A thorough cleaning may cure mouse of its hyperactive ways

Helpline

April 02, 2001|By James Coates | James Coates,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

I have a hyperactive mouse on my computer at work. It is on a Compaq 4230 Pentium II PC. And whenever I leave the computer unattended for an hour or so, it is uncontrollable when I come back. The cursor jumps all over the screen, and various boxes appear and disappear randomly. Since I teach school, I am constantly leaving the computer to do something else and coming back to this problem. I have run ScanDisk and defragged the hard drive. I have also disabled sleep mode and the screen saver. The only thing I have been able to do that works is shut the computer off and start again. Help!

Chances are the device has picked up lint, chalk dust and other classroom matter, which has clogged up the mechanism inside.

So, shut down the computer, remove the mouse and turn it upside down; you will find an easily removed faceplate surrounding the little rubber ball that the mouse uses to track the commands you issue by moving the thing. When you remove the ball, you will find some shiny, metal rollers that probably are snagged with threadlike stuff that is causing your problem. I usually use a straightened paper clip to scrape this junk off the rollers. You also should wash the rubber ball with soapy water. These steps either work or ruin the mouse - in which case, I go out and buy another one for $30 or so.

I am having a hard time choosing a scanner. I have been looking at reviews online, and many contradict each other. I want a scanner to use primarily for negatives, slides and photos, but also for text. I have a Dell computer and an Epson printer. What would you suggest is the best scanner for home use?

You can find a wide selection of flatbed scanners that also can be equipped with a "transparency adapter," but you may find that using one is impossibly slow if you want to scan whole rolls of film.

You should expect to pay around $100 for a transparency adapter, in addition to the cost of a flatbed scanner, which can be had anywhere from around $150 and up for scanners that accept the adapters. Because you already own an Epson printer, you might consider the Epson Perfection 1240U Photo scanner for around $300 that includes the transparency adapter in the box.

A somewhat more costly but easier-on-the-nerves approach is to buy a dedicated photo scanner and then get one of the ubiquitous sub-$100 text scanners for the lesser amount of scanning you plan for text. With USB computers, it is very easy to plug in one scanner, run it for a bit, and then plug in another one. Scanners such as the UMAX Astra 3400 or the Visioneer One Touch 5300 USB can be had for $80 or $90 and do a fine job of transforming printed words on paper into computer-readable text.

You could then look for something like the new Hewlett Packard Photosmart 20s photo scanner ($500) that lets users simply insert a color photograph, a slide or a strip of negatives. It will automatically launch its software, recognize whatever you feed into the slot on the front and convert it into any one of a variety of photo file formats.

How can I transfer a lot of the stuff that I download from the Internet at work onto a laptop? I would like to use the files on my home computer, but the laptop doesn't have a CD-RW. Should I transfer the files from the laptop to one of the free online Web data storage sites, then to my home computer? And if so, which site would you recommend?

Using online storage works best when you have high-speed Internet connections at work and home. My favorite free storage service is My Docs Online (www.mydocsonline.com) where you can get 20 megabytes of space on reliable and fast servers. My Docs Online even supports the Windows 98/ME Web Folders feature that lets you drag the files you want to upload into a special folder on your desktop to handle the Internet upload process.

If you don't have a high-bandwidth connection at home you will be much happier shelling out $80 or so for PCsync by LapLink.com Inc. This superb file-transfer software comes with a USB cable that allows high-speed movement of files between laptops and desktops.

Another option, which requires a bit of patience and tinkering, involves a null modem cable, which you can pick up at a computer store. You would then use the Windows Direct Cable Connection wizard to establish a link between two machines over that cable. Hard-core users will find that direct connection software in the Communications folder in the Accessories folder in the Start menu. Because null modem cables cost only a few dollars and because the software is included in Windows, this would be an inexpensive solution if you are up to some substantial aggravation.

Send e-mail to jcoates@tribune.com.

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