back to article User spent 20 minutes trying to move mouse cursor, without success

Welcome again to On-Call, in which The Register brings you readers’ tales of tech support traumas. This week, meet “Wanda”, who found herself called upon to some citizen sysadminnery when shopping. Wanda’s story started with a broken mobile phone and a desire to replace it. Said desire took her into a retail outlet where a …

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              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Keyboard ecosystems

                > Ask your vet what the most effective treatment for feline herpes is. (In cats it crops up as an eye infection) -- Silver Nitrate 0.5%USP drops.

                Fun fact: silver nitrate drops in the eyes of newborns used to be standard treatment if the mother was suspected of having an STD. (Otherwise the baby could go blind.)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          Yesterday I spilt a glass of water on my IBM SK-8815 keyboard. I haven't rebooted yet and it didn't miss a beat, I think my heart did though.

          Quality beats cheap.

          1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

            Re: Keyboard ecosystems

            That doesn't apply to all keyboards. I like my Unicomp keyboards, and they're a decent evolution of the IBM Model M, but unfortunately not quite as maintainable. The casing can be unscrewed, and the keys individually cleaned, but the circuit board is almost impossible to disassemble.

            After a drink accident it didn't survive, and I had to resort to the spare which I'd bought just in case. Hopefully I won't make the same mistake again; the keyboards are reasonably priced, but shipping from the US is a bit spendy.

            1. onefang Silver badge

              Re: Keyboard ecosystems

              "Hopefully I won't make the same mistake again;"

              A place I used to work at, one of the company owners made that mistake, spilling their drink, on their laptop. Sometime after their laptop was replaced, they made the same mistake again.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        then a quick trip through the dishwasher can work wonders

        Or even a couple of minutes in the shower - anything that can dissolve the sticky gunk.

        Followed by drying off in the airing cupboard (or other warm place)

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        National Rail Enquiry Service - On replacing the Win3.1 systems for Win98, under one PC I found the remains of spilled coffee under one PC that looked like the mould had achieved sentience discovered nuclear physics & engaged in a renactment of Futuramas GodFellas* & left the remains of their MAD for me to discover generations later.

        Only a full on replacement of that desk would clean that away (I did try), so I did what any self-respecting contractor would do - Put the new system back over it.

        *Malachi: Fear not, my Lord. We shall be with you soon.

        Bender: You're with me now! This is the maximum level of being with me!

        Malachi: We will solve our own problems, as you commanded. The time has come to convert the unbelievers.

        Bender: Convert them?

        Malachi: To radioactive vapor!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Keyboard ecosystems

      I may have dropped 3 course meals on mine, and it's not that bad. What had they done?

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Keyboard ecosystems

      It was alive I tell you, alive!

      In that past, I found more than a few of those around the office that were growing entirely new civilizations inside. There were some that really shouldn't have been opened unless one was wearing a full hazmat suit. It took some doing (like getting the boss to help clean some) to get to the point where we didn't clean them but binned them and gave the user a new keyboard. Heaven knows what's growing underground at the dump site where these things went to.

    3. CanadianMacFan
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Keyboard ecosystems

      "It was alive I tell you, alive!"

      How many new antibiotics and cures for cancers did you just throw away?

  1. jake Silver badge

    Purchasing tractor parts last week.

    The owner was having trouble with his ancient POS system. After a couple minutes of swearing at technical help, and at least one "turn it off and then on again", he hung up the phone and dug under the counter and came up with an old pad of blank invoices. He allowed as to how he would have to hand write it because the computer was broken. Being me, I asked if I could have a look at it. He looked at me funny, because he's only known me as a rancher/farmer, but said OK.

    I came around the counter & eyeballed the situation. Turned out the mouse didn't work. At all. Just an immobile mouse pointer in the center of the screen. I showed the guy the tab key and a couple other keyboard shortcuts for future reference, and eyeballed the system. The drivers were loaded, and running. Probably a dead mouse (tractor parts counters are rough on everthing). I just happened to have a spare serial mouse out in the truck (don't you?). Pulled the mini-maglite out of my pocket & dove under the counter to swap 'em out ... only to discover that the original mouse had managed to work itself loose. So I plugged it back in, and all was well with the world.

    Well over ten years of daily use, and the computer had to wait until I was in the shop to spit out it's mouse. Now one of the biggest gossips in the county knows I'm a computer guy. Hopefully he'll keep it to himself ...

    1. imanidiot Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Purchasing tractor parts last week.

      He won't...

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Purchasing tractor parts last week.

      I've always liked the acronym POS. Given that I've seen several point-of-sale systems, and read about a few more, and without exception every single one was indeed a complet pile o' shite.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Purchasing tractor parts last week.

        every single one was indeed a complet pile o' shite

        You forgot a couple of words: insecure, badly-written, confusing, fragile..

  2. wolfetone Silver badge
    Headmaster

    "and two millennials now had a history lesson in mouse balls."

    Excuse me, but the millennials you speak of were using and interacting with computers with mouse balls long before they were replaced with optical mice.

