Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

Upgrading TVs for a Digital Signal

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.

On TV, they announced a $40 government-issued coupon that is available to offset some of the cost of the new digital converter boxes we will need for our older television sets. How do I go about getting some?

You can apply for a coupon at a federal government Web site designed expressly for that purpose: www.dtv2009.gov. Or, you can call 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009). Each household can receive up to two of the $40 coupons, which look like plastic gift cards, but they can’t be combined to purchase a single converter box. Each coupon must be applied to the purchase of a separate box, which the government estimates will cost between $50 and $70 at popular electronics stores. Coupons also must be used within 90 days of the date on which they are mailed to the consumer.

Note that these converter boxes won’t be needed for about a year, and aren’t necessary for TV sets containing digital tuners, also called an “ATSC” tuner. Such tuners have been included in many TV sets sold in the U.S. since 2004, even if they aren’t high definition televisions. Converter boxes also aren’t needed for older analog TV sets that receive their programs via cable or satellite services or other pay services. They are needed only for older analog TV sets that depend on free, over-the-air programming, the kind usually received via an indoor or outdoor antenna.

Is it possible to transfer data from a computer with Windows 95 to a computer which uses Windows XP?

Yes, but the trick would be to figure out a medium for the transfer. Many, if not most, Windows 95 PCs don’t have USB ports, which rules out using a USB thumb drive or external USB hard disk as the transfer mechanism. If your old PC can burn CDs, that might be a good way to transfer your data.

Another option is buying a program like LapLink’s PCMover, which explicitly supports Windows 95 and can automate the process using either a network, removable media, or parallel cables. See laplink.com for details.

I’m thinking of getting an iPod Touch to replace both my iPod shuffle and Palm Pilot Vx. Does the Touch have as good address book and to-do functions as the Palm has? Does the Touch sync to the Mac’s Address Book, Mail, and Calendar software? If so, would it also sync to a Windows box?

The iPod Touch, and its close cousin, the iPhone, do have what I consider to be a very good address book, or Contacts program, though it may not have all the same features you use on your Palm. And that address book can be easily synchronized with a computer.

On a Mac, the iPhone and Touch Contacts can be synced with the built-in Address Book, or with Entourage, Microsoft’s Outlook equivalent. On a Windows PC, it can be synced with Microsoft’s Outlook; with Outlook Express (Windows Address Book) in Windows XP; or with Windows Contacts in Windows Vista.

The calendar on the Touch and iPhone can be synchronized with the Mac’s built-in calendar, with the calendar in Entourage, and with the calendar in Outlook on a Windows PC.

However, neither the Touch nor the iPhone includes a true to-do or task function, and neither synchronizes email with a computer. They do have a good email program, but it is intended to work on its own, fetching and sending email directly, rather than copying email from a computer.

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.

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