Personal Tech

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Thursday, July 26, 2007; 2:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Thursday, July 26 at 2 p.m. ET to answer your personal tech questions and discuss his recent reviews.

A transcript follows.


Rob Pegoraro: Good afternoon, gang. I see we've got a real grab-bag of questions today--digital TV, the iPhone, the Jitterbug cell phone, Windows problems, etc. etc. As ever, anything's fair game.

(Except that #$*@%$! Nats game last night.)

Let's go!


Woodley Park, Washington, D.C.: Hi, Rob, In your review and comments on the iPhone, you said you didn't care for the iPod feature because you preferred using the click-wheel over the touch screen.

I have big hands and often have trouble navigating through playlists with the wheel--can't always get it to stop where I want it to. Being able to use a touch screen and scroll through selections with the flick of a finger would be a welcomed change for me. I hope it's incorporated in the next generation iPods.

Rob Pegoraro: I don't know that you'd prefer the "flickable" interface of the iPhone touch screen; although you can stop this scrolling in a moment by tapping the screen, you still need to hit a pretty small target to select a particular song.

(Topic for future discussion: Are smaller fingers an evolutionary advantage in this thumb-typing, clickwheel-scrolling age?)


Washington, D.C.: Can you recommend a type of ear phones or cell phone that a hearing impaired person could use for more effective hearing ability.

Rob Pegoraro: I know that cell phones are supposed to interoperate with hearing aids--i.e., not broadcast interference into them--but I couldn't tell you which ones do the best job at it, never having worn a hearing aid myself. (I did spend a fair amount of time in front of the speakers at the 9:30 Club and the Black Cat as a younger man, though, so maybe I'll get that chance someday :)

Can anybody suggest a good phone for WDC here?


Burtonsville, Md.: Rob, you mentioned in your Post-Points tip that: "The two leading digital-music programs, Apple's iTunes and Microsoft's Windows Media Player, come preset to copy your CDs in digital formats that might not be right for you." I don't know about Windows Media Player, but I have my iTunes set to import CDs as MP3s at 192 kbps. These will play on any player as far as I know. Works for me. Don't they all have this capability?

Rob Pegoraro: Thank you for subscribing!

These programs all have that capability, yes, but they're not set to use that. The default settings for each app have you ripping CDs in other formats--AAC in iTunes, WMA in Windows Media Player. Since most users never touch their default settings, I thought it'd be worthwhile to explain how to change it in that e-mail.


St. Pete, Fla.: Rob - hi. I'm running an iMac with Tiger 10.4.10. I'd like to be able to edit the songs in my iTunes library. You've previously written that GarageBand would do that. However, I really don't need all of GarageBand's bells and whistles, and even less those of the entire iLife suite. Is there any other option for my simple editing needs? Tks.

NB - thanks to the chatter in Tampa for the lead a while back on good cheesesteaks in Tampa Bay. He was dead on.

Rob Pegoraro: We aim to provide a full-service chat here!

I hear what you're saying--you want an audio-editing equivalent of the great shareware program Graphic Converter, right? Audacity might suffice, although you'll need to download a separate plug-in file to let it work with MP3s.

Other suggestions are welcome...


Spotsylvania, Va.: No question, just a comment. My wife and I do not own a cell phone. When I ask for a phone simply for making phone calls, I'm looked upon as if I consider the wheel to be a recent invention.

Rob Pegoraro: Well, in geological time it is a recent invention...


Duncansville, Pa.: Any insight on new technology upgrades for hdtv's (particularly lcd's) being released this fall? How do you think the new law regarding msrp will affect prices? Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: Uh, what new law about suggested retail prices? That's not ringing a bell.

As for new features--I don't see any breakthrough features in plasma sets, but in LCD and microdisplay sets the big deal seems to be a different sort of backlight. Instead of the traditional CCFL (a special kind of fluorescent lamp), high-end sets are now coming out that use light-emitting diodes. LEDs have the advantage of being much brighter--which allows far better contrast ratios--and last a lot longer than CCFLs.


