I Got Hacked by the Sun

Had a scary moment yesterday when I thought someone had hacked my computer.

I’m sitting here at the PC searching some website or doing Facebook or I forget what I was doing. Suddenly my mouse started going crazy. Begin jumping all over the screen wildly and I couldn’t control it.

I don’t ever really use an actual “mouse”. There is one connected to my computer in case somebody else needs to use it but I never touch the thing because of my disability. I actually have three different ways of controlling a virtual mouse. Most of what I do on my computer is dictate using voice recognition software called Dragon NaturallySpeaking. It has a variety of mouse commands such as “Move Mouse Up” or any other direction. You can also “Mouse Click” or “Mouse Double Click” or “Right Click” by simply saying those words with a pause before and after so that it knows that you’re not actually dictating. It also has commands for dragging the mouse which I bit difficult to use and you can move the mouse using a grid system that I won’t bother to describe here.

Additionally I have an Arduino Leonardo microcontroller configured as a USB mouse and keyboard emulator. It has IR receiver that lets me use my TV universal remote to send infrared signals and control the mouse that way. Details can be found here.

Also I have a special driver loaded on my PC the connects to an app on my android phone (my iPod touch prior to that). I can use my stick in my mouth to drag around on the app and click on buttons to control the mouse.

I desperately tried to shut down all the programs I was running to do a reboot but it was difficult to do with the mouse jumping all over the place. I couldn’t click on anything because the mouse was never in the position I wanted it to be in. None of my three methods of mouse control could override this erratic behavior.

Just as I was ready to close my last window, I happened to look over at my actual mouse lying on the desk. Except it wasn’t lying on the desk. It was lying on top of a bunch of junk piled on my desk. Most of them were cables clumped together in a tangled mess. Sunlight was pouring through my office window and reflecting off of the desktop, the cables, and other shiny objects lying in the pile. I finally figured out what the problem was.

I got hatcked by the sun!

Although the original design for the computer mouse had a little rubber ball in the bottom of it that had to actually touch the surface of a table, all modern mice are optical mice. The original optical mice simply had an LED and a photosensor and could only be used on specially designed mousepads that had a herringbone pattern on them. But the latest optical mice actually have a tiny camera that focuses on the surface of whatever you are dragging it across. It can detect the movement of microscopic textures as the mouse moves and from that determine the direction in which you are moving the mouse. In this case the mouse wasn’t moving but the sunlight bouncing off of the table and other junk beneath the mouse was flickering and tricking it into thinking that it was being dragged across some surface. As I was attempting to close the last window and reboot, the sun went behind a cloud and the mouse stopped moving.

I had my dad come in the office end mouse firmly on the table. There’s been no further incidents of “hacking”.

So not only did I get hacked by the sun… The hacking was stopped by a cloud 🙂

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