Sunday, October 10, 2010

Don't Put Up with it!

Often I find users, old and new, struggling with a computer unnecessarily.

The most common reason is a bad mouse. The mouse should move and focus almost effortlessly. If your mouse does not do that, a new one is cheap. The best I have found is the Microsoft Wireless Optical Mouse---no cord and no ball.

Next is fighting computer slowups. Unfortunately most computers slow up over time. The only solution is to reinstall the operating system from disks provided by the computer manufacturer. First, though, all your computer documents must be saved to reinstall later. But that is unnecessary if you keep all documents online, This column is being kept in Google Documents, which is free. If my computer quits, I can go to another computer and work on it, and then go back later and reinstall the OS on the original machine. Also, I use DropBox for online storage..

Then there is bucking an old system whereas the newest computers are the simplest to use. Windows 7 is very nice, especially for adding printers and other add-ons. Apple’s iPad may be a nice choice for many in November when it adds wireless printing, but get a keyboard for it..

Printers are an everlasting itch and cost. The usual problem is nothing more than an expired ink cartridge. Printers seldom get completely obsolete, so that an old one will do. However, many newer printers are also copiers and scanners and can be wireless. They are also fast. Some operate independently of computer, such as to copy to a flash drive. I like the idea of putting one anywhere I have space. Some even print CDs (Epson).

Too many cables create the potential for poor connections. Laptops eliminate many such problems, but laptops also cause problems.

Some laptop keyboards are just plain too small. There is no reason to put up with that. I use a full-size Microsoft wireless remote keyboard with my laptop when it is being used at my main computer station.

Use of old software is frequently a curse. The latest online software is usually the easiest and safest to use and is often free, especially Google software and iPad “apps”. Are you still typing out your full searches or letting Google new “instant search” anticipate suggest them to save typing?

Browsers are getting faster and faster all the time, so update to latest versions. IE Explorer just came out with its latest for the Vista and Windows 7. I use all the major browsers at one time or another. Chrome has unique features which speed up my particular activity.

Small monitors (displays) are also annoying. I use a 22” but sometimes even my full 42” HDTV. I also set my display for larger print. It is even possible to use most cheap $300 netbooks or laptops with a huge display and large keyboard

Another problem is failure to use the computer for those things which ease and enhance llife. The MLRA website is underused, and in time most senior communities will handle most communications with residents online, as some already do. Among my frequently used helpful software: probably Evernotes, but also Google Reader, bookmarks, and even Amazon for its product reviews, which often contain help.

Any reader (of books) might consider, in addition to their computer, a Kindle at $139, although all books are not digital yet.. The screen is better than computer screen for books. The Kindle also plays MP3s and recorded broadcasts (podcasts). Kindle’s experimental browser is unreadable to use for most webpages, but that will change in time---CleanPage shows how this could happen through conversion of web pages to small screen. The Kindle zooms small book print and even reads out loud to you.

If you are comfortable with computers, and XP is still OK with you, now and then give yourself a fresh start by re-installing the operating system and even adding memory. I still have two towers. I’ll explain how and why in the future. But for everyday use I have a fast 64-bit laptop. Cost about $350 with free super Canon all-in-one printer.

You don’t need to put up with more inconveniences than necessary.