Just out of curiosity how cheaply did you get the spaceorb controllers?
There was a 'craze' for awhile where people asked nutty prices for them.
The controller's killer app is Descent - try that before you give up totally on it. It's DOS so it should work with the controller properly. In everything else it was hit and miss.
Try compatibility modes on the launcher if there is some option.. it was designed for 95 I thought, it's strange if it doesnt work.
Any other PC to try it on?
There is that arduiono based hardware hack that turns it into a fully supported USB controller in modern OS'es out there as well.
How bad is the strafe to left problem? Wondering whether it was like analog joysticks that drifted and you could adjust something to compensate or if it's like a 'dead' spot in them.
If the dead left strafe problem is fixable and the price is right I might buy it off you because i've always wanted to try one in Descent myself.