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Personal Tech: TiVo

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Monday, August 9, 2004; 2:00 PM

Personal tech columnist Rob Pegoraro was online to talk about his recent columns on TiVo and RealPlayer 10.5's iPod compatibility.

A transcript follows.

Rob Pegoraro (The Post)

Want to know what upcoming topics are being covered? Sign up for Fast Forward e-letter -- get updated information on personal technology news and product demos. Read past editions of Rob's e-letter online here.

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: Happy August 9, everybody. Lots of questions already, I'm told... it's nice to see I'm not the only person stuck at the office this week.

Let's get started!


Dullsville, U.S.A.: Two weeks seems like a long time between chats and a lot of things happen in the tech world between chats. Is there anyway you can get the other tech writers (and/or special guests) to help out and make this is a weekly chat like the travel writers?

Also, does the 4th generation Ipod still have the battery that cannot be replaced manually by consumers. This is the one area where Apple has disappointed me with the Ipod. I would rather pay $100-200 less for a product that may be slightly bigger but lets me have control over battery replacement. I refuse to buy an Ipod that will die every 18 months (I wonder if that has anything to do with the almost regular interval of new Ipod releases). I have had an Archos Juxebox Studio 20 for over 2 years now and I love how easy it is to perform DIY upgrades like the hard drive, firmware, and replacing the rechargeable batteries.

Rob Pegoraro: I'm happy to pass along your first suggestion.

Correct, the battery in the 4G iPod can't be easily replaced by consumers. Apple is certainly aware of this issue, but it seems to have decided that it's not worth compromising the iPod's design to allow for a user-replacable battery. To judge by the iPod's sales, the market seems to think that's an acceptable compromise.


San Francisco, Calif.: Just so you know, you can rename the playlists through iTunes. I've done it myself. Just click on the name of the playlist, (on the lefthand side in iTunes) and it will allow you to rename.

Rob Pegoraro: But you can't do that on the iPod itself--so if you go on a two-week trip and cook up a bunch of playlists using the On-The-Go playlist feature, you'll be stuck with Playlist 1, Playlist 2, Playlist 3.

(I don't think this is a huge hassle, but it's worth noting.)


Boyce, Va.: This is probably going to sound so dumb, it is not worth air time. But maybe you can point me to help.

Some months ago, I inadvertently dragged 'My Documents' somewhere and it disappeared into the depths of Windows XP. The files are still there, but now instead of being able to go to or search My Documents I have to go through:

- My Computer

- IBM Preload (C:)

- Documents and Settings

- Randoph Cabell

- My Documents

Whew.... I have tried everything to try to get a My Documents with my documents in it to come back to an earlier screen. Rather than a Total System Restore, I can live with it. But there must be a fix.

Randy Cabell

Rob Pegoraro: There's an easy fix for that. Next time you've drilled down to the folder in which you see your My Documents folder, right-click it and select "Create Shortcut." You'll see a new folder icon appear named "Shortcut to My Documents." Drag that to the desktop and rename it back to "My Documents" or whatever else you like.


Falls Church, Va.: Good morning Rob, posting early due to work schedule. I get a weekly medical newsletter and noticed I had not received it in a couple of weeks. I emailed the group and they told be Verizon is blocking it and they are trying to resolve the issue. I tried to talk to Verizon but I can't make any headway, no department seems to handle this type of issue and all I hear is "it's not our fault." Any ideas besides change to receiving the newsletter at a hotmail type address? Thanks, Tina

Rob Pegoraro: You've tried everything that can be done, and if neither the mailing-list sender or your ISP will help, you will have to set up a Web-mail account to get those messages. I'd go with Yahoo over Hotmail, FWIW--you get much more storage that way.


Washington, D.C.: I am in the market for MP3 player and am looking for some further pointers.

I anticipate using it while walking to work as well as during a long office day. I do not intend to store my entire music collection on the unit, so a huge hard drive is not essential. Instead, I intend to import daily recordings of internet radio. Thus I am interested in the ease of software.

