Two Screens, One Mouse

Dear David,
I was at a Realtor’s office the other day and I saw someone with one computer, using two different screens. Her mouse actually went from screen to screen, as she was able to work within two different programs. How does that work?

Carol S, Chicago, Ill.

The first time I ever saw that I thought it was a magic trick. When you move your mouse across your computer screen to, compose an approval letter for example, you can also have another program displayed on another screen right next to the primary screen. You can either move your mouse across your primary screen directly onto the next screen, or move your mouse and click between the two screens. On the back of most laptops you’ll find another output that looks exactly like a standard video output connection. All you need to do is plug the extra monitor into that outlet and you automatically have two screens.

I have used two screens for nearly two years now and it’s a real timesaver, especially if I’m wanting to follow some baseball scores while I’m doing real work.

Dear David,
I’m thinking of getting VOIP for our office; do you have any suggestions?

Michelle T., Miami, Fla.

VOIP has matured to the point to where it works. A few short years ago when VOIP (Voice Over Internet Phone) was first introduced it was shaky going with packets getting lost, weird noises in the background and echoes.

Now, those problems have been mostly fixed. In fact, I’d say VOIP works just as well as any landline phone. The pros? Cost savings is one. Ease of set-up is another.

Cons? When (not if) your Internet goes down or your server shuts off, you have no phone service. Remember, VOIP is digital, just like any other file you send over the Internet. And if you lose connectivity for any reason, you can’t dial out.

In fact, during the WTC attack, it was only land lines that could get an outside line, all cell and VOIP phones were either non-functional or jammed. Keep that in mind. I would never completely cancel a land line, but keep at least one for emergencies.

Such services offer redundant servers to keep that from happening but it will happen. You should also invest in some wireless headsets with a USB port to plug into your computer instead of hooking up a telephone. There are several on the market but probably the most common sets come from Plantronics and cost a couple of hundred dollars or so.

Dear David,
Since you’ve probably seen or used most of the technology that is out on the market today, I was wondering, what is the neatest “tech” thing you’ve come across?

Mike C., San Francisco

That’s an interesting question. Since we all get accustomed to new “gadgets” that come into the marketplace, they become common objects. What I think is cool now won’t be cool in a few months.

I remember seeing my first fax sometime around 1980, which really amazed me. I couldn’t believe how something would transmit over a telephone line and reproduce exactly. Now of course, fax machines are almost extinct. My computer is my fax now, not a dedicated machine.

Cell phones were a big hit, too. Who can forget those shoe-box sized Motorola cell phones? What did they weigh, about two pounds? “Hey Mom, guess where I’m calling from?” I can actually remember saying and doing exactly that when I got my first cell phone in the early 1990s.

Today, I have a cool cell phone that does everything I need it to do. It downloads music, accesses the Internet where I can check my bank account or use it to follow mortgage bonds via Mortgage Market Guide and I can talk to people anywhere in the world.

The Internet was probably the biggest technology impact. No doubt there. What I do marvel at is the speeds at which computers work and transmit data over broadband connections. Remember the “screeeeech” noises each time you dialed up an Internet connection? In my office a few days ago, an employee fresh out of college heard that sound coming over a modem from someone testing it and said, “What’s that sound? Is something broken?”

Right now though? I’m pretty fond of my Blackberry. I also like those new eyeglasses that project computer images on them, so instead of looking at a screen you’re simply wearing glasses.

Now that is cool. I can be wearing glasses, looking like I’m working, but actually catching the Padres and Dodgers game over a Webcast.

By David Reed