The post-Santa guide to life with your gadgets

Festive gizmo not living up to expectations? Don't panic - follow our tinsel-flavoured troubleshooting checklist, and all will be well

It's Boxing Day, and the frenzied peeling of wrapping paper has passed for another year. Aunty Maud's found the cooking sherry, the kids are back from the burns unit following that unfortunate incident with the Christmas pudding, and what passes for peace falls across the household. Time to excuse yourself to the shed, barricade the door and spend some quality time with your new toys. After all, isn't that what it's all about? But there's only so much magic Santa can work. Just because there are tidings of joy in the air, there's no reason that your latest high technology marvels will behave themselves any better than the last lot. To help our readers through what can be a frustrating time, ZDNet is pleased to present our cut-out-and-keep checklist of things to try first when stuff just ain't right. (NB: please print before cut-out-and-keeping. We cannot be held responsible for scissor damage to your monitor). 1. Gadget missing altogether

You asked for the latest MP3 player, newest phone or most jewel-like digital camera, and the darn thing's somewhat smaller than a matchhead. Now you've gone and lost it. It might be in the pile of wrapping paper, dropped in the mince pie tray or stuck under a fingernail. Or the dog's eaten it. If it's a phone, try ringing it while holding Fido's stomach to one ear (you may need to feed your canine chum a bowlful of Bailey's first to ensure compliance). Ditto with the MP3 player: if you can hear the faint sounds of Robbie Williams as he passes through the duodenum, then be patient and let nature take its course. If you own a larger dog, there is the possibility that it has eaten the real Robbie: persuade the dog to swallow the camera and contact Popbitch at once. 2. Incomprehensible manual

With the rise of computerised translators, the quantity and variety of syntactically correct Dadaism in commercial products has increased enormously. "No touching brown wire. Fatal eventuarity may occur", "Care must be exorcised when handring Opiticar System as it is apts to be sticked by dusts and hand-fat", "Not to be used for the other use", "The batteries you are invited would better alkalined ones" are all traditional exhortations that may confuse the over-festive. If despite your best efforts the precise meaning of "Be noted the menu mode of smartkey will snap the mouse" eludes you, then type the offending text into Babelfish on Altavista, translate it from English to Spanish, from Spanish to German and then from German back to English. It won't make any more sense, but print it out on A4, one letter per page, and hang the paper from your Christmas tree. Congratulations: you are now a Modern British Artist and can retire to Hoxton. Alternatively, post the results in each language into discussion boards frequented by people of each nationality and see if you can't provoke a diplomatic incident. (note: this technique may be patented by the Foreign Office. Take legal advice first). 3. Gadget refuses to work

Despite everything, does your new silicon friend do nothing but blink a couple of lights and emit the sound of an elderly okapi? Check the batteries: they may have been new yesterday, but chances are one of your charming offspring has surreptitiously swapped them for the AA-shaped melted slag that powered their new Gameboy Advance during the overnight hack'n'slay session. If that doesn't help, then you might consider the ancient Zen technique of silently meditating for many hours while trying to communicate with the greater whole -- or 'calling the helpline' as it is known in the West. Alternatively, if your new toy is a software package the chances are that it's not broken, it was designed to work that way. Well, when we say designed, we mean desperately rushed out to hit the Christmas deadline following the normal course of alpha, beta and Santa releases. 4. Persistent smell of molten plastic

Don't worry. It's just your credit cards. 5. Gadget displays rude words, plays hardcore techno

Assuming it's not intended to do this -- some mobile phones aimed at the youth market seemingly do little else -- then check to see if your toy has Bluetooth. If so, chances are it's established its own connection to the Internet via your home network and been hacked by 3l33t h4x0r d00d2 from Slough. Using ping, traceroute, a packet sniffer and your contacts within the UK ISP community, determine their PC's location and install on their hard disk some, ah, inappropriate files from that server in Finland. Call the Thames Valley constabulary, and arrange for a second visit to the lads from a burly man in a funny hat and ill-fitting costume. Ho, ho, ho. 6. Operation interrupted by loud noises and intermittent vibration

If you're using the latest DVD/CD-R drives, check for traces of sage and onion stuffing on the media. At 56x speeds, even the slightest imbalance on a disc can result in near-supersonic shards of polycarbonate being ejected in all directions, and a sliver of Now That's What I Call Music 418 at Mach 0.9 impacting on even the most overfed abdomen can cause considerable damage. Chances are, however, the noise and banging is just an indication that you've been tracked down to your place of retreat and Aunty Maud is demanding her post-Yule game of Scrabble. Find a good pair of headphones, plug them into whatever is capable of making the most racket (if Slough is still on the line, try requesting some Slipknot), and pretend you've slipped into a coma. If that doesn't help, give Robbie Williams a quick wipe down, give him another bowl of Bailey's and send him out instead. Merry Christmas!