Personal Tech

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Thursday, April 5, 2007; 2:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Thursday, April 5 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! Lots to talk about today--Microsoft's increasingly strict anti-piracy systems, digital television, the Apple TV, and, of course, that perennial favorite: places where you shouldn't use your cell phone.

Let's get to it.


Alexandria, Va.: Oh Wise and Powerful Oz, please petition the Post web gods to return the daily discussion list on the front page so you don't have to click to read it!

Rob Pegoraro: Wise? Powerful? You must be in the wrong chat :)


DC: Submitting early because (blah blah blah). Can you explain the difference between an IP address and a dynamic IP address? If I use my laptop to log into work at home and then go to a coffeeshop, will I have a different IP address when I log in at the coffeeshop? Will my work have any way to verify that it's my laptop and not someone else using my password?

Rob Pegoraro: They're just different ways for an Internet provider to set up your connection. First, a definition: An IP, or Internet Protocol address, is a numeric identifier that places you on the Internet (mine, at the moment, is It's how every computer on the Internet identifies every other computer; the familiar domain names are for the benefit of humans alone (so when the robots rise up to enslave us all, the Internet can revert to using only IP addresses).

Anyway. With a static IP address, you get the same numerical identifier every time you log on. That can make some more advanced uses easier--for instance, as you noted, your office can check to see that you're connecting from the same IP address all the time. But it's often simpler for the Internet provider to hand out changing--dynamic--IP addresses to each customer as they log on or off. That way, they don't need as a large a bank of IP addresses. So almost all mass-market providers use dynamic addressing.

That clear things up?


Quincy, Mass.: Rob, great article today on Windows Vista. My sympathy is not with the pirates but with innocent victims of this insanely aggressive validation program. At bottom, as Microsoft has always insisted, the users have only a license (we all read the EULA, right?), and MS can choose to license in any way it wants, with whatever restrictions it wants, so I am not questioning its right to do this. But, this gets added to the list of annoyances, limitations, errors, conflicts, and the like that make up the Windows OS. At some point, the Mac OS becomes more attractive. For me, that's now. I've had it. My next computer will be a Mac--with everything it comes with, it will be more cost effective and will save me lots of time and spare me from headaches. Just my $.02.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the comment. I, too, think that Microsoft has a right to run its business as it sees fit--but like I said, it is still a business. It has to persuade people to buy its software, and annoying law-abiding customers can get in the way of it.


Hartford, Conn.: Do you have an opinion on Apple's Leopard? Do you have a preferred browser for Mac users?

Rob Pegoraro: Apple's publicists are wont to say, "we don't comment on unreleased products," and I'm going to have to go with that line too. I haven't seen Leopard (aka Mac OS X 10.5), much less used it, and it's unwise to base your opinion of a future operating system only from screenshots and onstage demos.

I don't have a preferred browser for Mac users, I have preferred browsers: Safari for everyday browsing, because it integrates much better with OS X and it has that wonderful time-saver of forms auto-fill, and Firefox for the sites that don't look or work right in Safari. (Another option is a Mozilla-based browser called Camino, but it's lacking some of the best features of its sibling Firefox.)


Basement Office, Va.: Rob, I would like to create a DVD backup of my laptop so I could do a restore if an O/S update goes bad. I am finally being required to upgrade to SP2. I don't want to have to send my laptop to tech support in a galaxy far far away for a re-imaging after a bad accident. I already have the data backed-up if that makes a difference. Any suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: You're going to need a lot of DVDs. Get an external hard drive for this purpose instead.


Alexandria, Va.: Purchased an A710 over the holidays, and have gotten good use of it thus far, but have discovered one problem: The alignment of the viewfinder. At first, I tried squinting through the viewfinder (as I had with previous cameras) to set up my shot, but I found that the alignment between the viewfinder and the lens was off, which meant some of my shots weren't properly composed. I've since started using the LCD screen to compose my shots, but with sun glare and such this isn't always easy to do -- I ended up with several nice cherry blossom photos tilted at a subtle angle because of all the fiddling that went into the shot.

This is my first digital camera, and I haven't had this problem with film, so I'm wondering if all point-and-shoot digitals have this issue, or what if anything I can do to overcome it (other than shelling out more bucks for an SLR).

Rob Pegoraro: A lot of digital cameras don't have viewfinders at all--when manufacturers increase the size of the screen, the optical viewfinder often gets squeezed out of the camera.

Viewfinder-to-lens alignment can be an issue, and even when the two optical elements are lined up right, the viewfinder usually shows less of the picture than the screen. You just have to get used to the difference and adjust your aim accordingly.