Fairfax, Va.: Have you encountered rockbox for the iPod. Is it something I should consider installing due to some of the limits imposed by Apple and iTunes?

Rob Pegoraro: Look in the mirror. Are you wearing a hat? Does it have a propeller spinning on top? If not, don't bother with rockbox (it's a Linux operating system you can install on an iPod in place of Apple's software).


Stuart, Va.: We have a condo in an Arlington high rise which we utilized only a few days a month and therefore do not have cable. Receiving over-the-air TV signals is doable but the reception is not good. Would a digital/HD TV overcome the problems which plague analog signals in this kind of environment and improve our reception? Our TV watching is limited to news, channel 4 and WETA. Thanks. I always enjoy reading your comments.

Rob Pegoraro: You should have much better luck with digital reception, especially in a close-in place like Arlington--even using the same antenna that struggles with analog signals now.

Be aware, however, that not all digital tuners are as accurate. I've had great results with Panasonic and Samsung's tuners; Sony's and LG's were good also, but a Philips TV I tried last year was just terrible with off-air broadcasts.


Arlington, Va.: Some time ago you recommended leaving a PC on Standby status when not in use to conserve energy. I noticed that the unscheduled updates of Webroot and others could not be done until the PC is turned back on. Does leaving a PC on Standby most of the day increase the risk of the computer to viruses, etc.? Is it still subject to new viruses or visible on the Internet to a potential hacker, while not protected by the latest automatic updates?

Rob Pegoraro: A computer in standby mode isn't running, so it can't be attacked by a virus or a worm. What you want to do is set up your software updates so they take place before the PC taks its daily nap.


Kansas City, Mo.: In my yahoo mail account I get a lot of messages with things like text.pdf or doc.pdf attached. I never recognize the names so I just delete them. Is this something new, are the pdf's virus?

Rob Pegoraro: Yeah, it's some kind of virus going around. Thank you for being smart and skeptical about random attachments.


Tina in Falls Church, keyboard: Last chat I described a keyboard/keystroke problem w/Power Point. Long diagnostic later, it was the stupid Comcast Modem that was malfunctioning. Replacement did the trick. Go figure.

Rob Pegoraro: So your *cable modem* was gumming up your keyboard? How the heck does that happen?


For Spotsylvania . . .:. . .looking for a cell phone that only makes calls. I'd suggest looking into one of those "pay as you go" or prepaid plans. I got one from Cingular (now the new ATT!) that came with a cute little flip phone. No camera, no nothing. Just what I wanted.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks, forSp!


Potomac, Md.: Hi Rob -- In one of your columns a while ago you gave a good review to a little known brand of DVD player. I didn't save the article and cannot find it in the W. Post archives. I seem to remember that the brand was Oppo, but I'm not sure. Can you help me? Thanx. The DVD Player, Fully Mature

Rob Pegoraro: Y'all (meaning Potomac and my hard-working producer) are thinking of a different story--probably a piece by veteran tech contributor Daniel Greenberg, who's a fan of Oppo's upconverting DVD players.

The story linked to above, meanwhile, is about DVD recorders, most of which also upconvert DVDs to near-hi-def quality.


Tenlytown, D.C.: Rob - Thanks so much for the article today, I have seen ads for the jitterbug and thought it might be perfect for my 87 year old mother. We haven't been able to get a cell phone that works for her. NOW- my question is about adaptive technology for 2 older people who I think would really enjoy cruising the web but can't manage the MOUSE due to slight tremors in their hands- its enough shaking that the mouse ends up just slightly off from the "sweet spot", thus causing a lot of frustration as links don't open. Any ideas?

Rob Pegoraro: Good question. I'd look at getting a large trackball, which might work a little better for them. Or you could switch on the "accessibility" options in Windows or Mac OS X to allow keyboard control of the cursor. (As an interim step, you could remind them that you can navigate around a Web page just by hitting the Tab key; that jumps you from link to link in most browsers.)


