Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard): Using USB Overdrive to bypass mouse tracking flakiness

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
December 7th, 2007 • 10:15 am

Ever since I started using Leopard, I have been experiencing mouse tracking problems. These problems may or may not be related to other USB-related issues in Mac OS X 10.5 noted earlier. I honestly do not know.

What I do know is that I seem to have found a way to at least alleviate some of the problems.

In a nutshell, the problem in Mac OS X 10.5 appears to be with mouse “acceleration,” i.e. with what happens when I try to make a long-range move from one end of my extended desktop (consisting of a 30″ monitor as the main display and a 23″ monitor as the secondary display on the right-hand side) to the other in a single mouse movement.

More often than not, in Mac OS X 10.5, when I try to make such a long-range move, either by simply moving the mouse or by moving the mouse with the mouse button down (when attempting to drag something from one monitor to the other, for example), the long-range movement fails, because Mac OS X 10.5 seems to “lose track” at some point and the movement of the mouse pointer on the screen just drops off, typically near the right edge of the main 30″ display.

I then have to repeat the mouse movement to get Mac OS X 10.5 to complete it successfully. It is quite frustrating, because it happens quite often. I am also pretty confident that it never occurred before Mac OS X 10.5—certainly not on a systematic basis like it does now.

Initially, of course, I suspected some of the third-party software I was using, and more specifically USB Overdrive, which I use because it provides greater control over the behaviour of the various mouse buttons on the Mighty Mouse than what is provided through Apple’s own preference pane. (With USB Overdrive, you can have application-specific settings, and you can turn off horizontal scrolling with the Mighty Mouse’s scroll ball in contexts where you don’t want to accidentally scroll horizontally.)

But in fact I was able to reproduce the mouse tracking problems in Mac OS X 10.5 even without USB Overdrive. Furthermore, I have now discovered that it seems that USB Overdrive can be used to bypass the mouse tracking problems introduced by Mac OS X 10.5.

By default, USB Overdrive uses Mac OS X’s system value for its own mouse acceleration setting. The value is simply labelled “System,” and it’s the default value in the “Acceleration” menu in USB Overdrive. But this morning I discovered that, if I changed this default value to a specific value set by USB Overdrive itself, such as “125%,” then I had far fewer problems with the mouse pointer in Mac OS X 10.5 for long-range mouse movements from one monitor to the other.

The mouse tracking problems are not completely gone, but they certainly seem to be much less frequent. Right now I am able to grab a window by its title bar and drag it from the main screen to the secondary screen and back repeatedly with single mouse movements, and I don’t seem to have a problem with Mac OS X 10.5 losing track of my movements and dropping off in mid-flight.

I still occasionally see a problem in a long-range mouse movement (with or without dragging), but it certainly seems to occur much less frequently than with the default system setting.

So if you’ve been frustrated with problems with Mac OS X’s mouse tracking in Mac OS X 10.5, I suggest you give USB Overdrive a try, while waiting for Apple to get its act together and fix the problems in a system update.

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