Marietta, Ga.: Do you HAVE to get a data plan with a Treo? My Dad carries a palm pilot and a cell phone and would like to combine the two devices, but he has no need or desire to web surf or check e-mail. The lady at the Verizon store said you still had to have the data plan if you wanted to sync the information between the computer and the portable device. That can't be right, can it?

Rob Pegoraro: No, it can't. I mean, hasn't the Verizon lady noticed that the Treo comes with this wonderful thing called a USB cable right in the box?

Man, every time I think I've heard of the dumbest thing a retail clerk could possibly say, somebody has a story that exceeds my expectations. Ridiculous, just ridiculous.


Columbia, Md.: Hi Rob, How do I problem-solve and fix this? Repeated attempts to send an email from both gmail and hotmail with attached eps files failed on my home PC running WinXP. But I was able to send them with gmail using the computer at my work. Maybe related, I wasn't able to access a website I've visited frequently from my home (, but have no trouble viewing it from work. WinXP is up-to-date. I'm also running Norton Internet Security. Is some setting getting in my way? Could my PC be infected?

Rob Pegoraro: That's hard to say. How big was this ESP file? Did you try logging into Gmail from more than one browser?

A spyware or virus infestation could cause symptoms like this, but so could any number of other bizarre Windows malfunctions. Look, Windows is an *exceedingly* complicated structure inside, and things can break in ways that can make little sense. (That's yet another reason why I'm not happy to see Microsoft spending all its time trying to lock this system down against every possible type of piracy--the last thing Windows needs is to get gunked up with an additional layer of complexity, much less one that provides no value to paying customers.)


Arlington, Va.: Analog broadcast TV is to be replaced with digital signals. How about cable TV service? Will old analog TV sets still work on cable systems? Will all content, cable and broadcast change to digital and at the same time?

Rob Pegoraro: This was the topic of a Help File column I wrote last month. Basically, if you have a cable box now you'll still need one in the future. If you don't have a cable box--because you only get basic cable, without any premium channels--you might need one in the future *if* your cable provider elects to send a straight digital signal to everybody; that box would be needed to convert it back down to analog so your TV can receive it.

I talked to representatives from Comcast and Cox, and both said they would not force the switch like that; they'd continue to provide an analog-only signal for people with older TVs. But I can't see them doing that indefinitely--this dual approach will cost them over time.


Columbia Heights, D.C.: Hi Rob, Can you tell me the downsides, if any, of the new digital voice phone services being offered by cable companies? The price of combination packages - digital voice phone, cable internet, and cable tv - is pretty attractive. I'm wondering whether there are limits on the digital voice service that I should be aware of.

Rob Pegoraro: I haven't heard of any real complaints about call quality or reliability, if that's what you mean.

What I don't like about these packages is the way a lot of them fail to take into account the existence of cell phones. The cable companies are pushing these unlimited-calling plans and pricing them at an appropriate level. But I don't need that: I just want a basic, cheapo calling plan that recognizes that most of my calls are done on my cell--which already has free long-distance, along with all of my friends' and family's phone numbers stored in its memory.


Laurel, Md.: Just an experience to share. Last fall I bought a new desktop PC with Windows XP (the old PC had died suddenly). Every couple of weeks I would get a Blue Screen of Death, and I would dutifully record the message and try to chase down the error. However, it was always a different error, and the system crashes became more frequent. Finally the BSOD would appear for an instant during the boot process, which would begin all over again. Last week I figured out that this was most likely a RAM error. On a Knoppix CD I found Memtest86, a standalone RAM tester, and it confirmed that one of my two 1-GB modules was generating the errors. I pulled that one, and all has been well running on just 1 GB of RAM instead of 2GB. The manufacturer is sending me a replacement.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks. Bad RAM can often cause problems like this, whether you use a PC or a Mac. It's a good idea to use a hardware-diagnostic program to check out that problem (in this case, one included on a Linux CD).

Next time, don't waste your time writing down the gobbledygook that fills the screen during a BSOD. Only programmers can hope to make any sense of that.


