Dead Mouse Tale

I almost disappeared from the internet on Saturday. For the last few days, my optical mouse has started acting up. I'll be scrolling and the pointer might freeze or jump. Sometimes I'd just lift it up, let the red light go dim, and put it back down, and I could move it again. Other days, I had to unplug it from the USB port and plug it back in. The problem came and went, so like any human being with 2%=100% bad luck, I of course ignored it.

It got worse on Saturday afternoon. Outside, it was Spring in January, with bright sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s. Inside I was troubleshooting, too busy to take advantage of life outside my four blue walls. It got to a point where it was barely working. I had to restart my computer by holding the power button. To open programs, I had to navigate with my keyboard arrows. Worst of all, since I couldn't click links in Firefox, I found myself back in Internet Explorer 5.1, where I could option tab to links and “click” them by hitting return. I was learning how limited I was not having a working mouse, though.

I found a cure that proved to be worse than the disease. Apple had some tests to determine the cause of the problem. I disconnected everything but the mouse and keyboard. I tried hooking the mouse up only to the computer. The red light would turn on, but still I could not move the pointer. Finally, I started my computer with the option key held down as Apple advised, and found the mouse did work on that screen. For a moment, I was relieved that software, not hardware, seemed to be the cause.

I dug through my room until I found the CDs that came with my iMac, roughly three or four years ago. I found a set of “software restore” discs, and prepared to follow the ”archive and install” instructions. My old files would be backed up. My system software would be replaced with a clean new set. All would be right with the world. Except...where was the “archive” option?

When I booted my computer from the first disc, a message told me all the contents of my hard drive would be erased, and I didn't see any other buttons. It didn't seem right. I thought about all the pictures I'd taken the last few years, the art I'd designed, the games I'd downloaded, and other photos people had sent me from various Halloweens, Christmas parties, weddings, and other events. None of it was backed up, and all of it was irreplaceable. I opted not to risk it.

Further research proved that the archive feature was available for Mac OS X 10.2 and newer; I'm running 10.1.5. On 10.1.5, a person needs to manually back everything up first, because the only way to upgrade or reinstall stuff is to erase everything first. I checked the file size of my project folder, and found I had at least 6 gigabytes worth of files to save. I had some CDs, but would need more. But that wasn't my problem. Even if I had enough media, without a working mouse, I had no way to click those files and drag them on to the discs to make backup copies. I was screwed.

I searched in vain for preference files and other things I could perhaps manually delete. I zapped my PRAM, and succeeded only in resetting my clock. Finally, all that was left was prayer apparently, since it was time to go to church. My mom asked what was wrong and I grumped that I was depressed about the computer, just as she drove past a Blockbuster and I saw a young girl in a wheelchair looking at movies. “OK God,” I though, “There are people out there with worse problems; I get it.” I was still vexed by an unsolved problem, though.

After mass and dinner, I turned on the computer, and the pointer remained stuck in the upper left hand corner. I tried the hardware test again, and this time the mouse didn't even work on that screen. In fact, if I jiggled the wire the light would go out. Suddenly, a hardware solution seemed to be a blessing, especially if it meant I didn't have to erase all my files. After checking their hours, I was off to Apple's store at my local mall.

How busy can a computer store be on a Saturday night at 8:30, an hour before closing? The crowd was immense, and the technicians were all busy with customers, who apparently made reservations in advance. I finally got someone's attention, and showed him my potentially defective mouse. He said they had a ”Mighty Mouse” by the printers, and rushed off to help someone else. I was positive I had been lied to. I was a fan as a kid, but I doubted Mighty Mouse could save the day this time. In keeping with current trends, I was wrong.

There was one box left. I waited on line for fifteen minutes. At the register I asked the young girl if it was compatible with my OS. She giggled out a yes, then asked me if I said “9” or “10”. Kids today. I assured her it was 10, and she more confidently confirmed it would work. I wasn't sure.

My dad hovered over me as I unpacked the box, asking dated questions about amperage. The USB connection was the same, and I held my breath as I connected it. At first, it didn't move, as I knew it would not. But then, miraculously, it lit up, and responded! If I was more upset than I should have been earlier in the day, I was more excited than I should have been when I found out I hadn't spent fifty bucks in vain. I was back.

I think my next project should seriously be archiving all my important files, especially my photographs. I should have been doing it all along, and this experience punctuated that fact. The next time something goes wrong, it might not have such a simple solution. I'm just relieved to be back on track though. It's definitely not how I'd planned my Saturday, but then ”The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. Truer words...


Blogger Janet said...

I totally feel your computer woes. It's pretty scary sometimes when you think about how much of your livelihood is wrapped up in your computer. Only when faced with possibly losing it all do you realize how important it is. Don't know what you got till it's gone I suppose. I'm glad you you were able to fix it rather easily.:)

1/07/2007 9:15 AM  
Blogger Kev said...

50 bucks for a mouse?!?!

1/07/2007 5:56 PM  
Blogger Rey said...

Would you be upset if I told you that you could've bought a 20 buck pc optical mouse and it would've worked on your machine?

1/07/2007 7:26 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

The last time I priced mice was on my last computer when the ball started getting worn, but then i got this machine with the optical mouse so it didn't matter that my old one was worn. The old ones that weren't even optical went for $75 back then, so $50 didn't seem bad. The cheapest I had seen for the exact same optical mouse was $34.99 on Amazon, so I didn't think I was paying that much more. I couldn't find anyone to ask about it on AIM last night, so I made a judgment call and apparently paid $30 too much.

But would the PC one have said "Mighty" on the box? I'll just live with it, be glad I have a working mouse and didn't have to erase my HD, and not look back.

1/07/2007 9:21 PM  

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