Unplugged: advice for trouble-shooting, navigating and just feeling more confident with technology

First, know this: More is coming.

What you will find here are tips that are not specific to any one app or tool, but rather general suggestions that might help you navigate–or even trouble shoot–the apps and sites you already use. Keep checking back. More sections, and items in each section, will be added.

There’s more to the screen

What you see on the screen may be more important than you think. So in this section, we will provide short tips for understanding icons, notifications and other aspects of the screen that might help when you’re stuck. Check back–more will be added to this list!

Read the screen: if you’ve clicked on something in order to start a process, such as a recording, and nothing has happened, you may have a notification that you didn’t notice. It’s not your fault: these notifications often appear in the corner, and sometimes they are quite small. So one of my first pieces of advice to all who use technology: read the screen from top to bottom and side to side, including the corners! Here are some typical notifications:

  1. Block or allow: this will often show up in the upper left corner when you  attempt to use a service that will need your webcam and/or your microphone. If you don’t want to have to “allow” the use of the webcam or microphone every time you come to the site, there may be a small “remember on this site” checkbox right underneath the “block” and “allow” buttons. Sometimes it “remembers” automatically.  You won’t be able to proceed until you choose to either block or allow. Remember that if you wanted to use the microphone or webcam, you will have to select “allow.”Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 2.30.02 PM
  2. Pop-up blocked: Many of us have installed some kind of ad blocker. These work by blocking “popups,” which are windows that open in front of the screen you are looking at, blocking the view of the main screen. The problem is that some websites use the popups for their content and you may not see what you need because your ad blocker doesn’t know a “good” popup from a bad one so you just see nothing, even after you have clicked on an option. Unfortunately, what typically happens is that there has been a very, very small notification (yup, probably in a corner) that a pop-up has been blocked. If you’re looking at the center of the screen waiting for something to happen because you clicked on a button or link and nothing is happening or appearing, this may be what happened. And since you’re looking at the main part of the screen, you may not see the small notification in the corner. Even worse, sometimes the notification goes away or reduces to an even smaller size (usually an icon) if you don’t respond within a few seconds. Read the screen–check the corners and hover over icons with your mouse–if you wait a couple of seconds, usually a small text box will appear telling you what the icon is for. Once you find the notification from your popup blocker, click on it and you will have the option to allow popups just this once, or “always on this site.” If you will be using this site regularly and they use popup windows to display their content, you will want to choose “always on this site” so that you don’t have to do it again every time you are on the site. Here is an example of just how small the notification can become: notice that in this image, you are looking at the far right-hand edge of the URL or address bar. The notification is the small box with the red x in the corner. You have to click on that for the dropdown menu that you see in the screenshot to appear.  Note that the options in the dropdown menu may change. Sometimes, there is an option to allow just this one time. This is also how you enable popups or ads if you are on a site that requires you to allow ads in order to view their content. This is common on several media websites, such as magazines, and sometimes on sites for non-profits or on sites who provide their content/services for free.Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 2.43.39 PM

If you give your mouse a cookie…

Sometimes a site or tool will be working just fine. Then one day, it just doesn’t work right. There is always a possibility that the problem is with the app or site itself. But sometimes, there is just too much gunk mucking up the system and it finally hits a point where it starts impacting your access to the features you are used to using. You might try the following:

  1. Restart the computer, especially if you haven’t restarted in a while. This often solves problems, so it is something to keep in mind if you are needing to troubleshoot a problem. If the problem is specifically with something you are doing online, the next two tips might be good starting points.
  2. Clear the cookies: cookies are a small piece of data sent from a website and stored on the user’s computer by the user’s web browser while the user is browsing. After a while, the cookies start to add up and need to be cleared. How to “clear cookies” depends on the system and browser you are using, so here is an article on how to do this in all major browsers. When you clear the cookies, you may have to re-enter passwords that you had allowed sites to “remember.”
  3. Clear the cache or the browsing history. The cache is a small and very fast temporary storage memory. It is designed to speed up the transfer of data and instructions. Sometimes, it fools you into thinking you have accessed a website, but in fact, the site couldn’t be opened, so your computer opened the cached version. Clearing the cache can therefore sometimes solve problems you may be experiencing. If you clear the cache, you will probably have to enter the passwords on sites that you selected to “remember” your password. Here is a helpful article on how to clear the browser cache in several different browsers. And in case seeing it presented from a different publication helps, here is another article.