Information really is at your fingertips, whether...

Information really is at your fingertips, whether thumbing through pages or tapping at the computer keyboard. This column will help direct you, both at the bookstore and on the Internet, to sources that will make life easier in and around the home.


All-consuming: Consumer Reports “Home Entertainment 1998 Buying Guide” ($9, Consumer Reports, 1998).

TVs to videos: We’ve all been there, standing in front of a wall of television sets at the electronics store, wondering which is best. Go cheap or pay the extra cash? Smart folks have studied their Consumer Reports annual.


This 128-page softbound book puts facts, figures and advice from the monthly magazine in a convenient package. There’s information and product handicapping on TVs, VCRs, camcorders, speakers, CD players, cassette players, mini-systems, computer games and more.

When it comes to TVs, the guide doesn’t make specific recommendations, but it does detail repair histories. The most reliable 25- and 27-inch sets are Sharp, Sanyo and Toshiba, according to Consumer Reports. Panasonic, Sanyo and Sharp do well with the 19- and 20-inch models.

Top to bottom: In the rating sections, Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and Toshiba VCRs get high marks for picture quality and ease of use. For camcorders, Hitachi, Sony, Panasonic and JVC rate well. For CD players, consider Onkyo, Technics and Yamaha for single-disc models and Technics, Kenwood, Yamaha and Sony for carousels.

The guide loves Yamaha for keyboards and digital pianos, with Casio another good keyboard choice and Kawai for digital pianos.


Thumbs up (and down): Wondering what videos to slip into the VCR? This year, the guide lists readers’ choices for movie titles. Their favorites include “Braveheart,” “Hoop Dreams” and “Michael Collins.” Pass on “Jingle All the Way,” “Speed 2: Cruise Control” and “Batman and Robin.”


Petal-ing: The Internet is a great resource for flower fans. What the best have in common are colorful photos, advice and an almost obsessive love of their subjects. Here are four top spots:

Hot: This site (, run by the American Hibiscus Society, features one of the more popular flowers in Southern California. You’ll find many images to download and info on growing the shrub cute-named varieties such as ‘Miss Liberty,’ ‘Oz’ and ‘Eye of the Storm.’

Exotic: African Violets Online ( offers dozens of photos as well as artist renderings. There’s a section on pest and other problems that affect varieties such as ‘California Sunset,’ ‘Rodeo Bigtime’ and ‘Pink Lady.’

Daffy: These pages (, maintained by the American Daffodil Society, provides images and a list of bulb merchants. National and local contests are listed along with detailed gardening suggestions.

Ready: Yesterday’s Rose ( is a visual bounty for rosarians, with more than 100 varieties displayed. You can find out which cut blooms last well in water (‘Awakening’ is one) and are thornless or near-thornless (e.g., ‘Heritage’).