The Digital World

Tips on shopping for a digital camera

If you own a smartphone you always have it with you; it is part of your wardrobe. The capability to take pictures with better image quality than the non-smartphones of yesteryear makes it the tool of choice for capturing your “Kodak Moments.” My wife has told me this repeatedly and she loves sharing these pictures via email, making smartphones indispensable to her.

Yet depending on the situation I still carry our digital camera to events. I’ve noticed that my digital camera produces better quality pictures for printing, is less prone to missing the “Kodak Moment” (my smartphone has shutter lag, the time between pressing the button and actually capturing the image, missing the spontaneous shots), and for a photography hobbyist it affords me more manual control like I was used to in the old 35mm film camera days.

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Volume 6, Issue 11, Posted 9:00 AM, 05.28.2014

Digital camera without owning a computer?

“Can I use a digital camera even though I don’t own a computer?” Many people ask me this question because it is getting very difficult to find a store that sells and develops a roll of 35mm film. For many who ask this question, my answer was not what they expected ...

As I always remind readers, the disruptive innovation called the internet has changed everything. Although humans have been tinkering with photo capturing contraptions since the 1600s, let’s just say practical photography, i.e. preserving and curating your memories as photos of "that moment,” started in the mid-to-late 1800s. For over a century there were evolutionary changes to photography, although to me Polaroid Instant Camera was one innovative product to hit the market. Then technology gave birth to digital cameras and the internet further pushed the photo capturing capability to smartphones, tablets and now “wearable” technology such as Google Glass.

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Volume 6, Issue 10, Posted 9:39 AM, 05.13.2014

Going smart TV shopping

Cathode ray tube TVs, “tubes” for short, used to easily last a decade. When a tube gets older the night scenes may become harder to discern but short of taking a baseball bat to the tube, it continued to work.

I consider smart TVs, just like computers and other electronics, commodities. They have a shelf life where obsolescence is expected due to technology’s rapid evolution cycle.

As explained in the previous article the ability to “stream,” i.e. receive, content from the internet and display it directly on the TV is what makes a smart TV “smart.” This assumes you have, or will get, an internet connection. I also mentioned that you can make a “dumb” TV smarter through the use of a streaming media player. Today we look at what other specifications are important when comparison shopping for a new TV.

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Volume 6, Issue 9, Posted 9:48 AM, 04.29.2014

What makes a smart TV 'smart'?

My good friend is a geek but he doesn’t even own a smart TV, let alone a flat-screen TV, and his 12-year-old 55-inch rear projection TV doesn’t work anymore.

So the weekend after the Super Bowl we went shopping for a new TV and sure enough we were bombarded with sales pitches on smart TVs! We politely listened but my friend swiftly bee-lined to the loot that he already had his mind set on; obviously his wallet was much lighter and controlling his decision. (You can guess who ended up paying for dinner later.)

That night a light bulb in my head went off and illuminated the otherwise dark bedroom: why don’t I write about smart TV shopping in my future column? So here we are, first in the series of tips on buying different technology gadgets, where we’ll try to answer this question today: what makes a smart TV "smart"?

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Volume 6, Issue 8, Posted 10:05 AM, 04.15.2014

Analogy to demystify technology

The world of technology is full of jargon. This jargon adds to the mystery and further builds upon the intimidation barrier against embracing technology.

I find the use of analogies to be very effective to demystify jargon and the underlying technology.

RAM, HDD and CPU are often thrown at you when shopping for a new computer.

  • RAM, or random-access memory, is akin to your desk in your home office – it's your workspace. If you have a small desk, you will have to constantly replace things from your desktop to make space. For a computer, replacing things from RAM slows things down.

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Volume 6, Issue 7, Posted 9:18 AM, 04.01.2014

Sidekick for the Super Mom

Sherlock Holmes has Doctor Watson. The Lone Ranger has Tonto. Batman has Robin. So how about a “sidekick” to call your own?

My story begins with a non-fiction “Super Mom,” my friend Mary (not her real name), who attends to the needs of her four children while tag-team parenting with her husband. As if parenting didn’t already consume all of the hours in her day, she is a thriving freelancer in the digital world. Perhaps many of you are saying “that’s my life!”

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Volume 6, Issue 6, Posted 9:20 AM, 03.18.2014

Life after Windows XP

Do you remember the Y2K hype? No major catastrophes occurred when the world welcomed Jan. 1, 2000. Similarly, barring logical explanations such as coincidental computer parts failing due to age, the upcoming retirement of Windows XP by Microsoft will not lead to unexplained computer combustion.

However using Windows XP after April 8, 2014, increases the risk of becoming a victim of illicit activities rooted in the digital world such as identity theft or contracting a computer virus that leads to loss of your digital pictures or even ransom payment demands in exchange for regaining control of your computer. So what options do you have if you still use Windows XP?

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Volume 6, Issue 5, Posted 9:56 AM, 03.04.2014

Farewell Windows XP, you were a great friend

Although manufacturers of computers, tablets, smartphones and software differentiate in the name of competition and increased sales, technology is still a “commodity” in my eyes. In other words technology has a shelf life just like a fruit (no pun intended for Apple computers).

Windows XP is an “operating system” from Microsoft. Very simply put, an operating system makes the various parts within a computer, the “hardware,” work together. Operating system is akin to the conductor of a symphony orchestra who makes the cacophony of sounds emanating from the individual instruments transform into beautiful music.

