Self-install Internet and cable TV service,
from Comcast Corp.
$9.95 at Comcast walk-in service centers
When it comes to electronic gadgets, I’m an instinctive do-it-yourselfer. I’ll set up my own personal computers and cellphones, thank you very much. No surprise, then, that I’m annoyed by the thought of waiting around the house for a cable TV installer to hook up a new set-top box or Internet modem. Shouldn’t there be a simple, plug-and-play proposition that anybody can handle?
Comcast feels exactly the same, so it’s pushing do-it-yourself installation kits for its TV, telephone, and Internet services. Consumers save a lot of tedious wait time; Comcast saves the expense of rolling a truck to your house.
You just pop into the nearest Comcast service center, place an order for service, and pick up the necessary hardware. You can also have it delivered to your home for the same $9.95 service charge.
I tried the self-install kit for broadband Internet and cable TV service. I stumbled through the Internet setup, having failed to follow the instructions properly. But I soon got straightened out. Installing the TV set-top box was even simpler.
Comcast tells me that about 20 percent of their customers now choose to self-install. What’s up with the other 80 percent? Unless you enjoy the occasional visit from the cable guy, self-install is the way to go.
XX HD Action Camera, by JVC Americas Corp.
$349.99 at Bestbuy.com
It’s a wonder that Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt didn’t wear one of these during his races at the London Olympics. This handy little HD camera was designed for people with a taste for action sports.
The Action Camera is shock-resistant and designed to tolerate a six-foot fall or a dip in 15 feet of water. Just charge up its battery and slip in an SD memory card — not included, by the way. The camera does come with clips and brackets for attaching it to a pair of goggles or the handlebars of a bike. Picture quality is quite decent, though it suffers from a fisheye effect. Objects at the edges of the picture look a little funny.
I found the camera’s software controls rather confusing. And I was never able to figure out a feature that uses a built-in Wi-Fi chip to wirelessly transmit your videos to a laptop or smartphone. Try as I might, I never got it to work. Still, you can always fall back on a good old USB transfer cable.
The Action Camera’s a little on the pricey side, but it’s still worth considering if you want to record your own athletic exploits.
Photon Q 4G LTE smartphone,
by Motorola Mobility LLC
$199.99 with two-year service contract at Sprint.com
With BlackBerry phone maker RIM at the brink of doom, and Apple Inc. committed to touchscreens for its iPhones, those who insist upon pushbutton keyboards pretty much have to choose phones running Google Inc.’s Android operating system. Luckily, there are some nice keyboard-equipped Androids out there, including this one.
As you might expect, the Photon Q is thicker and heavier than most of its rivals, thanks to a keyboard that snaps out from below the phone’s touchscreen. It’s quite a nice keyboard, too, with rounded buttons that are easy on the fingers, and it’s brightly illuminated with a built-in backlight.
The Photon Q is compatible with Sprint’s upgraded 4G data service, which uses snappy LTE technology for much faster data downloads than the company’s old-school 4G system. The LTE option is still unavailable in many cities, but Boston is plugged in. The Photon Q I tested was downloading data at over 10 million bits per second, and uploading at almost 4 megabits. Hot stuff.
Still, with its chunky body and bland black plastic case, your friends won’t gasp with envy when you whip out the Photon Q. Not until you start texting on that lovely keyboard.