Washington, D.C.: Am wondering about recommendations for a computer from my mother. She is 70 and not tech savvy. Currently has a 7-8 yr old PC running windows 98 (but little if any antivirus software, therefore i suspect it contains a large library of viruses!). Her computing needs are rather basic, mostly internet, email, and home-office stuff. Cost is an issue for her. At the same time it would be nice to have a reduction in the virus problem that a Mac provides. I have a Mac and like it and my instinct is to steer her toward one of these. But she wouldn't be too happy if she had to buy a new pricey mac every 3 yrs to keep up! Any ideas as to what might be the better way to go--windows vs Mac? Any particular windows machine? If Mac--is there a particular minimum hardware configuration, such as an amount of RAM or processor speed that she should not go below? (Their base iMac model comes with only 512) Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: If she's still trucking along with a Win 98 box today, I really, really, really doubt she'll need a new Mac every three years, or even every six. Get her a Mac mini--the basic, entry-level model--and set it up for her use (trim the Dock so it only has aliases to her mail, Web and home-office apps).


OMG: Places not to use cellphones:

- restaurants

- movie theaters (my big petpeeve)

- restrooms (yes, it happens a lot)

- elevators

Rob Pegoraro: I don't have an issue with elevator use--at least I have something to do in the elevator, in the form of eavesdropping on somebody else's call. But half the time, being in a steel box at the very center of a building ensures nobody has a signal anyway.


Gallery Place: Rob, I don't know if you use either of Apple's video editing programs Final Cut Pro or Final Cut Express, but Apple's recent update to OS 10.4.9 has essentially crippled these programs unless you've purchased the most recent version (each less than a year old). Apple has issued a support statement that, in essence, says "Yeah, we now realize the update messes with these programs. Either don't update (too late for almost everyone at this point), go through an hour-long process to downgrade to the prior OS (10.4.8), or shell out $99 to upgrade to a program that will likely be updated in 2-3 months."

Arrg. This is a rare lapse in ease-of-use/customer service for Apple. Can it be so hard for them to write a patch to fix the problem?

Rob Pegoraro: It should not be, no. Apple's gotta be careful that it doesn't ruin a generally good reputation for stress-free upgrades with mistakes like this. (And it's not like it should be hard for it to test its updates against its own software, either.)


Nashville, Tenn.: I plan to install a bigger disk in my Dell desktop (XP sp2) and remove the old one. Will this cause a problem with Windows Genuine Advantage the next time I use Windows Update? In the past I have added more memory and swapped out a DVD drive with no problem.

Rob Pegoraro: You should be alright in that case. You'd need to swap out a bunch of components all at once to trigger a validation or activation failure; replacing one thing at a time over a long period of time shouldn't matter.

I linked to a couple of Microsoft documents about how all this works in this morning's blog post: Windows Snapping Shut - Faster Forward


New York via Rockville: Rob- Not sure if this is your area of expertise, but I thought I'd try. I watched that Dateline NBC story on Identity theft and I have a pretty good understanding of how people use internet to scam in various ways. However, there is one email I get that I don't understand. They are just long emails of complete gibberish. Some have ads but seem to just be a succession of hundreds of words with no meaning. They are like short stories but make no sense. Any thoughts?

Rob Pegoraro: The story that I've heard, and which makes a certain amount of sick sense to me, is that the random text is an attempt to confuse spam filters. And what about the no-ad, all-random-text messages? Not sure. Maybe they're just tests to see what gets through and what doesn't.

It makes me angry to think about the time and effort put into spam. I mean, if you can work this hard, why don't you GET A REAL JOB? Spammers... the cockroaches of the Internet.


Canada: Hi Rob, Also, do you know of any way in Safari, when you highlight text in a web page, Ctrl click or on a mouse right click, and you get the option to Search in Google, how you can make the search to open in another tab or window-the way Firefox does?

Re discussions. It would be useful if the page designers tabbed the Schedule in Discussions the way they have tabbed Opinions and Post Global on Faith. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: I'd like to see that as well. The screenshots of the Leopard version of Safari do show some major changes in how the browser looks and works, so maybe this will be one of those changes.


NoLo, DC: I had a problem with windows activation that was rather annoying. A while back I installed Vista Business on my MacBook Pro via BootCamp. During the installation I left checked the box that allows Windows to activate itself when attached to a network. I made the mistake of assuming that it had, in fact, activated. On a business trip a couple of weeks ago I rebooted from OS X into Vista and was greeted with a message that my 30 day trial was over and I needed to either activate it or shut down. Fortunately the hotel I was in had free WiFi and I was able to connect and activate the OS. But the overall experience was pretty unpleasant.

Rob Pegoraro: I've been wondering if anybody's been hung up like that--the reduced-functionality mode doesn't let you change networking settings, AFAIK, so if you can't connect to activate your copy at that time the computer will be completely lobotomized.