Hermosa Beach, Calif.: Good Afternoon Rob, The new TiVo looks very good to me. Appreciate your coverage on it. My big complaint with my Adelphia/Time Warner boxes is that the ability to download/copy to CD, DVD or VCR is turned off in them. Is this available in the new one, or do I have to wait until their TiVo to go is available? Thanks for the time. Faster Forward: TiVo Gets Serious

Rob Pegoraro: How is that ability turned off? Does that box not have any analog audio or video outputs? If it does, how can the box know what's on the other end of the cables?

(You're welcome to e-mail me the gory details if you don't have them handy.)


Eugene, Ore.: My young son just spent his summer job earnings on a home-assembled computer he got from a friend. The friend assembled it from bits and pieces purchased mail- order, and loaded a copy of Windows 2000 onto it to test it. The CPU is an AMD 64 x2, and it has a GeForce 6600 video card, and an Asus a8n-sli board.

Clearly we have to get rid of that copy of Windows to run the machine legally, but this raises various questions -- What OS should we get? (My son has no cash left to speak of, and wants to run his extensive library of games.) Are there any 'flavors' of Linux that will run most games? (He favors Rome and related titles, Art of war, and anything involving shooting the enemy.)

What do we have to do to get all traces of MS copyrighted programs off of his hard drive? Are there any other 'gotchas' in this sort of procedure? Thanks -- SRS

Rob Pegoraro: Lotsa gotchas there. I would recommend Linux in this situation--not least since your kid seems to enjoy tinkering with computers in the first place--but the gaming requirement could be trouble. There's software called Cedega that can run Windows games in Linux, but its compatibility isn't perfect and it's not free:


Vienna, Va.: Hi Rob - I used to use Skylook - which marries Skype with Outlook. It is the only thing I miss at the moment (just switched over completely to a mac) as Skylook doesn't have anything mac-compatible. Any suggestions on how I can record conversations held through Skype? I do a lot of audio and am looking to record interviews held on Skype, hence the question. Thank you!

Rob Pegoraro: Pair up Skype with a program like Rogue Amoeba's Audio Hijack, which will record the audio from the program of your choice:


Apache Junction, Ariz.: Hey Rob, I might have screwed up on an earlier question, so here goes. I'm going to buy the AVG Security Suite for my desktop and notebook, both Vista. Now would you keep the Vista Firewall or install the AVG Firewall. I see you have to say no about three times to close the Vista. Is this right?

Rob Pegoraro: I would keep the Vista firewall. I don't like most third-party firewalls--they always seem to make local-network file sharing even glitchier than usual, they nag you more than the Windows firewall and they don't provide any more protection against incoming threats.

They do stop rogue programs from connecting to the Internet *from* your computer, but you know what, I don't really care about that. If I have some virus loose on my computer, keeping it bottled up inside my own copy of Windows is no solution at all. Basically, if you need that outbound protection, you've already lost.


Ballston, Va.: Rob, what's the bottom line on bus speed and DDR? Went to Gateway site and entered serial number to find out what memory they sell for it, as a way to double check what I need to buy. It came back with a single 330MHz PC2700 card they sell for my model. However, it originally shipped with a 266 MHz card (which was long since replaced). This confused me so I downloaded EVEREST to see what my system specs were, and the memory BUS was around 166 (though it had a max reading or something that was closer to 300). I also realized that the last 512 MB card I bought was the wrong one - 400 MHz PC3200 - though the computer has worked fine with it for a couple of years now. So what's the deal? Is it bad to use a memory card with a higher BUS speed than the computer, or is it fine and that just means the speed of the card will be limited to the highest BUS speed the computer is capable of?

Rob Pegoraro: You can use memory with a higher bus speed (lower-case, please; it's not an acronym), but you'll waste money doing that. Just buy memory that matches your PC--the easiest way to do that is often to check at a memory vendor's site, where you can specify the make and model of your computer. There's also a nifty little shopping search engine called that lists prices from multiple suppliers.


Washington, D.C.: RE: Editing iTunes songs on iMac

Reader didn't want to buy iLife, but Macs come with it pre-installed, so Garage Band should already be there.

Rob Pegoraro: I think she or he was objecting mainly to Garage Band's complexity. But the reader might also have an older Mac that shipped before Garage Band joined the iLife suite.


