A lot of people incorrectly assume that computers keep the correct time as long as they are plugged in.
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online for 30 years


Easy fixes for 'phantom' problems

July 7, 2013

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, The Post-Standard

Some problems aren't really problems. They're just misunderstandings. You might call them phantoms.

Here are five "phantom problems" I've encountered:

  • Phantom problem 1: "I can't print from my iPhone or iPad."

  • Misunderstanding: Many folks assume the iPhone and iPad weren't ordinarily made to print, so getting them to print takes a degree in Electrohyperphysics. Fact: Apple's iPhone and iPad print wirelessly to any AirPrint-compatible printer. Every printer maker has one or more AirPrint models, and they cost only a few dollars more than non-AirPrint versions. Any store or discounter that sells printers should have AirPrint models.

    If you don't want to buy another printer, you can use your PC or Mac as an intermediary so that your iPhone or iPad can print wirelessly through your computer. (I've used that method ever since the iPad came out.) Netgear Genie is a cool way to achieve this, and it's free. Get it from www.netgear.com/genie. (Netgear Genie works with any home network. You don't need a Netgear router.)

  • Phantom problem 2: "My six-year-old computer keeps losing the date. Sometimes it shows a date from decades ago."

  • Misunderstanding: A lot of people assume that computers keep the correct time as long as they are plugged in. Fact: Computers large and small have a built-in battery that keeps the computer's clock (and other important functions) running, whether or or not it's plugged in. The battery is about the size of a nickel. It's not rechargeable, but it lasts five or six years, long enough for the lifetime of most PCs. If your old Bessie can't tell time any more, take the computer to a store that sells or services computers and have the battery replaced.

  • Phantom problem 3: "I'm having a hard time using my Mac laptop because the trackpad is a pain in the you-know-what. What can I do?"

  • Misunderstanding: Many Mac laptop owners assume that their computers can't use a mouse, mostly because there was no mouse in the box when they bought the laptop. Fact: You can plug any USB mouse into a Mac.

  • Phantom problem 4: "I don't need to be told that my Mac can use a mouse. But only the left button works. Is this because my mouse is a PC mouse?"

  • Misunderstanding 1: Apple, which used to hate multi-button mice, now loves them. Fact: Apple still hides the multi-button capability in many of its computers. Try turning it on in System Preferences under "Mouse."

    Misunderstanding 2: Many Mac users are mystified as to why their Mac mouse has only one button. Fact: Apple's attitude toward multi-button mice is pretty clear -- if you have to have more than one button, hide the extra ones. I know, it's crazy. So Apple's mice have no buttons at all, making you think it only has a single button (activated by pressing the tip of the mouse.) But here's the secret: Press on the left to get a left click and press on the right for a right click.

  • Phantom problem 5: "I have trouble using the mouse on my Windows PC. Do I have to switch to a trackpad?"

  • Misunderstanding: If you can't use a mouse very well (if, for example, your hands shake), you might assume your only choice is a trackpad. Fact: Windows has dozens of keyboard combinations for get things done. Try using the Windows key (the one with a Windows logo) to open the Start Menu -- just press it by itself. With something open that you want to print, press Ctrl-P. Want to save your work? Ctrl-S. You can find a list of about 150 Windows keyboard shortcuts here: www.technofileonline.com/texts/bkkeys97.html.