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Technology Archives - Page 13 of 13 - Product Review Ratings

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Motorola Dual Tuner DVR

Our Score

What is a Digital TV Tuner DVR Cable Box?

Congratulations. You just bought a brand-spanking new wide-screen, high-def 1080p LCD television. Now, how do you get the most of your High Definition, Digital Television experience? Much of the way you use a digital TV has to do with the service provider you choose. Whether you go with a Dish or Cable, literally all digital televisions can give you Digital Video Recording (DVR), interactive programming, advanced menu systems, and high definition channel tuning through the Set Top Box. Though virtually all digital televisions have their own high definition, built-in tuners these days, an HD, set-top box is a more powerful way to tap into your TV’s features and performance, such as Digital Video Recording (DVR). Cable Companies such as Comcast, have an additional feature called, Video On-Demand which allows you to choose from hundreds of programs or movies and watch them when you want to watch them. You will need a set-top box to do this.

The DCT6412 is a Dual-Tuner DVR High Definition Set-top box by Motorola.

I am currently renting a DCT3412 through my Cable Provider, Comcast. The DCT6412 is similar, but with a few more features, bells and whistles, which make it a better choice for coverage in this review. If you own a High-Definition television set, it makes sense to pay a little bit more on your monthly bill for a DVR (Digital Video Recorder), so you can record, pause, rewind and replay live television, as well as watch it in High Definition clarity. Comcast and most other Cable companies will not charge you extra to rent the brand and model you want, so it helps to know ahead of time which cable box you want and simply ask for it. If it’s available they will exchange it for you at no extra charge. (Especially if you threaten to try DirectTV.) The DCT6412 was not available at the time my cable was installed in my current home. In the past, whenever I have wanted new equipment with Comcast, all I had to do was ask, so I assume I could upgrade for no extra charge. In a nutshell, here is what the DCT6412 Dual-Tuner DVR High Definition Cable Box has to offer: Video On-Demand, Digital Music (Dolby Surround Sound), interactive programming, Dual Tuner Digital Recording and of course, High Definition tuning and display.

Setup of the DCT6412 DVR Cable Box

In order to take full advantage of the features and get the most of the picture and sound quality of the DCT6412 Dual Tuner DVR Cable Box along with your home theatre sound system, you will need either a set of component video cables or HDMI cable, and a digital audio cable. Setup is pretty straight forward. There is only one Coax Input on the back of the DCT6412 Dual Tuner Set Top Box. That is where you will connect the cable coming from your house. Next, you will need to hook the necessary video and audio cables from your DCT6412 Set Top Box to your television and/or stereo system. The HDMI or Component Cables (either of these are sufficient for High Definition Display), plug into the respective video out connectors on the back of the cable box, than to the HDMI or Component in of your television. The HDMI is the preferred cable merely for the fact it is smaller, less bulky and has only one connection.  For audio, the Set Top box includes a couple of RCA jacks. Plug the two RCA Audio connectors to the back of your box, then to the audio input jacks of your television. You are now ready to watch and listen to your television without the use of your stereo or home theatre system. If you are going to be using your television as part of a home theatre system, you may still want to have your set top box audio connected directly to the television so you can simply watch the TV without always having to turn on the surround sound. The DCT6412 Cable Box has Optical Audio outputs. Plug your Optical Cable into this and then into one of the inputs of your Surround Sound Receiver. This will allow you to listen to movies or music which are programmed and transmitted in Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. One other convenient feature is that the front of the unit has a set of video/audio RCA inputs. These can be used for displaying output from an external device such as a camcorder. That is pretty much it for the basic setup of your DCT6412 Cable Box. There are a number of other interesting connections on the unit, but any explanation of what they are for and how they are used is inexplicably absent from any of Motorola’s manuals or documentation. For instance, there are two USB connections; one in front and one in back. There is one firewire connector and one 10/100 Ethernet jack. Also, there is a smart-card slot, which is used by your cable provider for programming your service. I have done some research online and will report on what these mysterious, unknown, undocumented features can and cannot be used for in an upcoming article. Meanwhile, let’s discuss how it all works:

