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From his column Church Techchurch-tech-01-15-1

Americans have an average of four digital devices apiece, and some predict we will have more than 50 internet-connected devices in our homes by 2022—a mere 7 years from now. Yet, today, the most common frustration expressed by those I help is that each gadget has its own unique interface. To access a phone, we draw hieroglyphics with a finger. To log on to a computer, we type a password. To browse with a tablet, we tap a number. To start the car, we carry a magic rabbit’s foot. At work, we let the door sniff our wallet.

With such variations, the promise of more devices in the future may seem something to be feared rather than embraced. Isn’t there any way to find a more consistent means to interact with these appliances? Let’s look at a few possibilities.

Scrolling

If you have an Apple computer and later brought an iPhone into your life, you may be wondering which way is up. With the phone, you slide your finger from the bottom of the screen to the top to see the rest of a page of content, but on your computer’s touchpad or Magic Mouse, you do just the opposite. Switching between devices can lead you to wondering who broke the Internet when an article you’re reading ends abruptly—until you remember you need to slide your finger in the opposite direction. My preference is the way the iPhone does it, as it feels like I am actually sliding the content up or down. To make your Apple computer behave in a similar fashion, do the following

 

  • Click on the Apple logo in the top left of the screen
  • Click on System Preferences
  • Click on Mouse or Trackpad
  • Click on the Scroll & Zoom set of options
  • Click to select Scroll Direction: natural
  • There are other helpful settings here as well, such as Tap to Click.

Similar changes may be made in Windows 7 by opening the Control Panel, selecting Mouse, and adjusting the properties as desired.

Browsing

While the Internet contains over half a billion pages, I spend most of my time on only a hundred or so. Having these links readily available on my desktop computer, laptop, phone, and tablet is very convenient. If I find a helpful site on one device, I can save it. Then if my next use of the Internet is on a different device, the saved link is there waiting for my use. No need to spend half an hour re-searching for that hard-to-find page for the phone number that answers with a hearty duck quack. Several browsers, such as Safari and Firefox, can do this, but I have found Google Chrome to be the easiest to set up and the most consistent in providing swift synchronization. To enable this, do the following:

 

  • Click on the Menu button (looks like a triple equals sign) on the right side and select Settings;
  • In the Sign-In section, click to connect to your Google Account;
  • Click Advanced Sync Settings and choose the items you would like to synchronize across various platforms;
  • In the Appearance section, check the box that says Always Show the Bookmarks bar;
  • Find a site you use often and drag the page or lock icon onto your now visible Bookmarks bar;
  • Now, on any other device where you use Chrome, sign into Google, and (hopefully) all your bookmarks will show.

A couple notes of caution, do not do this on a public computer, like at the library, as other persons will have access to your bookmarks and (more importantly) to any passwords you have allowed your browser to save and sync. When you consider connecting your work computer in this way, think about whether you want to save passwords and beware that your organization’s IT department could change your PC password and access the information you choose to synchronize. Lastly, you may add a secondary passphrase that is required to set up a new device for synchronization.

You also can keep your actual documents, or perhaps a certain set of them, in an Internet file locker such as Drop Box, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or Box.net. These organizations offer a significant amount of free storage, and additional space for a small price. Access to such “cloud” files can be set up on each device you own, either indirectly through a browser, or directly by downloading a small piece of software available from each of these companies. This will create a certain folder on your device where placed files will automatically synchronize with your other connected devices. For instance, you can create a Word document on one device, and finish it on another.

Technology can be wonderfully enabling, but it also can be hair-pullingly frustrating. Perhaps these tips will help simplify your experience so that your resources are available regardless of the computing platform you happen to be using.

Mark Evilsizor has worked in Information Technology for more than 20 years. He currently serves as head of IT for the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Mo. Views and opinions expressed are strictly his own.

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