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Apple News From Macworld

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Tuesday, January 18, 2005; 2:00 PM

Fast Forward's Rob Pegoraro was online to talk about the new products Apple Computer unveiled last week at Macworld.

A Transcript Follows

Rob Pegoraro (The Post)

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Rob Pegoraro: I'm back--not tanned, but rested (no thanks to Delta taking over an hour to get my bags off the plane after our 11 p.m. arrival at Dulles last night :) and ready. Tons of questions out there about Apple's Macworld news, as well as more comments on my little piece about Fry's Electronics than I ever would have expected. Let's get to it...

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Washington, DC: Rob - first time question. CD player or iPod? I ask b/c I just can't seem to find a decent CD player. There are zero decent choices out there. I don't want a gigantic CD jukebox or a one-tray CD player. I'm thinking whether I should just make the switch and go digital, move all my CDs to an iPod and hook it up to my stereo. I'm really torn on this decision, b/c if I get an iPod, I want the 40GB and that's a lot of cash compared to a CD player. What do you think? (I have to talk my wife into this!;)

Rob Pegoraro: WDC is, I think, *exactly* the target customer for the iPod shuffle. It's priced and designed to grab the attention of somebody who goes shopping for a CD player (portable or changer, both of which also lack any meaningful display), not an MP3 player.

But WDC is actually asking about the full-sized iPod (yes, that'll teach me to read the whole question before replying :). An iPod would work for that, but it also seems overkill--why spend extra for portability if the device will be plugged in full-time? If you've got a home network, a wireless media receiver like the Apple AirPort Express or Roku SoundBridge would work better and cost less.

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Richmond, VA: Although your review of the new TiVoToGo feature was less than stellar, I would like to know if TiVo has formally announced its plans for the software upgrade to the TiVo boxes. I added my unit to upgrade queue on Jan 3, but I have yet to see a new version.

washingtonpost.com: Read Rob's review: "Recordings Made Way Too Hard ToGo."

Rob Pegoraro: The plans were laid out in TiVo's Jan. 3 announcement, but apparently it's taking a few weeks to get this upgrade out to everybody. (I can tell you that you're not missing much...)

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Parkville, MD: What's your take on the iPod shuffle?

I have to admit that 99% of the time I use my iPod the way the shuffle is intended to be used, but sometimes I get a hankerin' to hear a favorite song. Even if I have to stop what I'm doing and spend 20 to 30 seconds hunting it down, I want to be able to find it and play it. But without a screen that's virtually impossible on the iPod shuffle.

There are several competing products that are just as small (or even smaller) and offer USB storage capacity just like the shuffle, but which also include a screen.

Personally, I'd be far more tempted to go with one of those if I wanted a flash-drive/mini USB player.

Rob Pegoraro: I've got a shuffle on my desk as I type this (Apple gave me one last Wednesday). You've pretty much nailed the tradeoffs between the shuffle and other flash-based MP3 players, with one exception--cost. The iPod shuffle costs less than a lot of other flash-based players of the same capacity. It's not that much more expensive than a plain old 512-meg USB keychain.

It's a novel experience to be able to make that observation of an Apple product...

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Silver Spring, MD: Thanks for moderating, Rob. I'm looking forward to
checking out the iPod Shuffle myself, and to gauging
other people's reactions to it. My second-generation iPod
is great but wasn't built to take the vibration of being
worn while running -- the unit would freeze when it tried
to read more music from the disk. I think the Shuffle (no
moving parts while playing) will be a good solution.

Rob Pegoraro: I did take the iPod mini jogging, and that worked fine (until, that is, the standard Apple headphones worked themselves loose of my ears). I did have the chance to take the iPod shuffle skiing, and it took the bumps without incident, including a spill or two.

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Burlington, VT: Not Mac Related, but did you mean to imply in your CES roundup piece that the new HD compression system for Direct TV might render them fancy $1,000 Tivo receivers obsolete within the year?

washingtonpost.com: Read the related column by Rob: "Waiting for a TV Technology to Inherit the Future."

Rob Pegoraro: That's what DirecTV wouldn't answer directly (gotta give credit here to the reader who asked me this question in e-mail the night after DirecTV announced this upgrade). If *every* HD subscriber must get a new receiver, then existing DirecTiVo HD boxes would indeed be obsolete. OTOH, if you only need new hardware to get these new local-network HD signals, you could continue to use your old box, at the cost of having to get the local HD broadcasts with an over-the-air antenna.

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Chicago IL: I find it a little strange that iPod does not include a basic FM receiver, or am I missing something?

Rob Pegoraro: I think you're missing something. In all the times I've spent carrying around various MP3 players, I haven't once missed FM. The point of having an MP3 player on your person is to *escape* the playlist-choked wasteland of FM, not maintain a connection to it.

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Chuck in DC: Do you think the new Mini-Mac will draw a lot of people
now with Windows boxes connected to their mice and
keyboards? Is it as easy to install as it seems?

