Picking the best portable digital design
Some of the hottest high-tech gadgets much music as the other two kinds of digital
available this holiday season are portable music devices (see below). For example, a 128
digital music players. These compact megabyte (MB) player can hold only about
devices can play popular computer four hours of WMA music or two hours of
music files such as MP3, WMA or AAC— MP3s (though users can change the songs or
tiny files that are downloaded from the song order by connecting it to a PC as often
Internet or converted from music CDs. as they like).
Because these audio files are compressed My pick: the Rio Chiba. This keychain-from their original size, portable players can size player holds more than four hours of non-store thousands of songs, and you get to choose skip WMA music (or two hours of MP3s) and
the combination and order of the songs. an expansion slot to add up to 512 MB of
Consider this article a “Digital Music additional memory. Also included in this tiny
Player 101” that examines the key differences device is an FM radio, five-band equalizer and
between some of the digital players available LCD screen that provides song and artist
today, the pros and cons for each and my top information. Even more impressive is its
pick per category. battery life: more than 18 hours of continuous
playback using one AAA alkaline battery.
These music players are the smallest of CD/MP3 players
the bunch and, more important, they won’t Have a shelf full of CDs? A computer
skip because they have no moving parts. So with a CD recorder? Then a hybrid CD/MP3
they’re ideal for those who are active or for player may be the right choice for you, as they
those who’d rather lug around something the can play regular compact discs as well as
size of a Tic-Tac box instead of a CD player. CD-R or CD-RW (rewritable) discs with
Most of these digital music players ship MP3s “burned” onto them. Another advan-
with some internal storage, but should offer tage of disc-based players is their ability to
the ability to add more memory via postage- store more than 200 WMA songs on one
stamp-size cards. Keep in mind, however, blank CD.
that these portable players do not store as As for shortcomings, these types of port-
able players aren’t conducive to jogging or
running because of their bulkier size and the
fact that they can skip more easily than the
other two types of portable music players.
My pick: the Sony 306 CK Walkman.
This CD player can read regular CDs or discs
with songs encoded in MP3 or ATRAC3plus
format (software included). With the latter,
Marc Sony’s proprietary compression format can
Saltzman squeeze close to 500 songs on a single CD-R
or CD-RW disc! Other noteworthy features
include an easy-to-use jog control, a handy
bookmark playback function and powerful
Q: I’m told by my friends that I
should download an Internet
toolbar. What is it?
A: An Internet toolbar is an extension
of your favourite search site, such as
Google, MSN or Yahoo! Instead of leaving the Web page you’re on to search for
something on the Internet, you can use
one of these toolbars, which can be downloaded for free.
Using the toolbar, you can type in
a search query (e.g. “soup recipes”)
without having to go to Google.ca or
other search engines.
Toolbars offer extras such as protection from pop-up windows or unwanted
spam; one-click e-mail access; and the
ability to search for specific words within
a given Web site.
You need only one toolbar, so be sure
to pick the one that suits your needs. The
Yahoo! toolbar can be downloaded from
toolbar.yahoo.com, the Google toolbar is
toolbar.google.ca and the MSN toolbar
toolbar.msn.ca. Many others exist,
so feel free to type in “web toolbars” or
“search toolbars” in your favourite search
engine (er, or toolbar).—MS
Ask Marc Saltzman
Have a question for Marc? Send your
technology and computer questions to:
Q&A with Marc Saltzman
415 West Hunt Club Road
Ottawa, ON K2E 1C5
Or fax to (613) 221-2283 or e-mail to
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“Marc Saltzman Q&A” in the subject line.
Marc will answer selected questions in
his column. He regrets that unpublished
questions cannot be answered individually.
Hard-drive players has moving parts, they are not recommended
The third type of portable players are for use while running or jogging.
hard-drive-based, similar to the hard drives My pick: the Apple iPod mini. The world’s
inside your computer (but smaller). The key hottest portable digital music player has gone
advantage is that they can store up to more pint-size with the iPod mini, the smallest
than 20,000 songs, making these kinds of device of its kind, which can store up to 1,000
music players ideal for those who travel or songs on its 4 GB hard drive. Weighing just
who enjoy having their entire music or audio 3. 6 ounces, this cell-phone-size player comes
book collection with them wherever they go. in a variety of colours and houses a handy
Downsides are these hard-drive-based click wheel for one-handed operation.
players are not quite as small or as lightweight Other features include an intuitive LCD
as the tiny memory-card-based device, and interface and USB 2.0 and Fire Wire cables for
they’re the most expensive kind of portable fast music transfer to and from a Windows- or
digital music player. And because a hard drive Macintosh-based computer. C