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Letters to the Editor

TechnoFILE's readers speak up…

TechnoFILE is meant to help empower you, the reader, into having the confidence to make your own decisions when it comes to buying technology. That doesn't mean you won't have problems before or after the sale, however, and that's why we added this "Readers' Forum" section to the magazine. It's designed not only to help readers with problems, with equipment or with (God forbid!) us, but to pass along others' knowledge to the public at large.

We won't publish names or E-mail addresses, 'cause we believe in privacy (and 'cause we don't keep them!), but we will let you know what people are saying to us. We can't answer all the mail we get, though we try. If you wrote us and we didn't get back to you, please write again. Our computers crash, too, sometimes, and no backup is perfect - and sometimes there's a problem with your return E-mail address that causes our replies to bounce back to us. We can't print all our mail, either, though we'll feature the most interesting, helpful, and/or bizzarre correspondence.

And if you have an answer for any of our readers' questions, please drop us a line and we'll pass along your wisdom to our readers.


I LOVED your review! I am just now in the market for a bread machine and there seems to be many types out there, so in trying to sort out what they are, I stumbled across your review. Not only was it hilarious, it was helpful as well. Keep up the good work.

(Ed: thanks!)

Q: Do you think the a large, say 154cm rear projection TV would be a better investment than a wide screen TV, as I am in the position of looking at buying one. Money is not the main concern but playing DVD for the kids is important for me, and is the technology of wide screen going to take over the market?

A: It isn't really an “either or” situation. Why not get a widescreen rear projection TV? They’re absolutely wonderful for DVD's, as long as they're "enhanced for widescreen TV's" (which most of them are these days). DVD's that are merely "letterboxed" have to be zoomed to fill the screen and you lose some resolution, but it's still better than 4x3 TV's. Widescreen TV’s, if you make sure the one you buy is “HDTV-ready” or “HDTV compatible” are also “future compatible” because as TV changes over to high definition, you’ll be ready for it - and you’ll love it!

There’s a downside, however. In the meantime, you have to get used to watching regular TV stretched, so you don't burn in the bars to each side of the squarish 4x3 picture. These tradeoffs notwithstanding, the move to widescreen is worth it even just for DVD’s.

Q: I purchased a couple DVD’s from London and I can not play them in my GE there anything I can do?

A: Not really, unfortunately, unless you can send them back for a refund or buy a “multi-region” DVD player (which might be hard to find). If you live in North America you have to get "Region 1" discs, for North America. The studios encoded different regions and most discs are region coded so they’ll only work in their own particular regions. This is so people in foreign countries can’t get foreign DVD’s and watch theatrical movies before they’re released in their country.

Q: I am about to put some cherry wall treatment in my living room and have a convenient opportunity to put in some inset wall-mount speakers. I am presently very satisfied with the sound from my typical Sony mini system for this room. The speaker box's are +/- 12"h x 6"wide x 10" deep (guessing)

Q.1.Given that most studs are less than 4" deep can the same bass levels be achieved with inset wall mounted speakers? Q.2 I am a professional cabinet maker. Would it be worthwhile for me to source some really, really good speakers and profile my own custom units or it would probably be the same price and better quality to get a system that is already on the market? I realize there are sound engineering aspects to the cabinet dimensions and I have the luxury of trying different things at work. Can you save money by just buying speakers with no cabinet. My budget is $550 Cdn.

A: Actually, the wall makes a great place to flush mount speaker, and the wall makes a great baffle. The speakers will interact with the wall and resonate its bass response throughout the wall. You can obtain some great sound using this method. You may want to check out the series line of Paradigm, PSB or perhaps B&W speakers. $500 Cdn would be more than enough for your purpose, in fact you may find that you will end up spending about $299-$350. The B&W line of speakers will run you about $500.

Q: I have a decades' worth of beta tapes and was wondering if there exists an adaptor that can be used with a VHS VCR. You never know these days! I suppose that someone could transfer them for us into VHS but how expensive is that?

A: Unfortunately, there's no such adapter. Your best bet is to go to someone who'll transfer the tapes for you. You'll have to be satisfied with losing some quality during the transition, too, because you're going down one more generation of tape. As for pricing, you'd best check that out locally.

Q: What is the difference between a passive and an active subwoofer.

A: Most active subwoofers contain their own amplifier and you'd hook them into the "subwoofer out" jack on your 5.1 channel preamp or receiver. Most passive subwoofers don't have their own amp and are usually wired in concert with your other speakers and powered by your receiver/amplifier. Active subs are generally better, depending on your needs.

Q: Does it matter whether or not there are "Dolby digital outputs," if I have no receiver? I am basically hooking up a good TV to a DVD player straight - no receiver. It is for a second set (I have a 5.1 surround system and receiver in one room, and am looking to just run a DVD and TV in another). Do any of the extras matter? Like Dolby Digital? If there is no receiver or "decoder?" Should I buy a more expensive DVD player with a "Dolby Digital output" or "passthrough?"

A: If you aren't using a Dolby Digital or DTS decoder, there's no point in using those outputs on the DVD player; you'll only use the stereo audio outputs to hook the player to the TV, which undoubtedly only has stereo inputs. Some TV’s offer built in Dolby Pro Logic or Dolby Digital decoding, but these are the exception rather than the rule - and they still require extra speakers.
So you probably won't get surround sound by patching the player directly into the TV’s audio inputs, but you don't seem to mind since this is a second unit.

Q: Thanks for the great info. A few years back I purchased a Panasonic Palmcorder that takes VHS-C tapes. Someone told me I should copy my tapes to VHS cassettes and just keep reusing the VHS-C’s. These are just home movies of the kids. What do you recommend? To me this sounds sort of dumb because the VHS-C are smaller to store and I thought that they are supposed to last a little bit longer the VHS tapes. What do you recommend?

A: Copying the tapes onto regular VHS will give you a copy that's one generation removed from the original, and therefore it won't be of as good quality. So if quality is most important to you, don't dub to the other tape!

On the other hand, since VHS tapes play longer than VHS-C, dubbing to VHS will let you sit through more enjoyable nostalgia sessions of the little ankle biters without switching tapes. For me, the better quality of the original tape would be more important than longer playing time, however.

As for how long each tape lasts, well it's basically the same tape inside each type of cassette, so all things being equal you'll probably be happy with the lifetime of either.

If durability is a concern, and you plan to watch the tapes often (each viewing degrades them a bit), you could also make the leap from analog tape to digital media.

How? If you have the proper hardware and software (a good sized hard drive, a video capture card and video editing software), you could download all your kid vids onto your computer's hard drive, edit them together there, and burn them to a recordable video compact disc. This should be playable on most DVD players - or you could output the files back to VHS - but this time it would be from a digital copy of the original analog tape, which should get around at least some of the quality loss issue.

The last solution is by far the most expensive and time consuming: get a DVD burner and dump the VHS-C files directly to it. I did some of that when testing a DVD burner earlier this year and it worked well - and now I can throw the tapes away.

Manual Dexterity...

I have an RCA Systemlink Remote Control and I’ve lost the instruction manual. Can you help me find the codes to program it to operate different components?

(Ed: This is the question I’m asked the most, so a lot of people must be throwing out their documentation! RCA has a pretty good customer help center on their web site at You can find a “Universal Remote Help” page there with a link to a “self help” section where, after walking through a few pages you’ll find listings of the codes. There’s also troubleshooting information. If you don’t have Internet access, you can phone Customer service (Monday – Friday, 8 am to 8 pm Eastern time and 10 am to 7 pm Eastern time on weekends) toll free at 800-264-8854. Have your model number ready to speed things up.)


I lost my directions that came from the manufacturer of my bread baker and need directions regarding the order in which ingredients are placed in the machine.

(Ed: These two questions show the importance of keeping your manuals! Our old Panasonic (we bought the first model they brought out) is perfectly happy accepting whatever you throw into it in whatever order you throw it in – as long as you remember that the yeast goes in a separate compartment. Bread makers differ from each other, however, and many of them do require you to use a specific order, so it’s best to be safe rather than sorry. A general rule of thumb is that dry ingredients go in first, followed by the wet stuff and, lastly, the yeast. If you’re worried about the consequences of experimentation, contact the retailer where the unit was bought, or the manufacturer. Or a cookbook. Remember too, you should always use fresh ingredients and measure accurately. Too much of some ingredient can not only spoil the loaf, but can make for a nasty cleanup afterward as well.)

Burning Questions...

In my DVD player’s manual it says it cannot play CD-R’s (recordable compact discs). Is there any way I can get my DVD player to somehow read the CD-R to play it? Also, my player has digital coaxial and optical audio outputs and my receiver has both inputs. Which is better as far as sound quality is concerned?

(Ed: Many DVD players, even high end ones, can’t play back CD-R’s, and I think that’s a big oversight on the part of the manufacturers. It’s an issue that should really be considered before buying a DVD player. Your best bet may be to buy a relatively inexpensive CD player for your home theater. Remember to take a CD-R to the store with you to make sure the player handles them. As for your second question, audiophiles generally prefer the coaxial connection, because the Toslink (the fiber optical connection) is more likely to suffer from mechanical vibration and jitter. The coaxial connection supposedly gives a smoother and more synchronized signal flow to your receiver’s digital-to-analog (D/A) converter. In the real world, however, it’s really a matter of personal preference and if you can notice a major difference between the two connections, you have far better ears than I do! Another upside to using the coaxial connection is that you don’t have to shell out for the fiber optic cable; the coaxial interface will use a standard RCA-type patch cord, though of course a better quality cord will also mean better sound.)

More Burning Questions...

Which is a better upgrade for my computer: a CD Burner or a DVD drive?

(Ed: It depends what you want to do! A DVD drive is the way of the future, but there isn’t a lot of computer software on DVD yet so right now it’s most useful as a movie player. On the other hand, a CD-R drive is wonderful for recording music, backing up your data files, or archiving digital photographs.)

And, from the “It Takes All Kinds” department:

My PlayStation2 unit is Japanese version and I cannot configure the DVD set-up cause all text is in Japanese. Please help me.