Rob Pegoraro: I'll know once Apple sends a review unit my way. (That's coming soon, right, Apple? :) It certainly seems positioned to draw people who have an older Windows PC in the house and don't want to get rid of their monitor, mouse and keyboard... only potential hitch there is that few PCs ship with USB input devices, so those users would need to budget for USB-to-PS/2 adapters or ante up for new keyboards and mice.

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Bow, NH: Is the new $500 Mac right for me?
My family wants to start editing some of the mini-dv video we shoot (and never do anything with!). Our windows set up is a 3year oldd 20g hard drive which is having the same pop-up and virus issues everyone else seems to be complaining about. I've never tried putting video through it - and have a feeling it wouldn't make sense. Would the new economical make be effective foramateurr video editing?
Thanks!
Bow, NH

Rob Pegoraro: It could--it's got the FireWire port you'd need for a digital camera, and its G4 processor is fast enough to get the job done as well. However, that 40-gig hard drive in the base model will fill up fast, and 256 megs of memory ain't enough for video editing. It's not even enough for everyday Mac OS X multitasking, as I've written before.

You can upgrade both the hard drive and disk on the Mac mini when custom-ordering from Apple's store, but at a certain point an eMac or iMac all-in-one will make more sense.

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What?!; Please clarify HD Tivo comments?: I currently receive my HD locals through an installed roof antenna I am very happy with and enjoy the heck out of the HD Tivo, despite the cost. If these changes go through what will that mean for me, will I be receiving a lesser signal, or is it just that with the new box I could receive said locals from the dish?

Rob Pegoraro: You need to direct that question to DirecTV. The PR rep I talked to on the floor at CES didn't have an answer, said she'd call with one later that day and never did.

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Alexandria, VA: Hi Rob-

Rob've been wanting to get a Mac for a while now (since becoming smitten with my ipod) and I am coveting the new Mac Mini. I was about to rush out and buy one when I was warned that I should wait for a second generation version, so that the kinks are worked out. What is your take on this thinking? And as someone who really only uses a computer for the internet, iTunes, and a few basic office functions, would the Mac Mini be right for me?

Thanks!;

Rob Pegoraro: The Mac mini seems designed for just those uses you lay out. While I'd think twice about using it to edit video (see my prev. answer), it should have no problem handling Web/writing/music applications.

You're defintelydefinitelyat a second-gen model might fix issues in the first iteration. Not having tried a Mac mini in person, I can't say what those issues might be, or if they even exist. I hope to have an answer on that in a week or two, though!

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Webster, NY: Rob:

Can you explain WHY WiFi was so difficult to access at both CES and from what I heard, Macworld, too?

Do Apple's hard drives work with any particular type of TV Tuner? Isn't this the key for Steve Jobs --- to have a bundled Mac and HDTV Tuner?

After seeing Jobs' speech on the Apple Web site, I decided to check out the Apple products a bit more in person at a local store. I've never really seen them in operation. Just one person's opinion, but they are so much easier than Microsoft's.

I picture the Mini Mac being a good, but not stellar seller for Apple. Just wish Jobs and crew would put a TV Tuner in there. That's the future, and the future is now with the Windows Media OS.

Could you compare Apple's Powerbooks to, say, Dell's laptops with the Centrino chip and running Windows XP Pro?

Thanks!;

Rob Pegoraro: A few different queries in here...

1) No idea why WiFi was so borked at CES, except that the subcontractor there owes the show organizers a huge refund for failing so miserably. At Macworld, the problem was solely my laptop.

2) You can plug in external TV tuners like Elgato's eyeTV to any Mac. I don't know if the Mac mini's hard drive is fast enough to record video in real time, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't. OTOH, I don't think Apple sees any real demand for what you're asking for. It hasn't built a TV tuner into a Mac in years; the company (or Steve Jobs, which is the same thing in this case) seems to expect consumer electronics boxes to cover the job of TV recording and time-shifting.

3) The Apple laptop will have a lot more style (I love that backlit kback lit option) and weigh a bit less than most Dell laptops, save the ultralighultra lightse X300, for instance). Battery life should be comparable in most cases. Expect a far better multimedia bundle and Web/e-mail programs on the PowerBook. Pricing should be competitive until you get to the 15-in. PowerBook and higher models.

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Tampa, FL: Two questions: (1) Any word on a G5 laptop? (2) Will Apple introduce right- and left-click capability for laptops? I can't figure out why a laptop as advanced as my G4 TiBook needs a mouse to right-click.

Rob Pegoraro: 1) No.

2) No. Apple has said since about 1984 that it prefers one-button mice--you don't have to teach people which button does what. (As a side benefit, this also forces software interface designers to expose all important functions via buttons or menu items, instead of burying them in contextual menus). The right-click option does make sense for more advanced users, but nothing stops you from plugging any old USB two-button rodent into a Mac; both buttons and the scroll wheel should work out of the box, no driver software needed.

