Personal Tech

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

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Thursday, July 5 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss Apple's new iPhone and answer your personal tech questions.

Read his first impressions of the gadget in the blog and get more tech reviews in his Fast Forward column.

A transcript follows.


Rob Pegoraro: So people seem a little interested in the iPhone this week. Can't figure why--the way the media has conspired to ignore this thing, it's a wonder anybody even knows it exists!

On to your questions...


Fairlington, Va.: I don't quite get the hype for the iPhone. Don't get me wrong, I love my 40GB iPod, and I would be excited if you gave me a 80GB video iPod.

But I have never once said to myself, "Gee, I wish my iPod took phone calls."

Frankly, I don't understand the whole convergence trend we are going on. Apple may one day release an Ipod/cellphone/video game player in one easy to look at format -- but would it really do all those things well?

Rob Pegoraro: This is a question that needs to be asked. The benefits of integrating a phone and an organizer are obvious--you don't need to keep two address books around--but the synergies to be had by fusing your media player and phone are not always so obvious.

But I think the big one is simply reducing the number of devices you have to carry around. Assuming that you carry your phone around everyday and listen to your iPod almost every day, why not combine the two gadgets into one?


Philadelphia, Pa.: Did Apple really need to partner with a phone company? What exactly were the benefits, and were they really worth closing itself off to such a large part of the market?

Rob Pegoraro: Another great question. Apple could have sold the iPhone as an "unlocked" GSM phone that would have worked with any GSM carrier in the world. It probably would have cost the same--by all accounts, the iPhone's price is not only subsidy-free, it allows Apple a substantial profit out of the box.

An unlocked iPhone wouldn't have had a visual voicemail feature, but otherwise I'd imagine it would look and work just like the one we have. So, yeah, I would have thought more highly of the iPhone if it had been available in this form.


Silver Spring, Md.: Your review of the iPhone was expectedly like most other reviews - points out the flaws in the network and hardware but praises the device for its breakthrough software.

Given your experience with it over the past week or so, would you buy one or wait for a revision?

Even though I'm a Mac user, I'm curious to know how it syncs with Outlook in Windows XP and Vista; is the process as seamless as on a Mac (or more?)?

Rob Pegoraro: Like I said this morning's blog post, I won't be buying an iPhone.

That's largely a network-driven decision: I take Metro, where AT&T's network doesn't reach.

If there were a Verizon or Sprint version of the iPhone, I'd be much more tempted. And if the first round of iPhone software updates from Apple fixed things like the lack of copy and paste (and if I had a way to view/edit iPhone notes on a computer) I'd be really tempted.

And if I could add other programs to the iPhone, I just might be sold.


Chevy Chase, Md.: Rob-I read that if you don't activate your iPhone (after buying ATT's services), none of the other feature of the phone work either (iPod, camera, wi-fi). If you cancel your ATT service (e.g., because their Edge network is apparently questionable), do you know if that would disable your whole phone, or just the ATT service.

I am wondering whether tying use of the other functions to having ATT service isn't an illegal tying arrangement under anti-trust law. Maybe you could see if the Post's anti-trust lawyers have an opinion.

Rob Pegoraro: IANAL. But I have seen multiple reports that if you cancel your AT&T service after activating an iPhone, the non-phone parts of the iPhone--the iPod bits, the WiFi, the organizer software, the Web and e-mail software--still work.


Fort McMurray, Alberta: Rob, what's the iPhone like as a phone? So many phones -- i.e. BlackBerries -- are good at dealing with data, but terrible with voice -- I hate calling people who have them. My Razr is pretty good, voice-wise. How does iPhone compare in the voice spectrum of cellphones?

Rob Pegoraro: Sounds fine to me. In my first call or two, people said I sounded a little faint--but then I realized that I didn't need to hold its screen away from my face, since the iPhone shuts off the touchscreen when you hold it up to your head.

The speakerphone is a little quiet, but otherwise no complaints.


Baltimore, Md.: Do you think the iPhone will eventually be able to be used with other wireless companies?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes--in other countries. Rumors have it that Apple will soon announce carriers for the iPhone in the U.K., Germany and France. (I wonder if those iPhones will also be permanently locked to each carrier--in Europe, people are a lot more accustomed to unlocked phones that let them swap out SIM cards at will.)