Rockville, Md.: You wrote an article a while ago about online backup companies (you know, backing up your hard drive offsite). I've been trying to find it but can't. Could you possibly provide a link to the story? Thanks. New Options Emerge for Better Data Backup; Computer Users Need a Good Backup Plan

Rob Pegoraro: And once again, I'm getting credit for things I didn't write :) First story is by Daniel Greenberg, the second is by's Brian Krebs. Either one what you were looking for?


McLean, Va.: I have an embarrassing question...what is the best way to organize and manage my massive amounts of email in Outlook? My INBOX has become very large. I try to delete email as it arrives, but as a PR consultant I need to retain a vast amount of email messages. I started using folders, but they do not really help the Outlook database file size issue since email needs to be stored in Outlook to be read and managed, right? I know I should archive more, but I cannot seem to search through archived emails? Would managing massive email be easier if I migrated to Eudora? Or, is there another power email program we should consider? Thanks in advance! - Tech PR Guru Drowning in Managing Email

Rob Pegoraro: Eudora has worked very well with huge mailbox files in my experience, but it's also quasi-fossilizing. It's now in a state of developmental limbo as its code gets merged with Mozilla Thunderbird (which also deals pretty well with big mailbox files).

The other problem with switching to another e-mail client is that you'll lose the tight integration of contacts, calendars, to-dos and e-mail that Outlook provides. There isn't any other substitute for that in Windows, unless the Windows port of Evolution is a lot better than I've heard so far.

One thing you could try would be to install Google Desktop, which will index an Outlook mail store and add its own search plug-in into Outlook.


Rhode Island: Hi Rob, I have happily used Firefox on my Mac for nearly two years. It's occasionally slow, but I work around it. Since the update, however, it's unusable. It hangs up, then freezes the computer, just about every time.

I've checked the online support sites, and this seems to be a common problem. Have you heard anything about it? Some techs on the Mozilla support sites insist it must be a firewall problem, but it doesn't make sense to me. I never had these problems until the last update.

Rob Pegoraro: No, a firewall won't cause those types of problems. My bet is that there's some glitch in your copy of Firefox. Try deleting the entire program, then downloading a fresh copy--the auto-update mechanism might have hiccuped. You could also use Safari until the inevitable Firefox update arrives.


Ellicott City: Rob - I'm hoping to get some feedback from the chatters...I just bought an HDTV and an upconverting DVD player and am awaiting the HD cable box. I know I'll need two HDMI cables to get the best picture from both, and I've been reading that you don't necessarily need the expensive HDMI cables. I don't want to buy the expensive Monster cables anyway. Do you the least expensive versions work as well?

Rob Pegoraro: Buy the cheap HDMI cables. With a digital connection like that, either you get the signal or you don't: 1 or 0, A or B.


Arlington: Examples

My wife is taking an IT course at Catholic U. The text book came with a Windows only cd - we use Mac.

In London, the BBC will launch internet video - for Window XP only.

How do consumers protest/stop platform specific content from, I can only assume, people who own stock in Bill Gates conglomeration?

Rob Pegoraro: The BBC says it's going to make its content available to non-Windows users too--they haven't said how, but the only open cross-platform video copy-control system I can think of is RealNetworks' Helix.

Don't know about the CD from the CUA course, but complaining to the prof would certainly seem to be in order.


Washington, D.C. : I bought a Treo 650 two years ago, largely based on your review. I've been very happy with it and, knock wood, have not had any problems. Now my contract with Sprint is almost up, and to get me to renew they are trying to throw lots of money at me towards a new phone. My brother likes his new 755, particularly the smaller size and the ability to edit Office documents. I know you've been disappointed with the upgrades, but is that largely due to missed expectations for improvements? Or are subsequent Treos actually inferior products? Would you recommend I cross my fingers that my phone will last a little longer?

Rob Pegoraro: Hold on to your 650. The 755 is a nice phone, but it doesn't add enough to the 650's capabilities to justify its price. You just have to hope that the twits at Palm will get around to bringing out a new design before Microsoft, RIM and Apple grind them into dust.