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Alexandria, VA: Hi--

Hihat did you think of Jobs and the head of Sony together onstage fon stagekey note? Why did Apple feel compelled to highlight their relationship with Sony, particularly when Sony is trying to take iPod market share away?

Thanks!;

Rob Pegoraro: I thought that odd as well. (Jobs brought Sony CEO Kunitake Ando on stage for a couple of minutes to demo a $3,500 HD camcorder). The actual news content of that was pretty much nil, although it did point out how feudal Sony is these days--there's no way anybody in Sony's Vaio PC or digital-music divisions could not have been infuriated by that appearance. I suppose this was some gamesmanship by Jobs... a little way to annoy the competition.

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Hershey , Pa: I'm in the market to buy a personal computer, Why shoulshoulduy APPLE over another brand, I've been extremely frustrated with Microsoft... in addition does Apple plan on opening stores in the central Pennsylvania area? Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: Not sure about central Pennsylvania, although State College seems like a logical spot to put one. See ifoapplestore.com for dirt about possible future Apple Store locations.

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new york, ny: Why didn't you also mention ReplayTV, which for four years has had superior show sharing (across home networks or the Internet!;), automatic commercial skipping, and with DVArchive supports Macs, PCs, Linux, and anything that can run Java?

Rob Pegoraro: Because TiVo has a spot in the public mind that ReplayTV does not, and because DVArchive is a third-party app, not something from Replay itself that users automatically get.

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DC: Rob -

I've been holding off on getting TiVo, but I see where the latest best price is now $79 for the box. At this price, would I be foolish to wait any longer?

Rob Pegoraro: No--not if your cable or satellite service can give you the same basic service in a free box and at a far lower monthly rate ($5-$10 versus $13). Adding a TiVo box to an existing cable or satellite receiver isn't the easiest thing in the world, unless you enjoy setting up "IR blasters" and rewiring home-theater stacks.

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Fairfax, VA: Rob:

The new mini Mac (Mac mini?) looks really cool and might just be the replacement that I have been looking for my 1999 vintage iMac. Just wondering, however, how difficult it is to transfer everything from the old system to the new system. I have a spare 17" LCD monitor (don't ask!;) along with an IR keyboard and mouse, so peripherals are not an issue.

What do you think of this?

Rob Pegoraro: The monitor should be no problem--the Mac mini has a DVI video connector on the back, with a VGA adapter in the box. Your old iMac's keyboard and mouse will certainly work; the IR equivalents may or may not, depending on whether the IR receiver that plugs into the computer a) needs driver software and b) if so, has Mac OS X software available.

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Washington, DC: Right now I have an iPod, which I love, and use it for running. I have concerns about killing it due to the jolting described in the earlier post. Is it possible to use iTunes for both an iPod and an iPod Shuffle? how does iTunes know which songs to put on the Shuffle?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, you can use multiple iPods with one copy of iTunes. By default, iTunes will "autofill" an iPod shuffle with a random selection of music out of your library, enough to max out the available storage on the shuffle. You can click a button to have it favor songs you've rated higher, or you can tell iTunes to only autofill from certain playlists. Lastly, you can dump songs on it manually if you want.

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Chattanooga, Tenn.: Rob, Was there any word out of MacWorld about any price drops on current products to go along with the uber-cheap Mac mini? I'm hobbling along with my years-old G4 desktop, and hoping for a price break before I get a new iMac!;

Rob Pegoraro: Nope, but if you look at the ages of the other Mac models, you can see that some of them are pretty much due for updates, price cuts or both. (E.g., PowerBooks and maybe the iMac, although the latter might not happen for another couple of months).

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Charleston, SC: Not a question exactly, but would like to know your view. I
think the Mac Mini is a great, long-overdue idea, but I fear
making the RAM not upgradeable by users and (if I
understand correctly) only having one open slot for RAM
like laptops is going to seriously cripple the Mac Mini.
This will not happen immediately but a year from now
when people try to upgrade their RAM, there's going to be
a lot of angry "switchers' who will then never consider a
Mac again.

Rob Pegoraro: Correct, the Mac mini only has one slot for memory--if you don't upgrade when you order one, you'll have to remove the normal 256-meg stick (then, presumably, hawk it on eBay) to add a larger allocation of RAM.

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Austin, TX: The Mac Mini apparently only has two USB ports, if I'm reading the Apple web site correctly. So plug in the USB keyboard and mouse, and you're out of ports. Yeah, you can get a port replicator. But that kind of dilutes the whole "simple, elegant" motif.

Maybe it's a trivial fact, but it's really keeping me from encouraging people to buy one.

Rob Pegoraro: Am wondering about that as well. Apple's keyboards have always included an extra USB port for the mouse to plug into, but many other USB keyboards lack that feature.

