Ultra Mouse Modification


When traveling with a laptop, we often find that the list of peripherals that we have to attach can get pretty long. Especially if it is an older laptop without wireless built in. [Dawning] has taken steps to consolidate some of his peripherals(registration required)by cramming a USB hub and a wireless card into his mouse.

He started by dismantling a USB hub. After placing the board in the mouse to see how it fit, he realized that he was going to have to reduce the size. To do this, he removed the USB slots themselves. This forces him to wire things directly to the board, but saves a ton of space. Next, he took the guts from a USB wireless adapter and wired them up. The decorative LED in the mouse was then moved to the wireless card. This way he could see light flicker with his network traffic. At this point, that’s all he’s added, though there’s still plenty of space for other items. He notes that he’ll probably add some storage or a CF reader. The only problem he has encountered is that his mouse tends to get warm during use. What peripherals would you put in there?

Update: [Dawning] let us know that he didn’t actually remove the LED from its original location. He connected a wire from the wireless adapter that causes the LED to short when traffic is going through. Also, there’s a video which you can now see after the break.


75 thoughts on “Ultra Mouse Modification

  1. hmm… i’d add a 32GB pendrive with a magnetic “failsafe” Hall keyswitch so only the user can access it :)

    could also use a micro with some clever software and a few analogue sensors to read a unique swipe card-like key.


  2. Actually, this would be a really good idea with a keyboard.
    Think about it, loads of space, you could even cut vents in the sides for cooling if needed, unlike a mouse where this would be a bad idea.

    I’d put bluetooth and wifi, a USB hub for some extra ports, some storage in the form of USB sticks, a light for the keys like a reading light, a fan and switches for all the devices. Maybe even speakers and an audio input.

    Getting seriously tempted by this. Anyone recommend a USB hub for projects like this? Something small and cheap, something easy to hack.

  3. laslaw, thanks i didn’t see that login when i checked at bugmenot.

    the only thing i would be afraid of is that thing drawing too much from a usb port and frying it. i’ve seen crazy things happen with usb ports when you start loading them up.

  4. @Chris
    That kind of project would be perfect for a netbook, with it’s limited storage.
    I* would have you conider that a keyboard is kind of an unnecessary attachment to a laptop though. They already have one, so a usb maus makes sense.

  5. @h_2_o: That’s because I created it and posted it! :)

    This really is a cool project, and actually fairly easy to do. That said, another spin on this could be to base it off a wireless mouse, and use the USB receiver box (with either heavy modding, or make your own) to contain all of your gadgets.

    Just think – one USB device that does wireless, bluetooth, storage, etc… and a wireless mouse.

  6. This is my hack.. And it seems I didn’t clearly enough communicate what I did.. The LED is still hooked up to the mouse as per usual. I just added a line from the led of the wireless card that essentially shorts the LED when its trying to blink to indicate traffic. The result is the light only goes off when a packet is sent. This way most of the time the LED remains on, which is what it usually did on this mouse before – this makes the mod more subtle and in my opinion subtle means slick.

    @jake of all trades: I don’t know what awesome hardware you’ve been using, but I have many wireless cards that get hot during operation. This holds for my USB and my mini-PCI wireless cards. The heat is normal and doesn’t go over a luke-warm level after hours of continuous operation.

    Here’s a youtube video I did of this hack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cs4N_b9r2nQ

    Here’s a parts list I provided with my submission they decided not to include:

    Parts list:
    – Mouse $12 (http://tinyurl.com/4fjvs8)
    – Hub $8 (http://tinyurl.com/cezxl9)
    – Wireless Card (this isn’t the one I used) $15 (http://tinyurl.com/3voxjo)
    – Memory Stick 4GB $10 (http://tinyurl.com/ddsn7u)
    – Alternate Memory Stick 8GB $23 (http://tinyurl.com/59pcse)

    Total Raw Parts Cost: $45 – $58

  7. – Flash drive
    – Bluetooth dongle
    – SD reader (externally accessible)
    – Maybe one of those little USB TV tuners, with a long antenna wire coiled up inside. (Bonus points if all the software is installed on the flash drive.)

  8. @ h_2_0, if it’s a spec usb hub, it won’t fry the port. If it’s not a spec usb hub, it still will most likely not fry the port. The only thing is that it will not support all those things. If the USb port only supports the max 500ma in specs, and even if the hub lies about being self powered, so each of the hub ports try to provide 500ma/full speed usb from the one 500ma upstream port, the entire thing will start failing.

