Personal Tech

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Thursday, August 23, 2007; 2:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Thursday, Aug. 23 at 2 p.m. ET to answer your personal tech questions and discuss his recent reviews and blog posts.

The transcript follows.


Rob Pegoraro: Welcome back to the tech-support chat. Let's started... but first, I'll throw a question back at the crowd: Have you ever had a Windows PC fail to go into sleep mode? If so, how were you able to get it back into a normal sleep pattern?

(Look for this same query on my blog sometime soon--I've gotten a ton of queries about this since my column about energy-efficient computing, but I haven't had much luck helping readers through this problem. So I'd like to hear from people who were able to fix things.)


Washington, D.C.: Have you had a chance to preview the release of Mac's new "Leopard" OS? (When is it officially being released, by the way?). If so, any major enhancements from "Tiger". -or do you think the release will get lost in the wilderness?

Rob Pegoraro: Nope--I only know Leopard from screenshots and movies on Apple's site, plus commentary from various Mac developers who have tried it out. Release date hasn't been specified beyond "October."


Dover, N.H.: Mostly a statement then questions.

Just got an iPhone and can't say enough about it. It is amazing. Apple has put out quite a product. I do you two question for you or anyone else out there.

Have you heard about the phone getting warm after use? And have you heard anything about battery charge time. I have been getting about two days worth off on one charge. Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, the iPhone I reviewed could get a little toasty sometimes--but it was never unpleasantly so. You're not at any risk of having the iPhone brand an Apple logo onto your cheek.

Your two-day battery life sounds about right. I took the review iPhone on a three-day trip, and even though I put it in "airplane mode" (phone and WiFi off) at night and only used it for Web and e-mail during those three days, its battery was almost drained by the end of the trip.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: Is it safe and acceptable to have multiple programs for anti virus, spyware protection on a personal computer? I have heard conflicts can occur using this approach to get maximum protection. What would recommend? Fred

Rob Pegoraro: Multiple anti-virus apps is a recipe for serious trouble, and possibly a PC that won't boot up anymore. Multiple anti-spyware apps won't be an issue if only one of them is set to monitor your computer for trouble (that is, the others are only used to do periodic scans or to remove things the first one can't clean out).


Loud Fan on laptop: The fan on my dad's HP laptop hums loudly and constantly. If it's "asleep" it's quiet, but as soon as it's up and running, the fan kicks in.

The laptop is probably four years old and high-end (he spent more money than he should have). He's 80 and I just asked him the model number and he couldn't find it.

It sits in a fancy HP docking station and he never takes it out so it is always stationary. I'm a Mac person but fairly comfortable poking around Windows. Is there a setting to look for that controls the fan or some trouble shooting to try? He's deaf as a post but it's driving my mother crazy! And I'm sure the fan shouldn't be whirring loudly nonstop. My MacBook is always quiet. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: A lot of PCs are built without much attention to noise issues--the Dell laptop I have at home is completely annoying, as its fan doesn't just whine at a constant pitch, but varies up and down. I want to take an ax to the thing most days.

Try vacuuming out the fan vents, in case any dust has built up there. Also, check HP's site for any updates to its power-management software or BIOS.

Any other suggestions?


Fairfax, Va.: We have a new DVD/VCR recorder that often will not play a DVD that can be played on a computer or a very old DVD player that we've had for years. When we try to play the DVD we get a message that the disk cannot be read, yet placing it in a computer or the old DVD proves that the movie/disk is undamaged. Any ideas?

Rob Pegoraro: Is this a regular DVD or one you've recorded? If it's a recorded disc, what kind--DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RAM?

Also, what make is this DVD/VCR?


Anonymous: I'm gonna be living in Eagles country next year for college. I'm a die hard Redskins fan and I don't wanna have to come home/go to a bar to see the games.

Is the Slingbox the real deal, what do I need for it to work without any problems?

p.s. the appt I'm living in will not allow me to upgrade to directv/sunday ticket.

Rob Pegoraro: The Slingbox was made for exactly that kind of situation: The developers were SF Giants fans who wanted to watch their team while they traveled. (At the time, the Giants weren't as painful to watch as they are today...)


Stormville, N.Y.: Hi Rob!


Dell Dimension 4700, WXP-home with all the updates, Pentium 3GHz, 2.5G RAM.