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Alexandria, Virginia: Question regarding sharing iTunes with multiple iPods...

We installed iTunes on one of family's iMacs about a year ago and my kids have 500-700 songs that have either been downloaded or burned from CDs. The songs are generally organized into large directories, one for each daughter with a couple of special directories (e.g., Broadway).

My oldest daughter recently purchased an iPod with Xmas money and proceeded to get it all set up, not realizing that every iTunes directory was stored as a playlist which means that she has her sister's collection of Hillary Duff mixed with Red Hot Chili Peppers and my Springsteen.

My question is whether there is any way to segregate these directories so that only 'her' music gets downloaded when the iPod syncs.

Rob Pegoraro: Hillary Duff and Springsteen?! [shudder...] Yeah, you can fix that--create a playlist with only her songs, connect the iPod, click the iPod icon at the bottom right of the iTunes window, then change that iPod's settings so it only syncs to that new playlist.

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Arlington, VA: Of the many devices now available to make it possible to listen to the iPod in the car, did anything you saw at CES or MacWorld stand out?

The reviews of various FM transmitters that I've read seem highly variable. Last week I received a notice about a device called AirPlay, sold through Xtrememac.com. It seemed, if nothing else, affordable and neat in terms of design (i.e., no cables of any kind). See www.xtrememac.com/adapters/airplay.shtml.

Would be interested to hear what you think of this or any other devices. I'd get much more use out of my iPod id I could use it in the car, but don't want to spend money on something that's only going to be aggravating.

Thanks for your help.

Rob Pegoraro: Monster--best known for its way-expensive audio cables--showed off something called the iCruze at CES. It's a $250 adapter that, they say, plugs into 700 different car audio systems, adding an adapter cable to your dashboard. Plug an iPod into that cable, and you can then control it with your car stereo's regular buttons. A $99 add-on screen lets you see what's on the iPod itself.

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Washington, DC: I have 10 gigs of MP3'S already. What' the best Ipod like player out there. Ipod doesn't play MP3's, do they? What about illegal MP3's that I got years ago. Back when Napster was new...

Rob Pegoraro: Nope, iPods and iTunes both play MP3s--from whatever source--just fine.

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Little Rock, Arkansas: I know that comparing Apple and WIntel processors is a little like apples (no pun) and oranges. Just how does the mini mac's G4 processor stack up against Intel/AMD processors?
Also, is using a KVM switcher a good idea to compare (and use) the two?

Thanks!;

Rob Pegoraro: A G4 should be pretty competitive with a Pentium 4 in daily use, meaning both processors are more than fast enough for stuff like Web browsing, e-mail and word processing. It's only when you get into chores like digital video editing that processor speed becomes that important.

Apple actually suggests that Windows programmers buy a KVM switch with a Mac mini, so they can do that side-by-side use.

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FM Question...: Why wouldn't you want an FM/Radio on an iPod. I'd love to check the weather, sports scores or other feauturefeaturesony Kornhesier's radio show) only available on the radio.

I think Apple's missing the boat on this. After some point, consumers will start opting out for rival players that do have am FM/AM player.

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, that would explain why the existing line of iPods, none with FM tuners, have gone from 0 to 60 percent market share in a few years.

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Bowie Mac User: Hi Rob!

The Mac rumor sites have been talking about Powerbook >updates for awhile now. What is your take on the inevitability of speed bumped Powerbooks? Also, what is your take on the future introduction of a G5 Powerbook?

A site is touting that a Apple contractor, Asutek, is contracted to make G5 laptops in the second quarter. Were your able to use your journalistic prowess to get an Apple person to spill the beans?

Speaking of rumor sites, the Post reports that Think Secret founder Nick dePlume is being sued, by Apple, for inciting its employees/contractor to violate their confidentiality agreements with them. What is your opinion on this?

washingtonpost.com: Read the related story: "Teen Web Editor Drives Apple to Court Action." (Post, Jan. 14)

Rob Pegoraro: I think faster PowerBooks are inevitable. Like I was saying, the existing line has been around for a while. A G5 PowerBook is not nearly so inevitable... Apple has to do this at some point, but given that it has yet to cram a G5 chip in anything smaller than an iMac or an Xserve, I don't see it happening within the next, oh, six months or so.

I think it's pathetic, bullying, self-defeating behavior for any company to start suing news sources. It's a fight you can never, ever win, and Apple should know better. If it wants to punish its own employees for leaking, that's within its rights, but to go after the press--even Web sites run by teenagers--is just stupid.

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Washington, DC: On Jan 6 the WP had a piece on donating used PCs. Can you please provide a link to that article...it will come in handy after Xmas...thx

washingtonpost.com: Related story: "Finding a Home for Old Computers."

Rob Pegoraro: Here ya go...

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Warwick, RI: RE: Mac Mini - will there be any way to record external sources of music except via CD? Such sources might include vinyl LP, casetcassettes even broadcasts via the earphone jacks

Rob Pegoraro: It only has a line-out port, so you'd need to add an adapter (e.g., Griffin's $40 iMic) make those recordings.

