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Got The Gadget; Lost The Manual

Many techies and their families will have one or more gadgets under the tree this weekend, yet despite Steve Jobs' best intentions, many of them still need a manual, particularly to unlock those obscure but innovative features that just aren't obvious on the surface. Yet with today's globalized, cost-conscious supply chain, many (most?) products don't include a printed manual. Those that do include some paper often just have a cursory 'quick install' sheet filled with hieroglyphic-like icons and

Kurt Marko

December 22, 2010

2 Min Read

Many techies and their families will have one or more gadgets under the tree this weekend, yet despite Steve Jobs' best intentions, many of them still need a manual, particularly to unlock those obscure but innovative features that just aren't obvious on the surface. Yet with today's globalized, cost-conscious supply chain, many (most?) products don't include a printed manual. Those that do include some paper often just have a cursory 'quick install' sheet filled with hieroglyphic-like icons and microscopically unreadable print (in about 10 different languages). For the full monty, you've got to pop a CD or fire up a browser.We all know those CDs and quick starts often get tossed with the rest of the packing material and who wants to Google the customer support site for every manufacturer. Now you don't have to. The online shopping site Retrevo has collected thousands of manuals for everything from bread makers to vacuum cleaners -- it's nothing if not comprehensive.

For example, just yesterday I had to put my 10-year old laser printer out to pasture (don't worry, I recycled it!) after one too many paper jams and fuser errors. Unpacking my shiny new Lexmark, I was confronted with just the manual-less scenario described above. Installing a network printer is no problem for a seasoned IT geek, but of course I then felt compelled to poke around the Web management GUI to tweak all the default settings. What's pixel boost? Eco Mode? Who knows without the manual? I hopped over to Retrevo's manual archive and in about three clicks found the 150+ page E260 series User Guide -- questions answered.

You can browse manuals by category or by brand. Save yourself some frustration this Christmas with some one-stop manual shopping. While you're there, in case Santa came through with some extra cash this year you'll also find the site's shopping guide a good way to hone your after-Christmas shopping list.

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About the Author(s)

Kurt Marko

Contributing Editor

Kurt Marko is an InformationWeek and Network Computing contributor and IT industry veteran, pursuing his passion for communications after a varied career that has spanned virtually the entire high-tech food chain from chips to systems. Upon graduating from Stanford University with a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering, Kurt spent several years as a semiconductor device physicist, doing process design, modeling and testing. He then joined AT&T Bell Laboratories as a memory chip designer and CAD and simulation developer.Moving to Hewlett-Packard, Kurt started in the laser printer R&D lab doing electrophotography development, for which he earned a patent, but his love of computers eventually led him to join HP’s nascent technical IT group. He spent 15 years as an IT engineer and was a lead architect for several enterprisewide infrastructure projects at HP, including the Windows domain infrastructure, remote access service, Exchange e-mail infrastructure and managed Web services.

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