(Ed: Our only advice is to check your Yellow Pages for a Japanese translator…)

Win Some, Lose Some?

Is there any way to configure Network address translation on WIN98 for Internet browsing? Or can I make my workstation as a proxy to some other computer to browse Internet?

(Ed: Windows 98 doesn't do NAT in the conventional sense. So far as I know there is nothing in the original Win98 to do proxying either. However there is an Internet Sharing service that seems to have been put into Win98SE that does simple master-slave proxying. Apparently, though we haven't tried it, it only works for adding a second machine (i.e. one master, one slave, no more). If you have SE, that's probably your easiest route - I've heard it works fairly well.
If you don't have SE, you'll have to find some proxy software, or buy hardware. For software, I'm only familiar with WinProxy and Spoonproxy (both are decent, but WinProxy is better). For hardware, several companies make "Cable/DSL Routers" that will let you share internet connections by using NAT, and also give DHCP and some firewalling (mainly through the benefit of NAT). You can also find some that offer similar service using a dialup account (I think 3Com had one, and maybe Intel). The hardware is probably a better choice if you can afford it (and you can find one to fit your circumstances). It will be more secure, more stable (not dependent on Windows), more flexible (some have hubs built-in and NAT works for more than HTTP), and easier (no proxy configuration in the browser))

Help for Ripping Vinyl

Sirs, For the benefit of the author of the letter entitled "Record Breaking", I would like to offer this advice:- Connect Amp or Record player to the "LineIn" on your sound card. Check first that there is no distortion due to mis-match (Very rare) before attempting to 'Rip' the LP.
Software to record 'Wav Files' from your LP's is "LP Ripper" available from WWW.CFBSOFTWARE.COM.AU Excellent prog. I have transferred over 75 LP's to CD using it. As regards Noise reduction...Sonic Foundry 'Sound Forge' is very good. It can be downloaded from WWW.SONICFOUNDRY.COM Syntrilliums 'Cool Edit 2000' is also very good. My liking is for Classical music, and all my LP's were of this 'ilk' and using either or both of these programs, I have got near perfect CD's. Cool Edit 2000 iis downloadable from WWW.SYNTRILLIUM.COM All editing, including the noise reduction, should be performed on the 'Wav' file before transferring it to CD, or before converting to 'MP3' To transfer the 'Wav' files to CD, I used CeQuadrat's "WinOn CD" available from WWW.CEQUADRAT.COM An almost foolproof program that gives excellent results. All this software can be obtained in "Trial" or "Demo" versions (With some restrictions before 'Registering').

(Ed: Thanks very much for your contribution!)

Digital, DTS Dilemma?

What does DTS stand for, what is it, and how is it different from Dolby Pro-Logic and Dolby Digital?

(Ed: Very, very simply, DTS - Digital Theater Sound - is similar to Dolby Digital, but does it in a different way [much like VHS vs. beta]. Some say DTS is better, and I once did an almost side by side test that seemed to confirm that, but the difference was so slight you'd never know if it you didn't run them side by side. Pro Logic is an analog surround technology, the forerunner to Dolby Digital/DTS. It only uses a mono surround channel, even though there are multiple speakers, and the sound isn't full range.)

New Age beta Zealot...

I am so tired of hearing about DVD! VHS is going to swat down this annoying fly in a matter of months! Thanks to S-VHS,D-VHS and the upcoming HD-VHS DVD is no real threat to the eternal king of home entertainment. What you people forget is that almost everyone in America has a VCR and the difference between the two are so minuscule that the average viewer can't even notice the difference and will have no reason to upgrade! I have seen DVD and I am thoroughly unimpressed! Now to be fair I say let you and your DVD loving followers watch your lousy discs. If you believe your precious DVD is superior to VHS then keep on doing so, ,just please shut up. Let my followers and I enjoy our tapes in peace. To each his own. But be warned, we will not go quietly into the night. if DVD tries to take down VHS then we will destroy you like we destroyed Beta. I see no reason why our respective formats can't peacefully coexist and hopefully the above scenario will be averted.

(Ed: We don't seem to remember telling anyone to throw away their VCR's, espcially since you can't record on DVD --- yet. The compact disc hasn't made cassettes completely obsolete, either. Your argument that you can't see the difference between VHS and DVD is ridiculous and indicates that you either need a new TV or laser eye surgery - not to mention obvious audio differences between the formats. But you have as much right to live in your fantasy world as we do in ours. Good luck to you.)

Input on Inputs?

Is there a way to plug my Sanyo 8mm camcorder into my PC to record credits and special efects ??

(Ed: You need a video card that'll take the input from a camcorder or VCR. Something like ATI's All in Wonder family, though not necessarily that particular brand or model. Then, of course, you need the software to do the job you want - assuming you don't already have it. This stuff is all readily available at your local store.)

Coaxial Conundrum?

You have a rather helpful and informative website here, I've actually spent hours reading through it...but I have a question. My DVD player has digital coaxial and optical audio outputs and my receiver has both inputs? Which is better as far as sound quality is concerned? Thanks

(Ed:In the high end world of audio the coaxial connection is preferred. The reason for this is that the Toslink or optical connection is prone to mechanical vibration and can be prone to jitter. This is the misalignment of timing of the optical signal reaching you digital to analogue convertor in your receiver. The coaxial connection supposedly gives a smoother and more synchronized signal flow to the D/A convertor. Again it is a matter of preference and if one can notice a considerable difference between the two connections, then you are blessed with great "ears".)

A Square Deal?

What is the object of Wide Screen ?----I think it's foolish.---Why do people enjoy it????

(Ed: Widescreen video gives you the same widescreen image you get in theatres - my preferred choice though my wife doesn't like it - while "pan and scan" and/or "fullscreen" versions (which is how most videocassettes are released) cuts off the sides of the widescreen image to make it fit to the top and bottom of the TV screen.
Until you get used to it, this widescreen "letterboxing" looks like you're losing part of the picture. This is because in order to get all of the rectangular widescreen picture onto the squarish TV screen, the top and bottom of the TV screen aren't used and so are left blank. This translates to "black bars" at the top and bottom of the screen. What's really happening, however, is that you're actually getting the whole picture the way the director originally shot it. The "pan and scan" focuses on a squarish section of the picture, panning and scanning across it at times to follow the action. It looks as if you're getting the whole picture (no black bars), but you're actually losing up to half of it from the sides, depending upon the aspect ratio (width to height) of the original film. This is because they cut off the sides so the picture fits from top to bottom.
The "widest" movies these days are shot at 2.35:1 (the picture's 2.35 times as wide as it is tall). Many more films are shot at 1.85:1. So when you crop this to the TV's 4:3 (that ratio comes from when TV was invented - it was the same aspect ratio movies came in then. Later, movies went widescreen - partly as a way to compete with TV!), you could be losing half the actual picture.
There's more to it, but that's probably already more than you wanted to know! To get an idea, if you're interested, watch the chariot race scene from "Ben-Hur". The pan and scan version looks closed in and you can't see a lot of the action. The widescreen version, however, not only shows that Heston actually has four horses instead of two or three, but you can see him driving around other chariot teams, between others, etc. In short, you can see his whole race strategy rather than just artificial closeups of the middle of the screen. It's awesome.
Or "Blade Runner" or John Carpenter's "The Thing" which, in widescreen, give an even more claustrophobic, closed in feeling than with the sides cropped.
Despite the picture being more "wide open," you see things you'd otherwise miss with the sides cut off and this adds to othe feel of the film. This widescreen vs. pan and scan controversy will last until widescreen TV's become popular. Then, I expect people will complain about the square pictures of old movies and TV shows, 'cause they leave these damn black bars at the sides of the picture.)

Yeah, but what if you want to record?

OK — I've got a DSS feeding into my LCD HDTV with THX, and a DVD; on what do I record these marvels of modern technology - VHS? Seriously, have I missed an article somewhere on your site or is home recording in a holding pattern until recordable DVD systems are released. Thanks.

(Ed: First of all these marvels of technology are generally deemed as playback only formats and aren't well suited for general recording, especially DVD. DSS recording is not much of a problem, since there is no copy guard information stored on the digital bit stream, at least not yet. The only format to truely do any justice is the DV tape format (digital video) from Sony or the DVC format from Panasonic. At this time these recoders carry a hefty price tag. It seems an expensive outlay just to record from DSS and with copy guard being inherent in the DVD format, you won't get flicker free recordings. Unless Mr. Hollywood decides that video copying is no longer a threat to revenues (what I would truly call "California Dreaming"), the recording format is becoming a threatened species.Of course there may always be a plan in the works that will allow digital recordings- for a price.)

WebTV Wisdom Wanted

I have a friend who just got WebTV and is interested in trasnmitting photos to me via the web...How can he do it on his system?

(Ed: WebTV should have no difficulty sending pictures - as long as you can get them into the unit According to WebTV's web site, this would mean hooking in a video camera. The site doesn't say anything about being able to import existing graphics, which would of course require some kind of computer interface.)

Canuck HDTV Conundrum

I've narrowed down my choice for a new HDTV down to the Zenith IQB64W10W-(a true HDTV that will not play native 480P signals, but will upconvert to 1080i) and the Toshiba TW65X81-(HDTV ready). Since I will be playing DVD's mainly, I'm not concerned about broadcast HDTV yet. I've seen both units, the Zenith looks awesome, but the Toshiba was at a disadvantage because it didn't have a true 480P source for input. I've been told that the 480P output from Toshiba's SD-5109 played on a progressive scan Toshiba set looks considerably better than when the set has to upconvert a signal from 480i->540P on its own. I know why a non-interlaced signal is better than an interlaced one and was ready to buy the Toshiba with their progressive scan DVD player. Than I saw the Zenith, WOWWWW! The only explanation I have why it looked so good was that it has 9" CRT's and displays all inputs upconverted to 1080i. The Toshiba only has 7" CRT's. So, whats better: an HDTV that displays 1080i(540 lines with content and 540 at some stage of decay,for any one frame) with 9" CRT's and more pixel resolution or a HDTV that will display a true native 480P (in Toshiba's case upped to 540P lines of content on screen for any one frame) signal with 7" CRT's and less pixel resolution?

