the last place you’d think to look…

Way back in tha halcyon days of the late 90’s when USB was young, and the women were glad of it, I decided to go all USB for my peripherals. At the time, it was hard to find a BIOS that would use a USB keyboard to boot from. Over the years, I’ve chewed through a few USB hubs, and several mice, keyboards, scanners and printers.

Recently, I decided I wanted a full-time Linux box around, and I wanted to share my monitor, keyboard and mouse between it and my Windows box. Now, you may be thinking, “why, oh why would you not just buy one of those cheap-as-dirt KVM switches that are on the market today, that even include cables?”.

Of course the answer to that is that I’m cheap. I already have the video switching capability in my monitor, so I just need a solution for the K and M portions. I hooked up the keyboard and mouse to the USB hub, and then have 2 wires that rest near the hub. One connects the hub to the Windows box, the other to the Linux box. This way, I need only reach a few inches, pull a plug, and push in another. Pretty decent solution, right? right?

Well, for some reason, having the mouse connected via the hub causes it to lose communication with the computer to which it is attached. This was not news to me, I had observed this behavior many times in the past. At the time, the solution was to connect the mouse directly to the PC. This is no good in this scenario for obvious reasons. The mouse is a basic Logitech First Mouse with a wheel. The keyboard is the Microsoft Natural Elite (though I have nothing nice to say about their software, their hardware is pretty decent. Not that they actually make the stuff.) Anyway, I noticed that after a few moments of inactivity, the mouse would no longer move. If I reinserted the mouse’s USB connector, all was good until another period of inactivity. This is absolutely unlivable. No way this is flying. What’s the deal? Maybe the hub sucks? It’s an unpowered hub, but it can be plugged in if the power requirements so dictate.

Of course, I googled the problem. I noticed a lot of posts regarding bad mouse drivers for various mice, and a lot of similar inquiries regarding the hub. Then it dawned on me. Could it be the mouse itself? To test the theory, I turned to my trusty Drawer of Many Things™ From its depths, I pulled a Microsoft USB mouse. I plugged it in, and there were no issues with loss of communication via the hub. Odd. All these years, I never knew, and just suffered with the crappy mouse. I don’t prefer the MS mouse, but in this case, I’ll just have to deal. I’d rather have a system that works reliably, than have a nice mouse that doesn’t work so well. *sigh*

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