Argentina-based Vaja hand-makes gorgeous custom leather cases for everything from PDAs to cellphones to MP3 players. My Sony p900 case has a magnetic closure and slots inside the lid for extra Memory Sticks. Best of all, the top-notch leather feels and smells like good hide should. ($55 and up, vajacases.com)—R. Emory Lundberg, contributor to the cellphone blog MobileWhack.com
THE TIP SHEET
More Treo Life
PDAparts.com offers a new $50 DIY 2,000 mA-h battery upgrade for the Treo 600 that offers nearly 20 percent more life than the phone's stock 1,800 mA-h unit.—Phil Torrone, H2.0 Geek
Books for rent
Booksfree.com is a frugal reader's best friend. Like Netflix for books, you pick from the site's 40,000 titles (all soft-cover), and it ships them to you with a return envelope to send them back when you're done. Memberships range from $8 to $30 a month, depending on how many books you want to have at one time.—Nigel Powell
THIS IS BROKEN
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See more examples of things broken at thisisbroken.com.
ASK A GEEK: Mikkel Aaland
Q: Is it all right to use generic inks and paper to print my photos?
A: Not if you care how they look. The high cost of supplies from the major printer manufacturers (Canon, Epson, Kodak, Hewlett-Packard) isn't price-gouging; it's reflective of the amount of time and R&D bucks they spend matching inks and papers to the specific capabilities of their printers.
Take printer speed, for instance. The faster the printer churns out photos, the higher the demands on the ink and paper. If the paper is too absorbent—or not absorbent enough—inks will pool or smear, especially in the darker, denser areas. In a closed-loop system (where the manufacturer is privy to all a printer's specs), inks and paper surfaces are created to prevent this from happening.
Other areas where generic supplies tend to fall short: color-matching and archival capabilities. That means the red barn on your screen might come out magenta and fade to pink in a couple of years.
For throwaway photos and text, off-brand inks and paper are a good place to save money, but for shots that you want to show off or hang on to, stick with the goods from your printer's maker. Here are some tips on cutting printing costs without sacrificing quality:
1. Shop around. Costco and other large retail stores often carry premium papers and inks at a huge discount and sites such as dealink.com can point you to the best bargains online. But be wary of super deals: ink may be out of date, or paper improperly stored.
2. Choose an efficient printer. Inexpensive models often use smaller, less economical ink cartridges. Some models use ink more efficiently than others. (Read product specs carefully and ask a knowledgeable sales person before you buy.)
3. Use plain paper and draft modes for image placement checks. Use smaller sheets of photo quality paper to check color and resolution, switch to larger (and more expensive) sizes when you get it right.
4. Use photo-quality paper efficiently. Don't print a 5x7 inch image on an 8 x10 sheet of paper. Most imaging programs offer picture package options, which efficiently place various sizes of the same image on a single sheet of paper.
Mikkel Aaland has been a professional photographer for 20 years and is the author of several books on digital photography, including the recent Shooting
Digital: Pro Tips for Taking Great Pictures with Your Digital Camera. Check out his site at cyberbohemia.com.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.