(Ed: Whew - technical stuff! We'have more of a "features and benefits" slant here, but if we were to choose between those two we'd go for the 9" CRTs. But we wouldn't buy any HDTV set in Canada yet - late 1999 - even to watch DVD's, 'cause the software selection is virtually non-existent and will be for at least a couple of years. About the only HDTV there'll be in Canada soon is some broadcasting via ExpressVu's DSS - theoretically. By the time there's actually enough programming to watch in HDTV (whether DVD or whatever) to make the investment worthwhile, the sets will be better and cheaper (or, at least, better for the same price). So you're stuck in a "chicken vs. egg" scenario. On the other hand, if HDTV sets don't start selling now chances are the format may die (though we doubt it). Still, from a strictly consumer point of view, we dont' think it's in your best interests to be such a trailblazer in Canada.

Confused about the "Subscribe" Button on TechnoFILE's Home Page

I'd like to subscribe but when I click on the "subscribe" button it asks for a plug-in application that Netscape hasn't heard of. What gives?

(Ed: Excellent question, and somewhat embarrassing. That "Subscribe" button is a convenience thing for people using Microsoft's Browser (Internet Explorer) and who have channels activated on their desktop. It's a thing that supposedly informs them whenever the site's updated . Since it's a Microsoft thing, it doesn't work with Netscape. The best thing for Netscape users to do is to bookmark the site ("Ctrl-D" or "Add Bookmark" from the toolbar) and then keep checking back. Better still, we've recently launched a weekly newsletter update feature to which anyone can subscribe. By following this link, you can sign up and we'll come straight to your inbox with the latest poop. We generally update about two or three times a week, so either subscribe to our newsletter or check back often.)

Digital/DVD dilemmas

Hi guys! Love the site. One question from someone who really doesn't know much about this stuff. I have a DVD player and several discs, but a rather old receiver that I want to upgrade. Also, I have two large Fisher stereo speakers. I've noticed that when I watch the DVDs, I usually have to compress the sound so I can hear the dialogue (am I right in assuming voices are usually center channel?). Do I need to get a new receiver AND more speakers to enjoy surround sound? Or will just more speakers help? My DVD player has a setup choice that allows me to choose Dolby, DTS, etc. Does the sound get separated into all of the channels by the DVD or the receiver? Sorry, I guess that's more than one question! Any help you can give me is very much appreciated...

(Ed: You'll need more speakers and more channels of amplication to get the surround (and you're right that most of the voices come from the center channel). The DVD player will pass on the sound to the receiver (or amp/preamp/decoder combination). If the DVD player has the Dolby Digital or DTS decoders built in you can get away with a "digital ready" receiver and a hundred (okay, five or six) patch cords. Or you can get a receiver with the decoders built in and either use the regular stereo audio out jacks on the DVD player or, if the receiver can take it, a coaxial (looks like a regular patch cord) or optical (a little fiber optic cable) digital output.
Hope this isn't confusing. The bottom line is that you need the decoders somewhere (DVD player and/or receiver/amp) and enough channels of amplification and speakers to get all the sound. If you're happy with your existing speakers, just add center and surround - or go whole hog and replace the whole shebang if you have the budget (and retire your current stereo to the family room or bedroom - or patio). There's no point in just getting more speakers, because a stereo receiver doesn't put out enough different signals; you should have one speaker per channel and, if you want, you can also get a subwoofer (the ".1" in the 5.1 surround sound). Then, of course, you'll need a big screen TV....)


I also have a Proscan TV and wanted to respond to the PROSCAM letter (below). I do not know if the customer knows that in order for the Guide Plus to work he HAS to turn off the TV for a minimum of 10 hrs overnight. I was told 24 hrs but I live in Arizona and its works fine if I turn off the TV at about 8pm and turn on again at about 8am. This has to be done each time the TV is unplugged as well. The information is supposedly sent from the Broadcaster so it should be available in all areas. I have NO cable box either. Works great, its really a great product.

Record Breaking...

I have some 33 1/3 rpm vinyl records I'd like to transfer to CD. The records are old and scratched. My questions: Can you recommend an audio card that will let me capture recorded music? What is the cost? Can you recommend music editing software that will enable me to edit out the scratches and then save the result to a CD-ROM? (I have a writable CD-ROM unit). What are the copyright laws relative to transferring music from records I own to CD's I am not selling? Thanks in advance for your help.

(Ed: Good questions! Pretty well any audio card will do the job, though if you're looking for something really excellent we'd suggest he Sound Blaster Live, which comes with all sorts of neat software, too. And it's really the software you need more than a specific sound card. What you need to do (besides hooking the stereo into your PC, of course) is to record the sound onto your hard drive (so make sure you have lots of space) and then, using other software, transfer it to CD. Don't know of software that'll eliminate scratches. That sounds like you need a professional application like the recording studios use -and we wouldn't know what to recommend. You should be able to find such stuff on the Internet, though. If you want to save space before putting the music onto CD's, you can use the MP3 format. This will compress the files substantially, but you'll have to either play the music back on your PC only, or via an MP3 "walkman" which are only just hitting the market. As for copyright, well, it's our understanding that no one will get too upset if you're merely archiving your records (they probably won't like it, but that's tough). It would seem to us as if you're not doing anything worse than recording a TV show for later viewing. It's when you get into trading or selling that you run into a lot of trouble.)

DVD Dilemmas...

I have been thinking about the purchase of a DVD/DIVX player. I have been reading newsgroup posts and anything I can find with information about the medium. How does the picture compare to digital satellite broadcast. I have gotten spoiled with satellite quality; is the DVD picture equal or better than this. I am guessing that it would be better. It just seems like you would have to lose some quality during the broadcast. I use Dish Network and have been very pleased with their quality. My only complaint is that movies, like HBO broadcasts, have what I consider to be very poor Surround quality. About the only time I really notice any surround effects are during the loud action scenes. I also wonder about the S-video connection. I run my digital dish receiver through this input.... what are my options for hooking up the DVD and the dish. Is there some type of splitter so I get extra high quality from both units?

(ED: We find the picture substantially better (the sound, too) than digital satellite. We're using the Canadian version of Dish Network and agree with your assessment. There are no inputs on the DVD players we've seen, so you'll need extra inputs on your receiver/TV to handle both. We don't know of any S-video splitters, though that doesn't mean there aren't any.Enjoy DVD. It really is terrific.)

I have a couple of questions for you. 1. Does the DVD player play any CD? i.e. I live in Germany right now and I know that VCR Tapes will not play on an American VCR and vice versa. If I purchase a DVD Disc on the local economy will I be able to play it? 2. I was told that the DVD player will play in separate languages. Is this true? i.e. can I play the same disc in either English or German. 3. You were talking about a DVIX player. About how long will it be before a movie company come out with a DVD for purchase? I would like to own a movie not rent it everytime I want to see it. If I wanted to rent it I might as well go to the Movie Theater. 4. Do they make DVD players in both 110 and 220 Volts? i.e. The US has 110 and Europe has 220/230. 5. How accessible are DVD disc's? I have noticed that they are just coming out here in Germany. They have about 40 on the shelves now. Are they more accessible in the States?

(ED: We're based in Canada, so may not have all the Euro-facts correct, but we'll try. DVD's are "region coded" so you have to match the player and disc with the area. But a European player should be fine for European discs. Audio CD's shouldn't matter, but we don't know this for sure. DVD's are readily available here for sale and rent, so if they aren't there yet it's only a matter of time. Separate language tracks are available, but it depends on the disc, so you'll have to check the packaging. Voltage shouldn't be any more problem than with other electronic components. A bigger problem for those importing players will be the abovementioned area coding. Re; DIVX. we don't think this will fly and we hope it doesn't. DVD's are great, but DIVX are an offshoot of DVD's that put the control in the hands of the studios and rental stores, not the consumer - and we side with the consumer.)

Could you help a very confused individual! I have a home theatre system composed of the following: Yamaha DSP-A1 amplifier (with DTS), Acoustic Energy 109 main speakers, Acoustic Energy 107C center speaker, Kef Coda 7 rear speakers, Sony 28" widescreen TV. I intend to buy a DVD player soon and may I PLEASE ask for your help in deciding which one is best. Sony DVP-S7000 or S7700, Panasonic DVD-A110, Toshiba SD-2108 or SD-3108. The S7000 has no DTS but is a very well rated player. The DVD-A110 is being phased out and replaced with the DVD-A120. The SD-3108 has a video noise filter which makes it a superior unit. Decisions!

(ED: Any one of those players will do the job. If DTS is important to you, then buy it. We just bought a unit without it because we figure Dolby's too entrenched to be knocked off and we aren't afraid of a gamble. The phased out unit may be available at the best price, if that's important to you, and if you're worried about the video noise filter, watch that unit side by side with one that doesn't have it and see if you think the visible difference, if any, is worth the price difference.)


