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by Guido Socher (homepage)

About the author:

Guido loves Linux not only because it is interesting to understand how operating systems work but also because of the people involved in its design.



Atek Super Mini Optical Mouse



A lot of people really dislike the pointing devices that come with laptops. They are good enough if you want to move the pointer between two windows, but you cannot do any drawings or work on images with The Gimp.

The Super Mini Optical Mouse (www.atek.com) is a real mouse and it is so small that you can use it in the tiny flat space around the keyboard of the laptop.



The world loves cool devices and this mini mouse is certainly one of them.
It is a solution to an old problem: most people dislike the built-in pointing devices in laptops, which are usually touch pads or those little rubber tip pointers.

The Super Mini Optical Mouse is a real mouse and it allows you to position the pointer very quickly and accurately. The case of this mouse is made of a dark, translucent polycarbonate. You can see its strong red LED shining through that gives a futuristic red glow effect. The mouse is about 6.5 cm long and 3 cm wide and comes with a nice little travel bag. The cord is very thin and flexible but reinforced with a Kevlar string. [Super Mini Optical

The Super Mini Optical Mouse is available with a ps/2 connector or a USB connector. Although I have only used the USB version I am quite sure that the ps/2 version will work well under Linux.

A general problem of the ps/2 interface specification is that it does not say anything about the power consumption of devices. Optical mice do need more power than mechanical ones because they have a strong light, a small camera chip and more complex electronics. There might be chipsets out there that will not provide enough current to allow stable operation on the ps/2 connector. With USB connectors you will not have to worry about such hardware incompatibilities.

The Super Mini Optical Mouse is a 2 button mouse. To use it under Linux you will need the Emulate3Buttons option in the X11 configuration. Since the mouse is very small it is no problem to press the 2 buttons at the same time to emulate the middle mouse button. However, you need to press a bit harder when pressing both buttons and it takes some time to get used to it.  


A mouse with a ps/2 connector is represented under Linux as /dev/psaux and the protocol is "PS/2". The kernel configuration option is CONFIG_PSMOUSE. All pre-compiled kernels from any of the major distributions have this option compiled in by default. You do not need to worry about it.

The USB subsystem in Linux is fairly new. Most distributions already had basic USB mouse support before the 2.4 kernel release but your ditrubution's kernel should not be more than one year old to be sure. Redhat 7.0, 7.1 Mandrake 8.0 etc... will all work. The kernel config options are CONFIG_USB_OHCI or CONFIG_USB_UHCI and CONFIG_INPUT, CONFIG_USB_HID, CONFIG_USB_MOUSE. Again, this is only for those who like to create their own kernels. The standard distributions have this included.


Loading the Kernel modules

Only the USB mouse requires that kernel modules are loaded (if compiled as modules). There is no kernel module for a ps/2 mouse.
To load the modules just run: You can automatically load these at startup when you add these lines to the start section of /etc/init.d/usb (Redhat + Mandrake, Suse has it under /sbin/init.d).

The device file for USB is /dev/input/mice. You might need to create it:

mkdir /dev/input
mknod /dev/input/mice c 13 63
chmod 666 /dev/input/mice


Testing, testing ...

Now we are ready to test if the mouse is working. Plug it in and run
cat /dev/input/mice (or cat /dev/psaux for the ps/2 version)
Everytime you move the mouse or click on a button you should see some bizarre looking characters. If not, check connectors and run /sbin/lsmod to verify that the correct kernel modules are loaded. The USB mouse should also appear in the file /proc/bus/usb/devices and will identify itself as:

S: Manufacturer=JPC



Now our optical mouse is basically working. We just need to configure X11 to use this mouse or the gpm console mouse if you want to have mouse support outside the graphical environment. The Super Mini Optical Mouse always uses the PS/2 protocol even if you have one with USB hardware. The only difference from the configuration point of view is the device file, either /dev/input/mice or /dev/psaux. Everything else is identical.

The console mouse is started as:

gpm -t ps/2 -m /dev/input/mice
or for the ps/s hardware version: gpm -t ps/2 -m /dev/psaux

Under X11 you need to edit the file XF86Config-4 (xfree86 version 4) or XF86Config (xfree86 version 3) in /etc/X11. If you have both files there then just check which one was used last by running "ls -ultr". This will show you the files and the times when they were last read by a program.

xfree86 version 3
Change the pointer section to:

Section "Pointer"
Protocol "PS/2"
Device "/dev/input/mice"
Emulate3Timeout 80

xfree86 version 4
Change the pointer section to:

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Mouse1"
Driver "mouse"
Option "Protocol" "PS/2"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
Option "Emulate3Buttons"
Option "Emulate3Timeout" "80"

You also need well to have the entry in each applicable ServerLayout section

InputDevice "Mouse1" "CorePointer"

The ServerLayout section is normally at the end of the file.

Two mice with xfree86 version 4
To use several pointer devices, the laptop internal one and the Super Mini Optical, add (do not replace the CorePointer entry) to the ServerLayout section:

InputDevice "Mouse1" "SendCoreEvents"

However, this is only needed if the internal mouse is not a USB mouse. The /dev/input/mice device is already a "collection device" and receives events from all connected USB mice.

Two mice with xfree86 version 3
For this just add a section like the one below and leave the existing pointer section as it is. Again, this is only necessary if internal and external mouse are not both USB mice.

Section "Xinput"
SubSection "Mouse"
DeviceName "USBmouse"
Protocol "PS/2"
Port "/dev/input/mice"

That's it. Enjoy your new Super Mini Optical Mouse.  


The configuration of this new mouse might look complex but in fact it is just a matter of copying the above instructions. If the internal mouse is already a USB mouse then you just plug in the external USB mouse and there is nothing else to do.

The Atek Super Mini Optical Mouse is a really good and accurate mouse. At the beginning it is a bit strange to have such a small mouse but you get used to it (if not addicted :-) very quickly. Drawing fine and accurate shapes in The Gimp is no problem. It's great for working in places where you lack any elbow room but it works well on a big table, too ;-).

The price is about US $50. You will probably have to add custom fees according to the rules of your own country if you order from outside the US.


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