Christmas tech checklist

Christmas is next week, and, for some people, that means a fight to the finish with technology.

It used to be we only had to remember to buy batteries for the shiny, new presents, but things are a little trickier these days.

Read on to learn how to spend less time struggling and more time enjoying your holiday.

Things should come with cables. But they don’t.

Have the right kind of cables. If you buy a printer, even a network printer, you might still need a printer cable. I still encounter wireless printers that require set up with a USB cable before you put them on the network.

You might end up with more cables than ports to connect them to, especially if you have a laptop. If so, pick up a USB hub. Plug the hub into one port, and you’ll gain additional ports.

There are all kinds, in all price ranges. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, here’s everything you ever wanted to know about USB hubs.

Did you buy a laptop with an HDMI port so you could connect it to that big flat screen TV?  You’re going to need an HDMI cable. Often the most expensive cable you can buy is usually sold in the same place you bought the thing for which you need the cable.

If you want to read more about the difference between expensive and inexpensive cables, see this article. Or search on “Do I need an expensive HDMI cable?” in the search engine of your choice.

Devices that use a wireless connection need a working wireless connection.

Do your friends and family bring their iPads, phones, and laptops when they come to visit? They will need a wireless connection to your network.

That means you need a wireless router and the wireless part of it must be enabled and you need to know the password for your wireless network. If you are missing even one of those components, there will be disappointment and sulking.

Before company comes:

  • Dig out the information that you wrote down when you set up your wireless network, and have it handy.
  • If you never set up your wireless network, do it now, and write down the information. 
  • If you are with Telus or Shaw, there is a chance you already have a combination wireless router and modem. If so, the network name and password are on a sticker on the device.

The software that comes with new devices is not necessarily new

Got a new webcam or mp3 player? When you opened the box, there was probably a shiny CD inside with the software ready for you to install.

Hang on a minute! There’s no way to know just how long that software has been in that box or how long that box was on the shelf.

Check the manufacturer’s website for newer versions of the software. And if you are running Windows 10, 8 or 7, you might not need to install anything extra at all. Modern versions of Windows can often find that latest driver and sometimes the latest software for you.

This is not true for all-in-one printer/scanner/fax machines. You need to get the latest software from the website for the device to work correctly. See this column for more on that.

Call for help.

If you’re trying to set something up, connect things to other things, install something, or print something and it’s just not working, stop. Get some help.

Maybe you can get in touch with the support people for whatever you’re having trouble with. (But be careful.)

You can always call in your own technical support. I know I’ll be working right through the holiday season to support my customers, old and new.  

Merry Christmas, and don’t forget the batteries.


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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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