Do We Need Mousepads Anymore?

mouse pad

Do you still use a mouse pad? I haven’t used one in years but I don’t use a mouse much either. I like the trackpad on my Chromebook just fine.

Now that most of us use an optical mouse that works on almost any surface, I figured we didn’t need mouse pads anymore but a recent article by Michael Crider on made me realize that there are actually some benefits to using them.  I thought you would like to know.

Remember the old ball-driven mouse?  Mouse pads provided a smooth and predictable tracking area, and helped to keep the tracking ball free of dirt.  Do you remember having to open them up to clean the tracking ball with alcohol?  (I thought it was kind of fun and used to do it for people at my office.)

At the turn of this century, Microsoft and Logitech introduced the optical mouse, which has a tiny, low-powered optical sensor and LED (light emitting diode) instead of a mechanical roller ball.  These offer consistent tracking on almost any surface (as long as it isn’t reflective or transparent, like glass) and eliminate the buildup of oil and debris on a tracking ball.

A few years later, the laser-equipped mouse came on the scene and it would track on any surface. Thus, mouse pads began to fall out of fashion.

However, mouse pads still serve several important functions. First, they project the surface of your desk at your usual mousing spot.  The repeated motions of the rubber or plastic feet of your mouse against the surface of your desk will wear away the finish on most pressed wood, particle board, leather, and even polished hardwood if it’s not well maintained.

And even though your mouse’s tracking function no longer picks up dirt and skin oil from your desk, the feet of your mouse do.  A mouse pad won’t completely alleviate this, but it will keep those little feet fresh longer. Crider says you can even buy replacement pads to stick on the feet of your mouse if they are so worn that the plastic body is dragging.

So, do you need a mouse pad for your desk? Technically, no. But you should probably use one if you’re mousing in the same place for any extended amount of time. Both your desk and your mouse will thank you.

But the most important reason to use a mouse pad is that the pictures on them are just so darn cute.

For the complete article and some great illustrations, go to

Share this with the folks you care about and save their desks and mice too.



Tablet VS Chromebook

tablet and chromebook.jpeg

I received this question recently and thought you might be interested too…

Question:  Hi Mardi,  Thank you for always sending these healthy tips for the computer.  My question is what is the difference between a Tablet and a Chrome Book?

Answer:  Tablets are lightweight so they are easy to carry around but they are mainly for “consuming” information.  Any amount of typing with touch screens can be very, very frustrating.  You can get keyboards for them and then they are more like small laptops, but the screens are very small for doing much in the way of work and you have to buy a fairly expensive model in order to get the processor speed of a laptop.

A Chromebook is a laptop computer that does almost everything online so it doesn’t need a hard drive.  That makes it nice and lightweight like a tablet but it comes with a regular full size keyboard attached.  It’s better than a traditional laptop because it doesn’t need maintenance, backups or  antivirus programs.  It’s really trouble free. It’s also much less expensive than traditional laptops.  Good ones are less than $300.  The battery charge lasts a long time too, because it doesn’t have a hard drive with cooling fans.

If you are going to do any amount of work, like spreadsheets, or documents or blogging, you will be happier with a Chromebook than a tablet because of the full size keyboard and larger screen.  You will need to learn how to use Google docs but it’s pretty easy, and they are free.  All your docs will back up to the cloud automatically.  The other Google apps for the Chromebook like the photos app, are great too.  You need a wifi connection for Chromebooks because they work off the internet, but you can download some things and work offline when necessary.

If you only need a small lightweight device for travel to watch movies, youtube videos, check your email and calendar, a tablet will work, but, again, the screens are pretty small.  I think of a tablet as a larger version of a smartphone without the phone.  lol

My clients who have switched to Chromebooks love them because they are so trouble free and easy to use.

Let me know if you have any other questions or if you want me to help you buy one online. (I don’t recommend the HP Chromebook at Best Buy because mine stopped working on wifi after 18 mo.  My daughter’s HP Chromebook is still working fine, though and  been a couple of years.)  I have a Toshiba and I like the ACER that one of my students has.  Let me know what you decide to get.

If you, or people you know, are considering a new computer or mobile device purchase, please call me for a complimentary consultation which I’m happy to do.  Buying the right equipment is the key to making your techie Life simple, easy and fun.



Choose the Right Tools

cartoon of frustrated computer user

Are you thinking about doing any techie projects?

Many of my students call me because they need help with a project of some kind and I love seeing the interesting things that people in our age group are doing with modern technology.

Sometimes we get started on a project on a computer or mobile device and become so frustrated that we just want to give up. Yep, it’s happened to me too! : (

Often this is caused by not choosing the right tool for the job. We start with the apps that come with the computer or tablet without considering that there might be other options that could make it “simple, easy and fun.”

I want you to know that you (and the people you care about) are welcome to call or email me for a complimentary consultation before you launch a project so I can help you get started on the right foot.

