Thursday, January 25, 2007

Littlest Things

Littlest Things

It's always the littlest things that make me happy. Lately, the little bit of tech in my life makes me smile. I'm having fun figuring it all out.

For Christmas I got a Canon digital camera and photo printer. I've only been able to take basice photos so far and I put the printer back in the box after taking it out to admire it for a while so I haven't printed anything. I'm going to take these things one at a time and figure out how to work them, starting with the camera.

Yesterday I was sorting through my junk mail and there it was. A coupon from Staples for a free case of paper three whole days from the expiration date. Talk about luck! A ream or two is one thing, but an entire case is just wondeful. This should last my family for six months or more. That means I can make it to the end of the school year without having to worry about scrambling for paper when Arabella leaves an assignment for the last second. No more rushing around to find paper for my mum who always needs a last minute print job for her home instruction students.No more Ye Olde Matey and I fighting for the last few sheets and rationing paper. We can print to our hearts content.

Staples gave up some paper, but their loss leader will definitely drive some future sales and got me to spend some cash on the spot as well. Win-Win. With all that printing, we're bound to run out of ink before we run out of paper. Conveniently, Staples will give you 3 bucks off new ink for each of the old cartridges you bring back. While we go through paper by the caseload at work, the coupon made me realize the value of buying a case of paper for home instead of one ream at a time. Meanwhile Arabella bought 5 bucks worth of gel pens she just couldn't live without. They also made another 40 bucks off me for flash drives.

The minute the coupon hit my hand, I knew it was a good time to stop putting off buying a new flash drive. I bent my last one pretty bad. It still worked but there was no guarantee it would keep doing so. I really needed to get all my stuff off the old flash drive before it died altogether.

As I was writing this someone came up and asked me about the cute and tiny new flash drive lying on my desk. I can't believe there are still people who don't know what a flash drive is but if you don't, let me explain.

You know what a floppy disk is and what it does right? And you also probably know that floppies just don't hold as much you'd like them to. Well, a flash drive is a small little stick about the size of your thumb, or smaller even, that is like a floppy on acid. You may hear them also heare them called key drive, thumb drive or jump drive.

Flash drives hold a ton of documents, pictures and music. They are tiny so they are easily portable. Even better they are easy to use. Plug and play, they plug into any USB port anywhere and make it really easy to find and use your documents immediately. They are also dead useful to drag and drop documents from home to key drive to work and back again.

Most come with a lanyard in the package because what is small is easily lost. Their smallness is deceptive because these are powerful little tools in addition to the incredible storage capacity. I was able to back up every single one of my documents and pictures from my hard drive from the past year to one that was 512 megabytes and still had plenty of room left over for whatever else I can put on it.

I was a little alarmed at the prices for the key drives at first. Two years ago, I paid around $24 for my original Memorex at 512MB. It seems I always hear and read news bits about technology prices dropping but drives at the same capapcity as mine were running $32 - $42. The higher up models at 1 or 2 gigabytes were a whopping $60 - $80 dollars. I was about to walk away when I saw this little beauty; a SanDisk 1 Gigabyte Micro Flash Drive on sale for the low low price of, you guessed it, 19.95. The sign at staples said you save $40 bucks which means I'm either getting the deal of the century or they're defective. The only thing I can find wrong so far is that the lanyard clasp it came with was a little weak. I simply attached it to my old lanyard and the problem was solved. Could something that simple really cause me to get something this great for such a small price?

When I plugged in my old key drive all it ever did was have Windows XP open up a file viewer window. When I plugged in my new one it surprised me by launching a short video demo. I almost skipped it, but the demo, with pretty graphics, was actually informative and interesting. It also showed me why those prices are up and just how much flash drives have evolved in the two years since I bought my last one. This one came with programs, games (Sudoku!) and so many other features it made my head swim. I will have to watch the demo again to find out all it can do but the most impressive thing so far is being able to use it as a portable drive for a Skype account. With my flash drive, a computer and a microphone, I can now make phone calls and retrieve voice mail from anywhere in the world where I can plug in a USB drive and access the internet.

No matter how you say it, that is just cool. 512MB Memorex: old and busted. SanDisk 1 gig: new hotness.

The one thing I don't have on mine is music which I understand takes up a lot of room, but you can still get a ton of MP3's on one of those things. I think it took Ye Old Matey over 500 songs to fill up his 512MB drive. He'd been saying he meant to get a 1 gig and he was happy in the way that only guys can get over new tech toys when I gave him one of the two I bought.

Which has me ready to take the leap into ripping my cd's and finally getting an mp3 player too. For the first time since I was a teenager, popular music has grabbed my attention again. Lily Allen, Jay Z, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, Fantasia, Ludacris, Chingy. Recently it seems that my life needs a soundtrack comprised of not only my old favorites, but new music as well, especially the music of my youth which means hip hop and lots of it. According to the mini brochure that came with my flash drive, it seems they make MP3 players as well. If they don't have iPod type DRM issues, I may just get one.

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