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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 2/18/2006

Little desktop discoveries

Can you cut this on the lines for me?

Inside the envelope, which a friend left on my desk, was a tennis ball with a line drawn near each end. Next day I left the two little rubber domes on his desk, made a mental note to ask why he wanted them, and promptly forgot.

I noticed a few weeks later that the chunks of rubber were lifts to position his computer keyboard at a more comfortable angle. This individual was surprised when I showed him the little fold-out feet built right into that keyboard. Just flip them up to elevate the front of the keyboard.

Computer hardware has other hidden or non-intuitive features. Over the years, I ve learned that people even experienced computer users - sometimes need help to discover these features.

Our office got new Dell Optiplex computers a few years ago. One day I was touching the front of the tower, the system unit that contains all the electronics, while chatting on the phone.

Wooo! I pulled gently on what seemed to be a decorative plastic lip. It turned out to be a door that opened to reveal a conveniently placed USB outlet and an outlet for headphones.

That discovery has saved me a lot of bending and twisting. I use one of those small USB drives (also called jump drives or keychain drives) to carry files between home and office. In the past, I had to bend over and grope the back of the tower to plug the drive into a USB outlet.

People always seem to wish for more of those USB outlets, which are used to connect printers, broadband modems, portable music players, scanners, digital cameras, and other devices.

Last night I happened to glance at the side of the monitor on my home computer. Convenient but well hidden were two USB outlets. That discovery saved me the $50 I was about to spend for another USB hub, a device like an electric extension cord that has several USB outlets.

Tip: If your monitor has the outlets, they probably won t work unless you connect the monitor to a USB outlet on the tower unit. You ll have to search the back of the monitor to find the square USB connector.

Need to prop your monitor on a stack of books to get the right viewing height? Many flat-panel, or liquid crystal displays (LCDs), can be adjusted from the back. They can be raised and lowered, or swiveled from side to side.

A reader asked for advice about dead speakers on her computer. Should she replace the speakers or the sound card? One of the speakers, it turned out, had a tiny power switch on the back. Someone in the family had turned it off.

It that printer or fax shooting printouts onto the floor? Check the output tray for a little plastic lip that may fold out and act as a paper holder.



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