Friday, July 11, 2008

Birthday Gift

I bought a camera to give my wife for her birthday. It's a fairly low end digital camera. That's now an 8 mega pixel camera that can do 30 frames per second 640x480 video with sound. Wait a minute - 640x480 is better than TV (NTSC). Our son plays violin and piano, and the old camera can do video, but without sound. Our camcorder works, and has excellent optics, but is ten years old or so, and therefore is analog. I can't just send a clip to my friends and family by email. With a small, 1 GB SD card, the new camera can record approximately 13 minutes of highest frame rate, highest resolution video. That's more than the couple tunes our son usually plays. I can always get a bigger card. In fact, i own a 16 GB card that is in use in another device.

Well, i picked up a Fuji at the Grocery store. They didn't have the model i was looking for, but i figured i could return it if i didn't like it. Well, it's impossible to know if you're going to like it, because the box doesn't say everything you need to know. It turns out you need to install a driver to get it to work. The CD is supposed to have drivers for Windows or the Mac. But i run Linux, so this is a non-starter. Worse, the CD didn't come in the box. WTF? And, there was a note in the box that has the Fuji tech support phone number, and a hand scrawled note that said that the pictures from this camera were fuzzy. That's right, this camera had already been returned by someone as defective, and was being sold as new, though obviously, it wasn't refurbished or anything - they'd have noticed that there was no CD, and that there was this hand scrawled note. There were also a few pictures of some guy's family on the camera. I couldn't check them out on my larger computer screen because of the driver issue.

So, i brought the camera back, but apparently, the receipt was not in the bag. When i buy tech items, i always leave the receipt in the bag, just for this sort of thing. Apparently, i didn't buy it via a credit card - but rather my debit card (which is a Visa, BTW). They couldn't find the record of my purchase on their computer, and would not accept it without a receipt. I went back home. The receipt turned up on my kitchen table. Why was it there? Oh. I always put my grocery store receipts there. That way, when i'm unpacking groceries, i can check to see that i got everything i wanted, and can check that the prices were what i'd expected. So my habits conflicted - buying tech, and buying at the grocery store.

So, i did some research on line to see if i could find a camera that doesn't need a driver. I just want something that plugs into USB and mounts like a hard disk. No big deal. Nothing. Not a single ad, not a single review, nothing mentioned this critical issue. Not one product talked about compatibility with Linux. By the way, having to have the CD to install a driver is a pain for everyone, not just Linux users. Let's say you're at a friend's house and take some pictures. They say, "hey, could you send me a couple of those?" You say, "can't i just plug it into your computer and give them to you now?" If you have to install a driver, the answer is "no, you can't". Not unless you bring the CD with you. So, i'd avoid Fuji and Kodak at the moment, without regard to what computer and OS you use.

Well, my old camera is a Samsung. It still works. I like it. It just doesn't do sound with it's videos. It can store over 300 pictures on it's quarter gig SD card. So, i looked up Samsung cameras, found a cheap one, and ordered it. It's a Samsung 860. I'm happy to report that it does not require a driver, and just mounts like a disk drive. The camera is nice. It's very small - fits in my shirt pocket. It has two misfeatures. It does not have a look-through view finder like my old one. You must use the view screen. The view screen is hard to see in bright daylight. Also, it doesn't have a case. My old camera has both.

There's a third misfeature. Well, you might call it a misfeature. You see, it's so nice, that i want it for myself. My wife has lost two cameras already. I don't really want to give it to her. Yes, i picked it because it is cheap enough that i won't cry if it's gone, but it is really nice. And i also don't want to give her my old one. So, i'm going to have to buy a second one.

A funny story. I ordered a 1 GB SD card with the camera so i'd be all set when it arrived. The SD card arrived several days before the camera. I checked it out - it works fine. Only, by the time the camera arrived, the SD card was lost. I haven't found it yet. So, while at work, and on lunch break, i went to Best Buy, paid just over twice as much for another 1 GB SD card. But when i got home, and wanted to put it in the camera, i couldn't find it! I checked the likely places at the house - i hadn't been home long, and it didn't show up. I couldn't remember bringing it home, so i went back to the office and checked my desk. Nothing. The next day i was out at Walmart, and bought a third 1 GB SD card. I nearly lost it, but did manage to get it into the camera. Well, a week later, the second SD card showed up. It was in the refrigerator. I had gone out to lunch unexpectedly, and still had my bag lunch at the office. So i put the new SD card in my lunch bag so i wouldn't forget to bring it home. When i got home, i put my lunch into the fridge. Next up was a week a vacation. It didn't appear again until i was cleaning the fridge of old science projects. Maybe i like my chips cold. That's it. That's my story and i'm sticking to it.


sonrisa said...

Instead of installing a CD, can't you just use a USB memory card reader that doesn't require drivers and just use it as a sort of middle man? That is what I am currently doing with my laptop, since I refuse to install the CD for the camera. (It comes with unwanted programs)

There is also the chance that I truly don't know what I am talking about and mistakenly think I do.

Stephen said...

Right you are. One can use a USB SD card reader. I even have one. They're not expensive - mine was an extra $5 when i picked up a new Sd card. But i do not routinely carry it with me wherever i go. However, i like the camera. And i like the fact that it works without removing the tiny misplaceable card all the time. The 256 MB card in my old camera has been in place without error for at least two years.