Basic Operation of the DCT6412

Using the DCT6412 Dual-Tuner DVR High Definition Cable Box is pretty simple; though it is unlikely you will tap its full potential in your first week of use, if ever.
The DCT6412 Remote can be programmed to control your Television, DVD or VCR player and your Audio System. Instructions are included for how to do this. I’ve found that the number or channel buttons on the remote are a little bit small and awkard to control; otherwise the remote is adequate and easy enough to learn and use. Press the TV button on the remote, then press the cable button to power on the cable box and change channels on your box. When your Cable box is plugged in for the first time, it will take several minutes for it to find and program all of the station information. Once this is completed, you can view detailed information on any program you are watching by pressing the ‘info’ button. You can use the channel up-down button to change programs, or you can press the ‘okay’ button in the center of the four arrows which are located in the middle of the remote. Pressing the ‘okay’ button makes it possible to browse and scroll through 3 or more channels at a time. When you find the program you want, simply select ‘okay’ once again. You can actually scroll ahead several days in advance to view the programming of any channel you are browsing. If you want a full-screen view of television programming, press the ‘guide’ button. You can press the ‘menu’ button to do a search for your favorite program by category or title. There are also a number of other features that can be setup through the ‘menu’ function: Basic Setup, On-Demand, TV Listings, Search, Parental Control, DVR, Messages, Local Weather, Help, and Pay-Per-View.  Each of these menu settings are described in detail in the included DCT6412 user manual. The DCT6412 will support all of the common digital television resolutions; 480i, 480p, 1080i and 720p. There is also a stretch mode which automatically stretches a standard definition program picture to fill the screen of a wide format television.  The resolutions you choose depend on the capabilities of your television resolutions, so make sure you know what your TV supports. Note: The box gets very warm. The manual recommends placing it in a well ventilated area: Good advice.

DVR: Digital Video Recording on the DCT6412

The DCT6412 Dual-Tuner DVR High Definition Cable Box remote has controls much like a VCR or DVD Player: Rew, Fwd, Pause, Play, Stop and Record. Say, you are watching a live football game and want to review a play: Simply, press rewind. You can review the video while it is reverse just as if you were rewinding a tape. Press play, and you’re watching a piece of history in perfect visual clarity as if it were being played for the first time. Pressing the REW or FWD button a 2nd, 3rd 4th or 5th time will successively increase the speed.  Press pause at any time and you will have a perfect still, snapshot picture of the action on your screen. Pressing the LIVE TV button returns you to the live action of the program you are watching. The DCT6412 Dual-Tuner DVR High Definition Set-top box is equipped with a 120GB Hard Drive for storing and saving recorded programs and shows. The advantage of a Dual Tuner is that you can record two programs at the same time as well as watch a program other than the one you are recording. Recordings can be scheduled days in advance. In the DVR On-Screen menu, there are some useful recording options: For example, you can choose to record a program series. This is useful if you want to record your favorite weekly or daily television show.  Just select the show you want to record and choose series. Your DCT6412 set top box will automatically record the show every time it is being broadcast. You can manage and delete your recordings through the DVR menu. High Definition recordings require far more disk space. You will only be able to store 15 hours of HD programming on your 120GB hard disk, as opposed to 90 hours of standard definition programming. This is a rough estimate, as it depends on the quality of the broadcasted transmission. Your DRV menu will display to you how much recording space is left.

