Monday, December 17, 2007

printing made easy

I know a lot of people say this, but I really mean it when I am a technological infant. So when Parent Bloggers offered me a chance to review the HP Photosmart A626 Compact Color Printer I approached it with equal measures of excitement and trepidation.

So no one was more surprised than I was when I had this printer up and running in less than 10 minutes. You have no idea how spectacular that made me feel and we can all be assured it was due to HP and not to me. This was the easiest installation of technology that I have ever done in my life.

The step by step directions were easy, both on paper and on the screen itself. And I couldn't believe how responsive the touch screen was. Touch screens in the past have left me wanting to hit something but this actually responded to my prompt every single time.

Once your memory card is in the printer you can view your pictures in a variety of ways, manually, slideshow, various groupings as well as perform all the editing. Luckily we've recently gone on vacation and so I had a host of tropical pictures on my memory card and I was able to edit them easily - cropping, removing the red eye, adding frames to pictures and actually writing captions directly into the picture by hand. Erasing your mistakes is an easy thing too. And the quality was superb. As I printed out pictures of the coke bottle Caribbean it looked exactly as I remembered it. J has been working with two different photo printers at his work recently without decent results and as such was feeling skeptical but when I showed him these pictures he said it was much better color quality than anything he'd been able to achieve recently.

One of the things I haven't been able to try yet is printing pictures that are already stored on our computer. My laptop is mainly for work and I am not able to install new software onto it and our laptop with our pictures on it is temporarily out of commission. But as soon as it's fixed I plan on creating a photobook using one of the books HP sent with the printer. I am going to make a smaller photobook for my daughter with pictures of all of her friends and use the larger photobook to chronicle our recent trip.

The coolest thing about the HP printer is how small and portable it is. It only weighs a little over 3 lbs and is about 10" wide. Perfect for mobility and small spaces, something I put to terrific use last night. I took it over to one of our shelters and offered to take pictures for folks who wanted them and was able to print them right then and there for some people, many of whom hadn't had a photo taken of themselves in years. Several folks wanted pictures to send to distant relatives and some wanted group pictures of their friends, folks who live in such transition means friendships are real but fleeting, and the fact that I could take their picture and immediately turn around and hand them a print was really cool and the red eye function was especially useful given the poor lighting and the tiredness of the folks we help.

I'd imagine this same portability would be terrific for birthday and holiday parties as well as day care and school events. When you can frame and/or write on the pics it makes for a nice personal token that folks can take away immediately.

The only drawback is that you can't save the edited pictures directly onto the printer. So if you want to preserve them you'd need a bit more equipment if you were trying to do it at a function which might not be the easiest depending on where you are.

If you are interested HP is running a special promotion offering 20% off of their Photobooks. I noticed an instant rebate on the printer as well. Just in time for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ready, Set, Fire Truck!

Tis the season, I suppose, but reviewing Paz's Radio Control Fire Truck was something I signed up for awhile ago and M is certainly glad I did.

I don't generally buy plastic toys but I caved when I agreed to do the review after showing M a picture of it online and watching her lose her mind. Fire Truck! I'm a Fire Fighter! (She's been in a fierce firefighting stage lately) and when the package arrived I couldn't get it out of the box fast enough.

This truck is all about movement. It's got an easy to use remote control that enabled M to learn how to practice hand eye coordination and even a dose of patience while she figured out how to manuever the control to steer the truck around the kitchen without smacking it into walls. Luckily it's an easy venture (something pretty cool for a toddler to learn) and soon she was off and running and the truck was zipping all over the house.

It's got an easy on/off switch, but because M insisted on SLEEPING with the truck on the night it arrived I happened to find that switch around 3am the next morning (my fault, not the toys) and it includes four little people who can ride along, but to be honest those folks seemed like an afterthought and not a valuable part of the toy. They didn't hurt, but they weren't the main attraction. The movement, sounds, and lights stole the show.

It's durable, colorful and engaging, and it's also a bit loud (and even louder at 3am) so if you aren't one for noisy toys it's an important point to consider. All in all, plastic aside, it's a good toy for a toddler. You can check out what some other folks are saying about it over at Parent Bloggers too.