Helpdesk: Beating the mouse trap

Q: My computer's mouse is driving me crazy. It freezes on occasion and also can stop for few seconds and then jump ahead. I'm thinking about hiring a mouse exterminator. But short of that, what can I do about it?
Wayne Green

A: This is one of those many occasions where there are dozens of possible reasons why a mouse can freeze. Here's how I would start. Take a mouse that works -- one that's working now on another computer -- and substitute it for the balky mouse. That way you'll find out if the problem is in the mouse itself, a logical first step. And you won't waste time on my other tips only to find that you have a defective mouse. But if the substitute mouse also shows the same problems, go to the Web site of the company that makes the mouse and download the latest driver, or tiny program that lets your computer communicate with the mouse. That often will solve the problem. If none of that works, check out this Web site for some other ideas: .

Q: I would like to take the hard drive out of my old computer that's running Windows XP and put it in my new computer that uses Windows Vista. I am afraid that some of my old files and programs won't work with Vista. Is this feasible?
Vic Roulund

A: It probably would work, unless the old hard disk isn't compatible with the circuitry of your new computer. However, you can't live in the past forever. The computer world has moved from XP to Vista and now to Windows 7. I realize you want to stick with Windows XP and that you worry  some programs may not work. But truth is, the longer you postpone moving to a new version of Windows, the more headaches you'll have when you do change versions of Windows. And that move is inevitable. So, at the very least, consider making the move to Vista or even Windows 7. I suspect many of your old programs will work. But if you need to update your programs, it is sensible to do it now.

Q: Do you know of any Web site that shows where to find planets at specific days and times?
Rick Kritzer

A: Plenty of Web sites do that. One that seems user-friendly to newcomers to astronomy is