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Ask the Experts: How to Capture Analog Audio on a PC

Question: I have a MDS-JE440 I want to put the music that is on mini discs into my PC. How do I accomplish this? Do I require a software program to get the songs into my computer and in the mp3 format via the mini disc player itself?

-submitted by Songbird

Answer: Believe it or not, just about any PC should be able to do exactly what you're looking for with little to no extra software installed. I've frequently do audio capture when recording telephone interviews, for example, or catpuring game music when building my own custom ringtones.

The advice I'm going to give below is pretty generic for analog audio in general, but will work for your MiniDisc player, too. Some people have portable MiniDisc players that can interface directly with a PC over USB, allowing users to check in or out songs via Sony's (arguably terrible) SonicStage Software. Since your home deck doesn't do that, I can only assume you're trying to convert a commercial MiniDisc, or you captured audio from another source.

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PC to TV: DVI vs. VGA vs. HDMI vs. Display Port

Question:

Which is a better connector DVI or VGA?

-submitted by TechLore member chuckeman

Answer:

Even though your question specifically focuses on DVI and VGA, I'm going to toss HDMI and Display Port into the mix to make sure I cover the bases for everyone.

When hooking up your PC or laptop to a monitor (or subsequently certain devices to TVs) you'll want to use the best quality connection possible. There are some key differences between all the major connection types that may not make choosing a "best" really possible, depending on the display you're connecting to, but for the most part, use the information below as a general rule.

VGA connections (made via a DB-15 connector) is the oldest PC connection still commonly in use today, although its use is diminishing now that computers and flat panel monitors are commonly supporting digital connection standards much more often. VGA connections carry analog signals to a monitor, via the RGBHV color format. This connection is prone to signal erros associated with analog signals, like image degredation, crosstalk, etc, but a moderately decent cable at short lengths will provide an excellent high-resolution image.

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Ask the Experts: How do I connect a PC to my older projector?

Question: I have a Compaq Presario CQ70 laptop PC, running Vista, which I wish to connect to a Sharp XV-PN300 LCD projector in order to project video from the PC. The PC has a female VGA socket in addition to the usual USB ports. The projector has a female S-Video input socket, a yellow jackplug socket labelled "Video Input," and white and red sockets labeled "Audio Input." I have been told that I need a digital to analog converter with the appropriate cables. Is this true? Do you know where I can buy the correct connection equipment? Do I need to change the resolution on the PC?

Answer:

Connecting a PC to an older projector isn't really any different than connecting a PC to an older, analog television. I wrote a guide on some ways to do this years ago, which you can find here.

To summarize for your specific situation and address one of your specific questions, you do not need a "digital to analog converter" to make a connection to your older projector. The signal coming out of your laptop's VGA jack is already analog, but not in a format that your television can understand. The jacks on your old projector (or any older TV) look for chroma/luma signals, where as your laptop outputs 5 channel RGBHV. The adapter you need accepts video in the RGB format, then usually runs it through a TV encoder so it can spit out something that's compatible with TVs.

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What RF Modulators Do and Don't Do

Question: I have an older TV, no converter box and a pair of rabbit ears. I am attempting to hook up an RF modulator to connect my DVD. I attempted hooking everything up & using the rabbit ears but I've had no success in obtaining a signal. Am I just doing something wrong or would I need a converter box to obtain a signal?

- submitted by sflower

Answer:

You're absoluetely correct on both parts. If connecting an older TV (assuming one that doens't have any line level inputs at all, and only an analog RF connection) to a DVD player, you'll need to hook the video output of the DVD player into the RF modulator, and then into the TV.

As far as your rabbit ears go, analog broadcasting has ceased to exist, and stations now only broadcast in digital formats. Your TV doesn't have the right kind of tuner to receive those. So, you'll need to obtain a digital converter box to receive digital broadcasts and convert them into the older format usable by your TV. Without one, you'll get nothing but static.

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Streaming Internet Video Without the Herky-Jerky

Question: I have successfully hooked up my laptop to my TV.. I have a new Toshiba computer and have made the connection using a VGA to TV converter box. Everything works good except for one thing, The videos and live TV broadcasts seem to be a little jerky, like they are buffering or something. I am receiving internet through a Verizon wireless DSL modem.

