thanks for everyone's comments.
i went to Office Depot the other day (with my S1) and looked at and played around with the Canon A95.
a little hard to test inside a store, but it didn't seem to be much better at focusing than the S1. we went to a darker spot in the store and it had a bit of trouble focusing too.
also done a bit of reading at dpreview forums.
it seems that the focus assist lamp (that most digicams have but the S1 does not, and this was i had thought the reason it has a hard time focusing) doesn't make all that much of a difference.
Bung, thanks a lot for that tip about hyperfocal. i'll do that! according to many reports at dpreview it really helps shoot in low-light conditions!!!
anyway, my wife (who is the amateur photographer in the house) is disappointed that she can't shoot our kid, inside the house (=low light), very close up (=using a high zoom or from a very short distance). but from the reading i've done, these are exactly the conditions in which
digital cameras have a hard time focusing...!
oh well, i guess this means that we'll have to get her Nikon SLR camera fixed, back to film phogography