After hearing owners complain about having to replace units due to worn out but unreplaceable rechargeable batteries, I am chary about units where the battery is unaccessible.

Unless you can suggest otherwise, I am leaning towards a hard drive unit. The models in contention would be a Creative Labs Nomad Zen Xtra (30 GB). I am also interested in the soon to be released Rio Carbon (5GB) and a similar model by GoVideo.

Would the smaller Carbon unit be easier to use (software, connections) and worth the wait, or should I opt for the older but available larger Nomad unit with clunky transfer software?

Incidentally, do you have any experience with the software package of ReplayRadio? That is what prompted the whole MP3 purchase. If that software is a clunker, I may have to re-evaluate my core consumer beliefs.

Rob Pegoraro: The Zen Xtra is a pretty hefty device--bigger than it looks in pictures. I'd probably go with the Rio Carbon myself in that case, if I had to choose between those two (although, to be fair, I haven't tried it and it could turn out to be total junk).

I didn't know GoVideo made MP3 players at all. If the one you're contemplating is their first try, I'd steer clear.

Haven't tried the ReplayRadio software--can't tell you anything about that.


Gaithersburg, Md.: I am using the firewall Zone Alarm. Will the XP Sp 2 overwrite or disable this to enable the internal Microsoft firewall? I would prefer to keep Zone Alarm.


Rob Pegoraro: That's one of the things I'll be checking for when I try out Service Pack 2 for Windows XP--the review should run either this Sunday or the Sunday after that.


Pikesville, Md.: I lost Outlook Express. Whenever I try to bring it up, I receive a message which says "Outlook express cannot be started because MSOERIS>DLL could not be found."

Can you tell me how to find it?

Rob Pegoraro: You can't, not if you're getting that kind of error. I would download a fresh copy of OE and reinstall that (which means you must download a fresh copy of Internet Explorer--I don't think Microsoft has offered separate downloads for OE in years).


Woodridge, Ill.: You say SP2 will be available on CD. How does one get it?

Rob Pegoraro: One waits--it won't be available for ordering until the end of the month. Then you'll be able to go to Microsoft's Web site and order up a free copy (free shipping/handling, too).


Bethesda, Md.: This is an XP Service Pack 2 firewall question. I have a wireless network with a Linksys router. When I installed it (needing help from Linksys, which was very good) the guy told me that the router is a hardware firewall and that no software firewall is necessary, and that I should not turn on the XP firewall. Somewhat later I went to the Shields Up site and checked, and it was very happy with me -- it said that I didn't need anything further in the way of firewalls. I automatically download XP updates and have done so for some time. Is the SP2 going to turn on the XP firewall simply by my downloading it, and if so, how do I turn it off again? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: You make it sound like having the XP firewall on would be a bad thing. It's not. I normally recommend that people leave a firewall on every computer at home, even if these machines are behind a hardware firewall--this way, you're still protected when somebody brings an infected laptop over to the house and joins your wireless network.


Rockville, Md.: I have an SMC wireless adapter on a Windows 98 and two Windows XPs. My router is also SMC and connected to another Windows XP. The three XPs work fine, but the 98 can't enable DHCP.

I keep getting an automatic private IP address, and I can't even ping the router. Static IP doesn't seem to work either. Do you have any ideas on what I should do?

Rob Pegoraro: No idea--I've never heard of a computer being unable to connect via DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, a way for a computer to get its own Internet address automatically instead of having to wait for its user to specify that). What kind of WiFi client software are you running on the 98 machine?


Couldn't watch TV without Tivo: I honestly don't know what I would do without Tivo. For those that don't have it, trying to explain this to them is completely foreign. Trying to explain that I don't have to watch shows anymore when they come on or use a complicated VCR recording system - is impossible. Near as impossible is explaining Season Passes - "What do you mean you don't have to manually record CSI each week?" Or how about explaining that I can watch one live show, pause it, and flip to the other tuner to watch another one? I really hope DirecTv doesn't completely ditch Tivo, or if they do, the DVR service they offer gives me all these features. God bless you Tivo.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for letting us know how you feel :)

However, I have to follow up: Other DVRs offer most of the same features (except possibly the Season Pass, which automatically records all new episodes of a series), and some of them cost a good deal less than TiVo each month. Some of them don't have a monthly fee at all. At what point would you be bugged by paying $13/month for TiVo, as opposed to paying, say, $5 or $0/month for some other type of DVR?


