Bluetooth Adapters not the Same as Built-in Bluetooth

I see the difference with a wireless Mighty Mouse.

I’ve been using a dual G5 computer for about 4 years now. Just this week, I finally set up its replacement, a 24″ iMac.

Wireless Mighty MouseAt least six months ago, I treated myself to a wireless Mighty Mouse. I knew I needed to write about it for my upcoming Leopard book and wanted to get the hang of using it.

Trouble was, my G5 didn’t have Bluetooth built in. No problem, I figured. I’d just use the Bluetooth adapter I’d bought years ago when I had to write about Bluetooth for my Tiger book. The adapter is a USB device that plugs into one of the computer’s USB ports. I plugged it into the keyboard, which had two ports.

That started a love-hate relationship with the Mighty Mouse. At first, it worked perfectly fine. I got used to the little roller ball on top and loved being able to scroll in any direction. Although it took a while to get used to clicking on the left — rather than middle — of the mouse for a standard click, I was soon clicking flawlessly with left and right clicks as needed. I really loved the mouse.

But, after a while, the mouse started losing its connection with the Mac multiple times throughout the day. It got so bad that I kept the old mouse connected via USB, just so I could mouse around when the wireless mouse got disconnected. That made me hate the mouse.

I was so discouraged that when I bought my new iMac, I decided to buy a wired keyboard and mouse. I simply wasn’t prepared to continue dealing with this problem.

Long story short — I wound up using the wired mouse with my G5 until I got the iMac set up. So I tried the wireless Mighty Mouse with the iMac during the setup process. And guess what? It worked flawlessly and continues to do so.

My conclusion from all this: a Bluetooth adapter is not as reliable as a built-in Bluetooth connection. I don’t know if the problem lies with where the adapter was connected — I tried it in the keyboard, on the G5′s front USB port, and in a powered USB hub with the same results (although the adapter made an audible whine when plugged into the hub). Or if the problem is with the adapter itself — I can’t find a brand name on it, although it does have a logo.

Having trouble with your wireless Mighty Mouse? If you’re using a Bluetooth adapter, it might be the adapter and not the mouse.

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Putting Your Keyboard in the Dishwasher

And other tricks for getting grime off your computer equipment.

DishwasherI just listened to an NPR Podcast called “Are Computer Keyboards Dishwasher Safe?” In it, the reporter tells of her research and hands on experience with cleaning a dirty computer keyboard in the dishwasher. She found that although keyboard manufacturers warned against cleaning a keyboard with water, she and another computer user gave it a try. After letting hers air dry for a full week, she found that it worked fine.

And of course, it was very clean.

Now I’m not suggesting that you unplug your keyboard and throw it in the dishwasher with tonight’s dinner dishes. And I won’t be held responsible for damages if you do decide to give it a try. But her results support something a fellow instructor used to say when we taught Macintosh troubleshooting classes together years ago: computer keyboards are dishwasher safe.

Me, I’m a coward. Instead of having to clean a keyboard after months or years of use, I simply buy a keyboard “skin” that fits perfectly over it. The plastic membrane is so flexible that I have no trouble typing right through it. And, after about a week to get used to the feel, I don’t even notice it anymore. As a result, all of my keyboards are as clean as they were the day I bought them — under that plastic membrane, of course.

Of course, having the keyboard skin over my keyboards has made me a bit sloppy at lunchtime. Spills and crumbs simply don’t bother me because I know they won’t harm the keyboard.

I do recall the old days, when I used to clean my keyboards by hand. Pop off the keys and soak them in a bowl of Fantastik spray cleaner. Rinse well and dry. Then put the keys back on — where they belonged. A huge amount of work. I guess you can see why I switched to the skins.

On a related note, the battery in my wireless Mighty Mouse died today. I decided to take the opportunity to clean the rodent — by submerging it in a drinking glass of 90% isopropyl alcohol. I got the idea from MacOSXHints and I referenced it in an article I wrote here about my initial Mighty Mouse impressions.

The dirt practically slid off the mouse as I repeatedly dipped it in the alcohol. (My nail polish almost did, too.) A little rubbing on the obviously dirty areas finished it off. It was tough to resist the temptation to rinse it off when I was done, but I set it out on a piece of paper towel to dry. Trouble is, it didn’t dry as quickly as I expected. Now I’m wondering if it’s still wet in the places I can’t see. I’m going to let it dry overnight.