While you're at it, don't sign up for a new contract if you don't have to. Go month to month--your old contract's terms will still apply. You'll be able to switch to any other company at the drop of the hat; in other words, you'll be the most dangerous customer in the world.


Recording Skype calls: I just saw on their site that they have new handsets (less than $100) that have a "one-touch record button". Pretty nifty.

Rob Pegoraro: Yes - although don't forget that the laws in some states require that both parties know they're being recorded.


Washington, D.C.: Rob- can you elaborate on the transition to digital television? Many in this country are still unaware that analog sets will no longer be able to receive a signal after February 2009. I understand the NAB will be making a huge push in this arena (granted it will have the greatest effect on them) but can you shed some light on how this is going to play out on the national stage? Post I.T.: A Field Guide To Digital TV; Faster Forward: Rules for the Digital-TV Transition

Rob Pegoraro: See those two postings. What you said is correct--analog broadcasts die on Feb. 17, 2009. The FCC has a pretty good (if boosterish) site about the transition:

This analog cutoff is why I've been yammering for years about the evils of TVs and other video devices that only include analog, NTSC tuners. The industry has finally caught up with that reality, but not before millions of customers have bought hardware that's going to be awfully inadequate in 2009.


Falls Church, Va.: That printer you profiled today -- am I correct that attachments would not be printed?

Rob Pegoraro: Only pictures--JPEG, GIF, BMP. Any other attachment will cause the entire message to get returned to sender.


Bethesda, Md.: Strange question. I have a T-mobile Wing, which I really like. Much like the iPhone, you use a touch screen for phone calls, etc.

Problem is that I have difficulty reading the screen when I'm outside and the sun is shining. Any help, screen protectors with non-glare surface, etc.?

Rob Pegoraro: Not really--the Wing's screen is just not that good in direct sunlight. The best you can do is try to customize the look of Windows Mobile so it provides a little more contrast (though I don't recall how--the Wing I reviewed is at the bottom of a desk drawer at the moment, in dire need of a recharge).


Reston, Va.: Re: HD DVR Cable boxes.

Rob, I have a Comcast HD DVR box, and right before I got it, they sent out the firmware patch that 'unlocks' the Copy to VCR capability.

I can't remember what all the connectors are on the back but, I'm pretty sure that there's only one set of analog RCA jacks (video, aud-l, and aud-r)along with the component HD and HDMI slots. The firmware activated those analog jacks.

Rob Pegoraro: That would be one way to prevent people from duplicating copyrighted programs--if you don't care about inconveniencing and irking millions of law-abiding users.

(This is yet another reason why I'm such a fan of the FCC forcing cable operators to open up their networks to third-party hardware. No sane company that has to sell direct to a consumer--as opposed to a cable operator--would ever put in such a pointlessly user-hostile feature.)


Washington, D.C.: The question about HDMI cables causes me to ask about DVI connection. My LG HDTV does not have an HDMI outlet, but does have DVI. Is it worth it to get an HDMI-DVI cable?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes--the quality will be a little sharper.


MSRP: I think what the questioner re: LCD prices was referring to was the recent Supreme Court decision that overturned the anti-trust laws that the US had for the last ~90 years. The new rule is that manufacturers can now set a minimum price, and retailers can be compelled in their contracts to not sell the item below that price. The Roberts-court 5-4 ruling is widely expected to radically increase prices for consumer goods, and similarly increase profits for manufacturers.

Rob Pegoraro: Ah, yes, that one. It will be... interesting to see how that pans out.


Islamabad, Pakistan: Which is the best YouTube downloading freeware?

Rob Pegoraro: Couldn't tell ya. I've tried the new RealPlayer beta, though, and that might become the best option for most people--inasmuch as a) you still need RealPlayer at some sites, b) it has a good, simple video-download option, and c) it's not the pain in the rear that old RealPlayer versions were.


