You have to admire the patience of technology advice columnists. They deal with all sorts of remarkably specific requests. I imagine they get letters like this:

Dear Mr. Techsmart: I have a 20MB Candak CT03-X43 32-bit fat-formatted HD that has stopped working. The computer recognizes it but can't quite place the name, just like Grandpa before we finally got him in to the doctor. He's OK now, but the drive just gets ejected with the error message "A fatal error has occurred." Can I save it? Signed, Frantic

My response would be, "Have you heard of this thing called Google?" My second response would be to make up everything, because how's this guy going to know? He has a 20MB hard drive, which means he's probably running Windows 97. So I'd say:

Dear Frantic: The Candak CT03-X43 was on the market for three days in 1991 and was withdrawn due to data corruption issues. And I mean corruption: Pictures you stored of innocent children would show cigarettes in their mouths, Gregorian chants were replaced with devil-worshipers yelling Latin backward, and so on.

The manufacturer sent out exorcism instructions, which required you to shout "The power of Gates commands you" several times as the hard disk rose from the desk and floated toward the ceiling.

Looks like you have one that's still corrupted. I advise you to open up the case, expose the drive, use a magnifying glass and see if you can detect any pictures or word-processing documents on the disk. If not, discard in a fire.

Dear Mr. Techsmart: I bought a new monitor but it won't do anything but show the screen saver. It's pretty; it has nice pictures of tropical fish moving back and forth, but I can't get it to show my files. I've enclosed a picture so you can see the make and model. Signed, Something's Fishy

Dear Something's Fishy: What you have is actually an aquarium, not a monitor. This is a frequent point of confusion with today's high-def screens and their realistic images. The best way to see if you do, in fact, have an aquarium is to leave it alone for a month and see if the fish are still swimming.

If it is not an aquarium, and the screen saver has one of those treasure chests that opens and closes, be aware that these can be security risks. A hacker can get into your system when the treasure chest lid is open. Enable two-factor authentication that requires input from a snorkel to open the lid.

Dear Mr. Techsmart: I am wondering if I should get the new iPhone 13. I have the 12 right now. Is there any difference? Signed, Plenty O'Cash

Dear Plenty: Not that anyone will be able to tell, but you will know and feel a quiet sense of superiority. It does have some new features, such as A) the ability to scream like a loon sucked into an outboard motor if you attempt to text while driving, and B) a new camera with updated settings like "X-ray," which is handy for examining someone who was texting while driving and went into a phone pole, and "Theoretical Physics" mode, which can detect dark matter in galaxies in the local cluster.

Apple says the new phone can detect extinction-level solar flares two minutes before they strike the Earth, although this setting can be disabled if you don't want to know what hit you.

The camera also takes good pictures and "movie quality" videos, although "movie quality" might mean your movies go on for two hours and 23 minutes, with one action scene after another.

As for the picture quality, remember when we got "high-def" video cameras 10 years ago? You look at that footage now, and it's like we were shooting fog through a sheet of Vaseline. Who knows what today's footage will look like in 10 years.

Not that it matters, because the movie will be named IMAGE _39492323.mp4 and sit on your hard drive unwatched until the end of time, but hey, the resolution's fantastic.

Dear Mr. Techsmart: My TV has started to flicker. I notice this the most when watching football and there's a real hard tackle, or during NASCAR, when a car hits the wall. The picture shimmies and flickers. It's a Singsong TF-3934b, if that helps. Signed, Queasy

Dear Queasy: You probably have "impact simulation" turned on. This can be disabled by going to Settings, then Picture, then Settings, then Picture Settings, then Sensory Simulation. Set "impact detection" to "default," unless you have the TF-3934c, which was reprogrammed to accommodate new NFL regulations about violent tackles and no longer recognizes a really good hit, like in the old days, when you could give 'em the business and they'd know it for a week.

Any more questions? Didn't think so. • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks •