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Hercules cam does some heavy pixel-lifting

By Mark Baard
September 7, 2009

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Videoconferencing
If H1N1 fears are keeping you out of circulation, you can still show everyone that your fading summer tan is no spray-on job.

A new HD webcam, the Hercules Dualpix HD720p (www.hercules.com) spares no details from your videoconferencing partners and YouTube viewers. In fact, it delivers a picture rivaling the one you have to pay your cable company extra to get.

The Dualpix (about $60) captures video at 1280 x 720 pixels (hence the 720p) and at 30 frames per second. (If you have just finished a seeded bagel, I recommend checking your teeth before entering a videoconference via the Dualpix.)

The Dualpix has a wide angle, autofocus lens, and 3X zoom. That means if you like to pad around the home office while videoconferencing, or use a green screen to insert digital backgrounds into your webcasts, the Dualpix can help you do that.

The Dualpix even looks more substantial than an ordinary webcam. The webcam’s black shell, large lens, and cool blue recording light serve as a reminder that little escapes its keen electronic eye.

You can clip the device to the top or the side of your laptop screen. The webcam will reorient its view automatically; it “knows’’ which way is up.

You should be able to cajole the Dualpix, a USB device, into working on your Mac. And it works with most of the major videoconferencing applications, such as AOL Instant Messenger and Skype. But Hercules’s Xtra Controller Pro - which you can use to share photos, videos, and other media, while conferencing - is Windows software.

Music players

Ion’s latest vinyl-to-MP3 converter

Before you snag another vintage track from the iTunes Store or Amazon.com (via Pandora, no doubt), why not consider buying the original vinyl?

Long before you could go online to cherry-pick your favorite from an album, there was the LP: a large, grooved disc meant to be played from start to finish. And that included those excruciating odes to women, be they witchy, wanton, or green-eyed.

The trick, of course, is finding the equipment you’ll need to listen to these wonderful artifacts.

If I were in the market for a turntable, I would pick up a rock-solid, used turntable (and a new needle) at In Your Ear Records, on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.

More practical, of course, might be a USB “vinyl archiving’’ turntable, which can play directly to your stereo system, but which also converts your analog sources to iPod-friendly MP3s. Cumberland, R.I.-based Ion Audio (www.ionaudio.com) continues to turn out these devices. You can find them stacked halfway to the ceiling at places like Costco.

Ion’s latest archiving turntable, the Profile LP (about $100), is good-looking, with sloping a black shell and sloping sides. The turntable comes with software that transfers your new digital tracks to iTunes and removes scratches and pops caused by damage to the original.

Like Ion’s other cheap analog-to-digital conversion turntables, this ain’t no Yamaha. But the Profile LP’s low price means that, if it fails you, you will still have a few bucks left for that used spinner at the record store.