Video-On-Demand on the DCT6412

One of the advantages of Cable as opposed to a dish system is Video-On-Demand. Video- On-Demand is basically a library of hundreds of programs, movies and shows that can be watched whenever you want to watch them, 24 hours a day, 7-days a week.
If you want to watch Video On-Demand, press the VOD button.  A menu appears with categories such as, Top Picks, Movies & Events, HD On-Demand, TV Entertainment, TV Series, Free Movies, Sports, etc. etc. Comcast advertises that there are thousands of On Demand choices. I have never counted them all, so I’ll take their word for it. The REW, FWD, PAUSE, STOP all work very much the same as the DVR menu. This is one weakness I’ve come to realize about the DCT6412: The interactive response time is very slow. For example, if you want to fast-forward to your favorite scene of a movie or football game, it is a difficult and very slow process getting there. One solution is to use the DVR to record the show first. Navigating a pre-recorded program is much easier and faster.

Bottom Line Impression of Motorola DCT6412 HDTV Dual Tuner DVR Cable Box

There are not a lot of choices to compare when it comes to these products, because what you get is greatly tied into the service of your television provider. The DCT6412 HD, Dual-Tuner Cable Box by Motorola gets the most of your television, and if you wish to experience Video-On-Demand, this is the best way to do it. Because it is part of the rental package through your Cable provider, this product represents an excellent value.

Ratings: Motorola DCT6412 Cable Box

  • Features: 88
  • Ease-of-Use: 88
  • Performance: 85
  • Cost: 95
  • Setup and Documentation: 92
  • Overall: 89


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Analog To Digital TV Converter

Our Score
Analog to Digital TV Converter
Zenith DDT900 Analog – Digital Converter

Analog to Digital TV Converter

Were you actually looking for a Digital to Analog TV Converter Box or a DTV box or Digital Converter Box? If you still have one or more analog televisions in your home and you wish to use them after February 17th, 2009, you will need to buy a Digital to Analog Television Converter Box. Some tend to reverse the terminology by calling these Analog to Digital Converters rather than the other way around, or you may refer to them simply as a DTV Box, or digital converter box.  Whichever way you name them, their purpose is to allow you to continue watching the new digital television transmissions on your old analog television. So, analog to digital, digital to analog … how much do these babies cost, and which DTV Box or digital converter box should I buy?

DTV.GOV has useful information and links to coupons for how to acquire these DTV boxes. Typically, they cost around $50.00 – $60.00. The good news is that every U.S household can receive two $40.00 coupons from the U.S government at the website below: DTV.GOV
Analog to Digital Website So, basically, you can expect to pay no more than $10.00 or $20.00 for each television, as long as you use them to purchase one of the listed models on their site. You can also call them at: 1-888-DTV-2009. The other way is to request one from your Cable or Satellite TV provider.

There are other, more expensive DTV Boxes with a better television menu system and other advanced features. However, after doing a little research, I’ve discovered that there are really no substantial benefits or reasons to pay more than $50.00 for a box which will be used on an older, analog television. One of the more popular ones seems to be the Zenith DTT900. It is actually a nice looking box and quite a bit better looking than the old analog one given to me by my cable provider, Comcast.

Analog televisions normally use a 4:3 viewing ratio. The DTT900 will support a wide screen views if you do happen to have a digital TV, but this box is mostly intended to make use of a 4×3 analogy TV. There are four viewing Formats that you can set:
Set By Program, Letterbox, Cropped and Squeeze.

The menu system seemed adequate and easy to use, though I would prefer larger buttons for the numbers on the remote, which is a little too small for my personal tastes. The DTT900 includes 2 RF-style F connectors. One for input and one for output. It also includes one set of standard RCA outputs.

DDT900 Remote
DDT900 Remote

Due to digital processing, there is a noticeable improvement in picture quality, even on an analog television. The important thing, however, is that the DTT900 provides an inexpensive way to continue using your favorite analog television, allowing you to wait for digital television prices to continue dropping through the floor. For the official FCC website regarding DTV Converters: DTV.GOV

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Hard Drive Backup Software

Our Score

How to Back Up Data

Have you procrastinated backing up your hard disk data because there are Carbonite Online PCBackuptoo many choices? Windows XP Backup Software has never been an easy or adequate solution.  The good news is there are really only two choices: Online Backup or a Backup Drive. This review covers just two of the many products that fall under these choices. Forget about looking for the perfect Windows XP Backup Utility. You won’t find it in Vista or Windows 7 either.  Not even Windows 2003 Server Backup is as convenient and easy to use as what you’ll get with a good Online PC Backup program like Carbonite.

