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ATPM 5.09
September 1999



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Segments: Slices From the Macintosh Life

by Scott D. Feldstein,

Magical Mystery Mouse

About a month after its introduction I purchased a new Apple Power Macintosh G3 computer (the blue and white one) for my home. Aside from a few minor annoyances I must tell you that the machine is so awesome that I bought another one for my office to replace my Pentium II NT box. Among those minor annoyances, however, was the mouse.

While certainly well made and beautiful, it lacked in some basic ergonomic areas. Specifically, it’s too easy to get the mouse turned around so that the cursor moves in not-quite-expected directions. I toyed with the idea of getting a different one for a few months.

Finally I decided that I was going to do it. Arming myself with input device reviews, I went to visit CompUSA. Based on knowledge gleaned from the reviews I had decided to purchase a Logitech Mouseman Wheel. But on arrival at the Apple “Store Within A Store” (SWAS) at CompUSA I was puzzled. The mouse in question was nowhere in sight.

“I’m looking for a mouse,” I told the salesperson standing in the SWAS. He gestured towards the shelf full of input devices. “The thing is,” I went on, “I can’t find the one I’m looking for.”

“If it’s not on this shelf then it’s not available,” he replied.

“Well, technically it is available; it’s just that I don’t see it here.”

“These are the only ones that will work with a new Mac,” he assured me.

Disappointed, I wandered the store briefly and found myself in the section where they keep the Windows/Intel (Wintel) based input devices. I saw the mouse I wanted, only it wasn’t the USB-flavored one I needed for my Power Mac. “I guess they haven’t gotten all the USB stuff in stock,” I reasoned. I was about to walk out when I noticed—on the top shelf of the Wintel mouse section—a half dozen boxes of the very mouse I had come for. The Logitech Mouseman Wheel in USB. “Works with iMac!” its box proclaimed.

I proudly marched it back to the guy in the SWAS and advised him to grab a few for the Macintosh section. “Oh yeah, we used to have those back here,” was all he had to say. From there I went to the checkout and bought my mouse, as well as some ink for my Epson printer.

Triumphantly returning home, I unboxed my new rodent and installed the software included on the CD-ROM. All seemed to be going well. The cursor responded well; the buttons all worked; the scrolling wheel was a treat. Then I began to look closely at the control panel that Logitech had provided to assign functions to the various buttons. All I can say is that I was sorely disappointed. You see I had been spoiled—I had used a friend’s Kensington Turbo Mouse some time ago. While I’m not big on trackball input devices, the Kensington Mouseworks software was divine. To say that it was customizable is an understatement. The Logitech software, on the other hand, wasn’t. To be specific, one of the things I wanted to do with my mouse was assign an “option-double click” to one of the buttons. There seemed to be no way of doing this at all.

Nevertheless, I used the mouse for a day or two. During that time I began to realize that I had another problem. The mouse was “oddly shaped” to quote a magazine review. The authors of the article had also called it “very comfortable,” an assessment I could not bring myself to agree with. Furthermore, the mouse was just too darned big for the area I intended to use it in. Finally I fired up one of my favorite new games and tried the mouse. It worked fine—for a few minutes—then stopped responding at all. Only a reboot would bring the mouse back into line. Finding the problem repeatable I re-boxed the mouse and all the stuff that it had come with. Back to CompUSA I went. There was no way I was going to use an uncomfortable mouse with inflexible (and possibly buggy) software to the tune of $49.

The guy at the CompUSA returns desk was quite willing to refund my money but asked if I wanted to do an exchange instead. “Maybe,” I found myself saying. With that, I again went deeper into the store looking for inspiration to strike. “If only Kensington made a two (or more) button mouse in USB,” I thought.. All I had seen up to that point was a trackball (the “Orbit”) and the one-button “mouse in a box.” Neither of these would do.

Then I found it—almost instantly upon arrival in the SWAS. Where had it been a few days ago? The Kensington “mouse in a box” with two buttons and a scroll wheel! And it said “USB” in bright orange letters on the box! My joy turned to suspicion, however, as I read the finer print. There was no mention of Macintosh support at all on the packaging, in spite of it being clearly in the Apple SWAS. Suffice it to say I did not think it beyond the staff at CompUSA to put it here erroneously. What to do?

The really nice guy in the SWAS today was willing to actually open the box for me to determine whether or not there was Mouseworks software for the Macintosh inside. My heart sank when all I saw next to the mouse was a floppy disk. What the heck was I going to do with that? To make matters worse, the tiny manual made absolutely no mention of Macintosh computers. Oddly, the salesperson then began installing the floppy-borne software onto a nearby Compaq. For some reason he believed that seeing the software on a PC would confirm something I needed to know. Puzzled, I watched as he tried—and failed—to install it on three different PCs. (I think he actually broke the floppy drive on one of them.) Feeling uncomfortable I tried to think of some other way of solving this puzzle.

I knew a quick trip to Kensington on the Web would answer my question. Perhaps—like other USB peripheral makers in a rush to the Macintosh market—they had forgone distributing the Mac software and manuals in the box and instead had them posted as a free after-the-fact download. I cursed myself for not having checked this possibility at home where Internet access has been a fact of life for over five years. I knew none of the demo computers anywhere on the CompUSA floor were on the net. Then the SWAS guy told me to go up to the Corporate Sales desk. They, it seemed, could find out for me.

And find out they did. Within two minutes they confirmed via the Web that Kensington did in fact have Mouseworks software available for free download that would enable me to use this device on my Macintosh. I thanked them and went back to tell the salesperson in the SWAS of my discovery. From there I went to the checkout counter to make my second-in-a-week mouse purchase. To my shock, as I exchanged one mouse for the other the checkout person handed me twenty dollars in change. “How much is this mouse?” I asked. I had forgotten to even check earlier. “Twenty-nine dollars.” Holy smokes! I left the store feeling pretty pleased with myself.

Back at home I downloaded and installed the Mouseworks software, rebooted, and plugged in the mouse. Yes! I had it all now. The customizable Mouseworks software was everything I had remembered it to be. I even got my “option-double click.” Moreover, the mouse was significantly smaller than the large Logitech, and more traditionally shaped. Everything worked great. Even my favorite game seemed pleased with the Kensington. Although it lacked a button (compared to the Logitech), it could “chord” two of its buttons to make an entirely new action. To me this ultimately made it feature-identical to the Logitech hardware-wise.

After several frustrating days and two trips to the store I finally emerged victorious. I had a great mouse with awesome software. Heck, I even saved twenty bucks in the process!

Copyright © 1999 Scott D. Feldstein. Scott is a full-time techie at Marquete University where he is also a graduate student in educational psychology. Send your Segments submissions to

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