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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.....

Date & Time & Other Helpful Hints
November 1st, 2000

In response to a reader request I am going to address some more fairly basic things about making your Mac work for you.

Date and Time

The end of daylight savings time means changing the time on your Mac unless you have automatically set it to change itself at the appropriate time. Of course, if you do that and then forget that you did it, you can royally mix everything up like I did. Just as a reminder here are the steps you go through to make changes in the date or time as well as changes in display options.

Choose Control Panels from the Apple menu in the upper left corner of your screen. Continue to hold down the mouse and scroll down to Date and Time. Release the mouse and you will get a window that looks something like this.

Date and Time Options Window

You can change the date or time by clicking on the particular component you want to change and, while it is highlighted, move the small arrows to the right up or down. In addition you can set the formats for both by clicking on the appropriate bar underneath the date or time display. You can choose the part of the world you want to use for date and time, determine how you want the information displayed, and even indicate if you want the century to be listed. Time formats allow you to choose to have the time displayed in military time or in 12 hour units.

The next option allows you to set Daylight Savings time changes. Again, this only works if you don't forget you did it! The next option controls whether your Mac will check its time against a network server. You probably only want to do this if you have a full-time connection like cable or DSL or if you are on a network at your office. If that is the case, your network administrator will probably take care of it for you. If you aren't sure about any of that, just leave this choice unchecked. :-) At the bottom you choose if you want the time and date displayed in the menu bar and you can select options.

The clock options can be important if users of your machine are color blind or visually impaired because this window allows you to select the color and size of your clock displays. It will even show a sample of your selections (bottom left) so you will know if you like what you choose. The option is also there to choose chimes (or to turn that feature off when it starts to drive you buggy).

Clock Options Window

How To Get Basic Information

I mentioned last week how you can trick your Apple Menu so that your most used items are listed first rather than alphabetically. However, no matter what changes you make you will always find "About This Computer" on the very top of the list. The information on your computer may look different, depending on what operating system you are using, but it is all basically the same information, no matter how displayed. This is what it looks like on my machine as I work on this column. I am reminded that I am using OS 9.0.4 , that I have four different applications open, how much memory each one takes as well as how much my OS takes. You may not need this very often, but it is important to know where you find it and what it means. If you have a program that crashes a lot, it could be because it is using more RAM than you have allocated to it.

"About This Computer" Window

As an example, I opened a copy of the Computing With Bifocals Index which is a fairly large Adobe PageMill file. When I did so the Adobe PageMill line changed to this:

Changes to The Window

PageMill is still holding 11.8 MB of space, but now I am using much more of it than before simply because the file I opened is much larger.

Virtual Memory

I don't really understand much about Virtual Memory although as you can see in the window above, I have 120 MB. One definition I found for it says that virtual memory, when turned on in your Memory control panel, is always equal to physical memory, but can be much greater. This is not real RAM, but instead it is a method whereby your computer uses hard disk space as RAM. Clear as mud now?

View Options

To check the view options for your desktop, first make sure you have no applications activated by clicking on a blank space on your desk top. Then select the View Pulldown menu and choose View Options. There is a section there called Icon Arrangement. If you choose Snap to Grid you will force your desktop icons to line up in straight lines. It can be helpful, but if you are working on something and you want to keep different folders or items together, you may want to turn this option off. This option will also get in the way if you choose to have trash cans located in more than one spot on your desktop for ease of use. You also can choose to have icons arranged alphabetically.

If you have any tips, suggestions, or other comments about this, or any other Mac topics, send them to me so that I can share them with other readers.

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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