Friday, June 04, 2004

Protect any port in a storm

Surge Protectors …
Protecting any port in a storm

April showers bring May flowers, but summer storms just bring brown-outs and power failures.

Be sure you have a working surge protector for your computer and peripherals.

Plugging your computer, printer, fax and radio into that multi-outlet strip at your desk is not just for convenience. That “power strip” might seem like a handy giant extension cord, but if it’s a good one, it’s also a true surge protector, protecting your investment in computer equipment.

Surge protectors prevent your equipment from getting fried, either from a lightning hit to your building, or a surge of power through the lines when there is a problem elsewhere on the electrical grid.

A good surge protector will have an indicator light to show that it is turned on. The best have two lights (usually green and orange) to indicate that the unit is in good working order.

Good working order? What does that mean? How do surge protectors go “bad”?

If a surge protector does its job and stops a large surge, it could get fried when it protects the equipment you have connected to it. (Sort of like a bike helmet – when it protects you once in a crash, it is vulnerable, and should be replaced.)

The next time a surge hits, it cannot provide protection, and your computer could get fried instead of the surge protector. Surge protectors are built to work this way.

When the light no longer is on, it is time to buy a new surge protector. The amount of surge that a protector can absorb is rated in units called "joules" (a unit of electrical measure). A bigger number is better. A safe minimum would be a unit rated at 300 joules.

So, protect your large investment in computer equipment with a small investment of $15 to $50 on a good surge protector.

Lastly, don’t confuse a surge protector with an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) or battery backup device. Those products are intended to support your computer system on battery for a very limited time, just long enough for you to save your work and shut down the computer. They are priced from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the amount of time they keep your computer on “life support.”

E-mail me with any questions at or visit for more articles.

More power to you!

Does your web site work?

How to judge your site for success:


Can your site be found? Keep visible with search engine listings and catalog listings such as Open Directory Project or Galaxy and Yahoo.

Know where your hits are coming from and whether they are brining you business. Any good web host offers free statistics on visits to your site. If your host does not, consider

Nobody reads the same old magazine issue month after month. If you expect frequent visitors to your site, you have to update the content regularly. Be sure you offer valued information such as resources and tips, and don’t inadvertently invite people to click away.

Be honest. Is your site worth reading? Should someone invest ten or fifteen minutes in what you have posted? Your site should be well organized and match the needs of your desired audience. If marketing is your goal, have a way of gathering information about users – offer a survey, invite them to join a mailing list for newsletters or tell you what their needs are.

Pay attention to appropriate use of graphics, colors, and images but remember the needs of a wide audience. Keep text in a legible font and color. Use mouseover tags on graphics for those who choose to view your site as text, and for people with special visual needs. Visit the site of Dr. Jakob Nielsen, web guru for more web design and usability resources, at

Healthy mouse habits

One of my favorite computer writers, Jim Coates of The Chicago Tribune, recently curtailed his career as a journalist and computer expert after being diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). While he’s on the mend, he’s changed his working habits to prevent further aggravation of the delicate hand and wrist nerves. His illness serves as a warning to all about proper posture while using the computer.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a repetitive motion injury, not limited to computer users. In many industries, assembly line workers, machine operators and parts handlers have been susceptible to this problem for many years. With the prevalence of the computer and the mouse as a pointing device, the numbers of incidence of CTS injury has skyrocketed.

According to the medical abstract at, pressure on the median nerve in the wrist can cause pain, numbness and tingling in the hand, wrist or fingers. Check the related links at the end of this article for more, including stress solutions and ergonomic alternative to the traditional mouse and keyboard devices.

As one who uses the computer all day every day, one tip I can offer is to alter your mouse usage. I joke that I’ve become “ambi-moustrous” because I use the mouse with either hand. I’ve trained myself to use the left hand and arm for the mouse at one computer, and use a touchpad mouse on another. The touchpad mouse looks remarkably like a miniature Etch-a-Sketch toy. It stays in one place, does not need a mousepad underneath, and responds to a touch or sweep of the fingertip for quick movement.

If you experiment and add variety to your mousing habits, you’ll save wear and tear on your irreplaceable muscles and nerves.

Seven steps to conquer e-mail

1. Control the interruptions
Real mail once arrives once a day, so resist the urge, with an always-on connection to check mail every two minutes. It’s an interruption you should avoid, unless your business requires it.

2. Handle mail once
Like real clutter-buster's advise us, handle each piece of mail only once. That means: act on it, delete it, or put it away. Newer mail programs allow you to label message by status and priority.

3. Use folders
Save time by using folders to keep the items you need, without stuffing the inbox with hundreds of messages. Use Edit / Find to search the folders.

4. Set up filters
Use filters to weed out the trash. Read the Help file in your mail program to learn more.

5. Create templates
If your e-mail program allows you to create templates, use them.
They’ll save time for those responses that require the same or similar information on a regular basis.

6. Cut, Copy, Paste
One of the most powerful features of today’s operating systems
is the ability to cut and paste information to transfer from one document to another. Save the typing time. Copy from other documents and paste into e-mail.

7. Make use of the Delete key
Nothing can free up your inbox more than deleting email
you don’t want. Hitting the delete key or delete button is the
best way to dump data.

USB Jump Drives

Backing up your data on floppy disks? Move ahead to the 21st century by purchasing a USB Jump Drive, also called a Flash drive.

These keychain-sized drives have a capacity of 64 MB, 128 MB, 256 MB or even 512 MB, which is half a gigabyte (GB) of removable storage.

Where to buy: Common brands, such as Lexar and Belkin are available at major retailers like Circuit City, Best Buy, and my personal favorite: Office Max. They are often half-price after rebates, so watch the ads in the Sunday paper and get one for yourself soon.

How to use:
In a Windows XP computer, just plug the device into the USB drive. It will be instantly recognized and will have the next available drive letter. If your hard drive is C:, and your CD or DVD is D:, it will likely be the E: drive. Drag any files to the USB for safe backup or to use anywhere else.

What's a Blog?

From the town crier, to the wanted posters nailed to a saloon wall in the Old West, we've come a long way. Newspapers and magazines are supplanted by online communication. E-mail, web sites, instant messaging, and now blogs, all provide a way to communicate with people in a virtual space.

A blog, or web log, is a chronological database of entries made by a host, that's me. The audience, that's you... is invited to read the material and post questions and comments.

Give it a try and see if you like it.

Helen Gallagher
Computer Clarity
Bridging the great divide between people and technology

All contents copyright by Helen Gallagher, Computer Clarity