Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Thursday, March 8, 2007 2:00 PM
The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Thursday, March 8 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss recent reviews and answer your personal tech questions.
Read Rob's latest tech tips in his new blog, Faster Forward.
A transcript follows.
Rob Pegoraro: Good afternoon! Let's talk.
Falls Church, Va.: Rob, AVG's free antivirus program slowed down my Win XP SP2 system so noticeably that I had to remove it. I currently have the Win firewall, various spyware protection, but no AV program. Can you recommend anything that won't pour glue into my system (obviously, this excludes Norton)?
Rob Pegoraro: That's a strange report--I've put AVG on a bunch of computers and never seen any noticeable effect on performance. For alternatives, I'd start with the other free anti-virus utility, Avast.
Columbia, Md.: Hi Rob, It looks like my DVD player is dying. It won't recognize disks unless it's been turned off for a while. I've been shopping for a replacement and I've seen these 'upconverting' players. Will these convert regular DVD's to Blu-Ray or HD DVD quality? Thanks. And great columns!
Rob Pegoraro: They'll almost do that--and if you don't have the world's biggest HDTV and aren't a videophile in the first place, almost could easily be good enough. (I have watched the same movies in upconverted and HD quality, and the differences can be spotted... but I don't think the higher resolution of a high-def disc justifies buying into the idiotic Blu-Ray/HD DVD format war.)
Falls Church, Va.: I liked your idea in today's blog about running an emulator inside an emulator. How many levels of that do you think could be possible before the machine would grind to a halt?
Rob Pegoraro: That's... an exercise left to the reader :)
Spokane, Wash.: This is the old fossil again. Just wanted to say how much I enjoy your new Fast Forward. Just keep telling it like it is. James
Rob Pegoraro: You're welcome!
Anonymous: I don't know about the experience of others but I have found that Windows Vista (home edition) is not ready for prime time. My new Dell Vista computer installed with drivers that had to be disabled (Roxio) and almost none of my XP software would run without modification. That included Quicken, my Palm PDA, Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 among other things. A very frustrating experience!
Rob Pegoraro: I hear ya, Anon. The more time I spend with Vista, the more I start to think that it was shipped a little too soon. I keep hearing about programs that don't work right in Vista, or don't work at all. It doesn't help that I discovered what should have been an obvious bug in Vista two weeks ago... if a distracted reporter can stumble across a glitch while wrapping up testing of a desktop PC, what kind of less glaring defects are lurking in Vista?
AVG's free antivirus program slowed down my Win XP SP2 : Rob, What else does he have installed on that machine. I've had nothing but delightful success with AVG on my XP laptop and 2 other pcs.
Rob Pegoraro: That's been my experience too. But if I've learned anything in writing Help File for the last two or three years or whatever, it's this: There's almost no limit to the number of random ways that Windows can malfunction.
RE: Anti-virus: I love Avast.. works great. Just one user's two cents.
Rob Pegoraro: Here's a vote for Avast, the other free anti-virus app.
Alexandria, Va.: Rob: Comcast was at my house last week to fix my cable/internet connection (turned out I needed a new modem). In the process, unbeknownst to me, the guy seems to have installed new versions of IE and Outlook Express with an annoying spinning Comcast logo in the upper right corner (you know, the part of the browser that moves while pages load, etc). I know I could be accused of being uptight, but I'd really like this obnoxious corporate ad off my software. Any idea how I can scrub it off?
Rob Pegoraro: You're not being uptight at all. You're expressing your annoyance at somebody vandalizing YOUR PROPERTY without permission. I'd be angry about that too.
This is a question I've been meaning to research--somebody asked how to yank the Verizon logo off his copy of IE--but have not yet found an answer. Does anybody have a suggestion for Alexandria on this?
Norwich, Conn.: Rob - I just got hit with adware/spyware. How do you get rid of it? Also for the past 4 months Microsoft has been saying that my xp-pro is not genuine. I have been e-mailing (sending them all the data for my system) to firstname.lastname@example.org, requesting a WGA kit to make my system genuine with negative results. The computer was donated to the disabled american veterans of norwich, ct, and I am the adjutant. We were told that all systems were kosher. Now microsoft wants us to buy system for $100.00. We use our monies for the disabled vets and therefore cannot afford to to take food out of the mouths of others in need. Would appreciate any help that you can give. Dan
Rob Pegoraro: Norwich, I wish your computer was only as fouled up as Julie Amero's (the substitute schoolteacher on the verge of going to jail for using a spyware-infected computer in the classroom).
Between the non-valid Windows--my guess is that whoever gave you the machine didn't put a valid copy on in the first place, and the WGA machinery finally caught up to that--and the spyware problem, I'd say you should just wipe the hard drive and start from scratch. But you can't do that if you don't have a Windows CD in the first place--as I suspect is the case.
If you know who gave you the machine, you should start with them. Ask them what kind of a joke they're trying to play here, and tell them they need to fix this.
Mac Purchase Likely: We may be in the market for a Mac, for graphics and design work. Is there a good reason to wait for the new model? Thanks.
Rob Pegoraro: You mean, the new operating system (Leopard, due "spring") or a new model of Mac?
