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Flash flicker is the camera trying to get enough light to focus, It occurs when you press the shutter release part of the way down.
Try the same thing outside, ensure you press the shutter real ease all the way down. If it still does not fire, switch the lens to manual focus (sliding switch on the side of the lens, move from A to M) If the camera shoot then, the camera is struggling to auto focus.
To understand the photo loss situation, consider a scenario: You format a memory card in Digital Camera, and start to capture some pictures. However, while capturing pictures, your camera shuts down due to low battery. Now, after recharging battery, when you try to access those photograph on the card, you receive the following error message on camera screen:
The Card requires formatting: Additionally, the camera is unable to capture any new photographs.
The main cause for the above error message is corruption of memory card due to conking of battery while a read/write operation was running.
These memory card needs to be formatted before you save any new pictures. It is always a good practice to take backup of card and format it before use. This enables you to fight with any damage done to the memory card and to erase the old data saved on the card. However, the probability of card getting corrupted again (after you have saved new data) still exists.
First try formating with an external SD Card reader connected at PC and test it.
The camera may require manually opening the shoot lense to achieve flash to capture pictures. Observe the camera buttons for every complementary buttons that may require activation prior to photo shoots. Usually smaller cameras with lenses may require manual lense adjustments prior to every photo shoot.
Should just be a common USB mini cable, most cameras have this interface and Vista will automatically see the camera wiht its generic drivers. I use Picasa to download all my photos from 6 different cameras to my desktop and my laptop.