We have not had a lot of luck with TV purchases.  Two weeks ago we bought a 27" JVC television.  The model that we purchased was supposed to have front-panel A/V jacks.  It was not on display, so we took the salesman's word for it.  When we got it home, it did not have A/V jacks at the front.  We had it for a whole day, and during that time it also never downloaded any TVGuide Plus information. 
When we contacted the store, we found that they had no 27" TV's with front panel jacks for us.  So we exchanged the JVC for a Proscan 27" television.  This was hailed as the very best 27" TV that we could buy.  The salesman really talked up the TVGuide Plus feature on it.  The TVGuide Plus feature did not work.  We live in a city; we have cable.  All of the salespeople at that very large store have told us that TVGuide Plus is supposed to work and that it is free.  
I called the cable company.  They wanted $10.95 a month for a cable box.  That's not free!  (ED: it's not TV GUIDE Plus, either!)
I called Proscan.  They had me do a reset.  That didn't fix it.  They had me do a diagnostic.  That verified that I was not receiving a signal.  The first person that I talked to at Proscan told me that Proscan would contact Gemstar to find out what was wrongHe said that Proscan would find out whether or not the Guide Plus signal is actually delivered to my location.  Subsequent support people at Proscan would not do this.  The fourth person that I spoke to started to lecture me on being a good consumer.  He said that I should have checked out if TVGuide Plus existed in my area before believing a salesman who, "Will tell you anything to make a sale." 
The fifth, and last person that I spoke to at Proscan would not connect me to a manager as I asked.  She first wanted my name and phone number, and all the details.  Then she told me that there was no record of my previous calls, so she would not connect me to a manager.  I hung up and returned the TV. 
I spent hours on this.  Like the Proscan people advertise, so advanced, yet so easy.  It does not take a Ph.D. to follow the setup procedure for TVGuide Plus!  The diagnostic verified that I was not receiving a signal.  Why would Proscan not help me resolve this by contacting Gemstar for me?  I tried to go through my local cable company, but reached a dead end.  I thought that maybe they could do something for me from the supply side of this service. 
When I looked up Proscan on the WWW, I found no way to communicate with them.  Just a pretty page with a Guest Book.  Thomson Consumer Electronics is no better.  Their web pages are designed for one-way communications only.  They do not have a customer service email link. 
My recommendation?  Avoid Proscan and its siblings RCA and GE.  Thomson Consumer Electronics will not support their customers.  If you do purchase one of their products and then you are unfortunate enough to get Proscan's support technician, Christopher, to help you, then you may even get a lecture on how to be a good consumer.  If you ask to speak to a manager, then they will deny all previous conversations with you.

(ED: We're surprised to hear about your experience with Thomson, who we've found quite accessible. But it just goes to show that "Buyer beware" still rings true no matter where you shop or what you buy. And it's never safe to believe everything a salesperson says - always do your homework!)

DVD Dilemma

Hi Guys! I'm interested in buying into DVD, but the vast array of players has left me a bit confused. Currently I have Dolby Pro Logic, a Magnavox 53'' tv and a basic five speaker system that was a package deal with my Technics stereo system. I plan on eventually buying (upgrading) a Dolby Digital receiver so I don't need a built in decoder. I'm looking for a dvd player that has S-video jacks and has the sharpest picture. I'm more concerned about picture quality than sound right now. I can live with prologic for a while. I heard the Panasonic models were top rated. What do you think? I don't want to break the bank but I want the best picture. Any suggestions?

(Ed: Picture quality differences between players is so minute that you would need carefully controlled side by side comparisons to see any differences. However, we recommend a brand that you feel comfortable with, in this case the Panasonic. Look for the lower to mid end of the scale in the lineup, you can't go wrong.)

Game to Purchase...

As a father and grandfather who has been asked to help select a computer for gaming, homework and internet for a 7 and 10 year old grandsons, I need help. Have there been reviews of systems by major suppliers which could give guidance? One major recommended a 400mhtz Pentium II with 128 Meg of RAM and a 13 gig hard drive and 40x cdrom but no sound card! Will 128 slow down a computer used in gaming over a 96 or 64? Is there merit in going to the 13 gig vs a 10 gig or smaller? My daughter says she wants to load it up with games. Can you point me in the right direction?

(Ed: A good rule of thumb is to buy the biggest and best you can afford, then watch as its price drops by fifty percent over the next months. Nothing you can do about it, it's the nature of the beast - so you might as well shell out and enjoy. Games are some of the most hardware-dependent software - and you'll definitely want a sound card unless it's already built into the computer. Generally, the larger the number of something the better - so a 400 MHZ should be faster than a 300, a 13 gig hard drive is bigger than a 10, 40x CD ROM drives are faster than 20X, and 128 Meg of RAM is more than 96. As for RAM slowing things down, the more RAM the better. And you can never have too much hard drive space - a full installation of Jedi Knight takes almost 150 meg (and a full installation runs quicker and more smoothly than partial installations that have to keep reading from the CD ROM drive).

PIP Cheerio...

On the page whoever wrote it says they don't know anyone who uses Picture in Picture a lot.   Well I do.  I use it when someone is watching something and I need to program the VCR to record something.  I use it when commercials come on and I want to watch another channel without having to flip back ever 5 seconds in case the show I was watching comes back on.  I use it while playing SOME video games, because sometimes you need to see the whole screen.  I use it to quickly scan to see if anything else is on rather than stop watching the current show and missing something that could be funny or good and end up going back to it when nothing else is on.   And the rest I use it because it is there.  See, it does have it's advantages and I love it.

(Ed: You're right, as long as you have 2 tuner PIP. Thanks for the input!)

Welcome Web Site

WOW!!!  What a site. I found your site at a search engine and I spent over an hour just the first time I looked at your site. The articles and reviews were very informative and the layout was very easy to navigate. I immediately placed the site in my bookmark list and I will be a daily visitor to your site. It is sites like these that make the Web such a pleasure. Thanks again.

(Ed: Thank you. You've verbalized exactly what we're trying to do. Thanks for noticing!)

Dealer Markup?

Gentlemen, Please advise me (and the other readers) about authorized dealers. I am going to purchase a YAMAHA RX-V 793 A/V receiver. The local merchants are seriously holding a price line on it $799 and it seems to be somewhat hard to find. A query of the advertisers in the Video-Stereo magazines  reflects many selling the unit mail order at a substantial savings (mid 500 to mid 600's). YAMAHA has warned me that they will not honor a warranty if not purchased from an authorized dealer, yet how can so many places have new units for sale that YAMAHA has not authorized. Although I am wary, I can't help but wonder if this is some marketing ploy to hold price for those few that agree to the terms set out by a manufacturer to obtain that "authorized" status. Can you shed any  unbiased light on this for us? What happens if a seller claims to be authorized, but later turns out to not be and what about the warranty then?  

(Ed: Well, we don't know about unbiased (we all have our biases), but here's a bit of an essay outlining our opinions. We're big believers in supporting local businesses, especially the little guys, whenever possible, but not of course if you're going to get screwed in the process. And we wouldn't trust a warranty the manufacturer says it won't honour. You can't blame them, really; they have relationships with dealers and they try to be fair to them - and why should they show any loyalty to someone who goes around the system? Some of these questionable dealers can get their product offshore, or from other dealers or (God forbid!) stolen goods (definitely the exception). The manufacturer should by rights stand behind the end consumer, rather than the dealer, but such is the way the system operates. They're just trying to ensure that everyone possible can win if at all possible - and they know if you deal with one of their authorized outlets you'll be well served, at least in theory. Don't forget, you get what you pay for, usually, so while you may save a few bucks (and don't forget additional shipping charges if you're dealing with a mail order outlet), you may make up for it in a lack of after sale support. Then again, these things hardly ever break down (except, strangely enough, for everything we buy!) - at least until the warranty is up anyway, in which case the point is moot.
Remember, too, if you buy from an "off dealer" and do have trouble, you can't really expect a local dealer to bail you out. It's hardly fair to them. Likewise, it isn't fair to pick one dealer's brains, waste their time, then buy it somewhere else. These people's time is money - just like yours is. You can't really blame dealers for trying to maintain their price. There's so much discounting and battling between the dealers, thanks to the "big box" places that buy in bulk and can therefore undercut their prices (but often have oafs for salespeople) that they often have to practically give the stuff away. Two of TechnoFILE's principals used to own a video store chain and got out of selling VCR's and other hardware 'cause it wasn't worth the hassle for the pittance they got out of it.
As for your last question, if you find out later that you've been hoodwinked, you may only have legal action to which you can resort - and then the only people smiling will be the lawyers, unless you get something out of the dealer via small claims court. And the warranty may, in fact, be void for the abovementioned reasons.)

Boom Times?

I listened to the sunfire sub and I have to say it's got to be the best sub I have heard its so clean.  I can't believe someone would say it's too clean.  What does too clean mean it can't be too clean.  I love it and if I had 1200 dollars I'd buy it in a heart beat.  Bob has done a beautiful job, beautiful.  You guys did a good job of reviewing it.  I havent heard bob's amp yet but I bet its a good one.

(Ed: Thanks. Too clean? Too much!)

Helping Hand...

Thank you for the website you have created.  I am buying my husband a camcorder for his birthday.  I know nothing about cameras or electronics, your information is easy to understand and complete without overdoing it. Thank you for this information.

Patching Up Differences

I read your review of the Proscan television.  In it you stated that you used "the Video Essentials" disc for setting it up.  I do not own a laserdisc or DVD player to use said disc, therefore I wondering what your final setting were. I can assume that you reduce the contast (but how far (clicks) from factory setting), you turned off auto color, and you set temperature control to warm. Beyond that, I am clueless.  If you could give any idea I would be thankful.

(Ed: Rent the DVD or Laserdisc player and the appropriate disc and find out how to do it yourself. Get to know your TV. You won't regret it.)

Priceless Praise

Thanks for your very informative webpage!! The only thing missing from some of your product listings is the price - that would be helpful. Also a list of distributors of the above-mentioned products would be helpful.

(Ed: You're right about our lack of pricing and distributors. We've deliberately avoided it because our audience is global and it's hard to put a price on something that everyone can understand. However, we're rethinking this position and will probably add more prices, using US and/or Canadian dollars. As for the other, the reason's basically the same: most of these companies have various distributors around the world, and we don't necessarily know who or where they are. Most of them can be found via the manufacturers' web sites, though.)

Remote Locations

I just finished reading your guide to remote controls web site. Great informative site! I'm looking for a learning universal remote. Preferably one with a touch screen LCD like the one mentioned in on your site. Can you give me a list of manufacturers that make these type of remotes? Do they have a web site I can visit?

(Ed: The companies that make these remote are: Marantz, Cambridge, Universal, Rotel (same as Cambridge), Lexicon. Just do a search under any of the names on the web. We're not sure if all these companies are on the web.)

Off Bass Request...

