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Tech Q&A: How to keep an idle Web browser connected

Steve Alexander, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Science & Technology News

Q: I use the Safari web browser on my MacBook Pro, and typically have several tabs (separate screens showing different web pages) open at the same time. One of these tabs is always the Google search page. But when I return to the Google search tab, the page is sometimes inactive, which means I can't type in a new search request until I reload the page. What's causing this?

-- Darroll Bengtson, Falcon Heights, Minn.

A: Apple's Safari browser allows you to have multiple tabs open at once. But if you leave any one of those tabs idle for 20 minutes, it will "session time out," meaning that Safari will deactivate that web page. Once deactivated, a web page won't respond.

This time out is rather unforgiving. The idle browser tab will time out even if you are actively doing something on another tab of the browser or scrolling through the idle web page.

The solution is to "refresh" the idle tab (which reloads the website) by clicking the curved arrow icon at the right side of the Web address bar.

If you would rather avoid the time-out problem, switch to the Google Chrome browser (see tinyurl.com/zkukxzy). It also has a time-out feature. But by installing a browser add-on program (or "extension") called "Staying Alive" (see tinyurl.com/zjcx48o) you can keep your connection to a website open indefinitely. (Staying Alive automatically requests additional web pages from the website to keep the connection active.)

Q: I've been searching for a way to increase the small text size in some Windows 10 menus, such as System Restore, and in the e-mail list of the Mozilla Thunderbird program. People with vision problems find this super-small text difficult to read.

-- Brian Cornelius, Elk River, Minn.

A: Windows 10 has a built-in feature called "Magnifier" that enlarges anything on your screen, including the small-print menus.

 

The magnifier can either be used full-screen or as a floating magnifying glass that you can move with your cursor. You can turn Magnifier on by holding down the "Windows" key and pressing the plus sign ( + ) key. To turn it off, hold down the Windows key and press the ESC (escape) key. You can zoom in or out with the plus or minus icons on the Magnifier app, a small window that remains open when Magnifier is in use. (See tinyurl.com/ydxxuavc and tinyurl.com/yd3rfksm).

Several readers have asked why the on-screen cursor arrow jumps around on Windows 10 laptops. The problem isn't caused by the mouse, but by the overly sensitive touch pad that allows users to direct the cursor when a mouse isn't available. Just hovering your hand over the touch pad during typing can cause it to redirect the cursor in unpredictable ways.

The solution is to set the PC to disable the touch pad whenever a mouse is plugged in. Go to Control Panel, click "hardware and sound" and under "devices and printers" click "mouse." In the resulting menu, click the tab farthest to the right (it has different names depending on the computer manufacturer.) In the menu listing your touch pad, check the box beside "disable when external USB pointing device plug in." (For details, see tinyurl.com/y6kquar2).

About The Writer

Steve Alexander covers technology for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Readers may write to him at Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488-0002; email: steve.j.alexander@gmail.com. Please include a full name, city and phone number.

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