Personal Tech

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Thursday, May 3, 2007; 2:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro will be online Thursday, May 3 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: Hey, sorry about the late start (I really have to remember to eat lunch earlier than, like, 5 minutes to 2). Let's get rolling here... what would you like to talk about?


Dupont: How durable are second generation iPod nanos? I just bought one and want to know if it would be a good idea to buy a case for it. It seems like the second generation doesn't have the same scratching issues of the first after Apple switched to the metallic-like shell, but do I need to purchase a case to absorb any shock if I happen to drop the thing? I didn't know if the combination of being so lightweight and having a flash drive minimized the danger of causing damage if I happen to drop it. Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: So glad you asked--I wound up performing a drop test on my own second-gen iPod nano a few weeks ago, when it fell two or three feet onto a brick sidewalk. The results: the iPod didn't even stop playing, with only a few small scratches around the top as evidence of the fall.


Indianapolis, Ind.: Rob, using iTunes/QuickTime on a PC with Windows XP. I keep getting a pop-up of "Your QuickTime Software may have out of date components, Update Now?" or words to that effect. I have tried clicking OK, tried manually updating the software & still get the annoying pop-up. A quick Google search suggests that this is happening to others, but presently offers no fixes. Any suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: Try downloading a copy of iTunes/QuickTime off Apple's Web site and installing that over your existing copies.


Hermosa Beach: Hi Rob - Sunny and nice out here on the Left Coast today.

Here's my problem. HP dv1000 notebook running XP Home. Continuing to get a "Security Alert" Worm Protection message from NAV saying the nmsrvc.exe (Network Magic) is attempting to access my computer. Told it to permit it, but I continue to get the alert. No problem with Network Maric on my desktop running XP Pro, or on my wife's notebook running XP Home. Network Magic tech support has been useless, and no one on Expert's Exchange has any ideas. Your thoughts?

Rob Pegoraro: Do you have NAV on those other computers? (That's short for "Norton AntiVirus, by the way.) If it plays well with Network Magic on one computer and not another, I'd look for a way to reset or reinstall NAV on the malfunctioning setup.


Rhode Island: Hi Rob, I'd like your take on the recent decision by Circuit City to cut way back on its work force to save money. Many long-term, knowledgeable sales staff will be let go (and possibly be allowed to apply to be re-hired at a lower salary).

I really abhor this type of business practice (and hey, it worked great for Home Depot - not). Aside from being unfair to workers, it disrespects the customer by denying them competent sales help.

I guess what I'm getting at is, I won't be shopping there any more. But what's left? I haven't had great luck at Best Buy, and many of the smaller, more specialized shops are going under because they can't compete with the big boxes.

Do you agree that shoppers should vote with their wallets if they disagree with corporate policy? What options are out there once we stop shopping at the boxes?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, absolutely; customers can and should vote with their wallets. It's a much more effective way of getting a company's attention than writing angry letters.

OTOH, a vote is only meaningful if you have multiple candidates in the election, so to speak. That is a problem in the electronics business. You can shop online--though that requires a certain amount of trust when it comes to buying big-ticket things like HDTVs. Otherwise, you might have to choose between shopping at a store you consider unethical and one you merely consider incompetent.


Farragut Park, D.C.: I've been making scans of some of our older 4x6 pictures on our Dell 922 All-in-One. No matter what orientation or scan settings are tried, I end up with a thin but very noticeable white border along the bottom and right side of the scanned image. How do I prevent this, and get a proper digital image for future use?

Rob Pegoraro: Crop it in whatever photo-editing program you normally use (say, the free Paint.Net I mentioned in Help File the other week).


