A Tale of Two Mice

People sometimes wonder why I’m always slagging Microsoft. No, really. Apparently it’s not obvious to some people.

So here’s an example. I recently changed my computer setups, both at the office and at home, from using wired trackballs to wireless mice. The mouse I installed at the office was from Microsoft. The mouse I installed at home was from Logitech. Both items cost about the same amount of money, and have essentially the same features.

Installing the Microsoft Mouse

  • The packaging on the Microsoft mouse urged me to install the software first. Its dire warnings implied that the fate of the world depended on it. So I installed the software. During the installation, it detected my Logitech trackball software, and refused to proceed unless I uninstalled it. So I uninstalled the trackball (which also uninstalled my Logitech keyboard software), and installed the Microsoft mouse software.
  • I was then prompted to reboot the computer. (Huh? When’s the last time you had to reboot just because you installed a piece of software? What is this, 1996?).
  • After rebooting, I plugged in the mouse and was prompted to configure it, which I did. Then I had to reboot, again. (I don’t think this second reboot is a normal part of the installation, but it simply wouldn’t work until I rebooted again.)
  • Then I had to reinstall the Logitech software in order to get the special features of my keyboard back. I also had to go through it and re-set my keyboard preferences, since they had been lost when I was forced to uninstall it.

Installing the Logitech Mouse

  • I plugged it in, and it worked.
  • I had the option (option) of installing software to enable the special features, which I did. It required no reboot.

There is no rational explanation for this. However, it is entirely consistent with other Microsoft experiences I’ve had, plus things I’ve read about, in which Microsoft doesn’t just want you to have a computer with an operating system and applications; they want everything to be fully integrated and dependent upon each other.

They call this progress. They think that a mouse is only fully a mouse if it is entwined right into the kernel of the operating system. They think your Web browser needs to be woven into your word processor, which needs to be meshed with your email program. They think the average person gets out of bed thanking the Microsoft gods for their ability to embed an Excel spreadsheet into a Word document and to email it without having to open Outlook.


Nobody cares about that crap. Sure, people want their applications to be able to talk to each other, but they don’t need them to be interwoven to the point of having to reboot the system every time you add or remove something.

The worse part, and the part that Microsoft seems to have the greatest difficultly understanding (or at least caring about) is that the more interwoven those applications are with the operating system, the more vulnerable the entire system becomes. That’s a big part of why a Windows virus can hide in a Word document or a hidden script can run in an Outlook email that burrows right in and wrecks everything.

No more Microsoft peripherals for me. No way.

20 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Mice

  1. It’ll be a dark day if MS buys Logitech :(

    I also remember, in my first days of tech support, years back, when IBM (Is Bitching Manly?) had IBM modems that were incompatible with IBM stinkpad laptops. We had to install 3rd party drivers to get the modem to work. The Stinkpad could never detect the modem unless we did so and only then could we install the IBM driver.

    MS is the same with hardware. MicroSOFT not MicroHARD. They should stick to software.

  2. Or better yet, “Of Mice and Microsoft”?
    I swear, when the kid is old enough, I’m having it* go and run on your lawn, just to see you come running out and yell for it to get off. Damned kids.

    *Still don’t know if it’s an innie or an outie.

  3. Frankly, I used to install the software coming with the Microsoft mouse and keyboard, thinking it was worth something … but I finally gave all that up very quickly.

    XP SP2 integrates _most_ of the features from the keyobard, most I don’t really care. Mouse features are shortcuts I again don’t particularly mind, nor am impressed with. Finally, the few games I have understand all these nifty buttons very easily without any kind of driver. Oh, even worse, the drivers account for a lot of lag out of some of my games.

    On Mac (old OSes), the only thing worth mentioning is the ability to switch Alt and Command with their driver. Now it’s bundled in with Mac OS, and frankly, there are freewares installing less clutter and resulting in the same switch.

    I really enjoy Microsoft keyboards and mices, and since the end of the “everything ergonomic” era of a few years ago, they are the only ones making affordable ergonomic keyboards, their warranty is very potent (replace, no questions asked). All in all, at least for k&m, they are very good designers. But as usual, the software part … well … anyways.

  4. Why don’t you give Ubuntu a try? It’s tagline is “Linux for human beings” (as opposed to uber-nerds), and it really lives up to it. You’ve all the dork power, security, and stability for which Unix is famed, but Ubuntu really emphasises making it usable for regular schmucks.

