Thursday Sept. 23, 2004

 Follow the money.  Speak plainly."

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Better Computing Hints

This page contains three very useful hints that many users of Microsoft Windows(tm) 98/SE/ME/2000/XP are not aware of. Knowing how to make these basic adjustments will generally make your web surfing experience more enjoyable and will certainly enhance viewing of this web site which is designed to be viewed at 1024 by 768 pixel resolution.

 

 

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Computer Displays in a Nutshell

First, an explanation of screen resolution.  Settings of two components determine what your computer display looks like.  One is the video card while the other is the monitor.

 

To understand pixels, let's call them a "splat" because that really describes what they do. A pixel is the smallest "splat" of a graphic that can be processed by a video card.  Thus, when a video card is driven in the 640 by 480 mode, the entire width of the screen is 640 "splats" by 480 "splats" high.

 

By the same token, in the 800 by 600 mode, you now have 800 possible "splats" on the screen.  In the 1024 by 768 mode you get 1024 "splats" (or pixels) to play with.

 

The lower the number, the more "zoomed in" your desktop will appear.  With a 640 by 480 pixel ("splat") setting, you might see 20 big icons.  When you increase the display resolution to 800 by 600, your icons will look smaller, but the area of the desktop will be significantly larger.  When you apply 1024 by 768 settings, the desktop area increases still more (and you can see more of a web page) but again, the size of the icons will decrease. 

 

By setting your display resolution, you can vary the amount of "desktop real estate" that you see.  A higher resolution display will give you more real estate but the trade off is the icons will be smaller.

 

Setting Display Resolution to 1024 by 768

UrbanSurvival was originally designed to be displayed in the "web standard" 800 by 600 pixel resolution.  However, as computer displays have become evolved toward higher resolution, we sometimes stray over the 800 pixel wide convention.  Sometimes is just because I forget to resize a chart.  As a result, we recommend viewing at 1024 by 768 because it compensates for my occasional oversight.

 

Disclaimer:   Before we get started, read this disclaimer:  I am not responsible for anything that happens with your computer. The best way to avoid problems is to note all of your setting before you make changes so that you can set them back if the desired result is not achieved!

 

In most Windows-based systems, the video display may be changed as follows.

 

To make this change, proceed as follows in Windows:

1. Place your mouse over any unoccupied space on your desktop.

2. Right click once.

3. A small menu will appear.

4. At the bottom of this small menu will be “Properties”

5. Left click on this “Properties” tab.

6. Another menu will open. This one will say “Display Properties.”

7. On this menu will be a series of tabs at the top.

8. Left click on the “Settings” tab.

9. When the “Settings” menu appears, you will see a slider bar which has the label “Screen Resolution” above it.

10.By sliding this bar right and left, you can effectively “zoom in” or “zoom out” the desktop. Slide it to the position 1024 by 768 pixels.

11.At the bottom of the “Settings” menu you will see a button that says “Apply”.

12.Left click “Apply”

13.In most versions of Windows, you will be offered the opportunity to accept the settings, or it will revert to the previous setting in 15 seconds. If you want to keep the setting, left click on the “YES” choice.

14.Your screen setting has been changed and you will now see the “Display Menu” again.

15.Left click once on “OK” at the bottom of this screen.

16.The “Display Menu” will disappear.

You may now wish to touch up your monitor settings. Depending on the age of your video card, monitor, and so forth, it may be desirable to “pull” the screen out to the edge of the screen. Follow instructions provided with your monitor.

 

Changing Video Refresh Rates

Once you have set your screen resolution to a new size, you may also wish to change your video refresh rate.  Why would you do this, you might ask?

 

The answer has to do with computing fatigue and your eyesight.  I happen to have had cataracts removed and this has made me very aware of video flicker - because when you have cataracts removed and lens implants installed, your eyesight's frequency response goes up about an octave. 

 

Besides making it possible to read under black light that is invisible to most people (this ruins amusement rides at Disney World where you can see strings holding things that are not visible to normally sighted folks) I've become incredibly sensitive to "flickering" of computer monitors.  Although noticing flicker may not be apparent to everyone, it does contribute to computer fatigue.  When you spend 8-12 hours a day in front of a monitor as I do, you want every little bit of help possible.

 

There are two things you can do to reduce computer fatigue caused by "flicker."  First, turn off all your fluorescent lights.  The default screen refresh rate on cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors is 60 Hertz. In the old days, 60 Hertz meant 60 "cycles per second" which was far to self-explanatory.   But, what this means the screen is refreshed 60-times per second. 