My system consists of NHT 2.5 speakers,Transparent music wave cables and interconnects, Acurus A100 amp and RL11 preamp, Onkyo disc player, and NAD tuner. I've always thought the acoustics in the room were challenging: wood floors, large room, alot of tile. Overall, I'm very satisfied with this system. Maybe I'm just a bass hog, but what do you think stepping up to the Acurus A150 would do for me? Do you think the room confines me acoustically to the point that more amperage would offer limited benefits?

(Ed: Room acoustics have a lot in common in terms of the sound you are going to achieve. Usually with a lot of reflective material such as wood floors, tiles etc. bass will be a little harder for produce. You could look at adding acoustic material that can absord some of that reflection but that is not always ergonomically possible. You could increase power amplification but going from 100 watts to 150 watts per channel is not going to be that significant of a change. You may want to look at the Acurus A200 by at least doubling power output which could give you some added punch to the NHT 2.5. I think the best way around your problem is to look at adding a subwoofer that can produce accurate bass. Look at Velodyne, B&W or even M&K. Let the subwoofer do all the heavy work in producing bass and let your NHTs to all the highs and midrange work. I think you will benefit immensely.)

Making Tough Choices...

Thanks for the article on Buying Camcorders, however I am interested in the value of purchasing an extended warranty. Typically these range for about $100 US for 4 to 5 years - Is it worth it? Are there hidden things in these contracts I should look for? Thanks in Advance

(Ed: If you are looking for extended warranties I would try to get the actual manufacturer's warranty. Sony, for example, offers extended warranties on their products which is backed only by them and not a third party. If you do decide on a third party warranty make sure that you are covered even if the company goes out of business. Ensure that you are also covered in terms of parts and labour. Some will only cover parts after a certain period. Be careful of any pro-rated statements in the clauses. Check to make sure if the warranty can be transferred if you decide to sell your item. Also if you have bought large items such as big screen T.V.s, is there in home service offered? Extended warranties aren't necessarily a bad idea and should be applied to items which have a lot of moving and delicate parts, i.e. camcorder, VCRS etc. Just read the fine print.)

PIP No Show...

I am having a problem with the correct hookup for PIP. When I press PIP the small picture does appear, but the channels do not change. I have searched the web, but have found no help on how to correctly hookup my equipment. I am hoping that maybe you can provide assisance, or point me in the correct direction...
I have a: RCA DSS The s-video is connected to TV (RCA ProScan) S-video The ant out is connected to VCR (Sanyo Stereo) One video is connected to TV video. One audio L & R is connected to TV Audio L & R. The other video is connected to VCR video, The other audio L & R is connected to VCR Audio L & R The VCR ant out is connected to the TV ant in. The above connection was recommended in the installation manual for my DSS....
The installation manual for the RCA ProScan is not specific for PIP installation. (FYI---I have another VCR that I want to connect, but I'm not sure on how it should be connected. I have a surround sound receiver... I have the DSS going in to the Laser Disk jacks on the receiver... the the VCR1 audio (on the receiver) is connected to the VCR. Any information would be greatly appreciated...

(Ed: From what I can gather you have a one tuner PIP TV. In order for this to operate you need the VCR to act as the second tuner. This means that you will need to hook the VCR into your video inputs on the ProScan, though from what you indicate this may already be done. To change channels in the PIP box, you will need to change channels on the VCR to change the PIP. Do make sure that your PIP function is set to the proper video input in which you hooked up the VCR. (i.e. video 1 or video 2 etc.). You can do this with the DSS as well as long as you specify the correct input on the PIP function.)

Harsh Reality...

I was wondering if you could tell me if there was anything that could be done to eliminate the harshness of the sound of CD players. I have good home and car stereo units, but I find myself turning the treble down all the way every time I listen to a CD, whether at home or on the road. Since I am an electronics student, is there any way I can modify the circuits in either player so I don't have to turn the treble to minus 5 billion? The shrill sound nearly rips me in two. Help!!

(Ed: Obviously your ears would prefer the analog world of LPs and tapes. Have you tried an equalizer in both car and home and try to tailor the top end to something listenable? The only way to smooth out the top end would be in the D/A converter of the CD player. You can do this by adding a separate D/A converter to you CD player if it has a coax or optical out. This is fine for the home but the car is a different matter.)

Switching Allegiance

I own four year old Sony cassette audio tape deck which has three heads so I can monitor what is being recorded. This tape deck did not come with remote but has remote capability. I have recently bought Yamaha receiver with learning remote and also have a home theatre television with universal remote. I can operate most of the functions of audio tape deck with these remotes. I will like to do tape/source switching from remote control which I am unable to do. I want to know if Sony makes a remote control which has this capability.

(Ed: The only remote that may have this capability is Sony's RMAV1100. It is a rather sophisticated remote which is truly a home theatre, A/V remote. The last price we have is $375 Canadian. This may be overkill for what you wish to do.)

Speaker Seeker:

I'm seeking some advice on using my tv speakers as the center speaker of a surround system. I just purchased a RX-V992. I also have a Sony 32XBR45. The XBR can be used a the center speaker of a surround system. As a speaker system is last of my upgrades, perhaps a year away, I'm wondering if I can use the XBR as a center speaker with the 992 without fear of hurting the Sony's speakers - if I'm careful.
The performance of the two suggest not: The XBR speaker is rated 16 W (normal), 16 ohms 30 W (max) while the 992 is 8 ohm, 80 W normal, but can be limited to 4 ohms. This tells me no, but when the XBR is set to center speaker, the audio through the tv can be set variable. I'm assuming this will allow me control the output to the XBR's speakers over the 992's output, keeping the volume levels low to the tv.
I'm not looking to "rock the house," rather just watch a movie at reasonable levels while utilizing the full pro logic or dolby digital capabilities. My technical skills are not enough for me to know if, even at low volume levels, damage can be done to a speaker. And, I certainly don't want to blow-up the tv. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

(Ed: You shouldn't run into any problems running the XBR this way, even though the specification seems to suggest otherwise. You may find that the sound level from the XBR may be somewhat lower than that of the main speakers, impairing the center channel sound quality somewhat. The ideal situation is to match the center speaker (same brand) with that of the main speakers. However, in a pinch the XBR will suffice until you are ready to purchase a center speaker. You will have to watch not to overdrive the XBR speakers and use your Dolby mode setting on the Yamaha to "normal". This way the lower frequencies will only be produced by your main speakers therefore taking off the strain on the T.V. Good luck!)

What's my Lines?

Many of the TV ads boast about the number of lines of resolution that their TV set has. I realize that the TV's maximum exceeds the input sources but I am not sure how many lines each of the various sources (Digital TV, DVD, VCR, regular TV, Lasedisc) can produce. Somebody told me that the new satellite dishes can produce 600 lines. Can you advise me on how many lines each of these sources produce. Thank-you .

(Ed: Generally the lines of resolution for the following formats are: -Digital T.V.- This format is still being standardized since the computer manufacturers are interested in this system which has to be compatible with the industry. At this time there is no set of specs that we can relay to you. However it will run short of the proposed HDTV standard of 1125 lines.-VCR- Typically your looking at 240 lines. -T.V.- On a live broadcast from a local station about 300 lines. -L.D.- This is in the range of 425 lines. -DVD-Depending on the player it ranges from 480-500 lines.)

Now We've Heard Everything...

Hey guys do u think u can pirate Master of the Orion for me cuz I really like the game and my friend doesn't want to lend it to me. I know u guys are all like piracy sucks and say no to piracy but I really want tha game so pleaze I beg of u pleaze! E-mail me back as soon as possible!

(Ed: Yeah, right! Just buy the product, you cheap so-and-so. Geez!)

PIP Squeak?

I'm a computer programmer/consultant working with a disabled child using an eye tracking computer system. He's 1000 miles away and I need to diagnose system problems, for which I need time correlated video of his eye and his computer screen, along with data from the program I wrote for the system. The eye image is already captured by the equipment and fed to a small black and white monitor; from what I've been told, it is not carrier modulated, so it's not on a TV channel but is rather a straight video signal. The screen video need not be high quality, so they can point a camcorder at the screen and it will be good enough for my purposes. The problem is to correllate what his eye is doing with where the calibration sprite is on the computer screen. I thought about simply using a time stamp device like is used by neurologists for video EEGs, but picture in picture is a more elegant solution. Even two images superimposed would be OK as long as I can make out major features of each (in the eye image, the dark pupil and a bright spot where a light source reflects off the eye; on the computer screen, the location of a moving asterisk character). A VCR with picture in picture is the ideal solution because of simple connection. They just put a splitter on the eye image monitor to feed one VCR input, and run the camcorder into the other. What do you suggest?

(Ed: The only VCR to date that has the PIP feature is from Sony's old beta lineup, the SLHF860D. This model was discontinued over the last three years and may be difficult to get as a new unit. You may have to resort to a second hand beta. In terms of VHS you will have to look at discontinued units from perhaps Toshiba, JVC or RCA. I would guess you would have to look back to 1989-1992 when PIP technology was the new thing. Unfortunately we're unable to give the various model numbers from these companies. Bear in mind that one signal would have to be a composite input signal and the other a RF signal for the PIP in the VCR to work. Had you also thought about utilizing another camera to do this?)

Making Degrade...

I am in the market for a new camcorder, still trying to decide which format. Just found your (how to buy a camcorder) site and I thought it was just great and learned alot. However, I do have a question for you. I have lots of recorded regular VHS tapes and I had heard that over time these tapes will degrade and it is a good idea to copy your tapes, especially ones that you really want to keep forever(you know, kids and family stuff). My question is their any difference between 8mm and VHS tapes in regards to degradation over time? Thanks for your help.

(Ed: Any tape will degrade over time; it's the nature of the beast. Format shouldn't really matter in this, since the tape inside the cassette is pretty similar except for size. Higher grade tape should be more satisfying. However, we have tapes that were bought in the dawn of home vidoe and are now nearly 20 years old. They've defintely degraded, but they're still watchable. Dubbing them isn't a bad idea, but remember that each time you do that you'll lose some quality too. If you're really serious about archiving your stuff, we'd suggest going all the way to digital storage with a digital VCR. The tape may still degrade over time, but at least you'll be able to make perfect copies to back them up periodically. It's an expensive route, though!)

