Thursday, 16 September 2010

Mac mouse acceleration and other curiosities

Couple of months ago I bought a mac mini (the previous, non-aluminium version) and I was a happy man, right until the point I connected all the peripherals and tried to setup my mouse speed and acceleration. The mouse was Logitech M705 Marathon Mouse. I immediately noticed that I couldn’t adjust the speed and acceleration to my liking using the OS X 10.6. My own preferences in Windows are very simple: no acceleration and somewhat high cursor speed. I did manage to get speed somewhat right but I still couldn’t adjust the acceleration which was horrible frankly. At medium/low speeds the cursor would hardly move, and when you move the mouse faster the cursor would just fly away. 

I was quite intrigued and I went to download and install Logitech own Mouse Control Center which only slightly solved the problem. But then again, I was quite cross at the time because I just can’t stand mouse cursor which doesn’t move with pixel perfect accuracy. You don’t see much doctors using ancient tools to operate do you? In any case, I was looking for some other solution, because, surely there must me some solution to the problem in the computer world because usually, there is one. But I was quite astonished to find out that there wasn’t. Well, there is one solution and that is to buy Microsoft’s mouse and use their drivers which have flat acceleration curve and as users say, it works perfectly. As I had my new Logitech I didn’t want to buy a new mouse.

I installed and uninstalled Steermouse, some additional mouse preferences, terminal hacks, USB Overdrive and some other stuff, but *none* gave me the simplicity and usability of no mouse acceleration. Eventually I returned to Logitech Mouse Control Center, which for me gives the least worst results. 

But I’m writing this because I accidentally found a way how to somewhat solve the problem and get exactly the same mouse acceleration and speed settings as you may have in Windows. Yes, you read that right, somewhat ;)

First you have to enable VNC on Mac and and then you have to connect with a VNC program (I use RealVNC). Then you get absolutely identical mouse cursor settings on a Mac, and at the same time you don’t need to use extra keyboard or mouse.

- “But hey Prosperous Poverty, we all know that doing anything remotely is slower that doing it locally. “

That is true but if you look at the screen of your mac, you will see that there is absolutely no slowdown caused by the remote control from the “remote” computer. But here comes the good part, if you connect mac to your windows monitor you can switch desktops with a press of a button (switch different source) and gain normal acceleration curve and a bigger pixel count on your mac (if your primary monitor was larger than mac one). Another thing you gain is that you can always control your Mac with VNC and that works quite well by itself.

Of course you can see the hole the size of a supertanker and that is the need for another computer for control and there is some unwieldiness with the monitor. By latter I mean that you must switch inputs on your main monitor or you can use the mac’s monitor which is probably a bit dislocated to your main computer’s keyboard + mouse.

In any case, I’m quite disappointed with the whole mouse acceleration issue on the mac, and I’m just hoping (probably in vain) for the problem to be solved. Trouble is, very few mac users consider it a problem, and that is because majority of new users probably have mac laptops (trackpads have ok curves) and the other users just don’t complain enough, or “they get used to it”. Yes, you can get used to take someone’s tooth out using a sledgehammer, but that’s not the point. If I ever knew about this problem I probably wouldn’t buy a trackpad-less mac.

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