Got a Charge Out of This One

I am making my way through some of the last of my paper magazines as I move over to digital reading. I turned down the page corner when I first saw this, and I still think it is cool.



I installed the grommets in the tables I am using in my computer lab. Drilling holes with a hole saw and popping those in was very satisfying. The grommets have flexible fingers instead of rigid plastic inserts. This is great because they have a greater capacity to deal with different sized cables, they hold the cables for me as I poke them through from underneath, and they won’t pop out of the hole. I love it when a plan comes together.

Cable Management

I am reconfiguring the computer lab at my school. I am doubling the number of computers from four to eight, I replaced the tables with ones that can be height adjusted for the smaller students I usually teach, and I installed cable management!

After looking long and hard, I found the Signum cable management tray at Ikea for $10 a pop. I was going there over the last weekend for some furniture, so I picked up six of these to put two on each table. I installed them today, and I am very pleased. Good price, good product.

Seeing Double

For a while at home, I have used two monitors, and now I have two set up at school, as well. I really find that I work more efficiently with the screen real estate available to use. On Tuesday, I had my third grade class help me install my second monitor. It was a great, hands-on activity for them. They learned about video cables, video cable adapters, different types of ports on the back of the computer, and how to set up multiple displays. I still think they enjoyed using the typewriter last week more than this, but I always have the goal of getting students comfortable looking at wiring, ports, and other basic computer setup.

Hard Drives

Today, I had some success with hard drives. I managed to finally install the extra drives my brother-in-law sent me into the removable drive bays in my computer. Trouble shooting involved seating them correctly in the trays–a process made harder by conflicting documentation, updating drivers, and using disk manager to create usable folders and assign drive letters. I now have vast storage into which I can stuff my files, pre crash, back onto my computer. Yay.

On another note, I had previously rigged a magnet to hold open a baby gate that swings shut on its own. My son promptly yanked it and broke the line that was connecting it to a drawer handle. I have now gone “Tim Toolman” on it. I re-purposed an old hard drive magnet (very strong, for those who have never played with one) and used a strong cord that he can’t possibly break. I knotted the ends and melted them with a candle lighter. That magnet is going nowhere!

Resuscitating a Scanner

I guess I never used my scanner after I initially updated to Win 7. This time, however, I have a scanning project I want to accomplish, so one of the first peripherals after the printer that I attempted to connect was my Epson Perfection 3200 Photo scanner.

I quickly found out that Epson had not released a diver for this particular scanner for 64 bit systems. Amazing, considering they supported older and newer models. Just this one was sent out to pasture. Well, I was not ready to give up that easily. I bought this scanner to digitize my family’s medium format slides that can only be seen when viewed through an antique projector that loads only two slides at a time. For anyone who has sat through a showing of my family’s slides, they know what an ordeal it is to get them out and actually see them. Thus, I borrowed the many boxes and converted this photographic record that stretches well before my birth into digital format.

Now and then, I have other scanning needs that make it more convenient to have a scanner next to my desk instead of networked in my wife’s office, so I was determined to get this one up and running again.

After a few futile attempts within Epson, I went to the great driver helper, Google Search. All of the articles pointed to one solution that seemed to work for everybody. I followed all of the directions carefully, but still no dice. Looking carefully at the new text to add to the inf file, I realized that this was for USB support not Firewire. I swapped out the firewire cable and connected a USB cable. Presto, my scanner lives again.

Using Others’ Tech

The most common corollary to being a tech person is the fairly constant requests to help others with their tech issues. Another one, more infrequent in my experience, is the need to get others’ personal tech gear up to working order to get something accomplished. Sure, we often have to troubleshoot equipment when using it for a presentation or for some other reason connected to our jobs, but the obstacles put up by others’ private gear is there, too.

I am currently visiting my parents, and I spent a better part of the morning getting their scanner to work. I remember this was a challenge before when my wife wanted to scan something. Evidently, whatever we did then did not take, and the scanner was not working this time. After much mucking around, I finally got it back on line and got my task completed.

How far do people go to fix others’ equipment to meet personal needs?

Anachronisms Under Our Fingers

A few years ago someone, I think my mom, shared a one-panel comic with me. In it a woman is reentering the workforce after time away. When she reaches the end of a line she is typing, she reaches up and smacks the monitor off the computer. To those of us who grew up using a typewriter to bang out papers in school, this is hilarious. To digital natives, this is just oddly violent , Luddite style behavior.

So many vestiges remain, however, from the invention that followed the trajectory plotted by the printing press. With a typewriter, the average person could now quickly create a document.

Each year, I bring a few examples of old technology to class to give students a tactile experience to which they can anchor some references that were merely theoretical previously. I love young children’s reactions to my rotary phone. Many poke the hole in the dial in order to enter the number; their faces register shock when I hold their finger and start the dial rotating. They can’t believe how long it takes to dial a whole number. They groan if theirs has many larger digits.

I also bring in my dad’s typewriter. With this tool, I show them what Shift and Return really mean. They love the mechanical action of the carriage as it advances the paper as it moves to the left margin, and the force they have to exert with their pinkies to push the Shift keys astounds them. Proper touch typing technique flies out the window as they bang away, very respectful of the importance of this typewriter to me. Letters to parents and siblings, complete

alphabets, and other prized pages are quickly put in backpacks to take home and share.

Ear buds- Apple’s Major Design Flop

iPods, iPhones, iPads, iEverything all come with those sleek, white ear buds that are ubiquitous on public transportation. Clearly better than the boom boxes of the 80s, these little speakers still produce a surprising quantity of noise directed out of the ear. Really good ear buds isolate all of the sound into the ear, but sitting near a heavy-metal-playing, Apple-ear-bud-wearing commuter can be pretty annoying even on the extremely noisy Green Line in Boston. If you added all of the noise produced by the millions of poor quality Apple ear buds, it might even surpass the total of boom box noise pollution.

I have settled, after trying various types and brands of listening devices, on a pair of Audio Technica ATH-ANC7b noise cancelling over-the-ear headphones. I am one of the dorks on the train with huge headphones, but my ears are happier. I don’t think those around me can hear what I am playing, and I certainly can’t hear them even if they are sporting those classy but ineffective white gobs of plastic in their ears.

Troubleshooting Appliances at 2:00 A.M.

Was it 2 or 3? I don’t know. All I know is that the oven started beeping. You would think that an oven would be significantly simpler than a computer to troubleshoot, but most computers aren’t mounted into a counter with their cord completely inaccessible. “F9,” read the display. I guess that is not as bad as f10, and maybe, just maybe, our oven goes to 11?