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Edit Images with Microsoft Picture Manager

You don’t need to employ expensive image editing packages for simple tasks like resizing and cropping images if you own a copy of Microsoft Office 2010 – the included Microsoft Picture Manager can do the task for you.

To begin, find the image you want to adjust in Windows Explorer (this might be in your My Pictures folder, for instance) and right-click to select the context menu. Use Open with > Microsoft Office 2010 to launch the application.

Continue reading “Edit Images with Microsoft Picture Manager”

Save Money – Brits Buy American!

We’re just a few weeks from Christmas yet the biggest online retailer has failed to present its top selling new gadget to the British public. Unavailable anywhere outside of the USA, the Kindle Fire has a ready made killer app in the shape of the Amazon website, but unless you have a kind friend, uncle or plane ticket, anyone in Europe and the Far East who wants a Kindle Fire tablet will have to wait.

Does it make sense for Amazon to hold off? It’s difficult to say. Reviews have been largely positive (unless you read Apple-centric papers such as the Telegraph) so there seems to be every reason for Amazon to supply some of their Android-based 7 inch slates for buyers in the UK, Germany, France and other European countries.

At the very worst, this would have resulted in shortages in the USA, something that other companies have turned to their advantage on many occasions over the years.

Similarly, we have the (temporarily?) revived HP TouchPad available for £300 in the UK and just £120 in the USA. Even with VAT this doesn’t seem right, and is of course the result of the endless “rip of Britain” pricing on electronic goods that has dogged gadget fans for many years.

With Samsung prevented from selling their latest tablet in the majority of territories thanks to Apple’s unjust legal actions the only avenue to acquiring a decent alternative to the iPad is to choose the Motorola Xoom or the HTC Flyer, the latter of which doesn’t have Honeycomb installed yet. The Eee Pad Transformer from ASUS is a good option, but has the status of proto-laptop rather than out-and-out tablet.

Or, a canny shopper might look for friends and relatives in the USA who might be able to help out by purchasing a Kindle Fire or HP TouchPad on their behalf, sending it through customs as a gift.

But what if you don’t have a friend who can help?

Fortunately we’re living in the modern age, which means that by checking any of the following websites you can find a service that will allow you to shop in the USA. These sites either provide a proxy US-based address for you to ship your goods to before having them forwarded, or offer a fully proxy online shopping service.

But what about payment? Don’t worry, as this can also be handled. If you don’t have a US credit card, using payment services via these sites can get you around that potential landmine, allowing you to shop for cheap electricals in the USA from the comfort of the UK!

Self-repair or Pay for an “Expert”?

Your PC crashes, your MacBook stopped working, your mobile phone won’t call out. Any number of problems can lead you to put your expensive hardware aside and try to carry on without it or else call a very expensive number to go through some repetitive steps to establish the cause of the fault before arranging for repairs.

While these repairs might come under warranty, there is always the chance that the fault that your computer hardware has developed isn’t covered. If this is the case, and your device has gone beyond its return period, then you have two choices:

  • Hire a local expert to fix the problem
  • Go it alone

Both options are viable – but which should you go for?

Hiring a Local PC Repair Man

This is the most popular option under such circumstances, but the real problem here comes with the limits of the repair man’s expertise. Most technicians specialize in computing and networking, and even this expertise might be limited to resolving errors on a Windows machine rather than a Mac.

If you suspect this to be the case then you will need to ask some questions about the engineer’s ability with non-Windows systems. After all, Mac OS X and Linux are very different from Windows, and as such techies often charge by the hour you don’t want to be waiting for them to try and work out how to run a system update on your Mac!

Going it Alone

The other option is for you to attempt to resolve the problem yourself.

You might have noticed that we’ve changed direction here at The Gadget Monkey, and we’re now focussing on critiquing various aspects of the tech industry and consumer electronics, highlighting particularly cool new games and hardware and embarking on a series of tutorials.

These tutorials intend to have one clear aim – to share knowledge, and empower our readers to fix problems, achieve tasks and generally maximise the potential of their Windows, Mac or Linux PC or their mobile phone or tablet.

Going it alone in this respect therefore requires you to find an Internet-enabled device with a web browser (perhaps a laptop, netbook, second PC, mobile phone, tablet or media center) and use this device to search for the answer to the question you are looking for.

For instance, if you’re trying to work out how to update your Mac to the latest version of OS X, then you should use “lion update mac osx” to find the answer.

While there might be some quite technical problems that cannot be easily resolved, the majority of faults can be fixed without spending any money at all. Over the coming weeks and months this website is going to be showing you just how easy this can be…

However: taking matters into your own hands is not recommended for everyone. If you’ve never taken hardware apart before, then you might want to get a friend in to help you. Self-repair is certainly not for beginners, and you should be absolutely confident that you are able to succeed and take matters into your own hands.

Returning Faulty Hardware

Many of us have had PCs that stopped working, printers that started chewing up paper for no reason and Xbox 360 consoles that developed the dreaded RROD fault after the warranty was up. But where do consumers stand when it comes to returning goods that are clearly not fit for purpose?

The first thing to understand is that whatever the fault, if it occurs beyond the warranty then you’re pretty much on your own. We’ll be investigating what this means exactly later in the week. In the meantime, if your hardware – it might be a mobile phone or a mouse, a game controller or a satnav – begins working erratically and indeed failing, then to add insult to injury you now have to prepare yourself to jump through a set of rather annoying, profit-protecting hoops.

Preparing for Faults

Whatever hardware you purchase, there are several things that you should do to prepare for the eventuality of an error or fault occurring. These steps will enable you to be prepared for problems further down the line, and take just a few minutes to arrange:

Keep the purchase receipt somewhere safe, along with a copy of the warranty.

If the hardware is Internet-ready, or used with a computer, complete the registration form. If you’re not keen on receiving spam emails there should be an opt-out checkbox – otherwise, just use an email address that you rarely check.

Store the box somewhere safe. This is important for various reasons: you get a psychological edge over the company you’re returning the hardware to if it has clearly been well-looked after, and if there is no comeback for the device to be repaired you can at least sell it in the box on eBay. Some people will pay a lot for boxes; you might even sell the box on its own!

At the point of sale you might also extend the warranty on the device. This is entirely up to you, and depends on whether you’re offered the option as well as if you can afford it.

Checking Your Hardware

When faults arise, the first thing you will need to do is check your hardware to ascertain the cause and nature of the problem. You can either choose to do this by checking the online support pages for the product concerned, or by calling the support line for the product.

Depending on the company you bought from you will either contact them, an allocated hardware support agency or go through to the manufacturer’s support department. This is when the hoop jumping really starts as you will be asked to perform a series of steps to establish the origin of the issue. What can be particularly frustrating at this stage is the amount of time the process can take along with the fact that often the operators don’t actually have any technical ability – they’re simply quoting from a selection of process charts.

Returning Hardware

Ultimately, if the device is within warranty and has a fault, then it must be returned. To whom is another matter entirely.

For instance, you may have simply packed your hardware away in its box and returned to the store you purchased from. Different countries have different legal requirements for shops dealing with returns, and at this stage you may find yourself referred to a telephone-based support line by the store.

Alternatively, you might go through the telephone-based support process and be advised that your hardware will need to be returned. Typically this will involve a courier being sent to your address to collect the item, but if you’ve purchased from, say, Amazon, then you will need to return the hardware to them, fully boxed.

Ultimately in these situations, making sure that you are fully covered for faults and damage to your new hardware is ideal, so purchasing an extended warranty might just be the right idea!