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Network World - The scoop: Retrevo Web site.
What it is: The world's first "matchmaking service" between consumer and electronics, Retrevo lets users search for consumer electronics products based on people's individual needs or choices. The site uses artificial intelligence algorithms to determine the "value" of a product, based on product feature sets, prices and brand names, as well as the "community value" that is based on thousands of expert product reviews and individual user recommendations scattered across the Web. The site includes advice on more than 40 categories of consumer electronics items, including digital cameras, HDTVs, camcorders and GPS devices.
Why it's cool: Sure, you could trust me and just buy the products I recommend (especially in the Cool Yule Tools holiday gift guide, but for some categories, such as digital cameras, there are so many products on the market that finding the right one would take too long through Google searches or other shopping sites. The Retrevo Product Advisor does a lot of the heavy lifting for you, categorizing cameras into tiers (low-end, mid-range, high-end, etc.), based on real-time information. Sure, that 4-megapixel camera you bought a few years ago may have been considered mid-range, but now it's clearly a low-end model. Further, the site lets you dig deeper into picking what features are important to you, and giving you results based on those choices.
If you feel like reading what the experts think, a link to the review is provided, but for the most part the Product Advisor itself will do the job just fine.
Some caveats: Not all consumer electronics categories are covered at the moment; the Web site just redesigned and may experience some occasional bugs.
Grade: 4 stars
The scoop: Support.com online PC repair service, by SupportSoft, prices range from $39 to $200.
What it is: This service lets PC users who might be having difficulties with their systems talk with an expert and resolve the problem quickly. The company offers several services, ranging from a $29 Windows Vista assessment to network setup and troubleshooting, as well as Google Apps setup and migration. A phone call to a support technician can determine the next steps (as well as the cost for the service), at which point they will install a remote control application on the user's PC, so they can take over and diagnose the user's problem.
Why it's cool: For most PC problems, IT managers can handle the problems without too much worry – but there are times when a problem stumps even the best of us, and instead of trying to pinpoint the problem through lots of Google searches or other message board items, a quick call to Support.com may save more time. In addition, this can be a great service to recommend to family and friends who constantly seem to bother us to help them fix their particular problem.
In testing this service, I talked with a friendly service rep who didn't talk down to me (he didn't ask if the system was plugged in correctly, for example), and we were able to quickly solve my LAN problem (a tricky personal firewall was preventing access to a network-attached storage device).