    IMO, the Ubuntu OS GUI is superior in usability terms to Windows – I haven’t used Mac OS in about 10 years so I don’t know how it stacks up against that. The installation is a snap, it even walks you through partitioning your hard drive, so you can have both Windows and Ubuntu on the same box – you’re prompted to choose which you OS you want at startup.

    Excluding the time it takes to download the OS, you should be able to get it up and running within an hour, and adding/removing applications is a breeze. Instead of hunting around the internet for installers. You just go to add/remove programs, type in the name of the program you’re looking for (or select it from the list of those available) and click install. The OS takes care of downloading the binaries, installing them, and ensures that the libraries don’t conflict with any other apps installed.

    Alternatively, just keep whingeing about Windows….

  5. Oh fer… If Microslop buys Logitech I’m going back to paper and pencil. DAMN!

    Donal, I’ve been thinking about trying Ubuntu for a while. Perhaps I’ll give it a shot. The only problem, really, is that I use a couple of different versions of Paintshop Pro on a pretty regular basis for photo work, and it’s Windows only. (I’ve tried The Gimp and I don’t like it.)

    But that opens up a bigger question in general, which is that I need to move up to a better photo handling package anyway. Either Apple Aperture of Adobe Lightroom. This is one of my missions for 2008; to decide if I’m going to try to squeeze another couple of years out of this Dell, or if I’m going to go Mac.

    One place I will NOT be going is any farther with Microsoft. No way José with regard to Vista. FDS! But I’ve half a mind to reinstall XP, as a fresh install would be like a breath of fresh air. Except I know that’s an all day operation (when you factor in reinstalling all the software, getting all the updates, resetting all the preferences, etc.)

  6. I have never encountered a mouse that was improved by third party drivers. Your Microsoft mouse would very likely have worked just fine had you just plugged it in. I’ve got an old Explorer, the first optical mouse Microsoft produced, it cost me over 100$ back in the day and I’m still using it. It works great under 10.3.9 on my Blue and White G3. (I agree with you about Microsoft’s software often having issues of suck, but their hardware has always been solid, IMHO) Up until a little while ago it was the mouse I was using in Windows, now I’m using a Logitech G5 and I love it, especially the way you can weight it differently and adjust the sensitivity in hardware.

    I agree with you about Vista. I’ve never met such a resource hog! XP is great with proper maintenance. My advice is to avoid the whole re-install process. Do it once, install all your drivers and software, then use Norton Ghost and image your drive. That way if you have to reformat it takes way less time and you boot into Windows with all your stuff already there! (This is a good strategy on the Mac as well, actually, though you can just use the Disk Utility to make an image, no third party software required, just boot from CD)

  7. It’s true that the mouse would likely have worked without installing the extra software, but since the mouse is wireless and has some extra buttons, I figured it might not have the extra fuctionality (e.g., ability to map the buttons and to display battery strength, etc.) I sure never expected to have to uninstall my keyboard and do two reboots!

  8. I’m using Lightroom for processing and organizing raw images, and am quite happy with it. You can go either Mac or Windows with it. I haven’t tried Aperture yet, because my current machine is too slow. That will changed next week. :)

    For what it’s worth, the Microsoft five-button mouse I bought a few years ago works with my Mac fine with no third-party drivers. Buttons can be assigned at will. Don’t know about wireless mice, as I think the idea of putting batteries in your keyboard and mouse is the spawn of the devil.

    My argument for going to Mac is: You get MS Office, Adobe CS, lots of shareware, a fair number of games, a very usable and stable OS, and a rather pretty (and afforable) box to put it all in. You don’t get viruses, corrupted registries, DLL Hell, instability creep, processes that you can’t quit (like MSN Messenger), and the idiotic Start menu.

    Oh, and you can run your Windows apps on the Mac if you want.

  9. Jim, I saw an extended demo of Lightroom a few months ago, and I was pretty impressed. It looks like it’s great for RAW workflow and basic editing. But there was one thing that really disappointed me — you can’t select a region for editing, which means if you want to edit a region you have to hop out of Lightroom and into some other editing program like Photoshop. I’m really hoping for a one-stop shop.

    And for what it’s worth, I’d have a Mac RIGHT NOW if I had an extra two and a half thousand dollars sitting around waiting for a purpose. But disposable income is running low for this year, as we’re about to splurge on an HDTV setup, plus I have some expensive dental work coming up. That’s why I’m hoping to squeeze another year or so out of the ol’ Dell.

