Consumer electronics and technology

What is an ipod?

It seems like iPods are everywhere these days. For children and grandchildren, the "iPod" is sure to be at the top of the Christmas or birthday wish list. what is an ipod? To make things even more complicated, there are new models with new features being released every few months!

iPod, .MP3 Player, What Is The Difference?

iPod's and MP3 players are basically the same thing. They both play music, store songs electronically on either a small hard disk drive, or 'flash memory' drive, they both connect to a PC to easily copy music, and they are both very small.
What is an MP3 player?

MP3 players have been around for a few years and are sold by several different manufacturers. Sound quality and ease of use vary wildly between manufacturers and models. When Apple introduced the "iPod", MP3 players would never be the same. Apple's sleek styling, easy of use, and of course the round 'click wheel' made it an instant hit. In 2005 Apple recorded their best sales year ever, due largely to their iPod sales.

Functionally MP3 Players and iPods are Very Similar

Here are some key differences between a generic MP3 player and an iPod:

  • Every manufacturer makes a different looking MP3 player. All iPods have the same style and look very similar.
  • Apple iPods are the only player with the patented round 'click' wheel
  • iPods only work with iTunes music software (free from Apple) and have access to low priced music downloads via the iTunes Music Store, the largest online music store.
  • iPods tend to be slightly more expensive than 'other' brand MP3 players
  • iPods are considered the "Cadillac" of MP3 players and are more 'cool' than a standard MP3 player. The children usually prefer an iPod because of it's coolness

In addition to the iTunes Music Store you can also download music from other sources.

Now that you know the differences you will have to decided if your grand kids were good this year and deserve a real iPod for Christmas, or only an 'MP3 player'. Read more about what to do with your ipod if you already have one.

Digital Cameras

Digital camera

The digital revolution has taken over the camera world. Today, virtually all new cameras are digital and many companies no longer manufactuer film cameras. Many kids under 15 years of age have never even seen a roll of film!

What to look for when shopping for a digital camera

The buzzword of digital cameras is mega pixels. Pixes are the tiny dots that make up a picture. The more tiny dots that are in a photo, the better it will look, especially if you make a large print of that digital picture. If the picture doesnt have enough pixels, it may look 'blocky' or 'jagged' when printed. In digital cameras the pixels are measured by the millions, hence the term mega. So a digital camera that boasts 6 megapixels has the ability to break up the pictures that it takes into 6 million tiny pixels.

How many megapixels should a digital camera have?

These days, most cameras come with at least 5 mega pixels. This is more than enough to take excellent photographs and printing them on sizes as large as 8.5X11, or even slightly larger.

Zoom Zoom Zoom

The other buzzword you will see plastered all over the box of a digital camera is how much ZOOM or telephoto magnification it has. There are two types of zoom.

  • OPTICAL ZOOM: Optical Zoom is just like zoom or a telephoto lens on a standard film camera. Optical zoom enlarges the image using the lens of the camera. The amount of optical zoom a digital camera has is as important or even more important than the amount of megapixels. When looking for a digital camera, get the highest amount of optical zoom that you can find. A digital camera with an optical zoom of only 3X is not sufficient, look for an optical zoom of 5X or higher.
  • DIGITAL ZOOM: Digital Zoom uses software inside the digital camera to enlarge the picture digitally - the same way you can do inside your PC. Using digital zoom can make the photo appear jagged, or blocky, particuarly if the digital camera has a lower amount of megapixels. The quality of your digital photos will be much better if you use optical zoom only, and most professional photographers would never dream of using digital zoom. Even though digital camera manufacturers paste the digital zoom amount in giant numbers all over the box, you should look for a camera with higher optical zoom and not be concerned with the amount of digital zoom the camera has.

You do not need a PC for taking digital photos or printing photos!

That's right! You can take digital photos, edit them, and print them all without a personal computer! Most new photo printers allow you to plug your camera or the camera's memory card directly into the printer, edit them (via a screen on the printer) and print them! HP, Epson, Kodak, an several other manufactuers have this type of photo printer. This type of photo printer is usually not much more expesive than other photo printers, and is certainly much less expensive than a new PC. You can also take your camera or memory card to many drugstores or other convienience stores and print them - usualy for only a few cents per print.

memory card

Handle digital camera memory sticks and memory cards with care

Most digial cameras use flash-memory cards or memory sticks to store photos until you can download them into your PC, or print them on your printer. Because flash-memory is fragile, and has a limited lifespan you should take care to always download your digital pictures to your PC or print them as soon as possible. You don't want to leave precious pictures of your grandchildren setting in the camera bag for 6 months, only to find out that the memory card has died, and taken all those great pictures with it!

Back up your digital photos!

If your pictures are important to you, then it's even more important to get backups of them often. Can you imagine losing hundreds or even thousands of your family photos because your PC crashed? Many people think that a printed copy of a picture is good enough, but unless you have a high-end dye-sublimation photo-printer, those prints will start to fade after only a few years. If your photos have any value to you, it's important to have a backup of them. The GrownUpGeek has a page for beginners explaining data backups here.