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Stop cordless phone interference

Cordless phone interference has always been a problem–phones interfering with other things, and other things interfering with them.

That was the draw of 900 MHz phones. There wasn’t anything else running on that frequency at the time, so there was little to no interference. But 900 MHz didn’t sound hi-tech in the age of gigahertz computers. So in the early 2000s, 900 MHz gave way to 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz phones. That brought back the problem, because there’s so much other stuff operating at those frequencies these days, like wireless computer networks. But there is a solution that doesn’t involve digging up a 20-year-old 900 MHz phone and trying to find a battery that works in it.

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Keep cordless phones from interfering with Wi-Fi

Long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and knights in shining armor fought them, people had landlines. And they plugged cordless phones into them. Everything was great. Then phones started using the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. Wi-Fi came out using the same frequencies and the two interfered with each other. Now, it seems increasingly difficult to keep cordless phones from interfering with Wi-Fi.

Many people have neatly solved the problem by using cell phones exclusively. But what if that isn’t an option? You’re actually in luck, and you don’t have to dig up a 20-year-old 900 MHz phone and try to find a battery that works in it.

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Replacing bad capacitors in failed electronics

If you’ve had a piece of electronic gear fail in the last few years, there’s a good chance it’s due to one or more bad capacitors inside. The problem most infamously reared its ugly head on motherboards produced in the middle of the previous decade, but that’s just a place where it’s highly visible. If you had a DTV converter box, a DVD player, or some other device fail in the same timeframe, it may have had the same problem.

If I had a failed motherboard, I’d probably just swap the motherboard. I’m more inclined to fix an LCD monitor or a DTV converter box.Read More »Replacing bad capacitors in failed electronics

Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3

My wife wanted a point-and-shoot camera. My go-to brand for that sort of thing usually is Olympus, based on the recommendation of someone who’s forgotten more about cameras than I’ll ever know, but there are some serious concerns that Olympus may not be around much longer.

So I bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3, a point-and-shoot I got on sale for under $100. Unlike most cameras I could find in that price range, the reviews on it were overwhelmingly positive.

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Another look at color laser printing

I’ve been watching color laser printing for about 10 years. I remember when I was impressed to see one priced at $9,999. (No, that’s not a typo; I meant to type 10 grand minus a dollar.) And I remember I was riding the Metro in Washington DC in 1997 the first time I saw one priced under $4,000.

Today, you can buy a color laser for less than I paid for my first black and white laser, a Panasonic Sidewriter model that cost me $349 in 1994. If you shop around, you can get one for considerably less.

I haven’t bitten just yet, but I’m getting closer.I loved the Sidewriter line. I’d have loved it even more if I’d been paid on commission when I was selling them. You could tell how much I’d worked in a given week by the number of Sidewriters that were on the sales floor. If I’d been allowed to work 40-hour weeks, it might have been impossible to buy one in St. Louis.

The Sidewriter was an easy sell. At the time, a monochrome inkjet printer cost about $150. The Sidewriter cost $349 with rebates. (Regular price was $399.) I told the potential purchaser to do the math. Inkjet cartridges cost about $40 at the time, and, like today, were good for about 500 pages. Sidewriter toner cost $50 and was good for about 2,000 pages. So you’d have to buy $120 worth of ink to print as many pages as the Sidewriter would do, out of the box. By the time you used a second cartridge, the Sidewriter had paid for itself–and that’s just from a monetary standpoint. From a convenience standpoint, the Sidewriter won hands down. What would you do if you ran out of ink late at night in the middle of printing something that was due the next morning? In 1994, there wasn’t anyplace you could buy an ink cartridge at midnight. That’s not always true today.

Needless to say, if someone came in looking for a printer, if they weren’t interested in color, chances were they walked out with a Sidewriter if they talked to me.

I’m still looking for a color printer that matches the Sidewriter’s economy for home use.

If you’re looking for a color laser printer, there are several avaliable under $400 today from the likes of Hewlett Packard, Minolta, Lexmark, and Samsung. If you shop carefully, it’s possible to get HP’s most stripped-down model, the 2550L, for $250-$275.

But there’s a downside to the 2550L, besides the most obvious downside of the tiny 125-sheet tray. The cartridges are set to print 2,000 pages and then stop, regardless of whether there is toner left. You can’t refill them, and you can’t use third-party cartridges. At least the 2550L ships with full cartridges, not half- or 1/3-full starter cartridges.

But what’s worse is the toner cartridges cost $80 apiece. There are four of them. Do the math. Also consider that the drum unit is only good for about 5,000 pages in color, and it costs $175.

The HP 2550L is a throwaway printer. Your best bet with this printer is to buy it along with four reams of paper, and when you open that fourth ream, order a new printer. Hang on to any cartridges that still have some capacity left, of course.

From an economy standpoint, the best color lasers on the market today look like they come from Samsung. The Samsung CLP-550 costs more than the HP 2550L, but it’s faster, it’s compatible with PCL6 and Postscript Level 3 (so it’ll work with your favorite alternative operating system, which probably isn’t the case with the 2550L), it comes with both a 250-sheet tray and a 100-sheet tray, and it comes with a duplexer. Printing on both sides of the page without any manual intervention is cool. It’s not a feature you’ll use every time, but it’s hard to live without once you’ve had it.

And more importantly, the Samsung cartridges are refillable. The drum is rated for 50,000 pages, so you won’t necessarily replace it during the printer’s lifetime. The printer also has a $28 waste container that’s supposed to be replaced when it fills up.

The Samsung cartridges cost about $125 each, so they are are more expensive than the HP, but they last for 5,000 pages. And refill kits are available. I’ve seen kits priced at $55 and I’ve seen them priced at $36. If they’re good for 5,000 pages, the cost per page drops to close to a penny per page.

The downside is the CLP-550 comes with starter cartridges that are only rated for 1,500 pages. I don’t know if those starter cartridges can be refilled to full capacity.

I’m not ready to buy one, but if I were going to buy a color laser today, I’d probably get a Samsung.