Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 24/8/2006 It's bad form in journalism to criticise a colleague's work in public. It's pretty bad form to do so to their face in private; in fact, the only acceptable forum is with a mutual friend in the pub after work, providing the object of your disdain is absent.

Thursday 24/8/2006

It's bad form in journalism to criticise a colleague's work in public. It's pretty bad form to do so to their face in private; in fact, the only acceptable forum is with a mutual friend in the pub after work, providing the object of your disdain is absent.

Which is why I'm going to be breaking a taboo when I say here and now to Charles Mclellan, reviews maestro and indispensable long-term cog in the ZDNet Machinery of Joy, "What the hell were you thinking, man?"

His sin — there is no lighter word — was to publish a positive review of one of the most misbegotten bits of hardware I have ever had the displeasure of reading about, the Logitech VX Revolution.

This rancid rodent costs 60 quid — 60 quid! — and is a computer mouse. There is only one rule for mice: inasmuch as it doesn't hinder their operation, keep them as simple as possible. The best mice have a single button: you move them about, the cursor tracks on the screen, you reach your desired action, you click. That's it. Simplicity breeds reliability: your mouse, as all your computing equipment, should work without fuss forever.

Needless to say, the VX Revolution has no time for such nonsense. No: it has seven controls. It has a laser. It even has a motor to turn the scroll wheel for you, so you can whizz through long documents at speed. It looks like a Klingon battle cruiser designed by Lamborghini. It is wireless.

The review comments favourably on all this, and also gives extra points because it's got a battery meter. A battery meter on a mouse — and this is a good thing? Why should a mouse have a battery meter? Why should it have a battery? It's a MOUSE. A battery meter is a shameful sign of defeat, a stigmatum, a guarantee of trouble and strife to come where there should be — is, for most people — none.

As for the motorised scroll wheel: you see that huge spreadsheet in front of you? You see that nice scroll bar to the right, with a little box at the top? Move mouse to box. Hold mouse button down. Move mouse to bottom. Release button. Done. No motors.

Ah yes, the laser. Why has a mouse got a laser? There is no reason for your mouse to have a laser. Optical mice are better than mechanical ones — true enough. Some surfaces don't work well with optical mice — also true. A laser mouse will work there — perhaps. Or perhaps you can make an ordinary optical mouse work there too. In any case, since you're not working on an optically perfect slab of perspex you do not need a laser mouse. No laser.

As for the wireless — hey, look, it's on 2.4GHz. Same as your microwave oven, your Bluetooth, your wireless LAN, the next door neighbour's video sender and quite possibly the secret weapons lab they have in their basement. A thousand opportunities for interference this way and that, and for what? When was the last time you were seriously inconvenienced by a mouse cable? For heaven's sake, I've even seen wireless mice tied to their desks with string — so they don't get lost. Easier solution: no wireless.

And with no motor, no laser and no wireless: hey hey hey, no battery. Nothing to run out or leak or get an intermittent contact when you spill coffee on it. Just a mouse that points and clicks. It is the only sane option.

What was Charles thinking? It's OK, I'll have words.