Houston We Have a Problem 10



Houston We Have A Problem 102, 01/05/10


Left Leanings

From the outset I have used my left hand to guide the mouse, thinking to leave the right free for taking notes or whatever. But I cannot remember ever noticing anyone using the left in offices or shops. Visiting a 16-booth Internet centre four times last summer I never saw left-handed mouse use and only once saw one that had been left by a previous user on the left hand side of the keyboard. Right-handed mouse use seems to be almost one hundred percent - but this doesn't seem to tally with the 7 to 10 percent of people who are left-handed.

Mike Gore, Madrid


An interesting observation but I haven’t been able to find any definitive research on this topic. However, it turns out that in a world heavily biased towards right-handedness, and as you ably demonstrate, many left-handers develop a degree of ambidexterity. In other words it could just be simple expediency. In an Internet café, for example, for a short session it may be easier for an adept left-hooker to use the mouse in its default right-handed configuration, rather than mess around resetting the buttons for left hand use, and re-routing the cable. Alternative theories are very welcome.



Baby-Proof PC

My husband is currently working abroad and keeps in contact with the family via Skype. He chats to our daughter and year-old granddaughter. The baby loves her Mum's laptop and hits keys randomly with unexpected results! Is it possible to lock the keyboard while using Skype?

Jenny Crewdson, by email


Try a small freeware program called Toddler Trap (http://tinyurl.com/28mzor). It confines all keyboard entries to a small text box but running programs, like Skype are unaffected – as long as they don’t require any keyboard actions. It’s also handy if you want to clean the keyboard whilst the PC is on. To restore normal operation all you have to do is click on the program’s close icon, which is unlikely to happen by accident, even if the baby is playing with the mouse.  



Shared Responsibilities

I let a house divided into four flats to student couples and supply wired broadband from a single router to 8 outlets. Sometimes the tenants contact me to complain that it isn’t working. Rebooting the router usually works, but if it needs rebooting again soon after, could it be that one of the PCs has a virus? How can l find out who is to blame, and what can be done? Also, if they are downloading illegal files, am l ultimately liable in law?

Tim Johnson, Aberystwyth


Routers are largely unaffected by the data that flows through them so I think it is extremely unlikely that a virus or anything on the computers connected to it are causing it to crash. Since you are using wired connections it is possible that one of the cables is faulty or one of computers has problem with its LAN port. You should be able to confirm or eliminate that possibility by disconnecting one cable at a time for a few hours and see if the problem persists.


The router itself may be faulty so consider replacing it and it may be worth switching to a wireless router and this would definitely rule out any cabling problems. You would have to supply wi-fi adaptors to the tenants that do not have them but they are not expensive and it means that they will be able to use more than one computer and access the Internet using other devices.


There are considerable legal ramifications in operating a shared broadband connection and there have been several cases of network owners being heavily fined after users downloaded illegal or pirated material. If yours is basically a domestic setup, shared on an informal basis, then you would be wise to seek advice from the accommodation services manager at the University and your ISP. You should also consider installing a system designed specifically for rented properties, B&Bs and so on, which come with the necessary safeguards and require users to sign up to a terms of use agreement.



Going to the Dogs

Is it possible to put a logo or strap line onto a PowerPoint slide in the same style as that seen on digital TV channels?

John Brooker, by email


Those annoying and increasingly intrusive channel logos are called digital on-screen graphics or ‘Dogs’ and you can easily replicate them in PowerPoint using the branding or watermarking feature. There’s a simple to follow guide on the Microsoft Office Online website at: http://tinyurl.com/d5ug4o



Shedding Light on Scanner Problems

I have had my Canon scanner for about 5 years. It hasn’t been heavily used and it was working fine until a couple of weeks ago after which the scans were all blank. I have tried uninstalling and reinstalling the software.

Neil Marshall, by email


Scanners can and do wear out and the most common reason for suddenly producing blank scans is failure of the cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL). This is a miniature tube lamp, mounted on the moving scanner head underneath the glass platen and it is used to illuminate whatever is being scanned. If the light isn’t coming on when you do a scan then that’s your problem.


CCFLs can be replaced but if you can find anyone to do it I suspect that it will cost you considerably more than the scanner is worth so it’s usually cheaper to buy a replacement. It will probably have a higher specification than your old one, and as an added bonus most new scanners use bright white LEDs for illumination, which produce more accurate and consistent colours plus they last a great deal longer and consume less power than CCFLs. 



© R. Maybury 0504 2010


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