(Well, until you throw in a Linux LiveCD and boot off that.)


Silver Spring, Md.: How come AVG does not work with Vista?

Rob Pegoraro: Uh, because it does? I've installed it on three or four different Vista machines--actually, in one case it was a copy that I'd installed under XP before upgrading to Vista--and it worked fine every time. Are you sure you've got the latest version? How is your copy not working, exactly?


Fairfax, Va.: Some of my friends have fIOS, and it seems like a great service that could actually create a competitive environment. However, when I called Verizon to see if they were in my area, they said they weren't, and gave no timetable for installation. This service does require a whole new infrastructure, but why can't they at least have a plan in place to show potential users the areas that the service is planned and when they can expect to receive it? The Verizon rep basically told me to watch for guys laying cable on my street and give a call back 4 months after the cable was laid.

Rob Pegoraro: Looks like I can gripe about Verizon customer service for the second time in half an hour! Verizon does, in fact, document where they're adding Fios--there's a PDF, updated every month, on the home page of its Virginia division.

I mean, am I really making an irrational demand to ask that a company's employees be capable of reciting the company line?


Washington, D.C.: My brother just bought a laptop and found out that he cannot run Firefox because it doesn't play nice with Windows Vista - what's up with that?

Rob Pegoraro: That's not true either. Ask him to download the latest version--I've never had a problem with Firefox 2, but I didn't test Firefox 1.5.


Arlington, Va.: Are people still excited about the ipod telephone?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't know: Are we?


HD TV in Silver Spring: Unfortunately, the picture whatever in our TV seems to be in its death throes. Since I'm presuming there is little point to fixing a 10-year old TV, I plan to start looking into Plasma/LCD? I'll begin w/ZNet and CR but any pros and cons I should pay attention to and features I should consider?

Rob Pegoraro: The easiest way to decide is to measure the amount of space available for the TV. You can't buy a plasma TV smaller than 37 inches, so for a lot of people LCD's the only flat-panel option. Second, if the room gets a decent amount of light you're probably going to have major glare problems with a plasma set.

There's a lot more on this in the column I wrote back in November: LCD or Plasma? Consider Size, Weight, Glare


23112: My beef with the combo packages for all of the digital stuff from one provider is that once the intro period ends, the price goes up about $50/month.

Rob Pegoraro: And they never tell you what that price will be beforehand, do they? I have gotten something like 50 pounds of marketing mail from Comcast at home over the past three years, and not one of these flyers--not a single stinking one--has ever listed the real, non-promotional price.


For Marietta: Many Treos will also sync via Bluetooth. No data plan and no cables required.

Rob Pegoraro: I think *all* Treos can sync over Bluetooth. But most PCs still don't have Bluetooth included.


Jacksonville, Fla.: I have a home wireless network and I'd like to switch my pc to linux but I want to leave my wife's laptop Win XP. Can this work? Can you give some thoughts about what to expect and what if any new connection software I would need. Thanks, Mike. P.S. Former Washington area native

Rob Pegoraro: Really nothing to it, assuming both machines connect wirelessly to the same router. You wouldn't need to change a thing on the router or your wife's computer; you'd simply need to set things up anew on the Linux box--all the various versions of Linux have wireless support, so you don't need to add any software for that purpose.


New York, N.Y.: Dear Rob, My computer is a Dell product, which uses Windows XP Prof software. My problem is that I cannot fix the erratic screen graphics; it presents the crispest images one day, and then on other days images all smudged and letters unreadable so that it's most annoying especially when I am unable to read texts in comic strips, for example. What is the reason as to this occurrence and why I cannot fix however I tried following the computer instructions. Please help. Thanks. SS

Rob Pegoraro: Try plugging the monitor into a different computer and see if the problem recurs there. My bet is that it will; your monitor is just getting old. (I had one years ago that started smudging text and images, especially when it got hot. It was tolerable to use in the winter, but in summer it was pretty much hopeless.)


Washington, D.C.: Rob, I'm pulling my hair out over what should be a simple issue -- buying a TV for the bedroom. Ideally, I would like a 23 inch HDTV/DVD combo that is digital cable ready. Am I asking too much? I can't seem to find this product, despite it seeming to me like a pretty practical thing. I'm trying to avoid having to get another cable box and a separate DVD player since I don't want a mess of equipment and wires in the bedroom like I have in the living room. Do you have any insights on products that might be offered later this year? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: If you're looking for an HDTV with a CableCard slot, I can see why that would be difficult--the cable industry has basically managed to ignore this standard into irrelevancy, and manufacturers have stopped adding CableCard slots to a lot of new TVs.

