OK I thought this was funny!
I ran into some strange things using IE and my Shaw internet connection this summer. I would go to sites and would get access denied messages or it would say that I was a spammer. My wife even was denied the ability to do a Google search.
After some investigation I found the problem. I was using IE and it appears that the setup (automatically detect settings) was using Shaw’s proxy server and that was being blocked. Whenever I tried to access cbs.com I would get an access denied message. I tested this at a few client sites and saw the same behaviour. No problems when I used Firefox (recommended anyway). Going to whatismyip.com showed that my IP address was 24.xx.xx.xx which I know is wrong because I have one static and two dynamic addresses from Shaw and all three are supposed to be in the 70.xx.xx.xx range.
I find that this does not affect people with the older Motorola Cybersurfer modems either, only the docsis (small black ones). To fix the problem in IE do the following:
Open IE and click on the tools drop down (IE7) or on the tools menu in IE 6 and select Internet Options.
Go to the connections tab
At the bottom click on LAN settings
Uncheck the box that says automatically detect settings
Click OK all the way through to close the dialog boxes
I have reported the problem to Shaw technical support , but have not updated them with the fact that I have found this on other clients connections.
Looks like I have to make another upgrade to my Mac-Mini. In case you are not familiar this is a tiny introductory Mac system built primarily from laptop components. Anyway I am doing a VHS to DVD conversion for someone and for some reason my JVC editing Deck is not installing (or working properly) on my Vista Ultimate Desktop (If I recall it worked fine on my Vista Ultimate laptop). I used fire wire to digitize the tape into my Mac and then started to edit it in iMovie. Well this machine had 44 GB of space to start (80 GB hard drive) and I only have one previous DVD project stored on it (2.7 GB). It captured the 1 hour of video fine and used about 12 GB of space (about right for 1 hour). Then I started to edit the project in iMovie HD. Because of the overscan from the VHS deck I am trying to put a small letterbox over the video and mask out the bottom video garbage that appears. I figure 12 GB clip render it to another final clip (use another 12 – 15 GB) and I should be fine.
Nope! Mac can’t finish the job because it eats up all of the space on the hard drive before completing! Arggg. With the mini you can boot from external Firewire drives but that leaves another problem. If I use a firewire drive I lose my input port for future use. I found a great little solution. LaCie makes a line of external hard drives for the mini. The form factor is great because it is designed so that your mini fits right on top of it. It also features additional Firewire and USB ports for the mini. I have ordered one (250 GB) and hope to have it in later today.
I plan on using Carbon Copy Clone to move the image off of the 80 GB drive on the Mini onto the new 250 GB external drive, then format the Mini Drive for additional storage. I will post on the upgrade process.
I just finished the previous post and at the bottom of the post I included the analogy I use when I explain to clients about upgrades and why RAM is the most effective upgrade that you can do to most PCs. Then I got the idea that I should expand on that (and also keep it from getting buried in another post) by creating a separate post for it.
I often get asked if people should upgrade their PCs or look at buying a new one. My answer is that depends. Does your PC do everything now that you want it to but maybe is just a little slow? What has to replaced? How old is it (yes this is a factor as older RAM is generally more expensive than current RAM and some parts may not even be possible to find)?
Two things that I advise clients to look at for new PC purchases or upgrades are: The amount of memory that is in the machine and the monitor. The same would apply to upgrades in most cases.
This is the analogy I use to explain how PCs work and to show how RAM upgrades usually trump all other upgrades.
Think of an office desk as the amount of RAM that you have in your computer, then a filing cabinet (or a bookshelf) as your hard drive, your eyes as the display and you are the processor. You can only open so many files (or programs) on the desk before you start running out of desktop space (remember your operating system uses some of this desk too). When the desk fills up with stuff, you have to start putting stuff in the filing cabinet. You get up move stuff to the cabinet then sit down. When you are dome with something you put it back in the filing cabinet. This is what happens on your computer. When the physical RAM fills up (opening programs and files) it starts to store open data on the hard drive, which is slower. Think of a RAM upgrade as an upgrade of your desk. If you double the amount of memory in your PC, you essentially are doubling the size of the desk. Now you can open more work and still have space left on the desk. You can switch back and forth between programs and files faster than if you had to run to the filing cabinet every time to get something.