Washington, D.C.: Rob, I'm stuck in an antivirus catch-22. After finishing grad school, lost my access to that university's AV updates, using McAfee VirusScan Enterprise 8.0i. I tried to uninstall it so I could install the McAfee AV product provided via Comcast. The uninstall failed somewhere along the way, and now it no longer shows up in Add/Remove Programs (XP SP2). My old U's helpdesk has offered up some alternate solutions -- to uninstall via msiexec.exe (which says the Virusscan program's not there) and then to delete the remaining Network Associates folders. Though the computer boots up, I get an error message about vstskmgr.exe failing and there are still 2 subfolders in the Network Associates program folder -- common framework and virusscan -- which Windows refuses to delete because of dll files. Now the helpdesk says a manual edit of the registry is all that's left to do, which scares me. So my questions: Should that scare me? Is that something the geeksquad or similar can do? Is it worth the couple hundred dollars they might charge (for a 3-4 year old Toshiba) or should I put that instead towards a new machine? Thanks. Hoya Saxa!

Rob Pegoraro: Man, you are screwed!

At this point, I would open the computer's case and toss in a hand grenade--metaphorically speaking. Back up your data, then do a from-scratch install of Windows, then all your programs. It's not that fast, but manually editing your registry or continuing to muddle along with your damaged system aren't much better alternatives. And at least you'll have a clean copy of Windows, which ought to run a lot faster than it did before.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob - I tried watching the Democratic Debate last week on on my imac - everything was entirely up-to-date. I tried in Safari and in firefox and in both the website told me that I needed to update my software. I could get it to run on the PC in the other bedroom, but it has no speakers. Argh! Any suggestions? I tried Exploder on the imac too, but it required Exploder 6 or later; Exploder development stopped at 5 for macs.

Rob Pegoraro: MSNBC, last I checked, offers video via the Flash plug-in, which you should already have preinstalled on your computer. But you might not have the latest release; go to to fix that.


Cody, Wyo.: Hi Rob, Got a Java question. I keep getting automatic messages to update from the version I have now ( to version 6, update 1. But every time I go to download the new version, I get a message saying "Error 1606. could not access network location . . ." etc., etc. This has been happening for about a month now, and with several different computers. Other folks I know are having the same problem. So I don't think the problem is on my end.

I had uninstalled version on one of my computers. And now, since I can't download the new version, I'm stuck with no Java. Do you know of any way I can get the old version back so I at least have something? Thanks! John

Rob Pegoraro: I'm getting a lot of questions along these lines today! I've gotta offer the same suggestion to all of them: Do a manual download and install. Instead of using whatever automatic-update option is available, go to the Web site offering this software--here, download an installer that you can run yourself.


Winchester, Ky.: Hey Rob - Longtime listener, first-time caller. I've been looking at some of the Epson and H-P scanners with the automatic feeder for film negative strips. Have you heard about any problems with these? Sounds like a great idea and an easy way to convert the old negs to digital, but I'm worried that they might be too good to be true. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Haven't heard of any problems, but I can't say that too many readers are scanning in slides these days. Any warnings for Winchester?


Washington, D.C.: I think that it can be agreed that the patent system is supposed to (1) encourage technological advances, and (2) be good for the economy. I also agree that the current patent system could be improved to better promote those goals. However, the Supreme Court's latest decision just makes matters worse by making the "obviousness" standard even more ambiguous and subjective than it was before. By going away from a clearer rule (even if you think it was too lenient to patentholders), there is even less certainty now. This ambiguity undermines the incentive to invest in patented inventions because, as you say, it will be really easy now for examiners and for judges to say that an invention was obvious. As a country, I strongly believe that a patent system that promotes better certainty in patent rights is important to maintain our global economic competitiveness.

Rob Pegoraro: Patents are *always* going to be subjective. That's why we hire human beings to examine them, and why there are so many ways to appeal a rejection of a patent application. That subjectivity will always result in some uncertainty in the market--but I'd rather see the uncertainty shifted to the people who benefit most from patents, not dumped on everybody else.

Remember, the ultimate value of the patent system likes in how well it can "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" (United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8). The welfare of patent holders is merely a secondary benefit.


Firefox User: Hi Rob, Thanks for the Firefox Portable recommendation. I noticed that I can view PDF files within Firefox Portable, but I can't do that with the regular Firefox. Have you experienced this as well?

