Trackballs

Trackballs #

List of trackballs that I owned / used:

Name Notes
Logitech M570 Trusty friend, left mouse button needed to be fixed a lot.
Kensington Expert It’s huuge! Scrollwheel is a little awkward but the precision is great and it forces you to move your wrist.
Logitech ERGO M575 Not sure what is particularly “ergo” about it, almost identical to M570. Nicer finish though.
Perixx PERIPRO-303 Not a mouse but a 34 mm replacement ball that fits the Logitechs. Lots of colours.

Button Scrolling #

If you have either a very large trackball (think Kensington Expert) or an older model without a wheel (e.g. Logitech Marble) you may want to use the ball itself to scroll. This is the so-called “scrollwhell-emulation” mode, where you press and hold a button to use the vertical trackball axis to scroll. However, even if you have a thumb-operated ball, this might be preferrable in some situations, especially if you need to scroll long distances.

With xinput #

In an Xorg session you can simply use xinput to set properties on your input devices. It can be a little tricky to find the right property to set, however. The following command will enable the button scrolling method with the middle mouse button on my Logtech M575:

xinput set-prop "Logitech ERGO M575" "libinput Scroll Method Enabled" 0 0 1

On Wayland #

On Wayland sessions, however, xinput only sees virtual devices, so you can’t use it to set properties directly on the mouse. The libinput documentation gave me a little bit of a runaround by saying “Use the configuration tool provided by your desktop environment (e.g. gnome-control-center)” – but the control center does not expose this option!

A first lead pointed to setting environment variables in /etc/udev/hwdb.d/ – but again: what would be the correct option to set?! After a lot of searching I found that you can set ID_INPUT_POINTINGSTICK=1 and get the desired scroll behaviour. Annoyingly, this also changed sensitivity and acceleration defaults because you just made your trackball a trackpoint.

Finally I found a key that can be configured via dconf in /org/gnome/desktop/peripherals/trackball/: scroll-wheel-emulation-button. It takes a number between 0 and 24, so what is the right option here? The switch-case statement expects 1 for the left mouse button, 2 for the middle mouse button and 3 for the right mouse button. A setting of 0 disables the behviour. Ah, finally!

dconf write /org/gnome/desktop/peripherals/trackball/scroll-wheel-emulation-button 2

Not quite! My Logitech ERGO M575 was not properly classified as a trackball – only as a mouse! So apparently this setting was never applied. You can check the classification by checking the output of udevadm info /sys/class/input/event.... The solution in my case was to use the above hwdb method with the following configuration file:

# /etc/udev/hwdb.d/70-mouse.hwdb
mouse:*:name:Logitech ERGO M575:
  ID_INPUT_TRACKBALL=1

Update the database with systemd-hwdb update, replug the dongle et voilĂ !

Cleaning #

Only clean the muck off the bearings with a dry brush or a small cloth. Never use alcohol on the bearings or the ball unless really necessary. I believe I destroyed the bearings on my first M570 by cleaning them too hard or often, until the ball would no longer glide easily and become sticky and “jump”.

Fix the Microswitches #

The left mouse button started to double-click at some point due to wear (the first time after ~ 2 years). If you open up the mouse you can unclip the top part of the microswitch housing (make sure you don’t loose the small white piece!) and then use tweezers to take out and re-tighten the spring by bending it out a little further.

This is certainly not meant to be a user-serviceable part and you can easily break the spring or fail to assemble it correctly afterwards. But it saved me from buying a new mouse two or three times in the M570’s lifetime.