The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 072 01/03/08


Touching on a Problem

After a lifetime of journalistic touch-typing, mainly thundering on ancient manuals, my fingers are getting a bit arthritic. Now I'm into the electronic world and I seem to be brushing left-hand fingertips against the wrong keys all of the time. Is there any way of making the keyboard a bit less sensitive, so a casual brush touch doesn’t mean a spelling mistake?

Norman Frisby, by email


Keyboard sensitivity is mostly determined by the mechanical construction of the switches and contacts beneath the keys. A lot of cheapie keyboards and those supplied with PCs have a very light action and changing to a better-quality keyboard, with firmer keys, may solve the problem. Why not try out a few at your local computer store?


However, before you go there is an Accessibility option in Windows that is worth trying. It’s called Filter Keys and it can be programmed to ignore very brief or repeated key presses. To set it up in Windows XP up go to Start > Control Panel > Accessibility Options, select the Keyboard tab, check ‘Use Filter Keys’ then click the Settings button and experiment with the ‘Slow Keys’ setting. In Vista go to Start > Control Panel > Ease of Access Centre > Make Keyboard easier to use > Set up Filter Keys, switch on ‘Bounce Keys’ and alter the time delay.



Best of Both Worlds?

I'm thinking of replacing my old style monitor with a new flat screen model, which incorporates a TV tuner.  If I do, will I be able to record TV programmes and turn them into DVDs

Neilsen Webster, Northumberland


Although most new plasma and LCD TVs are fitted with PC VGA input sockets most of them make poor computer monitors due to the way the display panel is manufactured and the way the video information is processed.


Even if you do decide to buy one you won’t be able to make recordings from the TV’s built-in tuner unless your PC is equipped with a graphics card that has a video input socket, or you purchase a video input adaptor. You will also need extra recording software and probably a video DVD burning and authoring application as well.


My advice is buy a proper PC monitor and use a plug-in TV tuner or card, most of which come bundled with video recorder programs. If possible get a USB Freeview tuner or ‘dongle’; prices start at under £30. As well as more TV channels and radio stations these also have an easy to use program planner and picture quality is often better (depending where you live) than terrestrial TV. You will still need video DVD burning software, though, but there are freeware alternatives like DVD Author for GUI (http://tinyurl.com/2m8jcr)



Mis-Aligned Mouse

For business use, as opposed to playing games and viewing pictures, I believe that PC monitors are incorrectly oriented. We live in a 'portrait' world, so a ninety-degree rotation of our desktops would be beneficial. I've done this without any trouble and the results are very pleasing. I can now read a document as I would normally. However, there's one problem I cannot solve and that concerns my mouse. It has not rotated so left has become down, up becomes right etc. I can't find any means of correcting this.

Brian Joseph, Bristol


That is really odd and all of the screen rotation utilities I am aware of automatically re-orientate the mouse as well. On PC’s with NVidia graphics cards or adaptors the screen rotate facility is normally enabled by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Cursor up/down, otherwise, if the facility is available, it can usually be engaged from Display Properties (right-click desktop Properties > Settings > Advanced).


I have come across problems with screen rotation on some laptop touch-pads and graphics tablets and the solution is to download an updated driver from the manufacturer’s website. This might work in your case, especially if you are using a fancy or non-standard mouse, otherwise you can try is updating your PC’s video driver, or – and I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel now -- use a freeware utility called SaskaMouse (http://tinyurl.com/26u6mp) that reverses the mouse cursor’s X/Y axis.




Burning Question

I recently re-installed Windows XP, and Office 2003 as an upgrade. Since doing so I cannot record on CD. The Burning Wizard tells me that the disc is not suitable and the tray opens with an invitation to change the disc. Every combination of write once and rewritable CD and DVD are declared unsuitable.

Richard Sizer, via email


I suspect that after you reinstalled Windows you didn’t load the correct driver for your DVD writer drive. It is using the default Windows drivers, which explains why it is able to read discs, but not make recordings. If the PC was ready built it should be on the driver or utilities disc that came with it, otherwise you will have to download it from the drive manufacturer’s website. 






© R. Maybury 2008 1102


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