I launch Windows Media Player (to play streamed radio station).

It decides to update. Suddenly I see that something called URGE is being installed, without warning. I hit Cancel. No effect. Repeat. No effect. Not trusting this unannounced visitor I go to Task Manager to stop URGE.

I go to Add/Remove Programs. URGE is sitting there. Try to remove it. Get the message "The path Start Menu contains an invalid character".

Whenever I launch W Media Player it again starts the URGE installation, but then shows an "Error 1324" (lotsa help that is to the user! ).

The popup windows (installation and error message) stay and cannot be clicked away.

In addition to all this, the machine won't go to hibernate/sleep and will present me with a "Insufficient system resources to complete the API". (Looking at ProgramChecker I probably use no more than 0.5G when this happens).

All I can say is "Thank you Microsoft for messing up my system!".

If I shut off the machine and do not launch W Media Player none of the above happens (of course I would like to be able to use the player). Can you direct me to someone at MSFT who might help?

Rob Pegoraro: Try uninstalling WMP completely, then installing it from scratch. You also might be able to listen to this radio station with other software--the free VLC Player ( has worked with most Windows Media streams when I've tried it.

Urge, BTW, is the music store that MTV launched with Microsoft when WMP 11 debuted--and which it's now going to close as it moves its music-retail business to RealNetworks' Rhapsody.


Bowie, Md.: Have you heard anything about a recent Norton Internet Security/Antivirus update that causes users to lose personal settings and--in some cases--to uninstall software?

My desktop icons, bookmarks and even "My Documents" were all gone after Norton got its required reboot. Technical support can't address the issue. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Um, no. Those don't sound like features the developers meant to include in the update :)

What version of NIS does this involve?


New Bethesda resident: Rob, This is less of a question and more of a comment. I just moved to Bethesda, where FiOS is available. Signed up, had the appointment confirmed 3 times by Verizon, and the tech showed up in his time frame (and he called from his cell phone to say he wasn't going to be there at the beginning of the appointment range to traffic). This particular tech was from Delaware; evidently there is such a backlog demand for FiOS installation that Verizon is importing techs. The tech was very knowledgeable and friendly. As the morning wore on, his fellow Delaware team started showing up at my house as the other 3 guys got stood up by homeowners.

The installation is very clean and works great, besides some buzzing on the analog phone lines (Verizon is coming back out to check - I think it is an issue from how the previous owner had the phones set up). The standard definition TV signal is clearer than Comcast's or DirecTV's HD. The internet is ridiculously fast, even with the base package that I have. Plus, Verizon relented on enabling the serial port on the TV boxes so I can use my Series 2 TiVO (which I have a lifetime subscription on) to control the Verizon box.

Plus, this package is less than Comcast analog cable and internet was at my condo. I am as happy as a pig in slop. Even old Bell Atlantic has the ability to modernize into a real business and provide good service. Thought you and your readers would like to know.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the detailed report, NBr!


Chantilly, Va.: Rob, Love the columns and the chats - thanks for all the useful information. We recently moved, and got FIOS TV and internet. The internet is great, but we have had some problems with the TV, (mainly with the DVR flaking out at times), but overall it's pretty good. One issue remains, however - I have a cable box hooked up to my Vista Media Center PC (HP), with a TV tuner card. Try as I might, and with help from customer service from both HP and Verizon, can't get the TV to display on Windows Media Center. Do you know if there are issues with FIOS TV and the Hauppauge Win TV HVR-1600 NTSC/ATSC tuner card in my HP Media Center TV, or might I have a bad tuner card? I've verified the cable going into the card is good by hooking it up to a TV, so there must be a software, hardware, or configuration problem on the PC, right? Have you heard anything about similar issues, or might you have any suggestions to try? I've just about given up on getting it to work. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: And here's a less-happy comment on Fios. I have no idea how to solve this one--any ideas for what Chantilly ought to do next?


Springfield Bypass, Va.: HI ROB What about new multi core processors and new Branching Software Inst. sets. Do I need new Software to play on that Stuff and is it really four times better?

Rob Pegoraro: No, no, no. As a general rule, if you can't name a specific program that will run notably faster if you get a PC with a faster processor, you don't need to worry much about processor speed.