Of course, with half a bottle of alcohol in a drinking glass, I couldn’t resist giving my wireless Microsoft mouse the same treatment. (Didn’t want to throw all that alcohol away without using it to the max.) And I’m afraid to plug that one in now, too.

Use the Comments link or form to share your experiences.

Footnote: After drying my Mighty Mouse for about 6 hours (in the Arizona desert, mind you), I put in some fresh batteries and turned it on. It works fine!

More on Mighty Mouse

Apple Bluetooth Wireless Mighty MouseAn update to my Mighty Mouse experiment…and a cleaning tip.

I’ve been using my new wireless Mighty Mouse for about a month now, which I think is a fair amount of time for an evaluation. Because there seems to be so much interest in this topic here, I thought I’d give readers an update.

Here’s what I’ve experienced so far:

  • From the start, I began having problems left clicking (normal clicking). After years of using a regular Apple mouse, my hand had found a comfortable position on the device. This mouse feels pretty much the same under my hand, but my hand position is all wrong. My fingertips aren’t close enough to the “top end” of the mouse. Thus, many of my clicks aren’t recognized as clicks at all. I’ve been working on this — it’s basically re-teaching myself a motor skill — and am having much better results. Still, I’d say that a full 10% of my clicks — primarily those that I attempt right after reaching for the mouse from the keyboard — are not recognized. That’s down from about 50%, so I’m definitely making progress.
  • About 50% of the time, I Control-click (rather than simply right-click) to display a contextual menu. Again, this is a motor skill — I’ve been doing it that way for so long, that a right click just isn’t natural. Oddly enough, I use a right click 100% of the time when using my wireless Microsoft mouse. (I think it’s because my second finger feels like it’s in its own space: a right mouse button.) I’m working on this.
  • I absolutely love the track ball. Of all the mouse’s features, the ball is the one that really sets it apart from its competition. Although I mostly use it for vertical scrolling, I’m delighted when I remember to use it to scroll horizontally, too.
  • I do not use the side buttons. They don’t have enough of a mechanical feel to them — no “click.” Plus, the squeeze feels unnatural to me. Perhaps I’ll take advantage of this feature in the future.
  • I’ve had one or two instances where the mouse connection failed. I don’t know why. It could be because I’m on an old dual G5 and rely on a USB Bluetooth adapter for Bluetooth connectivity.

Am I happy with it? Well, let’s just say that I’m not unhappy with it.

One of the things that came up in comments on my “How to Configure a Mighty Mouse” post was cleaning. I haven’t had to clean the mouse yet — other than to scrape some accumulated junk off the base of the mouse with a fingernail.

There were some pretty good suggestions in the comments, but I also stumbled upon a post on titled “Cleaning Mighty Mouse and other rodents” by DocChaos. In it, he suggests a short soak in a high concentration of alcohol. (And no, I don’t mean Jack Daniels.) Read the post to get the details before you try this. Although he doesn’t mention removing the battery, I would think that’s a good idea.

How to Configure a Mighty Mouse

A look at the Mouse preferences pane.

Apple Bluetooth Wireless Mighty MouseWell, I finally broke down and bought one. A wireless Mighty Mouse.

Because all new desktop Macs come with a Mighty Mouse, I need to be able to write about it for my upcoming Leopard book. So I bought one from last week and it arrived on my doorstep today. I wasted no time opening the box and setting it up.

That Mousy Feeling

Before I go into some detail about Mighty Mouse settings, I want to comment about the feel of this mouse. Anyone who spends a lot of time at a computer gets used to the feel of the mouse he uses. I’m almost embarrassed to say that I’ve been using the standard Apple USB mouse that came with my Dual G5 since I bought the machine in 2003. I’m familiar with the way it feels under my hand and I have grown to like it — even though it only has one button. I have two other mice that I use with my laptops; I reviewed and commented on them in one of this site’s most popular articles, “Mouse Wars: Microsoft vs. Logitech.” Although I have hooked up one of these mice to my Dual G5 in the past, I went back to the original mouse after a very short time.

Now I’m getting ready for my next desktop Mac purchase, which is likely to be a 24″ iMac. I plan to buy that with a wireless Mighty Mouse and wireless keyboard. So figured I may as well start getting used to the feel of the mouse by using it on my G5 now.

In general, the Mighty Mouse feels good under my hand. It has much the same shape as the old USB mouse, so it’s familiar. Apple didn’t try to go ergonomic (like Microsoft and Logitech did), so it didn’t fail miserably (like Logitech did). Instead, Apple stuck to the same basic design, which should make longtime Mac users like me happy.

