25/12/2006

OUT OF THE BOX

So Phitek, the Auckland headphones maker which is trying to crack the consumer electronics market after doing well making headphones for a number of airlines, decided to give away threee pairs for readers of my Hot Technology column in the Herald on Sunday. I was late putting the competition together, so instead of getting the Herald to set up a competition email address for people to respond to, I put my own email address for competition participants to respond to.

Man, it's just as well I have a Gmail account (2.7GB of storage age rising). Several hundred entries so far. I have a nifty piece of software that acts as a randomiser to shuffle all the names of the participants I've received, but entering the names into this software requires me opening each email individually which I've just spent several hours doing (while nibbling on some mince pies). Next time, I'll let some poor schmuck at the Herald take care of that.

Still, it's good to know that lots of people are getting to the Hot Technology page. As for Blackbox, it will be interesting to see how they go. I think they're probably a tad too expensive. After all, they're entering a market already crowded with some credible players such as Sennheiser, who make great headphones. I've been using a pair of Phitek headphones, ones that precede the M14 headphones, and they've been pretty good. I like how lightweight they are and the ear cushioning and headrest are very comfortable.

Still, the plastic casing around the hinges which allow the headphones to swivel position has started to crack, which appears to be a design flaw. I hope they've fixed that with the M14.

My Herald on Sunday Christmas Eve column...

THE GIFT OF GADGETS... AND THE RETURNS BIN

If you’re very lucky or have wealthy relatives, chances are you are going to be unwrapping some cool, new piece of electronic gadgetry tomorrow.

The first thing you’ll want to do is get it out of the box, so you can show it off to your envious siblings. Then you’ll want to turn it on, make it work.
That’s fine, but be careful.

To start with, take care of the packaging your gadget came wrapped in.
Just as the three-pack of underpants your mum has bought you may not fit perfectly, the TV, computer or digital camera you’ve just received might not be suitable either. Unpack carefully, keep all the plastic bags, polystyrene mouldings and cable ties. Don’t tear the box. It makes it hard to give back.

Most electronics stores have an exchange policy where you can return the product and use the value of it to spend on something else, or get your money back.
The post-Christmas sales period is a great time to browse for electronics as the “returns” bin will be full of gadgets people brought back because they didn’t know how to use them. Aside from the crinkled, pawed packaging, they’re likely to be as good as new.

With any new gadget, plug it in and let it charge, preferably overnight, but for a good few hours anyway. New devices benefit from a decent charge first thing.
While it’s charging fill in the warranty card or register online. Some say a gadget isn’t worth owning if you need to read the manual to know how to operate it. Ignore that. Make sure you read the manual, at least the installation section anyway.
They’re often badly written in pidgin English, but the manuals at least offer enough guidance to stop you frying your new device before Boxing Day.

If you’re lucky enough to receive a computer as a gift tomorrow, you’ll probably want to spend part of the afternoon unpacking it, booting it up and checking out what it can do. Setting up computers is pretty easy these days, they generally come with all the software, including Windows XP, pre-installed. Many computers come with a big wall chart that steps you through the set-up process. Don’t let that chart get swept away with the discarded Christmas paper.

And remember that you’ll want your computer to work with all your peripherals – the printer, wireless router, mobile phone, music player and digital camera.
After the euphoria of holding your shiny new laptop in your hands wears off, put it down and go and find all those discs that hold the software that are going to make your various gadgets compatible with your new computer.

Always load the supplied software driver before you plug a device into your computer, as jumping in and connecting USB cables can lead to glitches in the installation process.

If you manage to botch your new computer set-up revert to that useful feature of Windows that lets you undo all the digital chaos you’ve created – System Restore. It will take you back to just before the point you did something that made the machine go haywire.

It pays to have all your passwords for internet and email accounts handy, so you can get onto the web as quickly as possible. If someone has given you the gift of broadband internet for Christmas, it won’t necessarily work on Christmas Day. Your phone line has to be prepared for broadband which involves a technician making a modification to your line at the local exchange. There’s usually a backlog of orders this time of year, so it could take a few days to come online.

If a family member has put a wireless broadband router under the tree for you, they’ve done well. Going wireless lets you access the internet wherever you are in the house. But setting up wireless gear can be fiddley. Read the instructions carefully and make sure you set security controls as soon as you plug in the broadband cable. Christmas is a time for giving, but you still don’t want your neighbours surfing on your internet connection.

Gaming consoles such as the PS2, PSP and Xbox 360 are easy to set up – just set the kids down in front of the TV, they’ll know what to do.
But to access the Xbox 360’s impressive online features, you’ll need an Ethernet cable and to be close to your broadband connection.

If you’ve scored the Nintendo Wii, take some time to get used to the Wii-mote that’s so central to the gaming experience. Over-enthusiastic gamers have been known to accidentally throw the controller at the TV screen or hit other players. The last place you want to be on Christmas morning is in the casualty ward needing stitches for a Wii wound.

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