Loves Vista in Fairfax: Rob, thanks for all your help. Submitting early. I'm apparently one of the few who have NOT had any Vista issues until this one. Sometime within the last month or so, all of a sudden whenever I launch Firefox I'm forced to deal with the UAC. I have Firefox set as the default browser and even switched the default to IE7 (did not have same issue with IE) and back. Also, when I click on a hyperlink in any Outlook 2007 message, I get the following message: General failure. The URL was "http..." The system cannot find the file specified. It still opens the link with Firefox (still with the UAC). This scenario does not occur at all when IE7 is set as the default. The Mozilla forums indicate several people having this issue but I haven't seen a remedy suggested, aside from registry editing, which I'm not comfortable with. Have you heard anything about this? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Nope, you're the first (not to say that Vista is working fine, but to say that Firefox is getting stuck in UAC hell). I'd try the usual uninstall-then-reinstall routine, and if that doesn't work I'd go to a from-scratch reinstall of Firefox: Back up your bookmarks, write down any saved passwords, then delete the Firefox profile and uninstall the browser before installing a fresh copy.


Tysons Corner, Va.: Just so I'm clear ... the songs from Wal-Mart are now playable on the iPod?

Rob Pegoraro: Not all the songs, but the MP3s that Wal-Mart now sells will, in fact, play on an iPod. Of course, getting them can be some work, because Wal-Mart apparently blocks Mac users from its download store--and the latest version of said store also blocks all browsers but IE for Windows.

Wal-Mart never would have become the biggest retailer in the world if it treated real-world customers like this.


Grand Rapids, Mich.: I'm buying my 75 year old parents their first ever computer -- they want a laptop for travel. I am a Mac convert, but I am leaning toward a PC for them, since all of their friends have PCs. Should I go for one with XP or Vista? I have not heard too many great things about Vista, and I can still buy a new laptop with XP through some manufacturers. Any advice is appreciated, and I thank you in advance. I'm excited for my parents and their jump into computerland!

Rob Pegoraro: Unless your parents' friends are willing to provide tech support, their purchasing choices are irrelevant. *You* are almost certainly going to be the person they call for help. So get them a Mac. You, and they, will be a lot happier that way.


Silver Spring, Md.: In regards to your sleep question, I've never had the function even WORK until I put Vista on my laptop. On three separate machines running a variety of pre-vista windows systems, I could never get it to function right. Sometimes the command wouldn't do anything. Sometimes it would fall asleep but then never wake up and I'd have to power cycle. Other times it would fall asleep but within an hour wake back up with either a generic error message or a blue screen.

With Vista, it works correctly, pretty much every time. The only time it fails is after some patch Tuesdays. The machine will reboot over night, but because I have the hardware set to request a password on bootup and before Windows loads, it sits at that prompt until morning.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks!


Miami, Fla.: Is there any way that we can choose to purchase a PC with XP instead of Vista? I've heard bad things about Vista...

Rob Pegoraro: Yes. Dell lets you choose XP instead of Vista on some systems, and you may also be able to custom-order XP from other vendors online. But don't expect to be able to do this in your average big-box store--every PC on the shelves will be running Vista.


Washington, D.C.: Long story short: by the end of the year, I'll be building a new computer which will be Vista capable and then some. However, I am not impressed with Vista, and am a bit tired of XP's antics as well. I'm thinking of moving over to a Linux distribution, but the only ones I've heard of are SUSE, Red Hat, and Ubuntu. What are some other distributions I should be looking at? Or are these the "easiest" for people making the switch from Windows, and I shouldn't even bother with other distributions until I get my feet wet? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: I'd go with Ubuntu myself.


Fairfax, Va.: Rob,

Having problems burning on my CD/DVD burner. I'll get about 1 minute into the burn and it just hangs. I've wasted 10-12 blanks at this point.

Would it be advisable to delete/reload Roxio ? The drive reads CDs and DVDs just fine.

Rob Pegoraro: I'd try another app, yes. Try the free-to-try CopyToDVD:

But if that doesn't work either, you might have a drive that's going bad. How old is this machine?


