Business

What's on your mind, beside VCRs?

I tell my bosses that I learn more from readers than they learn from me, although I secretly hope the bosses think I'm just being modest.

But it's the truth, and today we'll talk about some topics that have been on your minds.

HDTV. The initial mystery is wearing off, and prices are dropping. The trend with my readers has been toward LCD sets, although plasma is a popular choice.

The surprise for me is that many readers want to use an HDTV with just an antenna.

There's nothing wrong with that if you can survive without 100-plus channels of reruns and documentaries about bear cubs and spiders.

One plus is that over-the-air broadcasts offer the best HDTV signal – better than you get with cable or satellite.

But some of you are bewildered by the latest marketing gimmick: special HDTV antennas. That's what it is, a gimmick.

The best antenna for digital is the same as the best antenna for anything else: big and tall.

If you're close to antenna sites, you might eke by with rabbit ears. But if you're going to avoid cable and satellite, I suggest an old-fashioned TV antenna.

VCRs. Speaking of TV, there's another topic that came as a shock to me: VCRs.

Mine are gathering dust in the basement. But people still use them. And they worry whether they'll work with digital TV signals next year.

The answer is no, unless you have the capability to convert the digital signal to analog. Converter boxes will do that.

Besides, at least for a few years after the switch, cable companies are required to offer service to those with old analog technology. Still, VCR owners should really consider a digital video recorder.

CELL PHONES. The Apple iPhone has done the impossible. Both my technically inclined readers and those who feel uneasy about high tech simply love the iPhone.

You're using it for wireless e-mail and for checking the Web.

Each week I get mail from readers who now feel comfortable traveling without a laptop and a digital camera. The iPhone has become the Swiss Army Knife of technology.

VIDEO. While video is on my mind, let me tell you about a tiny video camera from Flip Video (www.theflip.com/products.shtml).

This may be the sleeper product of the decade.

The camera is tiny, takes great video and comes with a built-in USB connector that lets you seamlessly dump the video into your computer.

Here's what is capturing the hearts of readers.

The camera is easy to use, and you'll pay as little as $100 for a camera that holds 30 minutes of video, or $150 for one that holds 60 minutes.

MOVIES. Another product capturing hearts and minds: the $100 Roku Player that lets Netflix customers almost instantly download movies and watch them on their TVs – no computer involved. You do need a high-speed Internet connection.

The killer features here are price and ease-of-use.

  Comments