Monday, May 05, 2008

Cure for notebook backache

Dealing with back pain from carrying notbook computer ...

"Q: About a year ago, I got a notebook computer as a replacement for my aging desktop PC. My problem is that lately my neck and back have been suffering from being constantly hunched over the notebook. Can you recommend anything to improve the ergonomics for notebook users?

A: If your notebook computer stays on your desk all the time, you should treat it like a desktop computer. Get yourself a computer keyboard and a mouse. They can be USB devices or wireless - either way will work with your notebook. (Wireless keyboard-mouse combos start at under $50.) Then raise the computer (but not the keyboard) so that the top of the screen is at eye level. You can do that by placing it on a nice thick coffee-table book or two. As an alternative, you could buy one of Logitech's Alto keyboards, which include a stand that raises the notebook screen. The Alto lists for $100 and comes in USB or cordless models.

By the way, make sure the rest of your workstation area is ergonomically friendly. You should be able to sit up straight while you work with your upper legs and forearms just about parallel to the floor. And you shouldn't have to stretch to use the mouse.

Q: My smart phone, which runs Windows Mobile 6, keeps track of words I use in search boxes and forms. It adds those words to its built-in dictionary of commonly used words. When I type the first few letters or a word, the entire word appears in a pop-up list that includes other words beginning with the same letters. I can then select the word I want, hit enter and the word will be entered into the search box or form. Unfortunately, the lists also include words I have only used once and words I have misspelled. Is there a way to delete words I don't want - or, lacking that, a way to erase all words I have added?

A: No, you can't selectively delete words from the Autocomplete list in Windows Mobile. Yes, you can clear the list of words added to the system's standard dictionary. Go to the Start menu and choose Settings. Open the Input icon, then tab over to Word Completion. You'll see a big button labeled "Clear Stored Entries." Push the button, and your words are history.

Q: What is the safest and best way to clean smudges, fingerprints, scratches, etc. from a notebook display?

A: Two notebook questions in the same column - it's the daily double! Notebook computers use LCD screens - just like cell phones, PDAs, DVD players and of course many of today's big-screen televisions. Since they're basically the same, you can use the same techniques to clean all of them (and plasma TVs as well).

There are two ways to go: You can buy something like Klear Screen or PixelClean, which are designed specifically for the task. These products come in liquids and in wipes (sort of like moist towelettes for your screen). They start at about $12. A second option, which is a whole lot cheaper and just as effective, is to use a solution of 50 percent distilled water and 50 percent isopropyl alcohol. Do not use ammonia or other strong household cleaners - they can ruin the screen.

Before resorting to a cleaning solution, wipe the screen with a very soft dry cloth- an old T-shirt or, better yet, a microfiber cloth for cleaning glasses and camera lenses. That may be enough to remove the dust that typically accumulates on a screen. If it's not, dampen the cloth with your cleaning solution and gently wipe the screen in straight lines, top to bottom. Then let it dry. By the way, turn off the device before you clean the screen."    (Continued via SF Gate, David Einstein)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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