Sterling, Va.: Rob: I've been a user of Firefox from the start and I've always updated to the latest version. My PC is running XP2 (always up to date), but I've two ongoing issues with Firefox for which, I've been unable to find answers. The first is with JAVA: I currently run because, anything newer causes Firefox to shut down instantly when I click on certain links at a site. For example, when I select a game room for one of their word games. My wife uses IE and has no problem with anything, no matter which version I install. The other has to do with many sites - Napster, Adobe, Movielink, etc. - which give me a message stating that they no longer support Windows 95 or, in the case of Adobe when looking for downloads, I'll get that message or be directed to an old WIN 95 version. Any thoughts?

Rob Pegoraro: Something is seriously messed up with your PC if Firefox can only run a massively obsolete version of Java and Web sites think you're running Win 95. I can assure you that Firefox works fine with the current version of Java, and that I never get redirected to any "we don't support Win 95" pages.

Do you have any extensions running in your copy of Firefox?


OneNote: I installed OneNote 2007 on an office computer with Office 2003. If I have both open, when I get an e-mail (and sometimes when I only have Outlook open, I get this), windows installer starts up. Some people on the web seem to think this is a bug that can't be fixed, as the program is looking for something but will never find it. Is this true?

Rob Pegoraro: This is an old problem with Office--one that I thought was fixed when Office 2003 came out, but installing some extra programs can cause it to crop up. Totally infuriating. I wrote a Help File item on that a long time ago... here's the Microsoft tech-support article I pointed readers to:

(That refers to a problem with Office 2000, but see if the first tip there solves anything on your system.)


Clarksville, Md.: I've never used a RSS reader, and I'm thinking of using one. Is there any reason why I should not use the one that comes with Firefox? Put another way, are there features with other RSS readers like iGoogle that are better than what comes with the RSS reader in Firefox?

Rob Pegoraro: The Web-based ones can be used anywhere you go, while Firefox's is only accessible inside that particular copy of Firefox. However, it's also much simpler to use, since you only need to click on the RSS icon in the address bar to subscribe to a site and it provides a helpful preview of the feed's contents.

(You can customize Firefox to use another RSS provider; go to its Tools menu, select Options, then click the Feeds button.)


Falls Church, Va.: Rob--perhaps you can help. We need to upgrade the OS on my husband's older powerPC-based iBook. Currently it is running 10.2.8, and in order for me to use this particular software i need for a grad. class this fall. we need at least 10.3.9.

I know we have to pay for this upgrade, but my husband is nervous that some of his software might not like the OS upgrade (specifically DreamWeaver MX, Endnote, Office v. X). He uses his laptop mainly for his PhD research, so I can understand his hesitation.

If we make an appointment at the Mac Genius Bar, is this something they can help us with? Or do you have any advice?

Many thanks, in advance.

Rob Pegoraro: Unless those apps have been abandoned entirely by their developers, they should work fine in 10.4. At worst, you might need to download a bug-fix update or two.


Washington, D.C.: What do you think of Wordpress?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't--we use Movable Type here, so my only interaction with WordPress has been as a reader of blogs created with it.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob,

Is there a software package that lets you convert DVDs you already own to your iPod?


Rob Pegoraro: Handbrake, newly upgraded to version 0.9:


Congressional: Rob,Do you have any problems installing system and security updates for your Mac? I had quite a few problems on my Intel Mac Pro (being thrown to a black screen with only a login prompt) forcing me to archive and reinstall the system with original system disks on a couple of occassions. recommends quite a protocol for doing these updates, and I was wondering whether you simply allow software update do its job while you continue with business as usual, I've know created clones of my boot up drive because I'm scared to death to apply updates after these problems.

Rob Pegoraro: I can only remember one instance of an update going awry--longtime readers may remember me discussing it in my newsletter a couple of years back. In that case, the computer had been running for a few weeks without a restart but had begun acting weird. Instead of rebooting before downloading the update, I bulldozed ahead and wound up having to do an archive-and-install repair of the system. (This is one of the greatest unheralded features of OS X: You get a clean copy of the OS but your data, settings and even almost all applications are left intact. There's nothing like it in Windows.)

If your computer seems to be running fine, you should be fine going ahead with an automatic update--but once it starts installing the software, you're better off leaving the machine alone. Quit any open apps and let it do its thing uninterrupted.


Alexandria: Rob: Any reason why a new Dell laptop battery would not charge? It's not the power cord because the computer runs fine when plugged in - just the battery never charges.

