Hardware Training

Ownership>Keyboard / Mouse / Monitor

Welcome to the first post from Soulchip, and I’m beginning with the essentials – the Keyboard (I call it a qwerty beast), the Mouse (the gadget you move on the desk) , and the Monitor (which is a screen and box holding electronics and speakers). I’m starting with grimy, boring stuff to just get it out of the way.

Health and Safety


Desktop Machines

Well, you clean your house, and when you do, clean your computer too. Keyboards and mice get especially grubby and many unsavoury bacteria can make a home. There are cleaning materials specifically for computers that can be bought, but for your mouse and keyboard you can use antibacterial cleaning wipes which can be found in pound shops. You can dust down the computer box  itself too with a duster. Please remember that when cleaning the items listed, the machine must be turned off, but then I didn’t need to tell you that, did I?

Laptop and Notebook owners:

Most of the information you can use, please read any notes to make sure you don’t ruin your portable marvel.

More reasons to clean your computer:

  • Eating while surfing /watching is a guaranteed way to get crumbs in the keyboard.
  • Drinking while surfing/watching can make BIG problems for your computer; think gummed up or broken keyboard for starters.

So be extra careful if you have any of those bad habits. Take it from me, I’ve suffered from both.

Cleaning your mouse

The mouse is very easy to clean, and if you have an older mouse with a rubber ball which it rolls on then making sure the rollers around the ball are clean too – it can put unnecessary strain on your shoulder as it stops gliding and starts sticking. The ball can be removed by twisting the disc holding the ball in place, it can be tricky but it can be done. It’s an idea to clean the cable now and again too.

Clean your keyboard

First turn the keyboard upside down, keys facing your desk. Briskly tap the keyboard base (not too hard) and then be disgusted as you see hair, food crumbs and dead skin gather on the desk. Wipe down with an antibacterial wipe regularly, wiping the sides of the keys too.

Note to laptop owners: Don’t hit your laptop at all, as you may damage the machine – use a mini vacuum cleaner or an attachment for normal sized vacuum cleaners.

Clean your monitor

Monitor screens can become greasy with fingerprints, and generally dusty. For best results, use a proper screen cleaner from a good computer store. These tend to be streak free, and the best option. If you can’t afford such things, or have no shop nearby, then try a squirt of window cleaner on a clean cloth. Be amazed at how much better things look afterwards, especially when reading text.

Making your computer work for you – more health and safety…

Taming your mouse

It can be uncomfortable using a mouse if used wrongly – on NO ACCOUNT should you twist your wrist to get the pointer to place you need it to be – all of the movement comes from your shoulder and elbow. If done correctly, you won’t need to use your wrist. You can warm up your shoulder before any use of the computer and have a break every now and again – this is very important, and I’ll repeat this again with more details, and you’ll get to understand why this is important.

Keyboard friendly

Now you’ve got a clean keyboard, your pose should be right when dealing with the qwerty beast. Your wrists should be raised up a little, not down on the desk; you may find a gel wrist rest very helpful if you do a lot of writing, or rather typing. A good office chair which can be adjusted is ideal for working at, as height and back rest can be adjusted – this is a must if you’re working for any lengthy periods in front of a computer. Before you even try out this scene I’ve painted, it is very important to warm up before typing – a fact that many overlook, but my old typing teacher insisted it was crucial to keep your wrists,lower arms and shoulders loosened up. The added benefit of what you may be thinking is just more time wasting, is the extra typing speed. Yes, it can increase the words per minute. An athlete or a dancer performs best with warm muscles, and so do you. As well as the warm up exercises, I also like to use a power ball to loosen up my wrist.

Have a look at the BBC computer tutor if you’re learning , and look here if you want more complete details on mouse/keyboard use  .

Monitors – too much light?

Finally  we come to the last and most important part of using a computer for the non visually impaired, the monitor. the monitor needs to be adjusted to be facing directly at you (this has the added bonus of making the colours look correct), with your eyes in line near to the top of the monitor screen. It’s important that you don’t  look up at the screen and that the screen isn’t too bright. The contrast should be set higher than the brightness to make the blacks stand out more. The settings for this are in the monitor itself, and may mean a trip to the manual if you’re unsure. Working in the dark by the light of your monitor is never a good idea either – try and place a computer near a window for natural light, and have a lamp nearby for evening work.

Generally a good idea…

Now you have the essential knowledge, let me finish with some good practices which will help you maintain yourself and maybe, just maybe create a much better relationship with your office in a box…sorry, computer.

Your pose is important

This is very very important in many many ways. I cannot stress how much slouching is bad for you physically or for when you’re using a computer. If you’re trying to sort out a problem, writing a letter or learning something new, slouching will not help. You’re not focused on the task at hand (which means it will be harder to do for starters) and your muscles are bunched up and the slouch will become uncomfortable. So, to recap and expand: sit up straight, with your eyes level with top of the monitor screen.

Take breaks

There are different types of breaks to have and all have good reasons. You shouldn’t spend more than a hour and a half in front of a computer without having a break.

  • Eye break : it’s a great way to give your eyes a rest from the screen. Looking out of a nearby window for 5 minutes (if you read earlier you’ll see the good idea) and focusing on an object at a distance will get your eye muscles moving.
  • Tea / Coffee / Water breaks : especially good when faced with a  troublesome problem or when inspiration just won’t happen. Sometimes its better to walk away for a few minutes.
  • Stretch breaks : your body can seize up if put one position for too long, and having a good stretch can keep your shoulders, arms and back  limber. It can help focus your mind too. link 1 | link 2
  • Write things down : this really applies to when things go wrong. It’s a good idea to have a notepad  just for the purpose of writing  up computer problems and writing down how you found an answer. This ‘computer diary’ will also help anyone you’ve managed to deal with any problems that come up. So, write down the error message or take a digital photo if you can. Think of it like a maintenance log book that a car would have.

Don’t get stressed. It really isn’t worth it.

Stress is something that’s best worked out with exercise, and when you’re using a computer , it’s a good bet you won’t be exercising. For this reason  alone it is really important you should watch how stressed you get in front of a computer. Computers are really complicated electronic trickery that we all get frustrated with at some point, no matter how clever or knowledgeable. I know from experience when someone is pounding away at a keyboard that they are stressed; it doesn’t help their fingers, their mind is not as focused as it should be (stressed, of course!) and it won’t get any better in the present frame of mind. So, take breaks when things get tough, write things down, and go for a walk and think over it.

Thanks for making it through my first post, you can get in touch if you want register and start commenting.