I recently had a Pentax digital camera fail without suffering any obvious abuse. Are digital cameras inherently more fragile than film cameras?
I can tell you that the digital cameras I've tried have been pretty sturdy, despite the abuse I've put them through. The worst such example was when I managed to drop a not-cheap Pentax on a tile floor from about waist-high last winter. The camera worked perfectly afterwards, with the only trace of the incident a fractionally wider gap between two metal pieces at the end that landed first.
In the abstract, I'd wager that digital and film cameras are equally vulnerable to damage, on account of both including a variety of small, delicate moving parts. In use, though, a digital camera has a better chance of breaking earlier -- strictly because it will be taken more places and used more often than a larger, heavier film camera.
Is it realistic to have Windows automatically update itself if I only have a dial-up connection?
Yes. Microsoft set up Windows XP's automatic update system to allow users to download a trickle of large files; the update software will fetch these in the background while you're online, using whatever bandwidth you're not employing at any given moment.
When you disconnect, the download will pause; the next time you dial up, it will resume. This continues for as long as it's necessary to get the whole thing. The key thing is to not download the whole file all at once -- just let Windows Update do the work for you.
To set up automatic updates, go to the Start Menu and select Control Panel. Click on the Performance and Maintenance icon, then open the System control panel (if you're using the "classic view" option, you'll see the System icon in the main Control Panel window). Click the Automatic Updates tab and set Windows to download critical updates automatically.
-- Rob Pegoraro
Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or email@example.com.