High-Definition Technology

Rob Pegoraro
Monday, January 22, 2007; 9:03 AM

Even if you never crack open the Sports section, you can tell the Super Bowl is only weeks away just by looking at all the ads from electronics stores in the paper. January is a busy time of the year for anybody making, selling or buying televisions.

So, we devoted a large chunk of yesterday's Sunday Business section to helping you choose which television to purchase. For my part of the project, I wrote about some of digital television's biggest secrets.

Still confused about this whole digital-television business? I'll be online at 2 p.m. today to talk about that (and anything else that's on your mind, technologically speaking).

The Big Picture on Big-Screen Pricing

While I was writing Sunday's column, I looked up a guide to TVs that The Post ran in 1995, back when Fast Forward was a monthly insert instead of a weekly column. (Some of you may remember that it was a series of pages designed to be cut out, then folded up to fit into your pocket.)

In that section, we had a little chart suggesting price ranges for a few different set sizes. For a 32-inch CRT, we suggested that you would pay $700 to $1,300.

Now, you might pay the same price for a 32-inch HD set, but instead that money will buy you a flat-panel LCD with more than two and a half times the resolution. (If you still prefer a CRT, you'll save approximately $200 to $400, depending on the brand.)

Oh, and there's also been 11 years of inflation. If you factor that in, the CRT of 1995 would cost from $925 to $1,718 in 2006 dollars, while the HDTV of 2006 would go for $529 to $983 in 1995 dollars. (Numbers courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' inflation calculator.)

CES-Induced Purchase Procrastination

With this kind of market trend in my favor, you'd think I would have picked up my own new HDTV by now. In fact, I still haven't upgraded.

I was just about ready to pull the trigger on an HDTV purchase after trying all the flat-panel sets I wrote about in November, but then I realized that I'd be going to the Consumer Electronics Show just a few months later. How could I even think about making such a big purchase without taking advantage of the opportunity to do extensive, in-person research at what equated to be the world's largest showroom?

As it turns out, the next crop of LCD sets in my price and size range will be showing up over the next month or two. Not that they might not cost less a few months later, but at a certain point, even I have to get on with it.

My time at CES helped me clear up one other prospective purchase: Starting in March, manufacturers will begin selling upconverting DVD recorders with built-in digital-TV tuners, which I plan to buy.

On the other hand, I still don't know when I'll be able to buy an audio/video receiver for the living room that includes an HD Radio tuner. The exhibit at iBiquity's booth featured only one model, but nobody seemed to know what this particular unit would cost. At least I finally have a healthy selection of high-end clock radios that incorporate this technology.

How Not to Distribute Software: Adobe Reader 8

Enough about consumer electronics, let's talk about annoying software instead. Today's subject is Adobe Reader 8, the latest version of Adobe's free PDF-display tool.

Once installed, Reader 8 isn't that bad. Its interface is notably cleaner than that of its predecessor.

But first, you have to get this thing on your computer. Once again, Adobe won't let you just download Adobe Reader itself. It's download links instead make you install a "Download Manager" program which then retrieves the actual program itself. Hey, Adobe, here's an idea: When I want to download a program, GIVE ME THE PROGRAM.

To skip this Download Manager routine, use Adobe's file-transfer protocol site by pasting one of the following links into your Web browser:

* To get Windows Installer: ftp://ftp.adobe.com/pub/adobe/reader/win/8.x/8.0/enu/AdbeRdr80_en_US.exe.

* If you use an older Mac with a PowerPC chip, go to: ftp://ftp.adobe.com/pub/adobe/reader/mac/8.x/8.0/enu/AdbeRdr80_en_US_ppc.dmg.

* If your Mac has an Intel chip go to: ftp://ftp.adobe.com/pub/adobe/reader/mac/8.x/8.0/enu/AdbeRdr80_en_US_i386.dmg.

The install itself takes far too long and requires you to restart, on both Mac and Windows. In Windows, it managed to freeze up my copy of the Firefox browser the first time I ran it (yet another opportunity for me to be thankful for Firefox's restore-session capability!), although it's worked fine since. Oh, it also threw up an annoying splash screen inviting me to visit some "Beyond Adobe Reader" site. Like I care...

It's amazing how annoying a free program can be.

Fortunately, on a Mac you can use Apple's own free Preview, included in OS X. In Windows, there is the free Foxit Reader 2.0, recommended by many readers--but in my own limited testing I haven't been able to get Foxit to work as a plugin inside Firefox, only in IE. (Apparently, that will have to wait for the final release of its 2.0 version.


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