Thanks for any input!

Rob Pegoraro: Uh, because the battery's defective?


RSS reader: Rob, Call me stupid, but what is it ?

Rob Pegoraro: RSS = Really Simple Syndication. It's a way for Web sites to tell you when they have new content, so you don't have to wear out the "refresh" key looking for them on your own. See these two guides I wrote about RSS when my newsletter became a blog:

Goodbye In-Boxes, Hello Blogosphere

RSS, Revisited


Antwerp, Belgium: Hi,I appreciate you taking your time to reply.

I recently had a pc crash and a Windows reinstal was done.I have XP SP2,1 giga RAM memory,2 gigahertz speed.

I have Windows media player v10.I tried to download and install version 11 after it validates my genuine Windows version, it gives me following error: "Not possible to complete setup.Go to web for help. Then I get this message: "You've encountered error message C00D2AFB while using Windows Media Player. Additional information is not currently available for this error. This error might have been triggered by an error in another program or component of Windows. The following information describes the original error.

Original Error Message 80070005

General access denied error

Any help

Rob Pegoraro: I HATE HATE HATE when developers take the time to write an error message that only references some meaningless number like "80070005"--if you can do that, why not write a message that says what the [bleep] happened in the first place?

Best I can do is point you to this page, which collects a long list of WMP tips:

You might also want to switch to another media player if you're not actually listening to anything in WMA format.


Falls Church, Va.: Rob--

digital TV question. We don't have cable, but earlier this year finally gave in and purchased a new flat screen digital television. Imagine our surprise when we found out we get additional channels over the air--no special antenna or cable necessary. WETA has 4 extra digital channels, and MhZ (we live right near their tower, at Lee Hwy. and the Beltway) has about 6 additional international channels it broadcasts. This in addition to the weather/radar channels that channels 4, 7 and 9 have...

The question? Sometimes the reception on these digital channels (usually the WETA and MhZ ones, never the 4, 7 or 9-network ones) is HORRIBLE! We even get an occasional "No Signal" message on the TV, only to have a pixelated image return 30 seconds later.

We have a set of high-powered rabbit ears that we used for regular reception on the old TV, and they're still hooked up to the new digital TV set. (Interestingly, the analog channel reception on this new digital TV is MUCH worse, even with the rabbit ears, than on our 25-year old black and white set.)

We did initially buy a digital TV rabbit ears antenna, but at the time we didn't notice any difference between the 2 antennas. If we did go back and get the digital antenna, would it help with the pixelation and signal dropout? Or is that something on the station's end?

Rob Pegoraro: It's more likely to be something on the station's end--especially if the primary WETA and MHZ channels still come in fine when the secondary ones fuzz out on you.


Sterling, Va.: Rob: Yes on the extensions, I use the ad blocker, but I've experienced the same issues on two machines a Compaq running Win 98SE and my eMachine running XP2.

Rob Pegoraro: You may, in fact, be cursed. You're the only person who has ever told me that their copy of Firefox makes Web sites think they're running Win 95.

[throws up hands]

Any other ideas for Sterling?


Washington, D.C.: Re: DVD not playing in the new DVD player, I've had a similar problem. After nearly two days of talking with Toshiba, they told me that they don't have a driver for reading 16x CDs, despite the drive being a 24x DVD burner. The hardware is there, but Toshiba isn't supporting it with the needed firmware/software, although they do make this firmware available for some of their DVD burners. Look for a class action suit on this soon, if Toshiba doesn't start supporting its products.

Rob Pegoraro: Why would a DVD drive need extra software to play a 16x disc, but not a 24x? That makes no sense, even by the whacko standards of the PC industry.


Alexandria, Va.: Good day, Rob - in spite of many efforts I can't get rid of an annoying popup that shows up every 90 seconds - it a small box that says "could not find macromedia flash" any ideas on how to get rid of it - many thanks, Dick

Rob Pegoraro: If this shows up when you don't even have a Web browser open, your PC is probably infected with ad/spyware. Have you run a scan for any spyware issues lately?


Washington, D.C.: Rob, I've got an iPod full of songs that I've burned and downloaded but am worried that my laptop one day may crash and I'll lose my library. Is the only way to back this up by using the CD-writer which seems like it would take forever, or could an external hard drive also work? Thanks for your help.