Once configured (as instructed below), you can set up a Mighty Mouse as a two-button mouse. That’s what I did. Although the mouse has just one physical button for your fingertips, the mouse can somehow sense which finger you’re using to click. So far, this seems to work pretty well, although I have managed to display a contextual menu more than a few times with what I thought was a left click. Looks like I can’t be sloppy with my clicking when using this mouse. I’ll need some motor skill retraining.

I like the silly little roller ball. It makes it possible to scroll on two axes — horizontally and vertically. It feel tiny and insignificant under my finger — so tiny, in fact, that it tickles. But it works a lot better than I expected it to.

Configuring the Mouse

Mouse SettingsYou configure the Mighty Mouse by setting options in the Mouse panel of the Keyboard & Mouse preferences pane. Choose Apple > System Preferences and click the Keyboard & Mouse icon in the System Preferences window that appears. Then click the Mouse button at the top of the preferences pane. It should look like what you see here.

If the options don’t look like what you see here, here are some things to check:

  • Is the Mighty Mouse attached to (if USB) or paired with (if Bluetooth) your computer?
  • Is the Mighty Mouse the only mouse attached to or paired with your computer?
  • If a Bluetooth Mighty Mouse, is it turned on? Are the batteries properly installed? Do the batteries have power?
  • Have you installed the software that came with the Mighty Mouse and followed the installation instructions?

The settings are pretty straightforward.

First of all, you can use pop-up menus to indicate what each button on the mouse should do. While I keep referring to a Mighty Mouse as a “two-button” mouse, it really has four buttons: left, right, scroll, and sides (two buttons counting as one). You can program each of them for specific tasks:

  • Primary button is normally the left mouse button on a two-button mouse.
  • Secondary button is normally the right mouse button on a two-button mouse. This is usually used to display contextual menus.
  • Exposé – All Windows activates the Exposé feature, displaying all windows. This is the same as pressing F9.
  • Exposé – App Windows activates the Exposé feature, displaying all application windows. This is the same as pressing F10.
  • Exposé – Desktop activates the Exposé feature, displaying the Desktop. This is the same as pressing F11.
  • Dashboard activates Dashboard. This is the same as pressing F12.
  • Application Switcher activates the application switcher. This is the same as pressing Command-Tab.
  • Spotlight activates the Spotlight menu. This is the same as pressing Command-Spacebar.
  • Other displays an Open dialog that you can use to choose an item that should be opened when you press the button. This makes it possible to launch applications or open documents by pressing a button on the mouse.

The Scrolling Options menu enables you to specify how the scroll bar should work when you move it (not when you press it). The options include Off, Vertical Only, Vertical and Horizontal, and 360 Degree.

Three sliders at the bottom of the window enable you to set speeds for:

  • Tracking is the mouse’s speed across the screen.
  • Scrolling is the scroll ball’s scrolling speed.
  • Double-Click is the amount of time between clicks to be recognized as a double-click.

At the very bottom of the screen is a check box that, when enabled, activates a program’s zoom feature when a key you specify is held down. You can further fine-tune the zooming feature by clicking the Options button and setting a few extra options.

Make the Most of It

Although you can configure a Mighty Mouse to work just like a regular one-button mouse, doing so would prevent you from getting the most of your mouse. Play around with the settings. I have mine set with primary and secondary buttons, Dashboard on the scroll button, and Exposé on the sides. (I don’t use Exposé much, but I also don’t like squeezing the buttons together.)

If you’ve been using Mighty Mouse for a while and have some tips to share about using it, please use the Comments link to share them. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would be interested in learning more about getting the most of this device.

Mouse Wars: Microsoft vs. Logitech

I try out two wireless mice and have a clear winner.

One of the things I don’t like about using a laptop is the trackpad. While I’ll take a trackpad over a trackball any day, neither of them come close to the pointing precision I can achieve with a regular mouse.

A lot of the work I do on my desktop Mac (which is fully recovered now; thanks for asking) is layout work where I commonly drag objects with pixel precision. If I had to do that with a trackpad, I’d go nuts. And while I don’t often do any kind of layout work on my laptops, I really prefer a mouse.

My Microsoft Wireless Mouse

Microsoft Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse 3000 -SlateA while back, as a test, I bought a Microsoft Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse 3000. That’s a big name for a little pointing device. I liked the mouse’s ergonomic design and the way it fit into my hand so nicely. It tracked well, pointed well, clicked well. And the roller ball between the two buttons was soon something I began using regularly. And that’s a lot to say from someone who has been using single-button Apple mice for the past 18 years with no complaints. Best of all, the darn thing retails for only $30.