    Maybe, just maybe, those two went to a school that didn't have computers. Which is more common than you think. The wife, who's around my age, went to a different school and she told me they only had the one computer in her secondary school and it was a "BBC something".

    1. adam payne Silver badge

      I remember when my school got it's first PCs replacing some of the old BBC model B's. After a spate of mouse ball thefts they glued the plate shut to stop people from opening them.

    2. M E H
      FAIL

      Not Millennials!

      I think you might misunderstand the term Millennials. It refers to kids born in the 21st century.

      Anyone who used a BBC micro at school is undoubtedly from Generation X.

      1. The Mole

        Re: Not Millennials!

        You think it would but it doesn't, apparently it's those who 'come of age' near or after the millennium ("a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century." according to google).

        This means that those born in the early 80's are counted at millennial - which I personally take great offence at being born in the early 80s and not wanting to be associated with them. I do remember the BBC micro so perhaps that is the better definition?

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: Not Millennials!

          Generation X seems to have quite a flexible definition with a range of starting and ending dates.

          If you choose the Harvard definition you can make it stretch to 1984, and might be able to call yourself a Gen Xer instead of a millennial.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_X

        2. Killfalcon Bronze badge

          Re: Not Millennials!

          Yup - millennials are currently late 20s-mid 30s (but most defintions, given the whole demographic generation thing was made up for advertising purposes).

          As a *general* rule, Millenials were born before the internet got into everything, but finished school after Eternal September had already ended, and AOL was already starting to fade. So they were _very_ bored as small children but have decent odds of having seen BASIC programming In junior school, and probably had GSCE Computer Science as an option.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Not Millennials!

            Millenials don't exist a presentation from Adam Connover about millennials, and why it's a bullshit term in terms of how most people thing about it.

            1. onefang Silver badge

              Re: Not Millennials!

              "Millenials don't exist"

              Damn, half the people living in my building just vanished. I wont miss the drunk or the unsocial bike guy, but the others where perfectly OK people.

              1. Updraft102 Silver badge

                Re: Not Millennials!

                Indeed. There's a difference between "The stereotype is wrong!" and "They don't even exist!"

                Think of all of the demographic groups that must not exist if that were not true... none of us would, since we're all stereotyped in one way or another.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Not Millennials!

            "finished school after Eternal September had already ended"

            Oh no it hasn't. There's a new infestation of newsgroups from Google Groupies who think they're posting a reply direct to their OP despite the fact that the OP hasn't been heard of in the group this side of Y2K.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Not Millennials!

              $ sdate

              Fri Sep 9054 13:43:38 PDT 1993

              $

              Yep. Looks like it's still September 1993, alas. (Was that really 25 years ago? Geebus.)

            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: Not Millennials!

              Bastardizing United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's famous quote: I shall not today attempt further to define the exact age of persons I understand to be embraced within the shorthand description "Millennial", and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know them when I interact with them.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Not Millennials!

                "But I know them when I interact with them."

                I must admit, when I think or hear "millennials" I usual mentally picture a bloke (or blokes) in check shirts, beards and fancy waxed moustaches. Maybe it's a large overlap in the Venn diagram.

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Re: Not Millennials!

                  Millennial not the same as hipster. All hipsters ( read "prat") may be from the generation of the millennials. But most of these are no more hipsters than you or I. Any more than my generation are all "gammons".

                  https://www.theguardian.com/politics/shortcuts/2018/may/14/is-it-offensive-to-call-ruddy-faced-middle-aged-tories-gammons

        3. Trilkhai

          Re: Not Millennials!

          The math-challenged** demographers finally admitted a year or two ago that people born in in the mid-late 70s & early 80s are a separate generation due to the immense technological/cultural shifts that took place. Unfortunately, instead of giving us a cool name that references technology*** they decided to name us Xennials, which sounds like a houseplant with a seasonal-blooming identity disorder.

          **According to them, Gen X is the offspring of the Silent Generation (which had its first kids in its late teens/early 20s) & Millennials are the kids of the Boomers (which had their first kids in their early 20s), yet the SG & Boomers were each respectively 25+ years old at the time.

          ***like the "Micro Generation", which at least would reference micro-computers (orig. term for the 8-bit home computers released when we were infants/little kids) and microwaves. I can't speak for you, but I'd rather be called "Gen M" or "a Micro" than a dysfunctional houseplant.

      2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        Re: Not Millennials!

        I never know what label they apply to my generation. I was born in the 80's... 8086BCE.

        *Blows a feisty raspberry through age cracked lips*

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Children and computers

      I taught my 5yr old to type (circa 1994), and she had some of the last opportunities to use dial-up and floppys disks.

      Her games were Math Blaster and Byond...

      I don't recall if I taught her about mouse balls. I'll check the next time she visits.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    My first mouse was the boxy Genius mouse. Worked well until it had a case of ball fuzz. Opened it, cleaned it, and continued.

    Dunno where it is now.

    1. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      @ASAC:

      Uhhhm..... I still have a Genius Mouse in the box with the 30 year old working cables and connectors.....

