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CueCat / :Cat
When is a mouse not a mouse? When it's a CAT!? If you find one of these mysterious devices, with www.getcat.com on the top, and a plug (or two plugs) on a cable, and :Cat on it somewhere, it is most likely to be a CueCat. These have quite a history to them, and if you're interested you may be able to do something with it.
First, a few things about the CueCat: It's a small device, a bit like a computer mouse, but it's not a mouse and instead of a mouse plug it has on it a keyboard plug (and an inline keyboard socket) which is typically purple, or it has a USB plug.
There are distinct features to the body, which isn't a mouse or a rat, but on closer inspection is a CAT. A clue to this is given away by the terms ":C / :Cat" and www.getcat.com on the body. Other decorative sponsorship logo decals may include WIRED and delta.com . The underside may include reference to Digital Convergence, :Cat , Cat No, and "optical reader" and "keyboard port only". The top has a distinct pair of little pointy ears, and a face a bit like a puma, at the front of which is an optical port of some sort.
If you've got one of these stray items, don't chuck it away, as it may be useful. It's not a mouse, it's a barcode reader! That is, it can read the mysterious numbers on various products, books, groceries, all kinds of things. Plus, it can be adapted to work in Linux, regardless of what the original makers intended. Never mind the fact it was made as a Microsoft-only device and there was a business plan which people write about in "Big Brother is Watching You" terms, as this is historical now.
The story goes back to 2000, and is a tale of a battle between corporate Microsoft-like proprietary powers and Linux'ish techies, and it is surely one of the historic cases of defenestration in modern times. It is a dot com bubble which has been well and truly BURSTED!
The "cats" were given away free, either arriving in the post, or a gratis item at Radio Shack, and it is typical for them to turn up in junk or on sale in unusual circumstances. Typical prices are $10. As they were originally given away, you have a right to do with them as you please. However, they are getting rarer, so it's up to you to do something clever as it's not a replaceable item!
I received mine in a sackful of mice* which I am now giving away in the free mouse offer, although I hasten to add, there was only one cat, and I'm not giving that away, especially now I've tweaked it! The mice are being given away subject to conditions as part of an electronic junk selling effort! * Mice or Mouses?
Anyway, as I was saying, don't throw away your cat!
Here are some useful contacts to know about regarding how to "neuter a cat", or to de-claw, tweak, adjust, tame, and otherwise make-housetrained a Cue Cat! (the point being that there are questionable habits in the original item)...
I don't recommend using the CueCat without first making a few adjustments, but once you've done that, you are safe from the digital rights management nonsense and evil of Palladium. Then, you've got a barcode reader which can read just about any barcode and it will type it in as if it's being typed on the keyboard. That's the finesse of the adapted or "neutered" Cue Cat, that it will work in Linux or any other operating system. Have fun!
Other things also being jailbroken like this include the Sky Digibox and Sky+. At last these can be made into something useful! Also in the sights, the Amazon Kindle
Links last checked for Bad Links on 2011/02/20 and found to be OK.