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Technical Tips

Printer Problems

Monitor Problems

Mouse Problems

Keyboard Problems

Sound & Speaker Problems

VCR & Cable Problems

Using the Lab Schedule

Software Suggestions

Miscellaneous

Slow Internet Access

Online Tech Support links

Home-to-School Tips

 

Printer Problems

Overview: The printer in your classroom is shared between the two computers you have. The printer is physically installed into one of those computers by means of a printer cable. The other computer prints by sending its print jobs to the other computer, which then processes the print job. The two computers communicate with each other by means of a "hub," a small electronic box with lights on the front panel and larger-than-standard phone lines running into it.

During the course of a normal day, it is possible for the computer to lose contact with the printer. It's the equivalent of a disconnected phone call. The only way for the computer to reconnect to the printer is by means of restarting the computer.

Tip: Make sure that both computers are turned on in the morning. Check that the "hub" is on. Make sure the printer is turned on. Restart BOTH computers if you have a printing problem.

If you still have problems, please write down any specific error messages you receive, and contact the computer lab.

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Monitor Problems

Overview: The monitor in your classroom is physically connected to the computer by means of a monitor cable. It is also plugged into a power outlet through an electrical cable. Make sure that both cables are snug in the back of the monitor. During normal operation, it is possible for the electrical cable to become slightly loose, and for the monitor to shut off.

The computer in your classroom "talks" to the monitor by means of an electronic connection, something like a "phone call." During the course of a normal day, it is possible for the computer to lose contact with the monitor. You can restore the connection only by restarting the computer.

The large Destination monitor: The large Destination computer is connected to two monitors, large and small, by means of a small "A/B box" located somewhere near the computers. Sometimes the switchbox switch doesn't fall completely into either the A or B slot, and so the monitors both go blank. Toggle the switch slightly in order to restore the monitor. This is also the way to remove that greenish or purplish tint that sometimes affects the appearance of the monitor.

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Mouse Problems

Overview: The mouse in your classroom is connected to the back of the main computer. It is possible that the mouse sometimes works loose and becomes disconnected from the computer. If this happens, then reseating the mouse into the computer fully will NOT restore the mouse operation. You have to restart the computer in order for it to reestablish communication with the mouse.

If the mouse moves too fast or slow for your taste, you can go to the Start button: Settings: Control Panel, and double-click the "mouse" icon. Move through the settings and change the tracking speed of the mouse to suit your preference.

The remote mouse that comes with the Destination keyboard needs 4 AAA batteries to run. If the batteries begin to wear down, you'll notice erratic mouse movements or a faint "clicking" sound while moving the trackball. Contact the computer lab for replacement batteries.

The remote mouse works by infrared signals. Be sure that the "path" between the mouse and the black, triangular-shaped antenna is unobstructed.

It is possible to replace the remote-control mouse with a traditional wired mouse. You'll lose the ability to work with the large black monitor remotely, but if you find the remote mouse uncomfortable, this will provide a workable solution.

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Keyboard Problems

Overview: The keyboard in your classroom is connected to the back of the main computer in the same vicinity as the mouse connection. It is possible that the keyboard wire will sometimes works loose and becomes disconnected from the computer. If this happens, then reseating the keyboard wire back into the computer fully will NOT immediately restore the keyboard operation. You have to restart the computer in order for it to reestablish communication with the keyboard.

If keys on the keyboard stick, try turning the keyboard upside and shaking it. Sometimes, dust collects in the keyboard and affects the good operation of the keyboard.

The remote keyboard that comes with the Destination keyboard needs 4 AA batteries to run. If the batteries begin to wear down, you'll notice keystrokes that don't appear on the screen, keypresses that appear "stuck," or a faint "clicking" sound while holding down one of the keys. Contact the computer lab for replacement batteries.

The remote keyboard works by infrared signals. Be sure that the "path" between the keyboad and the black, triangular-shaped antenna is unobstructed.

It is possible to replace the remote-control keyboard with a traditional wired keyboard. You'll lose the ability to work with the large black monitor remotely, but if you find the remote keyboard unreliable, this will provide a viable solution.

