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Geek on Demand

Why won’t the Wi-Fi work? Where did my MP3s go? One overburdened fashion worker gets her tech life streamlined by our guest expert.

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The Mess:
Spencer’s music collection is scattered among two iPods and a friend’s computer.
The Cleanup:
Use Sharepod to move music into one destination.

The PC application (downloaded at getsharepod.com) will let Spencer drag and drop music files off any iPod she connects to. (A similar application, Senuti, is available for Macs.) Then she should get an external hard drive to store it all. “You could just put it all onto your laptop,” Westheimer tells her. “But you’re not going to have this computer forever.” He likes LaCie’s Rugged Hard Disk ($96.95 at B&H Photo & Video, 420 Ninth Ave., nr. 34th St.; 212-444-6615), which draws its juice from your laptop “and won’t break if it falls off your coffee table.”



The Mess:
Her work-related tech wardrobe is outdated; she lugs a Sony Cyber-shot (for digital pictures) and a camera-less BlackBerry.
The Cleanup:
Consolidate with a new-generation palmtop phone.

Spencer’s photos won’t be as sharp with a palmtop like the iPhone or Blackberry Bold, but she doesn’t need detail, just quick snaps of clothes. Westheimer suggests she download the iPhone app Evernote (evernote.com), which will let her pin notes directly onto her photos, then e-mail them to the office.


The Mess:
Her five-year-old Sony Vaio is on its last legs, but she doesn’t want to spend thousands.
The Cleanup:
A new computer for under $1,000.

“A two-year life cycle per computer is a good rule of thumb,” says Westheimer. He found a thirteen-inch white MacBook—a more than adequate upgrade—for $949 at Tekserve (119 W. 23rd St., Sixth Ave.; 212-929-3645). If she’d rather stick with a PC, he suggests Dell’s Studio 15 laptop for $750 (dell.com). “Okay, I could do that,” Spencer says. “I’ll just go out to a few less dinners.”


The Mess:
Her home Internet service doesn’t work.
The Cleanup:
Call the cable company.

Spencer’s Wi-Fi connection conked out weeks ago, and after tooling around with her computer for 45 minutes, even Westheimer’s stumped. He suggests they call her Internet service provider for help. “But I called Sony already!” Spencer laments. “Forget about the computer manufacturer,” he says. “They can’t help you get on the Internet, but they can charge you.” Cable companies, on the other hand, “don’t care what kind of computer or connection hardware you have. They’ve seen it all.” And the cable technicians usually have to stick around until they’ve got you up and running.


The Mess:
She can’t get her photos off her work computer and onto her home computer.
The Cleanup:
Fileshare yourself.

Westheimer recommends a free app called Dropbox (getdropbox.com). Install it on any two computers (home and work), and any photo, music, or word-processing files that you store on one will be instantly copied to the other. He also advises getting the Eye-Fi Share memory card ($70 at J&R Electronics, 23 Park Row, nr. Broadway; 212-238-9000), which wirelessly uploads photos to the web right from any camera; no cables or card readers necessary.



The Mess:
Her five nieces and nephews are too squirrelly for the phone.
The Mess:
A cheap webcam.

Most new computers have cameras built in, but if you go à la carte, buy “the barest-bones web camera you can find,” Westheimer says. “The sound is more important than a perfect picture.” Logitech’s QuickCam Connect ($30 at Office Max in the Atlantic Center, 625 Atlantic Ave., at Fort Greene Pl., Prospect Heights; 718-783-2614) is cheap and easy to install. As for chatting software, Skype (skype.com) is fine, Westheimer says, but Gmail is easier to use and works better with imperfect Internet signals like Spencer’s.


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