Either way, I'd say no. Leopard should only cost $130 or so and shouldn't be any trouble at all to install. Most of Apple's current lineup is fairly new as well, except for the Mac mini; I doubt any big changes are in store there either.
Anonymous: Regarding AVG, the email scanner keeps showing me that it is incorrectly configured and will not scan my emails. I have taken off my computer and put it back on and still the same message. Then a few days will go by and it starts to work again. I have WinXP on a laptop and keep up with all patches, upgrades, etc. What is going on?
Rob Pegoraro: You could just turn off the mail scanner. AVG will still stop you from opening any viruses that arrive in your e-mail; it just won't warn you when those messages arrive.
23112: Have you done (or found) any comparison of Bluetooth range and clarity among manufacturers of devices? The comments in one of your blog posts started to veer that way, and I thought it was worth additional discussion.
Rob Pegoraro: I saw that as well--but I don't think this problem applies to most people. Bluetooth isn't supposed to work over any great distance, and most of its use cases--the cell-phone headset, the car kit, the mouse and keyboard--don't involve the user going more than five feet from the Bluetooth device anyway.
Annoying Logos: Rob, Like the footer that AOL puts at the end of every email? And they have no remorse over it at all.
Rob Pegoraro: Well, AOL does seem to have its mind made up about that. You can, as I wrote, get around this by using a regular e-mail program (which I'd suggest anyway, inasmuch as AOL's own mail software is so weak).
You can also take your business elsewhere. Changing e-mail addresses is a pain, but it's not as hard as you think.
Washington, D.C.: I am starting to suffer from some major wrist pain. I'm seeing a doctor but I was wondering whether you have reviewed and/or recommended any ergonomic keyboards and mice lately. Thanks!
Rob Pegoraro: I haven't--not that don't think about this all the time, inasmuch as it's the primary occupational hazard of my line of work. Here are two suggestions that don't involve extra hardware:
* Keep your hands raised above the keyboard, as if you were playing the piano.
* Learn to use the mouse with both hands. I'm right-handed, but I realized that if I moved the mouse to the left of the keyboard I took a lot of stress off my right hand.
RE:Removing spinning logo:1. Close IE
2. Go to Start / Run
3. Enter in rundll32 iedkcs32.dll,Clear
4. Now start up your browser and the spinning logo will be back to the default.
Rob Pegoraro: Thanks! (If anybody tries this, please report back to me if it works.)
Meadville, Pa.: RE Verizon changing IE Quick Google search came back with this forum http://forums.techguy.org/web-email/323699-remove-verizon-icon-toolbar.html
Rob Pegoraro: Same basic remedy, but here's a Web site you can bookmark.
Alexandria, Va.: Please enlighten me a bit more about the digital TV conversion, as I'm looking to buy a set to replace a 19" analog that died on me. Your column Sunday said that effective last week, all TVs over 13" must have a digital tuner, but when I went to Best Buy a few weeks ago, virtually no sets under 32" or so -- including the high-priced LCDs -- had a tuner included. Does the federal mandate apply to retailers (meaning that all those to-be-obsolete sets are going to get pulled off the shelves forthwith) or manufacturers (meaning that Best Buy et al. will carry TVs with ATSC once they sell out of existing stock)? In short, how much longer do you think I will have to wait (ugh) before I can find a 19-20" set with an ATSC tuner included? And why is it so hard to find a reasonably-sized TV (i.e. not big enough to take up the entire wall of a small room) that has an ATSC tuner? The industry has had years (going on a decade) to prepare for this, and they're still not ready -- it's ridiculous.
washingtonpost.com: Faster Forward: A Digital Deadline Dawns
Rob Pegoraro: I agree a hundred percent that this is ridiculous--the electronics industry is going to have a lot of angry customers in 2009.
The digital-tuner mandate only applies to *new* hardware, not things that had already been shipped to stores. Even so, it seems that a lot of manufacturers are taking a... generous interpretation of "March 1." As in, I think some of them are acting as if February lasts 50 days long.
Partlow, Va.: Thank you for your columns, blog, and this forum. I have a problem with IE6. The flash animated ads became intolerable so I uninstalled flash. This has caused two problems. The information bar continuously nags me to install flash. I blocked the flash plug in and activex downloads but now the information bar nags me about disabling activex downloads. How do I kill the information bar? Also there are occasions when I would like to see flash content. Is there any way to selectively enable flash? Thank you for your help.
Rob Pegoraro: There is, but I only know how to do that in Firefox--download the FlashBlock add-on: http://flashblock.mozdev.org/
Not sure what kind of Flash-regulation software exists for IE... but, y'know, if you're using IE 6 you should switch to Firefox anyway. It's a much better browser than IE 6 ever will be.
Washington, D.C.: problem with Windows for Mac: Hi, Rob, I have a Mac (iBookG4) loaded with Windows for Mac programs including Windows Media Player Version 9 -- the most up-to-date for Mac. But many times, when I try to watch something online that requires that very Player (especially TV shows), I get a message saying I need to download the program (!) The message appears even if I open the Player beforehand. Other times, the message is that I need a plug-in -- but there's nothing available for me to download when I click on the link there or when I go to the Windows for Mac site. This happens whether I use Safari or Firefox. Any idea what my problem is and, more important, how to solve it? Many thanks in advance!
