Avi Greengart is the Research Director for Consumer Devices at Current Analysis (Mobile Phones, Connected Devices, and Digital Home). He also regularly writes for Slashgear, sporadically blogs at Home Theater View and Tweets far too often as @greengartAvi's expertise lies in understanding consumer electronics marketing, consumer behavior, and technology adoption patterns: where new technologies meet the mass market. 

 

 

Avi Greengart is an expert on the convergence of technology and entertainment: video, audio, computing, and wireless, how these are coming together, and what's likely to survive long enough to make a difference in your life.

Column #52 (1/04/04)

In this column:

bulletVCR/DVD Hookup
bulletEmailing Pictures from your Digital Camera
bulletWill People Ever Stop Asking About DLP Rainbows?
bulletWireless HDTV?
bulletCan Aluminum Siding Affect Cell Phone Reception?
bulletCell Phones for Frequent International Travelers

VCR/DVD Hookup

Question:

I'm trying to hook up my VCR and a DVD player.  I have an old 19" TV so I need a box from the local cable company to bring in my channels.  I want to hook up both the VCR and DVD player to the TV and to my receiver.  I have a Kenwood receiver and I'm using the DVD for both DVDs and CDs.  I have my DVD player plugged into my receiver in the CD inputs.  Is that okay?  I'm sorry, low budget girl here and can't afford to pay someone.  I thought I could figure it out myself, but ?????

AskAvi Replies:

That’s fine for playing CDs using the DVD player, but you won’t get any video that way.  

I don’t know what inputs/outputs your TV and receiver have.  But my guess would be to hook up the cable box to the VCR, hook up the VCR to the receiver’s VCR inputs (audio and video), hook up the DVD player to the receiver’s DVD inputs (audio and video), and send the receiver’s video out to your TV (depending on how old your TV is, you may need a converter gizmo here – try Radio Shack).  To watch TV or a VHS tape, switch your receiver to the VCR input.  To watch a DVD or listen to a CD, switch your receiver to the DVD input.  This way, all audio is processed by the receiver and sent out to the speakers you have hooked up to the receiver (not your TV’s speakers, which are probably lousy), and all video goes to your TV.

Emailing Pictures from your Digital Camera

Question:

Hi Avi.  I figured how to use the Kodak Easy Share system that came with my Kodak digital camera to e-mail pictures, but it doesn't seem to be actually sending the e-mail with the pictures; the system says "sending" for a seemingly inordinate amount of time  then it stops giving me the "sending" message    - It never says that the message was sent; and I don't see the copy of the message in my e-mail in-box.  Any ideas on the problem?

So I tried the standard way of e-mailing and attaching the picture file to the e-mail message.  Well, it doesn't seem to send it properly [it failed delivery saying "exceeded quota or something like that] When I cc'd the e-mail to myself it took an inordinate time to come through - even for dial-up connection.  When I looked at the 'sent messages' page, the picture in the e-mail was blown up to monstrous size - much bigger than the screen - does this mean that the picture is being converted to a monster size file and that is causing the problems? Am I missing a setting or something in the Kodak Easyshare system? Any ideas on this?

AskAvi Replies:

In all likelihood, you did send out those pictures at high resolution using the Kodak software, which has a built in email program in it, and doesn't use whatever email client may or may not be on your computer.  (Which is why it wouldn't show up in your "sent mail" folder.)  But here's why it is taking so long:

“Blown up to monstrous size” is actually just a normal high resolution picture; we can actually print these and get decent results.  Think about it – if you’re running your monitor at 1024x768, that’s less than a megapixel of resolution.  A three or four megapixel image is going to be much, much larger (though you’re compressing them pretty severely by saving them as JPEGs, which is why they’re “only” 1 or 2 MB each rather than the 16 MB file you’d get if you stored them uncompressed as a TIFF file. Still, at 1MB+ each, that explains why it takes so long to send them over a dialup connection and why you’re going over your maximum email limits for your normal email program.

Three things you can do:

  1. If you don't want to send the full sized files (in other words, if the recipient is just going to look at them, not print them out) check to see if there's an option for EasyShare to compress the pictures before emailing them (I haven't used the software in a while, but I'm pretty sure there is).

