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July 01, 2004|By Kevin E. Washington

Satellite radio kit puts the XM listener in the driver's seat

The first time you hear XM Radio, it sells itself.

If you're disgusted with radio talk shows that simply are reruns of the worst Pablum of the past decade or music that is so repetitive that it would serve as psychological torture, you're ready for satellite radio.

So far, I've enjoyed XM Radio on a number of devices offered by third-party companies and have found the Terk XM Radio Commander ($160 for a tuner box, display device and antenna that requires a separate car radio) to be a relatively pleasant experience.

The Commander is an FM modulator kit that needs to be installed and attached to a car radio. (If you aren't the do-it-yourself type, installation by a professional should cost about $100.) If you already have a car radio that you can tune to 87.9 FM, this might be a better choice than other car kit devices that require you to plug an adapter into a vehicle's audio-cassette tape player.

Once it's installed, users must sign up either via the Internet ($9.99 activation fee) or calling XM Radio ($14.99 activation fee) to get the radio to download the more than 120 available channels. The download usually takes about a half-hour.

Each of the 120 channels has a theme that allows you to tailor your listening. If you like a particular style of music or songs from a particular era, there will be something for you. For a guy like me who loves to laugh, the Extreme Comedy (150) station keeps me chuckling in and out of traffic jams up and down the East Coast.

Both Sirius and XM satellite radio services have added traffic reports that provide weather information, too.

The only downside to the Commander is that some of your other FM stations may might not come in nearly as well as they did before. But for those of us who hate free radio, that's not a big deal.

Information: 800-967-2346 or www.xmradio.com.

Adapter lets landline, cell telephones work as one

If you still haven't figured out a way to integrate your wired and cellular telephone service, the WHP Wireless CellSocket ($140 for base and specific cellular telephone adapter) is a great way for you to bring them together.

The CellSocket is the latest device designed to forward your cellular telephone calls to your home phone or phone system.

Just plug a landline telephone line's cord into the CellSocket base and set the cell phone in the base's adapter. After that two-minute installation drill, you can use your landline telephone to chat on your cellular line.

Cingular began offering a similar service ($40 for the base unit and a monthly $2.99 fee) last year that wowed me, too. But if you don't have Cingular service and do have one of the Motorola cell phones that the CellSocket adapters were created to fit, it may be your best bet.

The CellSocket distinguishes between incoming cellular telephone calls and landline calls with different rings to let users know which line is being called.

The CellSocket also allows you to make outgoing calls on your cellular telephone account. For example, if you were going to make a 9 p.m. call and have cellular service that features free night and weekend calls - but pay per minute for your landline calls - you would probably want to take advantage of your cellular plan's perks. Using the CellSocket, you would be able to chat on your home telephone handset, too.

The device has a slightly larger antenna than the one on a cell phone, which is supposed to help with reception. I didn't notice a difference between my cellular telephone in or out of the cradle because the signal was clear on all of my calls.

Information: 631-961-8970 or www.cellsocket.com.

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