My Screen Is Sideways


This month marks 4 years since I posted the above Q&A for my Helpline Blog at The Houston Chonicle. Since that time, “My screen is sideways” has generated over 700 comments from all over the world from people who have encountered this problem.

I really thought the problem was too esoteric and almost didn’t publish it.

In reading the comments it would appear that the primary cause of this problem is cat ownership.

I wonder what other computer problems may be cat related?


Back in September of 2005, about one month into my then new gig blogging for the Houston Chronicle, I published my answer to what I thought was a fairly unique problem with limited relevance to the general computing community.

Someone had contacted me with a problem. It seems that their computer display had turned sideways and wanted to know how to fix it. I figured out the problem and fixed it for them and decided to use it in the Helpline Blog under the title My screen is sideways.

Back in May of 2006 I marvelled at how many comments the post had received from people seeking an answer to the very same problem and thought to myself that 28 was a fairly staggering number.

Over the last few years the comments kept coming in and looking at it now there are 393 thank you comments on that post. 393 people who have managed to shift their display 90 degrees to the vertical, some not knowing how or why it happened while others readily blame the errant child or the curious climbing feline.

This has been the most response I have seen to anything I have blogged, ever. And I would have thought that was that and chalked it up to a happy anomaly or serendipity until I posted an answer to a flash.ocx problem simply called Flash.ocx error in February 2007. In just a little over one year that post has garnered 334 responses, all thank you notes from people who were seeking a solution to the same problem.

That’s 49 shy of my personal record and it won’t be long before Flash.ocx error surpasses My screen is sideways unless there’s a disproportionate shift in the number of babies and cats using keyboards relative the those who like to install second-rate, problematic screen savers.

It’s just mind boggling to think of all those sideways screen using, flash erroring people finding their solution in my tiny little database.

Of course, as Dwight points out, there’s computer support and then there’s this:

Jay Lee 2.0

At our recent annual kick off event in Florida I started promoting Jay Lee 2.0, the kinder, gentler Jay Lee. This coincides with the recent update of my photo used at the Houston Chronicle.

Since I started writing for them nearly 7 years ago this has been the picture used in the paper and, more recently on the web site and blog.

Great picture, but not so accurate some seven years later.

Dwight started talking to me about going by The Chronicle building and getting a new head shot. I finally got down there a few weeks ago and Houston Chronicle staff photographer Smiley Pool did the honors.

Certainly not the most compelling photograph he’s ever taken in his journalistic career.

Here’s hoping it’ll last for another 7 years.

Cruising with Vista

So I fielded my first Windows Vista Q&A for my Helpline Blog over at the Houston Chronicle.

It’s pretty lightweight but still, it marks a new era in my computer support time-line. I’m sure it’s the first of many, many more to come.

You can read it here if you’re so inclined.

Those who enjoy vintage American automobiles or know about my Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme should be sure to click the link at the very end of the article.

The geek who saved Christmas

Over 120 comments thanking me for the solution I provided in my Helpline blog item “My screen is sideways”. The closest runner up is “Double-click opens search instead of folder” with 60+ comments.

This comment received from a reader in the UK tickled me to death:

Daughter aged 11 hit unknown key combination turning screen sideways. Thought had virus, after an hour and much upset, decided to google. You saved our xmas as pressies depend on the computer working.

Geek Gathering – 06/02/2006

Another excellent gathering of the geeks!
There were many new toys being oogled by a room full of nerds and nerd onlookers.

Dwight Silverman, self proclaimed Microsoft lackey and friend of Bill, was spotted with a new Macintosh computer. He claims it belongs to his daughter but there was a unmistakable gleam of delight in his his eye as he explored the features.

Barrett was sporting a new 17″ Macbook and Russell Holliman of Mobilepodcast fame was toting a brand new Motorola Q phone.

It was also a pleasure to meet Matt B. of

In terms of gadgetry and attendees this was probably one of the geekiest geek gatherings in a long time. That’s probably for the best since my friend Jennifer decided to pay a visit. She’s expressed an interest in helping Groovehouse out with phone screening duties on show nights and it’s important she fully realize what she’s getting herself into.

A few more photos here.

Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt

As many of you know, Cynthia is a fan of the art of quilting. We have several handmade quilts she has lovingly stitched together and she is, even now, mapping out her next project.

A few weeks back I got an invitation to the media preview for the Gee´s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt exhibit. This invitation came in via my contact e-mail for the Houston Chronicle.

From the web site:

Gee´s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt examines the resurgence of interest in quilting in the Gee´s Bend community and documents the development of key traditional quilt patterns””housetop, courthouse steps, flying geese, and strip quilting through the presentation of outstanding examples created from the 1930s into the twenty-first century.

We had just watched the PBS special on these quilts a few weeks back so I knew EXACTLY what this was.

Sensing an opportunity to take Cynthia to something quite special I replied to the invitation. I was very frank about the fact that I would not be able to promote the show in my capacity as the Helpline columnist for the Houston Chronicle but did indicate my desire to attend. The event organizer replied that they would be happy for us to be there and confirmed our RSVP.

It was a wonderful event and Cynthia and I both got some great pictures and an opportunity to chat with many of the women who created these fabulous quilts.

Louisiana P. and Mary Lee Bendolph – Artists

Mary Lee shares a wonderful quilting anecdote with Cynthia.

The show runs June 4 – September 4, 2006 at the Audrey Jones Beck Building of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Spread the word!

More pics from today’s media opening available here

Glad to be of assistance

As you might imagine, I have answered a LOT of computer questions over the years as a result of my chosen path as demagogy-free radio talk show host and newspaper techno-pundit.

The questions come via e-mail, IM, the phone, in person and via third parties, friends and relatives. Everything from consumer advice to complex network troubleshooting. Sometimes I know the answer and sometimes I am quick with a well executed Google search and on certain occasions I just grunt my displeasure at being used in this manner and go back to what I was doing before I was so rudely interrupted.

Since all my Q&A’s I write for the Chronicle are archived in the Helpline Blog they are turning up in the search engines when people are looking for an answer to a problem. This means that I am answering questions now without actually interacting with the person experiencing the problem.

There’s no way to track this. I simply have no idea how much assistance (or damage) I am perpetrating. I do, however, have an inkling based on the steady stream of replies to one particular posting I made back on Sept. 9, 2005.

My screen is sideways

It was a Q&A I put together based on a real live helpdesk issue that I solved with one of my users in the course of my workday. In terms of publishing it was kind of a “throw down” posting in that I did not see this as something that affected very many people and would possibly be more filler than anything or perhaps just demonstrate a quirky computer factoid.

I was wrong.

This week I have received three comments thanking me for that one single answer and I have received around 28 since it was posted. And since I rarely hear from people I have successfully helped the true number of people this has helped may never be fully known.

I can only imagine how many people have been suffering with a monitor turned on it’s side looking for a solution.

I’m glad I could help.