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When All Else Fails

By Mike Pasini, Editor
Imaging Resource Newsletter

There's no 911 for digital camera emergencies. Sure, there are 800 numbers and manufacturers' Web sites (and you can even try emailing us to try your patience), but what should you do when you've got a problem and no one is around to help?

"If you start from a known state and keep track of what you're doing, you should be able to repeat (the problem) by following the same script."

The first thing to do when all else fails (as Yogi Berra might put it), is to return your camera or scanner or software or whatever else isn't working to what we like to call, tongue in cheek, a "known state."

No, not Hawaii.

A known state is the condition your hardware enjoys just after you've turned it on and it lets you know, by beep or by chime, that it's ready for action. This is just before you -- or anyone else -- does anything. You can get to this known state without any problem at all, consistently, just by turning the device off and turning it back on again.

Well, that's the theory.

And if it works, if indeed your system is waiting for you to do something, you should be able to repeat whatever problem you had, simply by, well, doing whatever it was you did.

Easier said than done.

Few of us really know what we did to cause something to happen. Why should it be any different with high-tech gadgets?

But if you start from a known state and keep track of what you are doing, you should be able to repeat it by following the same script again. And if you can do that, tech support will love you. And may actually be able to help.

Getting to a known state, however, can be tricky. Does your device modify itself in any way between startups -- as a convenience to you? Saving certain preferences, for example, or remembering something like the number of shots left?

If it does, then it may have incorporated the problem into its gene pool.

Scanners don't have that problem (although scanning software does). Digital cameras may or may not.

But before you give up and send your camera back to the manufacturer for repair, try this: Remove the batteries (and any storage medium), let the camera sit a day or so to kill the power left in any built-in battery (to keep time for example), attach the power adapter, and turn it on.

Doing this sort of a gorilla-style system reset should return your camera to a known state. And if the camera finds that helpful, it may come back to life.

Diagnosing problems with equipment and software can be maddening. To swing the odds in your favor, remember this trick from the real diagnostic wizards: return your system to a known state, then record, step-by-step, how you get to the problem.

This article is reprinted from The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter,
Beginner's Flash Column, published February 25, 2000

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