Solving the dreaded “touchpad problem” – a better way

By | May 15, 2010
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In the Computers newsletter this month:

  • Solving the dreaded “touchpad problem” – a better way
  • Using a laptop in bed?
  • Make your PC adjust its own brightness
  • Handy holiday websites

Hello

I’m actually writing this issue in advance, as by the time you read this I’ll be in Wales on holiday (as long as the car didn’t break down on the way or anything)!

So I’ve come up with several snippets that should be interesting or useful and I’m just hoping there aren’t any big important announcements about computers while I’m away.  If Microsoft have decided to change Windows entirely this week or Dell have started giving their PCs away yesterday, you know why I haven’t mentioned it here!

Solve touchpad problems if you have a laptop

First of all is a nifty little program that solves a problem I know several readers have – an oversensitive touchpad on a laptop.

What ends up happening is that as you type, your wrists move above the touchpad and it thinks you’re using it – so it randomly moves the mouse point about and clicks in random places, which can cause all sorts of havoc.  The most common problem is finding that an email you’re writing is all broken up into a strange order as the touchpad clicked all over the screen while you typed.

In the past I’ve recommended simply turning the touchpad off completely and using a separate mouse, which is more comfortable anyway.  The only snag is that turning the touchpad off can be a bit, well, technical.

But this program simply turns off the touchpad while you type and turns it back on again when you finish.

You can download it here:

http://code.google.com/p/touchfreeze/

Using a laptop in bed?

On the subject of mice and making using them easier, I have to admit my wife and I had a lazy night in the other day – after several busy days, we went to bed early and curled up to watch an episode of “Lewis” on the ITVplayer.  The only snag is, I don’t like using the touchpad on my laptop (not only because of what I wrote above – I find it clumsy and hard to click on the right bit), so I normally plug a mouse in.  But what if you’re not on a desk?

I discovered something – but it only works if you have an optical mouse.  Look underneath the mouse and if there’s a red light, it’s optical.  If there’s a rubber ball inside it, it’s not optical.

With an optical mouse, you don’t need a desk or hard surface to use it on.  You can happily use it on the carpet if you have the laptop on the floor.  It’ll work fine and since there are no moving parts to an optical mouse you won’t get fluff inside it.

Not only that, you can even use an optical mouse on top of a duvet and it works pretty well.  Not something you’re likely to use very often but if you just fancy curling up and watching TV on the PC or you’re simply stuck in bed because you’re a bit poorly one day and still want to use the PC, worth knowing.

Automatic brightness for PC screens

It seems to be a bit of a “laptop issue” today and this tip is most useful if you have a laptop, too, though it works for desktops as well.

One common issue with laptops is the screen brightness.  You want it turned up in some rooms at some times (when the sun is shining brightly near it) and at other times you don’t need it so bright.

Of course there’s nothing to stop you turning it up and down (usually you hold down the Fn key and use the cursor keys).  But often you might forget to do that.

If you have a webcam in your PC (and many laptops now have them built in), then you can get a program that checks the brightness using the webcam, then adjusts the brightness to suit, so it should always be set at the right level.

It’s not for everyone but if you do have a desktop PC near a window that gets the sun, or you use a laptop in different places, it just might be handy.

You can download it from here:

http://download.cnet.com/Smart-Brightness-Controller/3000-20430_4-75123317.html?tag=mncol

Some handy holiday websites

I mentioned I’m on holiday this week and I thought I’d mention some of the websites we found useful when we were planning it and deciding where to go:

www.visitwales.co.uk in particular this page: www.visitwales.co.uk/regions-of-wales
www.tourist-information-uk.com
www.welsh-cottages.co.uk
www.wales.info

Though I suppose how good the cottages website is depends on what we find when we get there… I’ll let you know next time!

Yours

Tim Wakeling

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