Some of my students have:

  • written books and screenplays (two of them used an iPad instead of a computer)
  • learned how to use spreadsheets to keep track of golf groups and party invitations
  • made collections of photos and archived them for their family members
  • set up groups in their contacts to send broadcast emails and print mailing labels

Sometimes they start with the wrong tools and by the time they reach out to me, they have wasted tons of time and are extremely frustrated:

  • An author had written a book with his iPad and was starting to have trouble because parts of it were written in different apps and it was causing problems with formatting the final draft.
  • A woman was going to type addresses in a mailing labels template instead of in a spreadsheet or address book app that can rearrange the list alphabetically after new contacts are added. (Fortunately, she called me before she was too far along.)
  • A business owner was planning to send broadcast emails without using a service that would ensure that emails get opened rather than being flagged as spam.

There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes! Mistakes are an integral part of learning and I admire people in our age group who are willing to jump in and try new things but I want to make it a smoother road for you, so feel free to consult with me first so you can select the best app or hardware.

I’m always happy to answer your questions and, if someone you care about is embarking on a project that involves technology, invite them to check-in with me too.

To schedule a consultation click here 



Best Antivirus Programs


I recently answered a question for a client that I think you will find very help and that you will want to share with people you care about.

Client:  Have you heard of scanguard?  It is a free download of a program that supposedly scans for viruses and speeds up your computer.  Would you recommend it?

Mardi:  No and I wouldn’t trust free.  My Techs recommend WebRoot in conjunction with Malwarebytes or BitDefender but BitDefender can slow things down.

Noah and Angel at NYPC Repair are in the business of removing viruses so they ought to know.  They also told me that they see machines using McAfee that come in with viruses.

There’s an old saying in publishing that says, “If you don’t pay to learn how to do things right the first time, you’ll pay three times that to fix your mistakes.”

You just learned how to do antivirus protection right and it didn’t cost you a penny!  You will need to pay for the most reliable protection however…unless you decide to use a Chromebook which doesn’t require antivirus programs.

Do you have a burning question that you want answered?  Feel free to ask.  There are probably many other folks that have the same question or concern.

Speaking of other folks, please share this with the people you care about so they can benefit too.  They can sign up to receive all my Techie Tips here.



Use Open Office

open Office

I received this question from a client recently and I thought you should know about it.

Client:  I purchased (for only $6.99/mo?) Office 365 in order to open a timely and important Excel spread sheet last week. Did I make a mistake by doing this? I really don’t use any of the other applications in the bundle. Thoughts please?

Mardi:  You could have used OpenOffice for free.  Google docs is free too but it takes a little getting used to.

They both include all the same programs as Microsoft Office.  You can just use the program you need.  I would recommend cancelling Microsoft and downloading Open Office here

Client:  Mardi, thank you again for your wonderful guidance. I downloaded OpenOffice and cancelled my Microsoft 365 @ $6.99/mo. All I occasionally need is to open Excel. Hard to believe Apache can offer apparently a free alternative to Windows?  Oh well….live and learn.

Conversations like this make my day!  I love being able to share what I’ve learned, save people money and see them so happy!

I hope you will find this helpful and that you will pay it forward by sharing this article and encouraging your friends to follow this blog to receive all my tips.

If you ever have a question, let me know.  Chances are that other people have the same question.  If I don’t know the answer, I will find it and we will all benefit.



What is 2 Step Verification?


Are you using 2-step verifications for some of your logins yet?

Is it bugging you that 2-Step Verification procedures are being recommended more and more when you try to login to your accounts?

I found it confusing and annoying when I didn’t understand what they were talking about or why it was necessary but now I appreciate the value of it.

I thought you might like to know more about it.

Here is a quick little video from Google that explains it very well and the principles apply to other accounts besides Google’s.  You just go into your account settings and set it up.

With 2-Step Verification, you’ll protect your account by requiring something you know (your password) and something you have (your phone, tablet or a key).
If hackers get your password, they still can’t get into your account because they won’t have the phone or other device that has a verification code on it.

Verification Codes are created for one-time use at the time you need them.  They are sent to your phone or other device via text, or phone call.

Here’s how it works

Step 1 You’ll enter your password
Step 2 You’ll be asked for something else, like a code that will be sent to your phone via text or phone call

Sometimes, during sign-in, you might have an opportunity to choose not to use 2-Step Verification again on that particular computer. If you say yes, the system will only ask for your password in the future. This makes it more convenient for you.
However, If you or anyone else tries to sign in to your account from another computer, 2-Step Verification will still be required.

If you aren’t using 2-Step verification, maybe you will start using it now.  If you need help, just let me know.  We can even do a quick lesson via remote access!

Please share this Techie Tip with your friends and family so their accounts will be protected too.



The Ultimate Apps List

bethMy friends call me “The Gadget Queen,” but when it comes to apps, I bow to Beth Ziesenis, Author, Speaker and Nerd. (

She is definitely “The App Queen”.  She looks at thousands of apps every year and shares the latest and greatest in her hilarious Friday NerdWords email. 

At the end of the year, she spends weeks combing back through the year’s NerdWords to create a list of every app she’s covered in the past year.  

I thought you would enjoy her annual Ultimate Tech Tool List and she gave me permission to share it with you.

Go ahead… get your nerd on and download this list!   Let me know your faves.