  2. Another option if you don't want to send the full sized files and you're using Windows XP: in file manager, right click on the pictures you want to email (hold the CTRL key down to select multiple pictures).  A dialog box will pop up with "email" as one of the options.  Click that, and Windows XP will ask if you want to automatically shrink the photos down for email purposes.

  3. Or you could always just get broadband; problem solved.

Will People Ever Stop Asking About DLP Rainbows?

Question:

I read some stuff from your site and wondered if you could help me.  I'm thinking of buying a home theatre projector and had just about decided on a DLP model when I ran into a sales guy who, incidentally, didn't sell any DLP stuff, that told me about the rainbow effect causing headaches.  I started to find out about it on the net (the way I stumbled on your site) but other than  similar assertions made by anyone reviewing DLP or writing an article called something like, "Projector Buying 101" or "Getting Into Home Theatre Painlessly", I have been unable to locate any "science" on the relationship.   Some writers imply access to data by citing a number they call something like "the percentage of people affected by the phenomenon".  Do you know where I can find non-anecdotal info?

Thanks for your quick reply.  I have no reason to doubt your assertions; it's just that I have little reason to accept them either.  It reminds me of when I was a kid and we were required to watch our first TV from nearly the back of our living room with all of the lights on because if you didn't you could go blind.  My mother knew someone who had a relative of a friend's friend who now had to wear thick glasses because he  didn't abide by the rules.  By the way, that wasn't the only thing in our house that you could do to make yourself go blind. 

AskAvi Replies:

None that I know of, and I've asked both Texas Instruments and the leading DLP projector vendor.  There's no question that the first batch of DLP business projectors could give anyone a headache when used for video (as opposed to computer) sources.  But today's home theater-oriented projectors are built differently to provide higher brightness, better color, and reduced rainbows.  Based on the sheer number of DLP projectors out there and the low number of complaints/returns from mainstream folks who *don't* hang out on projector forums, I believe that the rainbow effect for home theater projectors is extremely overblown - most people enjoy DLP just fine.  A smaller percentage occasionally notice artifacts in certain high contrast, high motion scenes (and may be annoyed, but aren't physically bothered by it).  And a few people are bothered by these artifacts enough to get headaches after sitting through a two hour movie.  (I'm certain that there are people who get headaches after five minutes, and there are also people who get headaches from the smell of popcorn.  Don't invite either of these people over. :)

Even if I did have absolute statistics, say, 3% or 10%, how would that help you know whether you're in that group?  Go see a movie on a current generation model DLP made for home theater use, and see for yourself.  I doubt you'll notice anything at all, never mind be physically ill.  But if you are bothered by DLP, there are excellent projectors using LCD and LCOS chips.  Those technologies use three chips - one for each primary color - eliminating the need for the spinning color wheel that causes the artifact. 

I should also note that the latest-latest version of DLP (the "HD2+" chipset, which should start appearing in products starting this month or shortly thereafter) adds yet another color to the color wheel to increase color accuracy and saturation.  As a bonus, this should also further reduce the rainbow effect for those who can see it in the first place.

Wireless HDTV?

Question:

I've suddenly gotten myself excited about possibly using my HDTV as a stupidly-large monitor for my PC, but with just a little poking around, finding it very frustrating to figure out a way to do it wirelessly...  I've seen some promising products from GrandTec USA (http://www.grandtec.com/), who create separate wireless and HDTV products (but no combination apparently due to FCC regulations), and plenty of video cards that output to hdtv, but don't mention much about the output resolutions...To add to all this, there's been around 3-4 years worth of news touting HDTV streams over 802.11x networks...  

I'd like to know if you have any opinions on whether or not there's a solution for me right now? Or an even more specific question: is it possible to take the single rca-component-output from a video card, push it through one of those wireless audio-video transmitters from Radio-Shack, and then split it out to the component video-ins (or what of this scart connector?) on my tv?

 AskAvi Replies:

This one's easy:

No.