Austin, Tex.: I just installed Office 2007 Enterprise, and switched to Outlook from Outlook Express for email. Outlook's auto-complete function for email addresses learns an address after you type it once, and will suggest the address after you type the beginning letters the next time. Mine, however, lobotomizes itself when I exit Outlook. When I reopen Outlook, it doesn't remember any of the addresses it had previously learned. A Microsoft "MSV" person,in a discussion group, said just change the profile in the .NK2 file. No luck. A search reveals no .NK2 files. I've looked at my current email profile, and it looks ok to me. Frustration builds. Especially with Office 2007, which is slow, my god is it slow. It just stops working and chills for a while, doing I don't know what; maybe playing hockey on the roof. If you don't want to comment on my email problem, maybe you can comment on why Office 2007 is slow. Hugh

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, Office 2007 can be a little slow. I didn't realize the extent of this at first, but as I've kept on using it--it's on my work desktop and laptop--I've realized that I'm often switching to OpenOffice when I only need to read a Word file or peek at an Excel spreadsheet.

But why? Not sure. The new, non-standard interface seems to eat a few processor cycles, but Microsoft software in general just tends to get slower with each revision. Windows XP never seemed so fast until I tried out Windows Vista!

Not sure how to fix the auto-complete problem. Any suggestions?


Connecticut via DC: Hi Rob, My parents are thinking about HDTV. Usually I am their adviser for all technical gizmos but HDTV has me stumped. Do you have an entry in your blog that could be entitled "HDTV for Dummies"?

Here's the catch. Dad's a baseball fan so great for HDTV. But mom watches a lot of DVDs (period films, PBS mystery types) and these titles are not likely to be on Blue Ray or the other format as other films. Can my Dad see David Ortiz hit a fantastic homer and my Mom regular DVDs? LCD or Plasma? Consider Size, Weight, Glare; Triumph and Turmoil In High Definition

Rob Pegoraro: Even regular DVDs should still look considerably better on an HDTV set, as long as you've got a progressive-scan player hooked up via a high-def video cable (usually, component). Upconverting players will provide an additional boost in picture quality... though I'd submit that the results still aren't quite as much fun to watch as Big Papi launching one over the Monster.


Annapolis: Rob - you gave me some suggestions a few weeks ago when I wrote in that I had a malfunction in my wireless network (laptop says I'm connected, but I can't get to any sites; using another available network works just fine.) Anyway, I've tried what you suggested (can't remember, exactly), and it still doesn't work. Can you suggest any non-technospeak sites that I can look at for more help? Should I just un-install the network and re-install it?

Rob Pegoraro: Your router has to have some kind of factory-reset option that wipes every setting. Try that, then--with the manual open in front of you--step through its configuration process.

But if that doesn't work, return it and get somebody else's router. WiFi's only been around for the last decade or so, and manufacturers have had plenty of time to make it easy to use. (Which vendor is at fault here?)


Arl, VA: In Feb 2009, when we'll need digital TVs or converters to receive over-the-air broadcasts, will we also need converters if we have FIOS or cable?

Rob Pegoraro: No.


Laurel, Md.: Is ATT's new video phone going to be the realization of their Picture Phone? I got to try Picture Phone at Expo '67 in Montreal over a leased line to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. My attempt to arrange a date with the girl in Chicago was unsuccessful because while I could see her, she could also see me.

Rob Pegoraro: I'm waiting to see somebody come out with a videophone program that incorporates some of the, er, image-enhancement features of a lot of new digital cameras. You can now buy cameras that not only fix red-eyes effects but whiten teeth and, in some case, even make you look skinnier than you are.

(I wish I were making that last bit up, but it's an option on some new HP models: Slimming photos with HP digital cameras


Washington, D.C.: Regarding the question about getting a lot of spam with PDF attachments - it's not a virus (or at least not only a virus). The PDFs contain images of the usual pharm and stock spam. I think the spammers have moved to PDF because spam filters can't parse those files and mark them as junk.

Rob Pegoraro: That clears up some of the mystery (except the part about why these spammers can't, y'know, get a real job).

I might as well take this opportunity to share my usual public-service announcement: If you feel yourself tempted to buy something advertised in spam--whether it's a stock, a pill or software--please cut up your credit cards and unplug your computer from the Internet. Thank you.