In the U.S., it's not so clear. Apple's deal with AT&T apparently runs 5 years, but I don't know if it covers *this* iPhone or *any* phone Apple might sell.


Falls Church, Va.: Rob, I got my new iPhone, but my life hasn't completely turned around! My job is no better than before. Women still won't look at me. I'm still a loser! Steve Jobs led me to believe that this was all going to change...

Rob Pegoraro: Obviously, you haven't bought enough iPhone accessories. Get yourself back in an Apple Store!


Rehoboth, Del.: Rob, Have you tried the pre-loaded Linux on a Dell yet? I'm curious to know how the software and hardware are getting along and any other issues that might have popped up. Thanks and thanks for the chats!

Rob Pegoraro: Dell told me a while back that they could get a laptop sent my way--I need to follow up with their PR reps on this. Thanks for the reminder!


Madison, Wis.: So I understand going with 2.5G instead of 3G was to allow a larger geographic area to have internet access via EDGE.

Any predictions on a 3G version? This Christmas, or is that too soon? More importantly, for someone like me, any predictions on ATT actually updating their network to handle 3G in more cities? A 3G phone on ATT would not do me any good right now. Here in Madison, Wis., we have 3G via Verizon and (I think) Sprint. ATT just seems behind the curve.

If the iPhone came out on Verizon I would have one in my pocket right now - but thanks to ATT I'm not sure I'll own one anytime soon.

And with the built-in wifi that is really emphasized (to draw attention away from the slow EDGE network), why not a built-in VOIP-style functionality like the new T-Mobile Hotspot @Home?

Rob Pegoraro: I have no doubt--none, zero--that we'll see a "3G" iPhone supporting AT&T's faster HSDPA data network, and I'd guess that it will arrive within a year from now. It's an overwhelmingly obvious thing to do, considering how much faster these services run. (Here's a review I wrote of some of these services last winter.)


Washington, D.C.: Hi and thanks for your help. I have an old palm Vx and just purchased a treo 700p. Is there anything special I have to do to make sure my old records from the palm are transferred to the treo when I sync? I have not yet loaded the software for the treo because I'm afraid of messing it up and losing information currently on the palm. The palm currently connects with a cradle. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Nope, nothing to worry about there--just run one last sync of your old Palm, install the "new" software (it's really not new at all), then sync the 700p.


Alexandria: You may've answered this in the past, but I can't find it so here we go. I've had the Comcast DVR for a few years now and as much as I love it, I'm wondering if the TIVO is a better value as I would not have to pay for digital TV as well. I do like the ability to return the DVR to comcast and just pick up a new one when it goes bust - but they've been going bust a lot recently. Any suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: Sit tight. TiVo is now building DVRs for Comcast, which just certified the first model and will start offering it to customers later this summer. (The schedule for D.C.-area availability isn't clear yet, however.)


Houston, Tex.: Have you heard any official word on when a form of iChat (or other Messenger application) will become available for the iPhone?

Rob Pegoraro: Nope, but that should be the easiest thing for Apple to fix--it just needs to send out a software fix, which iTunes will download and install for you automatically when you sync your iPhone. It should be just like iPod software updates.


Bethesda, Md.: I certainly lust after the iPhone as much as the next techie.

But as a Treo 650 owner, there's lots that this closed platform can't do for me. In particular, it can't act like a Bluetooth remote control (I use Salling Clicker for this), nor can it communicate with a Bluetooth GPS to give me turn-by-turn audio directions. I doubt that it has a bookreader as good as ReadThemAll (although perhaps this could be emulated via the web and Javascript). I doubt that it can give me a secure-shell (ssh) connection to my computers at work.

All-in-all, a lot of techies will wait until this platform opens up a bit. Maybe by then we CDMA users will also have an iPhone.

Rob Pegoraro: Bethesda is throwing out some relatively esoteric uses, but the point still stands. Some of the applications that I use most often on my Treo come from third-party developers--HandyShopper, Converter, AcidImage, for instance. It's a mistake for an operating-system developer to think that it has the answer to every possible software issue.


upstate NY: IANAL???

Rob Pegoraro: I Am Not A Lawyer


Arlington, Va.: How would I use a cable card with my Series 2 Tivo? I hate the current lag time when I change channels through the box mounted sensors. Would the cable card eliminate (or reduce) this lag?