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Gualala, CA: Greetings: With new memory technologies, can designated operating system and software files be maintained in a built-in flash memory to assist recovery? Or, must a mirror drive system be the best instant recovery assurance? Until PCs come with built-in recovery systems what should we do to get back to business after a drive crash?

I am interested in system recovery systems and methods. I note that no computer provides for immediate system recovery from a hard drive crash. After my last crash, it took me a week to recover plus another week to really get my old functionality restored and preferences reset. So, I have learned the lessons of "backup".

But I remain fearful of the inevitability of another crash and another long period of lost time required to recover and restore all software, re-download updates and revisions, and, should I mention, the basic need to go purchase and install a new drive.

With new memory technologies, can designated operating system and software files be maintained in a built-in flash memory to assist recovery? Or, must a mirror drive system be the best instant recovery assurance?

When can we hope that Apple will surprise us with an "assured stability" machine? 'Bout time! don'tcha think?

Tom Dorn
Gualala, CA 95445

Rob Pegoraro: In one way, Apple already provides that. Mac OS X Panther includes what Linux has featured for a while--a "journaling" file system that automatically tracks all changes to the disk in a way that makes it really hard to lose data from a forced restart or shutdown.

If, OTOH, you're talking about protection from a physical failure of the hard drive, you'd need what's called a RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) setup, in which a separate drive is used as a backup to the first one. That's possible in any operating system around these days, but it's not standard equipment in any home-oriented setup that I know of--too much expense for a feature most people won't want.

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Arlington, VA: Re using iPods in cars: I had heard of the iCruze and thought it sounded great, but my car isn't one of the 700 models on their list . . . at least not yet.

Next best would be . . . ?

Rob Pegoraro: Hmm. Do you have a tape deck in your car? There are plenty of cheap cassette adapters. FM relays are also cheap. If you drive a BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Nissan (or Ferrari or Alfa Romeo), all of which have announced plans for iPod integration kits, you may have your adapter from your car's manufacturer sometime this year.

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Vienna, VA: Rob:
Given the ongoing surge of popularity of iPods, a simple question from a guy with 400 CDs and 250 albums: what is the sound quality of an iPod when hooked up to a full-fledged sound system, either in house on in car? Is the difference discernible, and are there plans for a sonic upgrade? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: The iPod's own hardware and software isn't the issue there, it's the quality of the files you put on it. (See my Help File column of a week or two ago for more on this). I've played music from an iPod through Apple's dock to my own not-bad (but oh so obsolete) stereo, and it sounded great to me.

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Fairfax, VA: I could agree on you on the wasteland of FM. Ever since I bought a computer with a CD burner, I listen to them in the car while driving. The change in format for WHFS is no big loss to me. Give me the chance to listen to all worldwide independent artists and buy their records without big label pricing.

Rob Pegoraro: Just wanted to throw in that note about HFS. I was shocked to see the news as well--I covered a few HFStivals back in the day--but not terribly sad, as that station was dead to me years ago.

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San Francisco: I was at Macworld on Tuesday & frankly, it left me with was a splitting headache more than anything else -- since no one gives away pens, squishy balls & t-shirts anymore!; I really applaud the media who have to cover those events; you guys get mobbed almost as much as Jobs. Speaking of charismatic leaders, have you heard about the book "The Cult of Mac"? You should check it out.

Rob Pegoraro: Nobody was mobbing *me*, but that's alright, really. I have not check out Leander Kahney's book yet, but it sounds like a fun read.

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Baltimore, Maryland: I am one of those folks that Apple was presupresumablyeting with the cheap Mini Mac, but my initial excitement has been dashed after being told that the machine itself is based on old technology and isn't very good. Is this true?

Rob Pegoraro: Can't answer the "isn't very good" complaint yet, but the "old technology" one seems spurious to me. The G4 processor in it is the same kind you'd get with a brand-new PowerBook or iBook, and the memory and drives on board are fine as well. Besides, it's a $500 computer--what do you want, exactly? If the newest, greatest stuff could be fit into a box that cheap, then PC manufacturers would be stuffing Pentium 4 HT or Athlon 64 processors into their own $500 systems.

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Washington, DC: I just bought an IBM T42 laptop and it has something storing your data in a separate place on the hard drive in case of a hard drive failure which I have yet to investigate - do you know what I am referring to?

Rob Pegoraro: I believe you're talking about IBM's RapidRestore system.

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ITrip works great: Just used an ITrip driving between here and Chicago and no complaints whatsoever. Worked great for the price. Got the charger from Radio Shack (name escapes me) and it was a great setup for very little money.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the trip report!

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Rob Pegoraro: To celebrate the fact that I did not have to do this chat on my malfunctioning old laptop, I'll stick around for a few more minutes to answer a backlog of questions...

