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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....




A Mouse With A Retractable Tail, Browser Tips, & Software Update
October 22nd, 2003

HINT: New computer users may be unfamiliar with some of the terms used in this column. If you come across something you are unfamiliar with you may go to the Computing With Bifocals Index for help.

Oh Boy. A New Toy

Kensington has a new item out called the Pocket Mouse Optical Pro. This optical mouse is primarily designed for use with laptops and it features a retractable cord, two buttons, and a scroll wheel. (An optical mouse does not use a ball, and so it works more smoothly and does not have to be cleaned frequently like one that uses a ball.) You must have a USB connection to use this kind of mouse.

One of the things Kensington has done to for portable users is to make the USB chord retractable. It's adjustable and you simply pull it out to the desired length. When you stop pulling, it locks in place until you pull on it again. It works perfectly with both my desktop and laptop. I just plugged it into a USB port and it was ready to go, and there was no software or drivers to install. Any new user would be able to use this successfully in a couple of minutes.

The mouse is also small and very light weight. The dimensions are 4.375" long x 1.5" high x 2.25" wide. The retractable cord (30" long) is in a compartment on the left side of the mouse and is opened with a small button. This mouse is compatible with both Windows-based PCs (Windows 98, Me, 2000, and XP) and with USB Macs with OS 8.1 or later. I found it on the Internet at prices ranging between US$29 to US$52 (US$29.87 - Amazon). This would make a great gift.


The Kensington Pocket Mouse Optical Pro


What To Do If Your Browser Stops Working

Sometimes there are things you, even a new Mac user, can check and perhaps fix on your own. The following suggests some ways you can investigate and, perhaps fix, browser problems.

What should you do when your Internet browser stops working?

Quick Tip: A browser is the application you use to view Web pages on the Internet. Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape are two of the better known browsers. For those of us lucky enough to have Macs with OS X, there is also Safari.

So, this morning everything worked fine. This afternoon, your browser window opens, but when you try to access a site, nothing happens. The first thing to do is try more than one URL. The specific site you are trying to access may be down. The second step is to check your e-mail and see if that is working. (This only works if you get your e-mail through a separate application such as Mail, or Outlook Express. If you use something like Yahoo! to get your mail, you obviously can't get to it if your browser is not working.)

If your e-mail is not working either, then it is a good bet that the problem lies with your Internet service provider (ISP) rather than your computer. Call your Internet service provider's tech support for assistance. These folks can usually fix the problem from their end, walk you through the steps you need to take on your end, or let you know that the whole system is down.

If your e-mail is working just fine, but your browser isn't, the next thing I would do is see if a different browser will work, especially if you are trying to access a new site. It is actually very helpful to have more than one browser loaded on your machine. I don't particularly like to use Internet Explorer, but sometimes I have to do so to complete a task. I can't explain the technical aspects of this, other than to say that some Web sites are not set up to be compatible with all available browsers.

If your second browser does not work either then, I suggest you contact your Internet service provider's tech support. Having two browsers suddenly stop working certainly strongly suggests that the problem is with the provider. Again, the tech support staff should be able to walk you through solutions. The problem may be that you need to reset certain aspects of the browser or your Internet connection. You don't have to worry about the how or why; the tech support staff will tell you what to do each step of the way.

If you decide you need to install a new version of the browser, go to the appropriate web site and choose download. You can download Safari (OS X only) at Apple's Web site. Netscape (for OS 9 or X) is available at Netscape's Web site. Internet Explorer for Mac (OS 0 and OS X) can be found at Microsoft's Web site. Some of the techy types at TMO are also very fond of a browser called Camino.

Do You Know About Software Updates?
In your System Preferences for OS X (find them under the Apple menu) is an item called Software Update. This is a good thing. It helps you upload updates without any mistakes. In the past, one way or another, I have managed to commit any and all possible errors when updating software. Software Update protects me from myself.

It actually only works with Apple applications, but that accounts for two-thirds of my apps. For a third-party application, I still have to visit the Web site to learn of updates. Also note: Software update is available for OS 9.


Software Update Window

Obviously, being automatically notified of updates can save you time and trouble. This image shows the window from my computer, how I have set mine up, and pertinent data related to updates. There is another aspect, though, that is even more important. When you use the software update service, the update you are downloading will automatically replace your existing version, while saving all your information.

For instance, iCal has an update available. I downloaded it using software update and the transition was seamless. I don't have to throw anything away, and all my calendar dates are still in place. If you haven't tried this yet, check it out.

Have you discovered any new or particularly useful computer related items that would make great holiday gifts? If so, please take a minute and let me know. I will include your suggestions in an upcoming column.


Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.


Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.


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