But if you only need basic digital-cable compatibility--no HBO, no Cinemax, etc.--you only need what's called a QAM tuner. And that is something that most new HDTVs do include.


Bowie, Md.: I have Vista and am scared to use my Video Ipod that i received as a gift and haven't broken out of the box yet. Any suggestions on when the new drivers for the Ipod will be available?

Rob Pegoraro: Apple says iTunes works with Vista already, more or less--there are some minor issues still being worked on, but you shouldn't have any problems with your iPod. (FWIW, I had no difficulty syncing an iPod nano with iTunes 7 the week before Vista shipped, before Apple had released any Vista-updated versions of iTunes.)


PG Cty: Even if the cable suppliers still offer support via analog service after 2009, they still won't offer this service for premium channels. Comcast has been posting a note on HBO and Showtime since mid March that analog boxes need to be switched to digital ones in order to receive these channels.

Rob Pegoraro: Right--although I thought that most cable systems had switching to requiring cable boxes for premium channels years ago. I mean, I remember not needing one to watch HBO back when I subscribed to District Cablevision... but that was over a decade ago, and District Cablevision was also about the worst-run cable operator in America at the time.


Jack, Arlington, Va.: What up with Roxio, They have had a problem with Vista. Their answer is buy a "Vista" version of "Version 9". But what if you have version nine already. This blows their mind and they have made it as hard as anyone could to get a fix. Seems for existing customers they should be nice. Will not likely to buy version 10. what is wrong with these companies? Next they will complain about lack of sails. wonder why.

Rob Pegoraro: And without sails--or sales--they'll be sunk.

(Sorry. Couldn't resist.)


Washington, D.C.: Hello: I'm thinking of ditching my landline phone and using cell only within my home (I have Sprint cell service). But, I have a fax machine. Is there some way to use my cell phone to send and receive faxes? (I know about E-fax, and various PC-based methods. But, I want to know if there is a way to hook up the cell phone to the fax, and avoid using the PC). Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: I haven't heard of any way to send a fax via cell phone; if it's possible one way or another, I'm sure it's not easy.

I would guess that you're going to need to keep the land line--if you really do need to send faxes all the time.


Houston, Tex.: Hi Rob, Thanks for your chat, and the info, do you have a preference Ipod, Zune, Creative Zen, or other and why? Your great insight will help me with my purchase. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: iPod. No question about it.


Vancouver, Canada: Hi Rob - I'm about to do the "mandatory" firmware update for my Lynksis WRTG54GS v.6 wireless router - but the 33 lines of instructions received from their on-line support team seems rather complicated and daunting. Any advice from anyone out there that has gone through the firmware update? Thanks, Mark

Rob Pegoraro: I'm not among them. Can anybody help out Vancouver?

(I suppose we should expect hopelessly confusing firmware instructions from a company that comes up with a MilSpec-ish product name like "WRTG54GS.")


Tina in Falls Church- FIOS: I now have the Verizon FIOS tv service to match my internet. I like getting away from Cox and saving twenty bucks to boot. It seems to be a much better picture even though the fiber optic connects to the old fashioned coaxial cable. The installer have us a new remote but he did not mention the remote os for use w/features that have npt fully rolled out..."soon" per customer service. "Ooops, we didn't mention that" per customer service. Overall I like it and hubby gets those blasted hunting/fishing programming channels Cox does not carry. He is so happy I can't wipe the smile off his face!

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the report!


Re: HBO/Digital/Cable Box/etc.: Of course by the time this whole digital conversion thing finally happens, The Sopranos will be over and no one will even need HBO any more.

Rob Pegoraro: I have to think that's why you can't download the Sopranos from iTunes--HBO's subscriptions would collapse overnight.

(BTW, thank you for putting "Woke Up This Morning" in my head. It's been way too long since I heard that song :)


Rockville, Md.: I get the Comcast ads and was wondering when I would be able to get Comcast telephone service. But a week or so ago the person I had been emailing to told me that Comcast in Montgomery County was really going to be Time Warner very soon. I don't know if that is public information or not. But Comcast continues to spend lots on ads in our area. Did I get a scoop or was someone spoofing me?

Rob Pegoraro: What??? Ain't no such thing happening--Time Warner doesn't offer service anywhere close to D.C. and won't be doing so anytime soon.


