I am a huge fan of classical music, from J.S. Bach to Mozart. Can I download my collection to an iPod without losing fidelity?
Yes, but you may need to change the way Apple's iTunes program copies CDs to your computer. Hit its Edit menu, select "Preferences . . . " and click the Importing tab.
Your first option is to increase the bit rate of iTunes's MP3 or AAC (Advanced Audio Compression) copies to preserve more of your music's finer points. In either format, try a rate of 160 or 192 kilobits per second; if you'll be saving your CDs as MP3 files, choosing the "variable bit rate" option (select "Custom" from the drop-down menu listing good, high and higher-quality bit rates) should help too.
If you still feel something's missing from these digital copies in these or even higher bit rates, try a third iTunes format, the Apple Lossless encoder. This preserves every detail of a song but can compress it only by half, instead of by a factor of 10. So instead of carrying around 5,000 three- to four-minute songs on an iPod, you might fit only 1,000. These files also won't work on non-iPod players.
Microsoft offers a similar option, Windows Media Lossless, in its Windows Media Players 9 and 10.
I'm shopping for a printer-scanner device, but can't decide if I need a photo printer or a regular inkjet.
The difference comes down to how many ink colors are used. Standard inkjets combine four colors, while photo models use additional inks to reproduce a fuller color spectrum.
For most people, a standard inkjet should do -- the differences in quality are hard to spot in practice. If you want to keep your options open, some Hewlett-Packard models let you replace the black ink cartridge with a six-color photo ink cartridge, turning them into photo printers as needed.
-- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.