Rob Pegoraro: Music files are like any other kind--you can just drag your iTunes music folder to any other drive to copy it. You can do that with recordable CDs, an external hard drive or both.


Bethesda, Md.: I set up a new printer on a friend's Mac-- it's one of those combination printer/copier/scanner things with -tiny- ink cartridges. It's a plot to get people to buy as much ink as possible, right?

Rob Pegoraro: And often an effective one, unfortunately.


Fairfax, Va.: Re: the DVD/VCR issue.

The Unit is an LG recordable. The DVD's that occasionally don't play on the unit are movies rented from Blockbuster mail service and not recorded at home. Hope that helps

Rob Pegoraro: You should take it back to the store and exchange it for another model--but first, take one of those DVDs in with you so you can see if it plays on the replacement you have in mind.


G'burg: I subscribe to satellite but have read about the cable card concept and think it would be great to own my own box and not have to pay a monthly fee for it. When will satellite companies makes these same cards available, and when do you think I'll be able to buy a box at my local Best Buy?

Rob Pegoraro: I completely agree with you, but haven't heard anything about satellite companies moving to adopt CableCard technology.


Rockville, Md.: Help, feeling very clueless here.

I want to transfer a lot of cassettes to digital format. They are mostly talking heads (public radio interviews that I helped write, not the band), so the transfer doesn't have to be high fidelity, but lack of hiss would be nice. Someone from work recommended a box from that says it lets you transfer files to CD, MP3 or your iPod from cassettes or albums. I can't really figure out what the box does beyond providing the software and the connection to my computer through a USB port. So, do I need the box? Or just some of the software that comes preloaded in the box? Looking at the descriptions of the software, some of them look more complicated than I need, though I'd love to be able to edit out the station identifications and ticket giveaways.

My computer is a tower (it's a PC, about 4 years old) and has a mic port in the back. The box doesn't have a cassette player so I would need to provide that anyway. It looks like my sound card will make .wav files. Is there software that will let me convert the .wav's onto something that I can record on a CD and play in a CD player? In my iPod?

Can I just connect the headphones port of the cassette player to the mic port of the computer, tell it to record and then convert the files?

The interviews are 15 to 45 minutes long. Can .wav files be that long?

This is a link to the box.

Thanks so much for your help. There are nearly a 100 of these tapes, so sending them out at about $6 a tape is not an option.

Rob Pegoraro: What that box will do is ensure a cleaner connection--the audio circuitry on many PCs can generate some noise in any recording made over the line-in input.

But for your purposes, that doesn't matter. You don't have hi-fi source material in the first place!

Yes, .wav files are enormous. Drag them into iTunes, then go to the Advanced menu and select "Convert Selection to MP3" (it will say "Convert Selection to AAC" if you've stuck with iTunes' default settings).


Rob Pegoraro: To the celeb-sighting query: I have been known to shop there, but often I *am* fiddling with technology--I keep my grocery list on my Treo.


HDTV - 720P vs. 1080P: Still down on 1080P? With more pixels, don't you get a better picture than 720P, even if the transmission is not coming in at 1080P? (Yes, I understand it makes little difference at distances beyond 10 feet.)

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, I am still down on 1080p. Unless you've got a large screen--like 50 inches or more--you won't see those extra details at any normal viewing distance. And it's not just me saying that: HDTV vendors' reps have said the same thing to me, multiple times.


best photo organizing/viewing software: Hi Rob,

Do you have a recommendation for good digital photo organizing/viewing software for a Windows XP box with a 1000 Mhz AMD chip? We have the software that came with our digicam, but it kind of sucks. I'm trying picassa, but it maxes out the CPU, and it doesn't seem to be focused on sharing photos over the web.

Rob Pegoraro: Here's a story I did a few months ago about a variety of Windows photo-album apps: Crop, Sort and Share


Sleepy PC: Rob, in answer to your question, I have a new HP notebook running Vista. I could not get it to sleep correctly for the longest time by selecting that mode off the Start menu. I finally found the function button (Fn + F5, I think), which usually works, but half the time it still runs down the battery. And if I leave the computer on while I'm not using it so the screensaver comes on, sometimes it goes to sleep and sometimes it will come back to the program I was working on when it's supposed to go to sleep.

