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Personal Tech Q&A

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Monday, April 11, 2005; 2:00 PM

Fast Forward's Rob Pegoraro was online to answer reader questions about a recent column in which he called on wireless carriers to shed their fear of high-tech handsets.

He also discussed his most recent review, which covered iPod's latest model.

Rob Pegoraro (The Post)

A Transcript Follows

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Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Rob Pegoraro: It's a pretty exciting day here--honestly, not because of this chat, but because there's a huge backhoe dismantling the Post's old parking garage next door. There's something oddly soothing about watching a pair of metal jaws chomp up concrete and steel.

And yet here I am inside, typing away instead of gawking at the spectacle next door. If that's not dedication, I don't know what is :)

We've got a lot of questions about the last two weeks columns, so let's get started...


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Rob, enjoyed the iPod photo review. I thought your readers might be interested to know that Apple still sells the original 40 GB and 60 GB iPod photos on their website; these are new units, not refurbished, and unlike the current models they include the dock, FireWire cable, and video cable. They're also fully compatible with the Camera Connector. The two models are available for $379 and $479 from the Special Deals section of Apple's online store (go here and click on "Sale").

I bought one of the 40 GB models shortly after the introduction of the newer ones, as it represented a better deal to me than the new 30 GB model; $30 extra for more space and the accessories.

-- not an Apple employee, I promise

washingtonpost.com: Fast Forward: An iPod of a Better Color (April 10, 2005)

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the tip. I'd seen some of those discount prices earlier, but didn't know they were still trying to unload the old iPod Photo models. Sorta shows you how bad they fared in the market at the original price. (BTW, the camera connector I reviewed will work in those models as well as the newer iPod Photo that I just reviewed.)


Washington, D.C.: I read some time ago that iPod was removed from the shelves in France due to potentially high decibel levels, which could result in hearing loss. I also read that Apple was manufacturing another IPod for Europe with reduced output. As a professional in the hearing industry, are these devices ( lower output iPods) available for purchase in the USA?

Rob Pegoraro: I've never heard of this at all... sorry I can't help you.


Logan Circle, Washington, D.C. : I have been loyal to Verizon, used to work on GSM cellular systems and worked at Motorola that bet heavily on CDMA. The quality of their network and coverage have been excellent. But now that I am on the verge of getting married and need to consolidate phones, I think my fiance (who uses Sprint) and I (a Verizon customer) will be choosing a GSM carrier. Better phones and the difference in quality is too small to matter.

If Verizon had better phones, if they stopped disabling features such as bluetooth, if they offered better features for those of us who don't want to take pictures and those of us who don't want to pay them for the pictures we take, they might be able to keep me as a customer. Instead, I hear that AT&T offers a good rate and decent phone.

Rob Pegoraro: By AT&T, you mean Cingular, right? (Cingular bought AT&T.)

This is one of many complaints about Verizon that I've seen since that column ran, BTW. Some others coming right up...


Jamestown, N.Y.: I know that, for -my- two cents (or, rather hundreds of dollars,) I will not sign another contract with a cellular carrier who doesn't fill my needs. I want the phone that I WANT, not what they choose to provide for my choice. A contract tells them that I am HAPPY with their services. Well, guess again!

Tell me that the people who run our government (you are in the WASHINGTON POST, right?) - tell me that they don't have any "issues" with this system... Just who -is- running this county?

Never mind...

Rob Pegoraro: Here's one of those...


Stevensville, Md.: I was Verizon customer for about 4 years...constant overbilling...every month. I was about to quit, salesman, at Annapolis location, talked me into new plan, with second phone free. I purchased 2 years, new phone...they set them for analog, not digital, called and 3 trips to the store, still not quite right. So, I returned phone, canceled contract, within 30 days.

I was overbilled $300.00 and never got credit for $130.00 returned, new, phone. They turned over to collection agencies (plural--3 or 4 in succession). I set down with store manager...for over an hour...he said the billing was too complicated for him to follow and asked me to "write it all down." I prepared 3 page, typed letter, with a spread sheet, for month by month comparison. I sent certified letter to the then, President, Swift, and again each time, certified letters to the bill collectors, and Swift. The bill collectors, would, each turn the account back to Verizon. After, 2 years, the account was reset to zero. However, 2 more years, certified mail, to get the negative report removed from my credit report.

