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Read this before you wrap that Christmas Wii U - and ukuleles

Nintendo's heavily desired Wii U handheld gaming system will be under lot trees this Christmas. And they all need 3-hour

Nintendo's heavily desired Wii U handheld gaming system will be under a lot of trees this Christmas. And they all need a 3-hour software update.

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Updated: December 24, 2012 2:21PM



Did you buy your kids a Wii U for Christmas? Then you’ll be interested in a tip that Nintendo America posted to its official Twitter account on Friday:

“Perform system updates before wrapping so it’s good to go as soon as it’s opened.”

That’s great advice. Nintendo’s new tentpole game system was finalized and certified with such velocity that it shipped with system software that requires a major over-the-Internet update on day one. Getting the Wii U shipshape for play takes three hours.

Yes: Three. Hours.

And that’s even assuming the update servers will be working at all on Christmas Day, when a jillion of these systems try to dogpile Nintendo at the same time. No. Do it now, even if it means tearing apart the last square of Rock And Roll Santa wrapping paper you had in the house and rewrapping the Wii with aluminum foil from the kitchen.

It’s a good reminder that many gifts require a little TLC before they’re wrapped and presented. Running through the Yuletide Tech Gift Pre-Flight Checklist is highly advisable.

1) The Wii U isn’t the only holiday gadget that needs to connect to a server before it can be used.

Tablets, phones, and even many music players need to be activated over the Internet. So many devices clamoring for attention from the same server all at once can often result in delays and disruptions.

It’s also a good idea to check for system updates. Ensuring that a device is running the very latest software means that it’ll be more stable out of the box. New firmware might even bring some new features.

2) Game consoles, video streaming devices, and other boxes that communicate with the outside world through your Internet connection often bicker with your home router.

Christmas morning isn’t the time to discover that you’ve forgotten your WiFi password, or to learn what “port forwarding” is and why it’s driven so many sensible men and women into fits of egg puppetry.

3) Anything that’s rechargeable ought to be plugged into an outlet for several hours.

Most of these devices ship with just a conservation charge on its battery, if anything. Some devices can even become damaged if they don’t receive a full charge before their first use; running them down to zero from a partial initial charge can limit the life of the battery.

This is a particularly persnickety problem with the Kindle Fire HD, which doesn’t even ship with a high-wattage charger. Charging it up from a USB port can take hours.

4) Cables, cables, cables.

Hardware makers are stingy bastards and if they can save themselves $1.13 in unit manufacturing costs by not including an absolutely necessary cable, they’ll definitely do it. Break open the box and read the setup guide early on Christmas Eve, while the stores are still open.

On that subject...oh, dear. You bought Model SDJ-1089-A of that cool Blu-ray player with built-in Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify streaming. You should have ordered the SDJ-1089-W. The one you bought requires you to run an Ethernet cable all the way from your office to the living room. Oops.

5) You unpacked the gadget last night.

Great! You made sure you had all of the necessary cables. Fab! You installed the required system updates. Hey, you the man/woman/individual who’s transcended Society’s antiquated views on gender identification!

There’s a phone app, too?

Seriously?

Yup. There aren’t many holiday gifts that require a mobile app . . . but I can think of at least a half a dozen that are vastly improved after a trip to the iTunes Store or Google Play store. I expect both of those stores to be fully functional all day long. Still, the fewer surprises on Christmas morning, the better. It’s always better to have a fully working thing under the tree rather than an inert puzzle that needs to be solved sometime between the end of breakfast and the start of the interstate family holiday goodwill tour.

6) Most ukuleles ship with synthetic strings that don’t keep in tune until they’ve been properly stretched and broken in.

Gently draw each string about an inch above the plane of the body, like a bowstring, and gently lower it back into place. Tune, repeat, re-tune, repeat. You’ll need to do this several times for the first few days but after a while, even a cheap $30 uke will settle down and play consistently.

Actually, if you can still return whatever technomajumbowhatsit you bought and then make it to a music store, a ukulele has a lot of advantages over anything with a CPU. Especially in a post-apocalyptic scenario. A uke will continue to function after a complete breakdown of the socio-politico-economical system leads to an inevitable collapse of infrastructure. If (as is likely) regional warlords acquire artisans and musicians to distinguish the luxury of their palaces from those of nearby warlords, if you’re the lone survivor who can perform a Formby-style split stroke your value to the court will translate to better food rations. And when it comes time to burn things for heat, a uke will ignite nicely without throwing off toxic fumes. Can Apple say the same of an iPad mini?

Pre-apocalypse: playing a ukulele is one of only nine remaining activities which can’t somehow be tracked and monetized by Google or Facebook. All I ask is that you give this some thought.



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