- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2007

When even the competition’s cheerleaders endorse you, it’s a good sign.

The editors of Maximum PC magazine, one of the more passionate of Windows PC journals, voted in favor of Apple, Inc.’s ITunes music service over Microsoft Corp.’s Zune Live service, even though they said the music quality of both firm’s recordings was a tad lacking.

But for ITunes music to be truly portable, you need an Apple Inc. IPod, which is 5 years old and which, as of last week, has sold 100 million units.

How can users get more from their IPods? A couple of add-on devices from Florida-based Xtreme Accessories, online at www.xtrememac.com, can help.

One of the most sensible is the AirPlay Boost, a $49.95 device for the newest IPod nano devices that transmits audio via FM to your car stereo. Two features distinguish the AirPlay Boost from similar units: It has an “external” antenna, which increases transmission strength and audio quality, and does not have a power adapter. It runs on the IPod’s power, though an optional car power adapteris sold separately at $19.95.

The AirPlay Boost has built-in software that displays setup options on the IPod’s screen making installation is quick and easy. I like both the concept and the execution. A version for the larger, video IPods is also available. Either is an excellent choice.

More valuable, to me at least, is the $59.95 MicroMemo, a plug-in voice recorder for the IPod. Clip it to your IPod (my test unit was a 2-gigabyte nano), and you are ready to record memos, lectures or interviews.

At the “low,” or default, setting, you can supposedly get 12 hours of recording from an IPod such as the one I used; go up to a 60-gigabyte IPod with video for 348 hours. Use the software to record at “high” quality and you drop down to three hours on the nano and 98 hours on the larger IPod.

However you decide to record, the sound quality is very, very good. I went through a couple of interviews using the MicroMemo, and the sound was good enough, in my opinion, to qualify for use in an audio podcast, even at the low setting. Purists may scoff — or suggest that an optional wired microphone be attached — but I was mightily impressed with the sound quality. Working from the IPod to transcribe my notes wasn’t difficult; the IPod’s “jog wheel” control made incremental “rewinds” easy.

I can’t recommend the MicroMemo highly enough. Oh, and you can keep the sound base attached to the IPod and switch out the microphone for headphones, if you desire; just flip a switch on the bottom of the MicroMemo unit.

One last shout-out to Apple: I had an experience with a Mac last week unlike anything I’ve experienced in roughly a quarter-century of microcomputer use. For reasons unknown, my copy of Apple’s Safari Web browser vanished from the IMac I’m using. After a mild panic — Safari is part of the Mac OS X operating system and not available as a separate download — I merely reinstalled the OS, and Safari returned, with my settings and Web site “bookmarks” in place. The reinstallation made a backup of the old OS, which I could easily discard once all was back to normal.

This is about as close to a “self-healing” operating system as I’ve seen.

If only otheroperating systems were as forgiving.

Read Mark Kellner’s tech blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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