Before you upgrade your RAM though there are a few things that you have to consider. What type of RAM is in the machine? There are some types of RAM that are so hard to find and when you do find it is ridiculously expensive that it makes no sense to upgrade it. Specifically I am thinking about RD RAM that was used in some early Pentium 4s. If you have RDRAM you are better off buying even a used system than trying to find any of this stuff. PC100 and PC133 RAM is a little more expensive vs. todays memory, but it’s not that bad. An example You can get a 2 GB kit of DDR 2 Kingston Value RAM (667 PC 5300) for about 80.00 in Calgary now (a few stores). 1 GB of PC3200 RAM (DDR) is anywhere from 110.00 to 120.00 for Kingston Value RAM and a 512MB stick of PC133 (SDRAM) is about 75.00. 256 MB of RDRAM is closer to 150.00 and 512MB is 260.00. Hardly worth spending the money when you can find a used PC with a P4 and 512MB of Ram and Windows XP for 250.00 to 350.00 in the city. Another factor is to try and get as close to matching your existing memory as possible. My own experience of a recent memory upgrade using the same part numbers from Kingston (but different density memory) led to some strange problems (see my previous post).
Displays… Unless you’re designing and launching space missions, playing the absolute latest 3D games at their highest resolutions or creating a Hollywood Feature or Animation on your PC, no one really needs most of the systems that are out there (not even me). Most people surf the web, do email, play the occasional game, home accounting and edit some pictures with their PCs. I often will advise my clients to make sure that they make sure to spend a little more on the display for their system rather than focusing on the processor speed. You don’t look at the system you look at the display. There are some very cheap LCDS panels out there and that is exactly what they are cheap. Cheaper displays tend to come with lower resolutions, lower brightness’s and less contrast than some that are as little as 50.00 more. The monitor is your key interface between you and your system. When thinking of upgrading a monitor, think of it as getting better glasses for your eyes. A good quality monitor will give you excellent clarity and resolution that allow you to sit at your system longer and be a more enjoyable experience. The nice thing about a good monitor is that you can move it to another system or use it as a secondary display later if so desired.
Other upgrades.. There are other upgrades that are really no brainers and if you have to do them you can. A good example is Hard Drives and DVD Burners. If you are running out of space you can replace or add a second hard drive for usually well under 100.00, or add a DVD burner 40.00 to 50.00 (if your PC will handle it) and archive off some of your data. At least with a hard drive you can take the upgrade out of the machine and put it in an external enclosure later to hook up to a new machine. Video cards you have to be careful on and unless you can find one for under 100.00 that will work with your PC it is not worth upgrading either.
At last alternative if you do not want to upgrade hardware but want to upgrade from an older legacy PC with unsupported OS (Windows 9X or ME), consider going to a Linux Distribution. Linux distributions like Ubuntu are getting more and more user friendly, are free and will often work on older less capable hardware. You often get everything you need on the CD and they are continually supported in regards to security. As I write this now I have Ubuntu running off a Live CD on another PC.
Please feel free to contact Sysguy Consulting if you want to know if you should or could upgrade your existing PC. We make house calls!
Over the last year and a half, we have seen a trend shift in consumer PC buying. We are selling more laptops than desktops and being asked about what laptops people should be buying for home use. Here is a brief guide as to what to look for in a laptop and how to buy.
More than desktops, laptops are more of a personal preference type of purchase. Not getting yourself the right laptop could be expensive down the road as laptops are not as easily upgraded as most desktop systems (Processors, RAM and Hard Drives) and when they can be upgraded it is more expensive than desktop components. You have to evaluate what you will be using the machine for now and in the future.
