Saturday, December 16, 2006

OK, Apple really needs to fix the Mighty Mouse scroll ball

The Mighty Mouse is just perfect. The way it implements right-clicking is probably the best possible way: it will still let you left-click with your entire palm, not just your first two fingers, reducing the chance for repetitive-stress injury. Right-clicking may be a bit tricky, what with remembering to lift your fingers off the left side, but in the last few months, I haven't had a single missed right-click.

And don't even get me started on scrolling. It's absolutely indispensable. In the past, I've bitched about what I call "dumb scrolling" (and what Apple called "smart scrolling back then), i.e. having both scroll arrows on one end of a scroll bar. I still insist that the only way that makes sense from a usability point of view is having both arrows on both ends. However, today, I simply no longer care. Who needs scroll arrows when you have the Mighty Mouse?

Well, unfortunately, you do when your mouse stops scrolling. My pet peeves are silent failures: any minute, your mouse can just lose its scrolling functionality. At least, this failure is "silent" in a good way: the artificial clicking sound the mouse emits while scrolling will also go away, letting you know that it's your mouse that's failing (again), not some software problem.

Apple is aware of the problem, and details how it recommends you clean the ball when that happens. (Turn the mouse upside down, and roll the ball vigorously with a clean, moist, lint-free cloth.) A Google search will also yield useful tips, like blowing pressurized air inside the assembly.

Unfortunately, these tips solve the problem only temporarily. In my case, it has come to the point where I'm rubbing my mouse's scroll ball after every three to fifteen minutes of use. I'm going to have my mouse replaced under warranty, and I hope Apple will fix this flawed design as soon as possible. Public acknowledgment of the problem would also be nice, though that might easily cost Apple actual money in class-action lawsuits, so I'm not holding my breath.


Anonymous said...

Yep, exactly the same problems here... needing to 'clean' it way too often. I'd probably have stumped up the extra cash and got myself the cordless version of this great mouse if not for that one particular fault.

Anonymous said...

How to clean the "mouseball" so it stays clean (for a few weeks, maybe).

Materials needed: Bounty paper towel. Windex.

Spray the towel to dampen and place on table. Spray the digit of your finger you roll the trackball with and rub it across the towel to clean it. Spray finger again and shake away excess windex. Now turn pick up the mouse, turn it over and roll the ball in every direction. Make sure when you pick up the mouse, you don't touch anything except the ball with the windexed finger. Now rub the finger across the towel to clean while still holding the mouse. Repeat rolling the ball and wiping finger on dryest part of the towel. The mouse should work fine now.

Anonymous said...

What I do is use a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol. Get the swab good and moist, unplug the mouse rub the swab over the ball vigorously for a minute. Try turning the mouse upside down and clean it that way too. I used this method weeks ago and my scroll wheel has worked great. If the swab gets dirty then you are doing it correctly.

Anonymous said...

Windex and Bounty work well in MOST cases. I hate to admit it, but for the most part the culprit is Doritos! or (insert your favorite computer snack food here).

Case in point: I have used a MM at the office since the day they were available. I use it five days a week, nine hours a day. I've had to clean it maybe three times since I plugged it in. I was so pleased with it's performance that I bought one for the home computer about nine months ago. OOPS!

The real difficulty is that my 12-year-old son also uses the home computer. After a couple of weeks, the scroll ball began to skip or otherwise flake out. Bounty and Windex worked well the first twenty or so times I cleaned it, but began to fail to work a couple of months into the regemin. Snack foods were banned at the computer, but the problem persisted. Then, one afternoon I discovered the problem.

My son was snacking on Doritos (HIS vavorite snack chip) in the kitchen between scenarios of a game, and runing back to the computer with Dorito dust on his fingers. (At least he isn't eating them AT the computer.)

After no amount of cleaning could revive the roller ball, I took the MM apart and removed the scroll ball to clean the parts individually. What I found was nothing less than revolting. The ENTIRE mechanism was CAKED in an oily goo that could have only come from an amalgamation of Doritos, Fritos and Cheetos! (We gotta lay off the chips!)

We now use the one button mouse that came with the iMac. There is a certain brilliance that is the one button mouse. No matter how oily your fingers or how it is used, no chip goo finds its way into the mechanism.

Puiz said...

Thanks for the tips, I'll try one of them...!