Ruskin, Fla. I already have XP home edition upgrade. Are these NEW upgrades?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes


Chicago: I know that XP service pack 2 will break things. Why? Because all MS service packs break things! So how long after it's released should I wait to install it? I already have the firewall enabled, use zonealarm and regularly check for spyware. Plus what's the URL for ordering the free disk with the update? Or should I just pack up the CPU and take it to a friend's office to download on a DSL line? When MS sent out the free disk earlier with a lot of security updates, it took forever to come, so long in fact that I had them all installed before I got the disk in the mail.

Rob Pegoraro: I'll be able to give you a much better-informed answer after I've had a chance to try out this upgrade. My sense, though, is that you won't want to wait long on upgrading, especially if you are *not* the type of user who does things like regularly check for spyware.


Virginia Beach, Va.: I have read that it is good preventive maintenance to shut down a computer periodically to "flush the RAM" and I have been shutting down at the end of each day. Hibernating however, makes for faster "shutdowns" and start ups. What do you recommend and why?

Rob Pegoraro: I recommend leaving the computer in standby mode instead of turning it off. It will use hardly any more power than it would when shut down (a computer will still draw current even when it's off, as long as it's still plugged in), and you will have to wait much less if it only has to wake up instead of booting up.


New Bern, N.C.: I am using Incredimail Free version 3001609, since updating to this latest version, unable to receive or send images. Tech support for Incredimail doesn't assist with problems unless you pay for the full version. If this is the type of service they provide a "free user" why should I purchase their full version? Can you assist me in finding out how to make images visible in my emails. Enjoy your column, and would be on your "live chat" but am a volunteer at a US Naval Hospital's Pharmacy handing out refill medications to our Military and Retirees.

Best regards,

Ms. Creger

Rob Pegoraro: Haven't used this program myself, but maybe somebody here has and can suggest some troubleshooting steps. Anyone?


Raleigh, N.C.: Any chance that Apple will update the 3G iPods to 4G functionality? I bought my 15GB 3g on 6/27 and less than a month later the new model rolls out with fixes and software enhancements that alot of owners think should have been addressed a while ago.

Rob Pegoraro: Based on how Apple has done this sort of thing previously, the odds of a firmware update for 3G iPods that adds all the 4G features/fixes aren't good. (That didn't happen with the last batch of new iPods, in other words.)


Silver Spring, Md.: Rob,

I submitted an earlier question related to my concern about installing SP2 in the absence of critical reviews.

Apparently others share my concern. I -just- received this from CNET:

"Microsoft says that the code for its update to the Windows XP operating system is finally ready. But IBM's internal technology department disagrees.

On Friday Microsoft released Service Pack 2 to PC manufacturers after a number of delays. That means it will be available to customers before the end of the month.

But IBM last week told employees to hold off installing SP2 until Big Blue can fully test and customize it. The company's technology department said the delay is "due to known application problems and incompatibility with IBM workstation applications."

Rob Pegoraro: Sounds to me like IBM is making sure this update works with whatever software it installs inside its own corporate network. But if you're not using that software at home, I don't see how IBM's concern should affect your own decision-making.

Look, a *lot* of companies got hit by Blaster, SoBig and all of these other worms and viruses because they took their time rolling out Microsoft's updates. You need to realize that doing nothing, even for a little while, is itself not risk-free.


Takoma Park, Md.: Hi Rob,

Love the chats--thanks very much for doing them.

I work in the health industry and would like to find a PDA that has enough storage capacity to handle a couple of medical reference books (Harriet Lane Handbook, a pediatric handbook, and Epocrates, a pharmacy software). I'm hoping a PDA has enough storage to handle these and I'm also hoping you'll give me a suggestion for which PDA to buy. I know very little about them.

Thanks very much.

