Q: I just read your column from April 28. You wrote about using the Task Manager to find out how the computer is performing. Wouldn't it be possible...

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Q: I just read your column from April 28. You wrote about using the Task Manager to find out how the computer is performing. Wouldn’t it be possible and helpful to have a class on the Control Panel and what programs it offers and how they can be used? I tried bringing up the Task Manager and it worked just as you said, but I’m sure that I don’t realize what is there and what it all means. Why not a class on these things?

Robert Stephens, Des Moines

A: It’s surprising how many free or low-cost educational resources are available when we start looking for them. And the Internet makes it easier than ever to do the looking.

Searching for adult computer classes Seattle turns up a wide array of offerings, from online tutorials to classes at technical colleges, from user groups to discs that can be ordered and delivered to your home.

Another option to consider: books that step users through learning Windows, including Task Manager. And if you don’t want to fork out the money for a copy, try your public library.

Finally, if you’re a senior, you may want to consider checking out the following Web site: www.cityofseattle.net/tech/seniors/computers.htm. The city of Seattle offers an array of free and low-cost courses in locations around the region. Basic operating system tools, the Internet and e-mail, word processing and financial software are all covered. Among the centers listed at the Web site you will find one, yes, in Des Moines.

Q: I have had a Hewlett-Packard laptop for about five years now. From the time I bought this laptop, sometimes the mouse pointer freezes on one spot and neither the touch-pad mouse nor the keyboard would respond. I have been dealing with this problem for quite a while now and don’t know what to do.

I tried formatting the hard drive numerous times. I also changed the interrupt request settings (IRQ) for the mouse and keyboard to different values, but nothing helped. Sometimes, putting the computer into hibernate solve the problem, but often I have to turn it off completely.

Wael Shibly

A: Five years? Too bad this thing is out of warranty.

Generally, the cause of mouse-freezing is conflicting driver software. But with notebooks the usual culprits — graphics adapters, disk drives, etc. — come preinstalled so there shouldn’t be any conflicts. If this were a new computer, I’d suggest sending it back and making the vendor deliver one that is working properly.

Given this computer’s age, tracking down the problem is a good deal more tedious. After conflicting drivers, the next most likely cause of the problem is low system memory. Next, viruses are always a possibility. Finally, just about any piece of poorly written software could be gumming up your mouseworks.

If it were me, after checking the hardware health of the computer, I’d reformat the drive and reinstall the operating system software along with only those applications you plan to use.

Q: I have a Dell computer with Windows XP Home Edition. I have installed a Visioneer scanner. Recently my scanner somehow disconnected from my PC, corrupted I assumed. So I uninstalled the scanner software and the scanner. I’m now trying to reinstall the system, but the software CD won’t open for the installation. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated.


A: You’re likely going to need to call Visioneer. But before you do so, here’s one thing to try: It’s possible their software is trying to detect the scanner before loading. And it’s possible the cable between your scanner and computer is not properly seated or is defective. You might check the cable and see if the problem remains.

Q: Is there a fix I could download that would let me use Corel WordPerfect 12 with Windows Vista?

Sharon Mercer

A: According to Corel, you would have to upgrade to WordPerfect Office X4.

It’s not unusual when a new operating system is released that applications have to be updated to work with it. And it’s up to the makers of those applications to decide which versions to make compatible. In many cases, they decide that older versions of products are not going to make the cut.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent

by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com

or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.