Appleton, Md.: Hi Rob. Do you have any info on upcoming Apple Leopard operating System. Is it worth wait for home consumer? Its' Christmas thing.

Rob Pegoraro: No, not worth waiting for. Apple system upgrades aren't like Microsoft's; they only cost $129, you don't have to choose between six different flavors of the new system and most of the time you don't need to know any kung-fu to install them safely.

You might still want to hold off on buying a Mac desktop, but that's only because it's been so long since Apple updated the iMac and the Mac mini. The odds are pretty good that we'll see a new iMac soon; not so sure about the Mac mini, because Apple seems to be putting so little emphasis on that model these days.


Washington, D.C.: Are there any articles you've written in the past on Treos and how to use them you can point me to? If you have links, that would be great. I just got one, but I'm a beginner and not very technologically savvy and I'm trying to figure out how to best use it and take advantage of features and what it can do. I searched the tech area of post online, but can't seem to find anything. Thanks in advance! They're All Smart Phones, but With Different Types of Intelligence

Rob Pegoraro: You shouldn't need to do any special tinkering with your Treo (not like you can, anyway). What I would recommend instead is that you add a few extra programs to increase its utility. Start with HandyShopper, a great little free grocery-list manager that I use all the time:

You should also bookmark a few phone-friendly Web sites. Here are three I use all the time:

* (Google)

* (Metro)

* (baseball)

I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest too...


Re: Eugene, Ore: His son could purchase an OEM version of Windows XP Home (or Pro) to install on his home-built computer. It's much cheaper than retail. I think still sells it.

Rob Pegoraro: But it's also on sketchy legal/ethical ground, which seems to be a big deal with Eugene.


DC: I'm in the market for a new laser printer. I have read that some of the printers on the market have compatibility issues with Vista. Any out there that are currently compatible?

Rob Pegoraro: Most are--there's nothing inherent about laser-printer technology, or any other kind, that would cause problems with Vista. You just need to check at each manufacturer's site, just in the case the company is trying to sail itself onto the rocks by ignoring Microsoft's first new consumer system since 2001.


Arlington, Va.: If you think Comcast is bad with its own built-in DVR, try getting them to let you use the serial port with a TiVo. My digital converter has the port, but it's inert. When I asked Comcast if they could turn it on, they pretty much laughed and said no. So I have to use the IR blaster, which misses the channel change about one time in four.

Rob Pegoraro: IR blasters--which are supposed to transmit the same codes as a set-top box's own remote control--suck. Period. The fact that they exist at all shows how much the electronics industry has to learn about making devices that play well with others.


Wii Less world: Rob, how does one get a Wii without being forced to pay a bundle for the bundled package. I have been trying to get one for my spouse since February and they are not available at your standard box store (best buy etc.) or if they come, come in very few numbers and disappear immediately. What is their strategy? Get people tired of not finding their product and give up?!! My husband absolutely adores it and his birthday is next month, so would love to get hold of one. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Um, shop online?

(I don't really know. I haven't gone shopping for a Wii myself.)


Dover, N.H.: Hi Rob, I heard that Apple may be coming out with a new iPod with the features of the iPhone without the phone capabilities. Have you heard anything about this?

Rob Pegoraro: Only rumors, and not even particularly reliable ones. The Mac gossip sites can predict some things with reasonable accuracy--in particular, the arrival of new Mac laptops or desktops--but they haven't done too well with their iPod forecasts.


Oak Ridge, Tenn.: When do you think we'll start to commonly see solid state drives on laptops instead of hard drives? Dell offers a SSD on a few models but it costs $480 extra and is only 32 gigabytes. Thanks, Charlie

Rob Pegoraro: You'll have to wait a little longer for those prices to come down. By the time Apple stops using hard drives on its iPods and switches to flash memory instead--that's gotta be in the road map--mainstream flash-based laptops won't be far off.


Rob Pegoraro: That's going to wrap things up for today. Thanks for all the questions! I'll be back here in a couple of weeks.


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