Is there a computer or modem setting that needs to be changed. Or do you need something else to produce seamless video similar to cable TV.

-Submitted by Fischer

Answer: Your question has me thinking from several angles, since you weren't exactly clear if the issue occurs when streaming content over the web (since you mentioned how you're connected to the web) or viewing local content (since you mentioned live TV broadcasts). I'll hit on both topics, though, since others could be facing problems with each.

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Uprading a Graphics Card... What Are the Limitations?

Question:

I have an Acer Aspire T160 MB-70 PC with an Acer FC51GM motherboard. It has built in graphics ( Nvidia 6100 ). It has a 2.2 ghz CPU and a standard PSU. It can take a maximum of 4GB RAM.

I would like to buy a new graphics card which can be placed in a PCI Express slot. It must be the best one that my motherboard will accept as money is not an object.

In addition, I am willing to upgrade the PSU if necessary and also the CPU.

I will be using the graphics card as an all rounder as I do gaming and watch alot of videos, dvds etc on the PC. It must preferably have a hdmi output on it and have HD capabilities. I would like this to be connected to the TV.

I am having difficulty finding information regarding what graphic cards my system in its present state will accept. I want the best I can get and am willing to upgrade other components.

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How Do I Make Any Song Into an iPhone Ringtone?

Question:

I'm searching in vain through my iTunes to find a way to make my favorite songs into ringtones for my iPhone.  I can't seem to find it.  How do I do this?

Answer:

Well, unfortunately for hundreds of thousands of iPhone owners who want custom ringtones, Apple doesn't make this easy for you.  Of course, you could always buy ringtones from the iTunes Music Store, but what if they don't have your favorite song available?  What if you want to use something completely different, like a video game sound effect or a recording of your kid playing the drums or something?

There are a few ways to do this - a sneaky (and lengthy) "manual" way, or you can use a third party program to make it easy.

The Manual Way

1.  Go to your Preferences Menu in iTunes and select the "General" tab.  See the "Import Settings" button in the picture above?

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The LG HT554TH Home Cinema and the Mystery of the Missing DTS Sound

Question from TechLore Member snypy:

I bought a new LG HT554TH home cinema that plays Dolby Digital fine, but when I select DTS I get no sound at all, although the device display indicates that source as DTS. I asked LG technical support, but their answers were total wrong. In fact, they did not tell me anything at all, and then claimed that my home cinema does not support DTS sound at all despite their official specifications.

So, I'd like to ask, is there any way to make DTS sound work or not? The setup menu does not offer many options (in fact not a single one about Dolby Digital or DTS setup - not even in the manual) or should I send it in for service? It is still under warranty - but I'd like to know if there is a solution or anything which may help me when talking to a service staff.

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Why Won't Windows Media Player Play My DVDs?

Question from TechLore Member msalessi: I was hoping someone can help me out here. I recently bought a Toshiba laptop, model Satellite L305-S5919. My problem is when I put in a DVD to watch, it gave me an error and said something about a decoder. What does this mean and why won't the movie play? I can't find another application to play the movie on and I really don't want to buy more software for this computer. Am I crazy to assume the computer should've come with something that would allow me to play movies? Please help!

Answer: You're not going crazy, and in fact, you're not alone. The Toshiba Satellite L305-S5919 ships with Windows Vista Home Basic, which does not include the necessary decoder for DVD playback.

Before we get to solutions, the first question you probably want answered is, "Why doesn't Microsoft include a DVD decoder in Windows Vista?

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Ditch Your Landline and Save Some Cash With VoIP: Skype, Ooma, and MagicJack

Question:

cptdano from the forums asks:

"We have done away with land lines in our house. Do you have any ideas of another way we might accomplish something similar?"

Answer:

The country is in a recession, and your cellphone bills are high enough.  The last thing you or anyone else needs is yet another outrageous telephone bill, but your local cable and telephone companies keep on pressuring you to sign up for their included landline service.

