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Help File: Deciphering "sprtcmd.exe"; AM Radio on MP3 Players

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, October 4, 2009

Q. Whenever I turn off my three-year-old Gateway, it says it can't close "sprtcmd.exe." Is that an important program?

A. That cryptic file name means as little to me as it probably does to you, so I did what tech-support professional would in this case: I searched Google.

The first results suggested this was a Dell tech-support component, an unlikely item on a Gateway.

But the query this reader sent into my Web chat had also mentioned that he was in Seattle, which squared with different search results describing software Qwest installs for its digital-subscriber-line service. A file on that telecom firm's site explained that "sprtcmd.exe" checks online for updates to its customer-support software -- something that a file name like "Qwest QuickCare updater" or even "qwestcareupdater.exe" would have made far more obvious.

In other words, if this thing hangs on shutdown, go ahead and click the "End Now" button. And pray that at some point, developers will graduate from the 8-character file names that Windows 95 supposedly made obsolete 14 years ago.

Any idea why the new iPod Nano's radio only receives FM, not AM? Some of the things I'd like to tune in only appear on AM, like Capitals games.

Two things make that a difficult trick to pull off: AM's sensitivity to interference (which you can hear when you drive under an overpass) and the size of the antenna it requires. The first problem is especially bad inside a device that's packed with different types of electronic circuitry, and the second is difficult to solve when the device is too small to hide the antenna on the inside.

One or two MP3 players have included AM tuners in the past, but I don't know of any on sale today.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

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