You were extra good this year and Santa really delivered. Along with the socks, underwear, and Darth Vader Snuggy is that new wiz-bang gizmo you have had your eye on since July. While imagining all the amazing things your new tech gift will accomplish, you quickly discard the packaging (and manuals) and power it up. Uh oh. The gadget doesn't work.
Your first thought may be to return the item, but retailers have much more stringent return policies on technology, software, and gadgets. Before you trudge out to the store to spend hours in the return line only to be given the evil eye by an overworked retail clerk, here are some ideas and pointers to get those gadgets working.
Most problems with technology gifts fall into two categories: 1) it doesn't work or 2) you don't know how to use it correctly.
It Doesn't Work!
- RTM! A common rallying cry in technical support circles around the globe, RTM (sometimes with expletive added) simply stands for Read the Manual. Yes, I know we all hate to read the manuals. They are dry and sometimes cryptic, but sometimes the solution to your problem is hidden in a paragraph written upside down and backwards in a small font on page 146 of book 4, volume 2 of your owner's manual. Lifehacker points out a reddit article that goes so far as to even suggest you leave your manuals as bathroom reading material!
- For computer devices , make sure your PC or Mac meets the minimum system requirements and that you have all the required drivers. Although in most cases drivers install automatically, there are still those stubborn devices that require human intervention. Both PC's and Mac's have indicators that will let you know if your device did not install correctly. If that is the case it is on to…
- The manufacturer's website should be your first stop for a non-working device. Browse the support forums and knowledge base to see if others are having the same problem and the recommended resolution. One common complaint with manufacturer's websites is that their answers to support questions are sometimes written at such a high level that the resolution is lost on the average user. That's when its time to head to…
- User moderated support forums are an excellent way to get answers to your problems in plain English. Sites like techguy.org run the gamut of technology and are normally friendly to even the most technologically challenged user.
- Finally, if all else fails call technical support. Even if the support agent is clueless, sometimes this will be a necessary evil because you will have to get a return authorization.
- Don't Do This. Never download drivers from any website other than the manufacturer – not all third party driver sites are scams, but enough are that you should be weary. Never pay for online or in store support on your new gadget - if it doesn't work correctly you don't need a geek you need a new product.
I Don't Know How to Use It!
- Check Lifehacker . Lifehacker is a wonderful website that often posts tutorials on how to use your gadgets and gizmos. In fact their annual MERRYCHRISTMAHANUKWANZAAKKAH guides are must reads for new owners of computers, tablets, or phones.
- Check YouTube . This may come as a shock, but YouTube is more than just videos of dogs skateboarding. With billions of videos available, you can more likely than not find a video tutorial on your new gadget!
- Other Tutorial Sites. Even if you don't find what you are looking for on YouTube, a simple search can normally find a wealth of information! Just structure your query correctly and always remember…
Google (or Bing… or Yahoo…) is Your Friend!
No matter how frustrated you are with your new gizmo, you can rest assured that you aren't the only person in the world that received it as a gift and may be struggling. Learn to correctly structure queries to get the results that will help you solve your problem. For example the search query ‘ Camera Won't Focus' will not give you the quality of results that a more precise search query such as ‘ Canon T3i autofocus low light not accurate' will deliver.
Finally, you can always ask your intrepid Taming Technology editor and host. I try to respond quickly and if I don't know the answer I can get your pointed in the right direction. Ask away on our Facebook page, on our home page, or email email@example.com and I may even answer your question on air!
C Robert Dillon is the digital developer at WISH-TV in Indianapolis and serves as a technology consultant and on-air contributor to WISH as well as the technology expert and host of the Taming Technology segment on Indy Style. Opinions presented are those of the author and not necessarily of LIN Media, WISH-TV, or Indy Style. You can keep up with Rob on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.
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