Sunday, June 20, 2010

About a mouse

I have owned a Mac computer for a year now. My Mac came with a pointing device which Apple called “the mighty mouse”. The most distinctive feature of this device is its trackball’s silky sensitivity. The small trackball on the top moves in all directions and it responds to your fingertip’s faintest movements.

Yet to my sorrow the mighty mouse is far from mighty and it has a miserable design fault. After a short period of normal usage the trackball fails to move your mouse pointer on the screen (usually scrolling down fails).

As I was told by an Apple ‘genius’ later on, apparently the tiny gap around the trackball periphery sucks the smallest dust particles and in time they clog the trackball's gear. Within a month or so the mouse starts to fail in responding your fingertip’s commands. The mighty mouse turns into an ugly ordinary mouse.

The Apple guy whom I saw months back recommended to turn the mouse over and rub it against a piece of paper on a hard surface. So in a number of occasions I followed his instructions and the mouse recovered OK but only temporarily.

Over a week ago the mighty mouse failed for good, and despite my cleaning attempts it did not recover. In desperation I tried to open the mouse but instead broke plastic bearings around the rim and failed to fully open the lid at the back.

Frustrated I took the mouse to the Apple store in Chatswood, expecting some sympathy as I had an extended warranty worth of $268. I was refused to be looked at as I had to make an appointment with the ‘Genius Desk’  first (Apple calls their service people by that name).

I've made an appointment and a few days later I visited the same Apple store for the second time. This time ‘the genius’ turned the mouse over and rolled it on a paper, made some star and eight movements for about two minutes or so. And voila! My mighty mouse plugged in a MacBook test machine worked.

After mentioning him that I tried to open the mouse for a good clean up the genius said “I know. I noticed your mouse lid is broken. Your warranty is void.” I mentioned I did not really care too much if my warranty was void on a $69 mouse as at that point I just needed a functioning mouse. The genius recommended me to buy the new $100 wireless mouse.

Oh the wireless...

I said I found wireless mouses frustrating too as you had to change batteries every now and then. These were my last remarks. I walked out the store.

Don’t get me wrong I am in awe of everything Apple does. When I look at Apple products I can’t help but murmur “it’s a beautiful thing”.

However in this instance Apple failed to deliver the user experience they are so proud to fulfill.

First of all ‘the might mouse’ design is faulty. My work PC is a Windows machine and I have been using its mouse, oh I have forgotten, for so long, and never had to clean the damn thing. It just works.

So from my perspective compared to an ordinary PC mouse, Apple’s mighty mouse fails to deliver in a mighty way.

Secondly I can’t help noticing how we intelligent people in minority have to suffer from collective stupidity of majority opinion.

It appears that wireless mouse and wireless keyboard is nothing more than a marketing gimmick and majority has swallowed it. This was a foolish idea, it still is and it continues to frustrate many users like me.

The reasons why wireless mouse and keyboard is a bad idea are:
  1. You have to bear the stress that any minute batteries can go flat.
  2. You have to keep a spare pair of AA batteries around (you normally won’t).
  3. You have to consume a bag-full of batteries every year and pollute the environment needlessly whereas your desktop machine through its USB port could have easily powered your mouse for nothing.
I now use a $20 ordinary Windows mouse on my Mac. The mouse has a cord, it works and I am happy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I returned to fundamentals. I started to follow computer science (CS) courses at MIT. 

MIT has a great program called MIT OpenCourseWare and it is free. Lecture videos are available from uTunes. uTunes is embedded iTunes portal which makes it easier to collate course material in one place.

The following snapshot shows a portion of my desktop.

I have course video at the top, a Python script edited with iMac’s Pico editor in the middle, and the output screen at the bottom. I also have course presentation in pdf document form and browser windows in other areas of my screen. 

It is great fun, probably more fun than sitting in a classroom. I can pause the video and do a bit of programming or research on the web then get back to course. 

It is also a fantastic activity to return to fundamentals of algorithms. Being a seasoned programmer allows me to focus purely on mathematics and analysis of algorithms.

My long therm objective is to study evolutionary algorithms and perhaps write a program to simulate evolutionary systems.