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Tech 101 | Tech Q&A

Teach a Dynamic Duo to Share a Monitor in Single Bond

March 22, 2001|DAVE WILSON |

Q: Can two computers be connected to one monitor? If yes, how? My monitor still calibrates well, but my computer is showing its years. I want to get a new computer for graphic work but keep the old one for everyday tasks.

A: This is actually a piece of cake, even for those of you--and you know who you are--who lack geek-like tendencies. You'll need to buy something called a monitor switch box, which works like an A-B switch for your cable TV system, if that helps explain the concept.

It should cost about $50. This is a great solution for people who need more than one computer near a desk, such as PC and a Mac, but don't have the space for two monitors. The switch box plugs into the monitor, and the computers plug into the switch box. When both computers are on, you can tell the monitor which computer is displayed by flipping the switch on the switch box.

Q: Several times when I have gone to a Web site, a box came up asking whether I wanted to install Macromedia 5.0. What is it, and why would I need it? I just figured it was someone selling something.

A: The friendly geeks at Q&A labs are assuming that you're describing an invitation to install a free plug-in for your Web-browsing software. (There is also a commercial product called Macromedia Flash 5.0, but we can't imagine that you'd be seeing invitations to install that $400 program.)

Plug-ins, however are generally free and add new capabilities to your computer, letting it, for example, display documents in Adobe's PDF format. For a list of browser plug-ins, visit

When you visit a Web page, it might offer to display a brief video that runs in Flash. So if lots of music, motion and special effects make your life better, you'll love Flash. If you find such things annoying, you'll hate it.

To allay your suspicions, the folks at Macromedia give away the Flash plug-in to encourage Web developers to pay for the $400 software needed to make programs that are displayed in Web browsers equipped with free Flash plug-ins.

Q: No matter how I try, I can't seem to get rid of those annoying sound effects that come on when I am running another program on Windows 98. I have a screen saver that seems to have something to do with it. Please help me restore my sanity.

A: Throw us a frickin' bone here, people. Like, what screen saver are you talking about?

Absent any specifics, all we can offer is general advice about how many of the sound effects work on your box. Click the Start button, then open Settings and Control Panel.

Double-click the Sounds icon, and you get a list of what triggers sounds on your computer. You can disable the sounds entirely by manipulating the information displayed here, or assign different sounds to existing behaviors.

If your problem relates to a specific piece of software, you'll probably have to dig down into that particular program to make changes. Assuming it's your screen saver causing you problems, you'll need to figure out how to change its settings.


Dave Wilson is The Times' personal technology columnist. Submit questions to Tech Q&A at

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