Rob Pegoraro: You wouldn't--the Series 2 doesn't have a CableCard slot.


NY, NY: Good Afternoon Rob,

What's your favorite ipod earbud? People are always on about Shure earbuds, what's their top competition? Are they worth the price?

Rob Pegoraro: I still use the ones that came in the box. I might get a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for use on a plane, but for everyday use the regular 'phones work for me.


Winter Park, Colo.: What do you think of Apple requiring its customers to give their social security number over the internet in order to activate the iPhone?

Rob Pegoraro: That's an AT&T requirement, not an Apple one; AT&T uses that to run a credit check before it lets you subscribe. (If you flunk, you're apparently directed to a slightly more expensive prepaid plan.


Alexandria, Va.: So how good is the iPhone as an organizer? In all the reviews, I didn't see much about how it dealt with the vanilla PDA functions like address books, to-do lists and calendars--or do they expect people to use web services (ie, Google, etc.) for those functions? (the music player isn't the main draw for me).

Rob Pegoraro: The address book on the iPhone is great--integrated into everything on the phone, including the visual voicemail.

The calendar is not quite as good; it ignores some desktop info like calendar categories. And after my last sync session, an event I'd added on the iPhone showed up in iCal as a read-only event--not good.

There is no to-do list on the iPhone, though it should be easy for Apple to add that back in (hell, you can sync your to-do lists to an iPod, so why not its bigger, more powerful and more expensive cousin?).

The notes program is OK, but without any ability to read or edit notes on a computer it's of limited utility at the moment. The interesting theory theory I've read about this, however, is that you will be able to do this (at least if you own a Mac) when Mac OS X Leopard ships--the Mail software in Leopard includes a notepad component that looks just like the iPhone's.


NY, NY: Hi Rob, I'd answer the "do we need one device to do it all guys" by pointing out that the iphone seems by far the best way to watch video on a handheld device. If there was an 80 gig ipod with the iphone's screen dimensions, I'd be almost as excited about that. To me it's not really that the iphone does everything well (though I'm sure it does) it's that the iphone seems to be an better ipod than an ipod.

Rob Pegoraro: For video, I agree--the screen is so much nicer than what you'd have an iPod. (Though then you have to deal with only being able to carry 2 or 3 movies at once, versus dozens on a "video" iPod.)

For music playback, I prefer a regular iPod. You have to do too much tapping back and forth on the iPhone; for instance, to assign a star rating to a song, you need to tap a tiny icon at the top-right corner of the screen.


Washington, D.C.: At his blog today, at an inferior newspaper's site, David Pogue talks about attending a cell phone conference in Europe and hearing loads about how US cell phone companies go to extraordinary lengths to stifle innovation and worsen cell phone users' experience. One executive actually admits the lengthy "if you'd like to leave a message" scripts you hear when calling a cell phone are actually designed to eat up your monthly minutes!

So, it seems to me that Steve Jobs probably had no choice but to make the iPhone exclusive to one carrier in order to make the sign up process, the voice mail system and other aspects acceptable.

Rob Pegoraro: Doesn't mean we have to like the results!

I do hope that the success of the iPhone might convince some of the other carriers that good things can happen when they leave hardware design to other people and stick to running their own networks.


Albany, N.Y.: Can I sync an iPhone between two computers--say a work computer and a home computer--they way I do with my Treo? Any PC-based calendars it will sync too OTHER than Outlook? Thanks...

Rob Pegoraro: You can sync your contacts and calendars among multiple computers, but iTunes music and movie syncing is limited to one machine.

Yes, Outlook is the only Windows calendar program supported. I'm not happy about that either... not that there are any terrific alternatives. (The lack of viable competitors to Outlook may be one of the single greatest cases of market failure in the entire Windows economy.)


Alexandria, Va.: I went to the Pentagon City store just to see what all the hoopla was about, but I got swept up by the excitement of opening day and bought two iPhones, one for each of my two children. They have declined the offer!!!

I am not into cellphones, but love gadgets. I have until July 14 to return the iPhones. Any suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: I hear AT&T and Apple's stores are starting to sell out of iPhones. You could probably sell both on eBay for list price--which would beat paying Apple's restock fee.


New York, N.Y.: Any idea on how long before you need to replace the battery on the iPhone? I heard that you have to send the iPhone to Apple and they will change the battery for you, so you won't have your phone for 1-2 weeks? There is no way for the user to change the battery?