Online Backup

The choice is yours: $1500 hard drive recovery OR $54.95/year for unlimited backup.
For only $55 per year (that’s a little more than $4 per month),
you will have a secure way of keeping your PC, Notebook or Server data backed up at all times. Carbonite works by installing a very small software program on your computer which quietly works in the background looking for changes in your computer, and backing them up as you continue to use your computer as normal. This is the best Hard Drive Backup Software I have ever tried. There is no need to learn how to use the program, it works for you. Furthermore, Carbonite does not expose you to security risks. Your files are encrypted as they are backed-up, making it completely impossible for your data to get in the wrong hands. Carbonite claims this is the very same encryption that banks use. Why not have those same securities for your home or office computer? Carbonite sleeps while you are using your computer, so there is never any noticeable slowing of your system. Recovering any deleted or lost data is simply a matter of a few clicks of your mouse. It really is that simple. The best part of all is that Carbonite will allow you to try the program for free for 15 days, and no credit card is required. You have nothing to lose for trying, and data to risk if you don’t:

Backup Drive

Your other choice is to take advantage of the many low-cost, external backup drives on the market. If you like to be in control of your own computer and data, this is the way to go. Backup drives range from $75.00 to $300, or more, depending on capacity. The larger the better. If your Hard Drive size is say, 160GB, I’d consider a backup unit that is triple the size. For example, Seagate makes a 750GB that can be had for around $170.00:
This slick little unit, merely plugs into a USB port on your computer. You can treat it like a regular drive, and drag and drop your files to it, or you can use the backup software it comes with. The 750GB capacity will allow you to make daily backups, and rotate them. This is a good way to insure that you can always go back and retrieve data from one, two, or more than a few days back.

If you’re question is, How to Back Up Data, either an external Hard Disk or Carbonite Online, will do a great job. You might also consider using both.
It depends on what you prefer. If you would like to have someone else do it and forget about it, choose a solution like the Carbonite Online Backup. If you’re a more advanced type of computer user, and would like greater control of what you are backing up, go for one of the many available, External Hard Drives.  For over 15 years, I have experimented with different programs, but have never been happy with any of the Hard Drive Backup Software on the market.  Carbonite Online has allowed me to completely forget about any of the worries I used to have wondering if my valuable data was protected and backed-up on a minute-by-minute basis.

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Magellan Maestro 3225

Our Score
What is the Best GPS for under $200.00
Maestro 3225 GPS by Magellan

Magellan Maestro 3225 GPS Pros and Cons



Slim, light portable and attractive. Affordable. Colorful touch screen. Voice/Street Name instructions. SD Card expandability.



Compass Direction hard to read in sunlight. Small-screen difficult to read. Little or no support as far as Map and Feature upgrades to this point. Voice volume a bit too quite and shrill to listen to.


Introduction to the Magellan Maestro 3225 GPS

There’s something to be said for a slim-sized, portable GPS that takes less room in your pocket than the smallest of cell phones. The Magellan Maestro 3225 GPS is a sleek, small but fairly full-featured Auto GPS that can be easily transported from place to place or vehicle to vehicle. I have taken it along with me on trips, and have really grown to appreciate the portability. Unlike some of the larger Garmin models which are fat and chunky, this little guy is about a half-inch thick, is 3.25” by 3.65” in diameter, and weighs just a little under 5 oz. The Magellan Maestro 3225 GPS can be had at Costco for about $150. I paid $199 back in January, and that is still a pretty good deal in lieu of what you get. The Maestro 3225 GPS Unit is equipped with a 3.5” QVGA touchscreen. The display is sharp, colorful and easy to read. The unit includes a Li-ion rechargeable 1100ma battery, a 12-24 V vehicle adapter, 1ea USB Adapter and charger, and online manual and CD Software. Also included, is a mountable dashboard stand with suction cup and adhesive flat, black plastic disc for mounting the unit on the dashboard or other convenient viewing surfaces.