Rob Pegoraro: No--Adobe Reader pops up inside Firefox whenever I hit a PDF online.


Rockville, Md.: I took your advice from 2 weeks ago and I bought a cable modem (DLink DCM202 - after rebate $30) and I returned the rented one to Comcast (saving $3/month).

I installed it and Comcast recognized the MAC address and serial number and I was up and running. After looking at the online FAQ for the modem, I saw that if I went to, I would be able to get to the web page-based configuration utilities. When I go there now, I don't get the pages Dlink says I should get. Further, there is a firmware update on Dlink's site that is "This firmware upgrade is for Comcast users only."

It sounds like to me that Comcast has taken some control of my modem. Does it sound like that to you?

Rob Pegoraro: It sounds fishy, that's for sure. But it's also possible that the manual has something wrong, or that your security software is blocking your attempt to administer the machine.

Have you asked Comcast about this? What about DLink?


RE; Debating in Flash: Yeah, I tried getting the latest flash, and it made no difference. Any other suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: Can you send me the address of the page with the debate video?


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob, I have a question about what I can do if anything to get a strong wireless connection in my townhouse. I recently move there and have the wireless router (an Airport Extreme - first generation) on the middle floor at one end of the house in the office which is where the desktop might go if I ever decide to set it up. I tend to spend much of my time on the first floor at the other end with my laptop. Sometimes my connection is fine and dandy other times like earlier this week I can check my email or go to iTunes but I can't get on the Internet. I do have my router locked down with a WEP password (so my TiVos can access it). Is there anything else I can do to strengthen the signal? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: No, you'd need to upgrade your router. The current AirPort Extreme should have much better range than your model.


Melfa, Va.: Rob -- A year ago you helped us overcome the problems encountered when we installed Norton Anti virus. This week we installed Norton 360. Warning: it is not compatible with IE7. We could not print from either the internet or from outlook express. It also blocked a large portion of the Post's home page (updates like the markets, most viewed articles, and all continuation pages). Further, the links to Symantec tech support did not work. It turns out that 360 is not compatible with IE7. After spending $85 on Geek support (with no good answer), we were able to get to Symantec through the "Yellow Pages." We had to uninstall Norton 360 and IE7 and then reinstall Norton with IE6. PAIN IN THE . . . Please alert your readers that Norton 360 is not compatible with IE7. Shame on them.

Rob Pegoraro: Hmm... this is something I'll have to check out. Anybody else having problems with 360 and IE 7?

(I am usually the last person to find out about applications that don't play well with IE 7; Firefox is my default browser on all the Windows machines I use.)


Antwerp, Belgium: Hi,I enjoy your columns and chats.Very informative. I'm have Windows XP SPack2 using Norton Antivirus 2005. Each year I renew the subscription. I received as a gift NAV 2007. Should I keep on using 2005 or delete and install 2007,would save money. How good is 2007?Thanks a lot.

Rob Pegoraro:2007 is nothing special in my book, but at some point you'll need that--the 2005 software will probably have issues with newer programs at some point.

(This is one reason why I don't like integrated software suites; they're a lot more likely to have issues with other programs on your machine, while a separate anti-virus utility tends to be a lot simpler to maintain.)


Inspired by Cody, Wyo.: In layman's terms, what the heck is Java, anyway?

Rob Pegoraro: It's a part of Indonesia... oh, wait, you mean the software. Java is basically a way for you to run a program off the Web, right in your browser--no matter what operating system or browser you run. (You can also download and run Java programs off your hard drive.) A lot of Web sites rely on Java to provide one service or function or another, although it's not nearly as ubiquitous as Flash.


Seattle: This might be West Coast-centric (I'm not sure where they've expanded to), but are you familiar with ClearWire? It's a high-speed ISP that uses no wires, but instead your service comes in through a box connected to their servers via satellite. Have you heard anything good or bad about it?