Rob Pegoraro: First, you should see what type of handhelds you can use those reference works on--Palm OS devices, Pocket PC handhelds, or both?

If these programs don't dictate your platform choice, I'd go with a Palm handheld. It's going to be easier and simpler to use, mainly because it wasn't designed to look and work like a miniaturized version of Windows.


Falls Church, Va.: HI,

I see that SP2 is already installed in my computer and since Saturday, I see that my computer acts funny. Especially, it shuts it down once it go to screen saver and I try to reactivate it. For some sites like Washington Post, my firfox saved password are not working and I have to log in every time. Nonetheless, if it is makes my computer more secure, I am happy with it. Although, I see some headlines in news outlets claiming this as free update from Microsoft and to me that is nonsense. If they would not have made such a lousy product available, they would not have to come up with such update. When I install the system I click on I Agree tab just to install it and I believe that makes it impossible to make them responsible for the damages occurring from use of their product. That should change soon.


Rob Pegoraro: Unless you are a registered Microsoft developer, I don't see how you could have possibly gotten SP2 on your computer. Not even Microsoft's volume licensees have gotten it yet. Can you check what update you got? Where did you download it from?


Warner Robins, Ga.: Will the new SP2 have conflicts with other software already installed on many user's computers? I regularly update Windows security issues and wonder if I will benefit from this release or will it just clog up the works? I'm aware that Microsoft has tested this thing with many applications but still, I wonder if there may be a fly in the soup.

Rob Pegoraro: I'm positive that SP2 *will* break some applications. But, y'know, that's just too bad. Leaving Windows in its current insecure state is not an option--and if other developers have to update their own programs to work with SP2, they're gonna have to suck up and deal.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Rob, Love your chats & column. Thanks!

Please tell us where John Gilroy will be going, and if he will have another column elsewhere??? I think he is the Lord of Computers, and have learned so much from him over the years, and am sorry he's leaving. I'm sure you will do a GREAT job in your expanded role.

How about calling the new column "Ask the Techie Guy" or "Ask the Geek"? I think it's time to elevate that word, & be proud of knowing a lot of technical stuff. Thanks, My

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the kind words all around. John will continue to do his regular Computer Guys gig on WAMU radio. I'm not sure if he's going to write a computer q&a column for another publication, but if he does I may have some tough competition :)


Re: DC mp3 guy: For the guy looking for the mp3 player. . .who the hell uses the word "chary"? He should stop worrying about how he's going to listen to music and start worrying about how he became such a pretentious prat.

Rob Pegoraro: "prat"?


Arlington, Va.: Will the release of WinXP Service Pack 2 also generate updates for other versions of Windows (i.e., will it update Internet Explorer independent of platform)? I maintain my aunt's computer, which runs Win 98.

Rob Pegoraro: That's an *excellent* question. AFAIK, SP2's fixes will *not* be available for earlier releases of Windows, at least not right away. Which is going to put users of Win 98/ME/2000 in a very awkward spot...


Marquette, Mich. : Comment: I have a IBM Thinkpad laptop and the screen went blank last week. Since it was under warranty, I called IBM and they sent me a box to send it back for repair. I sent the laptop out and, believe it or not, I got it back in 48 hours, fixed, cleaned, and apparently gone over for preventative maintenance.

This seems pretty unusual considering the experiences that I have had with other companies and I want to say that IBM was very good to deal with

Pat Jennings

Rob Pegoraro: This is how a laptop repair should be done. (I had a similar experience about a decade ago getting a PowerBook fixed--I was only without the computer for two or three days, and Apple even fixed something else on it that I didn't know was broken.)


Security of Firefox: It's infuriating to me as a "longtime" Firefox user that IT departments still insist because of the open source issue that Firefox is an unsafe application and therefore banned at work. I keep telling them that IE is by far more risky given its full integration into the Windows environment, but no dice. Am I making that up? I can't stand using IE and hope our network continues to get hit by these viruses and worms brought in on its coattails.

