Overwhelmed by your new gadget? Start here.


posted by on Momelettes


I firmly believe that all gadgets should be created like the Hitchhiker”s Guide To the Galaxy; that is to say their boxes and manuals should have the words “DON’T PANIC” inscribed on large, friendly letters on the cover (We miss you, Mr. Adams).

I consider myself a pretty technical person. I built my own computer, and have knowledge of hardware and software interactions through drivers right down to their basic binary operations. Yet, once I got my first handheld computer, it came with Windows Mobile, an operating system I had never seen. I was so overwhelmed I wanted to cry. I needed to make sure I could check my email. And I had to put my songs on it to play MP3s in my car. And since I wanted to play them in my car, I had to figure out how to wire an aux port into my car audio system. And, did you know I could hook it up to WIFI to surf the Internet? But where do I tell the handheld what my WPA key is? I know computers inside out and BACKWARDS, and I barely knew how to turn this little machine on.

I wanted to run before I could walk, and from someone who is technical, it was especially frustrating to have a gadget I didn”t know how to use.

So, ladies, if there is anyone who understands what you are going through now, it is me. Wholeheartedly. We”re talking full-on panic, blood-pressure-rising frustration.

I have learned one or two things about overcoming this extreme gadget stress over the years, especially as I tend to acquire new gadgets faster than my milk goes out of date.

Always run the installation CD before hooking up your gadget to your computer.

The chances are pretty good that if your gadget needs a specific piece of software to work, it came on a CD. In most cases, the CD install program needs to run before physically connecting the device to your computer, so save yourself some unnecessary troubleshooting steps by following the install instructions exactly as the install guide says.

A cautionary tale for the bold: Yes, it absolutely could cause things to not work correctly by hooking up the device first – trust me, I used to fix computers for a living. Many times I got called onsite to fix a new gadget that wasn’t working, only to find the user had not read the instructions first and just connected the device to the machine.

Take it one task at a time.

To combat that run-before-you-walk feeling, solve one problem you have, and THEN move onto the next problem. For example, if you have an MP3 player, you know you can load it up with movies and music, and then play them back, and wait a minute, what if I don’t want a song on it anymore? How do I delete it? I can delete it, right? Will it get deleted from my computer, also?


By writing down each problem to master into an itemized list of tasks, you”ll find that you are mastering your gadget without even realizing it, and accomplishing what you need to learn. Here”s an example of how you might write down your tasks for your MP3 player:


  1. Connect my MP3 player to my computer
  2. Transfer music to my player.
  3. Delete a specific song from my player.
  4. Finding a specific song to play on my player.
  5. etc.


Be warned – many device manufacturers know that most folks tend to have Internet access these days. To save on printing costs, many times your gadget may only come with initial setup instructions, and the actual user manual can be downloaded online. Read the initial instructions to find out if this is the case and where to go to download the manual.


This does sound crazy, but I’ve found that many times the user manual is already organized into specific tasks to make it easy to follow, rather than an inside-out read-through. Give it a chance. Manuals are getting better. I promise.


Find out the specific version of your software.

In most cases, your software probably has a menu at the top that says “Help”. Clicking this usually yields a pull-down menu with an option of “About <software name>”.


This option should bring up a window that contains the exact version number of your software. In order to find out how to properly use the software that came with your gadget, it’s important that you know which version you are using. Example:

This version number will become important in the next step.

Probably the most useful tip I could give anyone with an extreme case of “gadget stress” is this next one.

Phrase what you want to do with your gadget into a logical statement or question, and then turn to Google.


Earlier, I suggested you write down a list of tasks that you”ll need to know how to do with your gadget. If you can”t find the answer in the manual, and you just can”t figure it out on your own, turn to Google. I don’t know how many times Google has saved me from tearing my hair out. Here”s a moment of comfort for you – no matter how crazy your question may be, someone out there on the Interweb has already asked it, and some kind person has thought fit to answer it.


“How do I connect my Dell Axim x50v to my wireless network?”

“How do I use Windows Media Player 11 to download songs onto a Creative Zen player?”

“How do I delete a song from my Creative Zen player?”

“Can I use iTunes with any MP3 player?”

“How do I disable the touchscreen on my Treo 800w while I am on a call?”

Finally, turn to user forums specific to your gadget.

The Internet is full of lively, supportive user communities chock full of people who have the exact same device you have, and are having the exact same problems you are. However, there are also people who have overcome those problems, and are more than happy to help you overcome yours.


By searching Google for user communities with your specific gadget name, you”ll most likely come across some that will make you feel right at home. For example, here’s some user forums that I’ve found based on things that I have:

Panasonic”s Living in HD community offers insight, forums, and how-tos for Blu Ray players, and their flat panel TVs. This is a fairly new site targeting families, and it has good tips including how to mount a flat panel TV to a wall.


WMExperts.com is the place to hang out and learn how to your Windows Mobile device. Whether you’re a newb or a seasoned developer, you can ask a question and someone will help you.


Aximsite.com was crucial to my mastery when I had my Dell Axim handheld. Again, a warm community that welcomes newcomers, I felt totally comfortable asking what I thought were mundane questions that I couldn”t find the answer to anywhere else.


Did you get a gadget over the holidays that you just can”t figure out? Are you stuck? Have you found a great community dedicated to a gadget others may be having trouble with? Feel free to post any questions or useful gadget sites in the comments. Let’s get a lively discussion going!

In the meantime, I”m going to continue my life with my current technological frustrations and hope I come through unscathed, and with a blood-pressure that”s actually in range with my age group. My most recent battle was with the Blu Ray menu for of all things, the movie Cars. I think I was just too old to get to the Chapter selection screen. I finally did it, but not before seriously contemplating waiting until my 16 month-old was old enough to learn it, and then teach me.

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