Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

General advice for purchasing a new digital camera*

I have been receiving e-mails here at Tech–for Everyone that have been regarding my recent article about the fella who went traveling, and for the first time left his 35mm gear at home. (He only carried a digital camera.)

These e-mails have been asking me which digital camera it was. The reason they wrote is, they want to buy the same one. I had very carefully avoided naming a specific make or model of digital camera, as (believe it or not) I am not in the business of promoting sales.

But I understand perfectly why people want some advice when it comes to buying a digital camera. There is a whole gaggle of them to choose from– an overwhelming variety.. and when you start shopping, it’s easy to become confused by the jargon.
A “mega” pixel is better than an ordinary, everyday “pixel”.. right? (You bet it is. It contains more vitamins and minerals.)

A long, long, time ago I wrote a three-part advice series on buying a new computer, and today I am going to reiterate a bit of advice from there– when buying a digital camera, you have to hold it in your hands. The “right” camera for you will just, well, “feel right”. If you keep accidentally pushing a button, or put your thumb right on the viewer screen.. that’s not good.

Tip of the day: General advice for purchasing a new digital camera.

* Optical zoom is better than digital zoom. Make sure that the “zoom” feature of your camera is handled by a moving lens. Digital zooming is okay in very small amounts, but the way it works will cause funny-looking “pixilation” when really put to work.
* You want image stabilization. Image stabilization is in my opinion simply a “must have”; fortunately, almost every manufacturer provides it. I won’t spend time, here, describing the different types. If you’re curious, click the link.
* The Megapixel. Folks, there is a lot of confusion regarding the camera jargon word “megapixel”. A higher megapixel number does not necessarily equate with “sharper image” or “clearer picture“.. in fact, they usually have nothing to do with each other.
Megapixels refers to the image (data) size and determines how big an enlargement you can make before you start to experience distortions (think of it as being a bit like film sizes). If the largest prints you ever make are 5 x 7, a three-to-four Megapixel camera is all you need. A 10 Megapixel camera is overkill for the vast majority of uses, and it will simply fill your memory card faster, with fewer shots. (But, you can make poster-size prints.)
* LCD “viewfinder”. I think it is important to have a manual viewfinder, as well as the LCD screen.. but that is personal opinion. In terms of LCD, the two factors to consider are placement and size. It should be big enough that you can see what it is showing when you hold the camera away from your body, and, it should be positioned on the camera in such a way as to not cause you to hold your hand in a funny/odd way so that you can see it.
Important: The LCD screen not only needs to be large enough to see, but it needs to be bright enough that you can see the preview when you’re outdoors in sunshine. If the image looks kind of dim in the store…
* And I’d like to repeat, your camera should just feel right in your hand.
* Don’t buy features you won’t use. If you are not a photography buff, and don’t want to memorize a 200-page owners manual, then you don’t want to buy a D-SLR; you want a “point-and-shoot”, (You won’t impress anybody with it anyway) and you don’t need 24 “settings” if you’re only going to use one. Right? Right.

Today’s free link: If you are like the fella I mentioned in the original articles, and like to read reviews and technical specs, or if you just want more information about digital photography (maybe it’s your hobby), check out http://www.pcphotomag.com/.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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November 24, 2008 Posted by | advice, Digital camera, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Questions About File Extensions*

Today I will answer a few reader questions in the (hopefully) now familiar “Q’s and their A’s” format, and provide a link to a free disk imaging program.

Q: What is a .bkp file?
A: First of all, it is helpful to know what a “file extension” is. The dot three-letters (sometimes four, as in website/index.html) ending you see at the end of file names is a method used to tell machines what category of file this string of code is (remember, it is just a series of 0’s and 1’s), and whether or not it is an “executable” file (such as a program.exe).
Your machine uses the extension to determine which program to use to open the file.

You are probably familiar with the more common file extensions: .doc and .txt for text, .xls for a spreadsheet, .jpg for pictures, and .htm or .html for webpages. Frankly, there are quite a few dot whatevers — too many to list here– the short answer is a .bkp is the backup file created by Windows Backup utility. This is the file you will use to restore your files should something untoward happen, and so you should treat it with care, and store a copy in two locations; on a CD or DVD and on a different drive or partition.
If you ever run across a .xyz that you’ve never seen before, and have no idea how it got there or what it does, the place to find out is the website FILExt.

Q: My computer is not showing file extensions, how do I make them visible?
A: You must turn off the “Hide Known File Extensions” feature. Open Windows Explorer using the shortcut mentioned in this prior article (Windows key+E) and from the Tools menu select (click) “Folder Options”. Then click on the “View” tab. Find and uncheck the checkbox by “Hide known file extensions”, as shown below. fldopts.jpg

Now click on the “Apply to All Folders” button, and then “OK”.

Vista users: In Vista you access this Options window via the Folder Options applet in the Control Panel. Start> Control Panel> Folder Options.

This answer is a good security tip as well, because hackers will sometimes take advantage of this by sending executable code disguised as something harmless.

Here’s how they’d do it: say they wrote a virus, we’ll call it “nastyvirus.exe”. If you received an email with the attachment nastyvirus.exe you probably wouldn’t click on it (and if you did, you really shouldn’t be using a computer! Sheeze). So the bad guy renames the virus “cutepuppy.jpg.exe.” If the Hide known extensions feature is on, it will appear to you as cutepuppy.jpg and you’ll be inclined to think the email attachment is a picture… and NOT a piece of nasty code.
Please note: for some inexplicable reason, Microsoft has Hide Known Extensions enabled by default. If you have not already turned this off, please do so now.

Today’s free download: regular readers of Tech–for Everyone know that I routinely advise making system backups for the purposes of “disaster” recovery. One highly recommend backup method is to make an “image” of your hard drive or partition with a program like Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image.
If your hard-drive is made by Maxtor or Seagate (Seagate has purchased Maxtor), you can download a free, basic version of Acronis, to clone, image, or transfer your system. The tool is called Maxtor MaxBlast. [note: if you backup the image to an external drive, it must be a Maxtor/Seagate drive as well.]

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul, All Rights Reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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September 20, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, security, tech, tweaks | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment