I want to create an audio CD by reading a children's book, then send the book and CD to my grandchild. Can you recommend software that I can use? I already have a microphone for my computer, which runs Windows XP.
That's a terrific idea. Where do I go to nominate you for grandparent of the year? What you need is Audacity, a free and very good sound recording and editing program that you can download from
. Used in conjunction with your microphone, it will let you record as many books as you want. You also can re-record over parts that you may not have gotten just right.
While you're at it, you might consider also sending along a portable CD player. That way, your grandchild could listen to the audio book anywhere, without the need for a standard CD player that has to be plugged in - like in the car, for example, where "Are we there yet?" would be replaced by the soothing sounds of your storytelling. Disney,
and others sell portable CD players designed for young children starting at less than $20.
I have a DSL line that usually works fine, but occasionally a download can take forever. The Internet itself is fast, but the download is so slow you'd swear I had an old dial-up account. What's causing the bottleneck, and what can I do about it?
More than likely, the culprit is the server that's sending the program. But don't despair, because you probably can increase your download speeds by using Download Accelerator from speedbit.com. It's an enormously popular program, partly because it's free but mostly because it does what its name implies.
Instead of making a single connection to a download server- as your computer normally does - Download Accelerator starts and manages connections with one or more servers (many programs can be downloaded from multiple servers). It downloads different parts of a requested file simultaneously and then puts the whole file together in less time than the file can be downloaded via a single connection.
FYI, SpeedBit also offers a free video accelerator that can take the fits-and-starts out of YouTube and other streaming video.
I'm planning to serve in the Peace Corps, most likely in rural Africa where I may or may not have electricity. My iPod is my other half. Are there any reliable solar chargers I can take with me?
You are in luck. A company called Solar Technology sells a charger designed for portable devices like the iPod. Priced at $59.99, Freeloader is a cell-phone-size device with a pair of solar cells and an onboard battery.
You leave it in the sun, and in as little as eight hours, the solar cells will charge the battery. Then you can use it to charge your iPod (it also can charge a mobile phone, a PlayStation Portable or almost any other hand-held device that uses a battery charger. It should give your iPod 18 hours worth of power.
The Freeloader comes with cables as well as tips to fit different devices. It was supposed to go on sale at U.S. electronics retailers this month, but if you can't find it at a store, you can buy it online at freeloadersolar.com.
I'm moving into a new house, and I'd like to get a home theater system for the family room. My problem is that the way the room is configured, it's going to be hard to run wires for rear speakers. Do any home theater systems offer wireless speakers?
They do. In fact, wireless rear speakers are all the rage with new home theater systems (a k a "Home Theater in a Box"). All the major electronics companies - Sony,
, Samsung, LG, etc. - offer systems with wireless rear speakers. Expect to pay $350 and up for a system with a standard DVD player, and $600 or more for one with a Blu-ray player.
Here's a tip: Don't bother looking for a home theater system with front as well as rear wireless speakers, because as far as I can tell, there aren't any. You can get a 7.1 channel speaker system by itself that's completely wireless - the Panasonic SCZT1 - but it costs a cool $1,800.