Rob Pegoraro: ClearWire is a provider that employs WiMax--a somewhat vaporous wireless technology that combines fast connections and wide range. As such, WiMax is kind of the holy grail of broadband. Both the technology and this company are still pretty much in their birth phases; I can't say much, good or bad, about either, seeing as I've never tried either.


Gaithersburg, Md.: After lugging my computer around airports this weekend, I'm firmly convinced that I need a new one--preferably that isn't heavy enough to dislocate my shoulder. I'm probably going to buy online (and a PC). What weight range should I be looking at? It's hard to tell from the weights posted online--do they include the battery, or is that counted separately?

Rob Pegoraro: Five pounds is my own upper limit for travel-worthiness--but that weight doesn't include the power brick, which can add anywhere from 5 to 10 ounces. (It's a classic example of cheapskate PC design when a company can't be bothered to find a lighter power brick.)

If you're going to be traveling regularly, even 5 pounds is too much. Look for a three or four-pound machine. Also, see if the computer is sold with a choice of batteries. A lot of Windows laptops, if ordered as is, come with what you could call "starter batteries," which will conk out after 2 hours or so; in those cases, it's worth spending a little more and accepting a little more weight to get a higher-capacity battery.


Richmond, Va.: Here is the DLink page giving step by step instructions to get to the web-based utility for the DCM-202 -

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks...


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob. I recently bought a Zen V Plus MP3 player, and it's working great. But I can only charge it by connecting to my computer's USB port. Creative sells a power adapter for $30. Is that necessary or can I just use any "universal" USB to DC charger?

Rob Pegoraro: Not familiar with this model. But what's so bad about leaving it plugged into the machine? You've gotta do that anyway to transfer your music files.


Debate Redux: The debate can currently be found here

Not sure if its the same link as originally, or if anything's changed about my ability to view it on my iMac (g5 2ghz btw), since I'm at work. I'd kinda like to watch the republican debate tonight - I'm kind of shocked that they're both only on MSNBC.

Rob Pegoraro: Yup, that's Flash video.

Have you tried viewing the debate in Firefox? Some Web pages don't work, or don't look quite right, in Safari but have no problem in Firefox.


Maryland: Rob - I know you've posted this before, but darned if I can find there a way to transfer songs off a Nano onto a PC? I transfered them over, hard drive later blew up, and I'd like to have them backed up on the hard drive again. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: You're looking for this Help File column.

(Google is your friend; a search for "pegoraro copy songs off iPod" has that story at the top of the results list.)


Rockville, MD (again): Thanks to Richmond for the D-Link support page. I've been there. My problem is that when I go to the address in my modem, the only page I can see is the Cable Status page (2 of 5). I cannot access the other pages.

I've sent an email to D-Link (just now) to see if this is something the Comcast did (since they have the Comcast specific firmware). I didn't contact Comcast since I find them to be a ship of fools.

Rob Pegoraro: Call me crazy, but perhaps you'd be happier with another Internet provider?


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob. Suffering from laptop woes. We have two laptops at home, both Compaq and about 2 years old. Recently, they've started abruptly shutting off while in use. I suspect they may be overheating. What can I do to prevent this? Are certain brands more susceptible to this than others?

Rob Pegoraro: An abrupt shutoff usually is a symptom of overheating. Some brands of laptop do seem to age well--IBM ThinkPads, some PowerBooks and MacBooks come to mind--and others don't (like the woeful Dell I've got at home).

You should make sure the laptop's cooling vents aren't clogged with dust bunnies or whatnot. Have you run a vacuum over them?


hate to dominate the chat, but...: Yeah, I tried Firefox 2.x; Safari (whatever software update has it up to by now) and Exploder 5. Maybe it was just a Gremlin and it'll all be sorted out tonight... If it is and I can watch McCain et al., but not Obama et al., I blame the vast rightwing conspiracy.

Rob Pegoraro: I don't know--I haven't had any issues viewing MSNBC video on my Mac.


