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Solving bad cell reception; choosing a new PC 

MSNBC's Gary Krakow opens his mailbag again to answer your tech questions - and get your comments.

I get a lot of question about which particular brands of certain items I like. The question people should ask, though, is not really what brand they should choose, but which models are best for their situation. Most questions I receive ask about cell phones and laptops.

Keith Mayberry of Cortez, CO asks:

I live in a remote area of Colorado and want a cell phone with the basics which for me is good reception in fringe areas, and a good speakerphone. I never use the other features (such as texting, music, news, email, etc.)  I want the basics.  I am currently with Verizon and the phones available never seem to be rated for good reception. Any ideas?

It’s difficult for me to suggest a particular handset for your situation because I’m not familiar with your location. If you purchase the phone near where you live and work then Verizon should be able to answer your questions and possibly suggest a better alternative for your situation.

If they can’t help, might I suggest speaking with other cellular providers who service your area? I’m pretty sure that one or more of those companies would like your business.

There is the possibility, though, that you’re in a bad reception area — and none of the cellular companies will be able to help. You won’t know for sure if there’s a solution until you do a little legwork.

And, how about some help with choosing a new PC?  Charles Costello from Waco, Texas wants to know:

I was wandering if you could give me a computer brand you prefer. I’m looking real hard at HP at this point. It will be used for personal use only.

The latest available numbers show that for laptops show that the top three manufacturers are HP, Toshiba and Lenovo in that order. Each one of them makes some good computers, but, they’re not the only companies selling great devices. There are other well-know names like Dell, Gateway, Fujitsu, Sony and Apple.

Instead of worrying about which company makes the best computers, you should decide how much you want to spend and what you really need from your computer. Desktop or laptop?  512MB or 2 GB of memory?  CD player or DVD burner?  Do you use your computer just to read e-mail and surf the Web or are will you be running heavy-duty video editing or CAD programs? Once you decide exactly what your need to make your computer work fit your style you can see what is available in your price range then make the best choice.

Keith Mayberry has a second question on a totally different subject:

I have DirecTV. I have one TV in my den, one in the living room and one in the garage. I recently remodeled and would like a TV upstairs and one in the new den. Is there any system that allows you to have TV wireless like I do my computer wireless network?

Sharp has been making a 15-inch “wireless” TV for a few years now. The Aquos LC-15L1U-S receives its signal from a wired base station via a Wi-Fi connection. Sony had a LocationFree solution as well.

But these days there are other options available. With a device called Slingbox you can distribute your cable/satellite TV signal to any computer anywhere. You install Slingbox between your TV controller box and your high-speed computer network — install the latest version of the Slingbox software on your computer (or smartphone) — then watch TV from anywhere on the planet. On any hooked-up to the Web. They a few models — including one which handles HDTV signals.

Victor Martinez has a good idea for global positioning devices:

I just had a thought, if they can track pets with a GPS implant device why can’t they use that same technology for suitcases to keep track of airplane passenger’s luggage?

Who says they can’t?  I believe the limiting factors might be getting the suitcase manufacturers to use the chips — and then getting the airlines to purchase the equipment to read and track them. Good luck!

Finally, ‘vwears’ saw our recent story on U.S. TV going fully digital by February, 2009 and had a comment:

I just read the article about losing our television reception in 2009. My husband and I decided to do without. It’s not as if there’s much fit to watch, anyway.