Tag Archives: MacBook

How I turned a laptop into a desktop computer 

How I turned an older laptop into a desktop computer.

I decided to get a monitor that I could plug into my laptop to make it easier to read and write for the dissertation that I have started. My idea was to buy a monitor and use it with my Macbook Air. I chose a 24 inch monitor as I wanted to be able to view two pages at the same time. The laptop connects using a standard HDMI cable and a HDMI to ‘lightening’ adapter or an HDMI to ‘lightening’ cable. I also tried the monitor with a 5 year old Dell Inspiron laptop and it worked pretty well, which got me thinking…

I added a wireless keyboard and mouse (which uses a USB dongle and Bluetooth) which saves having to use the laptop in front of the monitor and not being able to see the bottom of the screen.

Computer screen and keyboard
Computer screen and keyboard

So now I have my Dell laptop running Windows 10 and Office 365 with plenty of options for viewing.

I can still use the Macbook if I want but for now I am happy to leave the old Dell where it is!

I feel that I have got a useful and space saving desktop computer for the price of a monitor, keyboard and mouse. And if the older laptop dies I can either use another laptop or buy a basic desktop unit.

What do you think? Have you tried something similar?


Monitor: LG 24MP68VQ-P Slim bezel 24inch IPS LED around US$160

Keyboard and Mouse: Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse around US$30

Dell Inspiron N4110 with i5 processor and 8gb of RAM. This model had an HDMI slot

Dictation and Reading Tools – on a Mac

Here are some built in tools that allow the Mac to read aloud and turn our speech into text.

Text to speech (reading) on a Mac

This cool feature is built into the Mac operating system. You may need to activate it. Here’s how:

Quick step-by-step

Open System Preferences > Dictation and Speech

Choose : Text to Speech

Check: Speak selected text when the key is pressed

Current Key: option + esc

Window showing text to speech options
Window showing text to speech options
How does it work?

Select (highlight) the text that you want read to you. Press the option and esc keys together. The text will be read out loud to you.

Part of Mac keyboard: opt and esc keys
Part of a Mac keyboard showing the option and escape keys

If you would like more details, including how to change the voice you can look at this video. The uploader also talks about how this helps with his dyslexia.


Dictation on a Mac

Quick step-by-step

Open Preferences > Dictation and Speech

Choose: Dictation – On Button

Press fn (function key) twice

Dictation Dialogue Window
Activation window showing where to turn dictation on
How does it work?

Open your word processor (e.g. word), click the cursor for where you want to start. Press the fn key twice. Speak normally and the text should begin to appear. You will most likely need to do some editing on the text but it is a good way of getting your ideas written down.

Part of Mac keyboard showing function key
Mac keyboard showing function fn key


Read & Write for Google Chrome and Drive

These settings will not work with Google Chrome or Drive.  Herer are some videos to add an extension that will work with Google.

Here’s a video about how to add the Read & Write for Google – Chrome Extension


Here’s some more info about how to use the Read & Write toolbar


MacBook Air: After two months

I’ve now been using the MacBook Air for two months. Here is my snapshot:


  • battery lasts all day long (for typical office tasks)
  • battery recharges quickly
  • it’s light and slim
  • it boots up – and shuts down in about 10s
  • it’s fast
  • it’s very quiet and runs cool (most of the time)

The light, slim design – coupled with fast start up time – make it ideal for using on the go. It can easily be carried and then got out for a quick note.


  • the two and three finger gestures take some time to get used to – I am still finding myself having to back up where I have made a ‘gesture’.
  • browser wars – the safari browser works best on the Mac OS, but I want to use Chrome when using google docs
  • the screen is a bit on the small side ( a compromise made for a smaller, lighter laptop)
  • I have no idea what iPhoto is doing with my pictures


I like it. It’s fast and portable. It’s great for most office tasks, browsing etc. So far, so great!

MacBook Air

It’s a while since I have used a Mac, but now that the school is going to use both Mac and Windows I will be using a MacBook air. I know that there has been a lot of discussion over the years about Mac vs Windows, with much of it around personal preferences but I will try to give my impressions about using the laptop in school and at home.

First things first:

It’s a MacBook Air

Tech Spec: Processor 1.3 gHz Intel Core i5  / RAM 8gb 1600mHz DDR3 / Intel HD Graphics 5000 1024 MB / HD Solid State 250 gb / OSX 10.9 /

The hard disk has a Windows partition, which means that it is possible to install a windows operating system on the computer. I will not do this unless I need to…

Software: I have Office for Mac installed which gives me access to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Outlook gives access to our school mail server. I will also be using Google Drive, so I have installed the Google Chrome browser alongside Safari.

First Impressions

It’s solid and well made, a bit heavier than I thought it would be. Typing is easy with a solid place to rest my wrists and scrabble style keys that are backlit in low-light conditions. The case is slim and the lack of a conventional hard drive means that it is quiet and runs cool without the need for fans blowing away the heat. The first part of my learning curve will be to forget my windows keyboard shortcuts and begin to learn some for the mac, oh and not having a right click but using a two fingered gesture instead!

Familiar Apps, Unfamiliar Menus

The Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook) are all familiar, but different enough to leave me scratching my head looking for features that are available on the windows platform.

Now I am going to get on with using the MacBook Air for the next few weeks, including a trip out of the country for a conference, then I’ll post some impressions… watch this space!