At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: PC laptop

This Visual Upgrade will Instantly Improve your Experience Working from Home

It may be finally time to build out a multiscreen home office work space. Here’s what I did.

Ironically, working from home during the pandemic has contained some silver linings. But not having access to a fully decked-out office computer station with multiple monitors can be limiting.

So, I bought myself a new second monitor for my home office. It paired up with my work PC laptop’s screen to provide more room for all of the open windows that collect throughout the work day.

During the early months of the pandemic, I repurposed my old Sony 21” LCD TV and connected it to my laptop via an HDMI cable. I thought I was so clever MacGyvering it, but its non-HD resolution wasn’t doing me any favors. Sure, I could extend my laptop’s screen, but the clarity on the Sony wasn’t there. If I came across small text, I often had to move it over to my laptop screen to be able to read it.

Favoring one screen over another adds unnecessary complexity.

Though I did eventually have another monitor solution temporarily in place, it was clearly time to upgrade my own gear. Not to mention a long-overdue reset surrounding my mindset over these many months.

Post Pandemic Mindset
The pandemic forced me and so many others to instantly adapt to a 100% work-from-home lifestyle. There were inevitable compromises where functionality trumped form.

  • Were you connected?
  • Did you have a comfortable location to do your home video conferencing?
  • Could you simply get your work done?

It wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t matter. My laptop’s second screen wasn’t great, but I didn’t feel it was an important enough limitation. (So I needed to squint a little.)

But thankfully, we’re moving away from that bunker mentality as life begins to return to normal in the US. Coming back to the office is on the horizon for many. But it’s going to be different.

Band-Aid Solutions No Longer Needed
Hybrid work will include working from home as a new norm as opposed to an occasional convenience. Even though remote work existed long before the pandemic, I think many of us viewed it as an infrequent arrangement that didn’t require fully-built-out technical solutions. Again, function over form.

But the pandemic forcibly evolved the very concept of working from home as a new standard. New hybrid work schedules are on the horizon. So, if you haven’t already done so, it’s probably time to finally focus on form over function when working from home.

For me, that meant upgrading my second screen for today and into the future.

The Power of a USB-C Connection
My first thought was to simply purchase a computer monitor with 1080 HD resolution and connect it via HDMI. That’s a cost-effective strategy to get the job done. But it’s based on older tech.

Newer computer monitors include a USB-C connection. Sure, that makes the screen more expensive, but it opens up a huge opportunity for your computer.

Laptops are notorious for not having enough outputs for peripherals. But if there’s a UBB-C port, that connection can do much more than simply connect to a monitor.

You can multipurpose one USB-C connection:

  • Feed your second computer screen
  • Power your laptop through that same USB-C feed
  • Connect an external keyboard and mouse via the monitor’s USB-A ports

It’s a no-brainer.

After I came to that conclusion, my next challenge was figuring out which monitor to buy.

Billions of Choices
I’d like to say that I combed through every option on the market. I didn’t. That’s an overwhelming exercise. Instead, I called B&H and asked for some help. And I got it. The affable sales consultant and I agreed on these specs:

-27” screen size (based on my own workspace)
-4K (Future-proofing choice)
-USB-C input (the golden connection)

Then, he offered me a few options, and we quickly landed on this LG 27” 4K screen:

The LG had everything I needed, and I liked it because it has built-in speakers. (The B&H consultant also mentioned he was partial to LG monitors.)

I said, “Let’s do it!”

And my new LG screen arrived two days later.

You’ve Got to Have Some Trust
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Barrett blindly took a salesman’s recommendation. Ha!

Well, not entirely. The LG does get good reviews. But yes, I followed the salesman’s lead.

You can’t be an expert on everything. There’s simply not enough time. Instead you’ve got to find some trusted support systems to help you along with certain decisions.

B&H has always offered me great advice and customer service. I’ve been buying my tech there for years. I trust their recommendations.

Multi-screen Home Office for your Hybrid Future
Adding the right monitor for a multiple-screen setup instantly creates a more effective home office workstation.

After I plugged in my new 27” LG computer monitor and connected it via the USB-C port, I felt like I had just bought a new pair of glasses.

Perhaps it’s also time for you to have a larger and clearer digital canvas to work on at home, even if your new hybrid work schedule means it won’t be used every day.

Not to repeat the term, but consider all of this as part of the new normal.

A Quick Way to Fix a Corrupted Word File

Why does it always seem that technology will fail you at the worst moment? Here’s a trick to help you the next time disaster strikes…

Why does it always seem that technology will fail you at the worst moment? Here’s a trick to help you the next time disaster strikes…

Repeatedly saving your Microsoft Word document doesn’t always help if your PC laptap unexpectedly runs out of power. Yeah, that happened to me last week at work…

My .docx file containing the results of a productive 90-minute team script-writing session got trapped when the file became corrupted. Well, it was kind of my fault, because my laptop was only running on battery power.

But to be fair to the faulty human, there was no warning… none at all.
Now, come on!
(My Apple products always warn me when I’m dangerously low on power.)

Then, when I plugged in my laptop and rebooted, I couldn’t open up the script.
The computer ‘suggested’ the file was unrecognizable or it had been corrupted.
What do you do?
What do you do??!

We needed to get this script right over to our video editor as we had a really tight deadline. But part of the team was about to disperse to meet other commitments.

So I couldn’t just magically say, “Reassemble!”
That would take time. And time we didn’t have…

Suddenly, I was facing my own Kobayashi Maru* scenario!

Fixing the File, Stat!
The only option was to take the dead file into surgery and try to extract the data. So I brought the challenge to two tech experts in the room. I looked at them both and said, “You’ve got to come through on this. Please… work the problem!”
(I felt like Ed Harris in “Apollo 13.”)

For the first fifteen minutes, it didn’t look good.

But then, within a few moments of each other, they each came back, offering up a new file of mostly unreadable gobbly gook. But buried in their horrible ‘creations’ were the magic sentences from the script I needed.

We were saved!

Try This at Home
So of course, I was interested in the tech voodoo they used. They took different paths to the finish line, but the solution that surprised me the most was the one that used a Mac. And it was so straightforward.

The secret?

With your Apple computer, simply open the damaged Word file using TextEdit…

  • Do a ‘Control Click’ on the damaged file
  • Go to ‘Open With’
  • Then click on the ‘’ option

And Voilà!

I tried it myself…
No, the results didn’t look pretty, but what I wanted was all in there.
(I just had to sift a little.)

TextEdit to the Rescue
So what did I learn from my little ‘experience?’
(Get your fortune cookie folder out.)

Yes, Murphy’s Law is alive and well.
But don’t forget it’s always darkest just before the dawn.

Never trust your PC laptop to run on battery for too long.
(Using pen and paper may not yet be such an antiquated concept.)

Always bring in the team to help you beat your Kobayashi Maru* test.

And most importantly, remembering Apple’s simple TextEdit as a repair tool can really save your day!

*This is a “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn” reference about handling the
‘no-win’ scenario.
(Apologies, if I’ve just stated the obvious. “Qapla!”)

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