Thanks as always for your e-mails and suggestions for the column and podcast. Today I'd like to answer a few recent queries.
Q: I use Facebook all the time, and I've have heard of something called Facebook Lite. What is that?
A: Facebook Lite lives up to its name in that it is a trimmed-down version of the service. Once you log into the site, you'll find most of what you commonly use at the top of the page, including events in which you are interested. A recent article on zdnet.com praised the speed and look of the new design, and it did seem faster and easier to use when I tested it. The article also reported that many of these features will probably make their way into the standard version of Facebook at some point.
Q: Reading your column concerning e-book readers and tablet PCs left me confused as to what I should buy. Any advice there?
A: If you'll recall, I advised to wait a bit to let the market sort itself out. I think we'll see several solutions at many price points. Also, a new program called Calibre offers several useful features that could be used with any of several devices. It basically serves to organize and convert your e-books into a format compatible with whatever device you own. In time, the choices concerning devices at different price points will become more clear, and then will be a good time to choose. Also, refer to my podcast today to learn about recent Apple announcements.
Q: What's the easiest way to transfer old analog recordings on VHS tape to DVD via a computer?
A: Actually, using a computer to do this is far from the easiest way. Your best bet is to use a set-top DVD recorder. You simply hook up your VHS machine to the DVD recorder and record. It's likely you'll have to use what are called RCA cables, as most VHS players only have these types of inputs and outputs. Just be sure that you send each to its proper place. Video inputs and outputs are usually marked yellow, while the audio connections are white and red.
If you must use a computer, there is a USB-enabled VHS player called an ION Audio VCR 2 USB that will enable this. It plugs directly into a USB port and uses included software to accomplish the task.
If you need to do extensive editing of your video, you'll need to use a program such as Pinnacle Studio or Adobe Premiere Elements, both very powerful and reasonably priced. Pinnacle Studio is best suited for short projects 30 minutes and under, but both will work for longer edits. Both also will burn your project to DVD.
Q: What is a computer utility?
A: A utility program is usually one designed to accomplish something specific, such as defragmenting a hard drive or maximizing memory. Some utilities can do several things, however.
Q: Why do cassette tapes sound noisy even when I record them to CD?
A: Probably because of the compression used to record the cassette. Compression is a technology that enables a large amount of audio information to fit a smaller amount of space. Also, because tape is a magnetic medium, it is subject to degradation over time. Finally, failing to properly set recording levels can add noise to a recording.