Rob Pegoraro: So it goes into standby when you tell it to, but doesn't always do so automatically when left unattended? That's... exactly the problem I'm trying to solve!



Washington, D.C.: There's a good intro to Handbrake over at Macworld, for the poster asking about it earlier.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the pointer


Browser wars...: Rob, long time Mac user here. Have become increasingly frustrated with Safari and the latest versions of Firefox. I've been using Camino for two weeks and loving it, especially the built-in ad-blocker and Flash-blocker. You should give Camino a try.

Rob Pegoraro: I have--but when is that browser going to support find-as-you-type? Not with the weird/shortcut, but as the default action when you hit Cmd-F? It's a little irritating to see a Firefox sibling that doesn't incorporate one of Firefox's best featues (one that's also part of the next version of Safari).


RE Antwerp, Belgium: Thanks for your tip but i checked on, didn't get any smarter. Any other player you recommend besides WMP? Isn't it shame on Microsoft that you can't install their own player on their own OS???? Does anybody from Microsoft bother to read users comments? You're great

Rob Pegoraro: Go with iTunes. It's free and it's a lot simpler to install, as it's not a Windows upgrade in disguise.


I want to transfer a lot of cassettes to digital format.: Rob, Sony EZ Audio lets you record from any media onto your computer. Comes with an equalizer and other settings to eliminate hiss, pop, etc.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the tip!


Seattle: Rob, I'm going to make the plunge into Hi-Def soon, but only halfway. I'm looking at buying a refurbished HD LCD TV between 26 and 32" on TigerDirect.

What is the most important feature to look for? Is an ASTC tuner what I would need? Is 720p acceptable if I don't plan on buying an Xbox 360 or PS3? And would it be good for those anyway? And would my progressive scan DVD player be enough, or should I consider an upconverting machine? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, you want an ATSC (aka digital) tuner.

720p is the best resolution for that size of screen--1080p would be a total waste unless you want to use it as a monitor for a computer most of the time.

See how the progressive-scan DVD player works at first when you've got it connected with the right cables (component, DVI or HDMI, not composite or S-Video). You might find that movies look great as is.

The refurbished part makes me a little uneasy, but that's mainly because I bought a refurbished CRT maybe 15 years ago that was utter junk--I had to buy a new TV after two years of putting up with its awful picture. It took years for my roommates to stop making fun of me for that set.


Pasedena: Rob, do you have any idea what you'll consider the best Linux distro for a new user the week after next?

Rob Pegoraro: Probably Ubuntu, unless there's some amazing new distro that lands out of nowhere. Why do you ask? (I've been consistent in recommending this one for the last year or two.)


Washington, D.C.: Okay, then what do you think of Movable Type?

Rob Pegoraro: Not too happy with it! The input area is way too small (at least you can enlarge it in Safari 3 beta), the toolbar doesn't show up in any version of Safari and it occasionally loses my last round of edits for no apparent reason.


Washington, D.C.: Rob, Another flat-screen question... I am looking for a 32 or 26 inch LCD for my small condo living room. I don't need a huge TV, and thought that a 26 inch would be ok, but when I saw it in the store, well, it looked puny. At the same time, the 32 seems like it might be kind of big. Which way to go? Also,I am thinking of getting the 32 inch Sharp LCD at Costco for about $750. Good deal? Any other recommendations?

Rob Pegoraro: Not to sound completely like an electronics salesman, but I think you'll be a lot happier with a 32-inch screen. Remember that HDTV screens are wider than SDTV screens, so 32 inches diagonally will leave you with a shorter set than you'd get in an analog set. (For instance, to get a screen with the same height as a 25-inch analog CRT, you'd need a 32-inch widescreen HDTV... assuming I've got the math right.)


donating software: Rob, do you know where I can donate not-so-old software? I have the license keys and such. Schools? LIbraries? Are there any issues with licenses being donated? I read somewhere about Microsoft going after some school that received donated computers .... forgot the details now. Just want to make sure that whoever gets my donation won't be in trouble. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: If you erase your own installation of the software and provide the recipient with the media, manuals and serial numbers, you're in the clear. The only exception would be "OEM" copies that came with your computer; they're only licensed for use on that computer.


