USB Hubs – Like an extension cord for your hardware

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of stuff plugged into my computer, and I frequently run out of space.

On my desktop computer, there are only two USB ports on the front, and one of them is loose, so I don’t use it.  There are other ports on the back of the tower, but they’re hard to reach, so I don’t use them either. On my laptop, there are only two USB ports, so when I plug in my printer and my mouse, there’s no room for a memory stick, or a camera, or even my Kobo e-reader to charge.

My suggestion?  Get a USB hub, like the one pictured here from Canada Computers.

If you discover that your computer doesn’t have enough USB ports for the hardware you want to plug in, go to your favourite computer store and buy a USB hub.  Like an extension cord in your home, a USB hub uses one plug to attach to your computer while providing multiple ports for other hardware, such as an external mouse or keyboard, flash drive, etc.

Laptop touch-pad or external mouse?

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like using the touch-pad on my laptop.  I find it really challenging to get the accuracy I’ve become accustomed to by using a mouse, plus I find it annoying that I have to use two hands: one to move and one to click.  Maybe I’m not doing it right but, either way, I’ve found a solution that works for me.

(Since the majority of computer users are right-handed, touch-pads and mice are set up to serve right-handed people by default.  However, the settings can easily be changed for left-handed people, so use whatever hand is most comfortable.  The description below is for right-handed users.)

First, let’s look at the terms and proper uses.

Terms

Description

Point Using your finger on the sensor of the touch-pad or the mouse itself, move the pointer around the screen
Click Using your pointer finger of the right hand, click once on the left button to select an item
Double-click Keeping the mouse pointer still, click the left button twice in rapid succession, opening the item double-clicked
Right-click Clicking the right button with your ring finger opens a new menu, and allows the user to quickly access commands that are commonly used (cut, copy and paste, etc.)
Click & Drag Pointing at an item, click and hold the left button while moving your finger (on the touch pad) or the mouse
Scroll Wheel Rolling the scroll wheel up and down will move the visible part of the screen, either horizontally or vertically

 

Touch pad or…

A touch-pad on a laptop is used to translate the movement of a person’s finger into the relative position of the pointer on a laptop screen.  With laptops being small, touch-pads offer the same capability of a computer mouse while requiring less space.

If you find it challenging to work your way around a computer screen using the touch-pad like I do, perhaps consider getting yourself an external mouse.

External Mouse

When choosing a mouse, you have a number of options.   Pictured to the left is a standard, corded mouse which simply plugs into your computer.  You can also opt to use a full-size wireless mouse that gets its power from batteries, or even a palm-sized wireless mouse, that literally fits in the palm of your hand.

If you have dexterity challenges, or simply want a change from using the standard mouse, you might choose to use a trackball mouse. I suffer from nerve damage in my hands from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, so using a normal mouse for any length of time causes weakness and pain.  I was very grateful when a friend introduced me to a trackball mouse.

Logitech Trackball mouseAs you can see from the image on the right (this is the mouse that I have), the ball is on the top of this particular model.  To use this type of trackball mouse, the ball is rolled with your index and middle fingers while you click with your thumb and ring finger  (On other trackball mice, the ball might be on the side, when you’d use  your thumb to move the ball and then click with your fingers.) Regardless of which trackball mouse you use, the mouse and your hand stays in one place, and only the ball moves around.

Choosing the Best Fit

Whichever you decide to use – a standard, corded mouse, a wireless mouse or a trackball mouse – I strongly suggest that you go into a computer store and ask to try out the different types of mice available.  Some mice are larger than others, which are perfect for folks with larger hands, but would prove to be challenging to a user with smaller hands.  The trackball mice have options as well, so try them out to see if you’d rather move the ball with your fingers or your thumb.  Your comfort level with the mouse you use really makes a difference in how enjoyable your time on the computer is, plus it can help save you from a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).  Do yourself a favour and try one on for size.  Make sure to find the mouse that’s right for you!

 

Compare CD/DVD drives on a Laptop

CDs (Compact Discs) and DVDs (Digital Versatile Discs) are used to store digital data.  All laptops come equipped with a CD player, and some have the capacity to also play DVDs.  (Depending on the machine, your laptop may also be able to record CDs and/or DVDs.)

Initially, CDs and DVDs were used for music and movies respectively and then later were adapted to be writable, meaning you could actually create and store your own data CDs/DVDs.  A standard CD will hold up to 80 minutes of audio files, and 700 KB (kilobytes) of data, while the most common DVD will store up to 4.7 GB (gigabytes) of data and up to seven hours of CD-quality audio.

Some CD/DVD players are simply a slot on the side of the laptop (as pictured above), and others are drawers that pop out (as seen to the right).  For these, there will be either a small indentation on the drawer that you can push, or a small button.  The drawer may only pop out slightly, so you’ll have to pull it the rest of the way open.

CDs and DVDs are played with the written side facing up, unless you have a double-sided disc, when you can access both sides.

Computer Tip: Safety First – Protect Your Surfaces!

Your laptop is a machine, and holds its power in a battery, which is located on the bottom of the laptop. There are vents along the side of the laptop that help to keep the battery from overheating.

NEVER block those vents. Resting your laptop on a blanket, pillow or fluffy towel is unsafe, and can cause the battery to overheat, causing damage to your computer. Make sure your laptop is sitting on a hard flat surface, and that the vents are not blocked.

Whatever your laptop is sitting on will also heat up, and tabletop surfaces can be damaged by the excess heat.

To be safe, consider using a trivet, hot pad or perhaps a ceramic tile to rest your laptop on, so that any excessive heat does not damage your desk or tabletop.

Computer Tutoring Background (Pt 3)

I love teaching

I love to learn, and I love to teach even more, so it was a natural progression for me to become the go-to gal for computer questions.

With my background in teaching and customer service experience, tutoring friends and family on their computers became a hobby that continued to grow in popularity, for me and for those whom I helped.

Two tips I will share from the experience I just described:

  1. Do not smoke anywhere near your computer!  The nicotine gets everywhere – just like the smoke does – and the damage it can cause could be irreparable.  If you must smoke, leave the room, and close the door behind you to keep the air around your system as clean as possible.
  2. If you own pets that shed, buy yourself a can of compressed air (like the one from Staples shown here) and clean out the dust from your computer.  The animal hair will get inside your system (almost as easily as smoke does) and then dust sticks to the hair and accumulates quickly.  Anything inside your computer that prevents proper air circulation could cause problems, like overheating.