Since I need to keep myself up to date with different kit, I tend to use a variety of computers and gadgets and so on.
At work I use a desktop PC running Windows 7 – at home we have a small laptop with Windows 10 on it. And I make sure I use a variety of other computers and gadgets from time to time.
And switching between a couple of different laptops has reminded me of something that could potentially be confusing if you didn’t know about it – especially if you use a laptop and borrow someone else’s or replace it with a new one.
It’s all about the “F” keys – F for function. They’re the ones along the top of the keyboard – F1, F2, F3 and so on. Pressing one doesn’t type “F2” or whatever – what it does depends on what program you’re in.
For example in most programs pressing F1 will bring up some help (which depending on how well that program is designed may or may not actually be helpful).
If you’re on the web, pressing F5 will refresh the current webpage – download it again. That can be useful if it didn’t download properly the first time or just if you’re on a news site of some kind that’s changing quickly and you want to check if there’s anything new on it since you first brought it up. (Though some webpages do that automatically nowadays.)
But on most laptops, these keys tend to have extra functions as well. Usually one also has a little symbol for volume up, one for volume down and one will have a mute symbol on it. Often there are ones for adjusting the brightness, too.
How does it work, though, if you have that as well as the “normal” F key on the same button? Well, usually the extra symbols are in a different colour. And you also have a button marked Fn, usually in the same colour and with a little box drawn around it. It’s often to the bottom left of the keyboard.
You press and hold down the Fn key, then tap the button with the picture of the volume up symbol on it, then let go of the Fn key.
It’s easier than it sounds – it’s one of those things that’s a little tricky to describe but if you try it, it’s fairly straightforward.
Here’s where it gets confusing. Some laptop manufacturers do it the other way round – so you get the volume up (or down or whatever) by pressing the button without holding down Fn. To get the F3 or F5 or whatever button on these laptops, you need to hold down the Fn. So it’s the opposite way round from most laptops.
The thing is, it doesn’t really matter which way round they do it but it’d be really helpful if they’d all do it the same way round. Sadly getting computer manufacturers to agree on things like this is a bit like getting a herd of cats to agree on a route for a walk…
Anyway, if you’re using a different laptop from usual and you’re having trouble getting the keys along the top to work, try it both with and without the Fn key – the one with the box round it near the bottom left of the keyboard. One way or the other should work, but it might not be the way you expected!
Google Chrome and Windows XP
I’ve been saying for a while that I wouldn’t recommend using Windows XP on the internet any more. It just doesn’t have proper support for security updates. I suppose if you never shop online, don’t bank online or put any other important information on the computer, you could take the view that you haven’t got much to lose if it does get hacked, but if you ever buy anything, put any personal information on it or anything like that, I really wouldn’t recommend it.
But now Google have announced they not going to be updating Google Chrome on Windows XP. In theory you could still use the last version they did produce for it, but if you are using XP and use Google Chrome as your web browser, it’s another reason to think about switching to something better protected.