Northern Virginia: I've been following your suggestion to leave the computer on all the time. Although it's convenient, I've noticed that occasionally programs don't work and the machine has to be reset. This problem didn't occur when the machine was turned off every day. Is this normal and is it caused by having the machine on all the time?

Rob Pegoraro: No, it's caused by buggy software. Which programs are these?


Tina in Falls Church: Good afternoon Rob. I have a new Dell XPS desktop running Vista Home Premium with 2GB memory. Yesterday I got an error message that there was a "stack overload", the computer ran fine, nothing closed out/shut down/blue screened me. What in the world is this? It has not repeated. I did notice my Verizon FIOS netmail was down at the same time. Netmail/server access returned after a half hour. I'm stumped. Thanks, Tina

Rob Pegoraro: I couldn't begin to tell you--"stack overload" is one of the more generic computer-error messages. I am a little surprised that Vista didn't crash as a result, though.


Fairfax, Va.: I would like to watch TV on my laptop, perhaps in a different room that the cable box. What's the best fairly inexpensive way to accomplish that?

Rob Pegoraro: Get yourself a Slingbox.


Arlington: Just started using ipod. I will buy a new laptop soon, so can I simply copy music from C:-Documents and Settings-My Documents-My Music-iTunes to the new computer? Thanks. ps - all the music I have is from my CD collection.

Rob Pegoraro: Yup. Just copy the entire music folder's contents onto the new machine.


RE: a search for "pegoraro copy songs off iPod" has that story at the top of the results list: Yes, but a search for "pegoraro devious plot to enslave mankind with robots" shows no results.

Rob Pegoraro: I'm working on it!


Takoma Park, D.C.: Hi Rob. My girlfriend's computer, which I'm writing from right now, is a bit of a mess. Her hard drive is partitioned into a C drive and a D drive, which would be fine, except the C drive, which is dramatically smaller (something like 20 gigs versus 80) is where all the program files live and automatically default saves to (I hope that makes sense) and is almost full. The easy solution, migrating files to the D drive, turns out to be not so easy. The system (Windows NT) keeps getting hung up when she tries to move files from C to D--usually there's some piece that won't transfer over. What can she do to fix this boggle? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: I know exactly what you're talking about. Is this machine a Sony? Sony used to partition hard drives like this--a stupid idea that the company finally gave up on.

Go to and download the "LiveCD" file from there. Burn that to a CD, pop that into the machine and reboot it off the CD drive, and you can then resize the partitions to leave more room on the C: drive. You can't merge partitions with this free (open-source) utility, but at least you can end the immediate space crunch.


Rockville, MD (third time):"Call me crazy, but perhaps you'd be happier with another Internet provider? "

True, but who? FIOS is in the neighborhood but it will cost more. Currently, I have TV and internet combined. Moving to FIOS will require boxes for all TVs and the overall cost is higher.

It's not like the modem isn't working with Comcast. I'm just curious if Comcast has set things up so I can't mess with MY modem (not that I want to).

Rob Pegoraro: Ah, but if Fios is available DSL should be also--and that's considerably cheaper than Fios. You could also get your TV via Dish or DirecTV, assuming you don't have any trees or buildings blocking a view of the satellites.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob, I have an old laptop I'd like to donate. Two questions (1) What should I do to insure that my data is completely erased from the laptop? (2) Do you know of any NGOs that take donated computers? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: You'll find answers to both in this blog post, where I've put links to a bunch of these older Help File items: Help File's greatest hits


iTunes Problem: I have installed clean copies of the software directly from the Apple web site. The -?-*! pop-ups telling me that the software is out of date continue. Any thoughts on what I should try next? If I uninstall and then reinstall my iTunes software, what happens to the songs I have paid for and downloaded? Thanks for your help.

Rob Pegoraro: Your songs will be fine no matter what--worst case, you'd need to reauthorize the computer to play them. I would try the uninstall/reinstall routine.