 

When you have a fluorescent light on, it can exacerbate the apparent flickering of the screen because the pulses of light coming out of the fluorescent light come out at 60 Hertz also.  Depending on timing of the light pulses from the monitor, and pluses from the computer's screen, you can wind up seeing a 60 Hertz flicker from the small difference in timing between the fluorescent's pulse and the screen's pulse.

 

The simple first step in reducing flicker fatigue is to turn on incandescent lights instead of fluorescents. Why does this reduce flicker?

 

The answer lies in something called "visual persistence".  In a fluorescent light, mercury vapor or other gases are excited by electricity in the middle of the tube.  When excited, the vapors emit electrons which then strike a phosphor type coasting around the inside of the tube.  When the coating is hit with electrons it "fluoresces"  and light is emitted.  The duration of the emitted light is very short and sharp.

 

The performance of an incandescent light is different.  As the voltage rises and falls 60 times per second across the filament, the filament is heated.  But it never cools much between pulses of electricity.  You may have noticed in a dark room that when you turn off the light, you can actual see a large bulb's filament go out.  Generally, the larger the wattage of the bulb, the more persistence it will have because incandescent persistence is partly related to operating temperature - which is higher for bigger wattage bulbs.

 

Screen persistence is relatively high on LCD displays, too.  That's why LCD displays are so popular in office settings where fluorescent lights are used.  The same persistence that helps when word processing is a bummer for gamers, however.  That's why computer game players would much rather be engaged on a CRT (tube) type display.

 

Changing Video Refresh Rates

I will describe how to change the video refresh rate in Windows XP, although the procedure for Windows 98/SE/ME and Windows 2000 is similar.  It's just I don't have a copy of each operating system in front of me to work with at the moment.

 

Disclaimer:   Before we get started, read this disclaimer:  I am not responsible for anything that happens with your computer. The best way to avoid problems is to note all of your setting before you make changes so that you can set them back if the desired result is not achieved!  If you are not comfortable at any step in this process, ask a friend who is knowledgeable about computer displays to help you out.

  1. Place your mouse over any unoccupied space on your desktop.

  2. Right click once.

  3. A small menu will appear.

  4. At the bottom of this small menu will be “Properties”

  5. Left click on this “Properties” tab.

  6. Another menu will open. This one will say “Display Properties.”

  7. On this menu will be a series of tabs at the top.

  8. Left click on the “Settings” tab.

  9. When the “Settings” menu appears.  Locate the button that says "Advanced."

  10. Left click on the "Advanced" button.

  11. Another menu which may be named "Plug and Play Monitor and (name of your video card) will appear.

  12. Locate the tab across the top that says "Adapter".

  13. Left click the Adapter tab.

  14. Find the button the says "List all modes" and left click.

  15. A "list all modes" menu appears.

  16. Caution: Generally speaking, the faster the display rate, the less fatigue.  Use extreme care here that you do not set a display adapter refresh rate that is higher than your monitor allows.  Otherwise, you may damage your system - and as I have said before, I am not responsible for your computer or your errors.

  17. Highlight the desired screen resolution, color display, and refresh rate.  I use 1024 by 768, True Color (32 bit), 85 Hertz.

  18. With your choice highlighted (typically in blue) click OK.

  19. The List all modes menu disappears.

  20. You are now back at the Plug and Play Monitor menu. 

  21. Find the button in the lower right that says "Apply".

  22. Left click apply.

  23. The highlighting of "Apply" will disappear and the button will be grayed out.

  24. Click OK to close the Plug and Play monitor window.

  25. Click OK to close the display properties menu.

Again, you may need to touch up your monitor's screen display buttons as 85 Hz refresh rates may result in slightly different display sizes.

 

Zooming with a Wheel Mouse

This is no doubt the best hint I can pass along to improve your viewing experience when working with a computer.

 

Many people have a "scrolling wheel" on their mouse.  If you do, it is located between the left button and the right.  If you have such a button, you may have already be using it to scroll up and down on web pages or in Word documents or Excel spreadsheets.

 

But here's the tip:  Hold down the Control [CTRL] key and turn the scrolling wheel.

 

  • In Microsoft Internet Explorer, CTRL + (scroll wheel) will increase or descrease the font size.

  • In Microsoft Word, CTRL + (scroll wheel) will zoom in or out on the document.  At its extreme zoom out, you can see pages lined up five across (depending on your screen resolution settings).

I hope you find this information useful and that it makes the time you spend on your computer more enjoyable.

 - 30 -

Write when you get rich,

 

George Ure, Chief Skepticrat and People's Economist


Windows(tm) is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation.  http://microsoft.com