A few factors that you should think about when looking at a new laptop. Is it going to be a desktop replacement or a secondary machine? Do you plan on using for surfing the net, word processing and email or will you be gaming and editing photos and video on it as well? Will it be used away from power sources on a regular basis, what kind of battery life do you need? Will you be travelling with the machine frequently? Are there any special applications that will be used on the machine or special hardware needs? All of these questions need to be answered so that you get the right machine for your personal needs.
There are several classes of laptops available to purchase now a days. There are entry level machines, Ultra Portable machines, portables or mobile, desktop replacements, convertibles, tablets and mid level machines. Typically what you will find is that entry level machines, are usually bigger, lesser powerful and do not have the same battery life as more advanced models.
New, used or refurbished? In the Calgary area there are several dealers that sell refurbished and used machines. They sell machines that have been refreshed out of corporations. Refurbished machines are typically machines that have been sent back to a manufacturer for repairs, and the manufacturers have replaced their clients machines then fixed the broken machines and resold them to these dealers. In most cases refurbished machines can be a very good deal for a buyer, but there can be some lingering problems with these machines. They do not always come with a full manufacturer’s warranty although dealers may offer extended warranties. Used machines on the other hand can be a very risky and costly purchase. The biggest problem is usually the battery life of these machines. Batteries for the most part do well for about a year of charging, discharging and charging again. After a year they tend to start to lose their effectiveness and their life. I have seen used machines with battery life as short as 25 minutes! Replacement laptop batteries (especially the original laptop manufacturers) are not all that inexpensive. In addition the technology is typically older and it may not be able to run applications that you will want it to. Components may also have limited lifespan and there is usually no or little (30 days) warranty on these machines. Hard Drives are moving parts and do have a projected lifetime and are usually the most common point of failure in machines. I usually advise clients against used laptops for these reasons, unless they are on a very tight budget, only need the machine for basic usage and don’t need the battery life. I myself recently purchased a used laptop to run a specific set of applications and cameras for astronomy because some of my hardware and applications are not supported on my Vista laptop yet (and one will never be). I picked up a used Dell laptop with XP Home and the basics that I needed for 400.00. Before I purchased the machine I checked the battery in the store carefully (unplugged and replugged the AC adaptor). I was lucky since it was a Dell machine the battery had been replaced in last fall’s Dell Battery recall. New machines are usually your safest bet, but cost a little (or a lot more) than the other two options. With a new machine, you typically get the latest and greatest technologies as well as a full manufacturer’s warranty.
Low Cost Entry Level Laptops.
While these machines are usually quite inexpensive, you often get what you are paying for. Often these machines have very little RAM, either desktop or low powered processors (Celerons and Semprons) as well as smaller batteries (4 cell) as opposed to 6 or 8 celled batteries. Power Management is usually something that is lacking with the desktop based processors and combining that with a small battery leads to very short battery life. These machines also usually feature integrated graphics cards using shared memory and if the amount of memory is low to begin with, the integrated cards will not be able to do any type of graphics work or gaming. They typically have slower hard drives as well.
Entry Level Laptops.
Some of these machines are actually quite good. You can get a half decent entry level machine for 850.00 to 1000.00. These typically are 15.4″ widescreen displays, 1 GB of Ram and a decent mobile processor. This is what I would consider the minimum specs for an all purpose laptop. These usually weigh in around 7 lbs and offer about 2 hours of battery life (more if you are aggressive with your power management). They can be a little big if you intend to move around with your laptop a bit. These are suitable as desktop replacements. Some of these machines can also be found with discrete graphics cards which are good for gaming and photo editing.
Mid Level Machines.
These start at around 1100.00 and run to 1800.00 and are available in a variety of form factors. You can get these from 14.1″ Widescreens to 17″ Widescreens. A couple of things that I suggest looking for are newer processors, 1 to 2 GB of Ram. A SATA or 5400 RPM PATA hard drive (7200 RPM is best) in sizes from 100GB to 160 GB. If you plan on gaming look for a discrete graphics card with its own dedicated memory.