MP3 charger: Right, the computer works fine for charging if I'm with it. But what if I'm traveling without the computer? I'd like to be able to charge it anywhere. In general, are universal chargers really universal?

Rob Pegoraro: Sadly, no.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Rob, I see that Dell is going to be selling computers factory-loaded with Ubuntu Linux. Installing Linux isn't for everybody, but then neither is Windows. Out of the box, though, it should be a different matter. What Dell is going to have to overcome, in my view, is mainly fear of the unknown. And inertia. Many prospective buyers may have heard of Linux and may understand that it's free and much more secure than Windows, what they probably don't know is that with a distribution like Ubuntu they not only get the operating system, they also get a huge suite of applications. The GIMP does most everything Photoshop does; OpenOffice does most everything Microsoft Office does, etc. It really is hundreds of dollars worth of software for free. Comment?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm really, really interested in this move by Dell. That company--historically, not quite the most exciting one in the business--has been doing some unexpected things lately. First it starts offering buyers a choice of XP or Vista on some new machines, and now it's going to start selling some machines with Linux as well.

The success of this will depend, more than anything, on how Dell can configure these Linux machines to minimize the extra setup steps often necessary. Will they come with drivers for *everything* already loaded? Will they come ready to play back MP3s and Flash animations?


Kansas City: Hey Rob...thanks for the great chats. What smartphone/PDA do you consider to be the best value available today? I'm leaning toward ATT/Cingular as my next carrier, but am open to other suggestions.

Main needs are push e-mail (non-Blackberry as corporate doesn't support it) and ability to view Word, Excel and PDF docs. Editing won't be a huge need I don't believe. As always, cost is a concern. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: I can't answer that now, but I should know more by the end of the month--by when I will have had a chance to try out the new Windows Mobile 6 software from Microsoft, as well as a new Treo smartphone that's coming out.


Laurel: Today's column reminded me of a tangential issue...

Generally, one should read anything you sign. But I "sign" (usually by clicking an "I accept" button) extremely long software license agreements all the time without more than a glance to see that they look about normal. AFAIK, they could have clauses buried in all that text agreeing that I'd let them install spyware and monitor my keystrokes.

Generally, I take the lazy way out, figuring nobody probably reads these things and it would be a minor scandal (or at least news story) if there was something sinister in there. But are these agreements just the same boilerplate from one to the other and we can be confident there's nothing but the usual stuff there?

Rob Pegoraro: Great question, Laurel! (I've been thinking of doing a Help File along these lines; anybody interested?)

Most of the content of a license agreement is boilerplate--the same stuff everywhere. You'll see a disclaimer of warranties, a prohibition on redistributing the software, export restrictions, and so on; you can usually skip past those sections. Pay more attention to the headings you don't usually see--for instance, always read anything headlined "automatic updates."


New York, N.Y.: Rob, I'm interested in getting a wireless PDA such as a Blackberry or Treo that can function as a mobile modem for my laptop. Which phone and wireless provider would be best for this, mostly in terms of pricing and value? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: You can't just look at the basic data pricing, because most carriers charge extra for "tethered" use--when you employ the smartphone as a modem. I'm pretty sure that, once you factor those charges in, Verizon and ATT/Cingular are most expensive, while Sprint and T-Mobile are cheapest.


Ocala, Fla.: (K)Ubuntu might well recognize everything on a Dell w/o problems. Release 7.04 found everything on my new Mac Mini.

Rob Pegoraro: I would never generalize about a Linux distribution's hardware support based on my experience with that same distribution on a Mac. There's so much less hardware to support on a Mac compared to all the different componentry in the wide, wide world of PCs.


San Diego, Calif.: Hey, I'm looking into purchasing a new MacBook, but I can't decide if the MacBook Pro is worth the extra grand. Frankly, the only reason to consider it is the screen size, Mac seems to have decided that only rich folks deserve good sized screens now (my old titanium with 15" screen was reasonably priced around $1400). Anyway, what are your thoughts on the value for money for the MacBook pro? Worth it? Stick with the regular MacBook? For reference, I'm not a graphics professional or anything, just a power user who likes a good sized screen.

