Why might you want a bluetooth mouse?

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth-LogoBluetooth is a wireless radio technology for communicating over short distances using short-length UHF radio waves. It’s often used between portable and fixed devices. Examples include:

  • Telephone headsets for mobile phones
  • Headphones for music systems
  • Keyboards & mice and their computer

There are three classes of Bluetooth communication:

  • Class 1 has a range of about 100 metres
  • Class 2 has a range of about 10 metres
  • Class 3 has a range of about 1 metre

Both ends of the intended communication need to be equipped with bluetooth technology.

Why use Bluetooth rather than a normal wireless mouse with a dongle?

Sandstrom Bluetooth Mouse

Sandstrom Bluetooth Mouse

Almost all wireless mice communicate with the computer via radio signals that pass between the device (the mouse) and a receiver (often called a “dongle”) that fits into any USB port on your computer. These are extremely reliable. Bluetooth, on the other hand, usually communicates between the device (the mouse) and a bluetooth receiver built into the computer (although you can also buy bluetooth dongles that fit to a USB port). From personal experience, I would say that bluetooth is a more precarious method of communication. First of all you have to “pair” the devices (ie give them permission to communicate with each other) and then you have to keep your fingers crossed that they continue to talk to each other.

The potential benefits of a bluetooth mouse seem to me to be twofold:

  • You don’t need to keep plugging and unplugging a receiver (dongle) into your computer. This could be significant if, like me, you carry a laptop around most working days and may need to connect and disconnect the mouse three or four times a day. It’s not just taking out the dongle, it’s remembering to open up the mouse and stash the dongle safely inside it (or any other place that you’ll be able to reliably put your hands on it). The alternative is to leave the dongle in the laptop, but then you have to remember to always put the laptop away the right way up because you wouldn’t want a significant part of the weight of the laptop resting on a USB dongle.
  • A bluetooth device doesn’t take up a USB port (usually. You would probably only use a bluetooth USB dongle if your device required bluetooth but your computer didn’t have an inbuilt bluetooth receiver/transmitter). This is the real reason I embarked on my mission to find a decent bluetooth mouse. The Microsoft Surface only has one USB port. It really is a pain having to swap between a mouse dongle, a USB flash drive, an external drive, etc. It’s not just the swapping, it’s the constant aggravation with the mouse that no longer works (natch – you’ve just disconnected it!). The new MacBook also has only one USB port (or, more accurately a USB-C port). The MacBook Air has a slightly more generous 2 USB ports, but not taking up one of them with a mouse could still be advantageous.

My mission to find a decent bluetooth mouse has, I hope, finally come to an end. I found a Sandstrom bluetooth/USB mouse in PC World for the reasonable price of £14.99. The fact that it’s also got the standard dongle is great, because I know I could immediately use it on a computer support client’s computer without any messing about with “pairing” etc. In the meantime, the bluetooth connection has been working perfectly with my Microsoft Surface.

Apple Magic Mouse

Apple Magic Mouse

If you are a Mac person, then you’ll probably already know of the Apple Magic Mouse. Sadly, I know I’m not the only person to find that this mouse becomes “disconnected” far too often for a mouse that costs over £50. I don’t know if it’s the mouse or the Mac’s bluetooth receiver (the keyboard disconnects in the same way), but I eventually re-purposed my Magic Mouse (as a paperweight) and bought a less pretty but more functional Logitech mouse for my Mac Mini.

Anyway, there you have it. If you are suffering from having fewer USB ports than you would like, or are fed up with connecting and disconnecting a mouse’s dongle, then it might be worth a £15 punt on a bluetooth mouse.

Why does my cursor jump about and what can be done about it?

A cursor bouncing on a trampolineFor at least the last five years, a very irritating problem has affected Windows laptops of many different makes. This is generally known as the “jumping cursor”. One moment you are happily typing away and the next moment your cursor has jumped to a completely different part of the screen and has started placing your text in entirely the wrong place. Even if you are a touch-typist and are watching the screen all the time, this is a big nuisance. And if you just peck at the keys without glancing up at the screen you might have made quite a mess of your typing before noticing anything.

I’ve heard several suggestions as to what causes this and how it can be cured, but the strange thing is that one suggestion might work in one instance, but a different suggestion might work on another machine. This is quite odd as it suggests that the same annoying phenomenon can be caused by several different things. My current “main machine” is just coming up for three years old and it has suffered from jumping cursor all that time. In fact, it’s the worst “feature” of an otherwise excellent Samsung RF511. None of the suggestions below worked for me, but they’ve all worked for other people.

So, what are the things you can try to cure this problem?

  1. Mice in Device ManagerInstall a free utility called “Touchfreeze“. This utility switches off the touchpad while you are typing. The theory is that the jumping about is caused by getting the palm of your hand(s) too close to the touchpad while you are typing. It’s worth trying as the utility is free and it doesn’t seem to impede typing. Having said that, I have to say that I’ve had it installed on my Samsung for yonks and it doesn’t seem to have made any difference. Download Touchfreeze here.
  2. Hide the pointer while typing. Go to Control Panel and then open the Mouse option. Click on the tab for “Pointer Options” and put a tick in the box next to “Hide pointer while typing”. This is the sequence for Windows 8.1. It might be slightly different for Vista and/or Windows 7.
  3. Update the mouse and touchpad drivers. Go to the Control Panel and then open the Device Manager option. Go to “Mice and other pointing devices” and click on the triangle next to that option. This will display all the devices of this type. Right-click on the first device and then left-click on “Update Driver Software”. Take the “Search auomatically..” option and follow the prompts. Do this for all items that appear in the “Mice and other pointing devices” list.
  4. Disable the touchpad and just use a mouse. You may or may not be able to do this. If you have followed the instructions in (3) above you may have seen an option to “disable” when right-clicking on the touchpad. This is probably the easiest way, but it is not available on all laptops. See this article from PC World (the magazine, not the shop) on other ways you may be able to disable your touchpad. If you have a Dell laptop, you can disable the touchpad according to the instructions found here.

Hiding the pointer while typingNote that there is an option to “uninstall” mouse and touchpad drivers when right-clicking in the Device Manager (see (3) above). This may be worth trying in that it will remove old (and possibly corrupt) drivers. However, as soon as Windows detects that there is a device (in this case a mouse or touchpad) that needs a driver it will go and find one. This is a good step to take in troubleshooting, but you can’t disable hardware by uninstalling its driver as Windows will just re-install it.

You might also like to look at a tutorial from Microsoft called Mouse, touchpad, and keyboard problems in Windows

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Computer Support in London
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