REBOL Technologies

Mouse Insanity

Carl Sassenrath, CTO
REBOL Technologies
8-Nov-2004

Article #0039
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You would think that in the year 2004 (almost 2005) that installing a new mouse on Windows would be easy. Am I wrong? Then why would it take two hours to do it? Is that insane or what? Here's the story...

Yesterday, while at a computer store, I decided to buy a couple "cheap mice" to upgrade a few older computer systems that we use around here for various development and archive activities. I found what looked like a decent little Roll-n-scroll mouse from a company called Micro Innovations.

Now, I am not exactly a newbie with a mouse, in fact I feel like I practically invented it. I wrote one of the very first mouse-driven GUI's in 1982 using a Sun 1 prototype (hand-built by a student at Stanford University). In 1984 I co-invented the two button mouse while at Amiga. The two button concept (select on one button and menu on the other) was the result of my experience with mice on the Sun Workstation, Symbolics Lisp Machine, and Apple Lisa (predecessor of the Macintosh). The two button mouse interface was fully embodied by RJ Mical's Intuition GUI on Amiga. (This mouse history might make a nice future blog topic.)

Anyway, so back to 2004... you would think mouse hardware would be pretty much plug-and-play, right? No, sorry, wrong.

At first I figured that all modern "Windows" mice were roughly compatible and there was no need to install any new device drivers. After all, I've used mice from many different companies over the years, and they more or less work. But, when the new mouse failed to work properly, I decided that it was time to install the Micro Innovations (MI) driver that came with the mouse. That was a huge step backwards. After installation the mouse became really flaky and using the Windows GUI became difficult. I figured it was probably a driver conflict, so I removed the Logitech software that had been installed a few years ago for a different mouse. After that the mouse movement became worse, jumping around as if it were running in a poorly implemented multitasking OS. I figured things must be really messed up, so decided to download the latest Microsoft mouse drivers with the hope that they would clean up any internal driver mess in the mouse event food chain. That didn't help either. So, I tried reinstalling the MI driver again, and continued to fiddle around for two hours in an attempt to get things working. Two hours!

Of course, I have to mention that every time I installed or removed mouse drivers, I had to reboot Windows 2000. What kind of operating system requires a reboot to change mouse drivers? Over the two hour period, I had to reboot at least a dozen times. You know, it is at times like these when I find myself wanting my old Amiga computer back.

Anyway, I finally gave up. I pulled the plug and was able to scrounge up an old Intellimouse from the mouse box (a box of 30 or so old "dead" mice). It seemed to work ok, so I kept it.

But, I have to say that this whole experience left me deeply wondering about the future of computing. If simply getting a new mouse to work has to turn into a complicated ordeal that takes hours, then are we, as a computing-based civilization, ultimately doomed? Why is it that everything has become so complicated? In fact, on one machine I use, the Logitech mouse driver software (download) requires more than 10 megabytes. To put that in perspective, that's about 10 times the size of the entire REBOL IOS, which does a lot more than move a pointer around the screen.

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