Rob Pegoraro: I'd stick with the MacBook, based on those criteria. You could buy an external LCD for a lot less than the added cost of a MacBook Pro.

(OTOH, if I needed to use any ExpressCard hardware--say, a wireless data card for a cellular service--I'd have to get a MacBook Pro, since the MacBook doesn't have that card slot.)


Annandale, Va.: Got myself in hot water recently with itunes, 7.1 on a Winxp box. I was cleaning up some podcasts and got annoyed at all of the "do you really want to delete" dialogs, so I clicked "don't ask again". My wife was sitting there as I clicked it and said that she liked that option. I cannot find how to change that option back, short of deleting the preferences file, which really gets me nowhere. Any ideas?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm not supposed to say this, but... I don't know. I'm not sure that this is possible, short of deleting the prefs file (which, come to think of it, would actually be OK as long as it doesn't zap your iTunes Library metadata--which is stored in a different place, right?)

Just kind of thinking out loud. I mean, there must be some way to do this... suggestions welcome.


Madison, Wis.: Before someone resizes partitions, they should back up their files. The resizing process could cause loss of all data. It might be easier to try to find out which files are being used by other processes that prevent them from being moved. There are utilities out there that do that and "unhook" the process that are holding them. Also, I question whether that laptop has Windows NT on it with those partition sizes.

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, always backup your data. But I think Gparted is a pretty safe solution--I mean, I used this on my desktop at work, and that's not something I do lightly.


Atlanta, Ga.: Can we all just agree that Comcast is the devil and move on?

Rob Pegoraro: No, we need to hear from Cox users too :)

(Seriously: I get complaints about most of the big telecom firms. One week, it's Comcast getting nailed; another, Verizon is the bad guy.)


Rosslyn, Va.: After 4 years I decided to not renew my Norton antivirus subscription and give the free AVG antivirus a try. That was about a week ago, and in that time I disabled the update feature in Norton, but left it running while I evaluate the new software.

While I like it so far, something peculiar has been happening. In the week that it has been running, the new software has not detected anything during daily scans. However, for the last 5 days or so, I keep getting a message from the Norton program saying that it detected Trojan-ByteVerify and removed it. What seems strange to me is that this machine has always been pretty secure, and in the 4 years I've owned it, Norton has never detected a virus or trojan until now. Also, if it removed it, how does it keep coming back every day on a lightly used machine? Is it coming with daily updates that the AVG program may be downloading? Should I not trust this program?

Also, why is the AVG antivirus not detecting anything, but Norton is? Is it possible that Norton is detecting something that came with the AVG software? Is it possible Symantic doesn't like that I chose not to renew my subscription and they're trying to scare me into renewing? Thanks for any insights...

Rob Pegoraro: I've found some forum postings where people report this kind of problem--sometimes because Norton has a false-positive finding, other times because there's an old copy in the Recycle Bin (empty that to fix the problem).

Here are a couple of other links with help about this topic:


Madison, Wis.: Hi Rob, will these new DVD recorders with digital tuners display high definition broadcasts in their native resolution, or only in standard def (480i)?

Rob Pegoraro: I double-checked with LG on this, and that model cannot; it only outputs upconverted video (i.e., the DVD recorder first downconverts an HD broadcast to 480i to make it recordable on the DVD, then upconverts it before sending it to the video output).

I've e-mailed Pansonic's PR guy about this three times now but have yet to hear from him. I hope he notices this chat transcript.


DC: My brother in law gave me an Emac for my son and also the mac "airport." How "easy" is it to hook up the mac with my wireless network? Don't have much experience with macs.

Rob Pegoraro: Nothing to it, as long as the Mac has an AirPort card inside it (all recent models do). You just need to know the name and password of the wireless network; as long as it's an AirPort-router-based network, you can use a plain-English password, not the 26-character hexadecimal gobbledygook.


