Creating special characters with your keyboard

Ask Mr. Modem

Q. My keyboard has several diacritic marks, including the tilde and circumflex accent. How does one place such a mark over a letter?

A. Diacritic marks? Circumflex accents? Pulleeeze! Around here we refer to those as doohickies and squiggly things, so kindly refrain from using such high-falootin’ technical jargon in the future. I do have a reputation to protect, you know.

Turning to the squiggly thing that is also known as a tilde, on the keyboard it’s a single character. But since you cannot press two keys at the same time – and lord knows I’ve tried – you cannot force the keyboard tilde to appear above another letter by brute strength.

ALT codes are required to create special characters such as ¿ © « ¤, which may not display on all systems. ALT codes are deployed by using the ALT key in concert with the numeric keypad located on the right side of most keyboards – not the numbers at the top of your keyboard. Make sure the NUM LOCK is toggled on in order to use ALT Codes. To view a list of most ALT codes and the special characters they create, take a look at Washington State University’s list of Doohickies and Squiggly Things at

Q. How can I convert a bookmark into a Desktop icon for faster access? Thanks, Mr. M.

A. The easiest thing to do is go to the Web site that you want to create a shortcut to, then drag it to the Windows Desktop. To do that, place your cursor on the little icon to the left of its address as it appears in your browser and drag that to the Desktop. It will instantly create a shortcut to the site. Press F2 to rename the shortcut, if you wish. Depending on the browser you’re using, you might be able to drag it from the list of bookmarks itself. Then again, you might not.

As an alternative, if you don’t mind a little hard work, you can roll up your sleeves and create it manually: First, note the address of the Web page so you have that at hand or in mind, whichever is the most reliable. Let’s use Google as an example. Its address is

Right-click anywhere on the Desktop and select New > Shortcut. In the Location field type Google’s address, then click Next and give the shortcut a name – something clever like “Google” will work – then click Finish. That’s all there is to it.

Q. The sound system in my new car will allow me to plug in a USB drive and play songs. I have quite a few, so how large of a drive should I buy to copy my songs to?

A. Assuming your songs are in MP3 format and each song is approximately three minutes in length, every 2GB can accommodate approximately 500 songs. So a 4GB drive can hold 1,000 songs, a 32GB drive 8,000 songs and a 64GB drive a whopping 16,000 songs.

Converting all those tunes into listening time breaks down as follows: 500 songs, without allowing for time between songs, will play for 25 hours; 1,000 songs will play for 50 hours (more than two days of 24/7 tunes); 8,000 songs, 5.5 days; 16,000 songs, more than 11 24-hour days. Yikes!

Mr. Modem’s DME (Don’t Miss ’Em) sites of the month

Episode Guides

Here you will find lists and links containing episode titles and air dates for more than 6,900 TV shows. Type in the name of a show, old or new, use the “Current Shows” link or the alphabetical listing. Also included are links to TV-related retailers, schedules and UK-based radio shows.

The Body Explained

Hosted by Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, this portion of the “Bio Ed” site uses original video clips to answer common questions about the functioning of the human body. Browse the site’s list of delightfully light-hearted yet informative video explanations. Make your selections, then sit back, watch and discover the answers to such life-altering questions as, “What causes an ice cream headache?” and “Why do our ears pop?”

Where’s George?

This entertaining and quasi-informative site tracks where your U.S. dollars go – not in a budgeting sense, but geographically. Enter the serial number(s) of your bills and leave a comment explaining where you obtained them, what condition each bill is in, or if you made any special markings on any bills (which you’re not supposed to do).

As other individuals check their serial numbers, if someone receives one of your bills, they will presumably note the same information so you can track the meanderings of your dollars. Registration (first name and email address) is required to check the whereabouts of any bills you enter. The same service, called Where’s Willy ( is available for tracking Canadian currency.