OMG plus one: other place not to use a cellphone: WHILE DRIVING A CAR!!! While hurtling through space at many many miles per hour, encased in a multi-ton projectile that is a mere few feet from other similar battering-rams traveling at similar velocity in many other directions, You DO drive like either drunk or demented when yacking about yesterday's shoes or tomorrow's lawn mower.

Rob Pegoraro: I guess this would be a bad time to talk about the one occasion when I used a no-speakerphone cell phone while driving... a stick-shift car... in lower Manhattan. (In the words others have used, I was young and irresponsible when I was young and irresponsible.)


Woodley Park, Washington, D.C.: Hi, Rob, I just heard about a service called "GrandCentral." It provides online phone call routing, voice mail and some other neat stuff. Have you had any experience with it? Do you think it's worth the $15(?) per month fee? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: I don't think I'd be interested. I don't need to get calls to my home number during the day--why should I be interrupted by politicians' robocalls--and I really don't need to have calls to my work line ring through to my home phone at night.


Falls Church, Va.: Hi Rob, I need help getting a regular channel on my DH LCD flat panel television. I just bought an HD LCD 1080p flat screen television. It has two HDMI ports. I connected my Cox HD DVR to the TV via HDMI, but only get the sound of the regular channels not the picture. The HD channels are perfect. Can you tell me what I am doing wrong in the setup that doesn't allow me to get regular channels through the HDMI setup? Please advise. Thanks for your help. John

Rob Pegoraro: That could be an HDMI handshake failure--the Cox box isn't sure that the TV is a valid HDMI device that will enforce its copying restrictions, and so it isn't sending a video signal at all. But the only fix for that can come from Cox or your TV's manufacturer.

What model of TV is this?


Alexandria, Va.: Your column today was highly educational. I've decided not to bite when they ask me whether I want the Windows validation software installed on my XP-equipped computer. Is there a way to stop the reminders from popping up? It's a big nuisance.

Rob Pegoraro: The next time you see Windows Update offer to install the WGA Notifications software, look for a checkbox labeled something like "don't remind me about this again." That should make the WGA prompt go away, at least until there's some new version of WGA ready for download.


DC: Have any iPod users out there had their headphones crackle painfully when they take off their hats/scarves/etc. and get static electric shocks? The other day, I got a shock so bad the iPod shorted out and rebooted. Any chance I'll damage it? Anything I can do to reduce the impact of static on the iPod?

Rob Pegoraro: Static electricity isn't, in general, good for electronics. But you shouldn't be getting a problem that bad from iPod headphones in the first place. You're not, like, made of metal or anything, are you?


Luddite being dragged reluctantly into reality.: I'm paralysed! I'm in an older house with one (ONE) working phone jack-- in the kitchen, natch-- No cable (except in the Dining Room??? and laid in the gutters at that)-- an LCD-non-digital television with a set of rabbit ears-- oh, and a cell phone.

I'm going to have to join the current century this spring, with internet and phone in the bedrooms, a second phone line and internet in a detached garage-office-conversion, cable TV in bedrooms. I'd rather not run wires to the garage (it's wired for electricity) and and a lot of the house is built on a nasty little crawl space that no installer will want to tackle.

What is the most efficient and economical way to get multiple cable tv drops, two secure and individual internet accesses (we have dsl abilities), and two phone lines with multiple jacks??? Thank you so much for any advice.... a grateful little Luddite.

Rob Pegoraro: You might want to submit this question to the Home section's chat, actually--you're asking more about construction than electronics.

That said, don't be surprised if a contractor proposes to run the wires up the outside of the house. That's exactly what was done on our house--the prior owner had a TV cable going up the side, and then we had a phone line run up it as well, with each one going into the wall on the second floor. So that side of house basically looks like a large but very simple circuit board... kinda cool, actually.


Nike + iPod: Rob, Love the chats and the blog. A random question here: my wife and I share an iPod Nano and I use the Nike + iPod system to keep track of my runs. Are you aware of any way that we can somehow make the whole system know when I am running and when my wife is running? I don't think you can do that with the standard software but I wonder if there's a patch or something floating around out there? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Nope. I asked Apple about this when I reviewed the system, and they said it was designed for one runner only. I don't see how you could change that, since the software doing the actual work is in the iPod itself.


Springfield, Va.: What do you think of the iriver clix? It think is good value for your money compared to an ipod.

Rob Pegoraro: I tried it a while back and found it kinda blah. It looks nice, and the controls--the entire front of the thing rocks up, down, left and right--are nifty, but some important functions buried pretty deep. It was a pain to get to its shuffle-songs feature, for instance.

And you can't use it with iTunes.


