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The Buzz

Thousands rush to claim CD settlement

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2003


After a slow start, thousands of consumers are rushing to grab a share of a $67.4-million payout to settle price-fixing charges against the record industry. However, there's a big catch.

If too many people apply, the judge and parties involved in the case may drop the idea of a direct refund and distribute the settlement in some other way.

The number of claims to receive up to $20 in refunds had swelled by late January to about 1-million after a massive publicity campaign.

The settlement is the result of a number of lawsuits filed in August 2000 by the attorneys general of 41 states. They alleged that record labels and music retailers had violated federal and state antitrust laws by overcharging customers for CDs by about $500-million.

Anyone who purchased a CD from a store between Jan. 1, 1995, and Dec. 22, 2000, is eligible for a refund. But each customer is limited to one claim, even if they bought more than one CD.

There are a number of ways to claim the refund. Consumers can file online (www.musiccdsettlement.com). They can request a paper form by writing to the Claims Administrator, P.O. Box 1650, Faribault, MN 55021-1650. Or they can call (877) 347-4782.

Claims must be filed online or postmarked by March 3. No store receipts are needed.

Text messages to have fewer boundaries

Canadian and American cell phone users finally will be able to send text messages to each other even if they are on different messaging systems.

What has been a wildly popular feature in Europe and Asia for some years had largely been a pipe dream for most North American users, who until last year could send text messages only to those people who subscribed to the same service.

But now the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, the international association for the wireless telecommunications industry, have introduced technology to allow text messaging among all major North American carriers and across the Canada-U.S. border.

This means that customers of all the major wireless service providers in the United States and Canada can now send and receive text messages to and from one wireless phone to another by addressing their messages to a recipient's 10-digit wireless phone number.

Costs of the service will vary according to individual carriers, with plans ranging from per-message charges to flat-fee bundles. Each carrier is expected to create its own billing, coverage area and text-message service.

CD labels: unsafe at higher speeds

High-speed CD-ROM drives provide faster data transfers, but they can run into trouble with self-adhesive CD labels. At high rotational speeds, the weight of the labels can throw the discs off balance, causing unpleasant vibration or even damaging the drive. Advised by manufacturers to avoid stick-on labels, most people have reverted to scribbling on their discs with a marker.

Soon users of Epson's Stylus Photo 960 printer ($349) will be able to apply their artwork and typography to home-burned CDs without worry. The Photo 960, which already had an unusual flat paper path, is to include a tray that will accept a single CD or DVD for printing. (The discs, of course, do not bend.)

The printer, which includes software for creating the labels, will be shipped with the CD attachment starting in March. People who own the Photo 960 printer or who buy one before the CD kit is included will be able to obtain the parts and software at no charge from Epson by contacting the company through its Web site (www.epsonstore.com).

There is a catch. Parker Plaisted, Epson's product manager for photo imaging, said the system works only with special inkjet-printable discs, which tend to be more expensive than ordinary discs.

Apple boosts speeds, lowers prices

Apple Computer has added faster processors to its three Power Mac G4 models and lowered the price by as much as 20 percent. The latest Power Mac models will cost $1,499, $1,999 and $2,699, replacing models introduced in August costing $1,699, $2,499 and $3,299, said Greg Joswiak, the head of marketing for Apple's hardware division.

Apple also introduced a 20-inch flat-screen monitor and slashed the price of two other displays sold for the G4 computers by as much as 43 percent.

Sales of the high-end Power Mac computers have slumped as graphic designers, advertisers and other customers trim budgets to cope with a slowdown in their businesses. Shipments of the machines fell 25 percent last quarter from a year earlier.

Apple's Power Macs now come with a single 1-gigahertz processor, or two processors that each operate at speeds of 1.25 or 1.42 GHz. The old models had two processors, each with speeds ranging from 867 megahertz to 1.25 GHz.

The company cut the price of two computer monitors, which are sold separately from the Power Mac computer. The 23-inch display, which has enough resolution to show high-definition television signals, was reduced to $1,999 from $3,499. Apple knocked $300 off the 17-inch model, bringing the price down to $699.

The good and the bad of the Hip Screen Pad

Anyone who's had to battle for TV time will like the idea of Hip Gear's Hip Screen Pad, which adds a tiny but beautiful LCD screen to a controller to give your console the freedom to roam. Unfortunately, Heather Newman writes in the Detroit Free Press, actual game play isn't always so rewarding.

The Screen Pad is well built, and the screen's weight isn't overwhelming as you hold the controller. It can stand on its own, thanks to small feet on the bottom, and it's not too tippy. It plugs into a controller port and the A/V port on your console and has a headphone jack.

For playing games with big people on screen -- think fun, arena-style 3-D fighters such as X-Men: Next Dimension -- the Screen Pad is a dandy accessory. Controls are quick and sensitive, and the bright screen reproduces exactly what you see on television in miniature.

But for more complex games, where characters are a lot smaller, the scale is so tiny it's nearly impossible to play. Try to pick out Gimli from the cliffs surrounding him in Lord of the Rings: Two Towers, and you'll see what we mean.

The Screen Pad is available for all three consoles for $99. For information, visit www.hipgearproducts.com.

-- Compiled from Times wires

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