Rob Pegoraro: You are not making that up. IE *is* more risky than Firefox, and I would question the competence of any IT manager that would contend otherwise.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Rob,

I appreciated your recent laptop review. I am about to buy a laptop and am just about sold on the Powerbook G4. But alas, I have been a PC user for many years and will continue to use one at work. Will I have any problems with compatibility - either my own or my programs? In other words, will the adjustment be too much of a pain and will files written in one (MS Word for example) be accessible in the other? And is there anything else I should be aware of? Thanks for your advice!


The Rightness Of Lightness (July 11, 2004)

2004 Laptop Guide: Interactive Gallery

Rob Pegoraro: Put a copy of Microsoft Office 2004 on that PowerBook, and you should have zero file-compatibility issues (or, at worst, no more than those you might have moving documents from one Windows PC to another one that might not have the same fonts installed.)


Washington, D.C.: Will the DVRs being marketed by cable companies and other vendors have the Wishlist feature? And will they allow users to search for programs by name and then see when upcoming episodes are on? Will they automatically record programs they think you'll like based on viewing patterns? I guess what I'm wondering is, will they simply allow you to record, pause, fast-forward, and rewind live TV, or will they offer all of the niche services that (to me, at least) make TiVo so appealing? This is where the Apple analogy is so relevant -- I'm sure there's a niche market of people who will pay for such user-friendliness....

Rob Pegoraro: In all of the DVR products that I've seen, you can pretty much count on the following features:

* pause, rewind and fast-forward live TV (this is made possible by continuously storing the current program on a hard disk)

* onscreen program guide that can be browsed and searched by various criteria (title, actors, time, genre, etc.)

* onscreen menu listing programs you've recorded

TiVo's main distinction is its ability to look at what you record, then suggest (and automatically record) other programs that it thinks you'll like. Personally, I don't find that last feature worth $13/month--I don't watch that much TV in the first place and don't have much free time to watch any more. But that's just me...


Arlington, Va.: Re: the Falls Church reader who thinks he already has Win XP SP2 and that it's fouling up his computer.

Maybe some enterprising spyware developer is distributing a product that purports to be Service Pack 2 but in fact just messes with one's computer's settings. Certainly, these people are insidious.

Rob Pegoraro: That was my thought too. Unless you have gone out of your way to download a copy of SP2--I'm hearing from other people in this chat that some copies have been posted on other sites--there's no way that Windows Update could have fetched it automatically for you. (Well, unless the Microsoft reps I talked to on Friday were completely misinformed about this.)


Reston, Va.: With all the comments and questions about MP3 players, I'm surprised that no one has talked seriously about using the new generation of Palms, with large SD cards, for MP3 work. Its biggest disadvantage is that I need to rotate my MP3s every few weeks, but I can handle Audible.com, anything using Real formats, and MP3s through its Real-provided interface. My Tungsten E does everything with sound products that I need. Have you heard any downside to that?

Rob Pegoraro: Not really--I've thought of doing the same thing, except I'd need to buy a bigger SD Card for this use. The only real downside in practice is that MP3 playback will drain a handheld's batteries much quicker.


New York: I live in New York City, and I have the Time Warner DVR mentioned in your article. I'm also a former TIVO owner.

I switched to the DVR from the cable company because it had a lower monthly fee, and I could record 2 shows at once. If you have TIVO through DirectTV you can record 2 shows at once, but that's not possible if you have cable because you would then need to cable boxes. It does have a season pass like feature, and I find it works at least as well as my TIVO.

Rob Pegoraro: More on the TiVo-versus-other-DVRs issue...


Alternative to TiVo: So what are the names of these $5/mo or $0/mo DVRs you speak of? I would definitely be interesting in looking into a cheaper alternative (I do not have TiVo at the moment).

Rob Pegoraro: And yet another. The primary competition for TiVo these says is the DVRs offered by cable and satellite companies (for example, Comcast, Cox and Dish Network all charge only about $5/month extra for their DVRs, and the hardware costs can be zero.)