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Arlington, VA: Hi Rob, I realize that this is very basic but I am trying to decide whether to buy a Mac - either the new iMac (paying extra to get either 512 mb or 1 g) or the mid or upper G5 desktop system vs. a Windows based PC such as a top Sony Viao (video editing software is one attraction).

My preference would be for the Macs (security) but it is very difficult to justify spending at least a $1,000 to 2,000 dollars more for the Macs. I am also very confused by the processor speeds of the PCs vs. the Macs. We are eventually interested in using the computer for both video and music (professional level recording) and have been repeatedly been told that most musicians use the Mac based systems although I believe that ProTools or the equivalent systems are now also available for PC use.

I know that the Macs are more secure from viral and worm attacks for Internet use but I am still having a hard time justifying the difference in cost. Can you please address how one would distinguish between these different systems and why one should seriously consider spending the additional money for a Mac system, apart from looks which are a nice added feature but not critical. Also, the iMac is a 1.8 while the G5 Macs start at 1.8 and go up to 2.5. Would the 1.8 iMac be a good starter system to consider vs. the investment in the G5 and can you still do the higher level video and music recording using the 1.8 imac system vs. investing in the G5 desktop (mid- or upper end) systems? Thanks! One very confused consumer.

Rob Pegoraro: I'd go with the iMac (17-in. model), and use the money saved by not buying a Power Mac desktop on upgrading the iMac's memory to 512 megs or a gigabyte (GarageBand and iMovie can use all the memory you throw at them). And the iMac should not cost much more than a comparable PC bundle; it may actually cost less.

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That last link...: ...to "Finding A Home for Old Computers" takes readers to a page that says:

We are unable to locate the page you requested.
The page may have moved or may no longer be available

Rob Pegoraro: That must be a problem with your computer. Please reinstall Windows and let us know if you still see the problem... just kidding :)

Here's the correct address.

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HDTV Shopping Blues: OK, I know today's a MacWorld chat, but my husband and I spent all weekend shopping for HDTVs, and I was hoping you could comment on our experience...

Even though it made my head hurt, I did the research and educated myself on LCD v. DLP, HD tuners, 16:9 vs. 4:3, audio inputs / outputs, etc. We were ready to shop for our 42-46" 16:9, rear projection, HD-ready, DLP or LCD TV!;

When shopping, however, I found that all the info didn't do us much good and that sales people are pretty ill informed about the new technology. In terms of picture quality, the same TV at different stores looks completely different. The same TV within the same store looks completely different!; Gone are the days when you can shop by which TV looks best to you...

We found when we asked we were given a huge variety of answers for the inconsistency - wrong cables, bad calibration, signal is split too many times, DLP is better than LCD or vice versa, etc. Do you agree it would be much better if stores set up all the TVs with consconsistentditions (and trained their representatives to maintain those conditions - since you can't stop customers from fiddling)?

We would really like to upgrade our TV, but feel the uncertainty around which one is worth the money is too great. Just when I thought I sort of understood the new technology (and what sounds good on paper) I feel just as confused by the TV's themselves!;

Rob Pegoraro: I hear ya, do I ever hear ya... I left CES feeling exactly as you do. It would be great if stores could all set up their TV sets properly; it would also be great if pigs could fly.

Were I in your situation, I would stick to brands that offer a good, long warranty. I'd also read up on some of the customer reviews on AmazAmazon, if necessary, on videophile sites (e.g., avsforum.com) to see what folks think of particular models. And if one store was more helpful than others (and offered a price-match policy), I wouldn't hesitate to reward it with my business.

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Anonymous: Rob - you rule.

And here's what I want to know: The new iLife looks cool - but the only one of those programs I really want/use is the new iPhoto. Is it worth the $80 to upgrade?

And about OS X Tiger - same question. Should I save up to upgrade in a few months, or just continue on with Panther?

Rob Pegoraro: When I reviewed iLife '04 a year ago, I had that exact criticism--$50 (the price then) was a lot to pay if you only needed up update to iPhoto (as many people did once they realized how slow iPhoto 3 was with large photo collections).

This year's edition, however, seems to offer much more additions to iPhoto than just faster performance. The editing and book-publishing tools looked quite impressive, at least in a demo. Look for a review here soon!

As for Tiger, if Apple sticks to its timetable, I should have my review in print sometime in the first half of this year. But I'll wager that more people will upgrade to this than Panther, simply because it will arrive at least a year and a half after its precprocessord maybe closer to two years; Panther, by contrast, came barely a year after Jaguar.

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Falls Church, Va.: The Mac Mini got me wondering... Why haven't Dell et al. tried something like this? Tiny x86 motherboards are out there for hobbyists, I don't know why someone hasn't taken that idea and made an all in one tiny x86 computer. We've been seeing Apple move in this direction with the flat panel iMacs and now the Minis, but Dell still sends out the (relatively) giant desktop cases that they've been using for years.