USB adapter: For our friend who needs USB power for their MP3 player, they can just carry the USB charger with them along with something like this:

Or more generically, Google for "AC to USB Power Adapter Charger"

Rob Pegoraro: Passing that along...thanks!

(I checked the address; it's a real page)


Columbia, Md.: I have a HP pavilion dv9000t with MCE currently running XP. I can't seem to get anything I record with MCE to save to my D: drive rather my C: Drive. I downloaded a tweak for MCE and that still doesn't work. I eventually found that HP will sell me the software to make happen for $10.00. I feel if I paid the kind of money I did for the should have come installed on the laptop. Is there anyway around this problem without having to pay HP for this stupid CD? I tried calling tech support and just got bounced around between tech, hardware and parts support. Finally a customer service rep called me back - after weeks of trying to get them to send me the CD for free - and she said sorry but no can do, I's have to order the CD. I'm really don't want to have to pay them not one more dime for something that shouldn't be that big of deal. Can you offer any suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: Look, it's ultimately HP's business to run as it sees fit; if the company wants to spend so much time blowing off your request--the time its employees have spent saying "no" adds up to way more than $10 in salary--there's nothing you can do about it.

But: Are you sure you need to save your data to the D: drive at all?


Bowie, Md.: I'm using Firefox, but the new factory loaded Vista Internet Explorer now has tabs too. Why shouldn't I switch, since Firefox is a bit hokey on Vista?

Rob Pegoraro: There's a lot more to Firefox than just tabbed browsing. See my comparison of Firefox and IE 7: Must-Have Browser Upgrades

FWIW, I haven't found IE to be tremendously stable under Vista. It crashes a lot more often than it ever has in XP. Not sure why, but I've seen this happen on a couple of different Vista setups by now.


Takoma Park, D.C.: Rob, once again you prove your "The Man-ness"! It is, in fact, a Sony. Thanks for the tip!

Rob Pegoraro: I know exactly what you're talking about. Is this machine a Sony? Sony used to partition hard drives like this--a stupid idea that the company finally gave up on.

Rob Pegoraro: With all the brain cells occupied by useless computer-industry trivia, it's a wonder I can function in society at all!


Washington, D.C.: Hello Rob, Do you think it is worthed to buy the Asus XG Station?

Is it possible to use this device to amplify the quality of image on an LCD tv? Thank you

Rob Pegoraro: Probably not and probably not. I don't know the price of this gizmo, so I can't speak to its worth. As for its utility, it only accelerates 3-D graphics--it'd help your games' graphics, but not anything else.


Lovettsville, Va.: You've probably answered this a hundred times, but I'll ask again. My daughter and I are looking at building her a new computer as she goes into her 2nd year of college. It seems you can get more bang for less bucks with an AMD rather than Intel processor. Is the AMD product as high quality as Intel? Also, any possible problems with building a computer in a micro tower?

Rob Pegoraro: AMD is just as good as Intel. There are no overriding differences in quality, just model-by-model variations in things like speed, size, power consumption and so on.


Falls Church, Va.: If I plan to mostly work in the Windows environment (requirement of the work I will be doing), is there any advantage to getting a MacBook over something like a ThinkPad (to compare two good quality relatively expensive laptops)?

Rob Pegoraro: The Mac can't get sick from any Windows viruses/worms/spyware. (I know a couple of people who work at AOL in the security department, and they've been issued Macs for exactly this reason.)


Austin, Tex.: I'm watching the msnbc debate using the link that was provided earlier. I'm using an iBook. Looks and sounds fine.

Rob Pegoraro: OK, so Washington, D.C., simply has to fly to Austin. Problem solved! :)


Rob Pegoraro: And on that note, I've gotta wrap this up. Thanks for keeping me busy! I'll be back here in a couple of weeks; in the meantime, stop by the blog ( for more of this, but with fewer typos.


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