I never, I never, I repeat, never, got reimbursed for the return new phone. Ask, the Verizon rep, where my money is, and how about reimbursement for time and expenses?

I have been with Sprint for last 4 years, a world of difference in billing and customer service.

I quit Verizon at home too.

As for comments by others about SIM Chips, ATT was offering this, until they were brought out, last month, the new owner pulled all the sim chips, and phones...can't get replacements now?

Rob Pegoraro: Here's another--although more about billing and customer service than choice of phones.


Ormond Beach, Fla.: Has Cingular/AT&T given any indication that they will unlock AT&T Treo phones to let AT&T customers (who spent lots of money for their phone) move it to Cingular without having to buy a Cingular Treo?

Rob Pegoraro: Good question--haven't heard either way. You'd think that this company would leap at the obvious chance to avoid infuriating customers... any AT&T Treo owners with stories to share?


Brooklyn, N.Y.: Is Verizon not aware of the numerous places where cameras are prohibited, e.g. courthouses?

When will we see a phone for business people like a Motorola V3 minus the camera?

Rob Pegoraro: The entire cell phone industry seems to be overlooking this issue. I don't know who's going to give first, but somebody has to.


New York: Just wanted to make your readers aware of vavolo.com, which specializes in the sale of cell phone accessories. They have both name brand products and fully compatible (and remarkably similar looking) products for just about any phone. I got a phone to cpu cable for my Nokia from them, and, including the shipping from Hong Kong it was less than half the price of any others I found on the web and at my door in a week. - Tim

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the suggestion!


Rockville, MD: Rob:

This is my idea, but my brother who was a VP with an important telephone company agrees, that the biggest innovation for cell telephones will be all voice commands - no hands no buttons.

What do you think? Will that cause a stir. No more thumb typing. Perhaps true voice to paper and something that might replace the computer. My brother said the biggest problem is ambientsounds. They have hand sets that work perfectly in a silent box - just not in public.

And can you imagine what such a phone would look like? I can't.

Rob Pegoraro: I guess it would look like a slightly larger version of a Bluetooth headset...


Webster, N.Y.: Rob:

Friends of mine say the 3G network in Japan is out of this world.

How good is 3G here? For the novice tech fan, how does 3G compare to broadband access, say from Time Warner's Road Runner?

As for the cell phone capability of these handsets, Skype seems to be a viable alternative to all those dead spots. Do you believe more communities should be outfitted with WiFi, like Philadelphia is to become a massive hot spot?


Rob Pegoraro: The last time I was in Japan (2000), that newer network had yet to roll out. However, the technology now in use isn't terribly different from what's available here--pricing and service plans differ, but it's not as if there's some great advantage in speed available only overseas.

The speeds you do get are not nearly as fast as most cable or DSL services, but they're fast enough for most home use. It's price that defeats that proposition in practice--unlimited data use costs a bit too much if you're not trying to run a business on the go.


Hyattsville, MD: How much cheaper could monthly cell phone bills be if the companies did not subsidize the cost of the equipment? (assuming, of course, that the savings were passed on to the customer) Have any of the cell phone carriers considered offering such plans?

Rob Pegoraro: Not that I'm aware of.


Washington, D.C.: Can the iPod Photo display RAW format files and if
not does Apple plan to add this feature? Are there
other units that can display RAW files as well as
function as a useful MP3 player?

Rob Pegoraro: No, the iPod Photo only supports JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF and PNG. I don't know of any other MP3 players that support RAW (an uncompressed, data-intensive image format beloved by some digital photographers).


Washington, DC: "You'd think that this company would leap at the obvious chance to avoid infuriating customers..."

Were you able to type that with a straight face?

Rob Pegoraro: I may have been smirking...


Silver Spring, Md.: A cell phone question. I don't want a full-scale PDA phone like the Treo, but are there any phones that would allow me to download my dozens of contacts and their phone numbers from Outlook? Entering them one-by-one into my phone is not worth it.

Rob Pegoraro: Sure--look for a phone that runs the Smartphone edition of Microsoft's Windows Mobile software.


Richmond, Va.: Rob: Have you had any experience with software that permits recording analog audio onto a PC from a minidisc player or cassette deck via the sound card's "line in" jack? I see that Microsoft, RealAudio and possibly others offer software that enables this. Any of them any good?