The 3.5” QVGA screen on the Magellan Maestro 3225 GPS is bright and colorful with a very attractive user interface on a colorful blue background, consisting of 3D Icons which allow you to navigate through the various menus by merely touching them. Out of the box, the unit includes maps of the US, Puerto Rico, Canada and a total of 1.3 million points of interest. There is a little trick for downloading and importing up to 6 million POI, which is referred to elsewhere on this website. With over 6 million Points of Interest, the GPS is better than having an entire U.S phonebook in the palm of your hand. You can search for a coffee shop or pool hall by specific address, or by your current location. The basic operation for programming your route is quite simple. After purchasing this unit, I was able to bring it back to my car, open up the box, and within 5 minutes, have it guide me to the 18 mile destination back to my office – all without the help of any manuals. The GPS picked up my position very rapidly, though I found it a bit difficult, at first, to guide me out of the parking lot. This may not be a product quirk – it could just be me being a little dyslexic about finding directions while backing up in parking lots, but I’ve always had a little bit of trouble adjusting to my route when getting in the car the first time. There are various ways you can view your screen; you can set the top of your screen as either always facing North, or the heading of your current direction. I prefer having my heading on the top of the screen. On the bottom left corner of the screen is an arrow, pointing in the direction of your next turn, as well as the distance. You can also program the GPS to show a split screen when you’re approaching your turn with a larger, more detailed arrow. The name of your current street or highway is on the top middle of the screen, and the street of your next turn is located on the bottom center. I found the contrast and brightness of the screen to be sufficiently easy to read in bright sunlight, except for the compass direction. For some reason, Magellan chose a yellowish-orange color for the compass direction, and it is nearly impossible to read in bright sunlight without taking my eyes off the road and putting my face up to the screen. Also, I quickly learned the sacrifice of the portable smaller screens is that the textual information in general; compass directions, street names, mileage indicators require some squinting on my part to read.TIP: I found that positioning the screen slightly upwards, towards the roof of the car helps with the contrast in bright sun, making the compass and other text more legible.The Maestro 3225 gives you the choice of both 2D and 3D Road views. I found the detail of the roads, and points of interest to be very good, either way. The road of your chosen destination is shown in green, and opposing roads in read. You can zoom-in to within 300FT of your map view; Parks, Gas Stations, Coffee Shops, schools, stores, etc, etc, are all Points of Interests which can be turned on or off, depending on the level of detail you require. Also, you can program the GPS to change to a dark, back-lit screen for night-driving after the sun has gone down. Any shortcomings with the small screen are greatly aided by the turn-by-street name voice instructions. The female voice is accurate for the most part, and easy to understand, though at the loudest volume, the speaker output seems a bit shrill, and not always loud enough to hear. This, I suppose, is another drawback of small-size which equates to smaller speaker and sound. For the most part, the voice directions are very accurate, and even indicate which lane you need to be in for your highway exits. Truthfully, I could rely on the voice instructions, without necessarily needing to see the screen at all. I was impressed with the built-in intelligence included for entering addresses and destinations, which makes it quick and easy to enter new routes. For instance, when you are typing in a street address, the display will limit the numbers and/or street letters according to the zip code and city you chose. All routes are automatically saved as Previous Destinations, making it a snap to go back to where you want to go at any time. Also, all of your addresses and destinations can be manually saved and recalled in the unit’s Built-in Address Book.