Projection Question...

Thank you for the information on large screen TV in the buyers guide. Contrary to usual technical reviews, it provides in simple terms useful tips to shop for a TV, with the focus put on what matters. I understand that the ultimate test is my eye but I would like to know if you made a comparative test on retroprojection TV on sale in the market. This would help me in doing the first screening for my purchase.

(Ed: We assume you mean rear projection TV's. We haven't done many comparative tests (we don't like 'em because they put an inflated value on our opinions and - as you point out - we think you should be relying on your own smarts. After all, just because a product happens to be our favourite doesn't mean a different one won't be better for you. The whole point behind our buying guides is to help give you enough pertinent information to go out and make up your own mind, unfettered by what we, other magazines, or the salespeople may say. 'Cause it's you who has to live with the product, not us.)

Ohm is where the Heart is...

I'm interrested in buying some MMGs from Magneplaner. The rating on these speakers are 4 ohms. I just purchased a receiver called the Sony STRG3 rated for 4 or 8 ohm speakers, I wanted to know if rated at 100watts x3, 8ohms and 50 x2,8ohms would be enough. I don't know how to figure the watts into 4 ohms? The magneplaner advertisement recommends wattage ratings from 70-150 watts. Will this receiver I just purchased drive these speakers and sound crisp? Also I have a bose 101 center chanel, Is it ok to mix brands?, It's also rated at 4 to 8 ohms.

(Ed: All in all there should be no problem and the amplifier will be more than adequate to run MMGs. We do recommend to try to match the center channel with Magnapan's MGCC1 to give a more stable and balanced sound field, although for now the Bose 101 will do the trick in a pinch. Don't forget to switch the STRG3 into the four ohm setting.)

Speakers Corner...

Someone offered to me a pair of loudspeakers. I didn't find these speakers in the net and my hifi-dealer doesn't know it either. The speakers are manufactured by Audio Technoloy (AT) in Fullerton, USA and the product description is Linear Phase 8810 Studio Monitor. Do you happen to know these loudspeakers? If yes, are they any good and how much are they worth?

(Ed: Our feeling is if there is any doubt, don't buy it! We have never heard of the name and they seem similar to the speakers that are frequently offered to the public from the back of Vans. Watch it! Stick to name brand products that offer full warranties. You could try to phone the company and see if they are legitimate but we recommend "caveat emptor".)


I just finished reading your article on the top-of-the-line Panasonic DVD player, and you guys aren't playing around! I have the A300, and the machine is absolutely incredible. I was convinced, as you were, that DVD is truly the next generation of video equipment. One thing that's unfortunate, though -- the titles aren't as readily available here as one might like. I can get a few at Suncoast, but the selection is a tad limited. Is there a place to mail order the discs or a different store I could try?

(Ed: Ken Crane's in the greater Los Angeles area is getting into DVD big time. Their web site is at

Buyer's Remorse...

It seems like you have helped alot of people with their questions, hopefully you can give me some advice. I just bought a 27" Samsung T.V. for a decent price. (I chose it over a Sharp mostly because of price, but also because of color and sound. However, after reviewing Consumer Reports 1997 Audio & Electronics book, I find that among readers, Samsung is the WORST brand in terms of service problems!!!!!!!! Do you think I should take it back and get the Sharp (which was rated favorably by Consumer Reports.) I know you don't like to play favorites or state choices among brands, but your advice would be most appreciated.

(Ed: Our advice would be that, just because Consumer Reports says your TV isn't the best doesn't mean you're going to have trouble with it and that you won't be happy with it. You may have trouble taking it back if there's nothing wrong with it - though some places give you a window in which you can do that. If you're that spooked by Consumer Reports that you're uncomfortable with your purchase you should probably try to change it. However, if you're happy with the TV, except for a feeling of unease, then why bother? It may serve you well; if it doesn't make sure the dealer and manufacturer abide by the warranty and if they don't, scream blue murder loudly enough for other customers to hear. Of course the downside to that is the time and hassle you'll go through if your TV goes down. So there's really no easy answer - except to say that next time perhaps you should check out the Consumer Reports book before you buy.)

Jogging our Memory...

I am looking for an 8mm VCR with a Jog shuttle. The shuttle can be either on the VCR or the remote. Any leads???

(Ed: Try looking at the Sony EVS7000 or the EVS5000 both have the jog shuttle feature you're looking for.)


Thanks for your nice guide on buying a camcorder! I'm a complete novice and I feel somewhat more prepared to plunk down $500 - $800 after reading your guide. Keep up the good work!

This site is awesome! Particularly the writer of pages ie, the commentary - funny, intuitive, and sounds like a real wise ass....I love it :)

(Ed: Thanks for the kind words. You've captured our attitude very well... Glad you enjoy our product. Hope you'll come back again often! And our resident wise ass thanks you, too.)

Widescreen Blues...

Can you tell me why letter box/widescreen format is not standard for VHS releases like it is for Lasers Discs? While letterbox editions are becoming more available, they are definitely not always an option. I am currently in the market for a new VCR and have enjoyed your informative articles on VHS vs. S-VHS.

(Ed: Thanks. There's no reason VHS movies can't all be released widescreen. We think the only reason they didn't do it earlier is that they never thought of it. They're probably concerned about the reaction to the "tiny little screen" you get from letterboxing. We've had endless arguments over the years about how, rather than losing picture with the widescreen you're actually getting more. Some people seem unwilling to make the leap from square to rectangular.  DVD could solve this once and for all: many of the ones we've reviewed give you both versions on the same disc. Finally! Unfortunately, they aren't all made this way; we've seen a couple of pan and scan only DVD's and a few widescreen only titles as well.)

Camcorders & Kudos...

Your (how to buy a camcorder) site is objective and clear and very informative thank you for such a site. These sort of pages are kind of a rare thing.

Thanks very much for the informative page on Camcorders. The information was useful as I am about to start shopping for one

(Ed: We try to be the "info publication for the rest of us" and leave all the technical nuts and bolts to the techies and hobbyists. Glad you like it. Hope you'll come back often, and please tell your friends.)

What is a PAL camcorder?

(Ed: We assume you don't mean one that's a good friend... PAL is a video standard used mostly in Europe. In North America and Japan, the TV standard is 'NTSC' (which some say means "never twice the same colour"!). There's also "SECAM." Unfortunately, they're all incompatible. You can get the tapes transformed from one standard to another, but it'll cost you $$ at a local technical house.)

FrontPage News...

Hi. Found the article on MS FrontPage interesting and informative. I purchased the package and I am having a problem. On installation, it seems to act like its on a network and of course, it's not. When I try to load a page it seems to look for a "port 80" which I understand is a default. I can't seem to figure out how to get it to point at my machine. Any ideas? I suppose I could ask MS but you sound like you have a pretty good handle on it. I even reinstalled it, waiting for an option for the port 80 thing but I didn't see it. Thanks.

(Ed: Are you running the personal web server before you load FrontPage? We've made the mistake of forgetting to do that (more often than we'd care to admit) and it gives that message as well. You can set the web server to load automatically with Windows, but we don't do that 'cause it seems like a waste of RAM to have it sitting there when you're not using it.)

Super Questions...

I am trying to decide which flavor of VCR to purchase -- VHS or S-VHS. I've got a couple of questions that you may be able to help me with. 1. If I do purchase a S-VHS VCR can programs recorded on it be viewed by a VHS VCR? If so, what is the picture degredation? 2. Do you suffer any resolution problems with playing VHS tapes on a S-VHS unit? 3. I own a Sony 32" TV that is 3 yrs old, any issues with resolution? 4. If the rest of my system is Sony should I stick with Sony? JVC is looking pretty good both from a VHS and S-VHS point of view. Thanks and sorry for all the questions!!

(Ed: Our favourite is S-VHS - and if you record on standard VHS tapes you can play them back on regular VHS units (some - like the ProScan model we reviewed - will even play back S-VHS tapes, though they're not supposed to). Of course they'll only play back on regular VHS to the limit of that format's capabilities. Playing regular VHS on an S-VHS deck is just like using a VHS deck. As for your Sony - you'll appreciate the higher resolution of S-VHS for recording from TV; the picture really is superior. You just won't be able to let your friends play your tapes on their non S-VHS decks (excepting the above caveats). Brand names don't matter as long as you get good quality - and JVC makes some nice stuff (though Sony's S-VHS deck is a beaut, too). Buy based on quality (and both your choices are good), but more importantly on features, ease of use, and price. Hope this helps

Speakers Coroner...

Can you please tell me what materials are used to shield the magnetic field. Is it readily available on the common market and what companies sell this product. If possible, can you please tell me how this procedure is done. Thank you for your time.

(Ed: Speaker shielding generally involves placing a metal cap over the speaker's magnet. Any metal material will basically do, however to make the cap fit is another matter. Once could also line the speaker box with a metal sheet or tin. Caping the magnet is the most effective. We know of no direct manufacturers dealing with this item. I would suggest checking out the neighborhood electronics outlet that sells componentry such as resistors, capacitors, drivers etc. Hope this helps!)

TV or not TV?

One question that never seems to get answered in buying guides or reviews of specific models is the question of longevity. Will a more expensive unit generally last longer than a less expensive unit? Will a more expensive unit keep its picture quality longer? PS I just found your site and I think its great!

(Ed: Thanks for your kind words. There are no guarantees in life (just warrantys!), but a rule of thumb is that a higher end product will last longer - and be better built - than a low end or no name brand unit. Ditto for picture quality. This is why you should always buy the best that you can afford - then hope for the best!)

Hard Drivin' Man...

