the mouse back into recognition, and to do that, I had to dig up another mouse and plug it in first. Bad, bad, bad design.

I finally had it up to here with the damn thing, and after the hundred-thousandth mis-click, I just set the thing aside and plugged in an alternate wire mouse that I usually use at school (Spring vacation gives me another month before I have to buy a replacement for that). The Mighty Mouse will serve as an emergency backup, or I might use it as an alternate mouse at school.

Now, the other Bluetooth mouse I have, the Logitech V270, that works beautifully. Why can’t Apple just color the thing white and use that? Would it really kill them?

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