Rob Pegoraro: See www.shuttle.com for an example of one PC maker doing just that. The shoebox-sized cases from Shuttle (and other boutique vendors, such as Alienware and Asus) make Dell's Dimension 4700C look enormous in comparison.

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Bethesda: Quick question - I have an Ipod Mini and love it. My dad wants to get the new Shuffle to sit on the beach and listen to music (eliminating his CD player and CD case). What do you think?

Rob Pegoraro: Not a bad choice for that use--it's a less complicated piece of machinery, it doesn't have a metal backside to get hot in the sun and 512 megs is enough music to cover a few days of beach time.

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Anonymous: can you give pc users any idea how to compare drive space required for mac stuff vs. pc stuff? or whats considered good memory amounts etc..... I guess I need some compcomparisonmy PC world so I know what to expect should I get a mini mac to toy around with

Rob Pegoraro: They're actually pretty comparable these days. Both Mac OS X and Windows XP need a goodly allotment of drive space and memory.

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Silver Spring, MD: What did you think of Tiger's widgets?

Is there any difference between the Google/Yahoo desktop searches and the Apple search that's to be incorporated in OS X Tiger?

Rob Pegoraro: By what Apple says, the big deal with the Spotlight search feature built into Tiger (again, the update to Mac OS X due later this year) is that it is, in fact, built in. That means that Spotlight's search index is updated in real time--the operating system tells it when it's changed a file someplace, so the search app itself doesn't need to refresh its index on its own.

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Vista, California: You're just now learning about Fry's??!;!; Your eastern bias is definitely on display. Fry's is in strategic locations in the western USA and people drive hundreds of miles on a regular basis to visit. They would crush the competition if they went nationwide. Your lukewarm report is woefully inadequate in descibing this bastion of the free enterprise system at its finest. Here's a question: What other chain comes even close to Fry's for content? Answer: None.

Rob Pegoraro: I grew up in New Jersey, OK? Whaddya want?

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Boston, MA: In the past you've been pretty luke warm towards Linux, so I was surprised to read that your Linux partition saved the day last week. I was just curious what you're using it for? Testing, or do you do any serious work with it (other than in emergencies).

Rob Pegoraro: I last tried out Linux distributions last summer and, as Boston notes, wrote some pretty critical comments about its ease of use. (Got me *lots* of compliments in e-mail. Really.) I kept the last distro I'd installed, Mandrake 10.0, on my laptop... mostly out of inertia. I had meant to load some newer distributions before going on this trip, but Fedora Core 3's installer didn't recognize the existing Linux partition, and I didn't have time to try the latest Xandros.

I should add that, while Mandrake saved my butt last week, that version's near-total lack of a WiFi interface made that more work than necessary.

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Washington, D.C.: If I download and install Linux on my old computer will it automatically or not automatically erase all the program and other files that aren't a part of Windows?

The old computer just doesn't justify paying for an upgrade and I have somehow deleted a marginally important operating system file while attempting to clear out the adware that finally doomed it.

Rob Pegoraro: And another Linux query--most current Linux releases are set up to partition your hard drive. That is, they shrink the part allocated to Windows to make room for Linux (you can't put it on the usual Windows disk file system). You can also elect to have your copy of Linux (the installer runs off the CD) wipe the entire hard drive.

Whatever you do, any existing Windows malware cannot do anything to harm a Linux setup on the same computer.

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Annapolis, MD: With iWork, Apple has added one more alternative to
Microsoft Office; Apple now offers mail, WP, and
presentation software. Can a spreadsheet program be far
behind? Is Apple getting ready to dump Office, and if so,
how will Redmond react?

Rob Pegoraro: I wondered about that. I have to think that Apple can't be satisfied with the existing state of the spreadsheet, and that if it tried it could come up with some interesting tweaks on the genre. But iWork, the alleged successor to AppleWorks, does not include the spreadsheet component its predecessor does. (BTW, Apple says it will continue to bundle AppleWorks on new computers, just to make this a little more confusing).

In some ways, I don't see how iWork makes sense until Apple does add a spreadsheet module.

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RE: Ipod in cars: the iTrip is great. But both my brother and I have one and while mine is crystal clear, he can hardly use it so if you try it make sure you can return it. Its great because it has no cables it runs off the ipod battery, and can be set to use almost any station in the FM band. Think its around 30 buckos

Rob Pegoraro: And another iTrip report. This matches what I hear sometimes--that this and other FM adapters simply won't work for some people, for a variety of reasons, while they function perfectly well for other users.

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washington dc: Did you get a feel for how many iPod users that may not have been familiar with Mac computers now seriously consider them when making a computer purchase? The iPod is a (relatively) low cost foray into the design, technology, and user interface that so many Mac users have known for a long time. I get the sense that many more PC users are switching to Macs instead of vice versa. Whaddya think?