Rob Pegoraro: Microsoft stopped developing the Mac version of Windows Media Player a while back--they now recommend a QuickTime plug-in called Flip4Mac, which lets Apple's own QuickTime software handle Windows Media content:
This doesn't, however, play any content that's been packaged with Microsoft's digital-rights-management software. That's purely Microsoft's fault; it won't let the Flip4Mac developers add DRM support.
Mac Purchase Likely (part 2): Rob, I meant the hardware, mainly to run the Adobe creative suite. We've heard that the new machine will have a dual-core (?) processor to more easily run Windows applications as well...does this matter if those applications are simple things like email, Excel, Word, etc.? Thanks again!
Rob Pegoraro: Macs--excluding the Mac mini--have had dual-core processors for months already. Not that you'd need it for running something like Microsoft Office.
This is something I keep coming back to--processor speeds are no longer relevant for most home users. Everything is fast enough. And if you're talking about just Web/word processing/e-mail, everything was fast enough two or three years ago.
Think about memory instead. OS X and Windows--ESPECIALLY Windows Vista--need a lot more memory than you might think. A gigabyte is the new realistic minimum.
Ellicott City, Md.: I've held off on downloading either Firefox 2 or Internet Explorer 7 until the initial bugs have been worked out. Now that some time has passed, do you think it's safe to download these two programs?
Rob Pegoraro: Firefox 2, definitely. IE 7... maybe. I like this browser (though not as much as Firefox), but it's had some weird compatibility issues. I don't blame Microsoft for that--it put IE 7 through a long public-beta test cycle, which should have given any competent developer enough time to update its software appropriately--but it's still an issue.
wash dc:"This is a question I've been meaning to research--somebody asked how to yank the Verizon logo off his copy of IE--but have not yet found an answer. Does anybody have a suggestion for Alexandria on this?" Try this, http://windowsxp.mvps.org/ie/ispunbrand.htm
Rob Pegoraro: Better yet!
You might as well bookmark that mvps.org site right now if you tinker with Windows regularly--it's a home for the "MVP" volunteers who answer questions on Microsoft's tech-support newsgroups.
Regarding AVG, the email scanner keeps showing me that it is incorrectly configured and will not scan my emails.: Rob, I'll bet he's using IE7 also. Ask what browser he's using. I'll bet that's the answer to the problem.
Rob Pegoraro: And here we were just talking about compatibility issues with IE 7...
Austin, Tex.: Rob, Thank for taking questions. Here's mine. I want to archive old papers (like tax returns from 1989) on the computer. What's the simplest way to do this. I have a scanner, a copy utility, and Acrobat. (Not just Acrobat Reader.) My current plan is to use the scanner's copy utility and "print" to an Acrobat file.
I don't need anything complicated, and I don't need to convert the copies to text or to be able to search them. Basically, I want to scan the papers and be able to print them if I ever need to. Thanks!
Rob Pegoraro: Yup, that ought to do it. (Note to others looking to do this; there are free PDF-creation tools out there; see http://www.pdfforge.org/products/pdfcreator/. Also, Mac OS X includes PDF creation out of the box.)
Gaithersburg, Md.: I've been thinking about buying a Mac notebook for a while now, but I haven't done it because there are a lot of games I like that aren't available in Mac format. Is it possible to run Windows on the Mac just so I can play those games? Will that eat up a huge amount of the hard drive?
Rob Pegoraro: Yes, you can definitely play Windows games on a Mac. But for this, you'll be better off with Boot Camp, since that solution ensures you get full use of a Mac's graphics card in Windows. That, in turn, means you need a Windows XP SP2 CD-ROM--no other kind of Windows is supported in Boot Camp.
The other thing to watch out for in Boot Camp: This doesn't give you a Windows disk that automatically expands as you add more stuff. You need to pick a partition size up front and then stick within that limit.
Ijamsville, Md.: Enjoyed your Windows emulator article today. I am thinking of moving to a Mac. The one program I'm worried about is Quicken. Is the 2007 Mac version of Quicken as bad as people report? If so, why does Intuit have an apparent double-standard for the PC and Mac version of Quicken?
Rob Pegoraro: Quicken for Mac is... not great, that's the nicest thing I can say about it. Intuit does, in fact, have a double standard; the Mac version has never been able to download account info from as many banks and credit-card issuers as the Windows version, owing to Intuit's inexplicable decision to make these institutions offer a separate, Mac-only download format.
I also don't like how slow Intuit has been to adopt basic Mac technologies. Quicken 2007 doesn't support Spotlight searches and has to run in the Rosetta emulation environment on Intel-based Macs, for instance.
I don't mean to dog the Mac programmers at Intuit--maybe they've got some pointy-haired boss keeping them from making these upgrades. I do use Quicken 2006 for Mac myself, and it gets the job done. But it could be so much better.
Georgetown: This might be out of your bailiwick, but have you spent any time listening to HD radio? I read the other day that it's so compressed that it sounds worse than a tune compressed for iPod/MP3 usage. Is this how things are going to stay indefinitely, or are there plans to make the stations listenable?
