Digital Video - Internet Phone - ProtecTV

Some new gizmos of note in the technology world these days.  When the dot-com revolution crashed, companies turned to producing more practical things that make our lives easier, and answer some basic needs.

Many parents will tell you they hesitate to let their kids watch prime-time TV because of what they consider objectionable language.  If that's you, you might want to consider ProtecTV.   For about $80, you get a box that attaches to your VCR, cable box, DVD player, or satellite system that filters out words and phrases you don't want your children to hear.  It even "X's" out bad words on closed captioning.  To find out more, log onto

Videotape only lasts so all those home movies'll be worthless in years to come unless you digitize them, and put 'em on CD's or DVD's.  That's where this next product comes in handy: video conversion kits.  One of the companies offering video-capture hardware and software is Pinnacle systems (

You can get a complete video production kit from Pinnacle for about $300.  Studio Deluxe  requires that you open your computer, though, and install a capture card.  A more practical alternative might be something from Dazzle.

The company that makes Dazzle offers a couple of products. One I bought at Target for about $50, and the other at Best Buy for about $150.  Both let you donwload your analog tapes onto your hard drive as a digital signal, and edit them on your computer.  But the more expensive one also lets you dump that edited video back onto videotape if you'd like.

Both models connect to your computer through the USB port.

The promise of making regular phone calls on an internet connection has never really reached it's full potential.  Until now.  A company called Vonage ( ) finally has a winning plan.  For about $40 a month unlimited local and long-distance plus a nominal one-time set-up fee, Vonage sends you a box about the size of an ashtray.  Hook it to your cable modem or DSL line, and plug any ordinary phone into the other end.  You're all set.  No PC required.  You can track your calls online...and the best part is, you get to choose what area code you want.  

Everybody who's tried it says the sound quality of vonage is just as good as a regular phone. There's only one drawback: for complicated reasons, you can't use it to call 9-1-1.

Watch for more on video conversion and editing video on your computer in upcoming fast forward reports.