Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

Tuning a Mac for Real-Time HDTV

Here are a few questions 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 watching high-definition television in real time on a Mac, the future of Palm’s Treo, and remote desktop control.

Q. Is there any way to watch high-definition TV on a Mac in real time — not downloaded from a service?

A. As on Windows computers, there are add-on TV tuners for Macs that can both receive and record TV programs in real time. Some of them can handle high-definition programming. The best-known company that sells such tuners for the Mac is called Elgato, at elgato.com.

Q. I’m interested in your perception of the Treo’s future. I currently use (and generally like) a Treo 650. I’d like to upgrade, but I’ve read recently that Palm’s future is uncertain. I wonder if you think the Treo is on a slippery slope down, while the Apple iPhone will likely improve.

A. I do believe that Palm has allowed its software to stagnate and hasn’t moved fast enough to make its hardware thinner and cheaper. However, there are also some positive signs at Palm. Its new Centro phone is pretty good, smaller and less costly than a Treo. And the company is receiving an influx of funds and talent from a group of outside investors with experience at Apple, among other places.

Palm’s fate and future may depend on the success of a project it has undertaken to create an entirely new operating system. But the outcome of that effort won’t be known for quite some time.

The iPhone, which is already very good, will likely get better, as it is just at the beginning of its life. It has raised the bar for other smart-phone makers, such as Palm, especially when it comes to software. But I expect other companies to match at least some of the iPhone’s features and style, which means Apple will have to hustle to keep its lead. In the past five years, Apple has done very well at staying ahead of competitors in the design of its computers and portable music players. But the cellphone business is full of companies with more imagination than the typical PC maker and more resources than many makers of portable music players, so the challenge for Apple will be greater.

Q. My mom is legally blind and has difficulty working with email and downloading files. I try to help her by phone, but it never works, and we live far apart, so I can’t just go over to help her. I would like to install an application on her PC where I can take over remotely from home. Do you have any suggestions for this type of application?

A. There are a number of possibilities. One very simple option is a program called CrossLoop, at crossloop.com. Some versions of Windows, such as Windows XP Professional and Windows Vista Ultimate, also have remote desktop control built in.

You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns, online for free at the new All Things Digital Web site, http://walt.allthingsd.com.

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

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