Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

Digital Video Recorders, Microsoft Money on the Mac and Droid

Twenty years ago I could buy a VCR to record TV programs off the airwaves. Is there an analogous device, using digital recording instead of videotape, that doesn’t require a subscription, monthly fees etc.?

A: TiVo digital video recorders can capture free, over-the-air TV shows, if you connect your antenna to the TiVo box. Also, you can use a properly equipped computer to do this. Some Windows computers come with a built-in TV tuner, and Windows itself comes with functionality that allows you to watch TV shows and record them to the hard disk for later playback. You can also buy add-on TV tuners for PCs that lack them. Macs don’t come with hardware and software for watching and recording TV shows, but you can buy add-on hardware and software for Macs that do this as well.

I migrated to a Mac about two years ago. One program I keep using in Windows is Microsoft Money. Microsoft has announced it is discontinuing support for the product. Do you know of any Mac alternatives out there?

A: There’s a Mac version of Quicken, but it isn’t great. Intuit, which makes Quicken, is bringing out a new, supposedly better Mac version soon, but I haven’t seen it. There’s also a product called Moneydance for the Mac (and Windows) that looks decent, but I haven’t reviewed it. Another option is to keep using Windows and switch to Quicken on that platform, though converting from Money may be time-consuming.

My cellphone is ready to be replaced. I am considering the new Droid. although I wouldn’t use it for Internet browsing, but rather as a pure communications device and to keep my calendar and perhaps a few other apps. With such limited use, is it worth it to buy a Droid?

A: I’m not sure which “few other apps” you expect to use, so it’s hard to say which smartphone platform would be best for you, since the leading platforms have different varieties and numbers of apps. But if you really expect your use to be very limited, you might want to look for something that costs less than the $150-$200 a Droid would set you back. For instance, you can get a Palm Pixi for as little as $25 or its more powerful sibling, the Pre, for around $80. You can even get a BlackBerry for well under $100, or an iPhone for $99, or a different phone that runs the same Android operating system as the Droid does for $100 or less. I suggest you consider which apps you expect to run, or how much variety in apps you desire, then weigh your budget, consider which network you prefer and compare models.

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

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