Rob Pegoraro: The battery is sealed inside the case--not that people with enough experience with soldering irons won't try to replace it on their own.

Apple says the battery can retain 80 percent of its original capacity through 400 charge cycles. So let's do the math: If you recharge an iPhone twice a week, you'd need almost four years to hit that 400-charge mark. But if you're charging an iPhone every other day, you'd cross that line after two years and change.

The only battery-replacement program outlined so far requires sending the phone back to Apple; they'll send it back, without your data, in three business days. It's not clear if this would involve getting a refurbished iPhone, the way Apple "replaces" iPod batteries by sending back a refurb iPod to match your old one.

You can pop your iPhone's SIM card into another phone--which may be a painful experience after years with an iPhone--or you can rent an iPhone from Apple.

I asked Apple if they'd offer in-store replacement, but they wouldn't say.


DC: Rob, have you heard any complaints about Safari lately? It seems like every time i turn around, it hangs up on me and I have to force quit. Even when it doesn't hang up, it won't let me close it out in the normal way and I have to go through the force process. Not only is it annoying, but I have to wonder if all that forcing is good for it or for my iBook.

Rob Pegoraro: Safari is showing its age. I've seen it lock up from time to time as well--and unlike Firefox, it's not smart enough to save its place and restore the old session on the next restart. But my big complaint is about the number of sites that don't look or work right in Safari.

(Force-quitting Safari won't hurt your computer in any way, however.) I'm glad that Safari 3--available in beta for Mac OS X and Windows--will be available as a free download for Tiger users, instead of being limited to Leopard users.


Alexandria, Va.: How many GB does a movie take up, so one can view on a portable device?

This question relates to the Nokia 700 (Internet Tablet), but the answer might apply to other devices too, such as the iPhone. I just got the 770 and am very impressed with it. Have you written about it, btw?

Rob Pegoraro: Movies from the iTunes store--or ripped from DVDs in an iPod/iPhone-compatible format--take up 600 or 700 megabytes each.


Jefferson City, Mo.: Rob, I remember from a previous session that you mentioned that a person can buy a UPS for their home audio/video equipment for a pretty good price compared to the higher priced equipment for sale. Can you give me any good suggestions for a well-priced (less than $100) UPS that has line conditioning included? I'm assuming that a UPS will be sufficient for any power issues that may arise? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: I've been happy with the cheapo APC uninterruptible power supply I have upstairs, but I have never bought one with "line conditioning." Are you sure you're going to see/hear any difference from that on your own home-theater equipment?


Antwerp, Belgium: Hi Rob, I enjoy your chats a lot. Keep it up. What's your take on the application Advanced System Optimizer? Has many tools and cleaners and helps maintain Windows. I use CCleaner and ASO daily, sometimes few times a day. Isn't that overkill? Or is once a week enough? I must say that the support service of ASO is superb, never had a company so helpful and forthcoming with a problem. Had few times correspondence with them and nobody beats them.

Rob Pegoraro: Never heard of it until now. I have used CCleaner--but I can't say that I've noticed any meaningful speedup as a result.

If you're running any of these Windows-tune-up apps *daily*, you're missing the point: You are wasting more time running these things than you will ever get back from a faster system--assuming they actually work as advertised.


Computer crossroads: I was all set to get a new laptop (PC), but everyone I've talked to says don't do it! Vista is terrible! Vista crashes! Vista won't recognize your printer! Vista will mess up your wi-fi settings! Now, none of these people have Vista. What am I supposed to do, buy a laptop with XP or wait for the Vista service pack? Or just take the plunge and get my new machine now, with Vista?

Or should I abandon PC and get a Macbook? I use my computer mostly for editing digital photos I've scanned from slides, as well as downloading music and talking books for my iPod. All the photographers and designers I know swear by Mac for all things creative. I looked at the Macbook Pro and fell in love with it, and was pretty impressed with the service I got at the Apple store. But, it costs a lot more than I'd spend on a PC.

Rob Pegoraro: I think you'd be happy with a Mac also--but I'd check out the MacBook, which is a great deal cheaper than the MBP but doesn't sacrifice too many features for its lower price. (You've got a smaller screen and no Express Card slot.)