If you want a small portable machine for carrying around you are typically looking at spending about 1700.00 or more. Making a machine smaller does cost more. These also come in a variety of form factors that include convertible laptops (pivoting screens) and tablets (pen based computing). These machines sometimes come with lower processor speeds but are designed to maximize the battery life.
These are usually large machines, featuring 17″ widescreen displays. They are not really designed to be moved around a lot but they can be. If you are just looking at a way of conserving space in your home this might be the wait to go. These machines often offer a full feature sets including discrete graphics and are often very suitable as a complete desktop replacement.
What to look for.
A couple of things you can look for in a machine. I always suggest to clients to look at some machines in some computer stores. See if there is a design and a form factor (screen size) that works for your needs. Then look for the following features.
If you have a lot of peripheral’s that you want to connect and will be travelling with the machine try to find a machine with 3 or more USB ports. If battery life is important look for at least a 6 cell battery. If you want to edit video, look for a firewire or 1394 port and maybe an S Video out port. If you plan on gaming, look for a discrete graphics card with its own memory as opposed to an integrated graphics card.
We here at Sysguy Consulting offer several brands of laptops from a good selection of Manufacturer’s including ASUS, ACER, chromebook under 300 which is an amazing laptop on the go,Fujitsu, HP/COMPAQ, LG and Sony. We can also custom build a laptop for you with ASUS shells and Verified by Intel Components. This way we can build a machine to meet your needs and not what only the manufacturer offers. To some degree these machines can be upgraded in the future (processors, hard drives etc) and are available with extended warranties. Please contact us if to see if we can help you with your next laptop purchase.
You may have seen my earlier entry regarding setting up my Blackberry Enterprise Server on my SBS 2003 Server and also running Blackberry Internet Service at the same time. I actually found a small problem tonight with this set up.
I usually try to sync my blackberry to my main PC with Outlook at least one a week. Tonight I tried to sync it up and I couldn’t sync my calendar or my contacts from my Outlook to my blackberry. The reason was because of the BES setup. My BB calendar and contacts are set up to sync wirelessly. The problem is most of my contacts and calendar appointments are in my outlook on my main pc and not on my exchange (SBS server).
It is actually fairly easy to fix, and there are two things you can do. Firstly you can temporarily turn off wireless sync on the BB, sync it with the desktop then turn wireless sync back on. This can be done for any part of the software that uses wireless sync. The other alternative is to forward the info to the exchange server account via email, but this would be a little cumbersome.
I hesitate to use my SBS server full time for email etc. Because I do use it as a test platform and am prepared to blow it away and rebuild it on a regular basis.
Well it wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be, but then again it wasn’t as easiest PC upgrade I have done wither. The Mac Mini was obviously not designed to be user upgradeable. Thankfully I found a good set of instructions on the net. And the upgrade tools were necessary (my putty knives). The process pretty straight forward. First you disconnect everything from the Mini and work on a flat surface. You place the mini on it’s back with the ports facing towards you. Using the putty knife you gently pry it into the small crack between the edge of the outer chassis and the cover, then you pull back on the putty knife. You may here some cracking and popping but these are the clips disengaging from the one side. I left the putty knife where it was and I used a second one to again pry open the opposite side. Again after more cracking and popping it gave. I was now able to lift the chassis away from the cover.
These instructions are for the Intel Version Mac Mini as on the Power Mac version the Ram is easy to get at.
Looking at the innards of the mini there is a lot of stuff packed into the tiny chassis. To upgrade the memory there are 4 little screws that have to be removed. These screws are located in the 4 corners. Three are very easy to get out , bit the fourth requires removing the Airport Express antenna. Something to note is that one of the screws is longer than the other. This goes in the upper right corner. I put 3 of the screws in a little clear bowl as to not lose them. Then I worked onthe airport antenna. There are 2 little clips underneath that you gently squeeze together. Be ready as when you do this the antenna pops off as it is spring loaded. If your spring pops off you can put that in your little bowl to. Move the antenna over to the side and unscrew the the 4th screw.