Farragut Park, D.C.: Hi Rob, I'd like to build upon a question by the reader "iTunes quandary" in the July 12 chat, about the gap that is inserted between any two tracks ripped to a computer. While for most music, and perhaps for most casual fans, it's not a problem, it is seriously annoying for some selections. Multi-part arrangements as noted by iTunes quandary, classical symphonies, and live albums are just three examples. Sometimes two or more successive tracks just sound better when uninterrupted. Is this just an unavoidable trade-off in the digital music era? And by way of illustrating trade-offs, in the time before cassettes lost their preeminence for making a collection of favorites, good stereos had a "rec level" feature that allowed you to choose at will to fade-in/fade-out. You could eliminate unwanted grunkle from the beginning or end of songs -- but then again, you were truly recording, not duplicating digital info.

Is there anything on the market that has the best of both worlds? The ability to sew tracks together, and to fade-away the clutter? You said iTunes has a "Join Tracks" feature, but not everyone is hip to iTunes. Maybe I'm just weird in my musical habits...

Sorry for the long question, but I didn't know any other way to 'splain it.

Rob Pegoraro: You're looking for a music-editing program, not a music-playback program. The free, open-source Audacity can do this (although it needs an extra plug-in to edit MP3s).


Wiki???: Rob, at what point in time did Wikipedia become the go to for all information? I always thought it was a bit unreliable since anyone could enter in info without it being checked. I'm I officially an old fart at 33 because I don't trust Wikipedia?

Rob Pegoraro: The thing about Wikipedia is, most of the stuff that people write *is* checked. You can get some bogus data there, but it probably won't stick around for long. In some respects, it's getting easier to catch Wikipedia abusers--look up WikiScanner, a site that lets you see what companies, government offices and other organizations have been tinkering with Wikipedia.

Not that you still shouldn't read Wikipedia with a skeptical eye. But you should do that with any news source.


From Daniel Greenberg: CD-R Blanks: This is often a problem not of the burning software, but corrupted drivers, which means reinstalling Roxio may not help. You might try downloading the latest drivers for your CD burner. Updating the firmware might help, too, if an update is available.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks, Daniel!


King George, Va.: Rob, For the person having trouble with reception on the digital set, the key may be their proximity to the goalpost TV tower in Merrifield. If everything else about their installation is the same, then the new set may be more prone to overloading from extremely strong signals. (A clue: The MHz broadcasts from that tower, so there should never be a problem with reception.) Two suggestions: (1) use a plain set of rabbit ears that has no amplifier in the base (2) get a small Yagi-style antenna and aim it AWAY from Merrifield (it should be pointing in about the right direction for 4, 5, 7, 9, 14, and 20, anyway.)

Rob Pegoraro: Hope the original poster sees these tips--I think KGVa is right in focusing on the proximity of that nearby transmitter. Should've thought about that myself...


Arlington, Va.: So is there a difference between recordable CDs that state they are for recording music and those that don't?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes: The music-recording ones are required for use in standalone audio-CD recorders (which have pretty much died out as a product category) and cost more, since they incorporate an extra fee that's supposed to be paid to musicians and record labels. Never buy them for use on a computer.


NOVA: Hello, my computer has been acting strangely and I think I may have a virus. I want to back up to an external hard drive, but won't the virus just go to the external hard drive with my files? Also - do you have a suggestion of a relatively easy to use external hard drive? thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: That could happen--viruses can hide in Word documents, for instance--but it's a risk you'll have to take. Back up your data, then scan the hard drive from a computer with a good, up-to-date anti-virus program running.

Any USB 2.0 hard drive can do, but if you want to use it with a laptop spend a few bucks more on a "bus-powered" model that doesn't need to be plugged into a wall outlet to run.


Chantilly, Va: Rob,

Had a problem with my W2K pc last week. Sometimes it wouldn't see my hard drives on post and would hang there.

Other times it would get to the W2K splash screen and hang there.

Long story short, I took the Lithium backup battery out of its holder on the motherboard to check the voltage. Tested ok so I put it back in.

And the computer booted and continues to boot ever since.

Rob Pegoraro: Interesting... it's odd that just taking the battery out and putting it back in would fix things, but, hey, whatever works...


Rob Pegoraro: That's going to do it for this week, gang. Thanks for keeping me busy!


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