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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.....

Mac Battery 101 And Other Basic Tips
July 14th

This week's column covers tips to help you be more proficient with your Mac as well as some basic operating information. Good grief! Why do I suddenly have a vivid image of the original Heloise? Well, with apologies to that great house keeping guide who first showed me how to use ammonia and water to clean windows, how to remove black heel marks from floors with Brillo Pads, and 14 ways to use a vacuum, I will proceed on a much more modest level.


Your Mac does have a battery. Most Macs have 3.6 volt Lithium batteries on the "logic board." However, if you plan to change the battery yourself, you are probably way too advanced to be reading this column. For the rest of us, it is important that we be able to recognize that the battery may be the problem if our Macs are not functioning properly.

One clear indicator that your battery may be dead is when your Mac starts up in black and white mode, despite the fact that you shut it down in color mode. However, if it starts up in black and white but then reverts to color, that is not a battery problem.

The clearest piece of evidence for a dead battery will be that your date and time keep getting reset. For most of us that would mean that it shows up as sometime in August of 1956 and keeps doing so every time you restart, even if you have corrected it in your "Date & Time" control panel. It is your battery that helps remember the current time when your computer is shut down, so when it fails, your computer just "resets" so to speak and thinks it is back at the beginning of time. That time, on the Mac, is usually in August of 1956.

If your battery is dead you probably want to get help with replacing it. If you don't know a Mac guru, then look for a company like "Computer NERDZ!" in your phone book. You want an Apple authorized repair place, or a place like Computer NERDZ! that has Mac gurus working for them. Don't be afraid to ask if the company you are contacting works on Macs either.

Something Similar

If your Mac shuts down unexpectedly and then has difficulty starting back up when you try to restart it, it may mean that the PRAM was corrupted during the unexpected shutdown. Don't worry about what that means (besides, I don't really know myself). Just try the following. You have to zap the PRAM on start-up. (Note: For bonus points, be sure that you manage to work into a conversation with your friends some day that your machine wouldn't start so you zapped the PRAM. It should be worth at least 10 points!) To zap the PRAM start up your machine and, at the same time, hold down the following keys: Command-Option-P-R.

There are other indicators that your PRAM may be corrunpted, but those are more advanced things for another column.

Logos and Images

There is a site ( that has pulled together a number of cool Mac logos. I couldn't find the name of the individual who puts the information together, but the site has about a dozen logos - some of which are animated - and encourages you take and use them freely. Here is an example.

Sample Mac Logo

To get any of the logos for your own use you should do the following. In Netscape Navigator or Netscape Communicator, click on the image you want and hold down the mouse button until a menu box pops up. You can choose “Open the image”, “Save this image as....”, “Copy this image”, and “Load this image”. If you choose to copy the image for inclusion in what will be a paper document, then just choose copy. The image will be copied and saved on your clipboard and then you can open the document where you want to use it, click your cursor wherever you want it on the page, and choose paste. If you choose Open the image then the particular image you have chosen will come up on a new page and you will note at the top where the web address is that it is labeled as a GIF or JPEG image. At that point you can go to your File Pull Down menu and save it wherever you choose, including your start up menu which will allow the image to appear each time your machine comes on. The animated GIFs, of course, are the most fun if you choose this option. I wrote a column on February 24, 1999 that tells how to put sounds in your start up menu. You can refer to that column and follow the same directions to add an animated GIF that you might like to see when your Mac first comes on.

Alternately, you can just click once on an image in a web page and drag that image to your desktop. That will cause the images to be copied to your desktop with nary a fuss! You will then have to move it to whatever location you want to keep it in. The danger here is that your desktop will become amazingly cluttered in only a few short days as you keep saving images you find. :-)

Here is a copy of what a saved GIF will look like on your desktop.

GIF Icon

To look at the actual image you just double click on the GIF icon.