Petaluma, Calif.: Hi Rob, I have an Intel Mac. I need to run only one Windows-only program on it (for a golf GPS device, SkyCaddie). Codeweaver's CrossOver unfortunately didn't work. I really don't want to buy Vista. Can I still buy XP. I'd need a full copy as opposed to an upgrade version. Is XP still available out there? Any idea what a full XP would set me back? Thanks - I enjoy your stuff.

Rob Pegoraro: You'd have to do some looking around, but you should still be able to find a copy somewhere.

Another option, if you can find a copy at all, is to run an even older version of Windows. If anybody you know has an old Win 98 CD collecting dust--and that GPS software can run on 98--you could install that in Parallels.


Basement Office, Va.: Rob, A follow-up on the DVD backup question. I have the data backed-up to an external hard drive. What I would like is something that would backup the current O/S installation to DVD so I could reboot and restore the current O/S configuration to the laptop if I can't reboot it after a bad patch or upgrade.

Retrospect will do this to a CD but the CD image it creates is 1.2 gigabytes. Not a workable solution. Because it creates a CD image (.iso file) I don't think I can just sub in a DVD for the CD. Any ideas?

Rob Pegoraro: No, you can burn that .iso to a DVD or a CD. That file format isn't specific to one type of optical disc.


wiredog: A friend reports that his Apple TV has great sound. It's apparently highly hackable. I'm surprised Apple didn't put a DVD player in it. Been using the EyeTV dongle from ElGato for a week now to turn my iMac into a HDTV. I can get the DTV feeds using $10 rabbit ears but man, does that thing put a load on the CPU. It tends to fall behind a bit, but only on HD content. Analog over-the-air TV, or cable, are fine. Even has a decent remote.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the report. You sound like you might be happier to put a Mac mini under the TV: It's bigger and more expensive, but it has that DVD player and it has a much faster processor and much more hard-disk space.


Secret Lair, USA: When I finish constructing my Atomic Destructo Ray, you'll all be sorry! No one will ever mock me again, not when I RULE THE WORLD! On another note, will Apple be updating the regular iPods soon?

Rob Pegoraro: Not if the robots don't enslave you first!

The iPod...well, the nano and the full-size models have now been around for a while. They were last updated in the fall. And since the iTunes Store will, next month, start selling songs that take up twice as much space as before, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect some upgrades to both models. But when? You've got me.


Betehsda, Md.: Can you tell me (again) why the TiVo Series 3 (HD) has so many use restrictions? Tivo has new desktop software (2.4 in wide release beta) that lets you move web video and non-DRM movie flies from you computer to the TiVo. But it only works on my Series 2 units, just like other tivo-to-desktop features that are disabled on the series 3. I know it's not a technology issue, but a legal one. What needs to be resolved for TiVo to be set free?

Rob Pegoraro: Well, yeah, the Series 3 does lack a lot of the features that the other models offer. It also costs a great deal more. But... that only means that each of the features that it does offer is worth that much more! Yeah, that's the ticket!


Washington, D.C.: Am in the nascent stages of planning (or at least fantasizing about) a trip abroad lasting several months. It will be the first one I've taken since the internet, and its attendant fraud issues, came into full flower. Is it safe to do anything at all on a public computer while traveling? It seems to me that unless you are visiting someone who owns a computer, or are working in an office with a terminal, you have essentially zero chance of coming across a computer on your trip which you can confidently presume not to have been e.g. loaded with some sort of keystroke logger or other malware.

Given that--what do you think is OK and not OK to do, net-wise, while traveling? I'm guessing that conducting extensive online banking from an internet cafe in e.g. Budapest is probably not especially prudent. But, is it too big a risk to walk into said internet cafe and check my Yahoo email? I hope not. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: You're smart to think about this risk. An Internet cafe that wants to stay in business won't let this kind of thing happen--but not all businesses are run by the smartest or nicest people.

You can carry around a Linux CD and try running a public computer off that, but don't be surprised if the computer itself is locked down, with the optical drive inacessible.

There are some ways to enter a password that can confuse or frustrate a keylogging program, as this post from the Lifehacker blog documents: Keep your passwords safe at public computers


Madison, Wisc.: Regarding Basement Office, Va.'s question on backup on DVD - I've backed up an XP partition on one DVD-R with Norton Ghost software using compression. Many partitions with more data may require more DVDs, but many may only need 2 or 3 at the most. The laptop may need a bootable floppy drive to run older versions of Ghost like I use. I do agree, however that an external USB2 or Firewire drive is easier.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks, Madison!


