Bob 1 - Dust 0!

by Bob Seidel

An occupational hazard of my business is that I have to often crawl down under and behind furniture to install or service PCs. Besides being tough on my knees, it's also tough on my nose! The accumulated dust down there is often as thick as the rocks on the Oak Island beach.

But I don't complain. First of all it wouldn't be professional unless it gets to the point where the dust starts to form a union and demands sick days and overtime. But there is a bigger, darker secret that keeps me from commenting - my own little dark place, my own personal dust haven. You guessed it - my own PC desk!

Last weekend I had had enough, and I decided to do a full, maximum cleaning. That means taking everything off the shelves, desk, and underneath - and cleaning it until it shines (well, a dull gloss anyhow). Now you might ask why I don't do this more often so let me explain why.

First of all, I have four printers. Right. Four. Count 'em! I have a high quality photo inkjet that I use for my photo and color printing and also use to print envelopes because its feeder is better than my laser printer. Second is the laser printer / copier. Third is another inkjet printer that I picked up cheap to print on CDs and DVDs. I had to do this because my good printer doesn't support a CD printing tray. Finally, I have a Dymo label printer that I use for printing file folder and envelope labels; this is really quite a time saver and neatenizer and I use it often. Remember, each of these units requires a power cable and a data (USB) cable.

One of the printers is on a network printer server - count another box, a power cable, and a network cable. I have a large flatbed scanner, this one Firewire attached. Again, two wires.

I have a cable box and a TV; along with that is a VHS tape deck and various Firewire and audio cables to permit digitizing VHS and camcorder tapes. There is also an interface box which translates from analog video to digital Firewire. So there are a lot of stiff TV cables, and again a bunch more power cables. I also have a desk lamp.

I have three active USB hubs, each almost fully in use. I have a USB mouse base, and of course my PC keyboard and monitor.

Down under the desk is where the real problem lies. I have a large UPS, and three individual power strips feeding off of that for all those devices I mentioned above. Well, actually one of those strips does not feed off the UPS but rather plugs right into the wall for those devices that I do not want to put on the UPS or that need to be on even when the PC is off. And of course most of those power plugs are not just plugs, but are those transformery things that take up too much space on the power strips.

Oh, and don't forget the sound system. There are five speakers plus subwoofer, a multi-wire audio cable to the PC and a control cable to the desktop. And also the cable modem and router (and they have their own power strip). And I used to have a phone modem (power + data + phone cord) but I have taken that out of service.

OK - start - take it all apart. Now of course I know where all the stuff goes, but I have found that even though USB devices can usually be plugged into any available USB socket, it is best to restore them from whence they came to keep from reloading drivers. So I laboriously labeled each and every cable, took everything apart (filling up the living room in the process), cleaned and vacuumed, and put it all back. I also opened up the PC box itself and vacuumed it out, paying special attention to the air flow holes and the fans.

Elapsed time - about five hours! But it all came together again, all worked, and I have to admit the place smells a lot better. Perhaps that is my imagination, but after all you have to feel good after doing all that work!

And the message here, if you didn't already get it, is that perhaps you should look under your desk...

(Bob Seidel is a local computer consultant in the Southport - Oak Island area. You can visit his Website at or e-mail questions or column ideas to him at For specific inquiries, please call Bob Seidel Consulting, LLC at 278-1007.)