RTFM – or Not! Electrical Items are now like software without manuals

I recently (November) bought a cheapy digital camera for my 5 yr old’s birthday.  Yes – I know, a 5 year old with a digital camera – where will it stop.  Anyway…

The model was a Samsung S630 (cost $97 AUS), and you’d be forgiven for thinking it had a reasonable manual given it’s a budget camera.  A quick look and you realise that there’s about 4 pages X lots of languages.

I’d bought a Canon Ixus 2 a few years ago and apart from it having a few plastic bits that proved to be a bit fragile it’s served me very well with its rechargeable battery.  We quickly found that the Samsung had ‘awful’ battery life, and found that this was the general experience of most people with ‘cheaper’ digital cameras that take AA batteries.  I bought a few Ni-MH batteries and a charger and thought, well if I’m going to get through so many batteries (as my child had the camera permanently strapped to her wrist) they’re going to be rechargeable!

No beef with the rechargeables, and we quickly got to the point where we couldn’t put ‘any’ battery in without it immediately showing ‘Low Battery’ and shutting the camera down.  One obviously smells a rat at this point.  I was all ready to take the thing back to the shop then (after realising I’d misplaced the receipt 🙂 ) decided to have a quick look for info on this model and its spectacularly poor battery life.

A quick google found reviews on Amazon – so I started to read.  My heart sank as I read review after review quoting the same issues I’d found – but also the lack of support they then had from the supplier leaving them pretty much in the cold – grreeat I thought to myself.  I was still interested however, because there were quite a number of positive reviews also.  Now knowing software like I do I thought what are the odds of a systematic problem as severe as not being able to turn the thing on! being present in about 2 thirds of cameras (about the ratio of bad to good reviews).  I read a couple of ‘responses’ to the bad reviews and one in particular that had some very simple but vital information that was missing from the manual.  

I charged up my batteries as much as I could then (after the camera actually switched on – but showing ‘red’ battery life) I found the menu item to switch to Ni-MH batteries, and hey presto I’d suddenly got 3 ‘bars’ wahey!

So the moral of the story is that Google is now ‘also’ your friend for household appliances with increasingly shoddy manuals.  You may also of course be like me and have Techno-Joy (from the wise words of Eddie Izzard), and have just disregarded the manual anyway!

Use Outlook to Link to Web Pages, Exchange Public Folders, Anything!

We want to cut down on email traffic and storage so we’re suppressing some automated stuff and moving the remainder into public folders that will have a cycling deletion of items over a certain age (as we don’t need to keep the info indefinitely).  The problem is that it’s a few clicks to access the right folder in Outlook (the enterprise folder structure is quite large).

A little known feature of Outlook is its ability to give access to almost anything (including public folders) from within your mailbox just by creating ‘shortcut’ folders.

  1. Create a new folder within your mailbox
  2. Right-click – Properties and go to the ‘Home Page’ tab.
  3. Enter an appropriate URI – this could be a file reference, web page, or any other location, e.g. Outlook Public Folder.  

    Ensure that you tick the ‘show home page by default for this folder’, as this is what displays the item 🙂

    An easy way to get the address of an outlook item is navigate to it – e.g. a Public Folder and use the ‘Web’ toolbar to retrieve the address (View–>Toolbars–>Web):

    Copy the address and away you go

It’s important to note that this is really just Outlook acting like a pseudo browser so you won’t be able to navigate down a structure of public folders.  It’s still an Outlook folder you’ve created and it expects you’re storing posts or contacts (whatever you specified when you created it), not folders.  Still a pretty useful feature though. 

Another use might be if you hive off all your email from a supplier into a sub folders, the home page of the ‘parent’ folder could be their web site.  A different way to use favourites and drop your click-count?!