Rob Pegoraro: Hey, how 'bout those Hoyas!
I've spent a fair amount of time listening to HD Radio broadcasts--mostly FM, but a little AM too. I don't think it sounds as great as its backers would suggest, but it's not nearly as bad as skeptics would have you believe. To me, it's about on a par with MP3 quality--in other words, better than most FM reception in the field. I find it completely listenable. (The improvement with AM is far greater, but almost nobody broadcasts in HD Radio on that band, much less with music.)
To me and a lot of other folks--including my colleague Marc Fisher--the real reward of HD Radio isn't that slight increase in audio quality, but the extra stations it provides on the dial.
Browsers: Rob, Why do people insist on using IE when there are better browsers out there? Just because it came on your computer doesn't mean you have to use it. Too much Microsoft is not a good thing.
Rob Pegoraro: I hear you. Believe me, I do.
Hanover, Pa.: Hi, When I replaced the hard drive on my computer a year or so ago (with some technical assist from a tech-savvy nephew), I partitioned the drive so the programs were on one partition and files on the other. I made the program partition too small. Now I want to replace the hard drive with a larger one, but am not sure of the correct steps to do that. Can you point me to any site that walks through the process of replacing a hard drive? (I am using Win XP in my Dell desktop computer.) My main concern is how to "wake up" the computer when the old drive and software are removed and it has a new, blank hard drive. Thanks!
Rob Pegoraro: You can change your partition sizes and keep the existing drive (assuming the data partition isn't out of room). Go to gparted.sourceforge.net and use the LiveCD download.
This, BTW, is why I have never been in favor of fancy partitioning schemes. All you're doing is setting yourself up to get painted into a corner later on.
Woodbridge, Va.: Now that Apple is shipping Intel based machines that can run both Mac and Windows programs, can someone with an existing Windows based Intel machine load the Mac operating system and run Apple programs?
Rob Pegoraro: No. First, Apple has written Mac OS X so it will only load on an Apple machine. Second, even if you could defeat that restriction--as some hackers have--you'd then have to find driver software that would let OS X recognize and use all the hardware on the PC.
Melbourne Australia: Hi Rob, can't believe I am up this early to actually submit a comment! I just bought a palm 750 with Windows Mobile (I know you said forget Palm, my bad!) and being a Mac man for 20 odd years am finally facing what most of the world has to deal with in OS - nothing works! Some of it kinda works, but doesn't and the rest of it is buried in there so deep I don't think I'll ever master this gobbldy gook. It's horrible, but we wont get the iphone for years down under I reckon so I'll plow on with this mess till then. Cheers. Steve.
Rob Pegoraro: G'day, Melbourne! (I had to look this up; it's about a quarter to 7 there.)
I actually don't think Windows Mobile is that bad--well, aside from the woefully slow Notes program and the annoying way most add-on software can only be installed by running an installer file off a PC. Microsoft has been working pretty consistently to make that function better--unlike Palm. There have been pretty sizable upgrades from Windows Mobile 2003 to WM5. (I'm hoping to try out a device with WM 6, the new version, sometime soon.)
Burlington, Vt.: Any chance Amazon will ever put HD videos for rent on its Unbox service?
Rob Pegoraro: Yes.
Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Mr. Pegoraro, I am a senior citizen living in Leisure World and own a computer. It has McAfee Security, Microsoft Virus protection/firewall and Verizon Virus protection/firewall. Do I need all this stuff? It seems like repetition and may be the cause of my computer system slowing down in all the various operations. Your advice please.
Rob Pegoraro: You're absolutely right--you've got some serious overkill in your PC's defenses. Pick one security package and stick with that. I would suggest either Microsoft OneCare (it should coexist best with Windows) or the Verizon package (it should have the least glitches with your DSL). Or you could just go with whichever program of those two is cheapest.
Washington, D.C.: I've downloaded the free Adobe Acrobat Reader for Mac to my iMac at least twice and, each time I try to open it, I get a message that indicates that (paraphrasing) there is no application to execute the file. What am I doing wrong?
Rob Pegoraro: Downloading Adobe Reader at all! Apple's Preview is all you need to view PDFs on a Mac.
Rockville, Md.: To Austin, TX: I just did something similar with boxes and boxes of financial records. I used a scanner (Cannon 4400F) and created PDFs. However, I called the IRS and asked about recommended data storage - paper v. electronic. After being transferred around, the "expert" said paper - since electronic can be altered. Of course, I mentioned that many brokerages have you download electronic 1099s but she stuck with her answer. So, I scan everything but I'm still going to keep paper backups for 8 years.
Rob Pegoraro: Realistically, paper can be altered too. I mean, can you prove that a tax form from your bank is the real thing and not a fake? Is there a watermark or anything that somebody couldn't reproduce with a decent printer?
Vistavoidance: Can you buy a new PC and only run Windows XP? It works as well as it needs to, and I'd just as soon avoid any "new, better" M'soft products as long as possible.
Rob Pegoraro: Good luck finding a copy of XP... you'll probably have to shop in the sale/refurb section of a computer vendor's online store. (You might have better luck with a local "screwdriver shop" that builds its own PCs, but there aren't too many of those left.)
