Crisper images on the screen
Published: Monday, January 12, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 11, 2004 at 10:38 p.m.
The increase in high-definition broadcast and cable programming has prompted more consumers to buy high-definition television sets. But once one gets used to the sharp, clear look of HDTV programming, video from other devices - like a DVD player - can take on a decidedly old-fashioned fuzziness.
To improve the look of images from video sources that are not high definition, ADS Technologies has created the HDTV Upconverter, a box that scales up standard video signals into the higher resolutions that HDTV sets were designed to display.
Standard television and video images typically consist of 480 horizontal lines, but HDTV resolutions can go up to 1,080 lines, producing a much more detailed picture.
The HDTV Upconverter reformats and displays video from satellite and cable television systems, VCRs, DVD players and video game consoles at the higher HDTV resolutions.
A list of retail stores that carry the $599 HDTV Upconverter, along with more information and technical specifications, is available in the Products section at www.adstech.com.
The Upconverter has enough jacks on the back to accommodate nine video and audio sources, so in addition to an enhanced picture, you may finally be able to plug in all your home entertainment components and still have room for the PlayStation 2.
At 3.8 inches, the liquid crystal display on the P-1000 is dwarfed by the most modest laptop screen. But it is larger than most screens on the backs of cameras. More significantly, the P-1000 screen has more than twice as many pixels per inch as a typical camera LCD panel.
While Epson is best known to consumers for printers and scanners, the company is also a leading producer of small LCD displays for cell phones and hand-held computers.
The company claims that the higher resolution and more sophisticated color capabilities of the P-1000 display are good enough to allow users to edit and print pictures without using a computer. To that end, the device connects directly to several Epson printers, including both amateur and professional models.
The $600 device will be available later this month from www.epsonstore.com and other retail stores.
Its memory card directly accepts compact flash cards and the IBM MicroDrive. Optional adapters are available for other types of memory cards. Downloaded photos are stored on the device's 10-gigabyte hard drive.
Epson predicts the P-1000 will be used as battery-powered slide viewers always have: to show pictures to small groups. Unlike its technological ancestor, however, the P-1000 can be connected to a television, projector or monitor to put on a big show.
Word Menu, a combination dictionary, thesaurus and almanac from Write Brothers Referenceware, tries a more human approach to the task: words are organized not alphabetically, but into seven broad subject categories that then break down into about 1,000 subcategories.
The Word Menu software is based on a Random House reference book created by Stephen Glazier in 1992. In the electronic version, words can be found by browsing a hierarchical menu along the left side of the screen with word groupings and definitions shown in other panes of the split window. Words can be entered into a search box that brings up usage examples and related categories.
The program also incorporates a colorful animated fractal browser that displays subcategories on the screen when the cursor is passed over a main category; each click takes you deeper into that subcategory's word lists.
Word Menu works with Windows 98 and later and with Mac OS X 10.1 and later. The program sells for $34.95; a 14-day trial version is available for downloading at www.wordmenu .com.
Word Menu's database automatically updates itself over the Internet, so you will always have just the right word, even if you do not yet know it.
The $30 kit, available at www.auditionkit.com, Target and Best Buy, is made by Fremantle Media. It includes software, a disc with 10 songs (including ``Man! I Feel Like a Woman'' by Shania Twain and ``Rock Your Body'' by Justin Timberlake) and a membership in auditionkit.com.
It also comes with a microphone that plugs into a PC and enables you to record an ``audition'' to upload to the site, where visitors to the site can rate it. If enough of them like it, you could land on auditionkit.com's Top Contenders, and an enthusiastic response there could earn you a tryout spot for the television show.
After you have mastered the songs on the disc, you can download two others from the Web site for free. If you want more songs, the site starts charging, on a sliding scale from $6 for four to $20 for 20. Creative types can come up with their own songs.
The Official American Idol Karaoke Kit is karaoke for the goal-directed. For others, the old-fashioned approach may still be best: screaming impassioned renditions of White Stripes songs along with the car radio as you blast down the highway.
The wireless device, Navipass, made its debut at the exhibition ``A Brush With History,'' a series of portraits from the National Portrait Gallery's permanent collection, which opened in November in the Smithsonian's S. Dillon Ripley Center International Gallery.
Using Navipass, developed by Soundtrack Productions, a visitor can scroll through 32 thumbnail images of the exhibit's paintings and touch the screen to bring up information.
While studying the 1947 portrait of Lena Horne by Edward Biberman, for example, a visitor could use the device to view a clip of Horne in the 1943 MGM musical ``Cabin in the Sky'' or to listen to her 1942 recording of ``Honeysuckle Rose.''
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