Of Taskbars and Screensavers and Re-boots

Three things with nothing in common except that I get asked about all of them from time to time and none would justify a blog on their own

Windows Taskbar Location

If your Windows taskbar has suddenly relocated itself to the side of the screen – or even the top – then you can put it back by left-clicking on a vacant part of the taskbar and then dragging it back to the bottom edge of the screen. You can, of course, do this to move it to one of the alternative edges on purpose. Funnily enough, in all my years of providing computer support, I can only think of one client family who has re-located the taskbar of all their machines in this way. If it doesn’t seem to behave properly when you drag it (and this does happen occasionally for some reason), then right-click on the taskbar, left-click on Properties, and choose the preferred location by clicking on the dropdown menu next to “Taskbar location on screen”.

Taskbar Properties
The Taskbar Properties “Taskbar” tab, showing how to relocate the taskbar and/or autohide it

If you want, you can even turn the taskbar display off so that it only shows if you move the cursor into it. You do this by right-clicking on a vacant part of the taskbar, left-clicking on Properties, and then ticking the box labelled “Auto-hide the taskbar”.

Playing around with these two options is probably a really good way of annoying any other users of your computer.

Forcing a Re-Boot

If you learn a snippet of computer information but then don’t use it, it’s very easy to forget it while, at the same time, knowing that you’ve come across it. As I often say to my computer trainees, learning computer skills is not like learning to swim or ride a bike. If you don’t reinforce a piece of computer knowledge by using it then you get into the annoying situation of knowing you’ve come across it but not remembering what it is that you need to know. I’ve never found an easy way around this but the method I use for myself is to have one of the Windows Sticky Notes (see this blog on Sticky Notes) available with short notes on it that I can easily call to the screen. In time, the piece of knowledge either bludgeons its way into my long-term memory, stays on the sticky note, or gets deleted from it because I never use it and can’t remember why I put it there in the first place.

One example of this type of information is “how do you safely re-boot a computer that’s completely frozen and won’t respond to the three-fingered salute?” The answer is that you depress the on/off button (ie the power button) for five seconds continuously. I’ve never yet met a computer that hasn’t responded to this. Three fingered salute? The time-honoured method of re-booting a computer by pressing Control, Alt, and Delete at the same time.

Why Doesn’t My Screensaver Come On?

Screensaver Settings
The screensaver is set to show after 60 minutes of inactivity.
If you think you’ve selected a screensaver but it never comes into effect, then you’ve probably got your Power Options set so that the screen goes blank because of the power options before the screensaver gets a look-in. For instance, in the illustrations here, the Power Options will turn off the display after 5 minutes or 20 minutes (depending on whether the machine is plugged into the mains), so the screensaver (set to display after 60 minutes of inactivity) will never be shown. By the way, be very very wary of downloading screensavers from unknown sources as malware can be hidden in them.
The Display Settings In Power Options
The display will go blank after 5 minutes if running on the battery or 20 minutes if running from the mains adaptor

And, finally, a factoid….

If you are older than 105 then you can’t open an AOL email account without lying about your age.

I was setting up a “dummy” account for some reason recently and got ratty – as I always do – when asked for my date of birth by a website that has no legitimate reason to insist that I provide it. I don’t mind them asking, but I’m not going to tell them unless there is a legitimate reason for them knowing (and marketing purposes couched in language such as “to improve your user experience” do NOT meet that test). So, if I can’t complete the form without giving a date of birth, my usual response is to tell them I was born on 1st January 1900. Anyone inspecting the data is likely to suspect that I am lying. Good. Sue me. Anyway, AOL wouldn’t let me be born on 1st Jan 1900 or even 1st Jan 1907. I had to be born on 1st Jan 1908 before they would allow me to “submit” the form. Very odd – and definitely discriminatory against 106 year olds.