Washington, D.C.: Hi - I apologize if this leads to a conflict of interest. The Wash Post website would be a lot nicer without those annoying United Airlines ads that occasionally barge into my browser's display. Do you know how to disable this particular annoyance in Firefox?
Rob Pegoraro: Well, you know, you are trying to take food off my plate. Also, I fly United pretty often, and I *hope* enough people respond to those ads to keep my own fares down.
So I'm not sure I should help you on this at all :)
But if you scroll up, you'll see that I did not an add-on to Firefox that can control what animated Web content shows up in your browser.
Bowie, Md.: I am expecting delivery of my new Vista computer soon with my 24" LCD monitor. What's the easiest way to transfer files from my Win98 machine to my new Vista machine? I do have an external hard drive connected to my Win98 machine, but was wondering if by just connecting the two computers via their ethernet ports, that the Vista machine would recognize my Win98 machine and I can just drag and drop.
Rob Pegoraro: That should work too. The difficult part of this will be just tracking down all your data on the Win 98 machine--programs used to be a lot sloppier about where they stored user files and settings. You may have to look in every sub-folder of Program Files to find everything.
There are also third-party data-migration utilities, like LapLink's PC Mover, that can automate this work. And if you were migrating from a Win 2000 or XP machine, you could use the Easy Transfer utility that comes with Vista.
Good luck finding a copy of XP..: Rob, How many copies do you want? Plenty available at the computer show every month in Chantilly.
Rob Pegoraro: Ah, but the original poster was looking for a new computer with XP pre-installed.
San Diego, Calif.: Rob- Thanks so much for your inclusion of Codeweavers in the Windows on Mac article. Their Website is the first one I've seen that actually is up-front about the limitations of their commercial product. I'm tempted to try it based on that alone.
Rob Pegoraro: You're welcome. I appreciated that sales pitch too. It's unheard-of for any program to come with a money-back guarantee--it speaks well of CodeWeavers that they'll offer one.
Washington, D.C.: RE: Downloading Adobe to a Mac - OK, I don't need Adobe to view pdf documents on a Mac. Now, when I scan documents to my Mac, in what format and to what application should I scan it (using an HP series 1600 scanner/copier/printer)?
Rob Pegoraro: First--sorry that you need to use HP's Mac software at all! It's not that pretty.
Second--you'd still want to save those documents as a PDF. The trick will be to scan them in, then select the Print command and click the "save as PDF" button in that dialog box. Then OS X will generate a PDF copy of each document.
Arlington: Rob, I have a relatively new laptop with XP that won't install any Microsoft updates. It has Internet access and goes to the Windows update page, but then hangs up on downloading and installing. Is this probably due to an infection of some kind? Any suggestions for finding out what it is? Thanks.
Rob Pegoraro: This is one of the topics that regularly kicks my butt. I know that Windows can somehow stop accepting updates, but I've never seen any clear or consistent documentation explaining a) how this happens, and b) what to do about it.
You could try downloading each Microsoft update "by hand." Here's how--and boy, is this ever a pain, and I may miss a step or two because I'm writing this from memory: First, jot down the number listed after each update. Then run a search for that number at support.microsoft.com. You should get the tech-support document behind each update; on that page, click the "for IT administrators" link, which will send you to a page with a simple download link.
I've said this before: Microsoft shot its foot right off when it integrated its Web browser into the operating system. Every other operating-system developer uses a separate downloading tool to get system updates--but nooooo, Microsoft had to assign the job to IE, ensuring that a browser glitch can render the computer incapable of being updated.
Fairfax: Submitted this yesterday, but maybe it didn't go through. I just found the CD to update XP to XP SP2. At this point, should I bother? I haven't had any problems with my computer, I have firewalls and everything. The only issue I know of is that the clock may not set DST correctly. I'm not over worried about that. If you do think I should upgrade anyway, is the CD still viable, or should I download from MS at this point? Thanks
Rob Pegoraro: YES! SP2 is only the most important security fix Microsoft has ever released.
But you should download a fresh copy from Microsoft's site, so you'll also get any security updates since then.
On Safari: What does this mean? What should I do? MTIA! Safari cannot find the Internet plug-in. The page "BA Connection" has content of an unspecified MIME type. Because you don't have a plug-in installed for this MIME type, this content can't be displayed.
Rob Pegoraro: Got an address for that page? I don't recognize the title.
Washington, D.C.: Help me Rob Pegoraro, your my only hope! I use firefox on win/xp (with adaware and noscript installed), and since last Thursday, all post.com articles and chats have that "print this article / email this article / most viewed articles" section on top of the article/chat instead of to the right. It's driving me crazy. Is this system-wide or is there some setting I need to chase down and change? Thanks!!
Rob Pegoraro: You'll hate me for saying this--but everything on our site looks fine in copy of Firefox (18.104.22.168). Maybe the noscript extension is causing problems?
Note: Although I've pointed people to Firefox extensions, I don't have any loaded in my own copies of Firefox. One, I think the browser works well enough as is. Two, I need to experience it as most users do. Three, I don't feel like I need to risk getting into situations like this, where something's gone wrong but I don't know what add-on caused the trouble.
Bowie, Md.: Easy transfer utility with Vista does not work with Win98????
