Skip to main content

Setting up the Marble Mouse for Ubuntu

I have a Logitech trackball which I love. I bought it when my wrists started hurting after hours of long Photoshop sessions. The switch to the trackball fixed all that. It allows me to hold my hand in the perfect position and it's great for most browsing with one exception:

It lacks a middle-click wheel.

This presents a bigger problem than it seems, as design seems to be removing the scroll bars at the edges of windows in favor of small slits. So to get around this you can emulate a scroll wheel or use the middle click to activate a scroll motion on various programs. Logitech has a utility that sets this up in Windows but in Ubuntu you have a better (if more hard-work required) option. The Ubuntu option is better because unlike in Windows you can emulate the wheel with the track-ball by holding down a button. This is the option I like to use.

In Ubuntu you write a configuration file to set up the trackball to work the way you want it. I have to re-create this configuration file every-time I upgrade Ubuntu, so I made a Ruby script that will do this for me.

I haven't figured out a way to get a Ruby script to function with root privileges yet. But here is the script I use and it works well using sudo and it prompts you for the password when needed.

[BTW Ubuntu turns 7 years old, today! Which means I've been using it for 6... wow, time flies!]

[Edit: I've added the file to my Github page for easier downloading. March 5, 2012]

#!/usr/bin/env ruby
#Creates a variable text with the content of the configuration file
text = <<ENDofTEXT
SSection "InputClass"
  Identifier      "Marble Mouse"
  MatchProduct    "Logitech USB Trackball"
  MatchIsPointer  "on"
  MatchDevicePath "/dev/input/event*"
  Driver          "evdev"
  Option "ButtonMapping"       "1 8 3 4 5 6 7 2 9"
  Option "EmulateWheel"        "true"
  Option "EmulateWheelButton"  "8"
  Option "YAxisMapping"        "4 5"
  Option "XAxisMapping"        "6 7"
  Option "Emulate3Buttons" "true"

#finds where the directory for the file is
zombie =  `locate xorg.conf.d | grep d$`
#writes the file to the temp directory
f ="/tmp/50-marblemouse.conf", "w")
f.puts text
#copies the file to the correct directory (unless it exists already) using sudo privileges.
puts `sudo cp /tmp/50-marblemouse.conf #{zombie}/50-marblemouse.conf` unless FileTest.exists?(zombie + "/50-marblemouse.conf")


  1. thanks for sharing this, I was having the same problem

  2. This is excellent, thanks, though doesn't seem to quite have the desired config in the latest ubuntu? The two small buttons on the mouse now do navigate forwards and backwards (NB: I have used the latest file provided on your githhub account and tried two of the three configs there (the first too). Any help appreciated!

  3. Sorry was just being dim - hadn't restarted. Thanks!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How to configure Ubuntu's keyboard to work like a Mac's

Typing accents on a PC is a complicated Alt + three numbered code affair. One feels like a sorcerer casting a spell. "I summon thee accented é! I press the weird magical key Alt, and with 0191 get the flipped question mark!" For a bilingual person this meant that writing on the computer was a start-and-stop process. With Mac's it a whole lot easier, just Alt + e and the letter you wanted for accents and alt + ? for the question mark. No need to leave the keyboard for the number pad and no need to remember arcane number combinations or have a paper cheat sheet next to the keyboard, as I've seen in virtually every secretaries computer in Puerto Rico.

Linux has a interesting approach to foreign language characters: using a compose key. You hit this key which I typically map to Caps Lock and ' and the letter you want and voilá you get the accent. Kinda makes sense: single quotation mark is an accent, double gets you the ümalaut, works pretty well. Except for the ñ, wh…

Contrasting Styles of Writing: English vs. Spanish

There is interestingly enough a big difference between what's considered good writing in Spanish and English. V.S. Naipul winner of the 2001 Nobel prize for literature publish an article on writing. In it he emphasizes the use of short clear sentences and encourages the lack of adjectives and adverbs. Essentially he pushes the writer to abandon florid language and master spartan communication. This is a desired feature of English prose, where short clipped sentences are the norm and seamlessly flow into a paragraph. In English prose the paragraph is the unit the writer cares about the most.

This is not the case in Spanish where whole short stories (I'm thinking this was Gabriel Garcia Marquez but maybe it was Cortázar) are written in one sentence. Something so difficult to do in English that the expert translator could best manage to encapsulate the tale in two sentences. The florid language is what is considered good writing in Spanish but unfortunately this has lead to what …

Fixing Autocomplete in Github's Atom Text Editor for Ruby

I really like Github's Atom Text Editor. I really like that it's multi-platform allowing me to master one set of skills that is transferable to all platforms and all machines. 

On thing that just burns me of the default set-up in Atom is the Autocomplete feature that seems to change my words as a type them. Because Ruby uses the end of line as a terminus for a statement you usually finish a word with pressing the return button and you get really annoying changes to your finished typed word a la MS Word. I find myself yelling "No that's not what I wrote!" at the screen in busy coffee shops.

I disabled autocomplete for a while but it is a very useful function. Then I found out they changed the package that gave the autocomplete to a new one called "Autocomplete Plus" that gives you more options. All that I needed to change to make autocomplete sane again:

1. Open Atom's Preferences
2. Search the bundled packages for "Autocomplete Plus"

3. Go to t…