I would like to share an experience I had with my computer on one of my business trips. Many times people complain about bad products but don't advocate ones that are helpful. I had to take my CPU on a plane just to have my C:drive at another office in another state. The idiots at the security check made me partially dissassemble it to see if it was a bomb.(It was very obvious it was a computer...) Consequently it would not work when I arrived. After this incident I looked everywhere for a real hard drive I could simply eject from my machine and plug in somewhere else... I had read an article in Oakland about a lady who had a import-export business which burned down and how she had taken her computer all melted down in a cardboard box to a data recovery company which was able to recover most of her business data from her hard I was determined to find a REAL removable hard drive. I think I found the solution.. I now have a removable, bootable, hard drive and can put it in my shirt pocket to travel. I remember once...very perplexed...why can't I just push a button and eject my hard drive and put another one in?? Now I can and its not a facsimile like iomega or syquest its a real 2.5" toshiba drive. This one item has made business travel a lot less hectic.

(Ed: Thanks for the tip. Product information is available at

Printer Frustration

Re: your inkjet printer review. If you were to, say, compare the Epson Stylus 500 with another printer, then it would be much more useful for me if you compared it with the Canon BJC 4100 or 4200 and also against the HP DeskJet 690. These printers that I have mentioned are all in the same class, with one exception, that Epson doesn't offer a photo-kit, but will instead offer the Stylus 600 with 1400x? resolution. Your review doesn't help me out much. Frustrated.

(Ed: You're right about the three printers being in different classes; that was the point of the review - we wanted to give a representative sample of what's available. As you've undoubtedly discovered, most comparable brands/models/prices are fairly similar - give or take a feature here and there - and there are lots of other publications that do head to head comparisons. We try to be different. I agree that our article doesn't help you much, but it'll help someone who doesn't even know what's out there by giving them a place to start and telling them the type of features they can expect in each price range. And that was its purpose.)

Wire You Worried?

I am building a new home and am confused about wiring. I would like to have the ability to plan for the future. It seems that there is no clear standard for electronic homes, telephone, tv wiring etc. I would like to be able to just prewire and add later. Any suggestions?

(Ed: It depends if there is wiring code to follow in your area. i.e. wiring required to be run through conduit? You're best to follow the electrical code. As for planning for the future it depends what you want to do. i.e. if you want to be able to provide sound in all the rooms you're best to prewire the areas so that you can have access later. Don't forget to add a decent switching box to accomodate the rooms.)

Severe hang-ups...

Re: the AT&T 5552 Cordless Speakerphone, intermittent problem. Just put the handset back on the base. In my experience the "dead" state comes from the handset and base losing contact (one or the other has forgotten which of the 10 channels they were talking on). Setting the handset on the base allows them to get back in synch.

(Ed: thanks for the info. It works!)

Windows Pains...

Will programs that run on Windows 3.1 run on Windows 3.11?

(Ed: Programs that run on Windows 3.1 generally run on 3.11 as well. It's when they make the leap to 32 bits that they usually run into trouble - in that 32 bit programs have a real problem when asked to slum on a 16 bit system.)

Ugly Fat Deposits....

I have a 120mb hard drive if I try to install DOS I cannot bootup unless I use a sys disk in drive a. The first three FATS are unreadable. Would your PartitionMagic software correct this problem?

(Ed: We're not the PartitionMagic people, we just reviewed it, but if you can get access to your hard drive, all you have to do is type "sys c:" and it'll transfer the system files from the floppy. Otherwise, it sounds like the problem is more serious - like more than one primary partition. You need to make one of them active. PartitionMagic, or FDISK, will do that. FDISK is free, included in the price of DOS or Windows 95.)

I need some help. Look, I erased a partition on my hard disk and then when I ran Norton Disk Doctor it prompted me about the partition info.. I clicked on OK and now every time I start Disk Doctor it starts but never ends.. it keeps running forever. The disk is on activity but nothing happens. The first time I just let Disk Doctor running about 15 minutes and then it started checking my disk as usual. But now it lasts longer.The other components just work fine. Do you have any ideas about what is happening?.. I tried reinstalling it and even formatting my disk again. Please help me...and thanks for your time.

(Ed: Yikes! We don't know what's happening with your system, either, but it doesn't sound like a pleasant experience! We'd suggest you contact the Norton people at and ask their tech support people.)

Unrecognized Characters...

Our school recently purchased a 4p scanner and we are having no luck at all with our OCR software. We are scanning text that was printed on an Okidata 810e printer and it will not read in fact it won't even scan legibly. Do you have any suggestions or how to find the proper help please let me know I would appreciate it.

(Ed: We found that the OCR worked very well - as long as the text is clean and legible. If text is less than wonderful, however, it's probably quicker just to retype! For your problem, we'd suggest contacting HP's customer service. Their Web site is By the way, we'll be reviewing the replacement for the 4p soon. Stay tuned.)

Camcorder Conundrum...

Are camcorders based on a particular TV format ie NTSC or PAL ? The reason I ask is that I want to buy a camcorder that can be used in both North America and Europe.

(Ed: Yes, camcorders are NTSC, PAL, etc. However, that doesn't mean they won't work in other areas of the world, just that you may have trouble recharging the battery (you can buy, or sometimes rent, adapters for that, though) and you won't be able to play them back through your TV until you get home. But as long as you have enough battery power you'll be able to shoot to your heart's content (and watch it back through the viewfinder). Ask your local dealer about a power adapter - or check the yellow pages for someone who deals in such accessories. Good luck, and have a nice trip.)

Wired for Sony...

I enjoyed your recent article on the great Sony 20" monitor but what I still completely don't understand is why anyone can tolerate the 2 dampening wires. My understanding is that even their .25 dot pitch screens have that flaw on smaller screens. Have you looked at other "high end" monitors, e.g. Naneo? Even if other brands are more expensive than Sony, is Sony still the best? I'm new to computing & am planning my first system, so please pardon my naive questions. I have yet to do my own legwork & am relying on reviews so far, but I just don't understand how those two lines could be acceptable for critical viewers. I'd enjoy reading a follow-up article by you covering a high-end 20" monitor brand comparison review, such as covered in Boot #5 magazine currently. In fact, I think consumers generally might really value that sort of review on a frequent basis in the computer section. Thanks for your work

(Ed: We have to admit that we'd rather that damn wire wasn't there, but we're such fans of Sony's TV's and monitors that, as the author said in the review, he'd rather live with it than without a Sony. Just his opinion, of course. And, yes, even their smaller monitors have this wire. But you know, after a while, you don't really see it any more (nice rationalization, eh?) We'd love to look at/compare other monitors and when we can arrange to get 'em here we will.)

Unplanned Obsolescence:

I have an old Pioneer industrial LD player (LD-V4200) that I got for free from work, but I have a question that maybe you can help me with, or point me to the right source for the answer. I have the audio/video outs of the player connected to the aux inputs of my VCR. I don't have an A/V receiver capable of decoding Dolby Surround, I just have two speakers connected to a regualar 2-channel receiver. My problem lies with the sound produced from the laser discs. When I play a disc encoded with just Dolby surround, the sound isn't too bad, but in the right speaker I can hear an occasional popping or crackling sound. This may be a problem with the player itself. But the major problem I'm having is when I try to play AC-3 encoded discs. All I get from the right channel is a constant screeching noise. The question I have is this. Do I need to buy a separate Dolby decoder or receiver to play these AC-3 discs in plain old stereo, or does the problem lie with the LD player itself? Thank you very much for any help that you may be able to give.

(Ed: It sounds like your problem is technological obsolescence, unfortunately. Your old industrial player clearly doesn't have digital audio capability, and this is where your problem arises. The popping and crackling from regular discs could be anything from dirt in the unit to flaws on the disc. But the AC-3 problem is far more serious. You see, in order to get the stereo surround channels of AC-3 (as opposed to the mono surround channel of regular Dolby Pro-Logic), something had to give - so they use one of the old analogue tracks to pick up the slack the AC-3 system needs. If your machine had digital audio capability, you'd never hear the screeching unless you were specifically listening to the analogue tracks (and why would you, when you can listen to the digital ones!) So the problem is with your player, unfortunately, and you'll have the same problem with all AC-3 discs, which is probably not what you wanted to hear. Time to toss it and get a newer one - or live with it until there's a decent selection of DVD titles available, then convert to that format. Sorry!)

Help Wanted.

I am looking for a new T.V. and V.C.R. Your site is helpful, but I am looking for brand name ratings. Magnavox are generally crappy. Zenith is usually good. Stuff like that. Thanks for the info!

(Ed: We deliberately try to stay away from pitting brand against brand 'cause in our experience no one can ever agree on them anyway - besides, it's not important which brands we like, what's important is that you can make a decision for what's best for you. All of the major brands are good, in our opinion, especially the Japanese-built sets - though everyone makes an occasional stinker. Most important to consider is picture quality and ease of use (is the remote well laid out, the set easy to program etc.). Picture quality is very subjective, though, and is something you can only decide for yourself. Try to watch something with which you're familiar (a favourite tape or disc) and when you've narrowed it down to a couple of sets look for the best deal, warranty, etc. The salesperson can have a lot to do with it, too - especially if he's helpful and knowledgeable (so many aren't!). But don't be talked into a set you don't like just 'cause it's what the salesperson wants to sell you - it's your money and you have to live with it. Trust your own judgement - and only use salespeople, media, etc. as limited guidance.Hope this helps a bit! Check out our TV buying guide for more info.)

Tape Talk

Are there any differences between blank VHS-C cassettes bought in Europe and those bought in the USA? Can I buy blank tapes in Europe and use them in a VHS-C camcorder brought from the US?

(Ed: The tapes are the same, though the times they run are apparently a little different. The bottom line is you should have no trouble with the tapes bought in Europe.Good luck and happy shooting.)

Capturing your Image...

Enjoyed reading your information on camcorders. Would like to know what is available right now to work with computers. You know, plugging in to play right off the PC instead of having to use a Snappy. Is there such an animal?

(Ed: We're not sure if you want to get video pictures into the computer or computer images out to the camcorder, but either way would suggest you check out a local computer dealer (it's hard to recommend a place when we don't know where you live - the WWW is a big place!) and see what's available in video capture boards, like the ATI All-In-Wonder/Pro we review here. Depending on how much you want to spend, you can do a lot of neat things these days - and you should be able to find something that'll fit your needs. You can, indeed, hook a camcorder into your PC if you have the right peripherals.)