Rob Pegoraro: You heard right: Windows Vista Help: Transferring files and settings: frequently asked questions
Rockville, Md.: In your opinion, what is the likelihood that Amazon's Unbox business model (i.e., downloading movies to TiVo) will eventually render Netflix and Blockbuster obsolete?
Rob Pegoraro: Unlikely--most people don't have TiVo, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. (There are enough TiVo owners to ensure Amazon a tidy profit, but that's not the same as wiping the competition off the face of the earth.)
scanning with HP: Rob, I have a Mac and an HP All in One, and there's something really annoying about their document scanning software...it only lets you scan one page. So if you have a multi-page document, each page becomes it's own PDF. Apple does include a tool to combine PDFs, but it's only available through the Automator, so you have to set up a workflow for it. Kind of annoying.
Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the insight. (Automator, for the uninitiated, is a handy little program that lets you write scripts that automate common tasks--and it's considerably easier to use than this description would suggest.)
Sherwood, Ore.: Hi Rob, Living in the beautiful Oregon countryside just south of Portland. View of Mount Hood, proximity to pinot noir country, but no broadband internet! We have no cable on our country road, and are too far from a substation for DSL. Any idea as to when Verizon's goal is for FiOS across their entire customer network?
More immediately, can you comment on the Dish Network's high speed internet? Is their service reliable as far as you know, or prone to breakdowns and outages? What about speed compared to DSL? Thanks for any info you can offer!
Rob Pegoraro: I have no idea about Verizon's Fios rollout plans in Oregon--I don't even know their plans in the D.C. area! But I will say that broadband Internet is no different from a lot of other services; it's harder to get if you're farther from a city. (In return for that, you've got your beautiful Oregon countryside and ready pinot noir access :)
Satellite broadband works, but it's also inferior to other kinds. It costs more, at least in terms of equipment, it's slower and it has real latency problems--the delay incurred when your data has to take a 44,000-mile round trip to get to and from your machine. Let's just say you don't want to play any online games over a satellite connection.
Baltimore, Md.: This week I learned that I have been whitelisted by verizon so that any email I send to a verizon customer is blocked and returned. Since I am only a private individual, not a spammer or even a company, I appealed. They denied my appeal saying:
Your IP has been blocked because your ISP indicates that your IP address is dynamically assigned.
What does this mean? And do I have any recourse? I can't even email my own spouse because of this. Thanks, Beth
Rob Pegoraro: That can't be their real policy--most consumer Internet connections use dynamic IP addressing. (An IP address is the unique numeric identifier your computer has online--go to whatismyip.com to learn yours.) Verizon itself uses dynamic IP addressing, last I checked!
Are you sending e-mail through your own provider's server? (You'd better be--most providers require that, to stop spammers from abusing their networks.) If so, then you need to ask them what's going on. An Internet provider will have better odds of getting this solved than one of its customers alone.
New Mac User: Rob, I'm moving away from Windows: my new iMac should be delivered next week. The principal usage will be photo editing and (hopefully) streaming digital audio around my house. Any quick thoughts on what I need to know and useful software and add-ons I should think about?
Rob Pegoraro: Stick with your Mac as is for a little while. It will come with all the software you'd need for those uses (for your audio streaming, you can get an AirPort Express now or wait a few weeks for the Apple TV to ship). Think of it as something like moving into a new house--you want to take a little while to learn where everything is before you start making major changes.
Fairlington, Va.: Wait, one last question. I bought a Dell desktop in December, with a Vista premium upgrade. Just got it in the mail. But I'm afraid of it. You keep saying it will slow my system down? Is it worth upgrading now? Or should I wait six months when bugs are fixed?
Rob Pegoraro: How much memory do you have? If your Dell only has 512 megs, you'll be seriously hatin' life with Vista on it. You may not be happy even with a gigabyte of memory.
Do this first: Go to Microsoft's site and download the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor, run it and see what it says about your machine's readiness for Vista.
I think there's a strong case for holding off on a Vista install, as I explained earlier.
BTW, here's my Vista review from earlier this winter: Vista, for Better and Worse
Laurel: Is there a way to start your internet identity over again? My first identity became unusable when I started posting to Usenet groups and getting 30 spams a day. So I got a new account that I only gave to trusted, priority websites.
However, I now get five different "hot stock tips" a day, and a few social activities solicitations a week, in addition to the couple hundred outright spam my ISP dumps into Bulk. Is it possible to just start over when a bunch of my weblife (checking, savings, stock brokerage, Amazon, Netflix) isn't cancelable?
Rob Pegoraro: What you need to do is get in the habit of using two e-mail accounts. Share one with friends, but don't use it anyplace public or with any company you don't trust.
Then get a free Web-mail account--try Gmail--and use that for all your public postings. You'll get spam there, but Google's filtering is pretty good--and it's not like you'll be missing out on any important personal messages at this account anyway.
Tina in Falls Church re:Vista: In case I don't make it home in time. Cool stuff: Aero effects, 3D, great performance monitor, easy to use intuitive, PCillin anti everything program is easy to use, Dell on-call really works...a human at the end of the phone, and gadgets are waaay cool
Not cool: had to buy a new all-in-one, lexmark has no software for Vista for my 2003 model, Logitech driver incompatibility not resolved for MX3200 desk set (who are the "corporate" eggheads there?), knowing I really do have to use the Windows Automatic updates and install automatically option...do I really trust MS? I'm glad I bought it.