Rob Pegoraro: Here's the how-to piece we ran on this topic a few weeks ago: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A9152-2005Mar5.html


Arlington, Va.: Why do we continue to allow companies to trick consumers by using "decimal gigabytes"? Those of us in the know realize that a 40GB iPod is actually 37GB &c but many consumers don't know what a binary gigabyte is and are confused when they actually try to use their new HDs. Wouldn't it make more sense for journalists to only use the real sizes instead of the fake ones marketing departments try to cheat us with?

Rob Pegoraro: Couldn't agree more, but the industry Just. Doesn't. Care. The exact problem that we're talking about is a form of grade inflation: the "gigabytes" cited for hard-drive sizes in ads define GB as "one billion bytes." But a gigabyte is actually 1,073,741,824 bytes (it's an artifact of the math involved). The hard-drive sizes that Windows, Mac OS X or any other software show reflect the correct measurement, but the number in ads makes the drive look about 7 percent bigger than it is.


Washington DC: Rob - Who has the best "high speed" data plan? I have an old verizon data plan that allows me to connect at old speed (about akin to dialup) but I want to be able to hook up my laptop and surf pretty darn fast but also use my phone for normal calls (although not at the same time)

BTW - I know that you have a beef against the 20in g5 iMac. I understand what you are saying but man, I have the 20in and it is awesome. Of course, I had my last computer for 5 years before I bought this one so I don't plan on upgrading for a while.

Rob Pegoraro: How much you wanna spend? Verizon will sell you an unlimited-use EV-DO ("Express Network") plan for $80 a month. That's as fast as you'll get on any wireless service around here--at least as 300 kbps


Laytonsville, MD: Regarding Verizon's Cell phones. I read about Motorola's new Bluetooth enabled phones. Only problem is Verizon has it locked up so that you can not transfer the photos via Bluetooth. I will NOT buy a camera phone if I can not transfer the photo to my computer.Period. I will NOT pay 25 cents per image to email it to myself. The idea is ridiculous. Verizon should stick to providing great cell phone service. To try and create a profit center around photos is the wrong approach. Provide iron tight default Bluetooth security and let your customers use the features of the phone as they see fit. I am sure Verizon's response will involve security, well guys they control the phones OS. We can not let them off the hook or cell phones will parallel the sorry state of PC security.

Rob Pegoraro: What Laytonsville said... having to pay to transfer pix from a phone to a computer that's a foot away is plain old robbery.


Rockville, Md.: What are the advantages to a Blackberry compared to having a cell phone? Are the costs similar or extra....for what? Easier to work with? Thx. I'll be online for your answers.

Rob Pegoraro: Costs are way higher. A Blackberry is unnecessary unless you *really* need to check your e-mail, all the time and everywhere. If you just need to talk, forget about it. And even if you do want occasional access to your mail, other devices--a Treo, a Sidekick II--are cheaper and easier to use than a Blackberry.


Laurel: Re: Hyattsville's questions about non-subsidized service

This is essentially what pre-paid plans do, and for traditional phone service the cost (simplifying somewhat) is about 15 cents/minute or $5-8/month, whichever is more.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks, Laurel.


Southern Maryland: Out-of-left-field question--is there a cell phone plan designed for people who only use their phone 5 to 10 times a month?

I'm still using a seven-year-old analog phone. Verizon apparently continues my calling plan out of pity ($10 a month plus $1 per call). Eventually I'll have to move to digital, but even the cheapest plans seem designed for heavy use. Pay-as-you-go services like TracFone don't suit my miniscule needs either, since the minutes expire.

Do you have any suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: Sorry, prepaid is all you've got.


Eugene, Ore.: Hi Rob,

Do you know if Apple plans to include bluetooth capability on future iPods? I have a pair of bluetooth headphones that I use with my iPAQ, and the sound quality is really good.


Rob Pegoraro: I've heard rumors of that, but nothing more. It would make some sense, given the increasing numbers of cars with Bluetooth--as well as Bluetooth stereo receivers that let you send music from a PC to a stereo wirelessly.


Springfield, VA: Rob,

No questions about cell phones, but I have one on IPod Photo, if you have time.

I thought your review excellent, but you missed some questions:

1. I never download photos direct from the camera. I take the memory card out, put it in a $15 USB reader and attach that to my computer. Will IPod Photo read cards that way? If so, that removes the objection of having to use the proprietary cable.

2. What file formats will IPod Photo display? Store? For example, I assume it won't display .nef files, Nikon's proprietary RAW file format, but could I use it to store those files and later download them to my desktop?


