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PSP's Debut

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Thursday, March 24, 2005; 12:00 PM

Fast Forward's Rob Pegoraro was online to answer reader questions about his latest review, which covered Sony's PlayStation Portable. Rob writes that the PSP, being introduced today, is a great gaming device, but he calls it a dud as a multimedia player.

The Post's coverage of the PSP launch also included a detailed look at the games that will be available for the unit.

Rob Pegoraro (The Post)

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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.

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Rob Pegoraro: Good morning--I mean, afternoon. Lots of interest in Sony's PSP out there! I can safely say that I haven't seen this kind of buzz building around any Sony product since the launch of the PS2.

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Washington, DC: Rob-

Do you really see a large market for the PSP outside of some hardcore gamers and gadgetheads? Between the price point (both of the system and of the games,) the design flaw with one of the buttons and the prospect of having to buy all your movies twice if you want to view them on the go, it seems like the PSP has way too much to overcome to take much marketshare away from Nintendo.

Rob Pegoraro: That's the biggest question about the PSP. It's great for gaming--total hoot to play. But as a multimedia player, I don't like it. Most people seem to be treating it solely as a gaming device... but Sony seems determined to market it as a games-plus-media handheld.

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Carbondale, Ill.: ...curious about your comment that games take up to a minute to load...

Rob Pegoraro: It's something about how these UMD media work and how fast the PSP can pull data off of them. All the games I've tried--World Tour Soccer, Gretzky NHL, Wipeout Pure, Twisted Metal: Head On--have exhibited the same kind of delay while the PSP loads the game.

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Alexandria, Virginia: Dear Rob

Base on the description and Specs of the PSP, I think that Sony, should've gone a little bit further, by adding an Internet browser and maybe the capability of a PDA, perhaps using Windows Pocket PC 2003 or any other OS for PDA.

Do you think that would be better to wait for an advanced PSP model? Or Do you think that the current model could be upgraded with the features that I mentioned above, eventually?

Sincerely,

Jaime V. Luciano

Rob Pegoraro: There are quite a few missed opportunities in the PSP, but I don't think failing to include a full handheld operating system is one of those. I don't think Sony could have done all that and kept the PSP at $250.

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Fort Washington, Md..: How PSP compare to the regular PS2 controller? Are the vibrating features still there? Does it resembles it's size?

Rob Pegoraro: Nope, no force feedback.

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Fairfax, VA: Can you use the same games on PSP with PS2? Can you play DVD's on the PSP?

Rob Pegoraro: No, and no. The PSP is way too small to accommodate a CD or DVD.

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Fairfax, VA: When can we expect the next generation consoles from Microsoft or Sony? What kind of upgrades are planned?

Rob Pegoraro: Should be more news about that at E3, the game-industry trade show--happens mid-May in L.A.

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East End, DC: Now, really. Are people going to give up their PS2s for the PSP, given the fact that there are so many titles out there that can be played on PS2 that cannot be played on the Portable?

Rob Pegoraro: Sony wants people to buy a PSP in addition to a PS2. Yes, that could be an expensive hobby--but you really can't underestimate the willingness of avid gamers to sink money into a platform if the games on it are fun.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi, Rob. Thanks for taking our questions. Do you think the game development industry will produce as many games for the PSP as for the PS2, and the upcoming PS3? Also, do you think Sony is overdoing it by coming out with both the PSP and the PS3? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: No way there will be as many PSP titles as PS2 releases, but that console has a long head start too. Hard to say about PSP versus PS3--that depends in large part on how difficult it will be to write games for the PS2's successor.

Overdoing it? Nah. I'm only surprised it's taken Sony to release a portable game machine--as I wrote, this company has historically done very well in the tiny-gadgets business.

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Columbus, Ohio: I tried to buy one this morning but the store I went to was sold out. Is there a set date on when the next wave of PSP's find their way to store shelves?

Thanks in advance.

Rob Pegoraro: Nope--keep checking in stores and online.

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Columbia Heights, D.C.: Hi Rob,

I've recently purchased the competing Nintendo DS handheld gaming system. I've noticed there aren't that many games available for it yet. Have I just made a big mistake, buying the equivalent of Betamax instead of waiting for the VHS equivalent?

Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Funny to see the Betamax stigma applied to a non-Sony product... no, I don't think the DS is a Betamax game device. Or even a Sega Saturn (guess how old I am!). Nintendo's platforms don't always start out with a lot of titles, but the total does tend to build over time.

(To return to the how-old-am-I theme, when Nintendo announced the Nintendo 64 console and talked about how it was going to limit development opportunities at first, I was sure that thing was doomed. But the 64 turned out to be a pretty successful venture.)

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Arlington VA: Can you hook the PSP up to your television set to play a game?

Rob Pegoraro: Nope. That's one of those missed opportunities I mentioned.

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Eau Claire, Wisc.: Will the PSP play music, video and games, from a small dvd/cd disc or will you download information or have both or different setups or some of the plays?

Rob Pegoraro: You have to copy any music/photos/videos to a Memory Stick Duo card, either by using an adapter to pop the Duo into a regular Memory Stick slot, or by buying a USB cable and using that to connect the PSP to your computer.

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Alexandria, Va.: Can you go more into why it's a "dud" as a media player?

Rob Pegoraro: You mean half a 950-word column isn't enough? Let's see... out of the box, has no way for you to transfer your media from your computer to the PSP. Uses one of the most pointlessly proprietary storage media ever invented. No desktop software provided to ease the process of copying or synchronizing your collection. Oh, and if you've downloaded songs from any of the online stores that people actually use--iTunes, Napster, MSN Music, Wal-Mart--you can't play those files on the PSP.

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Washington, DC: I purchased a PSP this morning at Best Buy and noticed there are bubbles on the top surface of the PSP case, including over the screen area. It looks like dirt or air was trapped between the plastic case and the clear lacquer encasing the unit. Have you noticed this in your review of the product?

Rob Pegoraro: The device ships with a transparent plastic wrapper to protect the screen. Should peel right off...

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Washington DC: From what I have read this is a pretty nice device. As a professional on the go, I considered this device. I'd like to be able to play games and movies on the go. I currently own a XBOX, a portable DVD player and a MP3 player And, sometimes will pack up the XBOX and take on vacation.

I say I've considered this but probably won't purchase. Why didn't Sony make the device, so you could download movies or games through the computer???? Who wants to pay for the same movies that they already have twice.

Hopefully XBOX will consider their customers and develop a device that is not only comprehensive, but can use what the customer already owns.

Rob Pegoraro: If you're the technically savvy type, you can download movies to the PSP--it's just not easy or cheap. You'd need to download a DVD-ripping program and use that to copy a flick to your PC's hard drive, then use a second program to compress the movie to a size that will fit on a Duo (which, FYI, top out at 1 GB, versus 2 GB for regular-size Memory Sticks).

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Fort Washington, Md.: Does the PSP have the ability to read other types of Sony media such as the Hi-MD?

Thanks

Devin

Rob Pegoraro: Nope--just UMD and Mem Stick Duo

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Fairfax, Va.: Hey Rob. I heard that there are problems with the 'X' button on the PSP. Specifically, the X button isn't directly located over the pressure-point mainly because the screen gets in the way. Is that true? And have you experienced any problems with it?

Rob Pegoraro: If any such problem exists, I haven't seen it on my review unit. Not that there aren't some issues out there. I could not do a demo of head-to-head gaming when I talked about the PSP on Fox news here this a.m., because the PSP their guy had wouldn't load anything in the UMD drive.

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Bethesda, Md.: With the ability to download videos onto the PSP, what would it take to set up an automatic download for video from a news site and put it onto the PSP for watching on the metro in the morning? Is there software out for this, or would all of this need to be done manually. (video podcasting)

Rob Pegoraro: You'd need the simple, reliable desktop software that Sony, um, forgot to ship with this thing. Other developers might tackle the job--I'm told there's already a Mac OS X app to sync your media to a PSP.

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Washington, D.C.: In your opinion, how does the Sony's PSP compare to Nintendo's DS2?

