Correction to This Article
The column misstated a resolution available on many computer monitors. The correct figures are 1,920 by 1,200 pixels.
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Help File: Garmin and MSN Direct; Blu-ray movies on computer monitors

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By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, November 22, 2009

Q: I am thinking of replacing my four-year-old Garmin GPS unit with a newer Garmin that includes free lifetime traffic data and MSN Direct. Would that ease my holiday drives?

A: Garmin's traffic-advisory service, available on many higher-end models, can certainly help. But steer clear of assigning too much value to MSN Direct. Microsoft announced last month that this service, which delivers updates on traffic, weather, gas prices, movie times and other information on a special FM radio signal for $49.95 a year, will end on Jan. 1, 2012.

Unfortunately, as of Friday afternoon -- three weeks after Microsoft's announcement -- Garmin's Web site had yet to offer much warning about the change. Its MSN Direct page continued to tout the virtues of this service, and some listings for MSN Direct-compatible receivers made no mention of its scheduled demise while others included just a brief disclaimer at the bottom of each page. A spokeswoman for the Olathe, Kan., firm said it would make those notices more prominent over this weekend.

That doesn't mean that you couldn't get value out of MSN Direct between now and 2012, should your travels fall within its coverage area. But if you keep your next GPS unit for as long as your current one, you'll spend two more years with hardware that no longer functions as advertised.

Will a monitor with 1900-by-1200 resolution work for playing Blu-ray movies, or should I get a 1080p display?

The first set of dimensions are slightly narrower than a Blu-ray disc's 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution, but widely available 1920-by-1080 displays should do fine (though they will leave some space above and below movies when you watch in full-screen mode).

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 robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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