Rob Pegoraro: 1) I didn't test this, but apparently you can use the Camera Connector with a card reader: http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/6791

(In this case, however, you might as well just get one of the card-reader attachments for the iPod. They're a lot bigger and pricier than the Camera Connector, but it would be one less thing to take on a trip.)

2) Again, the iPod Photo accepts PEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF and PNG. No RAW, and definitely not that Nikon format.


Charlottesville, VA: The Motorola Razr looks pretty hot, but Verizon's system doesn't allow it. Do you think that after the MCI merger, Razr will become an available user product on their system?

Rob Pegoraro: No--MCI doesn't have any wireless operations, and the Razr is currently a GSM-only phone, so it couldn't run on Verizon's system anyway.


Washington, DC: Though I've never had any billing or customer service problems with Verizon Wireless, I have to say their uninspired inventory has caused me on numerous occasions to seriously consider rival networks when my 2-year cell phone commitment is up. Then the usual argument against rears its ugly head: I spend close to 2-hours each day underneath the city in a Metro train, and who just extended their exclusivity contract with WMATA? Verizon Wireless. So I have to stay with them for coverage.

Now if someone at Motorola could sit down and explain to Verizon about their recent joint venture to supply Bluetooth speakerphones in all new Jaguars..........

Rob Pegoraro: Your only other option for Metro use is Sprint, which uses the same CDMA technology as Verizon--but you'll need a Sprint phone that, like the Treo 650, uses the same frequencies as Verizon. And you'll need to pay $5/month extra to add unlimited roaming to a Sprint plan.


Baltimore, MD: In your column on Sunday, you mentioned that the cameras used proprietary USB cables. In the accompanying photo, the cable that connected the camera to the iPod had a cylinder near the camera end. Is it that cylinder that makes it proprietary? What does the cylinder do? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: It's not the cylinder, it's the size and shape of the plug that connects to the camera itself. The other end, the one that connects to the computer, is a perfectly normal USB plug.


Georgetown: Yes, the European iPods have some sort of volume limiter, at least the French ones do.

It drives the Euro ippodders crazy. But there is a hack to bypass it.

Meanwhile, do have any previous articles on how to upgrade a laptop's harddrive? I'm running out of room and understand that there are external drives that will clone and reinstall your data onto a roomier replacement. Any advice?

Rob Pegoraro: Upgrading a laptop's hard drive is somewhere between difficult and impossible--often, just getting to that part of the machine will usually void your warranty.


Fairfield, Conn.: Rob, Ready to make the PC-Apple switch. Since I'm going to drop $2000 on a G4 powerbook I have a couple of questions. Since I've waited this long is there any advantage to waiting a bit longer not only for the updated system but also a G5 update? Second question: The super drive is a $300 extra. Would an external drive, which is faster and a whole lot cheaper, make more sense? Thanks Gil Ghitelman

Rob Pegoraro: Waiting until get Mac OS X Tiger preinstalled will save you $130 or so, but don't wait for a G5 machine--you could be waiting for a long time.

An external DVD-burner would work fine for backup, but I don't know if Apple's iDVD would work with it or not (I've heard that this is now possible with the latest version, but manufacturers need to provide the correct drivers).


Gaithersburg: My contract with verizon finally ends soon. Do you know if its possible to use their prepaid service with a phone that you had while under contract or do you have to start with a new phone all over again? Same with the phone number?

Rob Pegoraro: You can move a wireless number to and from a prepaid service, I'm told.


Mt Brook, AL: I have Cingular GSM service, made the switch as soon as I could. Love it!; I have always had excellent service from Cingular, a store rep gave me a free antena for my daughter's Motorola V-400 last weekend, and I recommend them to anyone looking to change. For the low usage question, the pre-paid at Cingular is pretty decent.

Rob Pegoraro: Here's a recommendation for Cingular


Rockville, MD: Cingular bought my wife's AT&T cell phone account (with the company) an then left her stuck in a snow storm. Turns out our account was moved to baltimore for no reason connected to us. So I spent all days on the phone and was told the number had been stolen by someone who also picked up a Blackberry on the same account. I thought the problem was fixed, but weeks later in another storm her phone was disconnected. Why? the bills they sent to the Baltimore address were =returned since I never lived in Baltimore. I had told them I did not move, but some how they never believed me.