Learning the Ropes

Could you please send me some information on where to find learning remotes i.e. brand names, where to buy, web pages, anything. I've searched night and day but can't find didly!

(We're not familiar with that, er, brand name, and we assume you read the stuff in our publication, so would suggest that the best way to find more learning remote info would be to check your local market and see what's available there. That way you can actually handle the things and see how they feel, how easy they are to use, etc. There's no substitute for hands on "learning." )

Hung up on Phones

Is the lowest level 900 MHz phone going to have better sound quality than the best of the "conventional" cordless phones?

(Yes, the bottom-end 900 MHz phone will outperform a top end conventional cordless. That's why they charge whatever the traffic will bear.)

Well, Excuuuuuuze Us!

I was interested in this column about Corel's office suite until I read what a good "bang for the buck" it was. This disgusting expression means what a good screw someone got for their money with a prostitute. It has no place in journalism and turned me off so much I didn't finish the article. I don't want to read this kind of juvenile testosterone-filled rubbish. Make your articles able to be read by men and women without dragging in completely irrelevant issues. Women don't want to be forced to think about things like this. I suppose you are one of those men that cannot possibly understand the female experience - too bad you're the loser. But others on your staff can and they may be able to explain to you what this is all about.

(Ed: You know, we never made the connection between "bang for the buck," which many people use to denote good value for the dollar (probably handy when you're buying explosives or ammunition, too), and the dirty little meaning you assigned it. Guess you're glad we didn't suggest people run out and blow their wad on the product! Have a nice life!)

Planned Obsolescence?

I am in the market for a new T.V. A TV lasts about 10 years, so anything I buy now may have to take into account new video players like DVD. What kind of horizontal resolution will these players offer? I am looking for a 30 to 32 inch TV, either Panasonic GAOO or Sony Trinitron but I am wondering if I need to think about tv's with 600 or 700 lines. Is there some other factor that I need to consider? Thanks in advance for your time

(Ed: Most good TV's these days should do a good job with DVD. You mentioned the GAOO and the Sony (their XBR is spectacular), both of which will offer plenty of horizontal resolution. DVD is supposed to offer 600 lines, but it's also supposed to come with a component video output, and we don't believe any TV's offer that yet. It may not be a big deal, though, since an "S-Connector" is said to offer a better picture from S-VHS or laserdiscs (and maybe it does), but we've never noticed enough of a difference to warrant paying any extra for it, unless you're looking for a high end system.)

Videos to Vomit By?

I enjoyed your commentaries on products - very readable. Actually managed to read the ENTIRE page on vacation videos, even though I have been doing wedding and special event videos about 12 years. You said it well. May I borrow your commentary to give to people who ask for advice? They also like to bounce around and are believers in "cinema verite". (BARF!) I will never again loan my camera to a relative so that I can be in a shot. A tripod can shoot a much better shot. And you missed the monopod for traveling - a very handy item once you get used to it - and cheaper. ($40-$45).All in all, the parts I read were most enjoyable. Thanks for something a bit different. You are now bookmark!

(Ed: Thanks for writing, and for your kind comments. Go ahead and use the commentary, but please give us proper credit for it, and please steer people in the direction of TechnoFILE. Any other suggestions/comments re: the magazine are always welcome. We're trying to keep it different, down to earth, and relevant (and perhaps one day we'll succeed!), and reader feedback is important. Also feel free to suggest column ideas.)

Faxing Poetic

Just read the (review) on WinFax Pro and it sounds great but there's still something missing that either I don't know about, can't find or it just isn't there. I know you can receive a fax and add to it, annotate it etc. but can I open the fax in a word processing program such as Corel WordPerfect? And, then can I format it, add graphics and anything else that's possible within that program? I do a lot of work for clients that write long contracts and agreements and up till now I have received this work via my stand alone fax and then had to re-enter it into WP and go from there. It would be so wonderful if I could receive these documents as a fax and then export it into WordPerfect.
Is this a feature I've missed or is it not possible. Thanks for your help.

(Ed: What you're seeking is OCR software (Optical Character Recognition), which often comes with scanners and fax software. WinFax Pro 7 (and version 4 as well) comes with a good OCR program which turns the fax image back into editable text, and you can even set WinFax up to automatically load your word processor when the OCR'ing is finished. OCR isn't the fountain of youth - the quality of its work depends a lot on the quality of the fax received. However, with a nice, clean fax, it'll turn the re-typing process into only an editing and, possibly, re-formatting exercise. And let's face it, even a ten per cent reduction in your re-typing is worthwhile, right? OCR software is also available separately, but they want an arm and a leg for it usually. And the OCR in WinFax, as mentioned, does a good job.)

Power Play

I just bought a Sharp Viewcam VLE-49U and I am interested in buying additional longer-life batteries but I am not sure what products are available. The unit comes with one 1500mAh Ni-Cad battery which lasts about 30 minutes or so. Sharp sells other Ni-Cad batteries that last a little bit longer but because they are Ni-Cad they are limited by "memory" effects. They also sell a 2400mAh Nickel-Metal-Hydride battery which supposedly does not have "memory" effects and lasts considerably longer, however it costs $90. I would really like to know if any other companies sell compatible batteries for less, especially the Nickel-Metal-Hydride ones. I also would be very interested in larger battery packs you can wear on your waist for long-term recording. I am new to the videocamera circles and consequently my knowledge in this area is rather limited. Are you familiar with Viewcam batteries and can tell me what my options are? I'd really appreciate all the help I can get with this problem.

(Ed: Our resident battery expert (and more power to him!) recommends you stick with the name brand. He's familiar with some of the bargain priced ones and says you definitely get what you pay for. Also, while the Nickel-Metal-Hydride is expensive, it's also very good. However, why not just get a couple of extra Ni-Cads and a "refresher" that will completely drain the battery for you. The memory effect is only a problem if you don't drain the battery completely, so if you have a couple of charged spares ready you can safely drain the one you're using and you should be able to forget about memory. To be safe, the refresher will come in handy to make sure the batteries are drained. Your Sharp dealer should be able to help you on both accounts. As for a "fanny pack" or the like, that's okay, but the Viewcam batteries are small enough that you can stick a couple of extra ones into your pocket and not worry about it. Of course, this all depends on how long you'll be shooting, but if it's mostly consumer or family stuff, a couple of extra cells should do the job.)

Here's what we love to hear!

I found you through Yahoo. I was searching for information on buying stereo equipment and yours was one of the references that turned up. By the way, the information was very helpful. It was simple enough that a neophyte like me could understand it. I'm replacing equipment that almost twenty years old, so, to say the least, the world has changed.

(Ed: thanks for the nice words. Yes, stuff has changed - and it's only going to change more quickly in the future. We'll try to help you sort through the hype.)

Watering at the Mouth

I really enjoyed your dialogue about your BM experiences. We are just getting the urge and the many brand names leave us a little up in the air. No one really gives out model numbers and their opinion of the same. You should get Panasonic to let you field test the latest model and give us a report on it.

(Ed: we're working on exactly that right now, so keep coming back. By the way, we assume you mean "Bread Makers" when you say BM, instead of a more medical and less tasty term…)

Going, and Going, and Going

Just want to know whether the original batteries supplied with the camera, Ni-Cad type can be replace with other "no name" brands. I came across another type of battery for VL-H420U model. It is a Ni-Metal Hydride type which has no memory effect unlike the Ni-Cad ones. Is it safe to use a non-original equipment battery? Thanks for the advice.

(Ed: It shouldn't be a problem, as long as you ensure it's the proper fit. Some replacements, like Ni-Metal, can be expensive, but as you point out, they'll get you around that silly memory effect. If you're in doubt, check with the manufacturer - remembering of course that they'll want to sell you their replacement equipment!)

Unwarrantied Interference?

(…in your article on ) buying audio/video gear, you stated that extended warranties, or service plans are not a good value. I've been in the A/V business for about 5 years now and in the last 2 years have had customers time and time again thank me for insisting that they buy our extended service plan from us. The average big screen repair is about $175.00 (US) and for $399.99 (US) you are covered for five years. That's including yearly convergence, cleaning, and check up, and if any thing goes wrong with it - say remote, power supply, gun - you're still covered. I work at (store name) as a sales counselor and find service plans used regularly on big screens and camcorders. So I hope you think about the value vs. repair cost, hassle, and inconvenience and maybe compare stores with extended coverage! Anyways, I enjoy what you have to say and like to see a different point of view on things. Great reviews.

(Ed: Good point. Extended warranties can be good; they're just not necessarily so. We feel they're most valuable on high end items - or ones with a history of breaking down. We applaud the reader's store's policy of yearly service, especially for convergence settings - which is something most people probably never remember to do. And thanks for the comments on our reviews. We try to be fair.)

Viewcam Advice

I have a Viewcam and I cut a clear plastic sheet from a file folder to fit over the screen of the camera. It snaps right into two slots at the top and bottom of the screen, my screen has not needed cleaning since. Clean the cover, though.

(Ed: Thanks for the tip. In our review of Sharp's Viewcam, we speculated that the LCD screen - while a wonderful feature - was just waiting to get finger marks all over it. )

SlimFast your Hard drive?

Thanks for the great review of our product, PartitionMagic! I don't think we've ever been thought of as a stomach stapler before.

(Ed: We can only call 'em as we see 'em!)

What the Doctor Ordered?

I have recommended the Glidepoint to a couple of my customers who have had carpal tunnel or related problems. They love it and their wrist problems have gone away. If someone is experiencing those kind of problems, the Glidepoint despite its shortcomings it probably worth a try. It's certainly cheaper than taking a medical approach to the problem. Those who don't have a specific hand/wrist problem usually opt for a conventional mouse or trackball for the reasons that you point out.

(Ed: Thanks for the information. We don't have anyone suffering from those problems, so the Glidepoint still rubs us the wrong way. However, you raise a valid point and we thank you.

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

We welcome your comments!