    The hub itself will take 100ma from the 500ma upstream port. Then each of the 4 downstream ports should only be able to provide the 100ma low speed minimum. The mouse might take less then that, but the wifi is probably using a full 500ma.

    Adding a cf slot will probably result in failed writes, reads, and dropped wifi.

  9. @ Laslow, they have combo usb devices that do all three (Wifi, Bluetooth, and [minimal] storage.)

    @ Hollis, mouses are redundant on laptops as well, but not everyone likes touch pads, or movement nubs. Same as not everyone likes the small spacing between laptop keyboard keys, or reduced sized keys, or lack of a full number pad.

    Some people also dock their laptops, so use a full keyboard and monitor instead of the smaller ones builtinto the laptop.

  10. LOL Good way to get detained by airport security.

    all they need to do is x-ray your luggage and be like WTF is all that crap in this mouse?
    I can see it now
    Items not allowed on planes:
    1. knifes
    2. forks
    3. computer mice
    4. geeks

  11. how about a pop-up sd/microsd card reader… like an old tape deck. Push a button, up pops the reader, slide the card in, push it back down… sure, you could put a little slot in the side, but that’s too easy.

    or maybe a webcam…

  12. SD card with some Linux distro on it would be kinda cool.

    You could call it haxo-mouse, …. or maybe not.


    Mainly I guess the point is, if it’s USB you can most likely get it to work with this.

  13. @ moogle

    You should see the poor tsa guys when I go through.

    tsadude: you have two laptops?
    me: yes, I’m traveling light today.
    tsadude: What’s this?
    me: external hard drive.
    tsadude: this?
    me: usb to serial adapter.
    tsadude: what’s all the cables?
    me: ethernet, usb, firewire, cisco console cable, couple power adapters.
    tsadude: what’s in here?
    me: tools.
    tsadude: are these lockpicks?
    me: yes.
    tsadude: are you a lock smith?
    me: no.
    tsadude: okaaaay….
    tsadude: why do you have all this stuff?
    me: work.
    tsadude: well…. Have a nice flight.
    me: that’s up to the pilot…..

  14. @cde: yeah specs are nice and all but to be honest i have seen way too many times usb ports overloading and frying themselves because of sucking too much from them. I just am paranoid any more i guess, and have seen too much damage from devices that claim one thing and end up frying ports.

    as for the project, it is cool you just gotta be careful with it in the end.

  15. To those unsure about power matters, I find that if I attach this mouse to an already unpowered USB hub, things don’t function properly.. Which isn’t surprising.

    The Hub I used does have a port for an external power supply. I suppose if one wanted to, they could remake the USB cable coming in to the mouse case to also include a cord to a power source for the hub. This could look fairly clean using some shrink-wrap to make a new cable. However, personally I wouldn’t like that as the connector would then have two things coming out and the power adapter would have to include an big transformer (AC adapter) if it was to go right to the wall.

    People hacking netbooks might be able to tap some additional power source inside their netbooks, though I’d be worried to pull anything out. USB tends to only provide juice on a new connection for a brief time if no device brains are actually detected. Or so I’m led to believe.

  16. @tomfy – Indeed, I was thinking the same thing.

    That tangent also got me thinking about making a mouse that really was a complete system. Something like the Beagle Board (http://beagleboard.org/) would possibly work well for that.. But that’s a major project.. This hack was really easy.

    An additional thought was regarding security nuts, one could keep their encryption keys in the mouse – so their encrypted volumes would be essentially useless without the mouse of power!

  17. @dan k: Yeah, if you’ve got cruddy enough connectivity that could become the case.

    If I were suffering for that, I’d then break out the wireless antenna and expose it from side the USB cable itself. Easy enough addition, but if I don’t have to make my own cables, I won’t bother – I’d have to buy a heat gun to get that wire-wrap stuff to shrink right!


  18. nice barry — I know the feeling of carrying “work” thru tsa security…the “what is this” comment followed by that hysterical gaze of bewilderment. great story.

    as for the mouse – bluetooth definitely (take apart a thumbnail sized usb dongle) and let’s not forget the fingerprint scanner.

  19. WTF !!!!!!
    WTF !!!!!!

    i’m currently working on doing exactly that !

    He stole my IDEA !!!!

    i feel sad… i could have been on hack a day

    if I’d been quick enough

    I feel sad……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

  20. @sammy: Aww, well I’m sure there’s been many people that have stumbled on this idea.. I mean, I pretty much came up with it while staring at my mouse and wireless card for awhile.. You should finish your mod and post on it!

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