Landline telephone service does have its advantages, including clarity of transmission and always-on service, but there are a number of solutions from various providers that offer voice telephone services over the Internet for a fraction of the price.  Are you ready to cut the cord?  Take a look at these three solutions.  (Before we begin, all of these solutions require a high-speed Internet connection.)

Skype: A Solid, Well-Known VoIP Provider

If you're not familiar with the term,

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Help Choosing an MP3 Player: Anything but iPod... but What Does That Leave?

Question:

I recently decided to finally buy an MP3 player, but I've found researching it to be quite overwhelming.

This is what I want from an mp3 player:

  • Lightweight and fairly compact - so that it doesn't weigh me down or become uncomfortable after walking/riding/etc. a while
  • Fairly durable - I don't plan on dropping it often, but I don't want it to break the first time I do.
  • Storage space - I think 4GB will be enough room for me to have enough songs with some extra room left over to make me feel good about not being close to full
  • Battery life - I would like to be able to use it for a few hours without having to recharge it.
  • Music selection - I need to be able to select specific songs. It would be nice to be able to make playlists too.
  • Sound quality - It doesn't have to be the best, but I'd like it to sound pretty decent. I plan on getting some good headphones with it.
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Which Cellphone (Or Smartphone) Should I Buy?

This is a very common question that I get nowadays, being a huge mobile gadget geek and all.

Question:  Which cellphone should I buy?

Seems like a pretty simple question - buy what you like, right?  However, this is all too common of a mistake.  Once you purchase your shiny new communicator, you feel pretty good toting it about like a proud new parent... only to discover months later that it's missing a crucial feature or has some extremely annoying habits that you can't stand.  As such, the question of which mobile to purchase is more complicated than it seems... especially with all the new (and sometimes wacky) choices out there.

Answer:  It depends.  How do you use your cellphone?

Start first with how you think you will use the cellphone, then go from there.  I've come up with some common scenarios and phones that best fit your usage profile.

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Getting TV in a Room Without a Wall Jack

Community member Goatyeah shot a message over to the TechLore Experts with a common, but frustrating problem that many apartment dwellers face. They asked:

Question: I recently moved into a great apartment, and in one bedroom they don't have a cable jack installed in the wall. The managers have told me I can't drill in the wall, but i need to have TV in that room. What can I do or buy to solve this problem? I dont mind spending a few $100 to get this solved.

Answer:

Don't worry Goatyeah... there are solutions for getting around this problem. And the good news, some aren't even that expensive. What you'll need to do depends on a few factors, like what kind of source devices you have available, and whether or not you're looking to pump HDTV into this room. 

You didn't indicate what kind of TV source you have. I'm going to go on the assumption you have a pay TV service like cable or satellite. If you have rely on broadcast, you'd only need a set of rabbit ears to get TV in that second room.

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Tips and Tricks To Fix A Bad Battery In Your Apple iPod

We definitely live in the days of rechargable technology.  I'm not really that old, and I remember when most gadgets took AAA or AA batteries... and getting rechargables included with the device was always an (expensive) upgrade.

Nowadays, though, pretty much every gadget or portable electronic device has rechargable batteries included... MP3 players, PDA's, phones, laptops, even toys.

With the convenience of rechargable batteries does come some problems, however.  Many devices use the Lithium Ion standard type battery, which has many advantages... but in some cases, a limited lifespan as well 

The iPod series of gadgets is particularly noteworthy for losing battery life quickly and having "bad" batteries... sometimes after just a year of use, or even less  I'm not sure if this is because iPods are so frequently used, or if they use poor quality batteries - but nonetheless, it's a common issue.  It's even happening to my 30GB iPod Video, which powers down after about 30 minutes of video playback.

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4 Ways to Deal With Mini CDs or DVDs That Won't Fit In Your Drive

TechLore member dear82 recently wrote in with a question that doesn't come up very often, but sure could put even the tecnically minded person in a pickle.

The question: "The software installation disk that came with my new MP3 player is to small for my computer! What can I do?"

In other words, dear82 has been bitten by the "Mini-CD" problem. You see, CDs and DVDs typically come in the standard 12cm size, the size that looks like just about every CD, DVD, HD-DVD, and Blu-Ray disc you've seen the past 25 years. What you may or may not have seen is the less common 8cm size CD or DVD, which is known as the Mini-CD. These optical discs are the same as the full size, only they are physically smaller and hold less data or audio.