Arlington, Va.: Hey Rob,

You ever going to bring your iPod out and DJ with us? We're at Cafe Saint-Ex on the second Tuesday of the month (i.e. this week), and hope to see you out soon. On a related note, multiple on-the-go playlists should make it easier for iPod users to put together those 10-or-12-minute sets in advance, but everyone with an MP3 player is welcome.


Your friends at iPod Jukebox.

Rob Pegoraro: Haha--I'm waiting for you guys to return to the Galaxy Hut. Much closer to my house :)


Washington, D.C.: Rob,

We want to upgrade some OLD (read: 300 MHz, 400 Mhz) systems at home. Are the $498 eMachines and Compaq Presario bundles from places such as Wal-Mart adequate for most purposes? This will be for Microsoft Office applications, Web surfing, e-mail, maybe some music and video...no gaming or anything.

Rob Pegoraro: For those uses, you should be fine. Just make sure they've got at least 256 megabytes of memory (you may need to ante up for an upgrade).


Dulles, Va.: With the recent FCC 'freedom to innovate' decision for TiVo, will they be more of a force in the future ... or will they be less relevant with other 'big players' entering the DVR space (cable & Dish Network) packaging their own/rival DVR's, as well as TiVo's rumored separation from DirecTV?

Rob Pegoraro: Well, that's the big question. I have to think that TiVo folks recognize they've got some competitors with deep pockets and powerful marketing options--they need to keep offering things that their competitors don't. Or they need to cut the price of their system (there is a free "TiVo Basic" service option that eliminates most of the usual TiVo features and only lets you schedule recordings a few days into the future, but that's only available on a few models).


Fairfax, Va.: Hi Rob,

This is my second message to you, I am a new computer user, what do you recommend to protect my privacy?? Firewall? where is Windows firewall? Which one is the best anti-virus program? Have Norton but sometimes says "could not remove the virus"


Rob Pegoraro: The best overall directions to turn on the Windows firewall are at www.microsoft.com/protect/. If you've got Norton AntiVirus running, stick with that--but make sure that you keep it updated. (That means you'll have to pay $10 or $12 a year, or whatever it is, to keep its virus definitions current).


washingtonpost.com: Filter: FCC Serves Up a Ruling Smorgasbord (August 5, 2004)


Sharon, Mass.: Hi Rob. I submitted question earlier today but turns out I'm here. Re:SP2-I already have firewall and virus protection thru McAfee. I am on a 56K dialup now (Soon to be replaced by cable high-speed). Until then, is SP2 available to me. I'm specifically interested in whether I can keep McAfee for what I have now but use SP2 for IE browser protection. Also, my e-mail goes thru AOL? What can SP2 do for me and can you d/l only parts u want since can't have 2 firewalls, etc running at same time and until I get high-speed connection, don't even have access to MS Firewall even if I wanted it? Also, MS keeps telling me to backup everything on my computer 1st-why would they suggest a backup file and not a disk? If something goes wrong, wouldn't it affect the backup file as well?

Rob Pegoraro: AFAIK, you should be able to choose what parts of SP2 to run--if you want to use your own firewall, that shouldn't be an issue, although that third-party firewall software may itself need an update. I don't think you'll have the option to decline installing any parts of it, but if you'd rather use some other mail program instead of the updated Outlook Express you'll get from SP2, you'll be able to do that, just as you can choose your own mail app now.


Washington, D.C. : Rob, I'm as up-to-date on Windows XP maintenance as you can be, and I look forward to SP2. Query on MS Outlook spam filters: Why can't I get the filters to look for a URL in the spam message? Why can't I get the spam filters to give me the choice of conjunctive "and" or disjunctive "or" combinations in my rules? Outlook seems to go out of its way to prevent me from using the most comprehensive evaluation of email content by skipping over the HTML tags in the email and by assuming that my rules should all be "and" combinations. Is this deficiency going to be addressed in SP2?


Ray Paseur

Rob Pegoraro: I don't think SP2 adds any anti-spam featurs--spam is annoying, but it isn't a security risk like viruses, worms and browser hijackers.


The great gritty city of Worcester, Mass. : In today's personal tech e-mail, while writing of the sp2 download, you wrote, "it would be a very good idea to back up your files first."