The only thing I didn’t like about the Microsoft mouse was that it wasn’t Bluetooth. Yes, it was wireless, but to use it I had to stick a small receiver/transmitter do-dad into one of my USB ports. Not a big deal, since I don’t usually have anything connected to my laptop anyway. But the USB thing is also the on/off switch for the mouse. When you’re finished using it, you’re supposed to pull out the USB thing and fit it into a specially-designed slot on the bottom of the mouse. That triggers the off switch, thus cutting power to the device and stopping any drain on the battery. My problem — or perhaps I should say one of my problems — is that I have a mind like a sieve sometimes and simply can’t remember to go through this procedure when I’m finished working.

To be fair, there hasn’t been any penalty yet. I’ve been using the mouse on and off for over a year, forget to turn it off about half the time I use it, and it’s still on its original battery. It has some kind of standby mode that sense when you’ve stopped working and reduces battery drain. So it’s not like I’m going through batteries at an alarming rate. I’m not.

So, in summary, I liked everything about the Microsoft mouse except for this silly USB thing.

My Logitech Mouse

Logitech V270 Cordless Optical Bluetooth Mouse- CharcoalIn an effort to improve the situation, I bought a Logitech v270 Cordless Optical Bluetooth mouse. Now I don’t want you to think I was going to just throw away the Microsoft Mouse. I wasn’t. I happen to have more than one laptop and I also thought that I might start using a wireless mouse with my desktop machine. In fact, that’s what I originally bought it for. I have lots of USB devices and didn’t want to use up one of the ports on my hub. Besides, I’m trying hard to reduce the rat’s nest of wires behind my desk and figured a wireless mouse for everyday use would remove one wire.

Logitech is a company that has been around for a while. They’ve been making input devices perhaps as long as I’ve been using Macs. Their products are usually very good. But this particular mouse — which, at $50, cost almost twice as much as the Microsoft mouse — pretty much sucks.

Okay, so it doesn’t have the same perfect ergonomic shape that fits my hand so well. I wasn’t going to hold that against it. I figured that Microsoft got lucky with that design, or maybe that I got lucky that Microsoft’s design was so perfect for me. I couldn’t expect every mouse to fit so well. So that’s not what drove me to my decision.

It’s the tracking. The mouse is terrible. I can’t put my finger on it (no pun intended), but it just doesn’t seem as smooth. I can’t get the same precision. It’s frustrating and distracting and makes it difficult to get my work done without a lot of extra thought and effort.

To be fair, I tried both mice on several different computers, including my Dual G5 production machine, my 12″ PowerBook G4, my Dell Latitude 820D laptop, and my new 15″ MacBook Pro. The results were the same on every single machine. The only difference is that I had some difficulty pairing up the Logitech Bluetooth mouse on one or two of the machines. The Microsoft mouse worked perfectly on every machine — Mac and PC — as soon as I plugged in the silly USB do-dad. And it tracked perfectly, just like a wired mouse.

Mighty Mouse

Apple Bluetooth Wireless Mighty MouseApple sells a wireless mouse called Mighty Mouse. (It’s amazing to me how Apple comes up with these names.) It’s been discussed in comments elsewhere on this site. I got a chance to work a wired version of this mouse at the Chandler Apple Store a few weeks ago. It’s a two-button mouse without physical buttons. It seems to work well. I’ll be checking out the wireless version soon enough, since I need to write about it for my Leopard book.

The reviews on the Apple Store Web site are pretty much split. Some people absolutely love Mighty Mouse while others absolutely hate it. An Apple person I spoke to admitted in a whisper that he hated it. It’s certainly the most expensive of the bunch, retailing for $70.

I didn’t think there would be a reason to “hate” a wireless mouse until I bought the Logitech mouse. I assumed they all worked as well as the Microsoft Mouse when it came to tracking. But the Logitech mouse proved that they don’t. I don’t know how Mighty Mouse will perform yet for me, but I’ll be writing about it here sometime in the future.

My Ratings

The bottom line is this: I tried two wireless mice. I very much like one (love is too strong a word) and really don’t like the other (hate is also too strong a word). If I had to rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, here’s how I would do it:

Microsoft Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse 3000

[rate 4.5]

Logitech v270 Cordless Optical Bluetooth mouse

[rate 1.5]

Any thoughts? Use the Comments link to share them.