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Sound & Speaker Problems

Overview: The sound for your classroom is provided by separate attached speakers that connect to the rear of the computer tower. Only one speaker actually connects to the computer, while the satellite speaker is connected to the primary speaker. A third wire is connected from the primary speaker to the power source.

In the back of your computer, there are three sound ports that can receive the speaker wire connector, but only one of them provides the sound output that will provide the speakers with sound. If one of the other two ports are connected, the speakers will not function correctly. One of the other speaker ports can be used to record sound from some type of tape recorder, while the third port can be hooked to a microphone. Interchanging the connector wires into the wrong port will not harm the sound card inside the computer nor the speakers, but will prevent the speakers from functioning correctly.

If the sound is not coming from the speakers, check the following: Make sure the speakers are turned on and plugged in to an electrical outlet. Check that the speaker volume control is moved to an appropriate position, away from the lowest volume setting.

If the above physical items check out, then the culprit is the software settings inside the computer that control the volume. At the bottom-right of your desktop screen, look for a small "speaker icon" in the "task bar tray" and double-click it. When the volume controls pop up, make sure that the control sliders are all set to maximum.

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VCR & Cable TV Problems

Overview: There should be cable TV service in your classroom. If you do not have a cable TV wire located somewhere near the ceiling of your classroom, please inform your school custodian.

The cable TV wire should be connected to the back of the black Destination computer, which contains special electronics which allow it to translate TV signals into digital signals that can be viewed on your computer monitor.

In addition to the above physical connections, many classrooms have been supplied with VCR equipment that allows for the viewing of VCR tapes through the Destination computer, when the VCR is appropriately hooked up. Contact your building principal if you do not have a VCR player available in your classroom.

If the VCR and cable TV are correctly installed, you will need a brief lesson on how to operate each of them. Please contact the computer lab to make an appointment for a computer teacher to visit your room.

If you have problems getting the VCR or cable TV to operate correctly, please restart the black Destination computer and test it again. If the problems persist, please contact the computer lab for assistance.

It is recommended that you test out the good operation of cable TV or VCR equipment prior to the scheduled viewing time by your class. While computer lab personnel can sometimes provide immediate emergency assistance with this equipment, it is not given a priority during times when classes are visiting the computer lab or when other appointments with lab personnel have precedence. Please note that VCR equipment and installations were provided as a convenience for teachers within their individual buildings, and were not part of the technology specifications created by the Herricks Educational Technology Committee.

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Using the Online Computer Lab Schedule

Overview: The computer lab schedule is accessible from your classroom. You can make appointments to visit the computer lab or to have a computer lab teacher visit your classroom, without having to necessarily contact anyone in the computer lab.

The technology that makes this possible is provided by the Netscape Communicator browser, and is not supported by Internet Explorer. If you start up the computer lab schedule by means of the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser, you will not be able to make changes to the schedule. If that happens, please contact the computer lab, who will restore Netscape as your default browser software.

Instructions for adding an appointment to the computer lab schedule:
Double-click the "Shortcut to Lab Schedule" icon on the desktop of your fastest computer. (If you don't have this shortcut, contact the computer lab). When the main lab schedule page appears, click on the week you wish to view. Please note that there are three columns. The first column is for viewing the computer lab schedule, while the second and third columns contain the schedules of the computer lab teachers. When the correct week appears, scroll around the screen to find the day and time you wish to schedule. If the desired time is available, go to the "File" menu, and select "Edit Page." The screen will change subtly, and you will be able to click into the various cells and type in your name and the time you wish to visit the lab. Please write both your last name and the time you want the lab for, to avoid confusion.

 

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Software Suggestions

Overview: A software program on a computer is like a very long recipe. The computer, based on your input, follows a recipe and produces a result that (hopefully) coincides with your intentions. However, unlike a recipe interpreted by an intelligent human being, who notices that a recipe calls for 12 eggs where only 1 or 2 is logical, a computer program has no such overseer. When a mistake is encountered in that software recipe, (literally a spelling mistake or typographical error of some kind), the computer has very little ability to recover from such mistakes. The result is a freezeup, a crash, or some unintended (and usually farfetched) result.