Backing up files is a concept i've never quite understood, and therefore have never done. Could you explain EXACTLY WHAT FILES and how to do it? Despite being very pc savvy and able troubleshoot myriad technical problems in the 9yrs i've been online, i'm truly clueless re: the "do a backup" admonition.


Karen Mulhern

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Rob Pegoraro: The simplest backup strategy is to copy your entire My Documents folder onto however many blank CDs or DVDs are necessary to contain its contents. This will get most of what you need--but not all of it, since there's an invisible Application Data folder that contains stuff like bookmarks and e-mail messages. Yes, I said invisible--you need to change a setting in Windows to see this folder at all and copy that to a disc as well.

Other programs (for instance, Palm Desktop or Eudora) may store their own data elsewhere on your hard drive, and you'll have to look in each one's settings to see where it might be parking its files.


Albany, N.Y.: Thanks for the update on Windows XP. My son just ordered a new Dell for college -- what does this mean for him and others who are buying right now?

Rob Pegoraro: He'll have to download this update himself--it won't be preinstalled on new computers for a little while yet.





Rob Pegoraro: Windows 98 and Millennium Edition are slightly more secure against some of the works out there (e.g., Blaster), since they don't have the network services and ports active that XP does. But they're every bit as vulnerable to viruses and browser hijackings. Compared to a copy of XP patched with SP2--assuming it delivers on its promises!--they will be less secure overall.


Arlington, Va.: Just a clarification -

TiVo for DirecTV customers only costs $4.95 a month. Even if you have multiple TiVos in the house. (You will pay DirecTV's mirroring fee though)

Don't want the satellite customers thinking it's $13.

Rob Pegoraro: One last posting about TiVo for the day :)


Washington, D.C.: Rob, various iPod-centric sites are reporting problems with hard drive "whining" and headphone static on the new 4G player. Have you heard anything from Apple about this?

Rob Pegoraro: Nope, nor did I hear anything like it on the 4G model I've been testing. I'll give it another listen on the Metro tonight, just in case...


Chesapeake, Va.: What about SP-2 / Intel chip compatibility?

Recently Ziff Davis published a report citing problems with Intel's chips having the ability / capacity to effectively utilize the SP-2 update. Until Intel revamps the Pentium processor (reportedly sometime near the end of 2004) ZD recommends going with AMD processors.

What is the truth? And what is the solution or alternative recommendation for the masses who are currently using Pentium processors?

JLT Chesapeake, Va.

Rob Pegoraro: This question covers what's called the "NX" feature in SP2. "NX" means "no execute"; to oversimplify things, it lets Windows tell a processor not to run certain programs under any circumstances. At the moment, only AMD's 64-bit chips (right? somebody set me straight if I'm confusing something here) include this feature.

In the bigger picture, however, NX is a pretty small part of SP2. The more important bits--the new firewall, the updated IE, the new security-settings interface--work on any processor.


Rob Pegoraro: As usual, I have more questions than time to answer them, so I'll stick around a few more minutes.

Also, to follow up on something I've been asked about once or twice--the links to SP2 downloads that some sites, such as NeoWin.net, have posted, are links to the full version, a 266-meg install. The Microsoft PR guy I just spoke to suggested those links were most likely the ones set up for volume customers to download the update before the crowds get to it. If you don't want to download the whole thing, you'll have to wait until Microsoft sends it out over Windows Update, which will allow your computer to download only the parts that it actually needs.

And if you go ahead and download SP2 without being absolutely sure it's a legit download from Microsoft's own site, you're nuts.


St. Louis, MO: I'm in the market for an MP3 player. Obviously, the most popular player on the market right now is the iPod.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of buying another brand which usually seem to cost less?

I saw an ad for a 40GB player this week for only $269 by Creative. Is it worth the $130 to go with the iPod?

Is my $130 going to do more than allow me to have the same toy as the other cool kids?

