Q I have an AM/FM receiver that is around 25 years old. It has worked wonderfully on both AM and FM until we recently moved it from a closet to an open area 20 feet away. The FM is still perfect, but I can't get a clear AM signal, even while tuned to WCCO, one of the nation's most powerful stations.

It has a plastic AM antenna that is attached to the back of the receiver. I have tried relocating the wires to different terminals, but to no avail. I cannot return the receiver to its original location.

It worked excellently until now. Would speakers have anything to do with it?



A Since the FM is working perfectly, we can rule out the speakers. AM is more prone to interference than FM, so it sounds like an issue with AM reception in that particular location.

Start by using a portable AM radio in the old location as well as the new location. Tune it to WCCO to do the comparison. If the portable radio can tune the station clearly in the new location as well as the old location, you know you have a problem with the receiver. If the portable radio can tune the station in the old location but not in the new area, you know you have the receiver placed in a bad spot, so you will need to move it or get a new antenna.

A good place for AM (as well as FM) antennas is the C. Crane Co. (www.ccrane.com). Its Twin Coil Ferrite Antenna is especially good at eliminating interference and improving reception. If you look under the "Antennas" tab on its website, there are recommendations for improving reception and eliminating possible sources of interference. There are many possible sources of interference you may not have considered.

Tuning in HDTV stations

Speaking of antennas, many readers have been writing to me about digital TV converter boxes and antennas to go with them. If you are looking to tune HDTV stations with a set-top antenna (rabbit ears), the best I have found is the Philips PHDTV1 Silver Sensor, previously known as the Zenith Silver Sensor. It is available for less than $25 and is incredibly effective for a small, unpowered antenna.

I also have news about the Echostar TR-40 converter box from Dish Network. The TR-40 made news at the Consumer Electronics Show because it had a retail price of only $40, making it effectively free with a $40 government coupon. The TR-40 has been rebranded the DTVPal and will be available in June or July. I will be tracking this item closely on my website due to the high interest.

Best photo software

Q Which digital image software is good for amateur guys? I don't want to spend too much time in the digital darkroom, and I don't really want to alter the photo too much; otherwise, it becomes too "fake" looking.


A I strongly recommend Adobe Photoshop Elements. It's a consumer-friendly version of Adobe Photoshop, the world standard for image editing. It sells for less than $100, is easy to use and produces top-notch results. If you ever upgrade to Photoshop, you will also find the transition to be smooth.

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