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Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2001 11:00 pm

It took me a long time to catch up with that Venus/Mars thing. By the time I did, the world of Venusians had moved on to the art of Feng Shui. Playing catch-up once again, and desiring to be on the cutting edge, I did some research on the subject and decided that one can extend the concept of Feng Shui to computers. Sure it has been applied to office furnishings, but as far as I know, never to the computer itself.

Clearly, this is a critical topic that is long overdue for discussion.

If you are from Mars and do not know what Feng Shui is, that is certainly forgivable. But, if you are a Venusian and don't know, please keep that dark secret and visit for a primer. While this web site will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about Feng Shui, let me boil it down by saying that "all is right, only when all the elements of your life are in total harmony". Another way of saying your Yin must balance your Yang. When your Yin and Yang are unbalanced, that is a bad thing--I think.

What has this got to do with computers? you might ask. To computer addicts like myself (I have avoided the use of the word "nerd"), I can only feel relaxed about the cyber aspect of my life when the following criteria are met:

The "Desktop" is neat and readable with no unnecessary icons

The hard drive is clean and data is efficiently packaged

The system has been cleaned of temporary files and cookies

Virus protection is up to date and runs on schedule

My firewall is enabled and properly tuned

All important programs have the latest critical updates installed

All programs run with no error messages

Unfortunately, even when all above is well, there is still a conflict that prevents total computer harmony. The Venusian in my life can only feel at peace when the computer room/office is neat--something that never happens for long, due to my slovenly habits.

But, returning to the subject at hand, earlier Explorer articles addressed most of the criteria above, but I managed to avoid the easiest item of all--keeping your PC desktop neat and clean. As I visit my clients I am constantly shocked at the combinations that people choose for their desktop (the screen that comes up after Windows loads). Sometimes it is like wearing a paisley tie with a red and yellow striped shirt--it gives you a headache just to look at it.

We visited a nephew recently, and his new computer won the prize for bad Feng Shui. As a loyal grad from Penn State, he created a very "busy" back-drop (wallpaper) of Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions upon which he placed about 50+ icons in random order. He was proud of the backdrop, but my eyes crossed as I tried to find a specific program to run. I finally abandoned his desktop and went directly to the Programs menu to ferret out the application I needed.

I really do understand the desire to be unique, but it is possible to go too far.

Cleaning up your Desktop is easy. First remove the unneeded icons--most are ads anyway. Just right click on the icon, select "Delete", and left click. It is now been placed in your Recycle Bin. Note that if the icon has a little arrow embedded within it, you have only removed the shortcut, not the program or item itself. These will remain resident for later use if you need them.

Next you should arrange the icons in an orderly manner. Merely right click on a blank spot on your desktop and select "Arrange Icons" and then "Auto Arrange". That will stack the icons neatly. If they are not in the order you like, you can drag any icon to the end of the stack and cluster all the frequently used ones together.

Now let's address the backdrop you have for those icons on the desktop. If it is a busy one with patterns, and/or charged with screaming colors like red, consider it bad Feng Shui.

You can change the settings in several ways depending on the vintage of Windows. The easiest is to click on "Start", then "Settings", "Active Desktop", and finally "Customize my Desktop". If your vintage of Windows does not have an "Active Desktop", go to "Settings", "Control Panel" and "Display". In either case you now should have a window with six tabs. Select "Background" first. There is a pull-down menu to define the Wallpaper pattern. I like "None". There is a time to be boring--this is it.

Now select the "Appearance" tab. In the pull-down menu in "Scheme", select "Windows Standard". This changes the customized settings back to what Microsoft decided based on years of human factors studies.

Finally, in the "Item" pull-down menu, select "Desktop" and then apply a peaceful color like blue-green (if you are a Venusian, this means teal). If you use colors like red with a basket-weave pattern it will cause subliminal disharmony. This is a bad thing, because the first time you get an error message, you are likely to kick your computer and it will need to go to the computer doctor. So, for the good of your computer and your toe, choose something that is in tranquil.

As a postscript, if you are prone to listening to music when you work, experiment with what works best for you. It should be a good compromise between something that gets you down (Brahms Requiem does not work) and something that has the effect of several espressos (Carmina Burana doesn't seem to work either). I find Beethoven's Pastoral, at a very low setting, works best for me when I am trying to be creative.

If you follow the suggestions, you can be assured you will feel more relaxed. Now you should tackle other elements of good computer Feng Shui. For that, see some of the past articles or send me an e-mail and I will forward them to you. In the interim, "live long and prosper".

In addition to writing this column, John Smith offers PC Tutoring under the name of "PC" Smith. He welcomes feedback on these articles, and may be reached on 575-9166 or

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