Vista is, indeed, a bit of a mess. I haven't had any real problems with crashes or WiFi, but I have seen many application or driver conflicts. You also need to double memory requirements compared to XP. Vista's not awful--but let's just say that I expected more out of it, given how long it took to ship.


McLean, Va.: Is there an easy way to update my Apple address book at home with my contacts from Outlook at work? To initially populate the Apple address book, I exported all of the contacts and then loaded them into the address book. How can I just update the contacts that were added in the interim? Thanks a lot for doing these chats! I normally learn some good info so I am not as dangerous around electronic devices.

Rob Pegoraro: Your easiest option is probably to use Plaxo, the address-sharing service. (You may remember it from its annoying habit of sending out "Plaxo spam" on behalf of members who had signed up with it. The developers say they've learned their lesson.)

There's a new version out--with sync-software plugins for Address Book and Outlook--but I haven't tried it. Any reports on this?


Ocala, Fla.: iPhone? Meh, it won't replace my Treo.

My question: I'm going to move a Mac Mini into my living room to replace a D-Link DSM520 unit that streams content from my media server to our HDTV. Does Apple's Front Row DVD software upconvert like my standalone DVD player? I'd like to dump it if possible

Rob Pegoraro: Nope, no upconverting on DVD playback in Mac OS X. Your HDTV may have its own line-doubling feature, however; if so, that can do the job instead.


Going meta: Are you at all disgruntled that Mossberg and Pogue got their review units in advance? I mean c'mon, the Post broke Watergate! Where's the love?

PS - Do you enjoy the Fake Steve Jobs blog as much as I do?

Rob Pegoraro: Since you asked: Yes, I was less than amused to see my competitors given a two-week head start, and told Apple PR as much. It is a fact of tech journalism that Apple--along with other companies--can play favorites when it's choosing which writers will get the first crack at a limited number of review units.

It's annoying, but there's not much I can do after the fact but register my complaint, then get to work writing a better review than the competition.

That said, whatever gripes I have with any company's PR tactics don't affect the reviews I write. You, the buyer, never have to deal with the company's flacks--so how those people do their jobs is irrelevant to the product's worth. (Things work the other way around, too: A company's PR department can be the most helpful, friendliest people in the world, but unless the PR folks also handle customer support it still doesn't matter.)


Akron, Ohio: Rob: I've never known why WiFi was an important feature on a smart phone until I had the AT&T store let me test an iphone on their EDGE Network. Sooooo, slow. My question is, when I'm in places with WiFi will the iphone automatically use it or do I have to tell it to and if so is it free?

Rob Pegoraro: The iPhone will notify you when it detects a WiFi network; you can turn that feature off if you want. (You might want to do that once you've set it up for the WiFi at your home, your office and your favorites coffee shops/bars/restaurants... it's annoying to have it alerting me about new WiFi signals every few yards while you walk down a street.)


Rockville, Md.: Rob

I think I represent a large group of reluctant tech users who groan every time something appears on the list of necessary technology. We're the ones who started life with one phone, one TV and 3 channels. My current frustration is email. My GMail account won't load. I spent hours yesterday trying to determine whose problem it is. I disabled McAfee thinking Gmail was being blocked by the firewall or privacy or whatever. Still doesn't load. I can get it to load from a different computer. Gmail doesn't have a person to call. Is this a Google issue or a Dell Issue or ISP issue? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: It's your computer--Gmail works fine on my system. My guess would be that your McAfee security software has gummed up the works somehow, or maybe your browser. Try logging in via Firefox if you use IE, or Opera if you use Firefox.


Washington, D.C.: Here's a stupid question. I'm fairly tech-savvy, but I've never caught up with cell phones. I'm on my second one, and both have been free when signing up for service. The service is Verizon now, and I hate the phone. Do I need to buy a new one from a Verizon store? If I go somewhere else, what do I need to look for to guarantee that it'll work with the plan I'm contracted into for two years?

Rob Pegoraro: Verizon will gladly sell you a new one, but if you're more than two years into a contract you'll get a discount on the next model.

If you switch to another network, you'll need to get a new phone--even if, say, you go to Sprint, which uses the same wireless technology and most of the same frequencies as Verizon.


Bergen County, N.J.: Rob:

My brother got an iphone on the second day (we had to wait a total of five minutes - those suckers who had to wait a day????) - and it have to agree with Jobs that it is the best ipod ever...but as a phone, it is good but you are at the mercy of the network. I wish that he had partnered with Verizon (never thought I would be saying that) versus ATT...

