A techie tells all about getting gadgets to work

Technology is great, isn't it? What a pity that most of us have no idea how to get the most from the latest gizmos and gadgets. John Lyden, Desktop Support Technician at Rowan University, gives us the inside track on new technical devices.

Explain what TiVoTM and DVR mean and how they work. Is this the end of VCRs?
TiVo is a brand, and the generic term is DVR, which stands for digital video recording. It's kind of like tissue and Kleenex. Basically, it's a computer that's attached to your television set. It can take input from either your cable box or your antenna, but instead of recording it to a videotape, it records it to a hard drive inside that computer. TiVo is the brand name of the market leader. And yes, VCRs are effectively dead. Nobody is producing videotape movies anymore. All production moved to DVDs about a year ago.

What's the difference between DVDs and CDs?
Most CDs (compact discs) that you use in a computer are data CDs. The recordable ones are called CDR. DVDs are basically the same concept as CDs, except they use a smaller laser to put on more data. Some DVD players allow you to create your own CDs, such as burning home movies to a CD and putting them into a DVD player. It will play as if it was a DVD, but clearly not with the same quality.

Let's talk about iPods. Getting through on help lines can be a full-time job. Are there steps people can try first to fix common problems?
The most common problem you get with an iPodTM is it freezing up. But for most problems, resetting the iPod will correct the issue. To reset, slide the hold switch to hold and then to off. Then, hold down the menu and select buttons at the same time for five seconds until the Apple screen shows up. When the little apple pops up on the screen, you let go.

Many people have all-in-one phones that receive e-mail and store calendar and address book records. Some even store music and play music videos. Are there risks to having all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak?
Not really. The only thing to be aware of with these devices is that most non-corporate people have to depend on their computer at home for the device to work. You can lose your home connection pretty easily. For example, to get e-mail on your PalmTM Pilot, if you don't have a corporate account with a specific server, you have to go through your personal network. So, say you're off in Florida and your power goes out here in Jersey. You no longer have access to any information you're supposed to be getting from your home computer. These all-in-one phones are really meant for the on-the-go business user who needs 24-hour access.

There's been news of Nintendo WiiTM players getting carried away during the game and harming themselves or others. How is this happening?
The Nintendo Wii is Nintendo's newest video game system. The three video game systems for this current generation are the Nintendo Wii, which is the least expensive of the three at $249, the Xbox 360 which comes in two prices, $300 and $400, and the Sony PLAYSTATIONTM 3, sold at $500 and $600. The Nintendo Wii is different than the others because instead of going for the insane graphics that Microsoft and Sony put into their machines, they decided to use less expensive components and change the control system. So, instead of using a standard control pad, you use this motion sensing stick, which is basically a computer mouse in the air. It goes wherever you want it. The motion sensor doesn't require any more than small movement, but people lose their heads as they get into the game. They come with wrist straps but they're kind of flimsy. The most important thing is to keep your wits about you.

Editor's Note: Nintendo is voluntarily replacing wrist straps for some Wii units, citing safety concerns. For information, visit Nintendo.com.

With XboxTM 360, people complain about the new wireless headsets not working. What can they do?
The system is completely wireless. The only difference is when you play multi-player games on the Xbox you have a headset you use to talk to people. They just came out with a $60 wireless headset, so now you don't have to worry about any wires at all. There have been reported problems with the headset not synching properly with first generation Xbox 360 controllers. Basically, for anybody who bought the system from the day it came out until about March of 2006, this cannot be fixed. The consumer has to either call Microsoft to get a replacement controller, or purchase a new controller.

PLAYSTATION 3 is supposed to play games from the PLAYSTATION 2 model, but some popular games aren't working. What should consumers do?
Sony said you'll be able to play every PS2 game with PS3, with few exceptions, because they basically took the chips from the PS2 and added them to the new system. Apparently, it doesn't work as intended. For example, Gran Turismo 3 and 4, which are two of the biggest selling games for PS2, often freeze after the title screen. When they fix the problem, Sony will send out an update.

How about digital cameras? Some people can take the pictures, but have trouble figuring out how to make prints. What is your best advice?
There are a lot of options. You can go to Kodak.com, email your pictures and they will print them. You then pick them up at any participating store. Or, you can take your memory card out of your camera and go to places like Eckerd or Wal-Mart. You plug in your memory card from your camera, select the prints you want, and have them printed right there. If you want to do it at home, you can buy yourself a photo-printer. If you're willing to wait a little while, there are some websites that make nice prints for really low prices. Shutterfly.com makes fantastic prints from even the worst camera.

Is it true that images on a plasma television can burn onto the screen?
Yes. If you have a static image on the screen for too long, the image can burn onto the screen and stay there. Say you watch CNN 12 hours a day on a plasma screen made before last year, parts of the image that don't move, such as the CNN logo, will literally burn through.

Does this also happen with LCD (liquid crystal display) televisions?
LCD is like the screen on your laptop. The same thing can happen, but you can avoid that by turning the set off and letting it sit for 30 minutes.

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Date Published: Thursday, February 1, 2007 (All day)
Source URL: South Jersey Magazine