OK, a bit more on why: the data rate for HDTV is too high for most current mainstream wireless protocols (802.11b WiFi, HomeRF, other non-regulated RF bands), and although 802.11g (or 802.11a, for that matter) should have the bandwidth, I've yet to see any commercial products for moving HD streams using it.  We're just starting to see products that move standard definition video streams around (usually over various WiFi flavors)... give it some time.

Can Aluminum Siding Affect Cell Phone Reception?

Question:

Avi: I was sent a copy of your delightful survey of cellular phone non-service in Teaneck. I had a T-Mobile service for a few days and [had no reception] in my home. Made one successful call outside the house and one call from my son's home [elsewhere in Teaneck].  Had no problem with a call from the store in Fairlawn. So, I gave it back and was told that the problem is Aluminum siding. First, is this true? And, what phone equipment is good in Teaneck, as you say, T-Mobile is not the problem. Or what is good with AT&T mobile service?

-Frustrated grandfather, whose kids insist that we get cell phones for emergencies.

AskAvi Replies:

Aluminum siding definitely could actually be a contributing factor – as could thick walls of any material, but specific location is the most critical issue.  Each carrier has dead spots in their coverage.  Did you see the spreadsheet of my survey, not just the summary?  It shows that Nextel has the best average reception in the Teaneck locations I tested, and Verizon has the broadest coverage.  Either are more likely to provide reception than T-Mobile in any given spot, and are probably better choices for you since T-Mobile clearly doesn’t work in the spot you’re in.

There are two other things I have to point out:

  1. Make sure you understand the limits of "emergency" use for wireless phones.  In most cases, if you have the choice of dialing 911 on a landline or a cell phone, always use the landline.  You're far more likely to get through in the first place, you aren't likely to have the call dropped in the middle, and a landline automatically tells the emergency services worker the address where you're making the call (many cell phones do this too, but most local emergency centers aren't set up to use the information yet).  If you do use a cell phone in an emergency, first give the operator your number so they can call you back, then tell them where you're calling from.

  2. This one's a bit self serving, but there's only so much I can post here on this subject.  I'm the lead wireless analyst at Jupiter Research, and for industry professionals, I have much more extensive information on wireless carriers, coverage, satisfaction, phones, consumer trends, billing preferences, location based services, etc., etc. as part of Jupiter Research's Wireless coverage area.

Cell Phones for Frequent International Travelers

Question:

I travel to Israel quite often and want a GSM phone for use there.  I also travel to Europe once a year.

AskAvi Replies:

Any tri-band GSM phone that isn’t SIM-locked (tied to a specific carrier's network) should meet your needs.  If you do this often, it's usually most cost effective to get a separate SIM card in Israel or Europe and swap it in/out when you get there/return.  Note that simply having a tri-band GSM phone with coverage on one of the U.S. GSM network carriers (AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile, or Cingular) isn't enough to have service when overseas - you'll need to call your carrier and have them turn on international roaming, which may affect your billing plan.

As always, go to a store and try out various models to see if the size/key layout/user interface works for you.  If you already know which phone model you want to buy and you're going to set up service in the U.S., too, you may consider buying the phone itself on Amazon.com.  If you're willing to sign up for a plan, Amazon sells the phones below cost, even once carrier incentives are factored in (I can’t figure out how they’re making money at it, but it’s great for you).

-avi

Want to know whether to buy an HDTV? Which personal organizer to buy? The best universal remote control? Cable vs. satellite? Ask Avi. How? Write to AskAviatGreengartdotcom.  One thing, though: while I try to answer most questions sent in, please keep the following in mind:

bulletNearly impossible: walking you through hooking up your DVD player to your cable box to your TV by email.
bulletImpossible: walking you through hooking up your system when you don't tell me what kind of TV, whether you're using a receiver, how many inputs (and what kind of inputs) your TV has, and all the other details that dictate what can and can't be done in your specific situation ...by email.

 

Please note: All submissions become the property of Greengart.com, and Greengart.com retains all copyrights of both questions and answers. (Don't send us anything you intend to copyright or patent.) Not all submissions will be answered.

 

© 2002-2004 Avi Greengart