Should I get DirecTV's high-definition TiVo to go with my new HDTV?
Maybe not just yet. That $999, TiVo-based "DirecTV HD DVR" won't be able to tune in the high-definition network broadcasts DirecTV plans to offer by the end of this year. The company will transmit those sharper versions of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and their ilk in a more efficient video format that, in turn, will require new receivers.
DirecTV spokeswoman Jade Ekstedt said in an e-mail that owners of older hardware will still be able to watch the service's current HD lineup, which includes high-def versions of ESPN, HBO, Showtime and other non-network channels, plus the standard-definition network fare it offers now. She added that those owners will get "an offer" to upgrade to the new service but didn't say what it might be.
If you can get local stations' digital broadcasts over the air (a good electronics store can help answer that question), the upcoming DirecTV service may not be necessary -- the HD DVR includes a digital tuner to pull in local signals. Otherwise, you'll need the new hardware. And buying that TiVo now means gambling that DirecTV's upgrade offer will meet your approval later. With $999 at stake, I'd want clearer guidance from DirecTV first.
The blocked-sender list in Outlook Express is so long that it's taking too long to filter new e-mail. Can I speed that up?
Yes -- don't block messages by who sent them because hardly any spam comes from the same address twice. The best spam-filtering I've seen comes from software that learns from what kinds of mail you delete or keep; this feature is built into Apple Mail and Mozilla Thunderbird and can be added to Outlook Express with a variety of third-party programs, such as the free POPFile (popfile.sourceforge.net).
-- Rob Pegoraro
Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or email@example.com.