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Audio and video obsolescence

Q. With audio cassettes and the means to play them disappearing from the market, how to explain equipment manufacturers’ provision of synchronised tape recording of CDs but not vice-versa? It merely increases obsolescence and removes safeguards for posterity…

To those of us who value true sound quality the future looks bleak indeed. Manufacturers are now siding with either SACD or DVD Audio, but there seem to be no player/recorders that can handle both - and precious few discs in either form on sale.

Now, with VHS also on the wane, the lack of options for simple synchronised conservation is being repeated for videotape. Any comment for a non-techie becoming increasingly frustrated?

Peter Beckett / Vilma Rocha

A I think you have indeed hit on an interesting issue. I for one have actually kept my original vinyl LPs because of my own concerns over the long term durability of tape (and CDs).

As you note minimising the risks of obsolescence while maximising the long term durability of digital content does not seem a high priority for consumer electronics vendors.

One option you might consider would be digital storage using a so called ‘loss less’ professional recording format like ogg vorbis and then making sure you have multiple backups stored in different places, and preferably on different media including recordable DVD.

LCD vs Plasma

Q. I read your article in the FT about LCD TVs. I am planning to buy a TV in the near future and wondered how, in your opinion, do LCD and Plasma sets compare to one another. In particular, how do they compare in terms of life cycle and repair costs.

Bob Merkle

A. Generally, LCD screens produce more vivid, richer colours, especially if you sit directly in front of them. They are usually considered to be more durable than Plasma and use significantly less power (about half) but currently cost more to purchase, although prices are falling quickly.

In terms of longevity, both technologies suffer from some degregation over time, though much less than early models.

Older plasma sets tended to suffer from ‘burn in’ while LCD panels can develop faulty pixels and the backlight can dim and eventually fail. However, both Plasma and LCD makers claim their sets should now last more than 60,000 hours which is a lot of viewing – more than 7 years if you were to watch 24 hours a day.

By the time a plasma or LCD set fails the chances are the technology will have moved on anyway.

Online Word Processor

Q. You recently mentioned a website in your column which acts as a word processor. I’ve forgotten the homepage, can’t find it at Google and can’t find it in ft.com, either. Could you remind me of the website’s address?

Gregory C. Eaves

A. Thanks for your question Gregory. There are a lot of good Web-based word processors around including three that I have tried out: Writeboard (www.writeboard.com) , Writely (www.writely.com) which is now owned by Google and Zoho Writer (www.zohowriter.com). My personal favorite of these three is Writely because of its clean and simple interface and deep functionality.

However, if you are a Firefox browser fan you might also want to check out Ajaxwrite (www.ajaxwrite.com) which runs with Firefox browsers (not Internet Explorer).

External Storage

Q. I want to store my Mp3 music externally as I badly need to move my jazz music collections to a bigger space. Can you assist?

Edward Sy

A. You have lots of options Edward, but I would recommend the ‘One Touch’ family of drives from Maxtor or the Western Digital’s new 500Gb ‘My Book.’ Both would provide you with secure access to your jazz files and provide various backup options.

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