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Thursday, July 28, 2011

A mouse almost transmogrifies into a rat.

I'm an inveterate collector of peripherals, gadgets and toys related to PC gaming.  I've got dozens each of headphones, mice, controllers, keyboards, etc. I get them to test and try, and sometimes review, but mainly for hands-on experience so I can speak from first-hand knowledge when gaming buddies seek an opinion.

Items I particularly like often get bought in multiples (mainly mice and keyboards) so that I can have the same device on my different gaming machines, and for backup in case I particularly like an item and do not want to find it unavailable in the future should I need another.

I picked up a couple of the new Razer Imperator mice recently to play with. In this case, the new mouse bug reared its head quite by accident. I'd been playing on a machine I built for the G/F, using a Razer Copperhead (a good, if not great mouse, but one I'm very accustomed to for feel) that has had so much use the finish has worn off in many spots.

Playing one night, I noticed a peculiar small sliver of what appeared to be plastic remnants, perhaps from a package she'd opened recently. I fiddled with it, bending and stretching it, folding it, using it as a toothpick, scratching an itch on the inside of my ear canal, and finally tossing it in the trash, a crunched and mangled shadow of its former self. I noticed that night the mouse seemed a bit jerky for my fine aim needs. I realized later that the mouse seemed to be 'grabbing' the mouse pad surface. Peering at the bottom of the mouse, I saw the cause: the back friction foot had come off. My toothpick was a piece of Razer engineering.

It should be noted: I'm amazed the mouse lasted this long and through this much abuse. I'm sure it would have gone several more years. I had removed this foot some time ago to disassemble the mouse and clean it out. After years of abuse, the innards had enough muck to cause some minor issues. A cleaning remedied them. I obviously should have used some glue and not assumed the remaining aged sticky goo would suffice. 

Hell hath no fury like a woman gamer whose hardware you have fucked up, to paraphrase Congreve.

Rather than try to find replacement feet for the now out of production mouse, I decided to upgrade her, and get myself a twin to play with myself.

I've had only good experience with the Razer mice, owning pretty much every model sans the ridiculous pimp my mouse editions of the regular line. Never a single failure even under use bordering abusive. So I had no reason to expect any problems out-of-the-box with these new ones.

Razer, like many other vendors, has stopped including media with drivers / control software in the box. Understandable: media adds to the cost, and after release, the media is most likely out of date anyway. So the user guide directs the new owner to the web site to retrieve these things.

And there's the rub.

It appears the Razer web site has been hacked, they are having severe server problems, or their provider is suffering from one or both of the problems: most of the site links in the support / download sections get redirected to nonsense sites. Ugh! No soup for me! Fortunately, I was able to retrieve a copy of an older set of the drivers elsewhere, and get to using the mouse in earnest.

As a mouse, I'm pretty pleased so far. Quite comfortable, very responsive (even my not so game head daughter commented on this aspect), with much improved control software. Changing profiles on-the-fly is speedier than my fingers, making things like a fine aim / sniper mode switch a trifle, with none of the nagging delay and non-response of earlier Razer designs. The sensor works very well, tracking perfectly on the surfaces I tried, with decent lift-off characteristics. I won't bother with a detailed review, those can be found elsewhere, and this is not so much an entry about the mouse, but about customer service.

The lesson to be learned here is simple, vendors:

If you're going to deny the buyer media with basic drivers and other software, and only have these available online, at least provide alternate locations so one is not left wanting when problems occur on your end. The frustration of not being able to take full advantage of a new toy might well put the consumer off of future purchases of your brand.

Media is cheap. Put a friggin' mini-CD, or a tiny flash drive, in the box, FCS!

Better yet, flash is so cheap, why not just load a bit into all of your USB devices, so that the drivers and software "live" in the device, available at first plug-in? You could even make them updatable, so bringing my mouse to a foreign environment is a no-hassle proposition, and I always can have the latest drivers, software, and firmware at hand.


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