The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Mouse That Roared

I had almost forgotten.

Those things that used to nag me, and I suspect many of you. The majority of us left Microsoft Windows for one reason or another. Some of our change-overs were abrupt, more often they were bit by bit, but I think the majority of us suffered at one time or another from "app withdrawal".

Did you have that one special app or hack that just made your computing day? It might have been a program like I came to count on called Shortkeys Lite.

For others, it might have been some of the heavy weights...Photoshop, Quickbooks...there are dozens that I've heard people complain about. Of course, these days many of the apps we lamented then run fairly well via wine or Crossover Office. Still, many don't and every now and then I suspect some of us long for the days when we could Ctl+alt our way into the shortcuts and apps we dearly loved.

Like an old flame though, thoughts of this do diminish with time. For me, one was the app mentioned above. Shortkeys made my tasks just fly by because I rarely had to type any word to completion. But let me tell you about the one thing I miss to this day.

I want my mouse buttons back.

Like anyone who spends long stretches of time on the computer, I am particular about the mouse/pointer device I use. I don't choose a mouse, I audition them. Over the years, I've developed a nasty case of Carpal Tunnel and I rely now upon a trackball.

Used to be, the whiz-bang, sleek, racing-striped, multi-buttoned mouse I used could do everything but get up and fix my iced tea for me. All the buttons (9 of them) were pre-mapped via Windows to do everything I needed them to. Forward, back, new tab, close tab, page up, get the idea. When I switched to Linux, I drove myself to severe distraction trying the mapping instructions I found on the internet via hotkeys and the abysmal shortage of apps for this purpose.

After months of disappoinment after disappointment, I relegated myself to mere mortal mouse manipulation. Having gotten used to my beloved trackball I couldn't go back to a regular mouse now under the best of circumstances.

Or so I thought. I said "the best of circumstances" didn't I?

How about spectacular ones?

I can't even remember what I was doing. I was banging out something inconsequental on
my laptop, and being a heavy user of that device, I have all but welded a steel plate over the touchpad. It's an understatement to say I do not like touchpads. This one in particular has worked hard to gain my that borders on wanting me to take an 8 pound hammer to it. Would it not cause severe tissue damage to other important parts of said machine, I would have pounded it to a pasty goo long ago.

Ksynaptic was my second choice behind the hammer.

Needing a mouse/device for my new laptop. I went to the place where such things in my home reside.

I dug around the large plastic bin that sits under my desk. This is where I keep my extra cables, straps, keyboards, usb paraphernalia and the rest of the important perephrials my wife refers to as junk. I was certain I had an old trackball in there somewhere and it was my intention to make it part of my laptop kit. I began taking things out of the bin when I didn't see the trackball in that first five miles of wire. That's when I saw it.

My old trusty mouse. It was almost like running into an old friend after not seeing him for a long time. I took it out and inspected it carefully. It was no worse for the wear, having spent the last two years in that box. I checked the usb end to insure it hadn't been crushed or plugged up then took it to the breakfast bar where I had my laptop set up. I plugged it in, waited for the faithful "ding" that told me the device had been recognized and I went to work. It was somewhere between monthly tax statements and this blog that I realized the most amazing of things.

The "back" button on my mouse had worked in firefox. I have become accustomed to using an extension called "firegestures". It is much more responsive than "mouse gestures" and I like using it because of that obvious snappiness. With special attention payed to what I was doing, I clicked the "forward" button on the mouse to make sure I was seeing things correctly.

I was.

I spent the next five minutes catching up with an old friend. Once I had exhausted all the possibilities in firefox, I happily set in to a comfortable rythme with my old friend...all the while silently pouting that it wasn't a "universal" tool like it was in Windows. We all know that if a feature works in one part of Windows, it most often works in the others. This is one thing I've missed most. I've gotten used to the "compartmentalized" features in Linux. This app does "a" in KDE while this app does "b" in OpenOffice. It is rare indeed when one app performs across the entire Linux system.

It's just the way of things. Or so I thought.

