Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

How to Keep Your Mouse Fit, Happy

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

How to Keep Your Mouse Fit, Happy

Article excerpt

"Help! My mouse is dying."

The plaintive voice on the phone reminded me of a 6-year-old with a sick pet.

But it was a friend having trouble with the little pointing device that makes user-friendly PCs so friendly. He had discovered what may be the weakest link in today's computer systems.

I've never had a mouse that didn't give me trouble somewhere down the line. This can be a real problem, because when your mouse dies, you're out of luck if you're working on a Macintosh or an IBM PC running Microsoft Windows. Graphical interfaces are designed for pointing and clicking. Yes, theoretically, you can survive in Microsoft Windows by using the keyboard. But theoretically, you can survive a nuclear war, too.

Fortunately, you can keep your mouse working longer and better with proper care and cleaning.

First, a bit about how mice work. Most mice packaged with home and small business systems today are mechanical. The mechanism consists of a ball that rolls over the desktop as you move your hand and rotates against two small wheels inside the plastic mouse housing. Those wheels turn the movement of the ball into electrical impulses that travel over cable to the back of your computer. The electrical signals translate into the movement of the mouse pointer on the screen.

The main enemy of the mouse is dirt. Even a surface that looks clean can be a repository for all kinds of invisible grit and grime. As the mouse rolls across the surface under the pressure of your hand, the ball picks up that grit and transfers it to the directional wheels inside.

To prevent problems, clean your work surface regularly. It's also a good idea to invest in a mouse pad, a small, quarter-inch-thick piece of the stuff they use to make scuba divers' wet suits. The mouse pad provides friction for the ball, which can otherwise slip on a smooth desktop, and a soft cushion so that the ball won't flatten under the weight of your hand.

You can get a plain-Jane mouse pad for $4 or $5 at computer stores. …

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