Friday, July 30, 2010

Francophiles United

Plugging in...

There are some bi and tri-lingual users the Tutor has the pleasure to work with. Their computers are English-language based, but they desire the option to type in a language other than English. There are several ways to accomplish this.

A Tutor francophile had been typing in French on their laptop for two years when suddenly, the ability to use the correct French international characters vanished! The mystery was quickly solved when the Tutor asked for a demonstration as to how the client had gone about typing said characters. Sure enough, the characters stubbornly refused to appear.

As mentioned above, several methods can accomplish this task. The particular method this client knew, used the ALT (alternate) key and a numeric sequence on the numeric keypad to get the French characters, properly accented, to appear on the screen. The technical name for this is using ASCII codes.

Should one wish to use these codes, the NUM LOCK key must be turned on for this to work. Should one look closely at the numeric keypad, one would notice two sets of characters on each key. In order to use the NUMBERS, the NUM LOCK key must be on. Most keyboards have a green led light that is visible when the NUM LOCK key is on. When the NUM LOCK key is off, the keys do something else.

For example, the number 9 is also the PgUp key (Page Up scrolls the screen 20 lines per key press). To maximize space, all numeric keys on the keypad do double duty.

What does the reader think happened in this case? A misplaced thumb, elbow or hand press the NUM LOCK key and turned it off!

TRY THIS AT HOME: to get this character, รจ, press the ALT key hold it while your press 0232 on the numberic keypad. Release the ALT key. Like magic, isn't it?

Here is a link to other accent codes one can type using this method:

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, and is it turned on?


Button Up!

Plugging in...

What's the first thing to look at when the wireless on the laptop can't find a wireless connection? The Tutor will count to ten while the reader ponders: 1, 2, ... 10. Every laptop has some way to turn ON or OFF the wireless connection. Some laptops have switches, buttons, or keys one must press on the keyboard. Some are so obvious they have an led light that turns a certain color when ON. Some, not so obvious.

A recent frustrated client called with the "my laptop can't connect" horror. All was fine yesterday, yadi, yadi, yada. The Tutor made a housecall and had to look at the laptop manual (a brand of laptop the Tutor had NEVER heard of) to find out how to turn the wireless on and off.

Who are these designers who place important buttons or switches on products in places that are SO INCREDIBLY easy to accidentally press?? WHO ARE THEY??

This particular on/off wireless button had a spacecraft like logo on it when lit, almost impossible to see the logo design when not on. It was inconveniently located directly below the laptop ON/OFF button. So close to the power button that the Tutor wondered why it hadn't happened in the past.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, and is it turned on?


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

USB: Universal Serious Baloney

Plugging in...

OK, USB doesn't really mean Universal Serious Baloney, but those cool little devices we love to plug into to our computers (iPods, phones, digital cameras, printers, backup drives) that make computing SUCH fun, can be troublesome. To wit:

Once upon a time a Tutor client left an external backup drive attached to their laptop, all the time. All was fine for awhile but one darky and gloomy day, the laptop wouldn't turn on properly.  The client, distressed and frustrated, did not have the Tutor at hand to address the issue and was guided down a path toward destruction. Instead of unplugging ANYTHING attached to the laptop and trying to start it, the poor laptop was brought back to "OEM" status. A fancy way of saying it was made to look as if it had just been purchased, exactly the day in the PAST that it had been purchased. This caused the laptop to work once again, however, it took 6 hours to re-load all the software and data that had accumulated since it was purchased.

The Tutor discovered the wrong path taken to fix the laptop when hired to re-load the laptop and bring it up to date. The discovery was done by reading an error message, posted on a 3M yellow sticky on the wall. When the Tutor asked the client why said message was on the wall, the answer was "it's the error message received when the laptop wouldn't start". Well. The Tutor recognized the message and asked the client if they had left anything plugged into the computer (other than a printer) all the time. The answer, of course, was YES: the external backup drive. The poor laptop (and poor-er client) had wasted time and money with an inappropriate diagnosis.

What happened? You're on the edge of your seats, aren't you?? The item that was left plugged in was a USB external hard drive used as a backup drive. The laptop, when started, had the option to BOOT from a USB device. In other words, the laptop was looking for the windows software to be ON the external hard drive that was left plugged in. When it didn't find what it was looking for, it gave up.

The moral of the tale: if at first the computer won't boot, unplug ALL USB devices, and try, try again!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is a USB device plugged in, and is it turned on?