Rob Pegoraro: That's what most people have asked about in my e-mail so far. (By "asked," I mean "have flamed me for not supporting their chosen platform"). The DS has much worse graphics, less depth of gameplay and no Internet multiplayer gaming, but it also costs $100 less.

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Alexandria, Va.: Rob: some anti-Nintendo people are already proclaiming the PSP to be the death of Nintendo in the handheld market. And this was before the system was even released! Do you see this being the case, especially with rumors of another, super powered GameBoy Advance system coming out at the end of 2005?

Rob Pegoraro: Anybody rushing to write Nintendo's obit just because of the PSP is... talking smack.

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Shenandoah Valley, Va.: PSP as DVD player (UMD) - I enjoy DVDs on DVD players when they're closed-captioned, or subtitled. Will UMDs have subtitles at least? I'm hard of hearing and heavily depend on subtitles. Thank you.

Rob Pegoraro: UMD movies can have subtitles and a choice of languages--the Spider-Man 2 disc Sony is bundling with the first million PSPs includes English subtitles and the option to hear the dialogue overdubbed in French. Not sure if other DVD-style extras will be available... I don't know if UMDs have enough room for that.

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Pentagon City, VA: The PSP looks great and I'd love to have one for gaming. But why does Sony keep pushing proprietary devices? They had a huge hit with the Walkman, but it accepted standard cassette tapes, they didn't invent their own type of cassette.

Since then they've had a string of failures; Betamax, the miniDisk, the ATRAC audio format for digital music. They should have owned the MP3 player market, but instead they are playing catch-up by finally letting them accept MP3.

Wouldn't they do better to focus on making great players and let others set the standards? Or is the real money in owning the license to the standard so they keep gambling?

Thanks!;

Rob Pegoraro: Great, great question. I keep wondering when Sony will wake up and realize that nobody else cares about Memory Stick, but now it's launching yet another proprietary storage media, UMD. ("Universal" only if your universe is limited to the PSP). This company sets itself back for no good reason by sticking to its storage formats that the rest of the industry has rejected.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi,

I bought one of these this morning at the Sam Goody in Union Station. I mentioned this to a friend from work and she bought one also. They still had like 7 left at noon if anyone is itching to get one.

Rob Pegoraro: FYI...

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Rochester, N.Y.: My boyfriend and I are both gamers - PC, Xbox...but haven't done portable since the Game Boy. What is the decided advantage to gaming on the go, besides being on the go? We're thinking that the portable would seem like it's sorely missing something.

Rob Pegoraro: In the case of the PSP, I think it's the ability to have wireless gaming on the go. You could while away the time on the train to NYC by having a multiplayer frag-fest with your friends a few seats away.

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Washington, D.C.: Does the arrival of the PSP effectively doom Nokia's efforts to save the N-Gage?

Rob Pegoraro: The N-Gage (a handheld game device that also serves, awkwardly, as a cell phone) was doomed a long time ago.

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Manassas, Va.: Sega Saturn? My guess is you're in your mid-20s. I think Sony rushed this device. Especially with the PS3 anticipated, it could have been a total waste. They should sacrificed some weight and enabled it to play existing games... maybe there greed will bite them in the butt.

Rob Pegoraro: Nice guess about my age, but wrong.

I don't see how you could build a portable device that also plays existing PS2 titles without making it something more like a laptop--in terms of size, weight and maybe even cost.

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Baltimore: When new products first come out, their price is high. Then rival companies will open it up and copy their stuff. How long will it be for it to come down to under $100???

Rob Pegoraro: Might be a while, but the overall trend is probably clear. Once Sony is making enough money in game sales/licensing fees, it will be able to drop the price of the PSP. Economy of scale also comes into play.

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Oakton, Va.: I have a question about Windows Media Center. I have been taping television shows onto my computer, but have had a hard time transferring these recordings off the computer onto a DVD. It takes about 1 hour to burn a DVD for a 1 hour recording. Is this normal, or am I doing something wrong? Also, I tried to transfer the recordings over my wireless network to my laptop, and that basically took all night to do. Have any tips to make it easier to make my recordings more portable?

Rob Pegoraro: A non-PSP question here... one hour to burn a one-hour DVD seems like a lot, but maybe not if you factor in the time to encode the footage into MPEG-2, the format used on DVDs. What write speed does your DVD burner offer? And what sort of processor do you have?

