Sound system for home office need not take a lot of...

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February 22, 1999|By Gareth Branwyn

Sound system for home office need not take a lot of space

If your SOHO (small office/home office) is anything like mine, it's choked with books, papers and computer hardware. Whatever happened to the paperless office and computer miniaturization? A full-blown stereo system certainly wouldn't fit in here and a boom box is just so street.

Enter Onkyo's new EX-1850 mini system ($549.95). It combines a three-CD changer with an FM tuner and can serve as the backbone of a larger bookshelf system by adding an optional cassette tape or mini-disc deck.

About the size of a shoe box, the EX-1850 fits comfortably on a bookshelf, as do the handsome 5-inch by 6-inch by 6-inch speakers. The entire system is very attractive, with much attention to detail, and will spruce up any office or living space. A universal audio remote control operates the CD changer, the radio and any other components you add. One stand-out feature of the EX-1850 is the ability to change two of the CDs while a third is playing.

The sound is good, but not great. For $550, you'd expect to hear the difference. You don't. I've heard similar sound quality on mini systems costing a hundred dollars less (and they had a cassette deck!). The main benefit of this system seem to be the object value and the three-disc changer. Nice, but is that enough?

We hope Onkyo will come to its senses and lower the price, or that you'll be able to find it at a discount audio shop for less.

Information: 201-825-7950 or www.onkyo.co.jp

Simple to follow upgrade and repair guide

Whoever would have thought that two lines of books calling their readers ``dummies'' and ``idiots'' would be so successful? The success of the formula is not in the insulting titles but in the funny, folksy, first-person approach these books take. They often address topics we're resistant to learning, or embarrassed to say we don't know anything about. These titles provide a crash course that assumes we know nothing.

Such is the case with Jennifer Fulton's ``The Complete Idiot's Guide to Upgrading and Repairing PCs'' ($16.99). Anyone who has ever taken a computer to a technician to install more memory, a graphics card or other gadget knows how frustrating this process can be. Your machine is gone for days, even weeks, and the simplest repair or upgrade can cost hundreds of dollars.

A book like this can save you big bucks. It walks you through the most common situations, giving you needed background information, step-by-step instructions, and trouble-shooting tips. Like all Idiots/Dummies guides, this one has oodles of side bars with definitions, tips, and tricks.

A common problem with computer repair guides of all skill levels is poor photos and illustrations. Unfortunately, this guide is no exception. The illustrations are too dark, and it's often difficult to make out what's going on.

Even so, the next time you need a memory upgrade, an expansion card, or a new disk drive, don't surrender your precious machine to a surly tech who'll hold it hostage while you have work to do. Grab a screwdriver, a grounding strap and this book. Poking around beneath the hood of your PC is not nearly as difficult as you might think.

Information: 800-428-5331 or www.mcp.com

You can find full reviews of these and other neat gadgets at www.streettech.com.

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