Walt Mossberg

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IPod Alternatives

We have not had good luck with iPods, and I’m ready to try an alternative. Which ones should I consider? Is there a way to transfer the music we purchased from iTunes to another player?

It depends. If you need a relatively low-capacity player that stores music in flash memory, like the iPod Nano and Shuffle, you might look at SanDisk’s Sansa line, or at the iRiver players. If you want a high-capacity player like the full-sized iPod, which stores music on a hard disk, you could consider the new Microsoft Zune, or the hard-disk players from Creative. But all of these players offer a less satisfactory experience than the iPod does with buying and/or synchronizing music.

Also, only iPods can directly play the songs you have purchased from iTunes. So, even if you can get these purchased song files onto your new player, they won’t work. To overcome this obstacle, you will have to go through a tedious process. You must first burn, or record, each purchased iTunes song to a CD. Then you’ll have to re-import, or “rip” the songs from the CD back to your hard disk, as MP3 files. Finally, you will have to manually re-enter all the information — song title, artist name, album, and so forth — for every song.

I know the new Cingular Treo 680 works on a much slower network than the Verizon and Sprint Treo 700 models. But is it slower or faster than the older Treo 650 from Cingular? Will Cingular get the 700?

Both the 650 and the 680 use the same network technology, called EDGE, which is much, much slower than the network technology that is used by the Treo 700 on Verizon and Sprint. Neither the 650 nor the 680 can take advantage of Cingular’s new, faster network technology, which is called HSDPA, nor can they be updated after sale to do so.

I can’t say for sure what other Treo models Cingular will choose to carry, but the current 700 versions are incompatible with Cingular. The only other new Treo that is compatible with Cingular is a model called the 750, now sold in Europe only, and due in the U.S. late in 2007. In its European configuration, the 750 runs on faster network technology than EDGE, but cannot handle Cingular’s fastest network.

I have an internal DVD burner that I removed from a desktop computer that failed. I want to convert the burner into an external drive. Is there any way of doing this?

You can find external enclosures for DVD drives that will allow you to connect such a drive to a computer via a cable. Just search online for “DVD burner enclosure” or some similar phrase. I can’t guarantee that your particular drive will work as an external unit in an enclosure or that you will have the skill necessary to convert it.

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