Rob Pegoraro: Verizon's coverage has always been strong around the NYC area (which would make sense, since it's based in NYC... now imagine if AT&T was still headquartered in Basking Ridge?)


dc: For how many hours will an iPhone hold a charge? Can I watch a full length movie on it without missing out on who the murderer is in the last few minutes?

Rob Pegoraro: Apple says it's good for 7 hours of movie playback; I didn't test that in particular, but the iPhone exceeded Apple's estimates in the two battery-life tests (talk time, WiFi Internet access) I did run. So unless you want to watch the entire LotR trilogy on the iPhone in one sitting, you should be fine.


Germantown, Md.: Hi Rob -

What's your best guest as to how long Microsoft will support Windows XP? I ask because I can get a very good deal on a Pentium 2 Duo laptop from Dell for my wife with XP Home and 1 GB of memory for about $200-300 less than the identical machine with Vista and the requisite 2 GB of memory. I'm not sure Vista is ready for primetime so I'm inclined toward an XP machine. In doing so, I'm thinking of paying $30 more to have the 1 GB of memory in one slot (as opposed to to 2 x 512) to facilitate a future upgrade. Your thoughts?

Rob Pegoraro: No guessing required: Microsoft's Web site says that "mainstream support"--meaning non-security bug fixes--will end on 4/14/2009, while "extended support"--security-related patches--will terminate on 4/8/2014. Mark your calendars now!


Albany, N.Y.: The Apple DVD player / Frontrow -DOES- upscale. It's quality is only as good as the basic video card upscaling, but it will output at the display native resolution.

Rob Pegoraro: Sure? I don't doubt that such a thing is possible, but I've never seen any documentation of that.


Gaithersburg, Md.: I actually have a non-iPhone Apple question. I've heard that applications on the Mac operating system generally open faster than they do on Windows systems. Having never owned an Apple (at least since the 1980s), I can't really judge if this is true. My Windows machine has been slowing down, and I'm wondering if I can use this as an excuse to buy a Macbook.

Rob Pegoraro: I think that's true, but the bigger speed boost comes in the time needed to start, sleep, wake and shut down the computer--all take less time in OS X than in Windows.


Fairfax, Va.: Rob, If ATT is signing me up for 2 years contract, why isn't the iPHONE free? And if have to pay for the IPHONe, why do I have to sign up for a contract? Why haven't people gotten free phones and then buy an iphone?

Rob Pegoraro: The short answer is, AT&T and Apple are under no obligation to give you an iPhone. They have one and you don't, so they can choose the terms of sale. And there's no law prohibiting companies from making a healthy profit on a new, in-demand gadget.


Voice dialing: Rob - I'm really concerned about the lack of voice dialing w/ the iPhone. You can't dial by voice, and you can't dial by feel either - because there's no tactile feedback on the keyboard. How many more accidents will we get because someone has to take their eyes off the road for 15 seconds to dial their phone?

Rob Pegoraro: Should have mentioned this in the review... *but* it shouldn't take 15 seconds to dial on the iPhone either. If the number is in your favorites list, it should only take a second or two.


Richmond: Hi Rob, This question may be a little stale by now, but I bought a PC just before the changeover to Vista. Part of the deal was a free upgrade to Vista, which I received in the mail last week. XP works fine, is there a compelling reason to install the upgrade?

Rob Pegoraro: I'd hold off a little bit. There are a lot of programs that haven't been revised to work right in Vista, and if you've got XP operating smoothly already, why make life harder for yourself? (I'm assuming that you don't face a strict timetable to install and activate your Vista upgrade.)


CourtHouse, Va.: In your Nov. 2006 HDTV guide, you said that it's not worthwhile to opt for 1080 resolution over 768. Is that still the case, given that most conventional DVDs can be upconverted to 1080 (apart from the advent of BlueRay and HD-DVD)? At what point does it become the new standard?

Rob Pegoraro: No, I still think 1080p is a waste of money for most people. Unless you buy a very large screen--mid-40 inches or larger--you just won't see the extra pixels from your couch. And it's not just me saying this: People at just about every major HDTV manufacturer have told me the same thing.