So, I said "OK, you messed up two times and my wife can not get service when she needs it so terminate my contract for reasons of no service. But just call for repair they replied. Why repair, I asked - you turned it off because you still think I moved to Baltimore.

Anyway I know it was and is confused, but they charged me $150 to terminate a contract when they could not provide either service or protection from fraud. We had had the phone for four years with AT&T and had no problems or trouble.

I don't like Cingular.

Rob Pegoraro: And here's the opposite of a recommendation


NY: I have an old (Pentium II) laptop with a broken fan. Using an external fan ("cooler"), its CPU runs in the 60s Celsius. Is this a problem, and any suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: That's pretty hot. The CPU will probably shut down automatically if it gets too hot, but that's not much of a help either. Buy a new machine--a laptop of that vintage is not worth repairing.


Severna Park, MD: Any recent developments re: connecting the Ipod directly to the car stereo? The FM transmitter/cassette adapter methods aren't working for me, and I am shocked that some enterprising individual hasn't come up with a better solution by now.

Rob Pegoraro: It's a real mess, thanks mainly to the absolutely brain-dead habits of the car-stereo industry--if they'd put a simple RCA input on the front of the stereo, you could plug the iPod right in. That would add a whole, what, 50 cents to the price?

Monster Cable now sells an iPod adapter, iCruze, that can be installed into your car; it lets you control the iPod with your regular controls. It costs $200 or $300 dollars


Sarasota, Fla.: My Gateway laptop is almost 3 years old. I use Window Media Player (and have tried several others). When I try to burn music onto a CD, it goes through the whole process of converting and seemingly burning, then at the end says it cannot burn the disc, please clean it or insert a blank one. Nothing is burned to the disc. Do I need a new burner. It is a combination DVD/CD.

Thank you,

Rob Pegoraro: Sounds like it--if you can't get a CD to burn in any software, then you have to consider that it's a hardware problem.


Charlottesville, VA: Rob - question about wireless cable TV.

Just moved into an old house without cable jacks installed...well...anywhere.

Have the wireless network up and running and was thinking, before I drill into half the walls in my house, about whether cable tv has gone wireless yet, even in early adopter mode.


Rob Pegoraro: No, wireless TV isn't close to practical. It takes too much bandwidth to work on most wireless networks.


Washington, D.C.: Re: Springfield, VA: I think his/her 2nd question is can iPod photo store RAW files only, not to display them. My question is similar, can I store any formats of file on iPod? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Oh, sure--just enable disk use with your iPod, and you can drag any file at all onto it from the desktop. You just can't view those files on the iPod's screen.


Mt Brook, AL: Upgrading laptop hard drives is not too difficult if you have the technical skill. Right on about voiding the warranty, though. I have upgraded the hard drive in my 12" Apple Power Book to a 100 Gig. I had my local Apple service people do it for me. $275 for the Seagate drive and $75 for the installation. I have no idea about Windows machines, but I would think that thng should be similar.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks!


Grateful reader: Rob, because of your explanation that a DVD recorder is like the DVD version of a VCR, I got myself one and have enjoyed it immensely. Are there DVD recorders that have digital tv tuners? Mine has an analog tuner, which is fine right now, but what happens when analog tv ceases to exist? I would like to have a DVD recorder with a digital tuner so that I'll be able to program the recorder to record shows. I don't have paid tv services, so I depend on two roof antennas, one for DC and the other for Baltimore. I can get a digital signal at my house in Temple Hills with the roof antennas. (I use a set-top box to convert the digital signal to analog, since I haven't purchased a digital tv yet.)

Rob Pegoraro: Haven't seen any DVD recorders with digital (ATSC) tuners yet. I agree, it's past time that they started including this hardware... people tend to keep their audio/video hardware for a long time.


Miami, Florida: Will any Ipod be able to store images from a Sony F828 Digital Camera using USB cable? Does it have to be a specific generation or photo-Ipod?

This model camera is not on the list of supported cameras for Apples new Camera Ipod Cable. Specifically what I want to know is when I'm out in the field, by just connecting the Ipod and camera, will the pictures start to transfer automatically or do I have to choose a menu command to initiate download, or is the Ipod (color or non color) just gonna sit there doing nothing?

Rob Pegoraro: The list of supported cameras on Apple's site is *extremely* conservative--none of the cameras I tested show up on it, but all of the name-brand models worked fine. So I would expect your Sony would as well.