Ok after all 4 screws are removed, you still have one thing to do before lifting the chassis away. There is a little battery at the front and next t it there is a small wire connected to the motherboard. Gently pull this wire out and disconnect it. I used a pair of needle nose pliers to do it and it was very easy. Now your ready to left away the DVD (or CD drive and hard drive). Note you will not be disconnecting any of the wires so you will lift the drives out gently ad fold them over the front of the case. You should have a book or something to support the drives.
Before reaching in make sure you ground yourself, by either touching the metal on the inside of the chassis or making sure you are using a ant static strap. The Ram is installed similar to how RAM is installed in laptop. There are two clips on either sides of the ram that you gently pull apart and the ram chip should pop up at at angle. Remove the first chip and then do the same for the lower second chip the same way.
Once the Ram is removed you can insert the RAM. Ram goes in at an angle and then snaps back down in place. Carefully insert your replacement Ram into the lower slot ensuring you don’t touch the gold contacts at an angle and snap it down. Do the same for the second module. Next flip the drives back in place and line up the holes.
Before putting the screws back in connect the system up again to check the Ram. I agree putting the whole thing together and then having to take it apart again would not be fun if you didn’t seat the Ram properly.
Now there is a part where you have to be an octopus or at least be very quick. My instructions indicated to hold down the P, R, Option and Apple keys at the same and start the Mini. Hold the keys in until you here the Apple sound three times It basically does a reset of the system three times. Apparently you should do this every time you add new hardware. I booted up checked the Mac, and it now reported 1 GB of Ram! Success!
Power down and disconnect everything again and you can go back to putting the mini back together. Carefully line up the drives assembly with the motherboard and the screw holes and insert the 4 screws back in. Ensure that the long screw is back in the upper left corner. Once all the screws are back in put the Air port antenna back on (put the spring back if you removed it. You will probably have to gently push the clips together again to engage the clips.
You’re almost there. The last step is fairly easy line up the chassis carefully with the cover and push the chassis back down on the cover. I used one of my putty knives again to gently release the clips that catch on the bar (for lack of a better word) to allow the cover to slide down. Work your way around and ensure that everything is snapped into place.
Total time this took, about 25 minutes ( I was being careful). Total cost was 2.00 for putty knives (2), 1 GB Kingston kit (2 x 512MB) for Mac Mini 225.00. Apple charges about 400.00 USD to do this for you! One of the supposed side effects of using metal putty knives are scratches on the bottom. I was very careful and have a single tiny knick on the bottom.
Upon start up the system runs much faster and better than it did. Just goes to prove that even Macs are better with upgrades.
There are very good instructions available on the Internet including several videos on how to open your Mac Mini. If you are unsure of doing it please don’t try and contact Sysguy or another professional.
Here is a link to the instructions I used:
This week I have started getting reports form Sysguy Clients (and in various tech maiing lists) that peope are getting an error when restarting their computers. The error reads that Windows Defender can not start. This is being caused because the beta version was installed as opposed to the released version. The Beta version of Defender expired Dec 31, 2006.
The remedy is fairly easy, uninstall Defender via the Control Panel Add Remove programs icon, then download and install the new version of Defender from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx. This is a free downlaod and is bundled with 2 free support incidents from Microsoft. I have had success installing over top of the beta version but it is better to first remove then re install the new version. This ensures that files from the Beta are gone and properly replaced.
Around this time of year I start getting asked more and more about what type of Digital Camera people should be buying. While the price of the camera’s has dropped dramatically over the years, the selection has increased making it difficult to choose the right one. So where do you start and what do you look for?
First figure out is this going to be your primary camera or a secondary, do you want it to be small to throw in a pocket or does size matter? What features do you really need? What are you going to do with your pictures, print them all commercially, on your own, burn them to DVD slideshows or a combination of all three?