In addition to the above, software being released today suffers from a definite lack of careful editing in comparison with siimpler software from long ago. (That's why many companies have not upgraded software that, in spite of its clunkiness, has been working reliably since the '60's and '70's). Many computer programs contain over a million lines of computer code, and if just a few of those lines contain typos and errors, you have a bug in your program. To date, Windows 95 has over 10,000 reported bugs found and repaired on the Microsoft website. Some programs are so poorly written, it's a wonder they work at all!

Another problem that crops up in poorly written software, or software that is based on older technology (such as programs written for DOS or Windows 3.1), is called "memory leak." When you start up a program, that program asks your computer for a certain amount of memory in which to do its work. When the program quits, it is supposed to return the memory it asked for back to your computer's operating system. Unfortunately, many older and poorly written programs do not behave themselves, and instead leave the computer thinking that the memory they took is still in use. That's why you can have a computer with 32mb or 64mb of RAM and still run out of memory (and cause programs that follow to freeze and crash). To combat memory leak, you have to develop the habit of restarting your computer several times a day. Each restart will cause the computer to refresh its memory, and clean out memory registers in order to start anew. RESTARTING YOUR COMPUTER is the single most important function you can perform to INCREASE THE RELIABILITY of your equipment! You should restart your computer before any important computer session.

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Miscellaneous Notes

Computers are machines, but not in the same sense that a wheelbarrow is a machine. On a wheelbarrow, the wheel is connected to an axle, and when the axle turns, the wheel turns. Computers are electronic devices, and many factors can have an effect on its diminished reliability in relation to the above-mentioned wheelbarrow. Static electricity, poor connections, faulty electrical service, and poorly written software all have an impact on the service your computer can provide.

It is important that Netscape be used as the default browser, as it contains a method for sheltering the students from full access to the Internet, while Internet Explorer does not. For full, adult-level access to the Internet, it is recommended that teachers and staff use Internet Explorer.

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Slow Internet Access

Overview
: The Herricks School District connects to the Internet by means of a "T1" line, which is much faster than a typical home-user's modem. However, we don't exactly "dial up" the Internet, but obtain our internet access via our service provider, Verio Inc. (formerly L.I. Tech).

Here are the three main reasons that we sometimes perceive "slowdowns" in accessing web pages:
  • There is a problem with our internal building wiring or hardware. Sometimes, a cable somewhere in the building becomes loose or disconnected, and can cause intermittent outages. Or, one of the "hubs" (a sort of modem that all the computers must be connected to) can become damaged;
  • Our service provider, Verio, may be experiencing technical problems or outages. If one of Verio's computers is shut down for servicing, for example, the remaining computers at their complex may be inadequate to handle the volume they are receiving at that moment;
  • The Internet itself may be experiencing heavy traffic. You may have read about "D.O.S." (denial of service) attacks in the news, where hackers created excess traffic on the Internet. For the rest of us, this would be manifested by a slowdown or even an inability to contact a particular website.

It's not correct to attribute slowdowns in accessing web pages to the attempt to contact any particular web page. In fact, because of something called a "cache" file, access to a previously-visited page would be faster than access to a new or recently updated page. If you want to know more about cache files, and reasons for slow Internet access, stop by the computer lab.



Home-to-School Tips

Often you find yourself working at home on a document or project that you will need to have available in school. Or, you want to work on students' projects, writings, or other documents at home but they are too large to fit onto a floppy disk or ZIP drive for easy transport. If you have access to AOL at home, or Optimum Online, you can email these documents to yourself, and pick them up at school. Or, you can email lesson plans, projects or other creations from home to school by the same means. The trick is to sign on to your AOL account, "attach" the appropriate documents, and email them to yourself. Then, go to school, sign on to your account, and "download" the documents into your school folder. If you wish to have instruction or help, or have any questions about the procedure for doing so, please contact your appropriate computer teacher.

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Compiled by Frank DeCelie, March, 2000
Special Thanks to Lynn Giorgi for her contributions to this page