For the most part, these discs should also be compatible with the majority of CD and DVD drives out there. For example, tray based devices should have a second circular ring toward the middle shaped for the discs.

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How Should I Back Up My Media And Data Files?

Question:

You may know the feeling.  That sinking feeling you get deep in your gut that tells you something just went horribly, horribly wrong with your computer.  It's usually confirmed when you navigate to your photos, music, or documents folder and find... that... it's... EMPTY.  Or maybe you try to access the file and get some strange error, or your computer locks up, never to be resurrected again.

Because of this type of devastating occurrence, one of the most common questions I get is:  "How should I back up files on my computer?"  You'd think it would be easy, but the truth is that there are a lot of ways to safeguard your digital loot - and I'd like to help make a little more sense of them.

Answer:

There's lots of ways, and some are better than others depending on your unique purpose.  Read on to discover the variety of ways in which you can back up your files.

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Why Are Songs Disappearing From My iPod When I Sync?

Question:

As the resident "Mac guy," I feel a special bond with user Sherry D, who is having some problems with her iPod Nano and iTunes:

"I am following instructions to transfer my CD's to my iPod Nano, but my player is not picking up the songs.  I put the CD into the iTunes window, the songs show up on the computer, and I press "import."  The songs show they are downloading to the computer.  I transfer them to a playlist, and press "sync." The songs then disappear.  I try it both with auto syncing and manual syncing.  Sometimes all of my songs on the iPod are removed when I try to sync. Help!"

Answer:

Fortunately, I've been a devout iPod user for years, and have cleaned out my iPod on accident many times!  To be honest, importing CD's and syncing your iPod can be tricky sometimes.  Here's some tips:

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Managing Your Bookmarks

Question:

Is it possible to export/import/transfer Favorite bookmarks from Internet Explorer to Firefox?

-submitted by Pappy

Answer:

In may almost seem like an afterthought, but after years of web surfing, the bookmarks we accumulate become invaluable. In my browser, I have at least 50 different bookmarks that I seriously doubt I could find again should they ever be lost. Moreover, as browser preferences change (or if you're commonly surfing from several different browsers), it's often handy to have all your bookmarks move around with you.

Thankfully, managing your bookmarks and favorites isn't all that difficult if you know where to go in each respected browser. If you're jumping ship from Internet Explorer to Firefox 3 (common these days), the folks at Mozilla have made it super easy to bring your bookmarks with you. There's a long way to do it (which I'll show you in a second), but if you're trying to load your user preferences from IE into Firefox, you can use the simple method.

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How To Get Rid Of Virus and Spyware Infections on Windows XP PC's

Recently, Revelations2212 posted a question to the experts:  "I have some nasty spyware or adware on my PC.  I have ran Ad-Aware, Spybot and Anti-Malware and I can't get it removed. I have done everything I can think of, can someone give me some suggestions on what to do? What is the best spyware / adware remover out there?  I need it badly, as this has been going on for more than a week now."

I've decided to tackle this question since it seems to be the root of the vast majority of people's computer related issues, and in many instances, can be easily resolved.  I'd like to share some of my personal insights and experiences, gleaned over the years from helping dozens of people with this type of issue. 

Please note that this advice covers those with Windows XP PC's, not Vista users or users of other OS's.  This advice may work for Vista users, but is based on experience with Windows XP.

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How To Play Your iPod In Your Car

User amanda69 submitted an awesome question about using her iPod MP3 player.  She's wondering how she can connect her iPod to her car stereo.

A little background, first - Amanda has a Hyundai coupe, and I do as well.  I also listen to my MP3 player through my car stereo, so this question really hits home for me.  I'm guessing that many of you out there haven't even used a CD in months or maybe even years - personally, I can't remember the last time I played a CD in the car.

Amanda, you'll be happy to know that there are a number of different ways that you can listen to your iPod in your car.

#1:  Connect your iPod to an FM Transmitter

Considered the least desirable method by many, the FM transmitter also happens to be the easiest method to go about playing your iPod in your car.

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