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One Computer in Two Places

If you spend time in two houses, or in one house and an office, you probably have a system for using your computer(s) in both locations.

Perhaps you take a laptop back and forth. Perhaps, if you have two computers, you transfer files using an external hard drive or you email yourself what you need. Or perhaps you access one computer from the other computer electronically.

If you use a laptop, you know how convenient it is to have everything with you. But maybe the screen is too small, the keys are too close together, and the touch pad is too awkward. Unfortunately, the more comfortable configuration — the large monitor, the full size keyboard, and the familiar mouse — is too cumbersome to be portable.

The ideal scenario for accessing your data and enjoying a comfortable workstation is to outfit each desk with a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse, and travel with just your laptop.

When you arrive, boot up the laptop, plug in the peripheral devices, and close the laptop lid. Your data will be visible on the monitor and you’ll be able to use the mouse and keyboard. All of your files will be accessible from your laptop’s hard drive.

When you leave, unplug the peripherals (you’ll leave them behind) and pack up your laptop. Repeat the same set up at the other desk.

This scenario might involve some initial purchases but the ease of traveling with only a laptop, and the luxury of a comfortable workstation in both locations, will be worth the investment.

Read the Reviews!

If you use your computer to shop online, you know the advantages over buying the same item in the store: no leaving the house, traipsing from store to store, parking, looking for a salesperson, or lugging the bags to the door. Let the UPS guy do that.

Of course there is no trying it on or trying it out — and there’s that pesky shipping charge — but these negatives often pale in comparison to the convenience of internet shopping.

There is one more advantage to shopping, or at least browsing, online: customer reviews.

Except for what the salesperson in a store can tell you about a product, you can’t know what others who own the product think of it. On the internet, you can.

Many stores that sell items online encourage customers to rate and review their products on the website. Take the time to read what others have said. This information can factor into your decision.

When reading reviews, keep in mind:

  • The very best reviews could be written by store employees (or paid reviewers), and the very worst reviews could be written by the store’s competitors.
  • One or two reviews is not a representative sample. Read as many as you feel are necessary to convey a clear pattern of customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
  • Read the negative reviews carefully to see why these reviewers are dissatisfied. Some expectations are not realistic; some complaints concern features you don’t care about.
  • Skip reviews that just describe the product. Rather, look for the ones that describe the experience: ease of assembly, durability, operation, etc.

Product reviews might not make or break your purchase decision, but they can give you an insight into what others thought. And, if you do buy the product and love it — or hate it — write your own review. Others will appreciate your contribution.

Waiting In Line

We’ve all been there: sitting in our cars a few deep at the gate, waiting for the arm to lift and the first car to proceed. It doesn’t.

No one can advance until the first vehicle is removed from the queue. We inch backwards allowing it to back out. Order is restored.

Your computer subscribes to a similar “entry gate” system. When you send a file to your printer or an email to a friend, a queue is formed. As the saying goes: “requests are handled in the order in which they are received.”

Fortunately, we rarely notice this. We click “print” and the printing starts. We click “send” and the email is sent.

But what about when it is not so seamless?

You send something to the printer, it doesn’t print, so you send it again. Nothing. You give up, turn off your printer, and come back to try later. Still nothing.

Or you send one or more emails and, when you close your email program, it says you have “unsent” emails in your outbox. It asks if you want to send them now. You say “yes” and it tells you there is an error and they can’t be sent. Ugh.

Think back to sitting at the entry gate. Most likely a recent file you sent to the printer, or a recent email you tried to send, had an error and it is holding up every request (car) in the line.

What to do? Remove the offending file/email and the others should proceed through as scheduled.

To open the Print Queue:

  • Go to the Control Panel (on a PC) or System Preferences (on a Mac) and open the printer folder.
  • Double click on the icon representing the printer you are using, and click on “see what’s printing” or “print queue.” (This label will vary, but you get the idea).
  • Click on the first line item (it probably says “error” somewhere near the file name) and delete that file by choosing “Document” and then “Cancel Printing” from the menu.

Of course you might wish to delete more than just the first line item. Remember all the times you sent that file to the printer? Those copies all want to print now too.

To find the offending email:

  • Look on the left sidebar of your email program (near the “Inbox” and “Sent Mail”) labels and locate the “Outbox.”
  • Open the outbox and look for the oldest email (by date or time). This is the one that is holding up the line.
  • Right click on that email and choose “Delete.” If you no longer wish to send the other emails in the queue, you can delete them here as well.
  • Close the “Outbox” and exit the email program. If there are other emails waiting to be sent, you will be asked if you wish to send them now.
  • Click “Yes” if you wish to send them.

Next time you are waiting to get into the gate, assure yourself that were you at your computer, you would have more control over getting the problem resolved!

A Moment of Silence

This week the world lost an American computer genius. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56.

Apple logo with silhouette of Steve Jobs in the “bite.” Designed by a 19-year-old student in Hong Kong.

Jobs created the first Apple computer in his parents’ garage in California and then built up the Apple Company from nothing (twice!). In 1983, Time Magazine called Jobs “The Maestro of the Micro.” In 2011, The New York Times called him the “Thomas Edison and Henry Ford of his time.”

Jobs himself said in 1990, “The computer is the most remarkable tool we’ve ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”

In a departure from my regular focus on just one computer issue, I am paying tribute this week to Jobs by appreciating the big picture. Please join me.

Macintosh. iMac. iPod. iPhone. iPad. These devices have changed the way we live, and we have Apple — and Jobs as its visionary — to thank for these beautifully designed, brilliantly engineered, graphically pleasing, commercially affordable devices whose breadth of functionality is surpassed only by ease of use.

Genius.

Even if you don’t own an Apple device, please know that the Windows-based computer you are using right now, and the smartphone you may have in your pocket, were influenced by Apple ingenuity.

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for your invaluable inventions. Because of you our world is a more connected place. We hope that your brilliance will live on at Apple.

A friend of mine, an avid Apple user, posted this graphic on her Facebook page, along with her Apple-like caption:

iSad

A moment of silence — or perhaps a bike ride — is appropriate.

The Fine Print

I thought that computers were supposed to make us a paperless, environmentally friendly society, but gauging by the number of households with printers and by the reams of paper they process, it’s clear we are far from paperless.

There is, however, one painless lesson we can all learn about printing that will save paper, ink, and time: specifying the “print range.” Don’t print more pages than you want.

In many cases you will wish to print the total number pages in your document, which is why the print dialogue box has “All” checked for you already. In this case, you need not change any settings; just click “Print” and you’re done.

But, if you wish to print only a specific range of pages, you will need to make an adjustment to the print settings before you click “Print.” Here are some examples of print ranges for a multi-page document:

  • If you wish to print page 1 through page 5, type “1-5” (no quotation marks) in the Print Range box.
  • If you wish to print page 1, page 3, and page 7, type “1,3,7” (no quotation marks) in the Print Range box.
  • If you wish to print pages 1 through 4 and also pages 7 and 9, type “1-4,7,9” (no quotation marks) in the Print Range box.

If your computer does not have a “range box” that you can fill in, but only has the choices of “All” or “From” and “To,” take advantage of the “From” and “To” boxes to specify a smaller print range than “All.”

If you are printing information from a website rather than a document, and you are not sure how many pages there are, or which specific page number(s) you want, choose the “Print Preview” option to view the pages the way the printer will print them. From there, you can determine which page number(s) you want and enter the correct range.

Happy printing!