Racing wheel, pedals for gaming consoles make driving...

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March 14, 2002

Racing wheel, pedals for gaming consoles make driving smoother

"Hate" best sums up my feeling for the left joystick and D-pad on video game console controllers. Most of us older folks who aren't left-handed and didn't grow up with a controller in hand find steering with the left joystick an awkward experience.

Thanks to MadCatz, though, I can steer cars and other vehicles in Microsoft Xbox games as well as competitors 20 years my junior. MadCatz is one of the first makers of console accessories to release a steering wheel-based control system for the Xbox: the MC2 Racing Wheel and Pedals ($60). A similar MC2 wheel for the Sony Play- Station 2 is available for $50.

The base combines a sleekly styled rubber wheel and stick, which can be locked down to a tabletop with suction cups or placed in your lap and held in place with retractable leg braces. The wheel feels good in the hands and its sensitivity can be adjusted for loose or tight turning. All of the buttons and triggers attached to the wheel are easy to reach.

MC2's gas and brake pedal base is designed to keep from sliding when you floor it. Locking the wheel to your table works best when using the gas and brake pedals.

Information: 800-831-1442 or www.madcatz.com.

- Kevin Washington

Book explains the jargon, mysteries of home theater

There are millions of DVD players, surround-sound speaker systems, audio-video receivers, videocassette recorders and color television sets, but only a handful of books that explain how they work, how to set them up properly and how to sift though the stupefying jargon of home theater.

Practical Home Theater (1stBooks, $19.95) by Mark Fleischmann succeeds as both a primer on existing technology and a preview of emerging technology, such as digital television.

The reader with a newly purchased home theater not only learns the differences among the dueling Dolbys - Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic and Dolby Pro Logic II - but also why the picture from a DVD player looks better with an S-video connection than with a composite-video connection.

DVD-Audio and SACD get introductory treatment, but more can be expected in future editions - Fleischmann plans to update Practical Home Theater annually.

Although the guide is devoted to home-theater basics, Fleischmann finds room for such esoterica as killing mechanical resonance with energy dampers that look like hockey pucks.

Some readers will flip immediately to "Connecting a Home Theater System," a how-to guide to installing your 5.1 system (you'll find out what "5.1" means, too). A connection glossary and a problem-solving section are also valuable references.

Fleischmann co-founded the now-defunct etown.com (disclosure: I was a regular contributor to the consumer electronics Web site) and has written for many publications on both electronics and music. This book reveals itself as a print-on-demand title only by the poor reproduction of product photos.

Practical Home Theater is available at Amazon.com and www.practicalhometheater.com, but it's least expensive ($11.95) at 1stbooks.com. For less than the cost of a DVD, it'll remove the power of intimidation from your home theater.

Information: www.firstbooks. com or 800-839-8640.

Kevin Hunt/Hartford Courant

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