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Washington, D.C.: The DS does have wireless networking as well as Bluetooth. No games have taken advantage of the wireless LAN capabilities, but they exist.

Rob Pegoraro: Quite a few Nintendo advocates have made this point in e-mail to me. I don't buy that argument. A potential that is not supported by any games, even six months after the system launched, counts as "absent" in my book. I mean, c'mon, what's Nintendo been waiting for?

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Annandale, Va.: Rob,

I haven't seen a PSP yet. Is it basically 2d (gameboy like) or 3d (ps2ish)?

Rob Pegoraro: Graphics-wise? 3D, very much so.

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Arlington, Va.: Hello, With the release of the latest playstation do-dad, and by listening to all that it can't do, what would really bring gamers to the store to purchase one. I am a hardcore gamer, but I wouldn't dish out big bucks for something that is sub standard. What are the BANG for your BUCK features that would really draw gamers in and invest in this instead of just buying 5 new games for $50 a pop?

Rob Pegoraro: It's the WiFi gameplay--peer-to-peer and Internet-wide.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Rob, is there enough capacity in the game-developing world to support PS2, PSP and PS3 without a drop in the quality or quantity of new games?

Rob Pegoraro: Good question, for which I don't have any sort of great answer. It will depend in large part on how well this new system sells, and how the PS3 is received in the market. If game developers think they'll earn a good profit by developing for some new platform, they'll find whatever resources they need for the job.

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Hyattsville, Md.: Given the screen resolution I am guessing DVDs will compress to about the same size as they do for my Pocket PC, which comes in at about 256MB per movie. So one Memory Stick Duo could then hold about 4 movies. Not that bad, and no more difficult than the ripping steps I already do for my Pocket PC.

Obviously that is more technical than a hand holding piece of software, but most of the personal media players out there take the same amount of work too.

Rob Pegoraro: The funny thing here, if you follow the history of the DVD and the movie industry's attempt to stop people from cracking that format, is that people will go to this much trouble to watch their movies. What if this feature had been built into DVDs from the start (with the same sort of loose copy controls as, say, the major online-music stores)? How many more movies might have been sold?

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Manassas, Va.: Okay, low 30s then.

My feelings are with the Pentagon City poster as well. I always look to buy Sony products before most anything else - it's sickening. But when does the endless proprietary hoopla end?

Would you pay the $250 for the PSP or wait for some other "amazing" Sony product?

Rob Pegoraro: I would not. But as anybody who's seen me try to hold my own in multiplayer Halo can attest, I am not any sort of hard-core gamer.

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Arlington, Va.: Why didn't Sony do a better job at minimizing the number of dead/stuck pixels in the PSP?

Sony's press release states that dead pixels are not a defect, regardless of the number that may pock your screen. The sales people at Best Buy who were pushing the silly protection plan also pointed out that the screen is in no way covered. I feel as though these events indicate that Sony is well aware of the abnormally high ratio of dead pixels.

I understand that dead pixels are just a fact of life, but most companies manage to keep the number down and guarantee an exchange if the number of deal pixels exceed a certain number.

I bought two PSPs this morning at Best Buy and both units have at least a dozen dead/stuck pixels by my count. One of the units I can live with, the other one is a big red dot staring at me from right in the middle of the screen.

It is just sad to spend a lot of money on what seems to be a flawed product. Would you agree?

Rob Pegoraro: 12 dead pixels--dots in the picture that are permanently on or off--seems a lot. (My own review unit doesn't have any, nor have I noticed any on the other two PSPs I've looked at). Most vendors of LCD monitors have a maximum acceptable number of dead pixels that's far lower, like six or so.

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Alexandria, Va.: RE: What's Nintendo waiting for with regards to wireless? You know they're typically slow with game releases. Their big wifi title will be Animal Crossing DS, and if it's like its GameCube counterpart, it may well be a system seller in its own right.

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, Nintendo does tend to be slow out of the gate. But I don't think that's a healthy habit to get into, not least when you're competing with a very hungry Xbox division of Microsoft.

