The World's Best Mice

By Nils Dahl

Date: June 10, 2002

Some years ago, Honeywell released an innovative mouse. It used two nylon wheels mounted at right angles to each other. Excellent traction, no clogging, no cleaning ever. The mouse failed ONLY because the plant producing the circuit boards had failed to remove solder flux thoroughly. The wave soldering process tends to cause flux (nonconductive resin mixture) to spray everywhere, including the insides of the microswitches that mouse buttons trigger when you press down. I called Honeywell, talked to a very intelligent tech rep about the problem, and then used flux remover solvent from Radio Shack to flush out the microswitches. But Honeywell just sold the design to another firm and got out of the mouse business. It was a truly superb product in all respects. Mine still works.

Some time later, I went shopping for a new system. My old 386 was not capable of running the latest Windows version (95). After being closely watched and followed around the store by security at CompUSA and being ignored by the sales manager, I walked next door to a nice store that had Sony VAIO systems on closeout. It was the late days of the original Pentium. I picked out a beautiful Sony VAIO Pentium 166 system and took it home on the bus. Little did I know that I now owned another world class mouse. Yes, the Sony VAIO mouse (ps2 model) uses a unique large spindle pair inside, lowering the drive ratio of ball surface to spindle nicely. The result is a mouse that continues to work even when badly clogged. Sony may have continued that mouse design in its USB mouse - I haven't looked into that yet. My old Sony VAIO system just keeps on working. Once again, it is way too slow to run the latest Windows version (XP Home).

Now a mouse is the key to daily hard use of a computer. The Sony mouse cured my right hand carpal tunnel pains - pains caused by far too much dragging and dropping with an Apple Macintosh (Performa 635) mouse.

In both instances, one company decided to break with tradition and design a special mouse mechanism that made all the difference - at least to me. Small details matter and can make enormous differences in end user satisfaction.

Considering the major changes that are coming in computer architecture and processor design from AMD this year, I would be foolish to buy something right now. Athlon XP processors are plentiful but nForce motherboards are still scarce. So my next change will be to add Mandrake Linux to the old favorite Sony VAIO system - just to keep on using my Sony VAIO mouse. With System Commander from V Communications, handling multiple operating systems is easy, even for an old man.

My point? One company, Sony, took the time and effort to add enormous value to their system and make it uniquely desirable to the end user. In a world of generic parts put into boxes that bear different stickers, Sony chose to go the extra distance and has won my respect forever. Oh, Sony's help was also enormously impressive when I added a second hard drive to the VAIO system. Of course it was not standard procedure to clearly label IDE jumpers on cd-rom drives back in 1997 but Sony's tech people made up for that and also left me praising their attention to detail. Very nice case too.

On the other hand, I have never been able to get Microsoft's defrag utility to work with Windows 95. Someday I will have to buy a package that works. How come Microsoft provides a useless tool - or a tool that requires messing with the active task list to use?

Yes, I would gladly switch to an MSI K7N420 Pro motherboard inside the Sony case - but I have an oem branded copy of Windows 95 that might not work with the nForce motherboard bios. On the other hand, a Pentium 166 seems to work just fine with Linux. I would stay with Windows 95, but I do want to expand my knowledge of database systems considerably. Without any useful books on Lotus Approach or Corel Paradox in print these days, I just have to migrate to the world of Linux and use Adabas D (in StarOffice 6.0) or MySQL with a gui front end (oh, the glories of SQL database servers running in local mode). My Sony mouse will keep on satisfying me for years to come.

As a end note, I must mention something that most AMD supporters seem to have forgotten. The new 32-bit only hammer (destined to be named an Athlon of some sort) has a deeper pipeline than does the current Athlon core or the Thoroughbred core. This means much higher clock speeds when quality of production reaches a decent level. There is no doubt in my mind that the next generation high end single processor will eventually run faster that 2 gHz while also running cooler. But remember that qualifier "eventually". Now if AMD would only develop their very own optimizing compiler for Athlons and Hammer designs - with particularly good handling of systems based on the nForce chipsets - or at least an optimizing compiler that would help promote the mass market Athlon processor line, the people who do honest hardware testing could build impartial test suites that run under Linux. Just an idea.

Oh, for you Casio digital watch owners. Important news. If your watch ever starts to reset itself to the default time and date, open it up and clean the movement thoroughly. There is, in my TwinGraph model, a tiny strip of metal on the backside that is bent at a 90 degree angle and passing through to a copper-plated strip deep inside. This pressure contact connection can get contaminated by residue. A light blow to the case causes contact bounce - and the watch circuit gets interrupted briefly. The watch then resets to January 1, 1980. Take off the back, remove the battery, remove the movement from the case, and drop the whole movement into a small shot glass. Pour in enough window glass cleaner to cover. Swish the movement around a bit, using tweezers. Pour off cleaner, fill up with distilled water. Swish again. Pour off water and refill with more distilled water. Swish again. Remove movement, let drain, and let dry out completely overnight. If you have a convection oven, set it to 100 degrees and let the movement dry out for 30 minutes at 100 F. Everything works perfectly once again. Meanwhile, the case can be cleaned of skin oils by washing in a mixture of warm water and a bit of wool fabric detergent, rinsed, and dried thoroughly. A collection of Casio's high end watches makes a nice hobby. And their products are designed to work forever.


just an old man


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