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Bluetooth explained, plus a useful TV tool's Gary Krakow answers questions on Bluetooth, a diagnostic tool for plasma TVs, and one more query on HD ready TVs.

Sometimes I forget that not everyone reads every word I write. So, when I get a question like this one from ‘Slick Biff’ of San Diego, Calif., I realize that sometimes a longer explanation is needed.

What is Bluetooth and what does it do?

Bluetooth is a short-range wireless connectivity standard intended to replace hard-wired connections. It provides a way to connect and exchange data information between devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), cellular phones, laptop and desktop computers, printers and digital cameras.

It is primarily used for communication over distances of a few feet. It’s perfect to get small devices to talk to each other, such as a printer and a camera or a cell phone and a laptop.

Bluetooth uses completely different technology than Wi-Fi wireless networking, which is meant to connect many devices at the same time and over distances of a few hundred feet. Wi-Fi also allows for faster wireless connections. (While "Wi-Fi" and "wireless" are often used interchangeably in casual use, Wi-Fi is just one kind of wireless networking — think Kleenex vs. tissue.)

The name Bluetooth was born from the 10th century king of Denmark, King Harold Blatand (Bluetooth in English) who engaged in diplomacy that led warring parties to communicate. It is quite a fitting name for a modern-day technology for getting different devices to talk to each other.

John Clendenin from Bowie, Maryland asks about confusing new HDTV terms — and what exactly he’ll be able to watch:

I just purchased a 26 inch flat screen JVC billed as HD ready. Are you saying that it will not show high def unless I hook it up to a tuner? That would run contrary to what the folks at Circuit City told me. They said I could buy a high-def antenna and plug it in and I could receive HDTV. On the back it has a coax connection that reads HDTV.

HD ready could mean a number of things. It could mean that if you plug in an HD source — whether it’s an HDTV disc system or a high-definition tuner — that your TV will be able to show you a high definition picture.

It could also mean that there’s an HD tuner built-inside and all you have to do is attach a proper antenna to watch local HD broadcasts (as well as any HD discs, etc.)

I currently own two "HD ready" televisions. One is described in category one, the other in category two. In your case, it sounds like the Circuit City salesperson was describing the second option.

The coax connection on the back of your new TV can accept a cable, satellite or antenna feed. It should be possible to watch HDTV via any of those choices.

K.C. Bohannon asks about a very useful television set-up tool that I wrote about:

A while back you reported on a diagnostic DVD for plasma TVs. I remember that you liked it, and recommended the DVD. Any chance that you could remind your readership of the name of that tool?

That would be my pleasure. The DVD I recommend is Sound & Vision’s "Home Theater Tune-up." All you have to do is play the DVD and follow each instruction. The DVD’s host will guide you, step-by-step, on how to get the most from any TV in your home.

The DVD is available on the Sound and Vision Web site ($21.95, shipping and handling included.) You can also find it from a number of online retailers (usually $14.95 plus shipping.)

I consider use of this tool essential for getting the most out of any TV in your house.  In other words, get one and use it. It’s worth every penny.

People used to complain about how widescreen films were cut off when they showed them on TV. Now, with widescreen TVs becoming more common, we have the opposite problem. Jim Ruck of Lincoln, R.I., wants it to stop:

My question is on how the new widescreen TV formats will be handling film shot in full screen format. I realized, while watching PBS’s Broadway series (which was in widescreen), that they were showing film clips from the 30s & 40s in widescreen format. There was no widescreen format then. They were actually editing off the tops and bottoms of the original film to fit in as widescreen. They are destroying film! Just like widescreen movies used to be destroyed by cutting off the left & right sides to fit in the full-screen TV format. I e-mailed PBS and they gave me a crappy answer about “your local station independently determines in what format to broadcast programs” —they didn’t have a clue what I was asking.  I’m hoping a fellow techie may understand. I would prefer showing the original full screen format in widescreen by inserting the black bars on the left and right, like they used to do with the “letterbox” format: putting the black bars on the top & bottom to fill out the full-screened formatting. I also notice that sometimes they are actually stretching the film to look widescreen - which is just as bad!  ANYWAY — can you help? Can this be brought up for public discussion so they stop destroying old films? Please Help!!! No one else seems to understand what I’m talking about.

I agree with you 100 percent. There’s no reason to try to make old technologies conform to new ones — just for the sake of doing so.

No one would stand for a record company re-releasing, say, a Beatles album on CD and removing Paul’s vocals because they didn’t fit properly onto the new medium. Yes, you’d hear the song but it wouldn’t be the same.

It’s not a threat but a plea: Please don’t distort or destroy classic material to make it fit into new methodology. Preserve our past. Watching an old movie or listening to classic tunes should be just that. Nothing more, nothing less.

Finally, a heartfelt plea from Rebeca Guerra of Orlando, Fla.:

Now that I have a bit of cash to spend on a hi-fi system (around $1,000), I’d like to put together the system you recommended in your article “Would you be willing, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, to do an update to your article so your loyal and devoted followers can have a “dream” hi-fi system for under $1,000? Did I forget to say PRETTY PLEASE?????

How can I resist a request like that? I’ll begin researching a new list right away. Just a warning though, it may not be easy. Prices of high-tech items usually rise every year. I’ll do my best.