Lakewood, N.J.: Instead of closing my PC I would like to put it in standby. I tried it once but how do you take it out of standby? Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: Press the space bar or the power button... and then you might have to wait a minute or so (but still less time than it would take to boot up), depending on the creakiness of your copy of Windows.


Lafayette, Colo.: Just a quick comment on the iPhone. At lunch on Friday, two friends and I (all software engineers and no strangers to pre-release hype) were poking mild fun at the people waiting in line to buy...a phone. Clearly, we thought, this is a product that should not be bought until rev 2 or 3.

By Saturday one of us had bought an iPhone, and by Monday the other two had also. All three of us love them - the in-person experience is just incredible. There are things that could be improved, and I hope they will show up in software updates, but overall a home run for Apple.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the report! Good luck with the new toys...


Rockville, Md.: What features are missing from the iPhone that would make it easier to use (is that even possible?). Some people are saying it doesn't have a decent calculator. Is there something you went to do, say out of habit from doing it on an older phone, that wasn't on the iPhone?

Rob Pegoraro: The iPhone does have a basic calculator--it doesn't do trig or anything fancy, but what do you need in a phone?

The program that *I* really miss is a grocery-list manager, like that HandyShopper Palm app I mentioned earlier.


Central Mass.: Rob, my one and only original PC was built by an independent PC shop (now out of business). It has Windows 98 S.E., and no USB ports (now that I am thinking about buying a digital camera, I guess I need them). The guy at Staples said I could install USB ports myself by taking the cover off the CPU and putting them in the slots. (Total cost about $30.) After looking at my CPU, I have a few doubts and was thinking about calling a Geek Squad type of service to do it for me. I am wondering if, while they are at it, do you think they could install Windows XP? How about more memory if there's not enough to run it? I'd really appreciate your thoughts.

Rob Pegoraro: Buy a new computer. Your old one is going to be horrendously slow at XP unless you upgrade so much of it that you'd only have the case left from the original.


Alrlington VA: I would like to use the iPhone for its non-phone functionality. Do you think it is worth $500 for the music/video/surfing/other? capabilities?

Rob Pegoraro: No, that seems a bit much.


Alexandria, Va.: What is the iPhone's address book app like? Is it searchable?

How many entries can it hold? I've got around 5000 contacts on my Mac, and have been thinking about getting a Treo to be able to have access to all of their info without having to lug my laptop around while I travel, but others are saying that an iPhone would make more sense in terms of being able to sync natively with my Mac. Most other phones I've looked at can't handle an address book that big, and/or aren't searchable (which is a necessity with that many contacts to search through).

Rob Pegoraro: I don't know of any fixed limit to the iPhones' contacts list. It's not searchable, but it does reflect groups you've set up in Address Book or whatever, so you can look at only a subset of your phone book. You can also jump to a particular letter of the alphabet.

I've got a few hundred contacts on the review iPhone, and it feels completely usable to me. I thought not being able to find a name by typing its first few letters would be a hassle... but, realistically, that doesn't work so well on my Treo anyway. Too many people have similar first or last names; for example, the easiest way to look up my brother's home phone number is by going to his wife's entry--there are too many people named "John" or "Pegoraro" in there already.


At Home, VA: My husband and I are starting to think about moving to a flat screen HDTV. Frankly, I'm totally confused, and I'm the one who could set the clock and program the VCR. Our cable provider is Comcast (Alexandria). Currently we are working with cable ready DVD/VCRs and TVs. It's working great and I hate the idea of additional boxes (not to mention paying for them). Comcast digital service is an add on. Am I correct that in '09 when all TV goes HD, then all cable will be digital? Right now Comcast charges for digital card/box as well as HD box. We have pretty much decided on an LCD rather than a plasma, but I'm not clear on what the HDTV should have (i.e. digital receiver). Recently, I have seen something that indicates that our current DVD/VCRs will be useless after the conversion. Bottom line, what the heck should we be looking for in a new TV? A Digital Deadline Dawns

Rob Pegoraro: No, cable doesn't have to make the same switch as over-the-air broadcasts (b/c it's not using the public airwaves).

You should look for an HDTV with an "ATSC" digital tuner--they all should have this--and you might want to get one with a CableCard slot, which will eliminate the need for a cable box (if you're not using a Comcast DVR or video on demand now).


Tampa, Fla.: Re iPhones in Europe:

Could someone in the US buy an EU version of the iPhone when it becomes available to use it on a US carrier other than ATT?

