Better character map in Windows 11

The Character Map is where we go to include special symbols in our epic works, like è, æ, and .

Previously it was quite a task, but the improved clipboard in Windows 11 makes it easier. Open the clipboard with the Win key + v. Along the top of the window you can see emoticons, emojis, GIFs and special characters that can be searched or browsed by category to find the one you want.

If you use certain characters a lot, consider using autocorrect in your word-processor, for example, to replace the character what you type with the character(s) you want. For example, if I type -> it gets replaced with → on my word processor.

Just what to watch on the TV?

It seems that we have so much TV that it is hard to find something to watch.

OnTvTonightUK is an app that shows you what’s showing in your region on free digital channels including FreeSat. Select the channels you want to know about, then browse or search.

ReelGood is all about series and films across the major streaming services.

Flixi is about you rating whatever you watch. It then uses this information to recommend new series and movies to you.

Let important contacts make your phone ring even on silent

It is often important to put our phone onto silent but then we can forget to put the sound back on. And then an important (to us) contact rings but we don’t know.

On an Apple phone, tap the phone icon and then find the contact you want. Now edit → ringtone and turn the emergency bypass on.

For Android, select the contact and then make a favourite by the heart at the bottom or the star at the top. Once you have got the favourites you want, go to the phone settings → sound and vibration→ do not disturb. Now scroll down and set ‘notify about ‘from starred contacts only’. At least that’s how it goes on my phone. You can also ask to be notified if the same number rings back within fifteen minutes.

Just remember that your phone is now no longer totally silent at that funeral.

Feeding the birds

I’ve got some bird feeders in my garden and I’ve seen an early announcement of the Bird Buddy, which is a bird feeder with a video camera. But that’s not all, oh no. It has a microphone, sends an alert to your phone over wifi when a bird lands on it, identifies the breed of the bird and allows you to rewind the video in case you miss the feathered visitor.

All this for a projected $199 and they seem to have enough kickstarter funding to start work.

Battery care

Batteries are an important part of our lives, whether in phones or laptops. The technology is evolving, as is best practice to maintain your batteries in their best health.

An early contender was NiCad (Nickel Cadmium) followed soon my NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride). NiCad couldn’t store much power for their size, in both NiCad and NiMH, the power drained away quite fast and had another big problem. This was that they could lose capacity quite easily, due to overcharging. When most laptops used NiMH batteries I recommended taking the battery out if using it mostly on the mains. Otherwise the battery gets ‘cooked’ and won’t hold charge. Then the battery tells the computer it doesn’t feel well and the computer won’t start unless the battery is removed.

NiMH is still used for conventional rechargeable batteries like AA

Battery technology has moved on and for devices built around rechargeable power (Phones, tablets and laptops) Lithium-ion is the current market-leader. This is more efficient for its size, retains charge longer and can be moulded around other components. This means that it is quite hard to remove the battery, but fortunately modern devices have circuitry to prevent the overcharging of batteries. Nevertheless there is still a downside, which is the number of full recharge cycles affects the capacity of the battery. So, unlike NiCad and NiMH, it is a bad idea to run Lithium Ion batteries right down. Recharging at 20% or so will prevent a full recharge cycle and preserve your battery for longer

The latest technology is Lithium Polymer, which is safer than other batteries. These batteries can also be made in much thinner sizes and also hold more power for their size, although they have a shorter life. Apple uses this type of battery quite extensively. These batteries tend to be in pouches rather than rigid container and the main downside is as they get to the end of their life, they tend to expand. I’ve seen a phone with the back pushed off and had a laptop which ‘blew’ the back off when I took the screws out.

Running out of disc space?

It doesn’t take log to run out of disc space, especially if super fast SSD in your fantastic laptop is actually quite small.

Microsoft and manufacturers put lots of programs on that you may not use or even have heard of. They can be quite hard to remove. Fortunately there is help from O&O AppBuster, which searches all the apps and programs on your computer out and lets you decide which to remove.

Find Amazon brands

Amazon sells a lot of its own brands and it can be a reassurance if you don’t know much about the stuff you are shopping for. There is an extension for most browsers called Amazon Brand Detector that identifies and highlights Amazon stuff on the search page. It also shows Amazon Recommended products.

On the other hand,, you may be dead set against buying Amazon products. Now you can see which is which.

Function keys acting oddly?

On my laptop function keys I usually have to press shift to get the second function e.g. flight mode). But sometimes they act as if shift is pressed. Annoying when I press F2 to rename a file and my Wi-Fi shuts down!

This is caused by a feature called ‘Function Lock’. If you press the Function (Fn) key and Escape (Esc) at the same time the computer switches between the primary (lower) and secondary (upper) functions – and doesn’t tell you.

It’s a bit like leaving Caps Lock on, WHERE YOU NEED TO PRESS SHIFT TO GET lower case.

So if things seem to be inverted, try Fn-Esc

Edge ‘updates’ may have ransomware

Ransomware is malware that encrypts all your files so isn’t very funny. Scam updates for Microsoft’s Edge browser are appearing. Warnings that the browser is out of date can be on webpages or a drop-down message.

Microsoft Edge updates automatically so there is no need to do it yourself. You can check the version you are using by going to the ‘…’ menu top-right, choosing ‘help and feedback’ and then ‘about’. This will force a safe automatic update check as well.