My recommendations for holiday gadgets for your PC.
Microsoft Explorer Mouse
They say build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. In this case, Microsoft has built a better mouse. The Microsoft Explorer Mouse, with BlueTrack technology, works in more places. Surfaces such as granite, carpet, rough wood — even the side of your leg will work just fine as a navigational base. It is wireless and has a connection range up to 30 feet, for those times when you feel like controlling your PC from a block away.
Pinnacle Video Transfer
Let's face it, even for so-called computer experts, transferring analog video sources such as live TV, DVD or VHS tapes into digital form on their PC can be an ordeal — and for many people, impossible. Well, maybe you should just bypass your PC and go directly to your USB-attached device such as an external disk, iPod, Sony PSP or flash drive with no PC to complicate things. The Pinnacle Video Transfer unit does just that. Just connect your source to the PVT, connect your output device and then press the record button. It can't get any easier than that. And it's no bigger than a cell phone.
Are you an at-home guitar player wishing you could find some people to play with but find the prospect of actually getting off your couch disturbing? Okay, maybe that's a little harsh. Perhaps you're just a guitar player looking for a better practice tool. I've got just the product for you. JamVox is an integrated software plus monitor product from Vox Amplification that mutes the guitar part from any MP3 audio file and allows you to play along with the rest of the mix. Kind of like Guitar Hero for those who can actually play. The JamVox modeling software has the usual virtual amplifier and effects similar to many other software-based simulators, but the innovative part here is the Guitar XTracktion technology that allows you to remove the guitar parts from your own MP3 and other audio files. The degree of the effectiveness of the GXT function can vary depending on the particular song, but I've found that it does a good enough job with almost everything I've thrown at it. Recording, time-stretching and reverse-extraction (highlights only the guitar part) are other features included with JamVox. The USB-powered monitor (no power supply necessary) has two 3-inch full-range speakers and is surprisingly loud, but also has a connection for headphones (www.myjamvox.com).
John Torro answers computer questions sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.