This is My Personal Favorite Image

Floppy Disks

Floppy disks, of course, are no longer floppy, but rather, hard plastic squares, 3.5 inches by 3.5 inches, containing a small round metal disk in the center of the back and a metal shutter that wraps over one end (the floppy part is encased in that hard plastic shell for protection). The name is a left over from the original floppies that were 5 and a quarter by 5 and a quarter. They really were floppy, could substitute as a hand fan, and were very fragile. The current style are not nearly so fragile, but they still require care. New users with iMacs may not be familiar with floppies because their machines don't use them. The rest of us usually do use them both for back up sources and to send information to others when snail mail (regular mail) is required. There are certain requirements pertaining to floppies that must be met to keep them operational. Perhaps most important is that they must be kept away from magnets. Magnets wipe out the memory from the disk. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. When I moved earlier this summer I packed all my computer related stuff, including a couple of large boxes of floppies, in a separate box. I moved the computer in my car, but let the movers put the box with all the other boxes. As fate would have it, the movers placed that box in the truck next to a box holding my stereo speakers (all normal speakers contain magnets, some of them quite large). I only moved about 6 miles, but in the time it took the movers to load and unload and drive to the new place, the magnets in the stereo speakers whipped out one whole box of about 25 floppies. Boy, was I pleased when I discovered that!

Don't open the metal shutter which you can do by sliding it back and forth. It lets dust into the disk.

Don't use a disk that has been exposed to either very cold or very hot temperatures until it returns to room temperature. Don't leave disks in your car in hot weather.

When flying with floppies it is best to pack them in your luggage rather than carrying them with you. The metal detectors you have to walk through can damage disks, but the x-ray systems that are used on luggage are supposed to be safe.

If what you are doing is important, you should save a back-up copy on a disk. This includes Zip Disks, Super Floppy disks, regular floppy disks, or whatever other kind of removable disk you may have. This is a pay-me-now or pay-me-later thing. Sooner or later you will wish you had taken the time to save something. If it is something really, really important than make two back up disks because disks fail. The best way to do this is to copy onto two disks, one after another, when the items being saved are ready to save. However, for any number of good reasons you may originally make only one copy. You can make a copy of a disk from the disk itself to another disk although it involved several steps.

1. Insert the original floppy (disk 1) into your machine by inserting it into the floppy door on the front of your machine. Your machine will making a whirling sound for a few second and then an icon of the disk will appear on your desk top.

2. Go to the Special pull-down menu and click on Eject Disk. Your disk will pop out, but a grayed image of the icon of the disk will still show on your desktop.

3. Insert an empty disk (disk 2) into the machine. When the icon pops up for the new floppy disk, drag the grayed icon (hold down the mouse button while on the image and continue to hold it down while you drag it) to the blank disk icon and release it. At this point the computer will automatically eject disk 2 and ask you to reinsert disk 1. Insert disk 1 and the computer will begin to whirl again, copying the contents of disk 1 into its own memory. Then the computer will eject disk 1 and ask for the blank disk. Insert it and the computer will automatically put the information it just saved from disk 1 onto disk 2. Depending on the amount of information you are saving, the computer will ask you to go through this step several more times. Once the process is complete the computer will tell you so. Your last step will be to click once on the title of disk 2, and when the color changes, type in a name for the disk.

Packages of disks come with labels. If you don't label them you will have to search through each one every time you want to find something. Be sure to place the label in the exact marked space so that you don't impede the operation of the disk. You can identify these spots by looking at a commercially programmed disk and seeing where the label goes.

If you have a limited amount of hard drive space you can get more efficient use from your machine if you store seldom used things on floppies rather than your hard drive. This is particularly helpful for graphics of any kind. Once again, this includes any kind of removable disk you may have access to.

Protecting Floppies

Floppy disks can be locked to prevent accidental use. Turn a floppy over so that you are looking at the small round disk . Then look to the top left corner of the disk. You should see an indention with a black piece of plastic in half of it. If you push the black plastic piece to the top it will be locked and to the bottom it will be unlocked. Good quality disks will usually mark which is the "lock" position and which is the "unlock" position. Commercial floppy disks will almost always come in the locked position. If you get one with a program in which you are not interested (like your 14th free AOL disk) you can use that disk for something else by unlocking it and throwing away whatever is already there, freeing up the space for other uses.

If you have any tips, hints, or thoughts on these topics, make sure you write me so that I can share your thoughts 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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