Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

How to Find Low-Cost DSL Service

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about finding low-cost DSL service, choosing video-editing software and transferring files from a Windows PC to a Mac.

If you have a question, send it to me at mossberg@wsj.com, and I may select it to be answered here in Mossberg’s Mailbox.

Last week, you mentioned that DSL Internet service is available in the U.S. for $15 a month. I can’t find anything nearly that low. Can you elaborate?

Verizon, which is an Internet service provider operating in 28 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, has an entry-level DSL plan for $14.95 a month. According to the Verizon Web site, this plan requires a one-year agreement, but it isn’t a teaser price that lasts for only a few months. You also get the first month free and they throw in the DSL modem. For this price, you get a DSL line that operates at speeds up to 768 kilobits per second for downloads and 128 kilobits per second for uploads. That’s more than 13 times the maximum download speed of a dial-up connection.

More info is at: www22.verizon.com/forhomedsl/channels/dsl/packages/.

I realize that this plan, or any Verizon plan, isn’t available in the other 22 states. And, I realize that, even where it is available, it may not be possible to get it at your house because of the technical limitations of DSL, which works well only within a certain distance from a phone company office. I also know that such service, at any price, is often unavailable in rural areas.

But, for tens of millions of people, this is a very inexpensive way to get broadband. It’s less than America Online charges for dial-up service.

A friend of mine is looking for some video-editing software to be used on a PC running Windows. What software would you recommend for this application?

I haven’t tested this category of software in a while, but any of the leading software packages should do. They include Pinnacle Studio Plus, Adobe Premiere Elements and Roxio Easy Media Creator. The first two are video-editing programs. The last includes a video-editing program, but it is a suite that also handles things like music and photos. Of the two video-only programs, Pinnacle’s is probably best for a novice user. It costs about $90.

I know the Macintosh can handle most common types of files used on Windows computers. But my question is more basic: if I switch to a Mac from Windows, how do I physically transfer my files?

If you buy your new Mac at an Apple store, Apple will do this job, or part of it, free. According to the Apple Web site, you can just bring the two computers to the store, and a “Genius” — Apple’s name for a tech support person in its stores — will move all the files in any folder you choose on your Windows machine onto your new Mac. Presumably, this would include the My Documents folder, which contains most of the data files on most Windows PCs. The “Genius” will also do this for $50 for people who bought their Macs elsewhere. There is some fine print to this deal. For details, see: www.apple.com/switch/howto/genius.html.

There are also numerous ways to do this yourself, depending on the capabilities of your Windows machine. You can copy the files from the old computer onto an external hard disk, or a USB thumb drive. You can burn them onto CDs or DVDs. You can copy them to the hard disk of an iPod, if you haven’t filled it up with music, and if you configure it for use as a disk drive.

Because the Mac can read Windows-formatted disk drives, you should be able to plug any of these devices into your new Mac, or insert the CDs or DVDs, and they should show up on the Mac’s desktop. Then, you can simply copy the files to folders of your choice on the Mac’s hard disk. You can also email files to yourself, or transfer them over a local network.

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Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com

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