  10. Neither Lightroom nor Aperture will provide layers or controls for editing only portions of an image. That’s not their purpose.

    All adjustments done in Lightroom are non-destructive. No actual pixels are ever touched. The adjustments are recorded either in the application database or in XMP sidecar files, and the corrections are applied in real time as you work. The original file is never modified. I wouldn’t expect these applications to offer layers or selections any time soon.

    The other thing Lightroom does is file management, and it has powerful metadata tools (which I’m not using very effectively — laziness). And there’s now a plugin for direct export to Flickr.

    So unfortunately, you still need an image editor for selections, HDR images, and other advanced stuff. However, I do 90% of my work in Lightroom, and I am much faster at processing my images than before.

    I hear your pain about tight budgets and older machines. My current Mac is in its seventh year. I ordered a new four-core machine just this week when the price dropped. I seriously considered a 24-inch iMac, but decided that I wanted multiple internal drives for my media libraries.

  11. yes, I’m aware of the non-destructive aspect of those applications, I just hoped it would include the ability to isolate regions for editing. Oh well.

    The thing is, I don’t fully “get” the workflow, even though I saw it demo’d extensively. So you got your RAW file photo of your cat, which you organize and tag and all that, then you do some (non-destructive) editing, but then you want to do some layers work. I guess you have to export the file then, which creates a second file that you work on in Photoshop. But does that second file retain the metadata that the original had? How (if at all) are the two files linked?

    This is important to me, because I always keep orginal copies (just like negatives), and my workflow has always been file-based. So I get the original file, immediately make a copy, and then edit it. Maybe I’ll put it on my photo blog, which requires it to be scaled down to 900 pixels wide. Now I’m working on a copy in a different folder from the original, and there is no connection between them. Any further editing is confined to that version only. Not a great way to work, which is why I want to use Lightroom or Aperture and start using a database workflow.

    A second HD for media files is definitely the best way to work. That’s what I have on my Dell, although it essentially holds just the original photos. Mirrors of my Flickr photos, blog photos, photoblog photos, etc. are all on my main drive. (Not sure why… just worked out that way.)

    If I go Mac I’ll certainly go iMac, but I’ll probably get a big fat Firewire external drive for photos and music, etc.

  12. I had the same uncertainties about the Lightroom workflow, but I’ve become quite comfortable with it. My typical workflow is like this:

    – Import the raw file into Lightroom. File and tag with appropriate keywords (well, that last bit about keywords is wishful thinking).

    – Adjust colour temperature and exposure if necessary. Many of Lightroom’s colour controls are more sophisticated than Photoshop’s. The PSD is stored next to the raw file, with “-Edit” appended to the file name.

    – If the image requires Photoshop work, I launch Photoshop from within Lightroom. Lightroom creates a PSD or TIFF based on the adjustments I have made, and opens it in Photoshop.

    – I make my edits in Photoshop and save the file. I then return to Lightroom.

    – Lightroom stacks the PSD and the raw file together as a single thumbnail. It shows the most recent version, which in this case is the PSD. I can continue to adjust the PSD using Lightroom’s controls.

    – I then export the edited file using one of several custom presets for email, Flickr, print, or whatever.

  13. Gah. There’s a copy-and-paste error in that last post. The bit about the naming of the PSD files belongs at the end of the next bullet point.

  14. I can confirm that you can just plug the MS mouse in and it will work, no problems. Its the instructions that are misleading.

    Having said that. I did installed the MS software that came with my mouse and ended up deactivating all the extra ‘features’ (magnification, page forward/back, etc).

  15. Well, it doesn’t surprise me to hear that it really is P&P. But I suppose I was being cautious, as Microsoft has a habit of pulling fast ones, so I though I might save time by doing it by the book. Apparently not.

  16. It is as you say: the packaging/documentation that comes with it does strongly suggest that if you do not install the software first, you will damage the hardware in some way. If I remember correctly there is even a tag near the USB connection that warns you *again* against plugging it in without installing the software. I wonder if this in the end creates more problems then it solves.

  17. I hereby declare this 8th day of March, 2008 be the day I switch to a MAC. And I apologize to all the corporations (but take no liability) and to all the people within for the thousands of high tech instruments I installed with a PC.

    Currently trying to download the free trial download of Adobe 8 before deciding to buy it to windows vista on the worlds slowest computer, a compaq pressario. I really must go as there is only 9 hrs of light left in the day for this scientist to make this download a success.

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