the irony just kills me — but not my work ethic

Today starts my vacation! I’m not officially working again until March 31st.

This vacation isn’t voluntary (unlike the involuntary vacation I got in 5th grade… but that’s quite another story). I have to use up 5 more days of vacation left over from last year, or else I actually get paid less. And I’m not allowed to accrue more than 200 hours of overtime (actually, at 150 hours accrued, alarm bells are supposed to rouse us out of our slumber meetings and inspire us, together with our management, to develop a short-term overtime reduction plan). And I’m not allowed to average more than 180 hours worked per month on a quarterly basis (I’m fudging the numbers here a bit, because the HR coordinator in our department read me the riot act and then gave me the 13-page “work time law” on paper for my reading pleasure , but it’s something like that). What’s the big deal? I’m risking my bosses’ status as free men.

Wie bitte? This is about as weird as not being allowed to call Dr. Tammy “Frau Doktor”, which I very much enjoy.

If I work too much, cause some kind of accident (or maybe go postal), guess who gets in trouble? Well, practically, of course, I do (not to mention Sarah). But also the guy signing my time sheets.

This of course is not good for the company; it is unacceptable for people whose titles include the terms “Vice President” to be open to prosecution like that. So I’m taking pretty much the rest of this month off (with thanks to the Easter holidays as well). And it’ll be tough, but it’s better for the company if I just don’t work on Fridays during the month of April.

using my Microsoft trackball on linux

I have a very cluttered desk. In addition to the two monitors, two keyboards, two pointing devices (that’s what you call your mice if at least one of them is a trackball or trackpad), two webcams, two microphones, and two iPods, there is a ton of garbage, loose cables, photo paper, a CD spindle or two, post cards we bought and never sent, CDs awaiting import into iTunes, etc.

I don’t have a lot of room for all my stuff. For that reason I like my trackball. I got The Man™ to pay for my Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard and also Trackball back in the day in Troy, but the stipulation was that I couldn’t take them with me when I left (why the hell not? I can’t imagine anyone else being happy to inherit them) for Regensburg four years ago.

No matter, I asked Den Mann™ replace my keyboard here in Germany with the Microsoft Ergonomic keyboard after a couple years, but I was still missing my trackball. I coughed up for a used one on eBay and am pretty happy with it, but until today, I hadn’t been able to get the little midget buttons to the left and right of the main buttons to work. I mostly wanted them to work as surrogate browser Back and Forward buttons like I remember from MSIE 4 or 5 back in the day.

Some quick googling revealed that I am not alone! Turns out it’s not a fix that has to happen in Firefox at all, but rather an X11 tweak. I found it on

Don’t forget to save a copy of your xorg.conf file first, in case you have to revert to it later!

Currently this can only be made to work in firefox and not in nautlis, yelp, ... with the following workaround:
1. Open a terminal and enter the following command:
$ sudo nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf
2. Change the "Configured Mouse" protocol to:
Option "Protocol" "Auto"
3. Add the following following line (this maps horizontal scrolling to your back and forward mouse button, horizontal scrolling by default has back and forward actions in firefox):
Option "ButtonMapping" "1 2 3 6 7"
It should look like this:
Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Configured Mouse"
Driver "mouse"
Option "CorePointer"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
Option "Protocol" "Auto"
Option "ZAxisMapping" "4 5"
Option "ButtonMapping" "1 2 3 6 7"
Option "Emulate3Buttons" "true"
4. Restart X (Ctrl-Alt-Backspace).