Rob Pegoraro: One perspective on Vista from one of the regulars here. Thanks, TiFC!
Princeton, N.J.: Rob, Thanks for all of the advice and assistance that you've provided for shopping for new televisions. I have a situation where I will be living in Germany for the next few years and I have received advice that I should look at a multisystem TV that can handle NTSC and PAL as well as the different voltages/frequencies. Is this worthwhile and if so, what should I be looking for in addition to the issues you've listed before? Regards
Rob Pegoraro: Actually, you'd want a TV that does ATSC--digital TV--in addition to the European PAL standard. But I've never gone shopping for such a thing, and I'm not even sure it exists. Sorry...
Silver Spring, Md.: I am a potential MAC buyer who needs to run QuickBooks Premier Industry Edition 2007. There is no MAC installation for this particular version of QuickBooks. I plan to install Parallels on the MAC to run this application. My only hesitation is that I will be sharing (primarily through email) the QuickBooks files with other PC users. I will also need to export data from QuickBooks into Excel and email those Excel files as well. Should I be concerned about QuickBooks file sharing between the MAC and a PC? Also, will I need to install the Windows version of MS Office in order to export to Excel from QuickBooks (which will be in Parallels) and email those files to other PC users? Or can the Excel export and email be transferred from the Parallels environment and executed through the MAC versions of those programs?
Rob Pegoraro: It's a piece of cake to move files in and out of a Parallels system--just simple drag and drop. I haven't tried doing any data exchange between QuickBooks and Excel, though.
FYI 1: There is a Mac accounting program called FirstEdge from MYOB (myob-us.com). I haven't tried it, but if the alternative is running QuickBooks in a separate operating system...
FYI 2: Sorry that you've brought up one of my pet peeves--but "Mac" is NOT an acronym! Please drop the capitalization.
Firefox: Rob, Does Firefox do email also ?
Rob Pegoraro: Not unless you use a Web-mail service. For everything else, there's Thunderbird, written by many of the same people as Firefox.
Arlington: Last time you suggested that we leave computers on Standby when not in use. Are the automatic updates and scheduled virus scans able to run while the PC is on Standby? Is the computer any more secure against attacks from the Internet on Standby than if the PC was simply left on? Thanks.
Rob Pegoraro: No, but Windows knows to check for them when the machine is online and not in active use (it downloads updates in the background; if you're downloading some huge file of your own, it will wait until you're done to resume getting the next bug fix.)
D.C.: Why is it better to let my Mac go to sleep during the night/hours I don't use it than to shut it down? Should I restart it once a week?
Rob Pegoraro: Shutting down a Mac--or any other computer--hardly saves any electricity. (Computers draw some current even when they're turned off, as long as you keep them plugged in.) Why not eliminate the wait for the Mac to boot?
You don't have to reboot a Mac on any schedule. Just leave it on and wait to reboot until a Mac software upgrade requires that.
Arlington, Va.: Rob, What do you think about the RIAA trying to kill internet radio with exorbitant fees? Seems to me that they continue to be shortsighted and continue to alienate their customers. Don't they understand that not everyone has a satellite radio and that they want a wide variety of music that commercial radio can't give them. I would have liked to see more about this in the press, I think a lot of people don't know about it.
Rob Pegoraro: Excellent question! I'm still trying to get up to speed on this--I honestly thought this controversy had gone away. But if the situation is as it's been reported in the few stories that I've read so far, I agree that the RIAA is showing an almost biblical level of myopic greed.
Flip4Mac: Thanks, Rob, I've just downloaded it -- which reminds me to ask, should I worry about viruses and such (trojans, etc) because I have Windows programs, even though my mqchine is a Mac (OSX 10.4, by the way). Thanks again!
Rob Pegoraro: Windows is still Windows, whether it's on a PC or inside Parallels. (But if a Parallels virtual machine gets infected, you can just delete the thing and the rest of your Mac will remain intact.)
Bethesda, Md.: Re: Applications not working in Vista. Once upon a time, Microsoft put a high priority on applications continuing to work through operating system changes... but not anymore.
Rob Pegoraro: No, that's still a major priority with Microsoft. But in some cases, Microsoft had to trade off compatibility to upgrade Vista's security. And you know what? I support that decision 100 percent.
The security situation on Windows needs drastic action; you can't keep indulging the whims of every programmer that fails to abide by Microsoft's programming guidelines (I would include some of Microsoft's own coders in that group!).
NW DC: I used the Mac Migration Assistant program to move all my "stuff" from my old Mac to my gorgeous new Mac. One problem: Now all my Microsoft programs are warning me that my trial versions are going to expire in X number of days, and that I need to "buy now". But when I check the "About Word..." window, the proper serial number is already there. What do I do now?
Rob Pegoraro: Macs--like most PCs--come with a limited-time trial of Microsoft Office on the hard drive. I suspect you're seeing that warning from that copy, not the one moved over by the migration assistant.
