G etting a new tech toy can be like tackling a Rubik’s Cube, twisting knobs and pushing buttons to get what you want. And each model is different, even when they come from the same maker. Here are some universal truths:


        Extend battery life by not looking back at too many pics on the camera.

        Those LCD screens drain the juice.

        Go with “optical zoom and ignore the “digital zoom,” which just crops

your photo.

        Get a stand-alone memory card reader. It saves the camera’s battery and

can be faster and easier for transferring photos.

        Back up photos to CDs or DVDs, and use brand-name disks.

        Try the video mode built into many; it can be fun and convenient.


        Don’t be embarrassed to return a phone in the trial period. After the trial,

carriers aren’t embarrassed to charge the termination fee included in your contract.

        Keep that user’s manual handy. Few phones offer the built-in help files com-

mon on computers and other gadgets.

        Don’t shut it off for a few minutes to save battery power. Turning it back on

uses more power than letting it idle on standby generally would.

        Keep camera phones at the highest resolution. Even that typically yields lower photo quality than you’d like.

        Improve snapshots by exposing the camera phone lens to light for a few

seconds before shooting.

        Buy accessories, like batteries and chargers, anywhere but cellphone

stores with their high markups.


        Even worse than on still cameras, LCDs drain batteries, so limit playback.

        A second battery, even a knockoff from batteries.com, saves aggravation.

        Using a cheap (less than $150) set-top DVD recorder to copy your tapes of

raw footage to disk makes for easier playback and editing.

        But don’t erase a tape after copying it to a DVD—the cassette still has the bettter resolution.

        Forgo the built-in special effects. Fades look better in PC editing software.

        Don’t pay more for a camcorder that can also take still photos: That money could buy a dedicated camera that takes better pictures.


        Upgrade hard-drive space; emptier drives last longer.

        Every PC needs virus protection. Norton, McAfee, and others are good: free protection is available at free.grisoft.com. Connect securely to your broadband Windows PC from anywhere with the free service at logmein.com. It’s worth the effort to set a password for your Wi-Fi network.




March 14, 2005, (pg. 52)

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