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Arlington, Va.: So how long until we see the dream machine -- an iPod with gaming capability?

Rob Pegoraro: Could be sooner than you think. Some of the Mac rumor sites noted a few months ago that Apple had put up a job posting for a developer with experience developing games in Macromedia Flash--the sites' guess was that this meant that Apple was planning to support some more advanced form of gameplay in color-screen iPods.

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Annandale, Va.: I could use a recommendation.

I need to access the 'net from random locations. I'd like to use a small device, maybe with an external keyboard. Any suggestions for a device/service that won't break the bank?

Rob Pegoraro: Uh, a laptop? Seriously--get a small, lightweight laptop with WiFi and Bluetooth (so you can use your cell phone as an external modem) and you should be able to get online in most reasonably populated areas of the U.S.

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Toronto, Canada: Hi, I wondering if it will be possible to play the games from a non-portable PSP on this new station? Thanks. Daniel

Rob Pegoraro: "non-portable" PSP? Not sure I grok the question, Toronto... you definitely can't play PS2 games on the PSP, if that's what you meant.

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Alexandria, Va.: Rob,

33 is your age. I wanna to know if Sony will incorporate more feature on the PSP

Rob Pegoraro: Wrong still, but enough about me! :)

The current model could get some new features via software upgrades (it can check for any once it's on the Internet via WiFi). I could also imagine Sony adding new hardware to future models--for example, how about letting it save data to these UMDs? You'd be able to carry far more music and photos around if you weren't limited to Memory Stick Duos.

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Arlington, Va.: I agree that the PSP doesn't signal the death knell for Nintendo, but do you really see them in the platform business in the long term? Wouldn't the money they'd make by scraping the Gamecube and making their properties (Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, etc.) available on PS, X-Box, and PC, be more than they're currently pulling in?

Rob Pegoraro: That is what Sega wound up doing. I don't know--Nintendo tends to go its own way in this business. If they've been taking good notes on what's worked and what hasn't in the Xbox and PS2, I could see them making a comeback in the console biz with whatever replaces the GameCube.

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Columbia, Md.: It's been rumored that Nintendo is planning to roll out the next generation GameBoy with improved graphics this summer, totally bypassing it's own DS. Interesting strategy (very dangerous strategy) if they do.

Rob Pegoraro: Agreed on the "very dangerous" part. Nintendo said upfront that the DS wasn't supposed to be the GBA's successor, but that should not mean that it's going to be immediately orphaned either.

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Louisville, Ky.: Rob,

I loved and still love my Sega Saturn.

Rob Pegoraro: Oh, so *you're* the one!

(sorry, couldn't resist that :)

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Hyattsville, Md.: Hi Rob,

Do you think the PSP will be capturing any customers from the lower end of the market that is normally buying Game Boy Advance, or is it only competing in the high end with the Nintendo DS?

Rob Pegoraro: The PSP's no competition against the GBA; it costs too much and the games it offers aren't even geared towards the same audience. (Thinking out loud, the toughest competition for entry-level handheld game machines like the GBA may be the games you can play on cell phones.)

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Washington, D.C.: I'm an avid gamer and plan on buying a portable system sometime soon.

In terms of more bang for your buck, which device (either the Nintendo DS or PSP) would be the better buy?

Rob Pegoraro: You said the magic words--"avid gamer." I think you'll get more out of the PSP. That's especially true if you're out of your teens... if you want games where you can blow stuff up, the PSP should have a lot more to offer.

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Boston: Do you think it's a sure-thing to buy and stock up on PSPs now and sell them at xmas for a mark up? Will there still be a supply problem by then and will they still be popular?

Rob Pegoraro: Wait until Xmas? Bad idea. I'm sure the eBayers of the world pre-ordered their PSPs months ago and are unloading them *now* at a healthy profit. (Hmm, wonder if my friend Randy the Jawa is doing this...)

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Rob Pegoraro: For once, a chat of mine ends on schedule. (Then again, I am competing with Marc Fisher, the Reliable Source *and* Dulles Airport--that's tough competition.) Thanks for all the questions; if I missed yours or other queries come to mind, I'll be right back here at 2 p.m. on Monday. See you then!

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