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The best way to download pictures from your camera to your computer involves removing the memory card from the camera and plugging it into a card reader (either built-in to the computer or connected via USB). This is likely to be faster than connecting the camera to the computer, and won't run down your camera's batteries.
Once the card is plugged in, it will appear to your computer as a removable drive. You can use the operating system's drag&drop facility to copy pictures from the card to the computer's hard drive, the same way you copy any other files. Or you can use any photo management program such as Picasa ( http://picasa.google.com ).
Digital cameras for the most part should only be used with rechargeable NiMH batteries. These days many retailers sell these for around $7 for a package of four AA (about $15-19 for the batteries with charger). Keep in mind they'll save you big bucks in the long run over alkalines, AND they'll last for at least 100 pictures per charge (and probably many, many more). You'll be very pleased with their performance, and may slap yourself for not buying them sooner. When at the store, look on the package for a power rating of at least 2500 mah.
According to your description, I would like to assume that your camera takes 9 seconds to get the flash ready, not to focus. If it is the focus problem, you need to send the camera for realignment or to replace the lens.
Here is my suggestion:
Try to disable the flash. Does it still take 9 seconds to take picture? If the answer is ‘no’, then try to use fully charged batteries or new batteries to reduce the flash charging time.
If you have a ‘batteries drain quickly’ issue as well, this tip may help: Why my camera keeps saying ‘change battery’ even with new batteries?
the 520's are notorious for lens opening issues... I've had a few and any dirt or moisture in the lens shutters, and they'll get screwy. Clean dirt with a little compressed air...not high pressure... Batteries... set the resolution a bit lower, avoid alot of flash and zoom and you'll get better battery life... it's part the 520...carry spare alkalines.. always.. K
Switching off the camera from the main ON/OFF swit5ch should close the shutter. If it doesn;t, try removing the battery or the CF card. It is possible to manually increase the shutter speed even in bright sunny conditions.
It might be that (sometimes) the battery is not strong enough to quickly charge the flash and you take a picture when it is not yet able to flash at the power level it needs to. This may be that the battery is weak and/or you try to take a second picture too quickly after the last flash.
On other occasions (when the images are blown out, I.E., overexposed) you are probably too close to your subject and are not using a reduced power flash setting. Experiment with a well-charged battery. Without reducing the flash output you will allways get this overexposure if you are a few feet away from the subject
Are you using good quallty Nickel Metal Halyde rechargable batteries? Digital cameras are real battery eaters and do best with NiMH batteries. Try 2200MA or stronger and see if that doesn't make a difference.
You may be pressing the shutter all the way down at once. This forces the camera to focus, make exposure adjustments, and capture the image all at once. By pressing the shutter button partially to focus, then the rest of the way to capture the image, your camera can process pictures more quickly. You can turn on quick shot mode to take pictures quickly.