Q: When I teach my 100-plus classes a year, I make notes and create charts on a flip chart. But that doesn't work for large groups who can't see from the back, so I blank my laptop screen ("B" in PowerPoint) and use an overhead projector. But switching back and forth is a pain. So I'd like to use the computer instead of the flip chart/overhead. Are there any gizmos I can plug into my ThinkPad to draw and make notes?
-- Gary Zeune@bigfoot.com
A: Microsoft's engineers built awhiteboard feature to permit drawn annotations into a running PowerPoint presentation, and then they tried to cover up its existence.
Fire up one of your presentations; while it is running, tap the W key, which will present a totally white screen. Now, right-click on the screen and you'll get a pop-up menu that lets you select a type of drawing instrument -- pen, highlighter, brush -- and color. You can use the mouse to draw stuff on the screen.
As your question anticipates, you can get seriously artsy if you connect an input tablet to serve in place of a conventional mouse. These USB tablets come with a pen and slate that plug into the mouse port and take over input, but they allow a user to draw, write in cursive and paint on screen. Of course, all this drawing and writing appears on your project slide if you're using the whiteboard in PowerPoint.
You will find, by the way, that a user can right-click on any slide and access the virtual ink input tool.
You can get more details here:
Also, check out Wacom.com, which offers pen and tablet input devices starting at $100 from Wacom Technology Co.
Getting mouse to work
Q: I recently purchased a Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop for Bluetooth (keyboard and mouse). A CD titled "Microsoft IntelliPoint for Bluetooth Mouse Software" came in the box. I am not able to get anything to happen when I open the CD. I click on the EXE icon but nothing happens. When I contacted the seller, I was told to go to the Microsoft Web site and download the drivers. I couldn't figure out which one of the drivers to use. My question to you is how can I get this keyboard/mouse to work?
-- Kent Kociss@att.net
A: What a shame, Mr. K. You become one of the few people on the face of the planet to acquire one of the new, extremely long-range Bluetooth wireless keyboards, capable of reaching 30 feet and beyond, and then it won't work because of an errant CD.
Anybody who acquires a piece of hardware and then finds that the software included on a CD isn't working should know that in almost every instance the actual drivers to make a gadget work are on that CD and will be found even if other stuff won't run.
To fix it, plug the transmitter for your Bluetooth in an open USB 2.0 port and wait for the operating system with Windows XP SP2 to detect something has been added. This will bring up an "add new hardware" wizard that will walk you through setting it up. It does this by asking you to specify where the drivers are, and you respond by using an included browse button to point the wizard to your CD drive.
The computer will read the driver files off the CD, and your keyboard will be activated in a matter of seconds.
If you have plugged the transmitter into the computer, you will need to remove it from the list Windows keeps of everything ever plugged in. If a device gets on that list, Windows won't recognize it when you plug it in a second time. So right-click on the My Computer icon and select Properties. Now open the tab for Hardware in the display this produces. Next, click on the Device Manager button. This will bring up a list of all the stuff plugged in. Scroll down to USB devices and look for your Bluetooth transmitter. If it is there, give it a right-click and pick Disable or Remove from the menu this summons. Now your computer will see the device the next time you plug it in.
Whether the problem is a printer or a new CD burner or a scanner or digital camera or whatever, knowing this drill will save the day more often than not.