Monday, December 12, 2005

Of Mice and Men

I've been having a peculiar problem with my computer mouse, which causes the mouse to jump suddenly to a random corner of the screen while I am scrolling. This happens more frequently when the computer is performing CPU-intensive tasks, which led me to believe it was a hardware or driver problem. When this phenomenon kept repeating as I was trying to highlight text I was editing in a long, complext document (which results in my suddenly selecting several pages of text instead of a few lines), I decided to research the problem more deeply than I have in the past to try to pinpoint a cause.

I found some relatively obscure discussions of the technical problems which can cause this problem, with talk of reinstalling drivers, adjusting the mouse settings, updating the BIOS, reinstalling Windows, or junking the mouse. Occasionally there was a reference to using an uneven surface under the mouse, but I was using a clean Dell mousepad which I obtained years ago when I purchased the computer. The overall tone of the advice was "You'll probably have to throw away the mouse and buy a new one." Which wouldn't be so bad, except for the fact that I only recently purchased this mouse to replace one that was dying of old age.

And then I found a practical joke:
The optical mousetrap is a gag device designed to torture your coworkers.

It's a small clear sticker that affixes to the optical pickup on any optical mouse. Embedded in the sticker are small etchings designed to diffuse the light and cause the mouse to go crazy and fly off to the corner of the screen.

Coworkers go crazy trying to figure out what's wrong with their mouse and finally give up and get another one from the supply room. Luckily, the stickers come in a 10 pack. Fun for everyone.
I think for a moment.... My Dell mousepad has an interesting texture built into its surface, presumably to make a mechanical mouse roll more smoothly. So I took a sheet of plain white paper, placed it over the mousepad, and... problem solved.

I wonder how many other Dell users upgraded to optical mice, and are frustrated by Dell's inadvertent practical joke?

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