Expansion / Upgrades

The Maestro 3225 provides an SD slot with unlimited capacity for storing maps and backing up your data, as well as a pretty good-sized 2GB for internal storage. Unfortunately, I do not see much from Magellan in the way of supporting add-on products for this particular model. The Maestro 3225 includes Magellan’s Vantage Point, which allows you to use your computer for viewing your GPS maps, routing destinations, entering addresses, etc. Personally, I found the mapping and graphics of the software to be crude, cumbersome to use, and not very useful. Google Earth is far better for this, especially if it links to your GPS. Aside from that, the ability to enter routes and addresses on your computer using Vantage Point can definitely save you lots of time. Magellan lists that the lithium ion battery is good for 3 hours of use, and I found that to be pretty accurate on road trips.


My final impression is that the Maestro 3225 is  a GPS that is just good enough to make me wish I had bought something better. Having used this for a few months, I’ve decided I’d gladly take a slightly larger 4.3” screen for easier viewing. My latest road trip has made me appreciate the need for other features found on more expensive units such as a speed limit indicator, construction information, and the support for additional upgrades in the way of maps, and points of interest. If the internal memory and unlimited SD Card expansion are any indication of the future upgrade potential of the Maestro 3225 Magellan GPS, then there is some hope that at least some of these shortcomings can be remedied. I highly recommend this unit to anyone looking for an effective, portable and low-cost Auto GPS that’s fun to use.

Final Rating Magellan Maestro 3225 GPS

      Portability: 92
      Cost: 90
      Features: 78
      Performance: 79
      Ease of Use: 88
      Support: 75

Overall: 84

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Absolute Beginners Guide to Computer Basics

Our Score
Need Help with your Computer?
Need Help with your Computer?


Absolute Beginners Guide to Computer Basics is just what any non-computer-savy kind of guy is probably looking for.

If you’re not happy with the computer service you are getting, you are not alone. Recent customer-satisfaction surveys reveals that 9 out of 10 users confess the desire to hang their computer technician with a floppy cable.  Worse yet, 90% of those surveyed are doing their own computer service.  Simply put, this means that 81% of all computer users are at risk of committing suicide.  You would think there is a better way to solve computer problems than killing yourself.  You would think the government would provide Free Online Training. You would think, at the very least they could recommend a book on computer basics. Well, as luck has it, I have some good news: One, it is unlikely your computer even has a floppy cable. Two, if it did, it is even less likely you could find it.  You’re a complete moron when it comes to understanding computers, remember?  That is why we’re talking about this, in the first place. Now, that we’ve ruled out suicide as a possibility, don’t despair – there is another option, and no it doesn’t involve hiring a computer technician teaching you where to find cables for hanging him when things go wrong.  So much of the time, computer difficulties are due to user error rather than anything that’s actually inside the computer designed to make your life difficult. No offense, but it’s pretty obvious you need some help – in the form of, actually learning to use your computer, so you’re not thinking it’s broken all the time. You need some Free Online Training or a book that covers the Computer Basics. If you’re looking into expensive online computer training or online computer classes, I’ve got a very simple recommendation, in the form of a very good book: Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Computer Basics

Computer Basics
Computer Basics

(4th Paperback edition), by Michael Miller. This book will tell you everything you need to know about Desktop and Notebook PCs. It will help with setting up your PC, and actually provide the essential knowledge on using Windows XP, as well as the latest Vista OS by Microsoft. It seems that some books fail to actually instruct you on accomplishing the tasks you expect to do on your PC. The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Computers Basics will help you with things such as setting up and using MP3 players, downloading and playing music and videos, burning CDs, DVDs. Author, Michael Miller, also helps you with socializing on your PC through personal websites, messaging, email, etc. The book is literally full of good, practical advice for training you and helping you become more productive on your PC or Laptop. Fortunately, author, Michael Miller, does not include much technical hardware training, such as how and where to find a floppy cable. There is no better way to learn how without killing yourself.

Final Ratings. (1 – 100)
  • Reader Information: 88
  • ReaderEase: 90
  • Reader Interest: 90
  • Value: 90
  • Overall: 89.7

Laptops and Desktop Computers

Had enough of it all? Maybe it’s your computer? Laptop and Desktop Computer Systems are extremely affordable these days, so don’t knock yourself out if you don’t have to.


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