You should see two Microsoft Office folders in Applications, but one will be labeled Test Drive. Delete that, and the problem should go away.
re wrist pain: I have carpal tunnel syndrome. I stopped using a mouse and instead use only the touch-pad on my laptop. My symptoms have disappeared except when I have very lengthy assignments and even then, the pain's not nearly as bad as it used to be.
Rob Pegoraro: Thanks!
Just a few more, as I'm (again!) seriously past the scheduled end of this chat.
Calcutta, India: I wonder if you have an answer to this! Each time I try to open my two gmail IDs on my computer (one after another), one automatically signs out. The same happens when I try to open my two yahoo ids at the same time. What's the way around it? It's not unusual for someone to have two yahoo or gmail ids!
Rob Pegoraro: Use two separate browsers--sign into one Gmail account in Firefox, the other in IE.
And, um... yeah, it is kinda unusual for somebody to have two Gmail or Yahoo IDs in daily use.
Washington, D.C.: Rob, I'm dying to ditch my company-supplied Dell paper weight for a MacBook. One fear is that the new notebook will be obsolete as soon as I walk out the door. Obviously systems are constantly being improved and there is no way around that in the long run.
Is there a best time of year to buy a Apple notebook? Where is the current line up of Macbooks in the product cycle and what rumors are you hearing about upcoming features, improvements, etc. Bottom line is I want to get a new MacBook. I don't need to. Thanks
Rob Pegoraro: You're at a pretty safe time to buy; both the MacBook and the MacBook Pro got updated not that long ago.
I am seeing rumors of an ultralight Mac laptop--which, as a journalist who sometimes travels for work, desperately hope are true!--but that's a separate market from mainstream laptops like the MacBook.
Changing e-mail addresses is a pain, but it's not as hard as you think.: Rob, All it takes is a parallel operation for 30 days, then migrate to the new one. That's a long enough period for everyone to change your address in their mail file.
Rob Pegoraro: I'd allow a little more time--but the point stands.
Let's not forget the fundamental satisfaction to be had when you say those two magic words to a company that's jerked you around: "You're fired."
Mount Airy, Md.: Rob, excellent article today on Mac's and Boot Camp. You may not know that some 24" iMac owners can't get Boot Camp to work. While installing the drivers, specifically the video driver, the screen goes black and that's it. This seems to only affect some 24" iMac owners, others are able to install Boot Camp normally. There are several threads on this problem on the Apple Discussion forum.
I have to believe this will be fixed in Mac OS X 10.5 since it'll then be a "supported" feature instead of in beta. I'm really surprised this hasn't been fixed by now or someone has figured out a hack. Do you think you could contact someone at Apple and get more information?
Rob Pegoraro: I had not heard that--very strange. Unfortunately, I don't have any special contacts at Apple for this sort of thing. Apple can be an *extremely* secretive company when it wants... the engineers and programmers there tend to keep their mouths shut.
(Contrast that with Microsoft, where everybody blogs about upcoming products all the time.)
Bethesda, Md.: My problems started when, for unknown reasons, my Internet Explorer 7 ceased to function properly. I retreated back to IE 6, and then tried to download IE 7 again. Windows Genuine Advantage validation tool (or whatever they call it), which allows me to download security patches, etc, refuses to allow me to download IE 7.
The Microsoft tech, who communicates with me by e-mail, recognizes that my version of windows is genuine, as indicated in the printout produced by their validation tool, but despite trying the multiple fixes she has suggested, nothing seems to work.
Why can't Microsoft simply override its validation tool to allow a user to install IE 7 when such problems exist, rather than making its customers expend many fruitless hours inserting complicated commands in their registries, all to no effect? It's as though they want to drive their customers away. Any ideas on how to address my problem? Marty G
Rob Pegoraro: Yes: Use Firefox.
(That wouldn't solve your WGA-failure issue, but it would let you get back on the Web. And that's all you really need, right?)
Iowa Falls, Iowa: Hi Rob, Enjoyed your column today about using Windows on a Mac. My question: I have installed Windows XP on my iMac, and use Boot Camp to access it. If I were to use Parallels, would I have to reinstall Windows? Thank you.
Rob Pegoraro: No--I didn't get into this in my review, but Parallels can run that Boot Camp copy of XP right inside OS X.
Silver Spring, Md.: My PC, which is now 4 years old is running really slowly. I've run defrag and have scanned for viruses. At this point I feel I have to reload the operating system, Win XP. Will I have to reinstall all the programs I use, or is there a way I can get them off the backup hard drive I connected through a USB port? Thank you.
Rob Pegoraro: You'll have to reinstall your software. Sorry...
Seattle: Rob, I see that Apple just released a new version of iTunes. Is that supposed to compatible with Vista? It still doesn't work with my copy of Vista Business. To clarify, every time I close iTunes (7.1), Windows alerts me that the program has stopped working, and I need to click the close button of a dialogue box. Is this an isolated incident? Or have you heard of similar experiences with iTunes on Vista? Thanks.
Rob Pegoraro: Apple says the new 7.1 version is safe to use with Vista, although it's still chasing down some minor issues: iTunes and Windows Vista
Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for all the great questions!
That is all.
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