A laptop tip: Get a mouse!
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
10 tips for that new computer

Dec. 28, 2008

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, The Post-Standard

   If you found a new computer under the tree, let me send my congratulations. As my gift to you, here are 10 tips to make your new housemate comfortable.
   1. Put the computer on a switched power strip and turn the power strip off each time you turn off the computer. This kills the electrical connection and prevents "botnets" from using your computer to spread software infections and spam while you're away from the keyboard. This is the No. 1 problem of Windows PCs, and does not apply to Apple's Macs -- but do the same with Macs anyway just in case some idiot decides to target Macs the same way.
   2. Don't use anything but plain water on a soft cloth to clean your LCD screen. Household cleaning products can ruin your screen.
   3. If you have a laptop computer, never place a pencil or pen (or any other object) on the keyboard to keep it handy. It's too easy to close the lid on that object and break the screen.
   4. Another laptop tip: Get a mouse (or find an old one in your drawer) and use it. Track pads were designed for creatures with three hands and 14 fingers.
   5. If your computer is a tower design, place it on a riser of some kind (make it out of a 2X4 piece of lumber if you have to) so the internal fan won't suck in dust that hovers near the floor.
   6. Cover your keyboard with a clean dishtowel when you're not at the computer to keep dirt and animal hair out of the tiny spaces between the keys.
   7. Adjust your monitor for accurate color and see what your digital camera's really doing. I describe how to do it here: technofileonline.com/texts/tec123000.html.
   8. Check your e-mail program's options or preferences to find out how to create an e-mail signature, and then use it on all your mail. (It's automatic, so you won't have to do anything extra.) A signature adds class to your mail and gives you a chance to say something clever with each message.
   9. Learn how to create a new folder on your desktop (right click, then choose from the pop-up menu) and drag all the unimportant stuff off your desktop and drop it in that new folder. Looks neat and clean now, right?
   10. If you're new to a Mac, that advice about a right click might be confusing. But your new Mac does have a right click. If yours came with Apple's cute white mouse, just click the right end of the mouse. If you have an older Mac, just plug any modern Windows mouse into your Mac and shuffle off to right-click heaven.