Seattle, Wash.: Do you use an iPod nano? If that's the segment of the market you're interested in, you really should mention the SanDisk Sansa. If you can live with Windows Media Player (as I'm learned to do, and 11 isn't so bad), it really is a fantastic product. I love having ability to view videos (of all flavors, not just iTunes videos), photos and best of all -- FM Radio. Have you reviewed the Sansa?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes. I compared to the iPod nano (which I do own--the 4 GB model) and didn't like it all that much. As you said, you have to use WMP... except that you have to use a different program to put photos on the thing. It's also heavier and thicker than a nano, the buttons on it feel cheap, and it doesn't offer any great savings over a nano.

FM radio would be nice, but this time of year, I'd rather have AM--a good baseball game is a lot more interesting than most of the commercial FM stations out there.


Ganado, Texas: I just purchased a Bluetooth USB Adapter from a Hong Kong-based seller on eBay. For the record, it is model ES-388. I have an eMachines T3065 running XP Home and a Palm Tungsten E2. I can sync the E2 easily using Bluetooth, but my efforts to go browsing using the Palm Blazer browser have met with NO JOY. Any ideas how to make it happen? I've scratched what is left of my pate to no avail.

Rob Pegoraro: Palm does provide instructions on how to do with Treo smartphones... they might also apply to your E2, but then again they might not:


Dallas, Texas: Rob,

I want to download audio programs (NPR, recorded books, etc.) rather than music to a stand alone device. Do I need an iPod or is there something less expensive that would work? Don't forget to also download the new Washington Post Tech Podcast

Rob Pegoraro: the answer to your NPR needs is podcast downloads. Now, podcasts might sound like an iPod-only thing, but they're not. They're just plain old MP3 files that you can play in your browser or any old MP3 player.

As for audiobooks--that depends entirely on what format they come in.


iPod and static electricity: I've always had static electricity issues with my iPod when wearing the wrong combination of fabrics. I keep my iPod in my suede bag, hooked to a remote on the outside with the headphones running from that. If the suede bag rubs against the wrong clothes, I do get annoying pops in my ears, maybe even a tiny shock, but never enough to cause noticeable damage to the iPod. (It's fairly easy to avoid by wearing different clothes or holding the bag so it doesn't rub.)

Rob Pegoraro: We handled home renovation issues before, now we're tackling fashion. No limits to this chat!


Columbia, Md.: Is there a way to hook up the new Mac TV so that you can watch videos from the computer on your TV? I know Apple is advertising that you can watch what is on iTunes but I was thinking of maybe watching baseball games of MLB's website. Possible? Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: Possible--if you hack your Apple TV, as some folks have. (For instance, they've managed to get the VLC and Joost media-playback software running on the Apple TV). I talked about this in my blog post last week: Reviewers' Notes: Apple TV


Washington, D.C.: For backing up to an external hard drive, I bought a drive imaging program called R-Drive Image. It creates a bootable CD-ROM with the simple program on it that allows you to backup or restore from the image file on your external USB harddrive. There's no need to worry about trying to fit the image on a CD or DVD.

Rob Pegoraro: Here's another answer for the fellow looking to back up his entire system. Thanks, WDC


Bethesda, Md.: Hi Rob: My laptop is running slower than usual. I have run all of the spyware/virus/spam/boogie monster software that has been recommended in various forums. I think my next step is to "wipe it clean" and reload all software and data. I just bought an external harddrive to backup all files. how easy will it be to restore everything to its right place once computer is "wiped clean"? Thanks much!!

Rob Pegoraro: This is where it pays to keep your computer well organized. Unless you're using some really badly-designed software (which is a real risk), all of your data and settings will be in your own Documents and Settings folder--only problem is, some of the important sub-folders therein are invisible by default.

But if you copy that entire directory, you should be in good shape to get all your files back after the clean-sweep scenario.


Internet cafes: Maybe more of a travel chat tip: I always change my web-based e-mail password right before leaving for a trip, and change it back as soon as I returned. I figure this limits the damage if anyone pilfers my password. I also refrain from checking any accounts, or work e-mail, but I suppose if you had to do so, changing the password for that limited time would help.

I tailor the temporary password to the kind of trip I'm taking, like Beach-bum or SkiBumApril or something like that, to help remember it.

Rob Pegoraro: Another good tip. Thanks!


Rob Pegoraro: OK, I've gotta close this out. Work awaits... thanks for all the great questions! Have a great weekend, and I'll see you here in a couple of weeks.


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