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Computing with Bifocals - Cool Tips, Kudos for Bob, & a Review
by - July 31st, 2006

I have a grab bag today of cool tips, kudos for Bob LeVitus, and a cool product review.

Grab Bag item One

Kudos to Bob LeVitus of our very own TMO staff. For the second year in a row Bob was selected The Best Presenter at a CapMac Meeting for the previous year by the membership of Capitol Macintosh Users Group in Austin, Texas.

Grab Bag Item Two

Next the product. You may have seen something in the news recently about a Dell portable computer catching on fire and exploding in the middle of a conference in Japan. If you didn't, check it out. It is easy to laugh and say, "well after all, it is just a Dell." However, if you take a good look at the pictures you can see that every computer in the images are sitting flat on a cloth covered table. This is not cool!

The more powerful our computers get, the hotter they run. A notebook computer operating on a desktop has little ventilation, which causes the cooling fan to cycle frequently. A computer sitting flat on a surface is going to get hot, no matter what brand it is. None of the computer makers, including Apple, even refer to a laptop style computer as a laptop any longer. They haven't done so for the past 7 or 8 years. The accepted term now is notebook.

The computer makers don't want someone getting burned and then trying to hold the computer makers accountable because they (the consumers) were not bright enough to realize that it could be their own responsibility to move that hot computer out of their lap when they started to feel the heat.

Another reason you don't want to have your computer sitting flat on a surface when you are using it is ergonomics. A notebook computer sitting flat on a surface causes you to lean forward when you are using it. This causes neck and back strain.

The product I am recommending to address this problem is The Laptop Desk 2.0.

The Laptop Desk

U.S. $29.95
Heat Reduction
15 - 20 percent
Weight Tolerance 5 pounds and over
Lap Span
20-1/2 inches long by 11 inches wide
1 pound, 6 ounces
Polycarbonate plastic and rubber

This product is light weight, folds in half, and is convenient to carry with you when you travel. It can be used as a traditional stand with 5 levels of incline. It held my 15 inch notebook firmly in place and it was easy to adjust to an appropriate level. It can also be flipped over and used perfectly flat as a work station. This second option works well in airplanes according to the literature. I haven't been on any airplanes to test it out, but I have tried it in various kinds of chairs. It will work with some armchairs, but the chair can't be any wider than the device. It works best in chairs without arms, but it works well even with those. I really like this product and recommend it for anyone who travels with their notebooks or even people like me, who go to Mac User Group meetings every week.

You might want to check out the company's web site, also. It features several other products that help you use your notebook with more comfort and ease.

Grab Bag Item Three

Speaking of ergonomics, leaning toward the computer screen, and all that stuff, do you find yourself squinting at the screen at times? Come on now, be honest. Heaven knows I spend half my time doing it. Even with my special computer glasses, I sometimes have time reading the small print when I am searching the Internet. Here is a trick that will help.

While you have the page open, hold down the Apple key and the plus key. The text will enlarge. Holding down the Apple key and the minus key will reduce the text back to regular size. This works with Safari and Internet Explorer. The effect will stay in place when you move from page to page or from site to site.

It has the major down side of making it almost impossible for you to see an entire page at once, but if that is the only way you can see a page then it is a small price to pay to have to move the contents of a page back and forth to read it all.

Grab Bag Item Four

Here is another Safari tip. Quickly move down a page by striking the space bar. Conversely, you can move up a page by holding down the shift key while you strike the space bar.

Grab Bag Item Five

I really hate it when I do something that causes a problem that I can't fix because I don't know what I did to cause the problem in the first place. Know what I mean? One such example is to have the URL field suddenly disappear while using Safari.

It usually looks like this:

Safari Web Page Open With URL Field Fully Visible

But then you can do something that can cause it to look like this:

Safari Web Page Open With URL Field Hidden

The cause and the cure are one in the same and it happens because you get your fingers on the wrong keys. The key combination is shift + Apple + |. (That is the vertical bar , not the numeral one) If you happen to hit that combination, just hit it again and your URL field will open back up.

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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