I understand EU law gives mobile phone customers the right to keep their phones when they change carriers. Customers get a new SIM card to move their mobile phone to their new carrier's network. If I am correct, then Apple will have to allow this to sell iPhones in the EU market, which I believe is bigger than the US market. Could someone in the US then buy an iPhone from an EU vendor, and then swap SIM cards (assuming the network technologies are compatible)?

Rob Pegoraro: That's what I'm wondering too--we'll see when the European versions go on sale.


Clifton, Va.: Hi Bob, This not about the iPhone, but an annoying security download alert I have been getting for some time. It is for MS .NET Framwork v 1.1 service pack 1 (KB 886903). It is annoying because I don't have version 1.1 I have v2 and this update will not install. I have auto update selected but have tried all possibilities and nothing works. I also had the same problem with Excel reader 2003 until I replaced it with 2007. Does this have anything to do with the face that my PC will not go on standby any more? Windows XP sp1. Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: Make sure the old .Net framework isn't still in your Add or Remove Programs list--if it is, uninstall it.

It's probably not related to your standby issue, but... AIEEE! What are you doing with Service Pack 1? You have GOT to install Service Pack 2. It makes a real difference in your computer's security; it's also required for some newer applications.


Washington, D.C.: I read that the iPhone's relatively low-cost service plan makes the overall cost of ownership (over two years) lower than a lot of other smart phone packages. Is that a valid claim? I have a BlackBerry 8700c and the equivalent plan that I have (roughly the same minutes, etc.) is much more expensive, even though the device only cost me $350.

Rob Pegoraro: Depends on the service plans involved, but you do need to do the math. For example, the equivalent of the iPhone's $60 plan would cost more like $90 at Verizon--over two years, you're talking about forking over an extra $720.


Hollywood, Md.: Rob: I have read on some blog whose name I now can't remember that it's possible to sign up for iPhone service without a contract. The blogger said she did it via the iTunes activation process by entering a series of 9s for her SS#, thus flunking the credit check. At which point she was offered the ATT pay-as-you-go service. She also said ATT told her it was kosher. So will this really work? Can you bypass the contract and pay monthly?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm told that this approach does work, but I haven't tried it myself.


Annapolis: I need to replace my five-year old G4 iMac soon (which, by the way, is the single best design ever for a computer--too bad Apple cut it off). I know about the lack of discussion from Apple about new products, but is there any word on revamps of the iMac? They're about due, it seems to me...I'd guess waiting through the release of Leopard would be wise?

Rob Pegoraro: Maybe not waiting for Leopard--you'd be using the old machine through at least October--but it does seem like Apple's due for a new round of iMacs. If they want to hit the back-to-school market, they'd need to ship them by early next month. So maybe hold on for another couple of months?


Downtown DC: Your June 28 chat brought several questions about computers' sleep mode and so forth. Among the power-setting options are both "sleep" and "hibernate," and maybe a few other things, too. What's the difference in (or the definition of) the settings? And as one June 28 poster alluded to, when are updates, scans, and backups implemented (particularly the ones that require a restart to complete the process)? Transcript: Personal Tech, June 28

Rob Pegoraro: Sleep is what you want to use--the computer only needs a trickle of electricity to keep its memory refreshed, so little that it usually only draws a watt more than it does when shut off completely. In hibernate mode, it writes the contents of memory to the hard drive and then shuts off; when you revive it, you have a longer wait.

Basically, forget about hibernation--it's useless for day-to-day sleeping. And if you're going to be away from the machine for an entire week, just shut it off and unplug it. (In Vista, the hibernate option is now hidden by default; the PC won't hibernate until it's been in sleep mode for long enough.)

Windows fetches updates when your Internet connection is idle. Scans and backups can happen whenever you want--set the machine to do both after you leave for work in the morning, and then it can go into standby when it's done.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob, I'm planning a reception, and was thinking of using iTunes instead of a DJ. The reception place has a sound system which they say is computer compatible. My computer is a 2001 iBook. The reception would be 6 hours long. Do you see any problems with this idea? (Of course, we would try it out ahead of time.) Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: You should be fine, as long as the iBook stays plugged in (its battery will probably run down in 3-4 hours). Have fun!


Rob Pegoraro: That'll do it for today. Thanks, everybody! See you here next week...


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