You can start by visiting Steve’s Digicam site (http://www.steves-digicams.com/) to start getting some ideas and read some independent reviews on a variety of cameras. They have a listing of what he feels are the best cameras in each class and comprehensive reviews and consistent sample photos.
If you have picked a few models out here, you can go to http://www.photographyreview.com Here you will find reviews from people that actually used the camera or the equipment you are looking at and get real world feedback from people that have bought and used them. I use this site often to research my purchases of accessories and lenses and have not been sorry about my decisions yet.
If you already have a film SLR camera look at Digital SLRs from the same manufacturer. The price on the entry level versions of these cameras rival the higher end digitals, but they offer far more flexibility in the long run. For example with the Canon Digital Rebel XT or XTi models, they will take virtually any of the EF lenses that Canon and third party vendors have made since the early 90’s, so if you have some Canon lenses look at their cameras. I personally use a Canon Digital Rebel XT and couldn’t be happier. I started with the original Digital Rebel, upgraded and have now started expanding my lens and accessories collection. I recently purchased a used mid ranged zoom for walk around use and got it at quite a savings over buying new.
Next go to a reputable dealer that stocks the cameras. Don’t be afraid to visit a camera store either instead of ust the big box electronics stores. Often I have found there is better selection, much more knowledgable staff and most of the time better prices and more accessories etc than the big stores. Also find out if they will allow you to shoot some pictures in the store (on your own memory card) with the cameras you are interested in then have them printed (remember to take detailed notes). Once they are printed you can see the differences in the lenses. Also note if there is a shutter lag and how the camera feels in your hand. If they don’t let you shoot test pictures, don’t buy the camera there!
As I said Digital SLRs (DSLRs) give you unparalleled flexibility because you can change lenses easily. Now a days they can be used as fully automatic point and shoot cameras or with fully manual settings so that you can be as creative as you wish. Currently the Canon Digital Rebel and the Digital Rebel XTis are the most popular cameras being used for amateur astrophotography, where they are connecting their cameras to telescopes.
Something to note however is that the lcd screen on the back of all dslrs cannot be used for framing the picture and you have to use the viewfinder. Why? Because these work exactly like their film camera cousins, where nothing is exposed to the sensor (CMOS or CCD) until the shutter is pressed, the mirror flips up and the curtains open and expose the chip. Also these cameras tend to be larger and heavier than the point and shoots although most are much smaller than their film cousins were.
A couple of little things to note when buying a camera that often get overlooked. If you are going to use the camera while travelling, does it have a proprietary battery pack with a seperate charger or does it use off the shelf batteries? Not a big deal? Tell me that when your on a cruise ship and realized you forgot your charger at home when the first battery needed charging (I did it)! Does it need a special dock to download or take pictures off the camera? Is this a small device? Is it an optional accessory? Does the camera have any special features that are desirable? Here is an example, when I lost my wife’s digital camera on our cruise (that was a good week) and went to replace it, I went with the Canon A540. Why? Because 1) I like Canons 2) This camera had an underwater setting and 3) there is an underwater housing available. Why the big deal as we are not divers? The camera can be put in the housing and taken to the swimming pool with the kids. Or it can be put in the housing and taken to the beach without worrying about sand getting in it (a big enemy) or we can use the camera safely in inclement weather. Plus if we go snorkleing again in the future, we can use the camera there and blow away the underwater disposable camera images. I bought a cheap (27.00 CDN) underwater digital camera for the cruise (no I didn’t lose that one) and it took some pretty good pictures at stingray city.
There are a couple of things that you should also look for when buying and trying your camera that may drive you batty.
Shutter Lag, Point and shoot digital cameras often suffer from shutter lag when you are trying to take the picture , the camera will focus and finally opens the shutter, but it can take up to .5 a second on some cameras at which point your subject has moved and you have missed the shot (especially kids). DSLRs don’t have this problem, and it is often related to my other pet peeve, low light performance.