    2. onefang Silver badge

      I'd say to ask your cat, but you said it was a Genius mouse, it probably moved out to study at university.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "My first mouse was the boxy Genius mouse. Worked well until it had a case of ball fuzz. Opened it, cleaned it, and continued."

      My first was the AMX mouse on a BBC "B" computer. It also was "boxy" and the mouse ball was a bare steel ball bearing about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the later more standardised rubber coated balls.

      1. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Mine was the Commodore 1350, which was really more of a joystick with a ball inside.

  5. Alan J. Wylie Silver badge

    Sun optical mice, circa 1985

    How many here remember the optical mice on early '80s Sun worksations?

    Mouse Systems

    There was a special mouse pad with horizontal and vertical lines on it.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

      The one connected to my 1988 Sun 3/470 "Pegasus" still works, despite the small dent in one corner of the metal pad.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

      I had one of those on an Apricot. I don't think Mouse Systems were anything to do with Sun?

      Two colours I think and it was an aluminium pad, slightly too small, though maybe my memory is faulty as the wikipedia shows a single colour. Maybe there was another version.

      Isn't there a handwriting capture/mouse pen that uses paper printed with a very fine grid for a similar reason?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

        Mouse Systems weren't anything to do with Sun, but Sun contracted them to build the critters to Sun's specs.

        Yes, the horizontal & vertical lines are different colo(u)rs.

      2. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

        "Isn't there a handwriting capture/mouse pen that uses paper printed with a very fine grid for a similar reason?"

        Yep. It's called Livescribe. Or at least the one I've got is. From the little usage I've put it to, it works perfectly. Unfortunately it didnt exist when I was at uni (where I might have actually put it to good use), and I dont really have a day to day use for it anymore. But it works great.

    3. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

      There was a special mouse pad with horizontal and vertical lines on it.

      Yes - though my experience of them was rather later than that (most of the 1990s).

      Cold to the touch, and rather unpleasant even at times when cold should have been good. Also moved according to a rather coarse grid, meaning you couldn't steer the pointer between grid points but only move in multi-pixel jumps. Put me right off optical mice for many years, and may have contributed to my RSI.

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

        That was the first type of mouse I used (Mouse Systems Mouse) - I don't remember it being particularly jumpy though - I used to use it for schematic capture and PCB design with P-CAD in 1986/87. It came bundled with a painting program too.

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

          From Wikipedia...

          "Early Sun workstations used MSC optical mice exclusively. Initial models came with large mousepads with well-spaced lines, while later models were smaller and used a much tighter grid."

          They must have been using the tighter grid on the mousepad I had.

      2. ChrisC

        Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

        "Put me right off optical mice for many years"

        My experience of the early/mid 90's era optical mice on the Sun workstations at uni had a similar effect on me - couldn't believe just how utterly crap they were compared with even a somewhat gunked-up mechanical mouse, let alone one that was maintained properly, at generating smooth pointer motion, nor just how dead they felt as you moved them across the mousepad. The only mice I hated even more than those were the ergonomic disasters that HP provided with their Unix workstations.

        Modern optical mice have at least got the motion accuracy thing sorted, but I do still occasionally find myself missing the subtle tactile clues you used to get from a mechanical mouse as it moved around.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

          HP provided with their Unix workstations

          I only worked very briefly with HPUx and that was too long. Although, the prize for "the worst variant of unix" that I've ever used goes to AIX.

          AIX is the result of an S/370 mating with a Unix box and the child inheriting all the flaws of the parents but none of the virtues.

      3. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

        The Sun stations I used in uni in the early 1990s had those, but I mostly just ignored the Solaris and did my coding in vi (as opposed to a graphical text editor... we weren't using IDEs by any means in that class). Yeah, I was even a dinosaur then, as one of my classmates told me, which I interpreted as more of a compliment than he had probably intended!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

          To be fair, in the early '90s most Sun gear at Unis world-wide was still running SunTools or SunView, with a few lucky(?) systems running the new-fangled OpenWindows (and that's if they ran a GUI at all, many systems were CLI only) ... regardless, for the most part these GUIs were all pretty much only used to run Xclock and multiple xterms ... at least until NCSA Mosaic came around, putting a graphical interface on things like email, FTP, NNTP, and Gopher. (Sorry, kiddies, the WWW was seen as a mostly useless toy back in those days. Still is, in some ways, when you think about it.)

          Sure, there was plenty of software that made use of a GUI back then, but it was all bespoke, for a particular need, or to run specific hardware, or a student project that was mostly useless. Mosaic played a large part in making general purpose GUI software a thing in the un*x world.

          As for IDEs, most folks used vi or EMACS (the later is arguably better suited as an IDE; I still prefer vi). The first true modern IDE for un*x was Softbench in about 1990, but it wasn't really usable until the mid '90s (IMO, of course).

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

            Ah, who can forget the OpenWindows Help pages, which for some reason used pop-art cartoons and some women ended up dancing in Club Soda.

    4. defiler Silver badge

      Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

      There was a special mouse pad with horizontal and vertical lines on it.

      Yep, and if you rotated the pad by 90 degrees the mouse would only work intermittently in one direction. It's amazing how many Computer Science undergrads gave up on them.

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