Rob Pegoraro: I hear the same anecdotes quite often (for instance, from my old boss Larry, who got an iPod as a present last fall and now says he's seriously thinking about switching to a Mac). Apple also said in its most recent quarterly announcmeannouncementputer sales were up by 26 percent (IIRC), which is way better than the industry average... there may be more to this than just anecdotes.

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Fairfax, VA: I just bought my first new computer in years, and I'm nervous about it getting infected with swarms of annoying spyware/adware/etc. I use Firefox instead of IE, but what other programs should I install? Ad-Aware?

Does XP/SP2's firewall really work and is it sufficient?

Lastly, is there any difference between DVD-r and DVD+R? I -think- my new dual layer dvd/cd burner can handle both, but I don't know which discs to buy.

Thanks!;

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, installing Firefox helps a bunch. Being choosy about what random software you install is really important, though... on any system, prevention is far easier than any cure for a malware affliction.

Yes, SP2's firewall does work. It won't stop spyware already on the PC from sending data home, but if you have spyware you've already lost the battle.

No difference worth worrying about between DVD-R and DVD+R in general, but see which format can be burned faster in your drive.

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Alexandria, VA: Can Pocket PC PDAs be easily upgraded to a later OS? WinCE to Windows Mobile 2003 SE, specifically...

Rob Pegoraro: Only your Pocket PC's manufacturer knows for sure.

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Alexandria: I watched Steve Jobs' key note address streaming online last week and felt the audience's skepticism about the new tiny Mac Mini--what do you think it's chances are?

I, btw, am a PCer who is secretly hoping my Windows laptop will "pass away" so I can make the switch. Should I wait until Tiger (Panther?) OS is released to buy?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm a personal-tech writer and don't normally assess products for their utility in offices or other non-residential settings... but the Mac mini does seem like something that would work really well in a business or school setting, where there are no peripherals hooked up to individual computers (so the 2-USB-port limit doesn't matter), you can buy generic mice/keyboards/monitors at volume discounts and minimizing desk space can be a real priority.

Good point about Tiger--if Apple sticks to past practice, it won't offer an upgrade discount to all but the most recent buyers, and everybody else will have to pay the full retail price ($130). If you're lucky, your Windows laptop will keel over and die the week Panther ships. If you're unlucky, your laptop will be more like mine :(

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Ashburn, VA: About TiVo and TiVoToGo ...

Why do I get the feeling that you are biased against TiVo and forgetting what it currently represents?
- The Best (feature set) software implementation of a TV Time Shifting tool, with remarkable ease of use and stability
- A great value when you own more than one TiVo (12.95+6.95)/2 = 9.95 each
- The provision of various other Media Integration/Distribution tools (HMO, TTG etc) and an API so third party apps can extend and provide greater user-level feature-sets

Combine that with the demonstrated, upcoming 2-tuner Cable-Card HDTiVo, and the freedom from being restricted and tied to one provider/source, and I'll take my chances with TiVo any day. I've tried the software and PC hardware approaches, and it isn't worth the trouble!; Not to mention - the restrictions on copyrighted content and feature-sets are enforced upon TiVo by the other side of the 'in-the-limelight' blessing. These will catch up to the other DVRs and Media Center type tools soon!;

Rob Pegoraro: I'm sorry, but you're in the tank for TiVo, my friend. The features you talked about Just. Don't. Matter. to most customers, who only want to minimize their TV-watching expenses. (For the younger readers out there, TV was, once upon a time, free.)

In the mass consumer-electronics market, nobody cares about "best"--they care about about "good enough at a fair price." That's why people buy all-in-one home-theater-in-a-box setups instead of spending extra for separate components with better sounds. Companies that don't grok that aren't doomed, but they are going to have a hard time being more than niche players.

Apple--to return to the theme of this chat--has been content historically to be a niche player, but with the iPod shuffle and the Mac mini it's making a serious run at that mass market. Should be interesting to watch!

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Washington, DC: I'm an iPod convert considering the Mac Mini. Problem: my Ipod is formatted for Windows. I see on Apple's website that there appears to be a way to reformat (deprogram?) the iPod to work with a mac. Have you tried this, or do you know anything about how complicated it is?

Rob Pegoraro: You don't need to do that these days unless you want to use a few options (for instance, using an iPod as a Mac OS X boot drive). If you want to reformat, however, it only requires a couple of clicks in the iPod update utility included on your iPod's CD.

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st louis,mo: does the new mini mac perform the same or mostly
the same functions as the e-mac or i=mac?

Rob Pegoraro: Last question here, as I need to figure out what we're running in Sunday's paper. The Mac mini is roughly equivalent to an eMac--it has the same basic processor and storage capacity, but leaves out the monitor, keyboard and mouse and an extra USB ports. It's also $300 less... so if you have a monitor, keyboard and mouse lying around, or can obtain some for less than what Apple charges, it can be a good deal.

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