Make sure the camera you are looking at has an auto focus assist beam or at least fires the flash to accomplish this. If the camera is not sensitive enough to focus under poor light it will cause shutter lag or hunting in the camera to try and find a focus point. One the best image quality digital cameras I had (a Fuji) suffered from this and shutter lag and drove me crazy although it took great pictures.
If you are planning on post processing your photos (on the PC in Photoshop or another program) check to see if the camera offers a Raw or Raw + jpg mode. Raw mode is basically a straight dump from the sensor data to your memory card, unprocessed and uncompressed. JPEGs usually taken under automatic settings are usually processed in camera circuitry based on what the manufacture thinks should happen under those specific conditions then it compresses it into a jpg file which loses some of the camera data. I have taken pictures in Raw mode that I have been able to bring into Photoshop CS2 and turned a medicre shot nto a much better shot. RAW mode does use a lot more storage space (the same as the mega pixel rating on your camera) so account for this when buying your memory card.
Also make sure you like the feel of the camer in your hand. If the camera is too small for your hand you will be surprised to see how many times you will get pictures with a finger or thumb in the edge of the frame.
When buying a memory card make sure that you are getting the biggest one you can for the camera. I recommend at least a 1 GB for almost all cameras now or bigger if you plan and can shoot in raw mode. With a digtal camera you can shoot all the pictures you want and not worry about processing, if a picture doesn’t work you can delete it. Having said that it doesn’t hurt to have a couple of cards. My camera currently has a 2GB in it (244 raw images) and I carry a 1 GB and a 512 MB card in my bag. Also the faster the memory card the sooner your camera is ready for the next shot or burst too. In addition if you go on holidays you will have room for all of your shots. I usually take my laptop as well as a card reader and download my pictures everyday (didn’t do that with the camera I lost and that’s what really upsets me). If you don’t own a laptop there are inexpensive devices available today that can take pictures off your laptop and transfer them over to small hard drives. You can even do this with Ipods and some MP3 players.
Something else to watch for but I don’t think it is that common any more is manufactures that use plastic lenses. Until a couple of years ago Kodak was still using plastic lenses in their digital cameras and the cheaper manufactures still do.
The last thing you shoudl worry about is the number of mega pixels the camera has. Unless you are printing pictures that are the size of an entire wall, almost everything out there will be fine. a 3 MP camera will do a good job of 4 x 6 and 5 x 7 prints as well as not bad 8x10s. A 4 MP is fine for 8X10 etc. In fact there are very few people that would be able to spot the difference between a 3 MP image at 8 x 10 and a 10 MP image at 8 x 10.
Any of the major name brand camera manufacturers put out good products, so if you stick with one of them you will not be sorry.
A little tip. Once you have your camera, get in the habit of downloading the pictures to your PC often and then burn them to a CD or DVD right away. This way you have a backup in case something happens to either your camera or your computer. If you can store the Disks off site (Office or a relatives) in case of break in or fire.
Another idea is a cheap digital camera for kids. Both of my kids have had digital cameras since they were 5 years old. It is a great way to get them into photography and cheaper than buying disposables or film cameras. Who wants to pay to develope pictures of ceilings and feet! Here any camera will do and you can often find some in discount stores for 50 to 100.00 dollars.
I hope this little article helps you, if you have questions please contact us or if you are looking for a particualr camera let us know and we’ll see if we can get it for you.
Another great free tool that I have found and use on a regular basis is found at http://www.logmein.com
They offer a free service that allows you to remotely access your PC securely from anywhere on the internet. While Windows XP Pro has remote desktop, one of the really great things about this tool is it allows you to set up multiple pcs behind a router without having to open a port on your firewall for everyone. It works on XP Pro, as well as home and windows 2000. I also use it to access pcs that are on networks for monitoring the network itself. The best thing about it is that it is a free product. No gimmicks.
If you need to access your pc or multiple pcs on your network I would suggest downloading this product and give it a try.