Rob Pegoraro: I had a reviewer try to answer that same question in a comparative review last fall. His conclusion was that the iPod still has a lead in terms of design, quality, style and ease of use--that Creative player, for instance, is obviously bigger and heavier than an iPod, with a much less elegant interface. And it can't play any files bought off the iTunes Music Store.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Rob,

I expect I'll end up doing my own research, but perhaps you already have some insight into my concern.

I've already given up Internet Explorer in favor of Mozilla. I've used Zone Alarm for years, and like it well enough to have upgraded to the Pro version. Of course I've had antivirus protection installed for more than a decade. I run a small network and use WEP 40-bit protection, which I'll probably upgrade when it's time to replace my router. I don't routinely go to sites which might be considered unsafe. I routinely scan my systems for spyware/malware. The net result is that I haven't had any unpleasant attacks in years.

I'm concerned that installing SP2 before the user community has given it a full shakedown could, at worst, defeat system security settings that are currently working well, or, at best, require that I spend hours adjusting and upgrading my existing configuration simply to be compatible with Microsoft's newest take on the world.

I haven't participated in SP2 beta testing. That's my choice. But neither have I seen much press devoted to what the beta testers have found. So, I'm afraid to install because I don't have the full scoop, but I'm afraid not to install because I'm sure all future upgrades will be predicated on installation.

Help, please.

Rob Pegoraro: First, thanks for taking all these security steps on your own. Many users never go to that much trouble--and wind up paying the price when their computer gets hit by a virus.

Second, you're not really the target customer for SP2. SP2, by changing so many programs and settings to emphasize security (even at the cost of some functions or convenience), is geared towards people who don't tinker with their computers, who run them as they come out of the box.


Fairlington, Va.: Rob,

Love your column. But I need help. I would like to purchase a MP3 player with a fair amount (read: larger than 10GB) of space. But I'm confused if the swoons over iPod are just hype from Apple-fanatics or real. So please tell me: which is my best bet? I hear good things about Dell's DJ, but I don't think there is way to replace the battery. And how long does a rechargeable battery last in any case? (I don't mean until it is recharged again, but until it dies). I don't want to buy an iPod only to have to replace the $100 battery in a year. And I don't want to buy the Dell if it is a paperweight once the battery gives out.

Please help.



Rob Pegoraro: The Dell DJ does have a replaceable battery. You should get about three years of use out of an iPod's battery, maybe more--there are people with first-gen models still in use. You might get less, but if it's much less the warranty ought to cover you there.


Silver Spring, Md.: Which would you recommend between Apple's iPod4G and Sony's new MZ-NH1Hi-MD and why? They both cost $399 but the Sony also records.

Rob Pegoraro: Hmmm... I had hoped to try out that Sony player for Sunday's column, but Sony declined to make it available--the flack all but said "we know you're going to clobber this thing in your review, just like Mossberg did in the Wall Street Journal, and we don't need to see the same review written again."

My competitor Walt at the WSJ had slammed the Sony player because it CANNOT play MP3s--it has to convert every track you transfer over to it to Sony's own ATRAC format, a step that really slows down file-transfer times. I can't tell you what I would have written about a device that I haven't seen. But I can tell you that I didn't like this "feature" when I tried it out on Sony's ATRAC-compatible MiniDisc player over this summer.


Ashburn, Va.: 1. A high-tech guru recently wrote a column recommending that people wait a while before installing SP-2 for Win XP, mainly because Microsoft will surely find bugs in the Service Pack soon after it is issued. Further, he suggests that people who have been regularly downloading Windows Update security patches won't be missing anything critical if they delay installing SP-2. What's your reaction to his recommendations?

2. Congratulations on your being selected to replace John Gilroy's column. He has helped me with problems in the past, and I assume you will do the same. When can I submit a puzzling question to you, New Computer Guy?

Rob Pegoraro: 1. What "guru" was this? SP 2 contains a lot of features and fixes that aren't in those earlier security updates, most of which I would consider fairly "critical."

2. Thanks! You and everybody else are welcome to submit puzzling questions whenever you've got 'em.


Rob Pegoraro: And with that, I've gotta get back to work. Thanks for all the great questions--I'll be back here in two or three weeks.


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