The Camera Connector only works with iPod Photo models, not any other kind.


Washington, DC: The cheapest non-prepaid plan available at the moment seems to be T-Mobile's $20/mo plan, which gets you 60 anytime and 500 weekend minutes. I have this plan now and it's fine except that, like the previous chatter, I don't even use my phone enough to justify the cost. (Mostly just for emergencies and the real short "where are you/I'm on my way" type calls.)

However, T-Mobile's prepaid plans seem like a really good deal. If you buy the $100/1000min refill, the minutes don't expire for an entire year.

Do you (or anyone out there) know if I can downgrade from a monthly plan to pre-paid and still keep my number? Or do I have to cancel my monthly plan and start over with a new prepaid account?

Rob Pegoraro: One of two comments about pre-paid phone service... BTW, yes, you can move a number to a prepaid service.


Frederick, MD: I also am a low usage cell phone user. I use Virgin mobile. $20.00 every three months and your balance never expires. I'm up to $99.00 right now. Very satisfied with it.

Rob Pegoraro: Here's the second comment


Washington, DC: I just got a mini over the weekend. When I've ripped CD's using iTunes, they sound awful, with all sorts of electrontic crunching noises. Any suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: Never heard of that happening before--the Mac mini I tested didn't have any issued with ripping songs off a CD. There is an option labeled "use error correction" under the Importing tab in the iTunes preferences screen; see if enabling that helps.


Washington, D.C.: Hey Rob -- One year anniversary of iPod Jukebox (the B.Y.O. iPod night you wrote about last May) is this Wednesday at Cafe Saint-Ex. You should bring your iPod Photo down and join us.

Rob Pegoraro: Hey, thanks for the invite. I'll try to make it, although this Weds. might be tough...


Gaithersburg, MD: So I've seen a slew of news reports announcing new cellphones that are also MP3 players, but couldn't find any tech specs, such as whether any of these were CDMA phones. Are you expecting any of these fun new phones to be offered by Verizon before the end of the year?

Rob Pegoraro: I think my poor track record to date should officially put me out of the business of predicting when Verizon will ship any given phone. =


Boston, MA: I heard a Congressman from around here introduce a bill to change daylight savings time - and all the talk was of what a boon that would be. Does anybody in Congress understand how embedded the current rules are in millions of computer chips? It would another, but smaller Y2K.

Rob Pegoraro: Somehow, I'm sure we'll manage to get by...


Washington, D.C: Verizon FIOS has just started in my area. Do you
have any feedback from users? Seems like a good
deal if the service is working and is stable.

Rob Pegoraro: I've only heard from a couple of people using Verizon's fiber-to-the-home Internet service. They mentioned some installation glitches, but said things were fine in general. One made a particularly intriguing comment, saying that "this doesn't feel faster"--she already wasn't waiting much for anything to appear with her old DSL, so she didn't have a great sense of extra speed with the new service.

I think Verizon's price and selection of TV channels via Fios is what's really going to determine the success of this service.


washington dc: Hi Rob -

I'm in a mixed marriage - me Windows, her Mac. We just Verizon DSL installed -- ethernet cable to her Mac and I want to hook my laptop up through the wireless port on the modem/router. Sadly, Verizon provided no literature on safely setting up a wireless connection over home DSL (e.g. changing SSID). Do you have a link for safety first procedures suitable for my circumstances? Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: I'd start with the manual that came with the router, which will tell you exactly *how* to do these steps:

* Change the network name (I refuse to use meaningless abbreviations like "SSID" when the English language already offers words that people can actually understand)

* Enable at least WEP encryption, and preferably WPA

* Disable broadcast of the network name.


Reston, VA: Not sure you saw the email I sent earlier...considering using a Mac Mini as the media source for my stereo, getting rid of the cd player, cassette deck and turntable - would like a nice small ldc monitor around 6 or 8 inch diagonal as the control center. Figure I'll use either a trackball or maybe touch screen for input. Apple's iTuens makes it too easy to find a specific album, artist or song to spend time in front of the CD stack any more.

Any idea where to find a "mini" monitor?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't think you can get an LCD that small--13 or 14 inches is as small as I've seen them.


Washington, DC Brightwood: Hi Rob,

Do you know anything about or have you heard of American Network Communications (ANC)? A friend is trying to get me to drop Verizon and buy my services from ANC. I heard it is a pyramid scheme telecommunications business.


