Movies on DVD often include a special section of outtakes, discarded film clips of production mistakes that are sometimes as entertaining as the movie. By comparison, writing a...

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Movies on DVD often include a special section of outtakes, discarded film clips of production mistakes that are sometimes as entertaining as the movie.

By comparison, writing a technology column involves testing new products that occasionally fizzle or freeze and never make it to print. So I figure it’s time to share a few of this column’s outtakes, and three examples instantly come to mind.

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Walkie-talkies:
My family’s cabin near the Cascade Mountains has no phone, and no cellphone works, either. We’re pretty isolated when we go there, and that’s just fine, most of the time.

Sometimes, however, voice communication would be helpful. For example, when kids (or adults) walk a couple miles through forest to fish and play by the river, I’d like to be able to call them back for dinner or check in to make sure no bears or cougars have stopped them along the way for a trailside chat.

So when I heard about the Motorola Talkabout T7100 two-way radios with a working range of up to seven miles, I decided to try them. I figured they’d enable us to call from the river and also from the nearest town about three miles away.

The walkie-talkies arrived, I charged them up, kept one and gave the other to my daughter and husband to take into town. We left both handsets on standby.

About an hour later, I heard the call signal and talked with my daughter. She was halfway up the driveway. No luck calling from anywhere around town or even on the way back. I couldn’t get a call through to them either and I tried several times.

The information that came with the walkie-talkies suggests foliage and buildings can cause the range to be shorter. I guess so.

Next, we tried calling from the river. That worked sometimes, though I don’t know why, because there’s a whole forest in between.

I successfully called from the top of a small mountain. But while walking back, the connection failed.

All in all, I couldn’t advise anyone to spend $100 for this “long”-range set, so the product never made it to the column until now.

Flying vehicles:
Another fizzle occurred while I tested radio-controlled flying machines for the holiday columns.

I took my family and the new Air Hogs Sky Winder airplane to a local park, where my 24-year-old picked up the controller and started to fly the plane, or tried to. It glided a few yards and ditched. He launched it again, and it lurched a few more yards before the plunge.

After a few falls, the wing bent, then an edge broke.

Each time my son went to fetch the grounded plane, his son ran after it, begging for a turn. But fear that this rather reckless 2-year-old would wreck the plane kept it out of reach.

Finally, after the adult had damaged both wings, he let the toddler play.

My grown son launched the plane, while my grandson held the controls. The plane went straight up, then straight down, while the little guy pulled and pushed the controller knob.

His dad then demonstrated how to use the controller and launched the plane again. This time it flew. In fact, it flew up and out of the park, disappeared behind a neighboring house, then reappeared, dive-bombed a lady on the sidewalk (missed her, thank goodness) and returned to crash beside the pilot.

Later, when we were walking home, my grandson still carried the controller. He spied a plane flying overhead and quickly pointed the remote at that plane, hoping to steer it back to the park.

After an hour of use, the plane needed major repairs. So even though my grandson enjoyed controlling it, that flyer didn’t make it to my holiday shopping list.

But the Air Hogs Sky Patrol helicopter we tried next was sturdier and did go on the list.


Music players:

A recent column about portable music players took a lot longer to complete than it should have.

When the JetAudio iAudio4 first player arrived, I spent far too much time trying to get it to do anything, until the company finally decided it (not me) was defective and sent another one that worked.

The next player was the Creative Zen Touch, and it frequently froze while I was on my treadmill, the usual place I use my music player. Plus, the battery ran out in just a few hours, not 24 as promised.

After much frustration and continuing freezes, the company decided the player must be defective and sent a new one.

This one froze, too, so I tried using different headsets, different software and different songs. It still froze. Finally, I snatched the player off the little shelf on my treadmill and jammed it in my pocket. It didn’t freeze.

I kept it in my pocket for an hour and it still didn’t freeze. When I put it back on the shelf, it froze.

There must be some technology on the treadmill that interferes with the player’s electronics, and the treadmill won.

However, since this player worked well in every other situation, I figured few others would experience the treadmill conflict, forgave the flaw and kept the player in the column.


Looking back:

These three are just a few examples of modern technology’s gaffes that we grumble about, complain out loud, then joke about later — the outtakes of our high-tech lives.

Write Linda Knapp at lknapp@seattletimes.com; to read other Getting Started columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/gettingstarted