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Volume 6, Issue 4, Posted 9:22 AM, 02.18.2014

Tips on security and privacy in the digital world

Lock your doors. Don't leave valuables visible in your car. Know your neighborhood. Blend in. You follow these and other street smarts to minimize the chance of becoming a victim.

According to a May 2013 Pew Research survey, 85 percent of American adults use the internet. It is no wonder businesses continue to augment their real world presence with that of the digital world (i.e. websites); businesses that only exist in the digital world also continue to proliferate like mushrooms.

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Volume 6, Issue 3, Posted 10:21 AM, 02.04.2014

Tablet or smartphone ... or both?

Like using the correct type of knife to carve a turkey or making a garnish out of an orange peel, choosing between a tablet and a smartphone is about the “appropriateness” of the chosen tool.

Tablets and smartphones are genetically similar except smartphones also make phone calls and have smaller screens. Other than those traits, a smartphone does everything a tablet does.

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Volume 6, Issue 2, Posted 10:18 AM, 01.21.2014

If Charlton Heston carried a tablet ...

Did you get a tablet or a smartphone over the holidays and wondering “now what?” as you stare at the box? Fear not as I’m your guide into the digital world!

Listen, we’re not that much different than Charlton Heston. He was an Oscar-winning Hollywood actor, a political activist and a husband, but like him, you and I also have personal and professional lives to manage.

Whereas Mr. Heston may have employed a warm-blooded personal assistant to pick up his dry cleanings and schedule his appointments, we can thank the disruptive innovation known as the internet for creating disruptive technologies like smartphones so we, too, can have personal assistants. Tablets and smartphones can also provide entertainment and added conveniences that even a warm-blooded personal assistant may have a hard time delivering.

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Volume 6, Issue 1, Posted 10:04 AM, 01.07.2014

Playing Santa's elf in the digital world

Mr. Claus, aka Santa, has it easy. Sipping eggnog as he gets the dashboard report of who is naughty and who is nice. Elves, on the other hand, frantically run around packing the sleigh. Are you wearing pointy boots and a green party hat with your elf outfit this holiday season?

As wonderful as technology can be, and I truly am passionate about the potential that it holds to help people, it can be “intimidating” to many. I know at least two people who have turned around and sold the new laptop they received from well-meaning family members who wanted them to embrace the digital world. They didn’t sell them because they already had a computer nor because they needed cash; they sold their laptops because they didn’t know where to start!

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Volume 5, Issue 25, Posted 10:45 AM, 12.10.2013

Family connectedness in the digital world

Ever since I started calling Cleveland my second home, I wholeheartedly adopted the Thanksgiving tradition. It is nice to have a reason to get together with family and friends because nothing can replace the feeling of “happiness” that comes from physically being in the same location to spend quality time together.

However, you may have obstacles that prevent you from physically being together in one place. When distance, finances or other “life obstacles” get in the way of your reunion, the options used to be very limited – i.e. a phone call. In my case, $2 a minute, circa late-1980s, was cost prohibitive for me, a starving student, to call home to Japan. I remember eating Chef Boyardee for weeks on end because I had to write a letter home asking for money.

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Volume 5, Issue 24, Posted 9:55 AM, 11.26.2013

The weather forecast calls for 'the cloud'

While writing this article I became curious about the etymology of the term "buzzword." I conducted my research at 2 a.m., hopelessly jet-lagged from having traveled halfway around the world, and in my jammies (but no pink bunny slippers, I swear). All possible because of the "cloud."

Cloud is the latest buzzword that is rooted in the digital world, heavily marketed to both individuals and businesses alike. There’s nothing new here to intimidate you and chances are good that you have been using the cloud all along. Just like the buzzword "information superhighway," coined by former Vice President Al Gore, cloud doesn’t represent anything new but it is actually a marketing rehash of the disruptive innovation that we know of as the internet.

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Volume 5, Issue 23, Posted 10:13 AM, 11.12.2013

OMG! What happened to my family memories?

A decades-old survey has "photo album" topping the list of items Americans will take with them from a burning house.

With film-based cameras of yesteryear, you were limited to 24 or 36 shots per roll of film so you tried to make every shot your best composition. With the advent of digital cameras and innovations such as smartphones, more gadgets can take pictures and videos. "Memory cards" in those gadgets, akin to a roll of film, hold much more than 36 shots. Combine that with the instant gratification of reviewing your shots in seconds, not days, leading to propensity for multiple do-over shots culminating in exponential growth in the volume of your captured memories.

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Volume 5, Issue 22, Posted 10:14 AM, 10.29.2013

The Digital World: Demystifying Technology

[Editor's note: The Observer is pleased to introduce our newest column, "The Digital World," focusing on un-complicating the ever-changing world of technology. Tak Sato, who owns a technology business in Westlake and holds a bachelor's degree in computer information science and an MBA from Cleveland State, has more than 20 years experience in the technology field. His column will address hot topics in the digital world and reader questions.]

In the history of mankind, inventions and subsequent innovations have changed our lives. I think Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant Mr. Watson would be pretty excited that we can now transmit images by building on their invention of the telephone. Is it far away that mankind will figure out how to “Beam me up, Scotty!” from the Star Trek series?

Some things change our lives so dramatically that there is a word for it: disruptive innovation. When the personal computer became available for public consumption it was initially "just another tool" that businesses could harness in their back-office operations. Computers, or should I say technology, became an indispensable tool for businesses. But back then people could still choose not to use computers at home.

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Volume 5, Issue 21, Posted 10:13 AM, 10.15.2013