Rob Pegoraro: Nope, never heard of 'em


Minneapolis, MN: I am having a home computing problem. I am currently running a 4 year old compaq and don't have any MS Office software. I need to be using it to work from home, and just generally make my life easier. We are on a cable modem and are having occasional memory problems (Can't open the attachment due to low memory). Am I further ahead to get a new computer or buy MS Office and upgrade the memory?

Rob Pegoraro: A memory upgrade would help a great deal; you certainly shouldn't need a new computer if you're only running Internet, e-mail and office-type software (as opposed to, say, collecting digital photos or editing movies).


Vienna: Rob--every time I get a new upgraded computer at work I also get a new set of speakers. Seems silly to get rid of the old ones--do you know of any device or connection or splicer that you can use to string together several sets of computer speakers in order to make some kind of surround-sound for an office?

Rob Pegoraro: You've got me. I guess you could get a cable splitter of some sort at Radio Shack...


NYC: I'm reading the chat. Can I ask for a show of hands that
think Verizon has ugly phones? Also,... who a show of
hands for those that want real Bluetooth? Do you think
anyone from Verizon is reading the chat?

Rob Pegoraro: I will guess that the answer to the last one is "no," since nobody's jumped to their defense.


Falls Church, VA: Reading your article, I was wondering how things may change as more and more people use wireless telephones as their only phones. When people have made this decision to "cut the cord," does this make people more willing to critically evaluate and challenge the options that are provided by the wireless carriers? Or perhaps wireless carriers will be willing to give more options if they think those options will convince more people to cut the cord and go only with wireless? (By the way, do you know how many people have already given up their land-line phones?)

Rob Pegoraro: I haven't seen stats on numbers of people using only cellphones, but that is a real trend.

I think the big driver for customer complaints about cell phones is that they're so much less of a commodity these days, thanks to all the extra features packed into them.


Vienna, VA: Thanks for the column on recording radio on a PC. I've been thinking about the Radioshark for some time, but the pricetag is a little steep for something I might not like. Can you recommend any PCI FM or AM/FM cards? I saw an Avermedia TV GO 007 card that will receive TV and Radio for about $40. It includes radio time shift recording software. It seems cheaper that Radioshark, but nearly as feature-rich, and without the annual fee of radiotime. Any thoughts?

Rob Pegoraro: I can't offer that advice, but if you e-mail me afterwards I can forward your query to Daniel Greenberg, who wrote that review.



Hi. I want to get an XM Satellite radio but DON'T WANT TO SPEND A FORTUNE!; I like the MyFi but have heard mixed reviews on it. All the other types Roady 2 and SkyFi 2, you have to add more parts to get to work.

What do you recommend for easy hookup and so listen to it in the car or at home. Oh, and did I mention, I don't want to be climbing onto the roof of my townhouse to put up any dish.

Not asking too much am I? Ha Ha

Rob Pegoraro: XM (and Sirius) doesn't need a dish. The antennas each service uses are about the size of your hand. You could always ask for a loaner receiver to see if the service works in your home or not. XM also has a pretty wide range of repeater antennas, which may or may not cover you if the satellite signal doesn't come through clearly.


Rockville, MD: For the poster wanting to clone laptop hard drive and
transfer to a larger drive. I've done this several times
(Sony Vaios and IBM Thinkpads with Windows) using
Apricorn's EZ Upgrade. Works like a charm.


Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the suggestion!


Boost Mobile: Boost is another pre-paid service provider unmetioned
here so far.

Rob Pegoraro: It's a brand of Nextel, although that might be hard to guess from the marketing behind Boost.


Columbia, Md: Rob-

Your '5-10' times/month cellphone user might consider Virgin Mobile's prepaid service. The absolute minimum expenditure comes out to $6.67/month. ($20 every 90 days). As long as you keep re-filling, minutes never expire.

I've had them for a year and the service has been reasonably good. (They use the Sprint network)

Rob Pegoraro: One other suggestion for prepaid phone service...


RAZR Answer: There is a CDMA RAZR coming out in the near future.


Rob Pegoraro: But when it will be offered by CDMA carriers Sprint and Verizon is anybody's guess...


Rob Pegoraro: That does it for today, folks. One housekeeping item: Those of you who subscribe to my weekly newsletter may have to wait until Tuesday of next week for it to show up--the site is rolling out a new publishing system.



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