Stories by Becky Waring

FileMaker Pro 10 Database Software

FileMaker Pro has always had a deserved reputation as the <a href="">most accessible relational database</a> going, allowing average users to build and customize databases for typical small-business tasks like list management, accounting, and personnel, without having to hire costly developers. That's why I was so impressed with the key changes in <a href="">FileMaker Pro 10</a> (US$299), most of which serve to make operations even more intuitive and productive.

Popcorn Hour's top-of-the-line media streamer

Popcorn Hour's claim to fame is that it has the widest format and source support we've seen in any media streamer, and it includes popular video and photo sites like YouTube, MetaCafe, Veoh, Flickr and Picasa. Audio services and RSS feeds are equally well represented, with Live365, Shoutcast, Bloglines, CNN, and MSNBC, among others. (A complete list can be found on the Popcorn Hour home page.) We found video quality to be excellent with high-def sources, although standard-definition playback was often pixelated on our HDTV. Some HDTVs handle SD better than others, and your mileage may vary.

Mvix MX-780HD media streamer

The Mvix MX-780HD is one of a new breed of HDMI-equipped, 1080p-capable media streamers designed to shuttle high-def content from your computer to your HDTV. It can draw video directly from a PC, or from an attached hard drive, internal or external. The Mvix box accepts both IDE and SATA drives, so you can easily recycle an old disk. Many users cite the convenience of archiving their DVD collections on it, and <a href="">BitTorrent</a> download capability is rumored to be coming via a future firmware update. It has a complete set of video and audio outputs, including component, composite, and S-video, plus RCA, coax, and optical audio. And an LCD panel on the front lets you know what source is playing.

MediaGate MG-450HD media streamer

The MediaGate MG-450HD is a high-definition media streamer with 1080p and HDMI support aimed at those with large video, photo, and music collections. An internal drive bay and dual external USB ports let you store media files right in or attached to the streamer, eliminating the need to keep a PC connected 24/7 just for media access. You can even play files from an attached optical or flash drive, including DVDs.

Apple AirPort Extreme with gigabit ethernet

Apple has always "thought different" in its approach to Wi-Fi router design. The latest incarnation of the AirPort Extreme (earlier 802.11g and nongigabit 802.11n versions have similar names, so be careful when shopping) has dual-band support, but can run only in one band at a time: You must choose either 2.4-GHz or 5-GHz mode.