I opened Konqueror and began moving some files in an attempt to finish a housekeeping chore I had started earlier. Without thinking, I thumbed the back button fully expecting it to take me back to the previous page. Before I could chide myself for such silliness, I realized that the button had responded just as it was supposed to. Touching the mouse like a man that had slightly rubbed a magic lamp and produced a puff of smoke from the spout, I cautiously keyed the forward button knowing full well I was expecting miracles.

Forward we went.

I then hurridly right clicked a file and began navigating to the place it was to live. Stopping two clicks short, I clicked the back button in the move dialog. Bigger than Dallas. It navigated back in the sub-dialog box we use to choose our directory paths!

We indeed went back.

Then forward.

Then up.

And down. Twice.

Then we opened a new tab.

I thought I was going to weep with joy.

Now I don't know what has happened to the Kernel since I tossed that sleek, sexy Belkin Laser Optical mouse in that box, but I like it. Recently I found myself mostly in agreement with a Sam Varghese blog, talking about the Kernel going the direction of Corporate and away from the Desktop. Well, I'm not so sure of that at all now. I mean, this is amazing folks. Maybe this is something you've come to take for granted and your mouse buttons have been self mapped all the while.

Mine haven't and I've missed them. A lot.

So along with rethinking this Kernel thing, I need to do some checking into just what changes HAVE been made that I've either ignored or missed. I took the mouse around to every computer in my home and office. It worked superbly in all Mandriva installs, the Mepis install with one exception. It would not work in the sub-dialogs. It worked in DreamLinux in Xfce and Kde. It worked partially in Kubuntu but not so well in Ubuntu. It worked for all forward clicks there but nothing else. In all, that's more than I've been able to do in the past two years. I am a happy, happy man.

I will test it further as time allows. The Mighty Mouse I speak of isn't all that special but it's a comfortable mouse for me. lsusb as root identifies it as a Belkin, but you know how these parts are swapped in the hardware business. I am curious to see if any other multi-buttoned mice will work as well.

I will research this and see then report back here with my findings.

(two taps left with right held down to skip two spaces)

All-Righty Then...


Anonymous said...


Your comments about missing the mouse buttons is right on track with my experience.

I am currently running Kubuntu 7.10 and the buttons don't do what I miss, they do do something but I don't really know how to define what it is yet.


Ken Jennings said...

I notice a number of mousey things work better in openSuse 10.3 than in 10.2. My Kensington Bluetooth Slimblade trackball could not use the roller ball for up/down scrolling in mouse mode under openSuse 10.2, but I happily discovered it automagically worked fine with openSuse 10.3. I figure a number of drivers, or X Org things have been updated.

Though, what I'd really like to have working is one of those 3Dconnexion space controllers. I have a SpaceExplorer with a bunch of buttons and have been toying with making it a general X input device in my "copious" spare time. I think what I really need is someone smarter than myself to code it. Or at least someone with a less stingy definition of "copious" spare time.

Anonymous said...

There's an app called "imwheel" that will do all the mouse key mapping you could possibly want. Much better than screwing around with xorg.conf for such things.

Blog of helios said...

The best imwheel ever did for me was little to nothing and most of the time, frustrated me. I heard good things about imwheel, but what I am talking about here is instant gratification. In Mandriva, my mouse buttons were correctly mapped system-wide without so much as any gui adjusted or conf file tweaked. Now THAT's what I'm talking about. It looks like some folks are quietly producing the systems we need. Much to my surprise, Mepis did the same but the sub-dialogs were quiet...heck I think in windows, the sub-dialogs were quiet too...wait...
windows didn't HAVE any sub dialogs.

imagine that.


WE ARE *NIXED! said...

To me, a mouse is just a mouse. lol

Then again, I can easily see why having a multifunction mouse is cool, especially considering the time saved.

Blog of helios said...

I had myself talked into the same thinking until I get back what I had before. As much time as we spend on these machines, it is nice to just tap a side button instead of moving the mouse all the way up to the top and clicking it. I know that sounds silly but it really makes a big difference. All that is nice to see that we are getting our stuff together. finally.

WE ARE *NIXED! said...

Just as long is it's meant to work harder, not be lazier... :P

Check your inbox man. I left you a little present. ;)